Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No domo arigato

There must be a thousand sushi bars in Southern California. All with sharp knives and seaweed paper competing for the precious sushi dining dollar.

The level of competition is fierce. I think it's safe to say, "It's a dogfish eat dogfish world."

Apparently the owners of Taro Sushi and Teryaki on Washington Blvd. are oblivious to these cutthroat conditions. Sure, they offer their customers the comfort of air conditioning, but they've done nothing to eliminate 'B' rating so conspicuously displayed in the window.

A 'B' rating can only indicate dirty or vermin-filled conditions in the food preparation area. I don't know about you, but for me raw fish and bad hygiene just don't go together. Anymore than Sara Palin goes together with nuanced geo-political analysis.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Sisyphean Challenge

Years ago, while shlepping the mail cart up and down the hallways at Needham, Harper & Steers, my fellow mailroom mate, Jim Jennewein and I dreamed of publishing cartoons in the New Yorker.

We spent countless hours drinking beer and ingesting other narcotics and maybe one hour actually coming up with ideas. This ratio of BS-ing to actual production of ideas is a constant and can be seen in action at advertising agencies and TV writing rooms throughout the land. I believe once Einstein had cracked his Universal Theory he was about to codify this mysterious formula for creativity.

But I digress.

Jim has posted many of the cartoons he has been working on over the years on his fun blog.
I hope he continues to publish more weekly. In addition to being very funny, they're drawn in an engaging style that is further testament to Jim's talent.

They say getting a movie made in Hollywood is tough.
Jim has done it five times.
He'll tell you getting a cartoon published in the New Yorker is tougher.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Day at the Races

In high school I had a charismatic Algebra teacher who promised to take three of his struggling students (including yours truly) to the Yonkers Racetrack.

As he explained, it would give us an out of the classroom real life demonstration of odds, statistics and unknown variables. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure it had more to do with supplementing his meager teacher wages.

In any case, the local school board caught whiff of his plan and nixed the excursion immediately.

Which is too bad, because I actually like playing the ponies. Every year we join our friends from Pasadena for an outting at Santa Anita. It's a great get together where we see old friends. Eat BBQ. And expose the kids to important vices like drinking and gambling.

Unlike my grandfather, Louis Siegel, who blew my inheritance on the quarter horses at Belmont, I don't know a thing about picking a winner. Exactas, Trifectas, Quadrellas, it's all Greek to me. So while other bettors are looking up turf conditions, training runs, and jockey weights, I usually just follow the lead of my daughters, "Daddy, bet on the #4 horse he's wearing Orange. Just like Syracuse."

It's a strategy as good as any.

Most the time it results in my wallet getting thinner and a trip to the watering stand for more make-the-pain-go-bye-bye juice.

But the 6th race was different. Never My Love, the #2 horse was being ridden by R. Bejarano (OK I'll admit it, I'm partial to jockeys with Hispanic surnames). The owners of the horse were Harriet and Benny Siegel. Did I need any more of a sign than that? No, I did not.

Never My Love lingered around 4th place the entire race. But then, in the final two furlongs -- I think that's what they're called --he burst through the pack, edging out There Goes The Mortgage Payment in a stunning photo finish.

My $10 bet paid off handsomely and a lavish family meal at Pacos Tacos was enjoyed by all. My youngest daughter, schooled in the fine art of self deprecating humor, couldn't help noticing the irony.

"Daddy, I think it's funny that you finally win a race because of a horse owned by people named Siegel, has a big Jew nose."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm at a desk

Recently, my former boss Lee Clow was quoted as saying that 95% of advertising is pure shit. I have to respectfully disagree. I put the number closer to 99%. It is shockingly shitty. Especially when it shouldn't be.

Almost every commercial you see on television has successfully run a formidable gamut of client scrutiny, lengthy committee approvals and the finest focus group testing/marketing analytics wasted marketing dollars can buy.

And yet we have this...

In what world does the Glade Lady live?

