Thursday, June 24, 2010

North Independence or bust

Try as I might I just can't get my daughters off of Tyra Bank's America Next Top Model. They have this ungodly fascination for anorexic women and thoroughly unwearable clothing. And though both my beautiful daughters have what it takes to become models, fortunately they also have a heaping helping of the Siegel cynicism, which allows them to see shear lunacy of it all.

This photo of my oldest, just outside Pearsonville -- the Hub Cap Capital of the World is about as close as either will ever get to a runway. Unless they've been installed at Berkeley or Stanford and no one told me about it.

Pearsonville, for those of you who don't know, is at the lower end of the Owens Valley, one of my most favorite places on earth. Later next week, we're heading 100 miles north of the Hub Cap Capitol of the World, for a camping trip. Where I'll be engaged in Thing Jews Don't Do #11-15: sleeping on dirt, showering in the woods, fishing for trout, drinking beer with breakfast and forgetting about problems.

Have a Happy Fourth of July.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Castor de Mal

Right now the Aderatti are gathered for the annual yankfest in Cannes.

They're drinking champagne, eating pate and lighting their cigars with company-wide memos about salary freezes and belt-tightening. I've had numerous campaigns short-listed and honored at the Cannes Advertising Festival, though I've never actually been there. It's not like I feel I'm missing much.

From the pictures I've seen, there's a lot of cigarette smoking, fat men in Speedos and chest-thumping 'house' music.

My wife and I went to France many, many years ago. And while I enjoyed the museums, the food, and the rich history, what I remember most were the crappy continental breakfasts. Everywhere we went was croissants and cold cereal. You can't even get an omelet in the morning. Why would Hitler want a country like that?

I could go on and on about France and the French. But, like most of the advertising at Cannes, none of it would be as inspired as this...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Venezuelan Beaver Cheese?

From the Unfortunate Choice of Names file.

I'm sure the optimistic folks who thought they would breathe new life into the grilled cheese sandwich never thought it would come to this. In fact, I'll bet these wide-eyed entrepreneurs had dreams of opening Meltdowns across all of Southern California. In Downey. And Monrovia. And Santa Clarita.

And after that, there would be franchises. With store openings in Nevada, Utah and Arizona (provided they could secure legal immigrants to man the panini-makers.)

And twenty years from now, this store, birthed right here in Culver City would be canonized and given historical landmark status.

Of course none of that transpired. Because let's face it, the retail business is hard.

If making it the retail world weren't so difficult, I'd have left advertising a long time ago. I'd be wearing a yellow apron, dispensing heady Limberger and aromatic Raejuusto, from my own poorly named establishment, Who Cut The Cheese?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Damn Algorithms

I'm told you can never get rid of termites permanently. You can tent the house. Pump in the poisons. And forget about them for a a few years. But you can always count on their return.

Like Laker championships, sig alerts and cab-burning vandals, it's just one of those things that go with living in Southern California.

So two weeks ago I went online to seek out a pest control company to pay us a visit and take care of my returning termites. I found an excellent company in Culver City, who surprisingly told me the house only needed some localized spot treatments.

Within minutes of my initial search, I also found myself bombarded with web banner ads from Orkin.

Like 99.99% of Americans I tune these obnoxious web banners out. ( I know marketing gurus believe digital advertising, with its banners, robust web sites and client-sponsored social media, is going to be the industry's silver bullet, but frankly I don't buy it. I'm not interested in an engaging brand relationship with El Pollo Loco. Just put the damn chicken in the bag and let me get the hell out of there.)

But these insidious Orkin banner ads are a different story. They are impossible to ignore. And not in a good way. Every time they come on, hundreds of animated cockroaches scurry across my computer monitor. And I can't get rid of them. I need a virtual pest control company to fumigate these virtual pests.

And it's all because of algorithms. Had I not been so stoned throughout my college career I might be able to render a more accurate definition of algorithms, but I can't. I only know that every time you make a keystroke, that data is run through a series of html confibulated flik flaks and uploaded onto satellite-based gyroscopic servers for optimized management administration.

