Thursday, January 28, 2010

85 with a bullet

When my book, Tuesdays with Mantu, My Adventures with a Nigerian Con Artist, was first published I made a regular habit of checking its progress on the sales chart. I'm told this is fairly common behavior among published authors.

I stopped checking in a long time ago, when I realized I wasn't going to be on Oprah. And no one in Hollywood ever planned to make a movie out of my book. Or even read it, for that matter.

But I went back recently and discovered my book had soared to number 85 on the charts, albeit in a very specific niche: Children's Educational Books/Citizenship. I don't know how it got grouped in this category, but it did. And though it is not very glamourous, it is in the top 100.

Naturally, I'm very happy to have beaten "A Hole in the World" (a euphemism for my career.)

But I'm equally steamed about trailing A Family Casebook: Problem Based Learning and Mindful Self Reflection.

Damn you Maria Napoli.
And your soaring prose about the fluid dynamics of teacher/student engagement via focused alpha-level introspection.
Damn you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Employees Must Wash Hands

As I have noted before, I try to swim a mile each day. Usually at lunchtime. And always at my brother's condo complex in Playa Vista. After years of swimming at dirty municipal pools or the YMCA, I can't tell you what a joy it is to swim in such a beautiful, heated outdoor facility.

Not only because it's clean, but because I usually have the whole pool to myself.

You can keep your psychiatrists, psychologists, family counselors and newly-ordained life coaches, for pure, effective therapy I'll take 50,000 gallons of chlorinated water and 3o minutes of aerobic solitude any day of the week.

After lunch I like to head to Bristol Farms. They make a mean reduced fat tuna salad. And they put out these platters of cubed cheese samples. (I'm a sucker for heady, stinky German cheese.)

Anyway, I spotted this sign in the bathroom at Bristol Farms. It is without a doubt the definitive, how-to guide to employee hand washing. And I'm sure it has served the staff there very well.

But I can't help wonder if some dimwitted grocery bagger, who might have needed clarification on the proper hand washing technique, has missed his calling. And should be pursuing a more promising, more fulfilling career with the TSA.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I'm so screwed

I still have a few years before my girls leave the nest to embark on their collegiate studies. Until that time comes, I am trying my best to appreciate the time I have left with my teenagers.

That doesn't mean I can't look back nostalgically to a gentler, easier time. When coming home from work was greeted with great joy and jocularity. And when childhood transgressions could be dealt with a simple, "Go to your room and write I will not slam the door", 100 times.

Though I'm not sure the Bart Simpson Repetitive Writing Punishment has had its desired effect.

Yesterday, my youngest daughter took off on one of her hormonal flights of fancy when she was asked to clear the dining room table. It ended with her running to her room and slamming the door.

For added effect, it was punctuated with, "I hate you Daddy. You suck!"

Monday, January 25, 2010

Oh Mahmoud

Just watched a video of an Israeli rescue team pull a man from under the rubble of a fallen building in Haiti.

Seems the Israelis have a unique expertise in this area thanks to the many suicide bombings of the late 90's.

I was reminded of the massive earthquake in Iran back in 2005. Despite the huge political differences amongst the two countries, the evil "Zionist Entity" offered to send rescue teams to Teheran.

Of course the short-sighted Iranian government, which recently chided its soccer minister for sending a holiday greeting card to a Jew, declined the humanitarian offer.

I can't help but wonder how many innocent Iranians died, not at the hands of their Zionist enemy, but because they were denied the hand of the Zionist enemy?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Smug Shot

Last week I wrote about an unappreciative former client, El Pollo Loco, now suffering the consequences (lousy sales) of a bad decision to switch agencies.

This week, Lady Karma comes bearing even greater gifts.

On Tuesday, Stuart Wolff, the former CEO of, pleaded guilty to securities fraud and faces up to 5 years in prison.

Why, you may ask, do I take such great delight in Mr. Wolff's plight? Particularly since, in many ways, I benefitted from his shenanigans. Without the millions he embezzled from the company, he would not have financed our advertising campaign or HOME MOVIE, the full length feature documentary that blurred the lines between advertising and entertainment.

The truth is the question cannot be answered.

But anyone who has ever spent five minutes in the same room as Mr. Wolff and experienced his repulsive blend of arrogance, condescension and deceitfulness, knows exactly why I'll be at the Federal Court Building on January 29th to see Stewie do his perp walk in his oversized, state-issued orange jumpsuit.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


In the television industry, writers and producers will often throw huge celebrations when they hit certain landmarks, like their 100th show. It means the show will go into syndication and residual checks will flow well into the latter part of the century.

