Wednesday, September 22, 2021

On being Bad


Let me state at the onset this post runs of risk of appearing like a humblebrag. I assure you it is not. 

I like to think of myself as a good copywriter. Not a great one, by any means. I know the names of great copywriters. And many of you know them too. I don't put my name among them by any means. Moreover, I feel less-than-adequate referring to myself as a good one. 

Mostly, because for so many years I have not been practicing or more importantly, paid to be a good one.

For instance, we all stink when we start out in this business. I stunk harder. Writing crappy recruitment ads for both Bernard Hodes and J. Walter Thompson Recruitment. Both agencies now go by different names as they were swallowed up by huge holding companies. I did that for way too long then I should have.

Those years of writing help wanted ads were followed by a short stint writing ads for a hunting and fishing ad agency. You don't know the glamour of advertising until you start waxing poetic about the magic of Deer Urine. 

Then came the journeymen years working at Abert, Newhoff & Burr, Bozell, Chiat/Day, BBDO, Team One and Chiat/Day again. I cannot even bear to read some of the crap I, and the Fortune 500 companies foolish enough to pay for it, committed to ink. 

When I aged out of the agency world, I turned to an almost 20 year career as a freelancer. In other words, the bulk of my copywriting career. That included a short stint as an interim Creative Director at DirecTV, where I composed banner ads and statement stuffers. 

Who can forget, "Spring into Savings with DirecTV's Super Spring Package"? or "It's Fall, Who's Ready for Some Football? NFL package now only $99"?

You think I jest, I do not. 

Incidentally, I was more than happy to crank out this commerce-driven crap. And so much more. Because they paid my day rate. And as a freelance copywriter I was no longer interested in building a portfolio and much more interested in building my "Stay Out of a Dirty Nursing Home Retirement Fund."

I can't begin to tell you the number of times I came to this shameful compromise and gleefully ate the bowls of shit placed before me. Submitting what I considered good copy only to be overruled by ACD's or clients with not one wit of taste. 

As my friend and fellow freelance copywriter Tony Stern once told me, "They're not paying for your heart, or even your brain, they're paying for your wrist."

In other words, stop fighting the current and start swimming with it.

If I were to be brutally honest -- and when am I not on these supervisor-free pages -- I have barely spent 10% of my career as a good copywriter and 110% as nothing more than a word whore. Not bad considering I could have pursued a different vocation as a CPA or an engineer or a lawyer, and had no opportunity whatsoever to pimp my semantic abilities, modest as they are.

----------------------------------------------------

Bonus material: While looking for an image for this post under the search term: Bad Copywriting, I can across the magic of Daniel Lok, the self-styled Tony Robbins of Copywriting. 

Here are some more must-see images from his Copywriting Self Help Seminar...







Note to self: must buy a Velvet Blazer and bow tie. And plants for my desk.




Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Fuck AT&T


At the risk of sounding like the Get Off My Lawn guy that I am quickly becoming, watching TV was so much simpler than it is today. And considerably less expensive. My monthly TV bills are almost as high as my monthly expenditure on books about the failed Trump Regime.

I'm tempted to cut the cable that runs from the ugly satellite dish parked on my roof and snakes its way down the side of my house that no one can see, but the truth is I'm not a "streaming" guy. As my nocturnal trips to the bathroom can attest.

I like to work an old school remote control. Channel Up. Channel Down. And presets for NFL football, ESPN, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, you know to see the latest in ignorance and fall fascism.

Lately, the DVR in my office has been on the blink. The picture is freezing and pixelating. Which is no way to watch the NY Jets stumble down the field and snatch humiliating defeat from the jaws of just a regular defeat.

After 3 hours of phone trees and corporate non-customer service I was finally able to talk to an AT&T representative (Assholes Tried & True), who spoke English in the same broken fashion of my DirecTV. After an unbearable series of "excuse me", "can you repeat that" and "I'm sorry I didn't catch that", she said the technician would arrive between 12-4.

Naturally he showed up at 4. 

Also naturally, before I let him into my house I asked if he was vaccinated. 

And, as Siegel fortune goes, he was not. 

My triple vaccinated wife was upstairs. My double-vaxxed daughters were working in the backyard patio. And my office is just off the front door. Plus, the Giants were playing the Washington Football Team  (really?) that night, so I took a chance and let him swap out my DVR for one that actually works. 

Later, I decided to brave the corporate phone mishigas and go all Don Quixote on AT&T's ass. That's when I ran into Miranda...

"I'm sorry you had an unpleasant experience. We use third party contractors for service calls. And cannot enforce our corporate policies on them. The good news Mr. Siegel is that you are covered by the AT&T equipment protection plan and the new DVR comes to you at no additional cost."

"The Equipment Protection Plan? Am I paying for that?"

"Yes, but I'm going to waive this month's fee for your inconvenience."

So I'm paying an outrageous monthly fee to rent AT&T's equipment. Then I'm paying another outrageous monthly fee to pump in shows like "Say Yes to the Dress" and "Backwoods Bargain Cabins For Sale." AND, I'm paying another outrageous monthly fee to insure the shitty equipment that electronically recreates the shitty programming that I don't even watch. 

In the words of Yaakov Smirnov, "America, what a country."


Monday, September 20, 2021

Noooooorm!


I met Norm Macdonald twice. 

Three times if you count the encounter in the hallway at Margarita Mix (the recording studio in Santa Monica), when I decided it would be best not to say anything, lest he think I was some kind of celebrity stalker.

Occasion #1 -- This was close to 25 years ago when my art director partner John Shirley and I were riding the crest of ad world notoriety with the ABC Yellow campaign. 

