Monday, August 31, 2009

Mission Accomplished

A great man once said, "If you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life." And in that sense I've been blessed. I knew, from a very early age, that I wanted to write. Through dumb luck or hard work or a likely combination of the two, I've been able to make a living as a writer.

This is surprising since I am not particularly well-read. My shameful lack of literary reference is only surpassed by my appalling ignorance of proper grammar. If you held a gun to my head I couldn't tell you the difference between a gerund and a dipthong. And thankfully it has never come up in a business meeting.

Years ago, Rob Schwartz (Chief Creative Officer at TBWA Chiat/Day) and I teamed up and feverishly wrote spec TV scripts. We cranked out episodes of FRAZIER, COACH, The DREW CAREY SHOW, etc. Our best script was an episode of The LARRY SANDERS SHOW. The premise --Rob's gem of an idea -- was that Gary Shandling would be a guest on the Larry Sanders Show.

Somehow we got the script into the hands of Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, Executive Producers of The SIMPSONS. They loved it. Quite flattering considering they ran the funniest show on television.

Months later, they hired Rob and I to write an episode of their new animated show called MISSION HILL. I use this word "hired" lightly as I'm sure the night cleaning crew made more that week than we did.

I want to tell you the experience was a bit of writing nirvana, but it wasn't. It was an unfamiliar process that barely resembled writing. From 10 o'clock in the morning until midnight, we sat in a cramped room with 7-8 Harvard Lampoon graduates, eating cold food from Burger King and beating out line after unfunny line. A waterboarding break at 8 o'clock would have been a pleasant diversion.

Though few, if any, of our jokes got used, the episode did get produced and runs on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. On episode 13 titled, "Happy Birthday Douchebag", Rob and I were actually given a credit. I'm pretty sure the credit was for sticking with it as long as we did.

We remain grateful to Josh and Bill for giving us the opportunity, but writing for TV was not at all what Rob and I had dreamed of since childhood, so we returned to our careers in advertising.

There's an important lesson in all of this.

Be careful what you wish for. Because you might just get it. And don't sit in a room for extended periods of time with guys eating Whoppers and Onion Rings because once that smell gets on your clothes or in your car, no amount of Febreeze will get it out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sup Brohamulus?

Feast or famine. That's the mantra of the freelance copywriter. When the phone rings, it rings a lot and I stay up late, work on the weekends or do whatever it takes to get the job(s) done. And when it doesn't ring, well then I do laundry, take care of the kids and go to the grocery store.

I like going to the supermarket. It gives me a chance to strap myself into the blood pressure machine. There, I can see the results of my rigorous fitness routine. Today for instance, I lifted weights in the morning, swam a mile at lunchtime and will run three miles before dinner.

My resting pulse rate in the 40's puts me in the same category as many top Olympic swimmers, though I will mercifully never display any pictures of myself in a Speedo. (Actually, the last time I wore a Speedo I had more hair on my head than I do in my ears.)

Why the monumental fight against Father Time?

Advertising is a young person's business. And while I have the advantage of experience, maturity and a tireless work ethic, there is no getting around the fact that youth must still be served.

And so I verse myself in the digital medium and sweat excessively as often as possible, hoping I can maintain the illusion of being current. And praying that I never have to resort to wearing the hipster hat and a T-Shirt from the Ed Hardy Douchebag Collection.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Everywhere I look these days I see people using this one word response to voice their opinion on a particular restaurant or a movie or a book or even a Presidential initiative on health care reform.

I know we live in an age of short attention spans and 140 character twitter updates, but this one four letter F-word seems so inadequate.

If you are so drawn to voice an opinion about the fatty, dullish grey meat served at Johnny's Pastrami in Culver City then swallow your food and voice an opinion.

If you need to vent about the formulaic plotting in The Hangover, then vent accordingly.

If you need to point out the hypocrisy of private-jetting Hollywood celebrities telling us how we need to conserve resources then point them out and name names.

If however, you are a reductionist slug without the motivation or wherewithal to articulate an opinion or a point of view and you want to demonstrate your abundant laziness, then by all means continue to use the word, "FAIL."

Because in that endeavor you are an unqualified, "SUCCESS."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Last week the Scottish government released Mohmed al Megrahi, one of the men convicted in the horrific 1993 Lockerbie bombing, a bombing that killed 35 of my fellow Syracuse Orangemen who were studying abroad.

Typical of a culture that celebrates death and the murder of "infidels", al Megrahi was greeted as a homecoming hero as he stepped off the plane in Libya.

Naturally, the civilized world is upset over this turn of events.

