Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Friday, December 26, 2014
Thursday, December 25, 2014
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
In case you haven't guessed I'm still fuming about last week's decision by Sony executives to cancel the premiere of The Interview, the assassination comedy about Kim Jung Un.
It should be noted that I am hardly a fan of Seth Rogen/James Franco movies.
Last year my wife and I were planning to go see a Finnish documentary about fracking, global warming and its devastating effect on the survival of the Norwegian Blue, a fjord-dwelling parrot now on the extinction list. Unfortunately, this award winning doc was sold out and we ended up watching The End.
Sitting through a poorly-scripted Rogen movie is difficult. It's hard not to think, "Damn, I could have written something funnier than this."
And even harder to think, "I've got write another end of year Sales Event campaign just to pay for the air duct cleaning guy and the new brake pads for my daughter's Volvo."
In short, the quality of the Seth Rogen movie is not the issue. Cowtowing to a fat-ass tinpot dictator who runs a third world cesspool of a country, is.
I'm sorry, but how friggin' soft have we become?
It's shameful to think that America's Greatest Generation, women who riveted planes and men who stormed Nazi-fortified beaches in France, have lived long enough to see us quiver in cyber fear. Pissing our pants, because some boiled-carp eating nerds in Pyongyang might hack into our computers and seed some malware into our iPad Solitaire application.
Earlier this year, there was a restaurant in Vermont that dared to promote their prize-winning bacon. A woman, who happened to be a vegan and a Muslim, took offense and complained to the restaurant owners. And before the fat began to sizzle and emit that unmistakable aroma that says, "forget what your God commands and gnaw on my grizzled goodness", they removed the sign and apologized for upsetting the community.
In my book, bacon is more American than Baseball, Chevy or Apple Pie. And can, in fact, be used to improve all three.
I'm surprised these spineless restaurant owners didn't buy hijabs for the staff and go all halal, you know just to prevent any further religious disturbance.
Being in the ad business, I've admittedly developed a thick skin. But the truth is I'm offended by people who are easily offended.
Here's what I'm going to do about it.
I'm going to step up production of my Kim Jung Fun tumblr.
I'm going to continue my scathing criticism of Islam and the silent masses who get more riled up about Danish cartoons or pork products, than they do about the murder of children, stonings, honor killing, ethnic cleansing, FGM, the persecution of homosexuals, slave trading, and 7th century misogyny.
And I'm going to ramp up my attacks on the stupidity we all seem to be swimming in, whether it's in politics, advertising or just life in general.
This is the last post for 2014.
In 2015, I'm going on the offense.
No more Mr. Nice Guy.
So have a Merry Fucking Christmas.
And a Happy Fucking New Year!
Monday, December 22, 2014
People often ask me, "Rich, what's the longest ad you've ever written?"
OK, no one has ever asked me that.
No one asks about anything I've written. Perhaps that's why I'm driven to throw so much up against the wall. In the hope that one day, some misguided soul will act on the presumption that I have anything meaningful to say.
But I digress.
And if it weren't so easy to slip into a stream of consciousness digression, there's no way I could have written the ad you see pictured above. I'm also providing you a link to a larger photo in the off chance you actually want to read all 1839 words. The link also brings you to my portfolio page where you can entertain yourselves for about 47 seconds.
The reason I bring this ad to your attention, as if I needed a reason, is because this year, more than others, I am seeing more complaints from clients and from agency presidents about the lack of writers.
Ad schools are graduating art directors, UI designers and flick flack conflibulators, but not many people who can legitimately string sentences together. Earlier in the year, I was at one agency where a recent graduate was asked to write a headline congratulating a client on some corporate jack off achievement.
The headlines presented were not creative. I'm not even sure they were English.
Verbs were fighting nouns. Adverbs were adversely attached to other adverbs. And in the end, the client would have been better off simply running the brief. 14 monkeys randomly clacking away on keyboards would have produced more legible work.
It's bad out there.
But, it's also good.
Because it means my phone will continue to ring. And next year, I will have two daughters attending expensive colleges, so I will need to stay busier than ever.
I see double-dipping, overcharging and shameless self-promoting in my immediate future.
If I may come full circle, and frankly I don't see why I need your permission, the ABC ad pictured above never ran. Our intention was to place it centerspread in the Sunday NY Times Book Review Section, but a consortium of Southern broadcast affiliates took offense and lobbied the corporate brass to kill it before it went to press.