We had been in NYC for the TV upfront, where the network rolled out its slew of new programs and peacocked them in front of easily-excited media buyers. It was such a panoply of shit shows, including one season wonders like Hiller & Diller and Over the Top, it was no surprise the people wanted to talk about our campaign. 

At least that was mildly funny.

Following the big production at Radio City Music Hall, where I had the displeasure of watching Dan Ackroyd mangle a manifesto I had written, the small ABC team headed out for some over-served, Omnicom-paid celebration. We walked over to Rockefeller Center and rode the elevator up to the Rainbow Room. If it hadn't been for all that top-shelf bourbon and champagne I might even begin to describe the experience. But I can't.

On the way down, however, we were exiting the lobby when young Norm Macdonald was walking in. I could not resist the opportunity to fanboy the man who had provided so many laughs.

You cannot beat his many appearances on the Dennis Miller Show (before Dennis Miller turned into a fascist). You can see them here

Norm shook our hands and exchanged some pleasantries, which are also lost in the ether.

Occasion #2 -- The second time I ran into Norm he was nearly naked. 

It was in the tiny locker room at the Playa Vista Condo complex at the corner of Jefferson and Lincoln Blvd. The health club served as one of the luxury amenities for all residents of the sprawling Playa Vista complex built atop the former Ballona Wetlands. My brother also had an apartment there and generously let me use his key card to swim in their heated, outdoor Olympic sized pool, which I often had to my self. Aqua-Heaven.

Norm lived in one of the much more expensive buildings and was using the gym facilities as well. I almost didn't recognize him wearing his tightey whiteys. I took the opportunity to apologize for our previous encounter, which of course he did not remember, but he graciously accepted my apologies. 

This happened about 7-8 years ago, when I was swimming regularly. In hindsight, I can tell Norm was not well. His complexion was pale. And he didn't look like he does on TV.

Upon further hindsight, I can tell he was bearing the great load that cancer puts on a body.

I will miss Norm Macdonald. He was a channel stopper. 

If you ever come across his many late night appearances or clips of him doing stand up, do yourself the favor and watch. The labored deadpan delivery, the giggling, the infectious smile, and the inimitable timing, made him that one in 10,000 comedians that you will never forget.

Rest In Peace, Norm.

And thank you.



Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Un-United States of America


I caught the end of Meet The Press last Sunday. For the record, I don't watch these shows as I get my fill of political punditry during the week. Some would argue I indulge too much. Like Mike Huckabee reloading his plate for the 5th time at the local Golden Corral. Mmmmm, bacon macaroni & cheese.

Nevertheless I did hear Doris Kearns Goodwin (too many names) ask why Americans, who exhibited such unity in the past when faced with crises, including 9/11, Cuban Missiles, WWII, etc., found themselves so divided when confronted with the Covid pandemic?

An outstanding question in my view.

George Will, a Republican I actually respect on some occasions, seized the microphone and blathered on about how Americans are suffering War Fatigue. Citing the endless Wars in Asia, the War on Drugs, the War on Religion, the War on Women, blah, blah, blah.

He couldn't be more wrong on the matter. 

We're divided on Covid because Captain Ouchie Foot divided us. Let's recall the first words out of the gate were to the effect of, "Covid is just the next Democratic Hoax." His first response to a worldwide pandemic that has taken the lives of millions was that it was nothing more than a weapon, used to make him look bad.

Holy horseshit, that is some nuclear grade narcissism! And because Covid was a personal attack on him, his Hale Boppish followers perceived any news, warnings, medical alerts that were Covid related, as an attack on them. 

He never took Covid seriously. He said so, to Bob Woodward, "I like to play it down."  He liked to play it down, not because it would panic people as he stipulated, he liked to play it down because it hurt him politically. And how it would effect his economy. His re-election. His legacy, such as it is. 

When Republican leaders failed to criticize his cavalier approach, he went from downplaying the deadly disease to mocking it.

"I'm not wearing a mask."

"People who wear masks are trying to make a political statement."

"...the Kung Flu, you like that? The Kung Flu."

Even as the death toll climbed from three digits, to four digits, to five and then 6, he relentlessly positioned the disease as a political cudgel against him. And by proxy, 75 million American Red Hats.

It makes my twice-vaccinated blood boil. And it has drained me of all sympathy for those who refuse to get vaccinated, who refuse to have their children vaccinated, who balk at mask mandates, and who, despite two impeachments and an Insurrection, cling to this worthless sack of diseased camel haggis.

The descendants of Benedict Arnold, Robert E. Lee, Jeffrey Dahmer and Timothy McVeigh will forever be indebted to the Trump family for stealing the crown of America's Absolute Worst.

Take your Ivermectin and go to hell.




Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Go ahead, tread on me


Came across this gem the other night on Twitter. It struck such the right note with me I decided to make it my cover photo for Facebook.

I sat with it for a day or two and then decided to challenge myself to meet or beat the line. Don't know if I sufficiently rose to that challenge. My colleague and advertising legend Ernie Schenck seemed to think I did and suggested I find a spot for the many attempts I put together.

I'll let you be the judge.



















Tuesday, September 14, 2021

It's Simian Tuesday


I wasn't introduced to the notion of children's books until I was a Dad. I cannot wax poetic about the stories and characters that charmed my childhood because frankly there weren't any. 

My father, still attending night school when I was a kid, had his head buried in the exciting books of Chartered Accountancy. And my mother, corralling three kids less than 4 years apart in age, was too tired at the end of the day to crack open a children's book. Which in hindsight and through the eyes of a spendthrift CPA-to be, were inordinately expensive.

"It's 29 pages long, most of them are pictures and they want $5.99 for the book, getouttahere."

