Wednesday, February 29, 2012
I love a good fight.
I think we all do. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the hard-wiring in the reptilian part of our brain. It's why I find myself unwittingly glued to TRU TV. Last week I didn't get up from the couch until I had watched The World's Dumbest Brawlers, all 23 episodes.
Years ago, I worked at BBDO with some of the funniest people in the Creative Department. A good Creative Department will have funny people. If I were ever a client and needed to pick an ad agency, I would stealthily walk the halls and listen for laughter. If there aren't people sharing jokes, pranking each other or telling funny stories, you have stumbled upon an un-creative Creative Department. Not a good recipe for effective advertising.
One particular team, I'll call them Greg and Denise, had a great chemistry about them. They would finish each other's sentences like old married couples. They also had a flair for the dramatic.
Denise had a convertible and would often drive with the top down. On their many trips to the edit facilities in Santa Monica they would often find themselves in bumper to bumper traffic on Wilshire Blvd. This is where they would stage their semi-scripted, teetering-on-homicidal marital spats.
There was yelling, cursing, frothing at the mouth. It was street performance art. Only they didn't do it for coins or the hope that somebody would recognize their thespian potential. They simply did it to get a rise. And to see the looks on people's faces as they drove away. Often giggling themselves silly.
My wife and I don't fight a lot, but we're lucky enough to have neighbors that do.
Behind my house there's a 45-year old bi-polar man who likes to use power tools at all hours of the night. He lives with his mother. Not actually in the house with her, but in the garage which I assume has been turned into some adequate living quarters. Nevertheless their dysfunctional lives do come into contact and that contact often produces friction.
But unlike my friends Greg and Denise, the fireworks here are real. Naturally when the show gets going we turn off all electronic equipment, open all the windows and tune in to the always entertaining conflagration.
Last week produced the best gem.
Apparently mom was headed to Phoenix to visit a friend or a relative, sometimes the thick cypress trees make it hard to catch all the details. But she was going to Phoenix from Burbank. And she was on Southwest Airlines.
That's when in the heat of the battle, the emotionally and geographically-challenged son let loose with, "I hate you bitch. I hope your plane crashes into the ocean."
You can't write stuff like that.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
I also know from experience that when I post a picture like the one to the left, traffic soars above the daily average. Which says more about you than it does about me.
It is hard to believe I started this blog three years ago following my birthday and the epiphany that I'm not doing enough writing.
Oh I write all day for a living, mostly about horsepower, zero calorie sodas, investment banking, and easy-to-prepare microwavable foodstuffs. The same crap a thousand other copywriters are writing about.
And if I'm being brutally honest (when am I not?) it's not really writing. It's more about taking some pre-digested copy points, realigning some verb noun agreements and sprucing it all up with a well-chosen adverb or adjective.
It's not something a well-trained monkey couldn't do. And if you've spent anytime inside an ad agency you know that metaphor has not been stretched.
I needed to do something more expressive. Like my friend Laurenne, who recently introduced me to the concept of vagina prolapse. She writes a lot about her vagina. I would too, but I don't have one.
I could write about my penis but Twitter with its 140-character limit is probably a better forum for that --see, I beat you to that easy joke. Besides I just started a new column about my heel spur yesterday and I think two anatomically-based essays would get a little repetitive.
All this talk about penii and vaginas has made me lose focus.
Oh yes. So here we are at another milestone. And the natural inclination to start asking milestone-like questions. For instance, how much longer do I plan to continue this narcissistic exercise? Three years later and I still don't have an answer. We're now 608 posts deep into this little venture. And that's not counting the dozen or so entries I have deleted when I realized I was straying into legally dangerous waters involving libel, slander and bestiality.
In the last three years, I have seen other friends just give out on their blogs. I've seen others publicly complain about their own personal writing blocks. Or apologize for the warmed-over content or even the sporadic posting. I have done none of that. It makes a certain presumption of importance that frankly I'm not willing to make.
The truth is I don't know when I'll stop writing this blog. I only know that even if I wanted to stop, I couldn't.
And I suppose that's a good sign.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Hurty Speaks. The Little Voice Inside My Foot.
Last week I discovered I have a heel spur. I leaked the news on Facebook and received many snide comments from friends. They suggested, wrongly, that my new appendage was the result of my brief experimentation with vegetarianism.