Yes, she's sexy in a Stepfordian way.
And yes, she is quick with the snappy retort,
"It's French, you know from France."
But she is such a non dimensional non-entity who feels
compelled to lie to her friends about her choice of air freshener!

What's more, the creators of this monumental crap
make no bones about passing this off as
some type of reality, with not a hint of ironic acknowledgement.
Just look how pleased she is with herself in the last snippet
of the commercial. I can say without hesitation, there
isn't a $6.99 product on any shelf at any supermarket
that could put that kind of smile on my face.

Well, maybe a pint of Jack Daniels.

That is not to say however that characters living in
other worlds cannot make for
effective, memorable advertising.

99% of advertising is shit. Here's the 1% that's not:

Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm Sore from the Marathon

This year they changed the route of the Los Angeles Marathon.

Instead of starting at Universal City and winding its way through the bowels of Hollywood to the unkempt neighborhoods of Koreatown to the unsafe streets of East Los Angeles, the organizers of the race thought it would be better to redirect the route westward, to the posh pockets of Holmby Hills, Brentwood and Santa Monica.

Granted, this is much more visually appealling journey, but I suspect the change is purely cosmetic. It was done more for the spectators and not for those actually pounding out the 26.2 miles.

I can only speak for myself, but during those grueling 5+ hours, I'm not checking out the aesthetics of Southern California.
I'm not thinking, "Oooh, look at those lovely Eucalyptus trees. Those landscape architects did a wonderful job framing the Santa Monica mountains like that."

And I know from the pained faces on my fellow runners, they're not thinking that either.

The inner voices sound more like, "Damn I'm only at Mile 7. That's 19 more to go." Or, "I knew I shouldn't have eaten that breakfast bar. I'm only at Mile 14. My sphincter muscles are not gonna hold out for another 12 miles." Or, "Only Mile 19? Wonder if I can call a cab from here?"

In any case, for all that agony, I wish I had run the LA Marathon yesterday, but my creaky knees have made any long distances impossible.

Wait a minute, Rich.
Doesn't the headline of this post read, "I'm sore from the Marathon?"
Indeed it does.
I'm still sore from the Marathon I ran two years ago.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sober today

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day.

At one time in my life this holiday had greater significance than almost any other. That's because I grew up in the Irish Catholic hamlet of Suffern, NY. And hung out with guys named Gallagher, Dawson and Bergquist, admittedly Bergquist is not an Irish name, but Gallagher's dad was a New York City cop and that was enough Irish for all of us.

Typically, we'd head down Route 17 in the very early hours. We'd always make it a point to be in Manhattan before the sun rose, so as to maximize our daylight drinking hours. That was about the only planning that went into the day. Once the car was parked in the $87 a day garage, we roamed the city, flashing our fake ID's and consuming ungodly amounts of Heineken and Bushmills.

My prostate is getting inflamed just writing about it.

Other than laughing a lot, not many memories come to mind. But one year we met a chatty guy, about our age, somewhere near the corner of 5th Ave and 59th street. He seemed pleasant enough and genuinely intrigued by these inebriated teens from the burbs. So, throwing caution to the wind, we took him up on his offer to drink more beer at his home on nearby 62nd street.

There were four of us, we reasoned, and we could certainly handle any trouble that might come our way. Besides, the beer was free and, at this late hour of the day, our funds were running low.

We walked past the thick mahogany door, up two flights of stairs, and entered what can only be described as a palace. This wasn't the gauche nouveau riche money we had seen and sometimes experienced in Northern New Jersey, a la The Sopranos, this was old style, Gatsby-type money. And frankly we had no business being in its vicinity.

The guy, it turned out, was next in line to inherit the wealth of the Glaxo SmithKline Pharmaceutical empire. I can't recall whether his last name was Smith or Kline, I only know he was rich in a way I never will be.

Perhaps as the ad industry continues its long, slow decline and I am reduced to writing ads for blood-thinning drugs, our paths will cross again. I wonder if he'll remember me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The day I touched $5 billion

Years ago, we pitched a little business in the Silicon Valley. A growing company in the field of CRM Management, Siebel Systems.