First of all, I wasn't aware that anyone in the South could actually read. If they could, I'm sure it wouldn't be The Book Review Section of the Jew York Times -- for those of you below the Mason Dixon Line.
Moreover, if they had bothered to wade through the ad they would see that it was chock full of irony. They'd be reading words written by a writer freely quoting other writers to dispel the notion that reading was of any value to writers and/or readers.
It's so meta, my head is about to explode.
Just to thumb my nose at the half-wits who lacked the courage to run the ad I'm going to submit this piece to the Huffington Post.
Where it promises to be seen by even fewer people.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
If you were to Google the word caganer (I know my audience and I know you will) you would discover the lovely tradition started in Northern Spain by villagers who decorated their yearly nativity scenes with The Shitter.
If you were to investigate further (again, I know you will) and click on the Images section, you'd see caganers of all shapes and sizes, including many celebrities, political leaders and even sports heroes, all hunched over and "Launching a lifeboat off the SS Assitania."
About three quarters down the page you'd see this entry:
It comes from my original posting about caganers way back in 2010.
And if you were to click it, you'd be redirected to my blog. I know this from doing a careful analysis of my recent web traffic. Turns out an astounding number of people are now coming here because of something I wrote nearly 5 years ago.
No small achievement.
Particularly for someone like me, an advertising copywriter, who can only look back at a pitiful series of small 30 second and 1/4 page meaningless lifetime achievements.
Nevertheless, I couldn't be prouder.
I am winning the Internet.
RoundSeventeen has now become synonymous with people pulling down their pants in public and taking a big curly dump.
Oh wait, that didn't come out right.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
This is my home, circa 1998.
As you can see it was undergoing a major remodeling.
Unable to afford a new house, unless we moved to a double-wide in Palmdale or Mojave, my wife and I were left with no other option but to blow out our modest California ranch house and add a second story.
It was not an easy decision.
Particularly since my knowledge about construction was quite limited.
In my teen years I had seen my father acquire the entire Time Life Homeowners Collection. And I witnessed his incredible growth from a tinkerer to a full fledged carpenter. When he wasn't CPA'ing, he was always playing with his band saw, his miter saw, his two fisted router and his belt sander.
At one point, he grew so ambitious that he single-handedly tacked on a Home And Garden-worthy Finnish Sauna to the master bedroom. I could have learned quite a bit from him, but typical father/son friction made that all but impossible.
And so it was I found myself entering this remodel business completely unarmed. Fortunately the Internet was coming into its own and offered a wealth of information and references on potential contractors.
So I did my homework. Lots of it.
Mostly because I didn't want to flitter away thousands of dollars. But also because it gave me a good excuse not to change diapers and escape from the non-stop crying of our two colicky daughters.
I ended up awarding the job to Fischer Construction. The owner, Joel, was perhaps one of 13 Jews in America (my dad had passed away a decade earlier) who knew his way around a Nail Gun, a Torpedo Level and a Hammer Tacker.
My exhaustive research paid off. Apart from some miscues with his subcontractors, my experience with Joel the Jewish Contractor was outstanding. He showed up every day. Did what he promised. And as you might expect, did not exceed the budget.
Which is why I find it so amusing that my landline phone is ringing off the hook with cold call solicitations from contractors who are "in my area and ready to get going on my next project."
I never thought of demo-ing my home or adding another bathroom as an impulse buy, but hey if you're nearby, sure stop on over and let's fire up cement mixer.
Seriously, who does that?
What these contractors lack in marketing savvy they certainly make up for with persistence. I have asked over and over again to be taken off their calling list. But they keep dialing my number. So now I have a new way to get crossed off their list.
I purposely whet their appetite and get them worked up about landing a big job. The script goes as follows:
"Yes. Yes I am interested in remodeling the bathroom, maybe even the kitchen, we're thinking granite counters. Even granite shelves…wait, can you hold on I have another call…(slight pause) thanks for holding, that was a creditor on the other line…well, one of the creditors…hello….hello?"
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
I have a bone to pick about advertising.
I know that's shocking.
But the cardinal rule of journalism is, "If it bleeds it leads."
So what has crawled up my butt and deemed itself worthy of a diatribe today? It's this notion of "branding". More specifically, the idea that every commercial should start with a brand identifier in the first few seconds. And by the way, exposure does not equal persuasion. Not by a long shot.