Nevertheless, I do remember some books that left an impact. 

Maybe I saw them in kindergarten class. One was Curious George and The Man with Yellow Hat. I hadn't thought much about CG, my daughters's were more fond of the Hungry Caterpillar, Max and the Wild Things and Zundel the Tailor. That is until I came across an interesting piece on the authors.

Turns out the Jewish couple, Marget and Hans Rey, have quite a story of their own. Living in Paris in 1940, they had heard of the German advancement and the French army's decision not to resist the oncoming Nazi onslaught. So Hans got his Jewish ass working and fashioned a tandem bike together using spare parts purchased from a local shop.

With the rickety bike working, the young couple packed their belongings, including the manuscript for Curious George, and hightailed it for southern France, then Spain, then Portugal, then Rio de Janiero and finally landing in New York.

The rest is history.

It's a fascinating story shaped by world events at the time. And made even more fascinating when you take a closer look at George.


Do you see it?

How about now?

Can't see it? 

Of course you can't because it's a trick question. Monkeys have tails, a strong appendage used for mobility, climbing and a host of other functions. George doesn't.

Mmmm, that's curious.

  

Monday, September 13, 2021

On the wondrous wizardry of PR


 

My daughter was cleaning out her room the other day. 

That alone is cause for celebration. If one were to neglect the fact that she chose to do it at 2 in the morning. With the hallway light on. And shattering the darkness in my bedroom, thanks to a partial glass wall my architect thought would be a nice touch. 

She found the sheet of adhesive stickers (pictured above) that I had given her some 20 plus years ago. 

Those in the business will recognize images from the iconic Chiat/Day campaigns of the past, including Apple's 1984, The Taco Bell Chihuahua (RIP Ginger), Sony PlayStation and Levis. I'm thinking Lee Clow had these made in the late 90's, when the agency was arguably at its finest. We were doing great work-- and let's be honest, it's advertising, so great is a relative descriptor -- firing on all cylinders and riding the crest of that sweet early internet money. Mmmmm, no budgetary limits.

You could argue that spending company money on self promoting stickers, not to mention T-shirts, the oversized foam core posters, and various other swag displaying the company's work, was indulgent. And an exercise in narcissistic navel-gazing. 

But you'd be wrong. 

Because in clear eyed hindsight, and a new perspective gained by watching the political shenanigans of the past 5 years, it's obvious there was a method to all this freewheeling spending.

It was all about building buzz and controlling the narrative. It was major league Public Relations. And I had a front row seat to watch its magical machinations, executed by the finest PR team in all of advertising.

Not to detract from the brilliance of my creative colleagues at the time, but there was an unseen reason why Chiat/Day was always being talked about. And winning awards. And generating growth through the acquisition of new business. And that reason was PR. 

A lion's share of the credit goes to my friend Jeremy Miller (currently working his magic at McCann), who, together with Lee and Bob Kuperman, orchestrated the behind-the-scenes scaffolding that was part and parcel of every campaign that made its way into pop culture. 

I'm not sharing any recipes for the secret sauce here. Agencies, and for that matter Clients, know about PR, they just haven't exercised the imagination it takes to master it. Nor, sadly, are they willing to make the investment. And make no mistake, that's what it is. Because done right, PR can pay dividends. See Apple. See The Kardashians. See (unfortunately) Trump.

Upon even more hindsight, there's no more obvious demonstration of the power of the free press than this blog. 

Started more than 12 years ago, and worming its way into the morning routine of fellow disgruntled advertising creatives, I can safely and immodestly say RoundSeventeen and its steady stream of irrelevant "content" and puff pieces, has helped distinguish me from the hordes of other freelance copywriters and accounted for the bulk of the revenue that went towards tomahawk steaks, two college tuitions, and my prized 2015 Audi S5.

It even paved the way for my return to the corporate world. Who in their right mind would hire a washed up 44 year old copywriter, whose best days are way, way behind him? 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Forgive me father


As noted on Tuesday, we are now in that period, known to 16 million Jews worldwide, as the High Holidays. 

I know you're thinking, only 16 million! How can such a small group have an iron grasp on the world's media, financial and accounting institutions? If you were so inclined, you could probably find 10 million dentists who were MOT, Members of the Tribe. 

That 16 million number makes no sense, it's got to be much larger, particularly if you ever tried to get a good parking space for services at the Monsey Jewish Center. Or lined up for bialys at Oasis bagels on Horace Harding Blvd.

But I digress.

Next week, in accordance with tradition that dates back 5781 years, when two goat herders, Morty and Saul, felt bad about letting their flock graze on Irving's small patch of land, and thought, "That was wrong, we should take a day to reflect on our poor judgment and atone for our sins", is Yom Kippur.

"Should we give Irving some extra shekels?"

"What are you meshuga? Let's just feel bad and not eat for a day."

I'm not sure I have a favorite Jewish holiday. But I am sure I have a least favorite one. All that somberness. All that somberness without a chicken salad melt or a toasted everything bagel. Topped with even more somberness.

Worst of all, Yom Kippur is a mindfuck for me. 

Chalk it up to my inflated self-righteousness, but there's little in the year that I feel the need to atone for. Particularly in the past year, where in addition to taking care of my wife, I've had the additional task of taking care of my uncle, who is in hospice care at a shitty, ridiculously-expensive assisted living home that serves as constant reminder to bank some money for the golden years.

Can I be better husband, father, and friend? Absolutely.

Can I have a cheese stick?  Absolutely not.

Nevertheless, I will cop to major sin of schadenfreude. Lately, as I'm sure you've noticed, there has been a panoply of anti-vaxxer, right wing, Christian evangelical DJ's who regularly spew disinformation, giving deathbed pleas to Red Hat listeners about taking Covid seriously. You know, like the rest of us have been doing.