What these ill-informed carnivores don't understand is that a heel spur is the years-long result of bone calcification exacerbated by undue stress from physical activity. I suspect it might have a little to do with my 25 years of running plus my recent bouts with cardio plyometrics.
That's the explanation given to me by my new expensive foot doctor. But I suspect something greater may be afoot.
It's said that after a certain amount of years on this earth a man begins to accumulate something called wisdom. Until this point, wisdom has eluded me. But perhaps, it is now on the horizon. Or at least ground level with the horizon.
I believe, and mind you I have no evidence to support this, that my bony heel spur is nothing less than my alter ego. It is the incarnation and naturally-calcified outgrowth of my moral and ethical compass. It is my newly found conscience. And I have named it Hurty.
Hurty is eager to speak his mind and was willing to sit down with me.
RS: According to Dr. Gurnick, as heel spurs go you are quite large, meaning you've been around for awhile, why did you decide to make yourself known now?
Hurty: That's a trick question, right? I've been at you for years. Remember that Plantar Fascitis in 2008, just before you ran the LA Marathon. That was me. But you decided to ignore me and foolishly walk it off. Maybe if you spent time less time angsting about the color of your stools and more time listening to your body we wouldn't be having this conversation.
RS: So maybe the P90X and the Insanity programs were not a good idea?
Hurty: It was a great idea. For the Beachbody corporation. Not for you. Did you really think that after shelling out 250 bucks for a bunch of DVDs you were going to get washboard abs?
RS: But I worked hard and ate all the right foods...
Hurty: You could go on an all spinach diet and do 1000 Burpees a day, you're still not going to get six-pack abs. In fact there hasn't been a Siegel with six-pack abs since...I'm checking the Mormon genealogical database and I'm sorry to say there's never been a Siegel with six-pack abs.
RS: I brought you on the blog today because I thought you'd have some spiritual guidance and life course correction for me. I mean isn't that the job of an alter ego? Instead, you've chosen to berate and ridicule me. What's the deal?
Hurty: What's the deal, Fatty? It's coming up on noon. Time for my feeding. Break out the Vicoden.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Years ago, when I had disposable income and didn't have children, I thought it would be a good idea to buy land in the high desert, somewhere near Mojave. The prices were right. For $10,000 -- the cost of a Mitt Romney bet -- you could lay claim to 20 acres of unprime, unfertile, unreachable scrub.
I was talked out of this venture by my wife and my uncle who said it was fool's gold.
Today I picked up the Los Angeles times and read how solar energy companies are paying top dollar for the same ugly, unusable acreage I did not buy. Seems they need the land for the exact reasons why nobody in their right mind would own it. It's nowhere near any people. It's hot as hell. And until recently, it was dirt cheap. In other words, it's a perfect place for them to install energy-producing solar panels.
This story about unrealized dreams could end right here.
With a good asskicking to myself.
But it doesn't, because last week a friend posted a trailer for a new movie starring Bill Murray's brother Joel. I had worked with Joel years ago and used him as the voiceover for our El Pollo Loco campaign. His new movie is called God Bless America and it was written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait.
The movie centers arounds a man who discovers he is terminally ill. Angry at his lot in life, he decides to take his vengeance out on those people he deems unfit for oxygen.
Sound familiar? It should as I began this year's with a posting about the exact same thing entitled, People We Need to Kill.
The movie is set for an early April release. And though it is extremely dark and won't be everyone's cup of tea, I do believe it vents a widely held sentiment and will make all those involved a ton of money. My recurring thoughts on this matter and this blog will not.
There's a lesson in all this.
It's about ideas. And taking action on those ideas. And not giving in to doubt or procrastination. I'll get around to spelling out what that lesson is after the Syracuse/Rutgers basketball game which is set to tipoff in two minutes.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
By the time you start reading this I will be 4 days into my 7 day meatless experiment. That's right I'm going vegetarian (Vegetarian -- a Native American word for lousy hunter).
This is not easy for me as I am, by all accounts, a 'meat and potatoes' kind of man. Actually, since I tried to cut back on carbs, you can keep your potatoes and simply give me more meat.
I live for salmon filets, chicken breasts and a good thick NY steak. That is until last Friday night, when in the middle of a late night edit session, my partner Puja, an Indian woman of the highest caste, suggested I try eliminating meat to help in my ever going battle with excess weight.