I was at Chiat/Day when this pedanticism was born. I distinctly remember the day when an eager Account Director, tried to gussy up this client dictate and dropped the stinkbomb on my boss:
"The CMO at Sony had a great idea. And wants us to start every PlayStation spot with a Playstation mnemonic. Isn't that great?"
"What?", said Jerry with unusual resistance.
In case you hadn't noticed, they never walked away from that mandate. In fact, they started an ugly trend. Today, commercials for cars, beers, phones and insurance companies, all begin with a navel-gazing logo, sound or hamfisted branding device.
As a result, they have taken an important tool, perhaps our most engaging, out of the hands of copywriters and art directors -- storytelling.
Imagine going to see a stand up comedian who begins every joke with the punchline. I'm not sure you'd stick around for the two drink minimum.
The same laws of set-up, prologue and tension building hold true for the crafting of commercials. But no one, it seems, wants to hold their cards until the end.
"Make the logo bigger" has been replaced with, "get to the logo earlier."
Let's say it's January 22, 1984. It's the third quarter of the Super Bowl. The Raiders are up 21-3 over the Washington Redskins. A 60-second black and white commercial begins with…
"Ap - ple."
SFX: MUSICAL STING
And instead of being captivated by a mysterious dystopic vision of the future and the unveiling of a desktop computer that would change the course of history, 25 million Americans take this blatant commercial cue and decide it's a good time to take a whiz.
1984 isn't like 1984.
Apple doesn't get $10 million worth of free publicity.
The Mac dies a quick death. And for good measure takes the entire company to the grave as well.
There's never an iPod, an iPad or an iPhone.
And you're reading this on your IBM Homeputer 9000™. That is, if you figured out how to reformat the C: drive and have your modem hardwired to the Gates Worldwide Interweb Complex a/123.
Monday, December 15, 2014
A long time ago I revealed one of the dirtiest secrets about copywriters: we spend the majority of our time not copywriting.
That is, we're not clicking and clacking from the moment we step up to the keyboard to the moment we hand it off to an art director and say, "here, make me look pretty."
I suspect this is true for real writers as well.
Writing comes in spurts.
It's stop and go. Then it's stop and play some online chess. Or stop and check out who's eating what on Facebook. Or stop and look at the Google analytics and lament the fact that millions of people are not reading your daily drivel.
On one of these fanciful Facebook forays I ran across an Australian gentleman named Ken Hamm. Maybe you've heard of him. Recently Mr. Hamm did a Youtube debate with Science Guy Bill Nye.
Though he was backed by the power of providence, he did not win.
Ken is also in the news because deep in the backwoods of Kentucky (America's Think Tank) he is building a life-size replica of Noah's Ark. It will be, according to the website, "the largest timber frame structure in the USA."
It would have been the largest in the world, but some nut job in Belgium is working on a 14 story high Birdhouse.
As you can see from the schematic, the construction of the Ark is quite ambitious.
Ken is hoping to raise close to 30 million dollars for its construction. At least 3 million of that will be earmarked for the oversized bathrooms on the top deck, including a separate facility for the children, on the far left.
Apparently, while God is wiping out all of humanity for their collective sins and all the animals of the world have been herded on to a large open-air, floating petting zoo -- the predecessor to today's Open Office Plan -- it's important to have proper facilities to make a pee-pee or a doo-doo.
In addition to his Ark project, Ken Hamm is an ardent Creationist and accordingly scoffs at Darwin/Evolution/Science, or anything resembling reason. Choosing instead to believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old.
I've been to my brother's apartment.
He has leftover Chinese food that is more than 6,000 years old.
Naturally, like a moth drawn to a flame, I often find myself on Hamm's Facebook page. And even more often, I find myself trolling the threads and making smart ass remarks. It is, as the title of this piece indicates, so damn easy.
Of course any attempt to dissuade the faithful is completely futile. They tend to whirl themselves into a dervish frenzy with an impenetrable circle of logic.
"The Bible says there is a God. And it has to be true because God wrote the Bible."
Why bother, you might ask.
I like to think of it as a chef sharpening his favorite kitchen knife. It's part of the job.
Plus it's fun.
I don't care for cats. But give me a box of kittens and a strong laser pointer and I can entertain myself for hours.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Years ago, I was contacted by the head of a production company in town. We had never met, but for reasons unknown, he became a fan of this blog.