When more than 600,000 of their fellow Americans (perhaps because many were old and brown) needlessly died, these hillbilly boneheads had nothing but contempt and blind allegiance to their former president. But moments before a foot long stainless steel intubation tube was desperately rammed down their gullet, they finally saw the light.

Fuck them. I hope they went to the hot place.

In which case, I'll see them on the flip side cause I'm gonna celebrate their departure with a plate of thick cut applewood cured bacon. And I won't wait until sunset.


 


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

A fabulous day in the neighborhood


Generally speaking, I usually refer to Suffern, NY as my hometown. The reality is I only lived there for little more than a decade. From when I was 11 years old until I was 22, graduated from college and spent every last dime I had to get away from Suffern and my parents. 

In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time with them, particularly now with the hindsight of my own abysmal parenting skills. 

"How hard is it to put away the dishes?"

But I can't, because with $99 in my pocket I bought a one way ticket to Los Angeles, knowing no one, having nowhere to sleep and no job to go to, and I never looked back. I literally spitballed the rest.

Truth is, Culver City is my hometown. And it's why I love when the local CC Facebook page digs up old photos of this once sleepy and ignored suburb of Los Angeles.

The picture above is a race driver rounding the turn and gunning it up the straightaway of what is now Jasmine Ave.

Here's another cool pic.

What I wouldn't give to jump in one of these jalopies and bury the gas pedal into the floorboards. 

You see, prior to the housing developers swooping in and turning this fair city into the real heart of Screenland -- now home to two major studios, Sony, Culver, plus Apple, and Amazon -- there was a motorway on the land I call home.

And prior to the motorway that perfectly encircles my neighborhood, there was an oval-shaped horse-racing track. The current streets mirror the old track.

In fact, while excavating a section of my backyard, one of the crew pulled an almost-pristine horseshoe out of the ground, which we had mounted for display and had brought us a host of good luck. 

Until the year 2020.

My favorite picture in this collection of historical photos is the overhead, which in the absence of drones or helicopters, must have been snapped by a barnstorming yahoo who had mastered the biplanes of the era. 

I like to think his name was Red. Or Bessie, a hard drinking woman who picked barfights in what is now the Backstage Cafe, where Bogart and Cary Grant were regular patrons.

Here's a look at my neighborhood from 1000 feet above sea level.

And finally, here's one last photo taken years later, when the track was disassembled and the homebuilders built their fortunes. You can see one of my neighbor's original Spanish style homes as well as the aforementioned location of the local watering hole.


Look closely and you can  even spot the Y in the road and the street which is now Jackson Ave, home of the legendary Jackson Market. If you ever come to my neighborhood, I highly recommend a stop there for the best custom made to order sandwiches. 

Mine is the Panina-pressed oven roasted turkey sandwich on ciabatta with cheddar, pepperoni, sun-dried tomato, avocado, and light aoli-mayo. 

Mmmmm, melty.





Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Te- Qui-La


Today is a Holiday. And I'm not referring to the Post Labor Day Mattress Sales that are raging across the country, in suburban strip malls festooned with balloons and air tube dancers.

Today is Rosh Hashanah, aka Yom Teruah, aka Feast of the Trumpets, aka The Day of Shouting and Blasting. 

Though I must say, I have several Israeli contractors putting in an outdoor deck in my backyard (a present for my wife) and they don't need a holiday for shouting. Everything they say to each other is in triple digital decibels. I'm thinking this may account for the inability to strike a peace deal in the Middle East.

I have in the past poked fun at Rosh Hashanah, as I will today, but I'm intentionally going to tread lightly as I have new friends who are deeply religious and take this stuff seriously.

I, uhhh, don't. 

For me Rosh Hashanah will always conjure up childhood images of the end of Summer and my parents dragging our asses to the Monsey Jewish Center -- that's right we lived in the Mecca of America Judaism, Monsey, NY -- where we sat for 8 hours in stiff wool suits that were only carted out for high holidays, bar mitzvahs or the passing of an aunt or uncle I never knew.

My perspective on going to temple has changed. 

It's more bearable on the West Coast, where the weather is more accommodating and the congregants often show up in Hawaiian shirts and summer dresses. Also, we all have iPhones now. So when the service turns to

"...David son of Solomon, married Ruth, who begat Saul, who married Esther, who begat Jedidiah, who lusted for Rebecca but married Mindy, who begat..."

I can always divert my attention to what's going in the real world of 2021 and not the genealogical family tree of 943 BC.

Did a little digging on the etymology of Rosh Hashanah, and by that I mean I went to Wikipedia. This was necessary as all my Hebrew school learning has been lost or erased by my adult ability to exercise critical thinking. The New Year was originated as a celebration of the new agricultural year, that is the cycle of sowing, growth and harvest.

I know as much about farming as I know about cricket, Shakespeare and dime store romance novels, and no idea that seeds were sown in the fall. Even in the Fertile Crescent which is in the Northern Hemisphere.

Here's what I do know, when it comes to holidays and celebrations, we don't measure up to our Abrahamic brethren. For instance, here's a picture of some foods favored by Libyan Jews to ring in the new year.

You gotta be the world's greatest lover of stewed fruits to get excited about that.

This is a point I have made in the past. But it's made even better by Sebastian Maniscalo. 




Thursday, September 2, 2021

WTF?


Weeks ago, I started a new themed series here on RoundSeventeen. As some of you might have noticed over the years -- I'm talking to you 8 regular readers -- I like doing themed series. In a very measurable way it saves me a lot of time and trouble trying to come up with new material.