This seemed like a good idea. Particularly since I'd been reading interviews with Tony Horton, of P90X fame, who claimed he had to stop being a vegetarian because he had trouble keeping weight on. I should be so afflicted.
How's it going you may ask.
Well, you don't come here to see me spill my guts, at least not in the literal sense, so I'll spare you the gastronomic details. But I will say I do feel lighter. There's extra pep in my step. And I'm even sleeping better.
But being a vegetarian is hard. Not the eating part, that's easy. The shopping part, that's where it gets difficult. And going to a restaurant is even more difficult.
Turkey burger, that's vegetarian, right?
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
I can't speak for African Americans and the charge that they whip out the race card too fast and too easily. I do know that non-African Americans making that accusation have no idea what life is like in the skin of a person of color.
They should therefore shut their pieholes.
The same holds true for those who say Jews claim anti-semitism at the slightest provocation.
We're a little more than 50 years removed from Auschwitz, Dachau, and Buchenwald. I suspect if your tribe of people had survived such horrors you'd be a tad sensitive and trigger happy as well.
It's one of the reasons why I donate to and signed up with the Simon Weisenthal Center. In fact, when I registered with the organization I thought it would be funny to have my name stand out amongst all the Weinbergs, Feldmans and Silversteins, so I made myself the head of a fictional organization:
I can't imagine what the mailman thinks when he brings me the seemingly biweekly pleas for donations.
Recently, it was discovered that the Mormon Church has been posthumously baptizing dead Jews to clear their way into Mormon heaven. Naturally, this has upset the good folks at the Simon Weisenthal Center and many have got their non-magical undies in a bunch.
I would suggest their energy is being misplaced. Years ago, I worked at BBDO and one of our clients, Novell was headquartered in Provo, Utah. That necessitated many trips to The Beehive State. It's also where I met and became friends with my first Mormons.
I don't understand their ban on caffeine and alcohol. I don't know much about their rituals and beliefs. And I'm sure I don't share their same somewhat narrow world view, but I did learn that Mormons have a special place in their hearts for Jews and indeed hold them in the highest regard. I distinctly remember one of my clients telling me that Mormons think of Jews as their older brothers.
This always made our trips Provo quite pleasant. After all who wouldn't want to be treated like theologic royalty. Of course, I never let on that I was deeply secular and a card carrying atheist.
It never struck me as anti-semitic. If anything Mormons are pro-semitic.
If they would like to baptize me after I'm gone and say some mumbo jumbo over my name to secure my spot in the Beehive State in the Sky, I'm all for it. After all, on the topic of God and the hereafter, none of us have the answers. I could be totally wrong. And the Mormons could be totally right. So don't let me or the easily-upset folks from the Simon Weisenthal Center stop you. Baptize away.
The way I see it, it's a good insurance policy. And what right-minded Jew wouldn't want supplemental insurance? Especially when the premiums are FREE.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
It is two days past Valentine's day and I am in the doghouse because I failed to pay proper tribute to the love of my life -- my jacuzzi.
To add insult to injury I almost let an important anniversary slip by without notice. You see, it was 10 years ago today that I took delivery of the Tiger River Bengal Hot Tub. And my life has not been the same.
If you own a hot tub I don't need to tell you about its magical ability to melt away the minutiae of the day. I don't need to wax poetic about the spinning jets, the powerful foot massager or the available scented Eucalyptus oils that bring out the best of a cool winter night. If you own a hot tub I don't need to explain the reluctance to leave home or the inability to stay at a hotel without one.
If you don't own a hot tub (and one time I counted myself among you) I'm here to tell you, without any hope of securing any swag from the Tiger River company, that you need to buy one.
For years I dreamed of my own personal spa in the backyard but my wife was not so willing. She claimed it was expensive and that after a while I wouldn't use it. She said she had seen way too many backyards with hot tubs that had fallen into disrepair and had become immovable eyesores. Her arguments held water.
That is until September, 2001. That's when I realized life was short. Too short not to own a hot tub. Thank you Mohammed Atta.
I did my research, shopped around and even built a redwood deck to accommodate my new toy (Another Thing Jews Don't Do.) That was ten years ago. Since then, there is rarely a night that I am not in my birthday suit soaking up the 104 degree water under the starry skies of Culver City.
I know I have a short fuse and can be borderline impatient. But I like to think the nightly ventures to the jacuzzi have calmed my fiery nerves and soothed my inner New Yorker. You might get an argument from my wife on that.