We met the company officers, toured their pristine facility, even shook hands with the chairman and company namesake, Tom Siebel, who at the time had a net worth of more than $5 billion dollars.

I'm not sure, but I do believe he was #198 on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest people in the world. Just ahead of Sheik Abdullah Abdullah, who foolishly spent $38 million to have his mansion outfitted with toilets made of solid gold, thereby dropping him to #199.

In the pantheon of witless clients I have encountered over the years, Mr. Siebel falls somewhere in the dullish middle. I don't have his tremendous wealth or robust knowledge of database management software, but I do know that "a picture of two businessmen shaking hands and making a deal" (a literal quote from Tom) does not make for the most compelling advertising.

Just out of curiosity I Googled Siebel's name and found out that my initial assessment of him was squarely on the mark.

Turns out that in 2008 he threw his substantial weight and money behind Sara Palin, the hockey mom with her finger on the pulse of real Americans. In fact, he organized a fundraising gala for her, offering everyday Joe's and Jane's a snapshot with the wunderkind of Wasilla and a seat at her table for just $50,000.

He also spoke at a brunch during the campaign, offering these choice words of wisdom,
"Sara Palin carries the flag of outrage...for each of us who cries out, 'we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore."

Really Tom?

In 2008 you just had 8 years under Republican leadership. What are you so mad about? You have $5 billion. Would $10 billion make you happy?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How's your hole?

A few weeks ago I celebrated a landmark birthday. Landmark because my driver's license had expired. To renew it I couldn't fill out some paperwork or transact the data online, this time a physical visit to the DMV was in order.

The DMV is one of life's great equalizers. It attracts folks from all walks of life: the rich, the poor, Eastsiders, Westsiders, people who watch Jeopardy and people who get stumped at Wheel of Fortune.

It's like Dodger Stadium but without the $7 hot dogs or the 25 foot piss trough.

As you can imagine, it's a great venue for people watching. Sadly however, because of the close confines, it's not so great for people smelling. Near the eye exam area, I caught whiff of some body odor I'm sure would raise an eyebrow on the 8:15 train from Peshawar to Islamabad, where they are certainly no stranger to exotic perspiration.

To these angry aromas, add in a mixture of underpaid employees, frustration, layers of bureaucracy and unrestrained surliness, and you've got yourself a powder keg of ugliness that can go off at any second. At one point I heard an older Hispanic gentleman tell a customer service rep that he couldn't reach a state official in Sacramento to straighten out an issue.

Man: I dialed this number. It doesn't seem to work.

Service Rep: Baby, I can't help with your phone problems. I ain't got no degree in electronics.

After much back and forth, she finally did help him resolve his situation.

Service Rep: When you dialed the long distance number, did you dial a "1" first?

In all, the DMV visit cost me about 95 minutes of my life. But I was richly rewarded for the experience. Because now I have a fresh new license will last me the next 10 years.

And on the way back to my car, parked across the street from the Culver City DMV (the low slung building with lines of people out the door), I spotted this little gem spray-painted onto the sidewalk.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Ass backwards

The other night I was watching ABC's Nightline with Martin Bashir. You might remember the disturbing interviews Mr. Bashir conducted years ago with Michael Jackson.

Well, on this night, Martin was reporting on other odd creatures. More specifically, hybrids like Ligers (tigers/lions), Wholphins (whales/dolphins), even mules, which are a cross between a donkey and a horse.

Mules, I found out, cannot reproduce. Which begs the questions, where do mules come from?

Cue the wikipedia.

But this is where it all gets confusing. Mules are the result of inter-species sex between a male donkey and a female horse. While the hinny is the offspring between a male horse and a female donkey. And all male mules, as well as all female mules, are infertile.

I think its a good bet that when our Intelligent Designer was drawing up the plans for the Mule he might have been imbibing on some old grape juice.

Even after reading the material I'm still not clear about the differences between mules and donkeys and hinnies.