He was trying trying to grow his roster of directors and thought it best to start grooming talented copywriters who might blossom into something. When none of those talented copywriters answered the bell, he called me.
I know many who have made the leap from agency staff guy to incredibly wealthy helmsmen with work that we all know and recognize. And so for two minutes I entertained the notion. I remember talking to Richard O'Neill, head of production at Chiat/Day and soliciting his advice.
"Always cast someone unusual. Or frame the shot with something odd. Find a reason to surprise people with something unexpected."
This, it turns out, is excellent counsel. Look at what's good or at least memorable on TV. The Old Spice Man, The Southern Comfort Dude in his Speedo, or The Most Interesting Man in the World. Even Flo, from the Progressive campaign, -- though I'm not a fan -- stands out.
Because they're not vanilla.
Vanilla is the common denominator in all the unforgettable characters in commercials. I could start naming them, but then I might offend some friends and colleagues.
But we all know who they are.
They smile too much.
They revel in the stupidest shit.
And they're happy.
Happiness has got to be the most unlikable attribute to be put on film. And yet that's what focus groups, clients and bosses of people we call clients want. Happy, homogeneous and non-threatening. It's the way I imagine the white-robed residents of heaven. And why, even though I'm averse to excessive heat, I'd prefer to spend my eternity in hell.
The upshot is I never pursued a career switch to directing. Another bullet dodged.
I prefer non-team sports. I prefer writing. I prefer doing things the way I want to do them and not having to spoon feed or rationalize every artistic decision or choice.
And I like non sequiturs.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Earlier this year, The Barbarian Group, a New York advertising boutique/agency/assemblage of unbearable hipsters introduced the world to their revolutionary new SuperDesk™. You might recall this "75 yard long unbroken ribbon of awesomeness."
It certainly made an impression on me.
Pablo Picasso once said, "good artists copy, great artists steal."
So today, I'm proud to introduce to you SuperDesk2™ (see above.)
Or as I like to call it, "A four and a half foot long mortgage paying, credit card reducing, 401K funding factory."
Unlike its predecessor, SuperDesk2™ does not promote employee engagement or creative collaboration or the shifting of any paradigms.
It has been designed for One.
One cranky misanthropic copywriter who abhors small talk, detests electronica music and does not play well with others, particularly if they are wearing a sock hat or have a greased handlebar mustache.
SuperDesk2™ has been handcrafted from the finest hard maple and in stark contrast to the original SuperDesk™ is equipped with many drawers and ample storage space, for personal items which may or may not be necessary for the purpose of writing and/or procrastination.
Keeping in mind the function for which it has been designed, the SuperDesk2™ has been thoughtfully integrated into the new SuperOffice™.
This revolutionary new workspace promotes quiet and a relaxed environment far, far away from incomprehensible Planners, useless brainstorming sessions and noisy agency birthday parties.
Witness the SuperDoor™.
Copywriters, particularly the underachieving kind, spend a great deal of time not copywriting. That is, their minds tend to wander. This can mean hours wasted on mindless websites, buildyourownyurt.com or kinkyeskimoporn.com.
Or it could necessitate a break from the computer screen. The designers of the SuperOffice™have thought of everything.
Yes, a window does seem like a relic from the past, but sometimes the old way of doing things is the best way of doing things.
Finally, after a grueling 20 minutes of headline writing or sales event conceptualizing, the exhausted copywriter will often find himself, or herself (for your 3%'ers), in need of some restorative downtime.
Once again, these forward thinkers have come to the rescue.
Introducing the SuperNapStation3000™.
The 2015 SuperOffice™.
Everything else is simply barbaric.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
My wife is angry.
Not for something I've done. But for something I've stopped doing. Sleep.
You see, I've been getting up earlier and earlier these days. Not by choice, mind you. If I had my druthers I'd be sawing wood until 9 or 10 o'clock in the morning. Which is not all that unusual since I stay up way past midnight. And have the sleep patterns of a teenager.
All that is changing. And like many men of 44, I'm rising from bed shortly after the sun rises over the horizon.
In the past, I'd awake at an early hour, curl up around my wife's pillow and catch another cycle of REM with odd dreams of Scarlet Johansen, Angelina Jolie, a bottle of olive oil, a trampoline and a catcher's mask. The body is willing, the mind however is not.