That is not to say that justice has gone unserved. Two thousand miles away from the tarmac in Tripoli, there are other butchers like Mohmed al Megrahi hard at work. Fortunately, our American tax dollars are working harder.

(Make sure you stick around for the "Happy Ending.")

Monday, August 24, 2009

Art, my ass

Last week my wife went down to Long Beach to babysit my nephew. His parents were going for a night out in Laguna Beach. Somehow they had secured tickets to the magical wonder that is The Pageant of the Masters.

For those of you who don't know, the Pageant has been a staple in Laguna for many years now. I myself attended one show that seemed to last three years.

Basically, the artisans of Laguna are dressed and made up to look like figures from classic paintings. Then these living, breathing human beings stand in front of backdrops. That's all they do. They re-enact a painting. A painting I've never seen. That hangs in a museum I never want to go to.

I realize this makes me sound like a culture-less clod, but I'm not beyond enjoying an afternoon of art. Last year for instance we caught Cai Guo-Qiang at the Guggenheim. It had flying wolves, dynamite and neon-pierced cars hanging from the ceiling, you know, art.

The point is if I want to see painted characters standing still I'll go down to the Santa Monica Promenade and watch this guy...

For an extra buck, he'll even throw in a moonwalk.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bad Dad

I know it happens to every parent, but somehow that's little consolation. You try to get your daughter to do her chores. To clean up her room. Or empty the dishwasher. You reason with her. You blather on about your own burdensome childhood. You reason with her some more. And when that doesn't work you raise your voice and she runs off to her room screaming, "I hate you and I hate your ugly cargo shorts."

I know this happens to others because I did a Google search of "teenage angst" and came up with 2,998,000 hits.

But just as I begin to feel like a total loser dad, TV comes to the rescue.
In the form of The Learning Channel.
And a little train wreck of a show called Toddlers and Tiaras.

For all my transgressions, I can take solace in the fact that I never forced either of my daughters to wear a glitz dress. Or heaven forbid a high-glitz dress.

I never spray-painted their bodies with carcinogenic tanning lotions.

And I never Shang Hai'ed them off to the Nashville Comfort Inn with the hopes of winning
Miss Royal Supreme Walk of Fame Red Carpet Noble Dream Princess.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Winner

I've railed about crappy advertising before so in the interest of fair play I thought I'd turn the tables and talk about a spot that's not crap.

I never fast forward through this commercial. Like The Godfather, it's worth repeated viewings.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the spot features a killer Ray LaMontagne track. But I love it for so many other reasons. For one, it doesn't play like advertising. It feels more like a short film. It doesn't tip its hand until the very end. And the very end doesn't come until 60 seconds. That's a rarity these days.

The commercial also doesn't hammer you over the head with all kinds of easily-ignored product information. It doesn't try to make the sale all at once. It trusts the intelligence of the audience.

I love this spot for all the reasons most clients hate it.

Also, in light of yesterday's post and my plan to take tax write-offs about anything remotely involved with this blog, it should be noted that I first viewed this commercial on my 26 inch Sony Bravia LCD. An exceptional HD flatscreen televison.

Surpassed only by my widescreen Pioneer Kuro 50" HD Plasma Widescreen TV.

Combined price of TV's before tax write-off: $2300.
Price after: $1500.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Write Off

Ever since I started this blog I've been searching for a way to monetize it.

Many blog writers post ads and make a few pennies here and there based on eyeballs and click-throughs.

I can't see myself chasing down online advertisers and presenting them with a fakakta business plan. Besides 7 loyal readers does not a demographic make.

And now it seems I won't have to.

Uncle Sam is going to pay for my blog.
Here's how:

A few weeks ago I got a freelance assignment based not only on the strength of my advertising portfolio and my extensive resume. But also, and I find this as hard to believe as you do, on the quality of writing found herein. In essence, legitimizing this rag-tag collection of anecdotes, observations and silly little stories as a true tool of self promotion.

I haven't cleared this with my accountant yet, but as I understand the tax code and the associative property, if I were to eat at an expensive restaurant and then write about that experience, I could legitimately claim that meal, as well as the bottle of 2003 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, as a business expense necessarily to sustain my now "revenue-generating" blog.

This is quite a revelation, my friends. It opens up a world of possibilities. It's a good excuse to go on a spending spree. And enjoy my second mid-life crisis.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Caddie Sacked

They say you haven't truly played a round of golf until you've been accompanied by a professional caddy. You know, a man servant (or a woman servant), to carry your bag, select the right club, hold all your paraphernalia, read the green and basically do everything but swing the club for you.