In the blogosphere, there are no celebrations.

Today, for instance is my 200th entry into roundseventeen. And while I have enjoyed sharing my stories and anecdotes and tax writeoffs with you, none of it has resulted in anything even remotely lucrative.

But today will not go unnoticed.

Because it is my 200th entry, I'm going to treat myself to a new tagline:

At the corner of West Coast optimism and Bronx-born nihilism.

And I'm going to prepare my morning bowl of oatmeal
with whole milk and a spoonful of some very fattening 1/2 and 1/2 cream.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hire the hairless

I am a bald man.

That is not to say however that I'm incapable of growing hair. To the contrary, I have hair growing off my neck, my shoulders, and my lower back. And now, fuzzy thickets are sprouting from my nose and ears.

Since I've been in full job interview mode lately, my wife thought it would be a good idea to do some manscaping.

Which, it turns out, is easier said than done.

So I took a trip to the local Brookstone and picked up a handy little gadget for the job. I love its ergonomic design, its simplicity of operation, even the way it felt in my hand.

Eager to rid my body of unwanted hair, I rushed home, popped in a AA battery and started mowing down those unwelcome follicles. Or at least I attempted to. After five minutes of jamming the device into my nose and ears, my white porcelain sink was devoid of any clippings. And upon inspection, my nose and ears were still quite Robin Williams-like in their appearance.

I was ready to bolt back to Brookstone, return the Trim-0-Mattic 9000 and give the manager a piece of my mind.

Then I discovered the gadget works a whole lot better with the cap off.

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's a Sign

Like a giggling 6 month old baby, you can count me among the easily-amused. Perhaps that's why I find myself tickled about the sign for a Sign Store.

I don't have anything particularly insightful or funny to say about the sign. But I will tell you 'SIGNS' gave me more pleasure than two hours of the Mel Gibson movie of the same name. Of course I'm a little biased and tend to poo-poo anything made by the height-challenged, Jew-hating Aussie.

By the way, behind the building you can see a cell-phone tower cleverly disguised as a faux palm tree.
I find those amusing as well.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

And the award goes to...

Right now the world is on pins and needles. Not because of the pending health care reform bill. Or the escalating threats of terrorism. Next week, as if it needed repeating, is the annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

In preparation of this monumental occasion the Guild has been sending out screeners to all its voting members. Including myself.

You see years ago, despite my objections, a client decided I would be the best voice for their TV commercials. While it represented a slight conflict of interest, who was I to get in the way of client desires? Besides, those residual checks paid for my tankless hot water heater.

So now I'm a voting member of SAG. And I've got all the free DVDs of top movies that haven't been released on DVD yet. So many great performances, how am I supposed to make a carefully-considered choice?

I'm really stuck on Best Supporting Actress.
Maybe I'll call up Clooney and see who he is voting for.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

El Pollo Is Loco

Between office politics, shifting loyalties, and just general overall misguidedness, there isn't a lot of redemption in the world of advertising.

But there is some.

Let's back the story up to 2003. El Pollo Loco, a regional chain of flame-grilled chicken restaurants, was looking for a new ad agency. 63 agencies, large and small, pitched the business. We, meaning Young & Rubicam, prevailed.

During the course of the next year and capitalizing on the mouth-watering effects of chicken over a sizzling grill, we produced more than 75 TV commercials with a production budget of less than $200,000. Astounding? You bet. But even more incredible, in one year same store sales rose 13.1%.

Champagne and Cuban cigars for everybody right? Hardly. The client spoiled the party, dumped Y&R and gave the account to a smaller shop with smaller brains.

After years of lame campaigns that have earned the derision of everyone in the ad business,
El Pollo Loco is taking it on the chin.

Last night, having dispatched my opponents in Scrabble, I went to the El Pollo Loco website to check in on their sales. Not so good. I'm no whiz with 'operating revenue', 'capitol expenditures' or 'tax-writedowns', but several consecutive quarters of declining sales, that I understand.

I know it's not proper etiquette to gloat about a former client's misfortune, but it is nice to know that the Karma Train has added an official stop in Irvine, California.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Name Game

Last week, my sister-in-law, who works for a magazine that specializes in neo-natal healthcare, told us a fascinating story about a new mom and her new daughter.