These days, I have been waking up with all synapses firing. Words, ideas, sentences, phrases, paragraphs, are ricocheting off every crease of my tiny brain. I can't roll over and hit the rack. I am compelled to the keyboard to begin the clicking and the clacking.
It's not writer's block.
It's writer's bloat.
And I'm not saying it's all good either. In fact, I think you can see from today's post, that it is not.
You would think that my increased productivity would please my wife, and my two daughters. Because believe me it takes quite a bit of productivity to maintain the lavish lifestyle they've come to enjoy. But, as is often the case when I do your rhetorical thinking, you'd be wrong.
You see, my new routine upsets my wife's old routine.
She has always enjoyed the hour of quiet solitude after the girls have shipped off to school and she had the downstairs all to herself. That is no longer the case as I have noisily interrupted all that with my coffee making, my toast buttering and my thought scribbling.
How dare I?
There is a silver lining in all this, she will rationalize. If my sleeping habits can change, perhaps one day I will learn to put the seat down.
Monday, December 8, 2014
If you're married to (my condolences) or know of anyone who works in the Creative Department of an ad agency there's a good chance you are not seeing much of him or her these days.
It's Super Bowl Crunch Time.
And ad agency personnel are scrambling like mad to get their spots produced and polished in time for America's early February orgasm. They -- the creatives -- should be in edit bays and sound studios eating overpriced sushi and acting like royals.
Sadly however, some, many, are still struggling to get an idea out the door and through the client gauntlet of ineptitude.
That's right, The Big Game™ is less than two months away but because of the enormous pressure and the rampant committee-think that governs the corporate landscape, many agency staffers find themselves back at the drawing board.
Perhaps it's a sign of my declining career, but for the first time in many years I don't find myself caught up in this moronic morass.
At one time I would salivate over the prospect of landing a Super Bowl spot and would gladly endure the pain associated with the strategic changes, the revisions, the rewrites, and the endless do-overs.
The opportunity to knock one out of the park on a magical Super Bowl Sunday could make or break a career. Some have cemented a spot for themselves in advertising history. Like the creators of Apple's "1984", or Monster.com's "When I Grow Up" or more recently, Dodge's "God Made a Farmer."
That time, like a schticky, Vaudevillian episode of Seinfeld, has long passed.
The glory has been replaced with a Monday morning chorus that has been singing the same refrain for the last decade.
"The game was OK, but the commercials sucked."
They may be right.
They may be wrong.
Who am I to say?
It's not like I sit at my desk and relentlessly and often carelessly pass judgment on every single issue of the day. Oh wait…
The point is, this year I have no skin in the game. And I couldn't be happier.
Not long ago, I was toiling in the offices of a major agency. I happened across a conference room, where on foam core boards, many potential Super Bowl storyboards were pinned and competing to be the prized agency recommendation.
Next to each script there was a colored Post It Note: red from the Creative Director, blue from Planning, yellow from Account Management, green from Media, magenta from Finance and orange from Human Resources.
Each department head had weighed in on how to 'improve' the spot. And all the notes had a recurring theme:
"Make It Funnier."
I'm not sure how a copywriter and an art director can deliver on that consensual request. I'm only sure that in their efforts to appease the lowest common denominator, interdepartmental scrutiny, the spot got less funny.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
You didn't think I was going to weigh in on the mess in Ferguson, or even yesterday's fiasco in Staten Island, did you?
I like to play with fire and walk the razor's edge but I'm not about to poke that hornet's nest with a big pointy stick.
No, the jury I'm talking about is the one I chaired in an Inglewood courtroom about 5 years ago.
I had been called to jury duty many times prior, but never found a way to get inside the box. And unlike my fellow potential jurors who could spin a yarn or feign mental incompetence, I was eager to serve.
I wanted a first hand look at our dysfunctional judicial system. My experience in Inglewood did not disappoint.
Once in the leather seat, the prosecuting attorney greeted us, spent less than a minute with the pleasantries and then immediately launched into his case. He was not saving the best for last. He went straight for the jugular.
"Ladies and gentleman, I'd like you to look at this videotape."
With that he opened his laptop and hit the play button.
The screen positioned for our viewing pleasure brought up the picture in full High Definition. It was security camera footage shot from inside a convenience store, a 7-11 located just two blocks from the Inglewood Police Station. I could have covered that distance with a solid 5 iron and a good tail wind.