But I do know a little something about jackasses. I know it can't be hard for them to reproduce, because there's certainly no shortage of them.

In advertising.


Or politics.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shut your piehole

Recently, an art director I was working with suggested I change some dialogue in a script to make it sound more contemporary. Having embraced a new spirit of flexibility, I yielded and summarized a teenager's expression of shock with the simple, "for reals?"

It pains me to even write that down.

I know this is the "get-off-my-lawn" old man in me talking, but here are some other expressions I will not ever commit to ink:

"my peeps."
"get my drink (or any other verb like eat, sleep or shower) on."
"who's ready to party?" (party is not a verb)
"that's sick."
"that's tight."
"that whack."
"Awesome." (there are 8 wonders in this world that might qualify as awesome. A cheeseburger, a cup of coffee or even a sweater are not one of them)
"let's bounce."
"at the end of the day."

Yesterday I added another phrase to the list.

While at the DMV, I overheard a man on phone telling his friend, "this place is crackin!" I can think of a 1000 adjectives to describe the DMV environment and the DMV experience. Crackin' doesn't even make it to the 100.

In fact, I still don't know what "this place is crackin" means, but it's a safe bet I won't be using that expression even if I did.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One word Benjamin: plastics.

Once again, I feel the need to apologize for the verbosity of the two previous posts.

Today's will be much shorter.

Over the weekend my wife dragged me out to go furniture shopping. Or as I like to call it,
domestic waterboarding.

In any case, there wasn't much I was interested in. With the exception of this display with the unspilling lemonade.

Sadly, it was NOT for sale.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

ZOG 101

On occasion I like to check out to see what white supremacists have to say about the events of the day.

I suppose you can file that under, "keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

In any case, the third grade educated pinheads have a lot of interesting things to say about the state of the economy, the war on terror, global warming, etc.

Most, if not all, lay the blame for the world's ills at the hands of the Jews.

And all subscribe to the belief that Jews literally control the world. So if you'll grab some scrap paper -- a must I tell my daughters before doing any math homework -- we can take a look at the numbers and demonstrate how this canard is indeed a canard.

According to wikipedia, there are approximately 7 billion people on this planet. 13 million of them claim to be Jewish. That works out to be a minuscule .19% of the world's population.

Of these 13 million Jews, more than half of them are females. All due respect to women out there, but I think we can agree that if Jewish women were in control of the world, fellatio would be a capital offense.

So that brings the number closer to 6.5 million.

But simple demographics tells us that of that 6.5 million, 25% are under the age of 18. I don't think anybody seriously believes the world is being controlled by a bunch of 12 year old schlubby boys who can't even climb up a rope in gym class.

That leaves us 4.9 million able-bodied Jews. Or does it? We must deduct another 20% of those males who are over the age of 65. Let's face it, if old altacocker Jews were controlling the world, a lot less cold soup would be making its way back to the kitchen.

So now we're looking at 4 million Jewish men, between the ages of 18 and 65, lording over the entire universe. Which in and of itself is laughable. I know we're clever and crafty, but seriously.

Of those 4 million powerful men, one million are dentists. Now dentists may be good at scraping enamel off your molars, but they are definitely not world domination material.
So now the number is closer to 3 million.

But we're not done yet.
There are Lazy Jews.
Dimwitted Jews.
Alcoholic Jews.
Dyslexic Jews.
Incompetent Jews.
Apathetic Jews.
Self Pitying Jews.
And Jews that work in Advertising (I know if Jews who worked in Advertising controlled the world there'd be a lot less dipshit clients.)

When all is said and done, the number quickly gets whittled down to about 4, 963 potentially omnipotent Yids. As a percentage that works out to an infinitesimal .000000512.

So here's the thing, if 4,963 guys named Goldberg, Feldman and Cohen have been able to wrest control over all of mankind and command the fate of every living being on the planet, I don't think we should curse them or begrudge them their rightful title.