In other words, based on my search entries, the computer shows me ads for stuff it thinks I'm looking for. Maybe I can use those same algorithms to fool Big Brother. I'm going to pay a little visit to Victoria's Secret. Even though my wife forbids me from buying her lingerie, the computer doesn't know that.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Problem Solved

Months ago, my wife and I went on an impromptu date. She claims I'm not spontaneous enough, so I decided we'd leave the kids at home and walk to downtown Culver City for a nice a dinner.

Just before the Osso Bucco arrived, my wife's cell phone rang. It was our youngest daughter. In a panic. Complaining about some awful smell. Naturally we ignored her as she is the personification of 'the sky is falling' mentality.

But we shouldn't have.

We arrived home to find the downstairs bathroom with three inches of, how shall I say this, "muddy water." I got out of my impromptu date clothes and into my "oh shit I'm standing in shit" clothes. I also broke out the Shop Vac, which has the amazing capacity to suck up the dry, the wet and anything in between.

Within the hour and 13 towels (that went straight to the trash can) later, I had the mess completely cleaned up.

I'm no Kevin Costner, that goes without saying -- though soon he will be sporting the same haircut as mine, but I think I have an idea worth exploring during our nation's time of crises.

It's best summed up in my crude diagram below:

Of course this would have to be replicated a thousand times over, but I know those extension tubes are available -- I keep finding them all over my garage-- and this plan is ultimately do-able.

President Obama: Rahm, get me Sears & Roebuck on the line.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bless you

In one of the classic episodes of Seinfeld, George Costanza's father tells Kramer how his family celebrates neither Christmas, nor Hanukkah, nor Kwanza. Instead, in a nod to secularism, he proclaims his affinity for Festivus, the festival for the rest of us.

I'm sure Mr. Costanza would be equally inspired by this updated rendition of the Last Supper.

It celebrates the men and women who, unlike some of their religious counterparts, have made real contributions to Western civilization and the advancement of mankind. There's Galileo, Madame Curie, some dude, Newton, some other dude, Steve Hawkins, Einstein, Carl Sagan, Darwin and a bunch of others whose names I didn't bother to secure.

I love this picture. And I know that somewhere in Cupertino, California there's a photoshop artist who has been commissioned to include Steve Jobs.

My little ode to atheism comes two months before my family and I will be going to our synagogue and celebrating the ritual of my daughter's Bat Mitzvah. Hypocrisy? Perhaps, but that's what I like about being a member of the tribe. Doubt, anger, disbelief, even outright heresy, are welcome in Judaism. And not just welcomed, but encouraged. In fact, one could argue that these forces of discontent and dissatisfaction with the status quo are the very things that give Judaism it's strength and lasting power. It's certainly the mark of maturity.

I bring all this up because last week I read an amazing piece on written by a sitting Cantor. There, in front of three million readers who are actively ignoring my column, she openly declared her agnosticism. She said she might find God in the future, but right now didn't believe he existed.

And yet each week she shows up for shabbat services and her congregants gather to listen to her beautiful voice.

Pretty incredible.
Good thing she didn't draw any cartoons.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

From the produce section

My buddy Jim Jennewein recently told me how much he enjoys reading this blog. And while I enjoy hearing that from all of you, it's particularly heartwarming from Jim, because, well, he is a real writer. In addition to the many screenplays he's had produced, Jim has published two books and is in the process of publishing a third.

He's also an avid reader.

He's actually read all the books we were supposed to read in high school and college. And he's familiar with the works of E.M. Forster, W.R. Burnett and Harper Lee, names that should ring a bell but have long since fallen victim to under achievement and early senility. Thus allowing me to claim the shameful title of the Most Illiterate Writer on the Face of the Planet.

But enough about Jim, let's get back to me.

Jim says roundseventeen has a unique way of delving into the little nooks and crannies that make up our life. And for that reason I give you a poorly lit photo of this perfect ass-like cherry moments before it entered my gullet.