But I think she's happy she relented on this matter and would agree that a supposedly-mellower, if not delusional Rich Siegel with a hot tub, is better than one without.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Recently House Republicans brought a bill to the floor that would require states to prohibit welfare recipients from spending their federal benefits in strip clubs, casinos and liquor stores.
I know many of my left-leaning friends have a knee jerk response to any Republican proposal and will reject this out of hand. And listening to the recent rhetoric and extremist social agenda put forth by the presidential candidates, I can understand why.
In many cases it appears Santorum, Romney and Gingrich have not been given the gene for human empathy. Ron Paul is the only candidate that talks the talk about smaller government and then proceeds to walk the walk. Too bad he's just shitbird crazy. And probably anti-semitic.
But here's where those who claim the right is intolerant have reason to take a good long look in the mirror.
You see not every idea that comes from the red state side of the aisle is a bad one. In fact, banning access to federal funds in strips clubs and casinos is a damn fine idea. I can't imagine anybody being against the ban. But if you feel it's wrong to place limitations on how federal aid money is spent I'd certainly love to hear your argument. I'll even start you out:
"I believe recipients of Federal tax dollars have a right to spend their money at Scores or the Spearmint Rhino because..."
Look, I work hard. You probably work hard as well. As I write this, I am in the 13th hour of a shooting day that will likely last until 3 AM, a 15-hour day. This is on top of the 14-hour day I put in yesterday. I'm not complaining. I love my work and consider myself fortunate to have an income.
But I don't feel so damn lucky that I'm willing to subsidize some lazy schmuck who would deny his family food, shelter and clothing so that he can sip on Jim Beam cocktails in the Champagne Room while Tiffany grinds his crotch and slowly extracts a bevy single dollar bills you and I so generously put in his pocket.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
It's Tuesday morning and I'm feeling nostalgic. I'm heading into the office and somehow wishing I weren't. Not that I'm not grateful for the gig, I am. But I remember a time when Tuesday mornings and the office were mutually exclusive.
I was working as Creative Director at Chiat/Day. My partner and I were left alone to run the ABC account the way we saw it. We never had to have the work cleared by a planner. Or an account director. Or even someone higher up on the creative food chain.
We had shoestring budgets, run and gun schedules and complete autonomy. We also had the trust of a client who would produce the work they found funny and kill the work they didn't find funny. It was that simple.
That type of creative freedom was rare, so we took advantage of it.
On Tuesday mornings we would schedule golf outings at the Malibu Country Club. We'd hit the links
at 8 AM and be back in the office after lunch. No one seemed to notice and no one seemed to care.
The foursome included myself, John Shirley, Jerry Gentile and Mark Fenske. Not the best quartet of golfers by any means. (OK, Gentile, as his name would indicate, was pretty good.) But what we lacked in golfing acuity we more than made up for in laughs. By the time the round was over, my shoulders and neck were always aching from the non-stop howling.
Best of all, the design of Malibu Country Club lent itself to our tomfoolery. The course is built into the hills of the Santa Monica mountains. The fairways are lined with desert scrub and thick, high chaparral. Out of bounds is truly out of bounds, with an abundance of scorpions and rattlesnakes. That never stopped Jerry from galloping into the brush and collecting as many lost balls as possible.
And those found balls were put to good use.
The 18th hole at Malibu sits atop a high hill. There is about 300 feet of elevation between the tee box and the green, some 400 yards away. So with the carts parked on the path, we all reached for our drivers. Somebody, I don't remember who, had a USGA non-approved driver made in Korea. The head of the golf club was about 1000 cc's and it looked like a small toaster oven.
And with that we tee'd off. Not aiming for the green. Or even the fairway. Not giving a damn about hooking or slicing. We simply gripped it and ripped it. Taking advantage of our Mt. Olympus-like setting and hitting those rescued balls as hard and as far as we possibly could.
We all looked forward to Fenske's monster swings. Mark stands about 6'3" and at the time weighed in about 250 lbs. A moose of a man, with the strength to match. His form was nowhere near perfect. And he possessed all the athletic grace of a drunken ice fisherman. But damn that boy could smack the dimples off a Titleist.
Once he drove the ball 350 yards, 150 of them were straight.
The ball landed on the green of the 7th hole.
The 7th hole of nearby Sherwood Country Club.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Seen at a goofy furniture store off La Brea Ave.