In fact, from where I sit in my cozy home, with my healthy family, HD DIRECTV, a fridge full of food, and a medicine cabinet filled with the finest painkilling medicines, I say Hail Morty, Hail Bernie, Hail Shlomo.

Is there any way you guys could get me a faster internet connection?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rain on me

There's a lot of talk about this being a wet El Nino winter in California. Even as I write this, it's drizzling outside and the local media are on a 5-alarm Storm Watch. But I remember the rainiest winter in Southern California history because it was also the year I drove a motorcycle.

I came to the Honda CB 450 out of necessity and not from some misguided romantic dream of riding an iron horse.

My old Toyota Corolla had developed a crack in the steering column. Every time I hit a pothole, I had to corral the steering column like an out of control jackhammer. The simplest right hand turn turned into aerobic workout. The mechanic told me it would cost $1500 to repair the steering malfunction. Which was a little steep considering I had only paid $900 for the car.

And so I retreated to the Pennysaver in search of a motorcycle, conveniently ignoring the fact that I never even sat on one. The seller drove the motorcycle to my apartment and had a pretty slick sales pitch. The bike was a classic he told me. He even offered to show me how to ride it in an empty church parking lot. We shook hands. And I parted with 400 of the hardest earned dollars of my life.

That was in September of 1983. In October, it started raining. And it didn't stop until May. Now the misery of riding a motorcycle in the pelting rain should paint a pretty ugly picture. But that's only half the story.

In addition to the finnicky kick start engine, which turned my right ankle black and blue within a couple of weeks, I had great difficulty getting the bike to GO. I would be stopped at a red light and when the light turned green I would throttle up the gas and the old CB 450 would stutter and falter and just not jump off the line.

I took the 'classic' bike in to a mechanic who gave it once over. Took a test drive. And concluded there was nothing wrong. Nothing whatsoever. Then the mechanic remembered that I had told him I was a greenhorn and he asked the kind of question a TV lawyer asks at the end of the show. You know the Gordian question that solves the case and answers all the riddles in one swift motion, "when you slow down to come to a stop do you remember to downshift?"

Doh. I guess I missed that part of the driving lesson. All this time I had been trying to pull away from a dead stop in 3rd, and sometimes, 4th gear.

I could see the mechanic was enjoying the pained look on my face and couldn't wait to tell his pony-tailed, tattooed friends in the shop.

So I took this newfound knowledge, kicked the gearshift down into FIRST gear and made a hasty escape. Of course before I could enjoy the fact that I made it out there without facing mass humiliation, it started raining.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

G-d Bless You

I realize that people who carry signs like this or put up websites like (thanks go to my deicidal buddy Alex Grossman for the link) do not merit any attention or response, but it's a slow news day and picking apart their logic is like shooting gefilte fish in a barrel.

The only hard part is knowing where to start.

So let's start with the end. If Jesus really was the son of G-d and did fulfill the Lord's prophecy then wasn't his crucifixion all part of the master plan? What if, G-d forbid, he didn't die on the cross and instead fell victim to gall stones. Think how that would have altered all that rich beautiful Christian symbolism. I'm not sure the Renaissance painters could have done any justice to a blocked cystic duct.

Maybe the woman carrying this sign is actually thanking Jews and giving us points for the assist?

But let's work backwards from there.

Wasn't it Christ who said to "turn the other cheek" and forgive thine enemy? Seems a little odd that a few hundred imbeciles from Topeka, Kansas want to hold me accountable for the actions of a great, great grandfather, about 100 generations removed.

I'm no more knowledgable about what took place in Nazareth 2000 years ago than the people from Fred Phelp's Church, but I do know as a general rule and in accordance with Tribal Behavior 101, Jews do not go around killing other Jews. Mostly because you gentiles have gotten so good at it. (Shall we go to the scoreboard?)

Besides, didn't Jesus die for your sins? I may be wrong here, but it's my understanding that you can lie and cheat, drink, curse and steal your entire life, but if you're lying on your deathbed and you ask for forgiveness and take Jesus into your heart, that can buy you an eternity's worth of harp music, white robes and milk and cookies?