On the tape, we saw a large man wearing a tan polo shirt and blue shorts step behind the counter and hold a screwdriver to the back of a tiny Pakistani man who stood all of 5'4". He demanded all the money and the fresh-off-the-boat cashier complied and handed the man $32.68 cents from the register.
"Thank you, have a nice day," he said reflexively in his thick Urdu accent.
As soon as the thief ran out of the store, the Pakistani man called 911. While he was on the phone with the police he dutifully began ringing up a customer with a two Slim Jims, a bag of corn chips and a large Grape soda.
The burglar did not get far, as a cruiser was returning to base and chased the man down on a nearby street.
As open-and-shut cases go it was textbook open-and-shut. We returned a verdict in 45 minutes, a new world record the Bailiff told us.
It would have been sooner but one guy on the jury was not convinced by the videotape. His reluctance was short lived after an older African American woman on the panel started chewing him out in the most delightful public shaming I've ever witnessed.
"Did you not see the video? What kind of nonsense is coming out of yo mouth? Pick up that damn piece of paper and write guilty before I come over there and slap the stupid outta yo head."
The perpetrator, who has also served time for sexual abuse, is now sitting in a prison in Calapatria. I took the trouble to find him online. And ladies, though he won't be eligible for parole until 2019, he is available and currently looking for companionship.
Clearly, from his criminal activity, he's not the brightest bulb in the package, but he might want to rethink his movie references.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
I'm told I need an exit strategy.
I'm told ad agencies don't need writers anymore.
I'm told there's even less need for 44 year old writers. And what do I plan to do in five years when I become 45?
There's validity to all these statements. But the truth, the sad truth, is I haven't made any contingency plans.
I haven't started studying for my real estate license and have no interest in wasting my weekends at Open Houses entertaining lookyloos while ignoring the awful smells emanating from someone's unsellable home.
I haven't been taking classes to get a teaching credential. Nor do I have the patience to deal with witless students.
"What don't you get? Just do it the way I did. Stop asking questions. And put away the damn iPhone."
And finally, I haven't sufficiently funded my 401k plans. In retrospect I should not have sunk my money into Betamax, Netscape and a new Radio Shack franchise. Who could have predicted people would no longer need pocket transistor radios?
I suppose I'm going to have to turn my creative faculties on their head, and using nothing but my perseverance and imagination, figure my way out of this conundrum.
A buddy, a fellow copywriter, had an interesting thought.
He suggested getting a full time job again. At this stage in my career it would have to be a high level position with a multi-year contract. Then, knowing how averse I am to being on staff, he suggested I drink myself into a lucrative early termination.
His plan was simple.
I would drink. Not a lot at first. A cocktail or two at lunch time. Then a month into the position, I could add a mid-afternoon nip. Followed quickly by morning beers and pre-lunch Bloody Mary's. A couple of failed new business pitches and the agency would have no choice but to fire me and pay out my remaining contract.
It sounded promising, but I had seen others drink themselves into a daily stupor, only to get promoted and handed more managerial responsibility. And God knows I didn't want that.
Then he mentioned Clown Make-Up.
The idea was similar and stunningly beautiful.
In my first week of steady employment, I would apply an ever-so-slight hint of clown make-up to my face. It would hardly be noticeable. Two weeks later, when my fellow employees had become accustomed to my countenance, I would ramp up the rouge, the lipstick and the eye shadow by a mere 5%. Not enough to set off any alarms, but just enough to ease the transition to the next imperceptible phase.
Week by week, my morning make up ritual would last a little longer. Until at about the 6 month mark, someone would look across the conference room table and notice the Executive Creative Director (me) was in full blown Bozo mode.
This plan is nothing short of genius.
And as a bonus will provide me with hours of blogging material.
I better start freshening up my resume.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Soon, my buddy Paul will be making online site reservations for our July 4th camping trip. That's seven months away, you say. Yes it is, but here in Southern California, the land of too many fucking people, you have to plan ahead. If you don't, you'll be pitching a tent between a bear box and the campground dumpster.
There's a sushi restaurant we like on Sawtelle Blvd. We made our reservations for a Saturday night.
Of course, this long lead time gives my wife ample opportunity to start crossing items off The List. Each year, without fail, we haul up a half dozen of these useless Citronella candles. Supposedly, the burning of Citronella oil repels the bloodthirsty mosquitoes.