You see, I have the sophomoric sensibilities of a 14-year old, so in addition to examining the nooks and crannies, I make every effort possible to cover the crevices.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rotten Juice

Recognize this guy? His name is Mohammed Alessa. Last week he was arrested by Homeland Security because he and his cohort had been training in Pakistan to commit jihadist acts against American interests in Somalia.

The government had been trailing him for more than three years as he had made no secret of his hatred of the USA, infidels, capitalists, Jews, Westerners, people who did not engage in bestiality, ad infinitum.

Coming to his defense this weekend, Mohammed's mother Nadia, claimed her son could not be a terrorist. When asked to explain his actions, she explained, "Anything makes him angry. But he's not a terrorist: he's a stupid kid."

One might be tempted to accept the plausibility of her argument since Mohammed was a member of the oxymoronic Islamic Thinkers Society. But let's not act too fast.

You see years ago, Mohammed and his accomplice were spotted at a demonstration in Manhattan and captured on film. And not just captured but immortalized.

Think about that for a second.

Since the Nakba (Arabic for The Catastrophe otherwise known as the day the land was partitioned into 2 states, Palestine and Israel, in 1948) there have literally been thousands of demonstrations. And thousands of signs calling for the extermination of the Jewish people. And yet with a little clever wordplay, Mohammed has managed to break through the clutter of hate sear his sign into our collective visual rolodex.

Stupid Nadia?
Crazy perhaps. Crazy like a fax.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

No Coke, No Pepsi

As of today I've gone an entire month without drinking a Diet Coke or a Diet Pepsi. This may not seem like much of an accomplishment unless you understand the shameful volume of diet soda I consumed on a daily basis.

Since I occasionally do work for TBWA Chiat/Day and their large client PepsiCo, I don't want to start slinging any mud about their fine, fine products.

However I will say that of the 112 odd chemicals found in a typical diet soda, my guess is that 38 of them must have highly addictive properties. Because kicking this stuff is not easy.

Having endured enough badgering from my wife and my kids, I decided to quit and go cold turkey. One day I was a Diet Coke drinker, the next day I was an ex-Diet Coke drinker. No cutting back. No weaning. No 12 step program ("Hi, I'm Rich, I had a Diet Coke with my breakfast.")

Years ago I remember my father quit smoking. He'd smoked his entire life. 9 year old boys in the rough streets of the Bronx didn't have much else to do. He handed a hypnotist on the Upper West Side a hundred dollars and within 20 minutes my father was reborn as an ex-smoker. I suspect he could saved himself that money and just willed himself to quit since he was blessed, and cursed, with the determination of a bulldozer.

I didn't want to go to a hypnotist so I decided to replace a bad habit with a good one.

I bought a set of those Navy Seal Perfect Push Up bars. Here's what I'm going to look like after a year of NOT drinking diet soda...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

If it ain't Scottish it's crap.

Yesterday, and for that matter the day before, I overstayed my welcome and wrote pieces that exceeded my normal posting length. I understand your short attention disorder and the need for a quick hit of meaningless humor, at a price that can't be beat, and therefore I offer my sincere apology.

So today I present to you the garbage-dumpster-that-accepts-no-garbage.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Our Fierce Fighting Forces

Last week, Congress moved one step closer to eliminating the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

Frankly, it's been a long time coming.

I don't understand how any sane person could argue against allowing gay men and women to serve openly in our military forces. And since our armed services are all volunteers, I find it even more puzzling why a gay man or woman would choose to lay their life on the line for a country that denies them full citizenship.

I also don't understand how a person's sexual preference has anything to do with their ability to function as a soldier. Are we willing to apply the same logic to other preferences? I like New England Clam Chowder, but would have no problem serving in the same unit as some effete gastro-snob who prefers clam chowder of the less hearty Manhattan variety.

Besides, homosexuals have served openly in the Israeli Defense Forces. I don't see anyone questioning their efficiency. Or aggressiveness.