In case you can't make it out (because of my poor photographic skills) it's a lamp. But not just any lamp. It's a $75 chandelier fashioned from some scrap metal, an assortment of safety pins and 38 old toilet paper rolls. That's right toilet paper rolls.
I'm no furniture aficionado. Nor am I particularly fond of abstract pop art. I don't share the unfathomable love of my colleagues for someone like Banksy. Or Skrillex. Or even Rothko. Like this post modern lighting fixture, it leaves me scratching my head.
Not that I fall into the unenlightened masses who at one time collected Thomas Kinkade.
If you were to draw a spectrum, I would probably fall somewhere in between.
Art is to me what pornography was to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who famously said, "I know it when I see it." Furniture falls into the same category, I know what I like (this artist for instance) and I know what I don't like.
The toilet paper roll chandelier that conjures up images of dirty bathrooms and the desperate search for fresh tissue, falls into the latter.
Just for fun, I was able to get the store owner to bring the price down to a reasonable price of $55. Then I told him I'd need to think it over and would return to his boutique after I dropped the kids off at the pool.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Don't tell that to the residents of The Hague, the third largest city in the Netherlands. There, a local Muslim resident has proposed a law that criminalizes pet ownership and characterizes dog lovers as animal abusers.
You may be inclined to write this off as some crazy Islamist looking to stir things up and get on a soapbox spouting his extreme views and going on about global jihad.
But you'd be wrong.
This was put forth by Hasan Kucuk, a standing councilman at The Hague and an elected official representative of the Islam Democrats, who want to regulate pet ownership so as not to 'offend' Muslims.
I don't need to do a lot of editorializing here, suffice to say this is not an isolated incident.
In Lerida, Spain, the Muslim community demanded that dogs be banned from all forms of public transportation and any areas frequented by Muslims so as not to violate their religious freedom (to the complete exclusion of other people's religious freedoms.) When the city refused, there was a rash of dog poisonings.
I believe Mahatma Gandhi said it best, "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
As for me, if having and loving a dog is wrong, I don't want to be right.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
When I grew up, New York City was a mean, dirty, dangerous place. Some would say that's what gave it character. But as I look back I find it hard to believe that my parents would sanction our barely-legal-drinking-age weekend forays from the lilly-white suburbs of Rockland County into the Big Rotten Apple.
Of course all that changed when Rudy Guiliani took office and instituted his sweeping No Broken Windows Policy. No longer would the police turn a blind eye to the petty crimes that ravaged Manhattan from the north end of Harlem to bowels of the Bowery. There were no small crimes, Rudy said. And within a few years, the streetwalkers, the shoplifters and the taggers were moved off the streets.
When the rate of minor crimes dropped so did the major, more violent crimes.
I know this is all anecdotal and there are some Rudy-naysayers among you, but the fact remains, for better or for worse, New York City is a more civilized place. I wouldn't let my daughters roam the streets, but that's a different story.
Perhaps Rudy's 'trickle-up' approach can be applied elsewhere.
Let's start with the minor courtesies that have all but vanished from the daily course of our lives. Once we address these broken windows maybe, as they did in NYC, the larger issues will fall into place.
For the past 7 months I've been steadily employed at an agency. This is great as a freelancer because it gives me the steadiness of a paycheck and the illusion of security, without all the headaches of being a full-time staffer. It also means I go to an office everyday. And everyday I go to this white-washed business park in the media section of Santa Monica, I come in contact with people who have no manners.
I buy coffee from barristas who don't smile. I walk past smokers eager to share their second-hand carcinogens. And I hold doors open for people who find it too troubling to reciprocate with a simple Thank You.
This last infraction irks me to no end.
My guess is these non-thankers are the same people who won't let you merge on the highway. They're the ones who take the last cup of coffee and don't brew another pot. They buy 11 items at the supermarket and use the Express line. They talk on their cell phones while they assemble their lunches at the salad bar. They text and they drive, at the same time. They marry other non-thankers and raise non-thanking children.
In other words, their ill-mannered ways do not stop at not saying thank you.
These people are rude, impolite and lack all manner of civility.
We need to kill them.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Last week was a special week at the agency where I'm currently working.
The Super Bowl spot they had produced for Acura featuring Jerry Seinfeld was a monumental hit, raking in more than 11 million hits on Youtube. It could be well over 20 million by the time this blog entry is posted.