But let's end this discussion at the beginning.

If it weren't for Jews, Judaism, the Old testament and the entire Messianic story, written by your favorite scapegoats, there would be no Jesus in the first place. There would have been no prophecy to fulfill. And the bearded young man spouting love, tolerance and brotherhood -- all the attributes NOT embraced by Christian Extremists -- would have been given the same cold shoulder as the homeless guy in front of the Starbucks at the Third Street Promenade.

Without his matrydom on the cross, it's doubtful there would even be such a thing as Christianity.

And so to the pony-tailed woman holding this sign and to the others of her ilk who want to let the world know that the Jews killed Jesus, I say, "you're welcome."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Things Jews Don't Do Part 6

I own a chainsaw. I never thought I'd be a chainsaw owner, but now I am. And now I wonder why I waited so long.

Let's face it chainsaws and Jews go together like politicians and productivity. You could spend months scouring the logging camps of Northern Oregon and still not produce a 1/2 a minion.

Yes, there was one famous wood-working Jew who made a name for himself. But let's face it, lumberjacking is different than litigation or investment banking or neurosurgery. No one says, "I've got a 100 foot Douglas Fir that needs felling, quick get me Feinberg."

Nevertheless, thanks to some poor landscaping choices made years ago, we now have several trees with weird protuberances. And since I'm unwilling to hire somebody to do what any normal man should be able to do, I found myself at the local Home Depot, excited and frankly, a little intimidated.

I didn't want to deal with those loud gas engine and the rip chord ignition models, so I opted for an 18 volt battery operated 10" Ryobi. It's a starter chainsaw, if you will. But as you can see, it does the job pretty well, thank you.

But here's the funny part. Now that I own a chainsaw. And now that the trees have been trimmed and cut up into handy disposable pieces, I have nothing left to cut. And I want to.
Maybe I'll go next door and offer to cut my neighbor's trees.

That's what Jesus would have done.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

No business like show business

Studio Exec A: What do we have next?

Studio Exec B: We got COP OUT, a buddy comedy with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan?

Exec A: Who is she?

Exec B: He, sir. He's on a TV show.

Exec A: I don't watch TV.

Exec B: Anyway, it's a cop flick.

Exec A: Good. Reviews?

Exec B: Not good. Very bad, sir.

Exec A: How do you screw up a cop flick with Bruce Willis? Who directed this piece of crap?

Exec B: Kevin Smith, sir.

Exec A: Oh Jesus. He hasn't had a hit since...has he ever had a hit?

Exec B: I'll look into that, sir.

Exec A: We need a publicity stunt. Something big. Something that's gonna get all over the interweb. Maybe we can do something with one of our marketing partners.

Exec B: I don't know what we're gonna do with this overrated, fat-ass gasbag.

Exec A: Wait. What did you just call him?

Exec B: Overrated?

Exec A: No.

Exec B: Gasbag?

Exec A: No, no the other thing.

Exec B: Fat Ass?

Exec A: Bingo. I've got an idea. Get me Southwest Airlines on the phone.

Monday, March 1, 2010

They say it's your birthday

Yesterday was my birthday.
More importantly, it was also the birthday of the blog. Roundseventeen was born 365 days ago. I wasn't sure it was going to go this long. Or go anywhere for that matter. But that's what makes creative endeavors so interesting.

More importantly than my birthday or the birthday of this blog however, it was also the birthday of my nephew Jack.

He was adopted by my brother-and-sister-in-law and he has brought great joy and many dirty diapers into their life. As you can see from this video he is a ball of energy and already a confirmed dog lover.

We're all thrilled that Jack is part of the family. But having watched the entire bureaucratic process I find it a shame the system makes it so difficult and arduous for loving families to adopt a child.

Equally puzzling is why a well-financed brand --Starbucks/Pepsi/Google -- with millions of marketing dollars cannot find a home for a refreshing, and I'm told sometimes humorous, daily blog.