I often poke fun at the infantile behavior found in the Middle East: the persecution of so-called witches, warlocks and apostates, death threats to Mickey Mouse and fatwas over the drawing of cartoons. But frankly, the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy seems equally as childish.

It's the kind of childish behavior one expects from 9 year olds and not from the people with whom we entrust our nation's security.

Sgt: Sir, I'm afraid I have bad news.

Lt. Colonel: What's that Sergeant?

Sgt: It's Wilson, sir.

Lt. Colonel: What about Wilson?

Sgt: I think...I think....

Lt. Colonel: Damnit Sergeant, spit it out.

Sgt: I think Wilson has the Cooties.

Lt. Colonel: My god! Are you sure?

Sgt: Pretty sure. I have an excellent sense of Cootie-Dar.

Lt. Colonel: Did you ask him if he has the Cooties?

Sgt: No can do, sir.

Lt. Colonel: Damn regulations.

Sgt: Not sure he'd tell us even if he did have Cooties.

Lt. Colonel: This is serious. An outbreak could destroy the fighting spirit of the whole battalion. (PAUSE) OK, get headquarters on the phone. Tell them to send a medic down here immediately.

Sgt: Right away, sir.

Lt. Colonel: I want every man and woman on the base to get a Cootie shot.

Sgt: A Cootie Shot, sir?

Lt. Colonel: You know.

The Lt. Colonel protrudes his middle finger knuckle and jabs it into the thick of the Sergeant's upper arm.

Sgt: Right Lieutenant. I guess that's why you're wearing the oak leaves, sir.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Final Frontier

I told myself I wasn't going to do this, but the subject matter is so, I could not pass up (soon, you'll understand why I chose to use this pun) the opportunity.

You see, while you are going about your morning activities and putting off until Tuesday what should have been done today, I am slipping into a percoset-induced fantasyland in the belly of Beverly Hills. Where Megan Fox and Scarlet Johannsen will attend to my every dark and unconscious need, and a highly paid doctor, registered nurse and anesthesiologist will go about inspecting my large intestine for any irregularities.

Using the Olympus CF-Q160AL Video Colonoscope with variable stiffness and an extra wide viewing lens, they are going where no man has ever gone before. With the exception of two board certified urologists, that is.

But today's Fantastic Voyage takes us further and farther to that final frontier, innerspace.

What wonders will this team uncover? Will they snake by my left kidney and find last Thursday's baked salmon and asparagus tips? Will that tri-tip salad from Santa Maria BBQ be lurking around the corner of my pancreas? Or will they hang a right turn at my duodenum and discover yesterday's andouille sausage and eggs? Hopefully, after the procedure has been completed, I will have a DVD with all the answers.

The results from today's exam won't be available for another week. But with a resting heart rate in the fifties, low blood pressure and low cholesterol, my doctor has already proclaimed me to be one of the 'fittest fat man' he's ever seen.

So I've got every reason to believe this story will not have a surprise ending.

Get it? Ending.

They can devise precise state-of-the-art surgical equipment to scope and remove pre-cancerous polyps from the gastro-intestinal tract of the human body, but they can't take the 14-year old boy out of the man.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Glue Factory

I'm not the handiest man on the planet. I can fix a flat tire on a bike. Change the oil on the car. One time I even put in a brand new garbage disposal under the sink. Took me 8 hours but I got it done.

And then there other jobs I just don't have the tools or mechanical inclination to take on.

Thankfully there's Super Glue.
Or Krazy Glue.
Or Krazy Super Nuclear Glue.
The stuff seems to come in an endless variety of flavors.
My house, including many of the things in it, is held together by this other-worldly adhesive.

I love the people who came up with Super Glue.
But if it were up to me, I'd send them back to the drawing board.

The glue works.
The package it comes in, doesn't.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mercury Descending

Last week it was reported that Ford will shut down the Mercury brand to concentrate more on Lincoln. Frankly I never understood that whole Lincoln Mercury relationship in the first place. I suspect consumers didn't either.

Can't say I'm particularly surprised by the move.