Moreover, the practice leans into my training in advertising. 

After all, a big idea is only a big idea if it can be pooled out. Given legs. Executed thematically in many different ways.

To that end, when I stumbled upon "Shit I Will Never Understand", I knew instinctively that this would be an easy Go To topic. Particularly at the end of the week. And even more particularly in the year 2021, where every day the news cycle delivers more and more Shit I will Never Understand.

First up...

IVERMECTIN -- Two months ago it looked like we would finally emerge from this Covid Hell we've all been struggling through. Shots were going into arms and we were in striking distance of Herd Immunity. 

But then came along a bunch of shyster degreed clowns pimping their own medicine, leveraging the distrust of government (fueled by Q and the GQP) and sending thousands of fishbrained Americans to their local veterinary clinic.

"I'm concerned about Covid, but I'm gonna take a hard pass on those mRNA based vaccines which have been in development for more than a decade and cleverly mimic the attributes of Covid thus triggering the body's proclivity to produce antibodies. Instead I'm gonna score some horse dewormer from the guy who makes stable visits and puts food on his family's table by expressing the anal glans of dogs, cats and the occasional pet ferret."

AFGHANISTAN -- We are out. And that is a very, very good thing. I will concede that the initial footage from the withdrawal was chaotic. And the optics looked terrible for President Biden. And he will have to own that. Nor did it help matters when ISIS-X or ISIS-K, cowardly sent a suicide bomber into the soft target and took the lives of 200 people including 13 US soldiers. 

But had we reneged on Precedent Shitgibbon's Surrender Plan ("I make the best deals") the Taliban would have escalated the warfare and many more US soldiers would have died, especially when you consider the troop totals had been drawn down to 2500.

And the military hardware left behind? Well that was given to the Afghan Army by three previous US presidents, not President Biden. And what exactly are the naysayers concerned about? Have you seen a map of Afghanistan? Who are they going to turn those weapons against? Iran? Pakistan? Tadjikistan? None of whom are all that friendly to US interests. Have at it.

and finally...

WATER -- It is accepted as fact that humans can go up to a week without food. Given my girthiness and my current inability to exercise (hip replacement), I could probably last two weeks, but not be very happy about it. Conversely, the human body can only go 2-3 days without water.

It is, without a doubt, our most precious resource. Which doesn't stop my neighbor from diligently washing his 18 motor vehicles at least twice a week. 

Out here in the West, our water supply is at its lowest in decades. You might have seen pictures of the Colorado River. I've seen my dog produce more powerful and robust streams. Meanwhile, our supply of fresh water is dwindling. At the same time, due to global warming, our sea levels are rising.

Riddle me this Batman, why are we not undertaking a huge engineering project, like generations before us, and building a pipeline, tunnel or canal, that would funnel water from the Pacific into vast reservoirs in Nevada, Utah and Idaho, where, through the process of solar powered desalination, that water could be used to irrigate farms, power top hydroelectric plants and restock our lakes, rivers and water tanks.

It would also relieve the inconceivable guilt my neighbor must be harboring for wasting all the precious H20 on his small fleet of vehicles.  








Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Florida Man, he's 100% Florida


I am nothing if not easily amused. I have often written how I spend hours laughing at my own material. Mostly because others won't. 

But the sad fact is, it doesn't take much to make me laugh. I even made the mistake of copping to enjoy the first few iterations of the Emu Limu campaign. That not longer holds true. Nevertheless my funny bone is easily tickled.

That's why I am so pleased to have discovered the Florida Man challenge. This was brought to my attention the other day when, after slapping my hand for pushing a creatively-driven agenda a little too hard (old habits), my boss turned me on to a meme that may or may not be old.

Here's the upshot. You simply go to a Google search, type in "Florida Man your birthday". No years, no quotation marks, eg: Florida Man February 28.

This is what pops up on mine...


That is simply genius. I could argue that this treasure chest mitigates all the downsides of the interwebs including the pernicious way it has destroyed the advertising industry. And vaulted data miners to the top of the communications food chain. But I'm gonna stop right here.

I did a little digging beyond this newspaper snippet and read Mr. McLemore, the unhappy man in the MyPillowGuy Suicide Suit, in addition to holding a SWAT team at bay during this tense hostage standoff, was also torturing his prisoners by reading aloud many lyrics from ColdPlay. 

Oh The Humanity!

If that doesn't sum up Florida in one complete nutshell, I don't know what will.

But I will cut this posting short because I can tell you have an itchy keyboard finger and want to find out what weird and unimaginable shit happened in Tallahassee or Daytona or Naples on your birthday.

Let us know in the comments.


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

NINETY FIVE PERCENT


Yesterday I reported on my recovery. A topic that can only be of interest to myself and my two daughters, who are tired of me using my ailment as an excuse not to walk the dog, take out garbage and other assorted Dad tasks.

Today, in other and much more important health-related news, I am sharing an update on my wife's ongoing battle with a very rare liver/bile duct cancer that turned our lives upside down, two days after the country went on Covid lockdown in March of 2020. 

The past year and a half has not been fun. But Cancer Queen and I and our two amazing effervescent daughters are making the best of it. 

They can't take away our ability to laugh.

About two months ago, the Radiologist on our UCLA Team (the best in the land for my money and the money of United Healthcare) called us out of the blue. Dr. Sid, short for Siddharta, suggested we look into the possibility of the relatively new Y90 treatment. 

In laymen's terms --because I'm no doctor, though as I often remind my wife, "I got an A+ in Biology as a freshman in college" -- the nuclear medicine team would prepare a special batch of microscopic glass beads containing radioactive material with a very short half life. The beads are injected into large arteries which are feeding the tumor. They then begin to embolize the surrounding tissue (tumor) and effectively kill it.