Unless the mosquito decides to set down on the burning wick and thus subject himself to a little self-immolation, these candles do nothing. Personally, I like my repellents like my cough medications, that is, they should contain some chemical(s) the FDA has declared potentially hazardous or addictive.
This doesn't stop my wife, or the others in our camping group, from swearing by them. Not surprisingly, Citronella falls into the same fairy tale category as organic fruit, past-life memories, and Congressional bi-partisanship.
Last week I watched a program on CNN, I know, I should be ashamed to admit that. Lisa Ling had travelled to the jungle to watch some addle-brained Americans go on a Ayahuasca weekend retreat.
There, under the moist canopy of a Peruvian rainforest and the spiritual guidance of a "shaman" (oh please), these wayward souls paid top dollar to drink a brew of banisteriopsis caapi.
Chemists say the plant contains DMT, dimethlytryptamine, and like LSD can induce severe hallucinations lasting up to six hours. I would suggest the hallucinations don't stop there.
Lisa Ling interviewed many of the participants, who after much vomiting, reported:
"I feel totally cleansed."
"It's like I was being born again."
"I was expecting to see my spirit animals. They didn't show up at first. But then they did. And now I know they live inside my. And guide me. And protect me."
The spirit animals should have warned you not to do an interview with CNN and making a total ass of yourself in front of millions of people.
I'm not sure how Lisa Ling kept a straight face. I may not be the most perceptive man on the planet, my wife can chime in on that, but Lisa looked like she wanted to burst out laughing.
One shaggy-haired participant looked her in the eye, and while stroking his soul patch said:
"I feel like I've reached a higher level of vibration."
If I thought reaching a higher level of vibration had any therapeutic effect and could ease my mid-life neurosis, I would save myself the airfare to Lima, Peru, pass on the self-inflicted hurling and hop on top of my Sears 7.6 cubic feet, front-loading Kenmore Dryer.
Monday, December 1, 2014
This being Thanksgiving Day weekend you might be expecting me to prattle on about how special it was to have my daughter return home for a visit from the University of Washington.
While it was nice to have her, my house was filled was something even more precious: 8 lbs. of leftover turkey, a fridge full of imported beers including some high-alcohol content Chimay Ale and a DVR spilling over with a bounty of NFL and college football games which would all impact the upcoming playoffs and the all important entry into the Lime-Flavored, Oven-Baked Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
You can imagine my reaction when my wife tried to drag me from my plenteous Man Cave. To see a movie, no less.
Personally I don't think there's much reason to visit a movie theater. And there hasn't been since the studios released Stay Tuned, the inspired John Ritter comedy classic from the early 90's, but I humored my wife and asked what she wanted to see?
"The Theory of Everything," she replied, "the Stephen Hawking movie."
You want me to walk away from the nail biting gridiron action between Virginia and Virginia Tech to watch a chick flick about some brainiac who believes in parallel universes?
I'm still trying to picture how the writer pitched this one to the studio.
"It's a Rom-Com meets Quantum Physics meets Rudy."
Before you write me off as some unenlightened lughead, if you haven't already, you should know I take a great interest in science and meta-physics. In fact I started out as a Calculus major in college and had visions of pursuing a career in Math, that is until I found out I could make more money by writing stupid marketing material for large corporations.
Last week I was watching a show that touched on Hawking and his multi-universe theory. The incredibly oversimplified version revolves around the notion of an infinite time space continuum. And within that lies the concept that our world is one of many. Furthermore, each of these other worlds is the result of an alternate choice, you or I made.
That's every decision, large and small.
For instance, let's say you had rye toast for breakfast instead of sourdough. According to Hawking, there exists an entire universe that is based on that innocuous bread choice. Somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away, you are eating sourdough toast and Virginia stops Virginia Tech at the 42 yard line and walks away with the win.
I find this take on infinity and the concept of slightly parallel universes quite fascinating.
It means that 7,931,478 light years away there is a leaner, meaner version of me, with a full head of hair.
He didn't sell his Apple stock prematurely and is sitting on millions of dollars.
And when he isn't swimming in his Olympic sized lap pool in his backyard that is 10 miles from the nearest annoying neighbor, he is being tended to by a crew of naked fitness models skilled in the semi-painful art of deep-tissue Thai Massage.
Of course in this distant Schrodinger world, Rich Siegel's wife is a vegetarian. So the only thing in fridge is half a carcass of uneaten Tofu-rkey.