The whole notion of a caddy seems one step removed from indentured servitude. Frankly it's all a little too Jim Crow for me.

I can never see myself wanting to play with a caddy. I suppose if there were a business situation that dictated the circumstances I would succumb, but never of my own free will.

You see, I'm about a 40 handicap. That's when I'm lucky.

I have no trouble finding the fairway, just not on the hole I'm playing. I take divots the size of Rhode Island. And I've killed more fish with an errant golf ball than I have with a fishing pole.

Golf is a miserable 5 hour journey of unending humiliation.
I don't want to share it with anybody else.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Paul is dead

On the lower left corner you'll see a hexagonal building located at the intersection of Rt. 59 and South Airmont road in Suffern, NY. Across the street from the old Airmont school, this used to be the home of Empire Savings bank.

I know this because my mother was a teller there and helped customers via the drive thru service. One of those customers a was gentle, older man who always had a kind word for my mom. His name was Les Paul. The legendary Les Paul who passed away yesterday.

As you might have guessed, not many celebrities came through Suffern, so my mom was always quite taken when he came to the bank. Les Paul and my mom were not friends, but they were on a first-name basis, which makes his passing quite sad.

Had I any wits about me such a long, long time ago, I would have purchased a Gibson Guitar, stuffed it in my mom's station wagon and had it autographed by Mr. Paul. Then I could have waited 30 years, sold it on e-bay and financed my daughter's college education.

And that's even sadder.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Smooth Criminal

I got this email yesterday:

Dear Friend,

I am Ms. Britney Rowley, a co-recording producer for late Michael Jackson the great legend King of Pop who has just passed away on June 25, 2009. While I was working with Mr. Jackson, he deposited some funds for charitable trust organizations with a secured private institution and up till date nobody knows about the existence of these funds.

Due to the recent crisis going on in Jackson’s family concerning his assets. The Jackson family is now searching for late Michael Jackson undiscovered properties and money which might lead to the discovery of these existing funds. My reason for writing you is that I have decided to retire and resettle and now want the money to be moved out of this institution to you, where you will receive it and keep it safe for me until I come over to meet with you there. I need a trustworthy business partner and friend who will advise me on proper investments in your country and how I can live comfortably. I have obtained and secured all back up documents to support whoever I chose as help to this money.

For your assistance and help in receiving and investing this money, you will benefit a reasonable part of the total money. I will give you my full contact details and I would appreciate it very much if you give me yours including your phone number where I can reach you. Please send your reply through my e-mail

Best regards,
Britney Rowley (Ms)

Here's what I wrote back:

Dear Ms. Britney,

I would love to help you recover the money from Michael Jackson's estate. I have no doubt that a lot of that money was earmarked for charitable organizations to children.

But I think we can both agree that many of these so-called "needy" children are just a bunch of lazy whiners, unwilling to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and deal with the difficulties of life.

When I was a kid I had a newspaper route. I had to deliver those newspapers in the snow and the rain and all kinds of inclement weather. And they didn't stop printing the paper on the weekend. This was 7 days week.

Let me know what I need to do to help you get this money. Also, you mentioned that you are a record producer. Perhaps I could get you to listen to the demo CD of this garage band I play with called, "The Felchers." We cover a lot of early British Invasion material, The Kinks, the Who, Zepellin, etc., but we're working on some original stuff too.

I think you'll really like it. And I think Michael Jackson would like knowing his money was helping fellow musicians instead of some mopey, hut-dwelling slacker kids looking for a handout.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Charles Manson

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You've got mail

Seen on Motor Ave. near Venice Blvd.

I'm not a marketing professional nor do I pretend to be...oh wait that's exactly what I am. In any case, I'm not sure I would have marketed this mailbox store the way they owners had chosen.

I fault them for both the strategy and the execution.

Even if Jones Global Mail were the "Mailstop to the Stars", it strikes me as a bit odd that Mr. or Mrs Jones would have selected three DEAD stars (Marley, Presley and Monroe) as well as two animated ones (Elmer Fudd and Buggs Bunny) to endorse the establishment.

Does anybody believe Elmer Fudd comes to Palms to get his mail?

Furthermore, is there that much cache in that positioning? Does that make for good small talk at Hollywood parties that I don't go to?

"You may take a Pilates class with Steven Baldwin but I get my water and electricity bills at the same place as Kelsey Grammar."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Born. Again.

Last week an esteemed Doctor/Lawyer/Real Estate Agent Orly Taitz, produced stunning evidence that our so-called President was actually born in Kenya. Thus proving the claim of the "Birthers" that we had been duped and that our government had been hijacked African posers.