We thought long and hard over the wisdom of trying this procedure. It was not without its risks. But since the chemo had stopped working and my wife was bedridden 23 hours a day from the never-ending fatigue, we decided to go Y90.

That was a month ago, about the same time I was being filleted for my surgery. 

In the weeks that followed, Deb was down for the count. Not eating. Not reading. Not moving. Not doing much of anything. Sad confession, she wasn't nagging me either, so that was nice.

Last Monday, she went in for the very telling CT scan, which would inform us whether those tiny pellets had done what they promised to do. And two days later, Dr. Sid called us via a televisit.

He gave us a painfully lengthy preamble, much like the one you're reading right now. Admitting, that because of the complexity of Deb's tumor, this Y90 treatment was the trickiest one he had ever conducted, including the hundreds he had done at University of Washington, my daughter's alma mater.

Finally, with a big smile he announced, 

"It worked. The embolization has effectively killed 95% of the tumor!" 

Tears. Smiles. More tears. More smiles.

This fucking tumor, which has sunk its insidious tentacles into all our lives, has met its match.

As anyone who ridden the Carcinoma Train knows, we are not out of the woods. Yet. But the next steps can wait. In fact, our lead oncologist said we can have 2-3 months without any procedures or any chemo. And with increased energy and positivity, Debbie can slowly recover and get back to some normalcy. 

Nothing would make me happier. Even a little nagging.

Deb and I hope to celebrate by taking Lucy on a hike. Something we haven't done in what feels like 95 years.


 


Monday, August 30, 2021

Progress Report


I told myself I would not make my hip replacement regular fodder for this blog, but then again who am I to look a titanium gift horse in the leg?

It was 4 weeks ago today when a young surgeon stood in a Santa Monica hospital, turned to the nurse and said, "Gimme the big scalpel, the No. 10 Machete, and let's get this fat boy sliced open." 

Hours later, through the miracle of silicon substitute cartilage and the dulling effects of industrial grade opioids --- Mmmmm, opioids -- I was miraculously standing on two feet and, with the aid of a walker and PT therapist named Logan, walking the hallways in the Santa Monica Hospital OR recovery room.

The modularity of the human body still amazes me. 

We are in the truest sense of the word, the sum of all the parts. And sometimes those parts need to be replaced. I can't help but wonder what our nomad Neanderthal ancestors did to older members of the tribe when they couldn't keep up the pace of the hunt. 

I'm sure the first hip replacement was nothing more than the Alpha grunting something unintelligible to one of his underlings. Followed quickly by a large stone to the head of the limping straggler.

In any case, the rehabilitation is going fine. I no longer need the walker. I was given permission to sleep on my stomach. And, after watching my gait, the orthopedic surgeon gave me the OK to resume my Peloton work-outs. 

I think he was premature on that. Because after 20 minutes on the bike the next day (I should have done 10) I was sore and any progress slowed considerably. I so want to get back to normal that I have a tendency to overdo things. 

As in most things in life. 

If my reading of all the Internet material on 'hip replacement rehabilitation' is correct, I will be fully recovered in two weeks. And if I'm not, I will explore the possibility of supplementing my comeback with this new drug I've been hearing so many good things about -- Ivermectin.

I hear it cures Covid and builds bodies in 12 strong ways.



Thursday, August 26, 2021

Space Force


There is a video I share often on social media.

I might have even shared it here on RoundSeventeen once, maybe twice, maybe even three times. Who knows, sometimes I forget things like how to spell 'trepidation' or if I got along with a certain person in one of my many past advertising lives. 

Nevertheless I'm sharing it again, because it requires repeated viewings.

The video is not actually a video but a slow push in on a composited photo consisting of billions and billions of pixels. And it was put to a haunting piece of music that perfectly captures the awe contained within.

When you watch this video, and I guarantee you won't just watch it once, you can't help but to put things in proper perspective. 

Suddenly, what seemed pressing, like the stack of unpaid bills on the kitchen counter, the barking dogs on my street, and the streets to the east and the west of my house, and my daughter's panoply of shoes strewn about the house like so many lost Legos, didn't seem so pressing. 

By the way, I tried to use the word panoply in some body copy last week and had my hand slapped, I assume for being too cerebral. The substituted word, plethora, met a similar fate.

Not to get too nihilistic, but the truth is when looking at this amazing piece it's hard to fathom anything really mattering at all. 

Not the fender swipe on our leased Mazda CX5. Nor an impending nuclear holocaust that would obliterate life on this planet, which would have Zero, to the power of a billion ones, impact on this unfathomably large universe. 

To believe that the Creator of all this gives a rat's ass whether I put cheese on my burger or whether two men decide to love each other or whether someone draws a cartoon of the said Creator is equally unfathomable. The astute reader will note I bagged on all three Abrahamic religions.

That is not to say that nothing comes of this. 

Pardon the dime store philosophy, but my takeaway is quite simple. This, along with my wife's cancer, serve to remind me that we live in the Now. Time and space may be infinite, but we are not. 

And though it can be a struggle sometimes, I'm pushing myself to be kinder, more generous and more understanding with friends, family and even co-workers. Because they have their own tsuris.