And while it kills me that the guys down the hall had the opportunity to work with Jerry, hang out with Jerry and generally bust balls with Jerry, I am genuinely happy for them. And the spot speaks for itself.When writing commercials I generally do not reach for the celebrity card. It's overplayed, it's silly and celebrities, like children, animals and water, are difficult to work with.
But in this case, Jerry's love and Leno's love of fancy sports cars were organic to the spot.
While we're talking organic, let's talk about how the Creatives here at RP& celebrated this milestone spot. On a morning of rare quiet at the agency, my boss brought in a coffee grinder, an espresso machine and a pound of Kopi Luwak.
For the uninitiated, Kopi Luwak is Indonesian for MonkeyShit Coffee.
Call me abnormally curious, but when someone offers me a cup of MonkeyShit Coffee I've got to know the story behind the odd name. Turns out that farmers throughout Sumatra, Java, Bali in the Indonesian Archipelago discovered that coffee beans were being eaten by Asian Palm Civets, a small catlike creature that is technically in the Monkey family. (I don't think they could sell CatShit Coffee.)
It also turns out the civets could not digest the coffee beans and they would pass through whole, from gullet to sphincter. But on their journey through the monkey's intestines they picked up a wonderful concoction of enzymes and peptides. The local farmers, not willing to let good coffee beans go to waste, carefully and laboriously picked out the whole beans from the excrement.
When the slimy beans were roasted and brewed, the farmers found they had a rich, pungent coffee with hints of chocolate and peanut butter. So they did what any quick thinking 3rd-world farmer would do, they hired a clever graphic artist, a slick marketing team, and a slew of exporters, and then foisted this questionable delicacy upon gullible Americans eager to demonstrate their gastric bravery.
You can go online and order MonkeyShit Coffee from Amazon. It's only $400 a lbs.
I will tell you that it had a good nutty aroma with hints of cocoa and it finished well. But I'd never spend that kind of money for a pound of anything. I might spring $400 for a framed picture of the original artwork seen above.
My wife would never allow it, but that would look great in our downstairs guest bathroom.
Monday, February 6, 2012
Last Monday morning was a typical Monday morning. There was a new pile of dog poop on my yard, the traffic on the 405 was still at its pre-Christmas level, and the client requested copy changes that did nothing to improve the persuasiveness of my copy.
Like I said, it was typical.
But as I was walking back to my car, having completed my lunchtime swim, I noticed something on the parking garage floor. It caught my eye and I almost walked by it, but something compelled me to bend down for a further investigation.
It was a laminated prayer card for St. Uriel. The last time I saw one of these was a long, long time ago when one of my larger-than-life high school buddies passed away. I slipped the card in my pocket and rushed back to my office to find out what San Uriel was all about.
And that's when things started to get a little weird.
If you were to Google Saint Uriel, you would discover that Uriel is one of the older angels mentioned in both the Jewish bible and the Christian bible. And though he is recognized as the Patron Saint of Poetry he also had many other responsibilities. Among them:
That's right, he checked the doors of Egypt for lamb's blood during the plague that preceded Passover.
I don't ask you, the reader, to do any work (that's what I'm here for), but if you were to check last Monday's blog posting you'd see I had illustrated my story with the following:
Let's review the facts. The day I put up a posting in which I renounce my belief in biblical fairy tales and a week after I write about my similar disinclinations towards miracles, I randomly find a prayer card from a Kabbalistic cherub on the P3 parking level at the Yahoo Center in Santa Monica, CA that just happens to coincide with daily ranting.
It's not a burning bush. And it's not a parting of the sea.
But you take your message of Providence any way you can get it.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
I'm shuttling between two books right.
On my buddy Rob Schwartz's recommendation, I'm reading Tough Jews, a rough and tumble account of the Jewish gangsters who roamed the streets of Brooklyn at the turn of the century and had the world by the short hairs. While their deeds and actions were abhorrent, it is a refreshing contrast to their weak hearted brethren who stayed behind in Europe and willfully walked straight into the gas chambers.
It's also weird to read the exploits of one Benny Siegel, who according to my grandfather was a distant relative. I have no reason to believe that since no one in my family was ever rich or ever feared. Plus, my grandfather was an inveterate liar.