As I was on the phone to U-Haul, preparing to move my family to Saskatchewan, I began to have a nagging feeling of deja-vu.

Then it struck me that I had fallen victim to documents forged in Africa once before.

I received an e-mail from a diplomat who hailed from the Ivory Coast. He promised me $7 million if I helped him transfer funds out of his country. I agreed to assist him if he agreed to address me as Mr. Heywood Jablomi. He did. He even produced this incredibly authentic looking certificate from the Minister of Finance.

Suffice to say, the money never arrived. And construction on my own private underground grotto came to a grinding halt.

Word of warning regarding African documentation, Ms. Taitz. As our former President and natural born citizen George W. Bush said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me...well, you can't get fooled again."

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Un-Rant

This is turning into a great summer.

I know that when things go our way, the common expression is that "the stars seem to aligned" but I couldn't find a suitable image of aligned stars on Google. Besides the resolution is just awful.

But that in no way should detract from the sentiment. Because the summer of 2009 is shaping up to be a great one.

As the White House is fond of noting, the economy is showing signs of green sprouts. I don't know about that overused spin, but I am significantly busier than last year. And as any freelancer will tell you, it's good when the phone rings.

The weather is good. It's been warm. And sunny. (Good riddance June Gloom)

My two daughters are in sleep away camp. They're enjoying the camaraderie of other teens and learning the importance of independence. Which means my wife and I are enjoying the camaraderie of each other and relearning the menus at nicer restaurants.

The house is painted.
The plumbing has been fixed.
And even the landscaping is looking good.

Of course, I did throw my back out on Sunday helping my brother move a treadmill into his condo. But even that could not dispirit the Summer of 2009, as my doctor quickly dispatched me to the nearest pharmacy for a viciously-effective vial of pain-go-bye-bye pills.

Mmmmm, pretty planets.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Like a Virgin

I'll be the first to admit it. There are days when it's not that easy to find something funny to write about. But I force myself to the keyboard and claw something out just to satisfy my own delusional sense of discipline and responsibility.

And then there other days, when I don't have to do a damn thing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Merry Christmas

Last week I was working on some Christmas promotional ads. The account guy I was working with was a little concerned that I wasn't being generic enough. I needed to be more agnostic. The ads, he said , were too Christmassy.

Frankly, I don't understand all this Yuletide political correctness.
I hope marketers aren't avoiding the Christmas in Christmas because they think it will offend Jews.

It won't. We're a bit more thick-skinned that that.

A couple of years ago, Iranian President and soon-to-be carpet salesman, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sponsored a Holocaust Cartoon contest. Other than bolstering his status as a world statesman, I'm not sure what he thought it would accomplish. The cartoons, by the way, were quite lame and patently unfunny.

Anyway, not to be outdone, a group of entrepreneurial self-effacing Israelis announced their own Anti-Semitic Cartoon Contest.

Here are three of my favorites:

It's like Redd Foxx once said, three days after firing his all Hebrew writing staff, "This stuff isn't funny, get me my Jews."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gates vs. Crowley

We live in awkward times.

Yes, we have elected an African-American President.
No, we have not seen the end of racial tension.

Even approaching this sensitive subject is giving me the "willies." That is in no way to be construed as reference to Willie Horton. I meant willies as in Heebie Jeebies. That in no way is to be construed as reference to Heebs.

There are so many minefields.

How do I talk about this without offending? But as someone who makes hay out of the news and observations of the day, how do I not talk about this? Wouldn't that be shirking my self-appointed responsibility as a blogger with 6 loyal readers?

After reading many articles, taking in all the various points of view and conducting my own in depth research, I am prepared to weigh in on this important racially charged topic of the day.

When all is said and done, I'm going to have to side with Officer Crowley. For me, and I'm just one individual, Officer Crowley's Blue Moon beer had a richer, fuller more satisfying taste than the Professor's Red Stripe.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Stop calling it honor killing

Last week Jawdat al- Najar grabbed a thick iron chain -- I guess a machete or a gun wasn't handy -- and beat his daughter, a 27 year old woman to death. Mind you, she was also the mother of five of Jawdat's grandchildren.

What could enrage him to such a fit of savagery?

Apparently, Fadia, his daughter, was speaking on the telephone with....a man.

Police arrested the man and his three sons, who later went on to explain that the she had to be killed to "preserve the honor of the family."

I may not be up on all the nuances of Arab culture, but I do know something about language. And in order for you to preserve something, Mr. al-Najar, particularly something like honor,
you would have to have it in the first place.