Wanting to give her baby girl a head start in life and a distinctive lead over the other
'so-called' mundane kids, the new mom gave the infant the name Abicity (I'm not sure about the spelling.)

When asked how she came up with this name, the mom said the first thing she saw in the maternity ward was a children's book on the alphabet and decided on the first five letters of the alphabet ABCDE (that spelling actually makes more sense.)

I've got to tread lightly hear because many friends I know have also given their progeny unusual names. The hope being, these unusually named kids would grow into their 'specialness' and not be confused with the teeming masses.

We didn't see the need for that.

And it turns out we were quite correct. Our unpretentiously-named daughters, Rachel and Abby, have turned out to be quite interesting. In fact, on many days, like when there's an NFL playoff game or Syracuse is facing off against a Big East rival, I wish they were a little less interesting.

In any case, my best wishes go out to that single mom who will be bringing home her spanking new baby daughter, ABCDE, to meet her big brothers, Google and Exit Sign.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mmmmm Danish

Last week a Somali man, wielding an ax, broke into the home of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

Mr. Westergaard, you might recall, caused an international uproar by depicting the Prophet Mohammed in a simple line drawing. (An act of satire clearly deserving of death.)

The 28-year old Somali was determined to erase 5,000 years of anonymity in which no Somali man or woman has ever made a single noteworthy contribution to civilization, western or otherwise. However the bumbling cartoonist-killing avenger tripped over an ottoman and was shot in the knee by alert Danish authorities.

I'm still amazed that the Islamic world got so upset over a bunch of cartoons but won't utter a single word of protest when innocent Iraqis and Pakistanis are blown up by their own brethren.

In any case, it seems a good enough reason to point out my own campaign to counter the backlash against Denmark:

As you scroll through the shots make sure you read all the captions and keep in mind that I've shed 30 pounds since these awful pictures were taken.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Pearly Gates

I read recently that the Mormon church was going through its vast ancestral records and issuing posthumous baptisms to Jews so that they could enter heaven. I don't know that anyone would take the time to make amends for my unsaved soul, but I'm requesting in advance, that they don't.

This doesn't apply to Mormons exclusively or for that matter everyone on the religious right, but the truth is, I have no desire to spend 5 minutes, much less eternity, in the company of intolerant, self-righteous, dogmatic people who believe their way is the only way.

Call me spiritually bankrupt, but lounging around on a cloud, wearing a white robe and listening to violin music, without the benefit of caffeine, alcohol, or prescription drugs, is not exactly how I'd want to spend my afterlife.

Besides, I've experienced heaven right here on earth.

It's driving through the Owens Valley on Route 395. It's my daughters, with their headphones on, watching a movie in the backseat of the minivan. It's my wife quietly reading a book. It's Mark Knopfler playing on the iPod. It's the snow-capped Sierras on my left. And a fresh hot latte in the cupholder on my right. That, my friends is bliss.

Too bad the drive was only 300 miles.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do the math

Yesterday, I was doing what I suspect many are doing at this time of the year, cleaning out drawers, going through files and preparing for my date with the taxman.

In retrospect, 2009 was actually a pretty good year. I had a long steady stint at DIRECTV as their in-house Creative Director. Made many connections with agencies I hadn't worked with before, turned down a substantial job offer and even had a hand in a huge new business win that could alter the automotive landscape.

But I digress.

During my housekeeping activities I stumbled across this matchbox. It's from the World Trade Center. If I'm not mistaken, I picked it up in the mid 80's when my parents had taken an old girlfriend and I to dinner after a Broadway show.

It's weird looking at this tiny memento, no bigger than my thumb. Not because of any imagined sentimental value -- despite the amazing views of Bayonne, New Jersey, the show sucked, the food was mediocre and my parents fought all the way through desert.

What's weird is that this little configuration of cardboard, that could not have cost more than 3 pennies to cut, assemble, print and distribute, has more value than the lives of the 19 monsters who took down those buildings in the name of their twisted, savage, worthless beliefs.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year

Last week, a dimwitted Nigerian (excuse the redundancy) tried to blow up a plane by igniting explosives hidden in his underwear (an area in which I profess to have much expertise.) As tempting as it might seem to write about incompetent Islamic extremists, I choose not too.

I'd prefer to start roundseventeen 2010 on a lighter more positive note.

Plus, I'm a little rusty from the holiday break.

And so today I'd like to leave you with this short video of my oldest daughter Rachel, tackling "Christmas Tree", one of my favorites runs at Mammoth Mountain.