The other book, Steve Jobs, was given to me by my wife. This book is tougher to get through because I have the urge to fast forward to the good parts about my alma mater Chiat/Day and many of the characters I know on a first name basis. This book also serves to remind me of a fateful decision I made in 1998. A decision that literally could have changed the course of my career and my life.
There was a lot of political turmoil at the agency. Leaders were coming and going. Silo chiefs were battling it out for turf. And the agency was growing by leaps and bounds. I had just come off a huge success with the ABC client and the honeymoon with the client was starting to wear thin.
It was at this point that my boss, Lee Clow, approached me and asked if I had any interest in switching over to the Apple account. They were looking for a seasoned writer who would work closely with Steve Jobs and steward the brand into the next century.
Lee framed it as the opportunity of a lifetime and would not accept an answer until I slept on it. Over a weekend. The funny thing is he knew of my past troubled history writing for Apple when the account was at BBDO in the early 90's. He promised things would be different. And maybe they would have, but I'll never know because that following Monday I declined the offer.
Well, after so many years in the business I was finally finding my own voice as a writer. I wasn't ready to silence that and become the voice of Steve Jobs, as lucrative as that might have been.
More importantly, after talking with Rob Siltanen and Ken Segall, two of the finest writers who've ever worked with Jobs, I became intimately familiar with Steve's fits of fury. Nor did I have any interest in wearing a beeper or being on call to the job 24/7/365. Though in retrospect this would have made me privy to many cool Apple secrets, which with a little financial savvy, could have been turned into a small fortune.
But in the end, I could not see myself as Steve's personal copy manservant. Mostly because I have authority issues and have a hard time doing as I'm told.
Maybe my grandfather was right, maybe I am related to Bugsy Siegel.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
"I will insist the Hebrews have contributed more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations."
This quote comes from John Adams, our second and now my favorite President. I had no idea of his inclinations until I had received an email from my old college buddy Joe, who is to political emails what window replacement salesman are to mid-dinner sales pitches, relentless.
And though we don't always see eye to eye on issues, I respect Joe's ultraconservative point of view because it comes from an informed position. Some folks, a few steps further to the right, are not so well informed. You often see them at political rallies carrying signs with misspelled words.
I'm speaking in broad generalizations here (because I can, if you want to speak in broad generalizations get your own blog) but these are the same people who often see a Jewish cabal of world dominators behind every curtain.
What if they're right? I've debunked this notion in the past, but today let's assume Jews do control everything. And let's ask ourselves if that is such a bad thing?
After all, as Adams eloquently stated, Jews have done more to soothe the savage soul than any other nation.
* As a people, we Jews are generally given high marks for being good with money. With the fragile state of the US and European economies, who is better qualified to get us out of this monetary morass than the folks who can squeeze the copper off a penny?
* We place a high value on education. I'll grant you Asian kids are kicking ass in school and flipping the bell curve on its head. But we Jews are nipping...uh...right on their heels. And when Su Lin gets in an altercation with the city about zoning restrictions or Quang Chi gets a toothache, they go scurrying to the yellow pages looking for a lawyer or a dentist named Goldstein.
* We don't proselytize. Unlike the Mormons or the Jehovah Witnesses, you'll never find a Jew knocking at your door hoping to share the teachings of the Tanach. Fact is, and please don't take offense, we don't want you joining our temple. It just makes it harder for us to get a parking spot. And if you do want to become a Jew we don't make it very easy. The price of admission often includes a piece of your penis.
* We are a family oriented people. How many mothers tell their daughters that they should go out and find a 'nice Jewish boy'? If only someone had shared this nugget of wisdom when I was a younger man. If I knew then what I know now, including the value of my own stock, I dare say there would by a few more notches on my belt.
* And finally, we are a benevolent people. Scour the history books. You don't find Jews conquering and plundering other countries. You don't find us raping and pillaging. You don't find us subjecting other people to death marches or death camps. You could argue that the IDF and the state of Israel have mistreated the Palestinians. In which case I'd ask you to re-scour the history books and look up the meaning of self-defense. In light of the terrorist attacks, the killing of Olympic Athletes, the hijacking of planes, the butchering of innocent children, the rocket attacks, etc, etc, I'd say the Israelis have acted with great restraint.
What other people have fought 4 unprovoked wars and then returned more than 90% of the land they captured to a people bent on hatred and annihilation?
Look, Jews don't control the world.
But so what if we did.
In the words of (insert name of Jewish altacocka here), "You could do worse."