But that does not apply to cretinous social media Red Hats, who have given this particular point of Now in American history a black eye. They will continue to be the object of my scorn. Here's an actual snippet from a Cool Aid Kultist:

IT'S CALLED A BIO-WEAPON FOR A REASON. SO HOW WOULD TRUMP KNOW ABOUT UNTIL IT WAS UNLEASHED UPON THE PUBLIC AND YOU HAVE THE AZZ-CLOWN FAKE NEWS RUNNING COVER FOR IT. IT'S CALLED A VACCINE BUT IT DOESN'T CURE IT. I BELIEVE THEIR ON THEIR 4TH BOOSTER SHOT COMING UP AFTER THE NEW DELTA STRAIN, AND THEN THEY'LL BE ANOTHER ONE. AND DR. EVIL FA--UCI IS COMPLICITE WITH THE CHYNESE IN MANUFACTURING THE VIRUS THROUGH GAIN OF FUNCTION. HOW WOULD ONE EXPLAIN DR. EVIL PREDICTING A PANDEMIC ?

Sadly, the "writer" of this brain vomit went to my high school. Ugh. 

Now you know why that scorn that burns with all the heat of every Supernova star seen in the video.

And then some.






Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Eat your meat


Today we're doing another book review. 

"But we did a book review yesterday", I can hear you muttering. 

Yes, yes, I know that. But the truth is that in my current hip replacement rehabilitation I've been doing a lot of reading lately. 

In addition to polishing off the Precedent Shitgibbon Trilogy of Clusterfuckian Catastophres, I just finished Cameron Day's Chew with Your Mind Open. I would have teased this post with a cover shot of his book...

...but Cameron was kind enough to take his own advice and steal from himself (see his outdoor board above) thus saving me the awkwardness of leading with a weak come on. Sorry, Cam, book cover posts never do well, traffic-wise.

Obviously, I loved the book. 

And I'm not just saying that because of the homages he has sprinkled throughout his tome, including a very sly reference to this here very blog. If my two daughters wanted a pursue a career as a copywriter or an art director, and thankfully they don't, I would make this book required reading.

Whatever vocational path they finally decide on, they should read it, because Cameron, unlike myself, has a acquired a vault full of sage career advice, much of which revolving around the process of pushing ideas to the forefront and navigating that process with diplomacy and smarts.

Something I frankly sucked at. And still suck at.

"Why should we do that? Because I wrote it, that's why."

It should be noted that Cameron and I came up through the business at roughly the same time and followed roughly the same paths. We even worked at Bozell during the same shitty time when Hy Yablonka was trying make something good of the place, but couldn't. 

We both had colossal ego-fueled run ins with the same violent, unbalanced director, Cameron calls him Toby O'Toole. In my book, I went decidedly less veiled and called him Sonny Jay.

And we both started as juvenile young copywriters determined to make a mark on this business. In the years that followed, he has matured and accumulated enough wisdom to fill two of these books and help launch the careers of thousands. 

I began writing a crappy blog.

If the powers that be at the host of ad schools throughout the country including Miami, Richmond and even Syracuse were smart, they would put this book into the curriculum. 

It's that good. And that helpful.

And if Cameron hadn't thought about that and then decides to follow through on my suggestion and then scores multiple contracts with the aforementioned Ad universities, I should claim a finder's fee of at least 17%

At least.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

2020 Hindsight


 

I knew when it was announced a couple of months ago, three new books documenting Grandpa Ramblemouth's clusterfuckian final year in office, that I had better make room on my bookshelves.

This weekend I finished the last book in the trilogy. Though I have already pre-ordered Bob Woodward's new book, Peril, so you have that book review to look forward to.

This book by Michael Bender was not as titillating as Michael Wolff's Landslide. Nor was it as linear as Leonnig & Rucker's I Alone Can Fix This. Nevertheless it was equally jaw dropping in its depiction of the incompetence, lust for power and moral cravenness. And it did go deliciously into the weeds to suss out the dysfunctional dynamics of all the warring WH camps.

Had I been in college I probably would have bookmarked snippets in order to support my opinion. But I didn't, so we'll have to rely on my sketchy, getting sketchier, memory.

One gem that stood out in my mind was the preparation for the June 19th, 2020 rally in Tulsa, OK, wherein the lily white staff conveniently ignored the significance of that date to the African American community. 

It's not that they didn't know, they didn't, nor had they known, would they have even cared.

In discussing the venue and the wisdom of having the rally during an upswing in Covid cases, the attractive but obviously evil Hope Hicks, one of Shitgibbon's closest advisors, said of the people planning to attend the rally...

"These are grown adults (many of them very grown adults). They know there's coronavirus out there. They can make their own decisions. And if they want to take the risk, it's on them." 

Equally telling is how all three books provide a glimpse of many of the same situations: minimizing the danger of Covid, election night results, and the dangerous propagation of the Big Lie -- a divisive issue that still lingers with us until Mike Lindell, MyPillowGuy™ can come up with the next devilish scheme.

I know some of you share the same concerns of my wife and my daughters, "Dad, you're over-the-top obsessed with this. You gotta let it go. You're gonna drive yourself crazy."

To which my only retort would be... 

"I've been a resident of Crazy Town for the entirety of my life, all 44 years, I'm not getting any cardboard boxes or renting a U-Haul any time soon. So you just better get used to it."

In other words, the Trump mudslinging will continue. Moreover, I still have plenty of weapons grade painkillers from my hip surgery. 

It could get wild.

Monday, August 23, 2021

How bout them Cowboys?


I don't know if I've posted about this before. 

When you write a daily blog (OK, M-Thurs.) every week for the last twelve years, it's hard to keep track of what I written about and the dwindling number of topics I haven't written about. But I love this show.

Hard Knocks is on Tuesdays at 10 PM, on one of my 753 HBO channels. Each year the producers follow the travails of 93 aspiring football players as they put themselves through training camp, hoping to secure one of the 53 prized spots on the roster.

But don't fool yourself into thinking there are 53 openings. There are not. 