Years ago, I did some work for the previous marketing regime. By and large a smart group of people who appreciated good advertising. I even had the good fortune to work on the launch of the Lincoln Aviator, a vehicle inspired by the highly successful Lincoln Navigator.

I had the even greater fortune of watching one of my ideas sail through the corporate bureaucracy and tally up some outrageously high scores in focus groups. This, for those of you not in advertising, is a monumental task.

We got the green light. Hired an A-list director. And produced what I consider to be a first rate spot. When it was said and done the entire production went north of a million dollars. Everybody was thrilled with the final product. It leveraged the equity of the Lincoln Navigator. It conveyed the size relationships of the vehicles. And it was funny.

But the commercial never saw the light of day.

I'll tell you why after you view the spot...

When the finished commercial was brought before the big cheeses in Detroit, one witless Mucketty Muck said spot could not be run. "Why?", asked the demoralized marketing Director, "it meets all our objectives and and has tested extremely well."

"It's not our target audience, " he replied, "we don't sell cars to janitors." (It would've been as if Steve Jobs had looked at '1984' and declared we don't sell computers to women in running shorts who throw sledgehammers.)

This defines in a nutshell, why brands in Detroit are dropping like flies.
And redefines the phrase 'Mercury poisoning.'

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


My heart breaks for New Orleans. No city deserves such devastating catastrophe. Much less twice in the span of 5 years.

If you've been watching HBO's Treme (written and produced by the same incredible team that brought us The Wire) you know New Orleans is rich in art, music and cuisine.

I've had the pleasure of experiencing the city on two occasions, both times using OPM (Other People's Money) which may account for my rose-tinted view. Hell, when you're on an expense account, even Detroit can be bearable.

Ten years ago we were there to film a major portion of our documentary Home Movie. We met Wild Bill Treagle, owner and operator of Zam's Swamp Tour. Wild Bill is the real deal. A born and bred bayou boy who wrestles and collects alligators.

During our three days of production we got to know Bill and his extended family, who might be described as "right out of central casting." But people, like books, should not be judged by their covers.

To this day I remember the story told to me by one of Bill's snaggle-toothed cousins. She explained how in the early 20th century the extremely bigoted white population of Southern Louisiana found itself in danger. The practice of cousins marrying cousins had seriously depleted the gene pool--resulting in a growing problem of mental retardation. Not until a few brave souls broke rank and started interracial dating did the problem begin to subside. Fewer babies were born with genetic defects. And today the bayou boasts many families of mixed racial background.

Ironically, this provincial close-minded culture was saved by what it feared most -- interaction with African Americans.

Shortly before Katrina hit, I found myself in New Orleans again. This time to shoot a car commercial. The day of the shoot went swimmingly well and we wrapped the set early. Early enough to start drinking Mint Juleps. Many, many Mint Juleps. We stumbled into the cab to catch a late flight back to LA. But on the way, we made the cabbie make a quick impromptu stop somewhere along Canal Street.

I got out of the car and quickly snapped a photo of a theater marquis. (Sadly, I am unable to locate that picture.) In big black letters, the theater proudly announced the showing of newest production, "The A*Hole Monologues." Maybe it was the Mint Juleps talking but it struck us all as being hilariously funny at the time.

And now that I look back on it, I'm left to wonder whether The A*Hole Monologues was playing at a gay theater or a straight one. Of course, it was in the land of Mardi Gras, maybe it doesn't matter.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My kind of sign

Because of my sloth-like metabolic rate and my genetic propensity to always push beyond the 34 inch waistline, I no longer allow myself the convenience or chemical goodness of fast food.
But if I did, and God knows I want to, Chipotle would be my first stop on the caloric freight train.

Not because their skirt steak is any tastier.
Or their salsa any salsier.

You just have to love a company willing to put a sign on the back of their truck that reads:

Warning tailgating may result in guacamole.

My brother, who has eaten at Chipotle, tells me there's a sign in the men's room that reads:

Employees must light a match before returning to work.