Many of those slots have been filled by veterans who already have multi-million contracts and sponsors showering them with even more millions of dollars. Those guys are the least interesting characters on the show.

I like the rookies. The undrafted. The kid who flew in from Poland or East Africa and is willing to give it his all, just for a chance to make the practice squad.

I think of it as Football, Unmasked. In that we see, hear and feel the real life drama of the faceless guys we see on Sundays with their clownish end zone dances.

It's all narrated by Liev Schrieber, whose voice seems custom fit for this type of show.

This year, they're following the Dallas Cowboys, one of my least favorite teams in the league. The "owner", Jerry Jones, has a Big Daddy plantation vibe about him that I find repulsive. 

And they're Dallas. 

Dallas, Texas. 

Enough said. 

(Apologies to my few Lone Star state friends)

Having been a fan of this show for the past decade, I know what's coming. Nevertheless, I allow myself to get sucked into the personal stories that make each of these gridiron warriors more than a number and a replaceable name tag on the back of a jersey.

The last episode in the miniseries is always the toughest. That's when the cuts come. As well as the obligatory and half-hearted farewell speeches by the coach who has to hand out the walking papers.

The biggest takeaway from the show is that football in the NFL isn't always what it seems. It's more dimensional. More personal. And more human. I suppose, with the exception of the Republican Party, you could say that about most organizations.

I'm surprised the genii at HBO have not thought to do a similar treatment for baseball, basketball and hockey.

I'd watch.


 

 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

No more cold pizza


There's been a spew of How to Succeed in Advertising By Trying Really Hard, Eating Lots of Bowls of Shit and Staying Late Every Goddamn Weekend books recently.

Weeks ago I reviewed Junior by Thomas Kemeny. I understand Luke Sullivan, will be re-releasing an updated version of his book, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. And yesterday I received my copy of my friend Cameron Day's Book, Chew with Your Mind Open. 

I haven't had time to dig into Cameron's book so I won't short shift him here with a high school type review.

If I were to do my own version of one of these how-to books it would be incredibly short, not to mention highly acerbic. I would simply advise youngsters coming into the business to do everything 180 degrees from what I did.

Truth is, I don't have the wisdom or the answers to any of this mishigas

If I did, my career, even in its current state of rapid decline, would not be spent... oh, I think in the interest of preserving my 401k plan, I'll stop right there.

But here's one truth that I have come to know after all these many years in this business: doing crappy work is infinitely harder and more time consuming than doing good work. Infinitely.

As an added axiom, I know many of these books will tell you that every assignment is an opportunity, something I might have believed in my early days at Chiat/Day. But as a natural born contrarian, I'm here to tell you, that little nugget is nothing more chocolate covered cowshit.

There are bad assignments, particularly in the data-fueled world of 2021. 

If, for instance a young copywriter, working on a supermarket account is told, "we need you to do a banner ad for "Iceberg Lettuce, now $1.29 a Head." There's simply not a lot of wiggle room there. 

Particularly when the mandatories include:

* Must mention Iceberg Lettuce 

* Must state the price, $1.29

* And must not exceed 6 words

I'd have much better luck writing a Super Bowl spot for this than a pithy banner ad. In fact, I could have 3 great Super Bowl spots written around this absurd premise before I could come up with 3 viable alternatives to: "Iceberg Lettuce, now $1.29 a Head."

It cannot be done. Nor, I'll add, should it.

Sometimes Sisyphus, and all you aspiring copywriters, it's better to let that mighty 12 ton rock roll right on down the hill and smash through the front doors of a Chick Filet. Or a Hobby Lobby. Or the local RNC headquarters.

End of rant.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

I owe, I owe...


Opened my Wells Fargo statement today and discovered the IRS had just cashed the check for the remaining balance of my 2019 taxes. 

That's right, I said 2019.

Turns out that because I had withdrawn a significant amount of cash from my IRA to finance the remodeling and reaping of my uncle's house in Palm Springs --- a thousand bucks for a shower head? --- I had an unusually large tax debt. 

In fact when my CPA told me about this, back in March 2020, just as we were going into Covid lockdown and weeks after we found out about my wife's illness, I thought, "I wonder if arsenic has a bad aftertaste."

I consulted my brother who is also a CPA, though not my CPA, who suggested I pay off as much as I can and suffer the IRS penalties. Which turned out to be a great idea considering the alternative of withdrawing more money from my IRA and incurring a 33% surcharge in the form of future tax obligation.

Wouldn't you know it, my CPA just emailed me the great news about my 2020 tax returns. With an equally large and equally unpayable debt that I now owe Uncle Sam.

As you might expect, I am thoroughly chuffed. Chuffed, if you don't know is English slang, meaning excitedly happy. But I contend the Brits have it all wrong. Chuffed is a word that sounds like pissed off, peeved, outraged, etc. 

But I digress. 

Yeah I'm not happy about going 5 digits deep into new debt. Especially when I know fuckers like Bezos, Branson, Musk and Shitgibbon himself, have jigged the system in their favor and pay next to nothing in taxes.

Nevertheless, I have a grown-up's understanding of how things work and will happily, ok maybe happily is the wrong word, pay up. 

Why? 

Because I enjoy living in a country with paved roads and semi-stable bridges. 

I take comfort that we have the world's most sophisticated defense systems, working 24/7/366 to fend off enemy attacks, except the internal ones.

I know that our standard of living, including access to Dave's Hot Chicken, on demand Netflix and mammoth taxpayer-funded sports coliseums in every major city, is not FREE.

You gotta pay for this shit. We all gotta pay for this shit. 

Just not all at once, so sayeth my brother.