Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Marky Mark

I have a hard enough time attracting readers to my own blog it hardly makes sense for me to mention or promote somebody else's.

But the truth of the matter is I would never have begun roundseventeen without the inspiration from my old boss and "friend" Mark Monteiro.

You see Mark had just left his big time cushy job as Chief Creative Officer at DDB/LA. He and his wife had just built a magnificent home in Oregon or Idaho or Montana, some non-Jew state. And so he decided to start writing about his new adventures.

Despite graduating from Syracuse University, Mark is an exceptional writer. Perhaps exceptional is too strong a word. Because after reading his blog I thought, "Hell, if Monteiro can do this so can I."

And that's when my rambling started.

Since we travel in the same circles, we were effectively competing for the same eyeballs. So to counteract his superior wit and insight I fought the only way I know how, with excessive firepower. For every entry Mark wrote, I would write three.

Oh sure Mark is pithy and can turn a phrase with the best of them. But I had a chip on my shoulder, actually I have a chip on both shoulders, so I overpowered him with sheer quantity.

And it worked.
Check out one of Mark's recent entries:

A lesser man might gloat.

But I am not that lesser man. I'm taking the high road on this whole matter. There's plenty of room in this world for my daily ranting as well as for Monteiro's quasi-monthly...uh, I don't know how you'd characterize what he does. In any case, I urge all my loyal readers to check out The Lost Angeles Times.

And by the way, I'm not just saying that because Mark has re-entered the advertising field and is in a position to hire me on freelance projects. That would just be thinly veiled sycophancy, and I won't engage in any of that.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Gross Net

There was a time when a green envelope from the Writers Guild got me all giddy like it was my birthday or Christmas. OK, maybe not Christmas, more like the 8th day of Hanukah when my parents would be done with the crappy gifts and bring out the good stuff.

In the months following the premiere of STAY TUNED, typical residual checks were in the four digits. As time went on however and the movie moved further and further back on the shelves at Blockbuster, the checks came less frequently.

And then they sank to the 3 digit and 2 digit level.

By now you'd be lucky to see a copy of the movie in the clearance bin at the Tehachappi Walmart off route 58. Though my understanding is that the John Ritter/Pam Dawber flick is a cult favorite in the mountainous regions of Uruguay. Which explains why I'm still getting mailbox money for my paltry contribution to the movie.

That's no typo. The good folks at Warner Bros. Pictures took the time and effort to send me a residual check for 4 cents.

Of course that was before the government got a little taste as well.

I have since written a letter to my local congressmen instructing them I would like the penny deducted from my residual check to be magnanimously sent in the aid package to Pakistan, so that they can stockpile nuclear weapons, rebuild their madrassas and get back to the important work of persecuting homosexuals, oppressing woman, and brainwashing children about the
cold-hearted Great Satan -- America.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Say hello to Xerox

Yesterday the art director I'm working with told me the story about a couple who just had a new baby boy. They named him Pilot. This got us talking about the current generation of new parents and their pretentious indulgences.

"I want my child to stand out."
"I want my progeny to be different."
"I want the fruit of my loins to be memorable."

Blah, blah, blah.
I just want my kid to clean up her room.

I was going going to pen an entire column about all the moronic baby names I heard recently. And there have been plenty of them. Girls named Gruper, Kobain and Boisenberry. And boys named EZ, Bear, or Boisenberry.

But then I decided to do an about-face. Not only to avoid any uncomfortable situations with new parents I might run into at a party or industry event. But also because some of these newbie parents may be in a position to hire me.

And there's something else.

You see, last week our youngest daughter had her Bat Mitzvah, so we now have two freshly minted teenagers, Abby and Rachel. Which puts my wife and I on the threshold of a whole new life stage. So before I start busting chops on the newest generation of parents, I know there are a bunch of you old-timers out there who are fully aware of the world of pain I am about to step into.

So, in the interest of fair play and to avoid any potential bad karma, I'm not going to touch on the topic of stupid names.

Maybe some time in the near future we can all laugh about it.
Perhaps at a wedding.

"Ladies and gentlemen, let's welcome the newlyweds to the dance floor. Give it up for Doorknob and Carpet Stain Wilson."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


There's a lot I love about my job: the irreverence, the creativity, the exorbitant remuneration for just basically sitting around and coming up with crazy shit. Of course, for all that ying there's plenty of yang: myopic clients, corporate bureaucracy and casting.

Right now I'm going into production on a couple of new commercials. Sadly those commercials will require the talent of actors and actresses, a group of people I generally despise.

They make way more money than writers, they get better seats at restaurants, and they are showered with all kinds of praise and swag. (At the Writer's Guild Award show, a good screenwriter will be lucky to go home with a $25 Starbucks gift card.)

That's not to say however that I don't appreciate the efforts of a good thespian. A good actor or actress can make all the difference in the world and deliver the kind of performance that can make mediocre writing (the kind I usually do) seem almost palatable.

The problem is to find that one good performer, we, the production team, have to sift through a cavalcade of ham-fisted, overwrought, pretentious auditions. And now thanks to technology, the cattle call is now hundreds upon hundreds of web-linked auditions, each more pathetic than the last. Had Shakespeare been given a laptop and a wi-fi connection he would have quickly abandoned playwriting for a less painful job digging latrines.

On my next production, I'm going suggest the Director think outside the box and take the casting sessions down to the Los Angeles courthouse. We'd just have to watch people trying to get out of jury duty. Now that's acting.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Real Men of Douchebaggery

They say the art of radio commercial writing is dying a slow painful death. And though rarely correct on such matters, today the people that make up the collective "they" may be right.

Last week I heard a commercial for Bud Light. It was the latest in the long-running "Real Men of Genius" campaign, only this time there was very little genius. Past unsung heroes included Mr. Way Too Much Cologne Wearer, Mr. T-Shirt Launcher Inventor and Mr. Stinky Breath Breather Outer.

These made for inspired and hilarious radio spots.

Then Mr. Client Thumbprint Maker must have stepped in. Because the most recent Real Men of Genius homage was to Mr. Blue Aluminum Beer Bottler Inventor. Wow! They've gone from poking fun at NYC cab drivers whose back seats look like a Turkish bazaar to self-serving unfunny references to their own beer bottles.

Not only has the campaign jumped the shark, that shark has been cut up into sushi and left in the window display for the maggots and the houseflies.

Here's a thought and I'm just spit balling here because I'm not on the clock and I don't like to give this stuff away for free. But if the writers on the Bud Light account have truly run out of genii to pay homage to, I suggest they turn 180 degrees and start ripping on the Real Men of Douchebaggery. Those people who have gone to extraordinary lengths to make our lives a steaming pile of wet, warm uncollected doggie poo. You know, the ones that drive us to drink in the first place.

I'll start you out (and not because I just spent an hour disputing a charge on my Bloomingdale's credit card.)

ANNCR: Bud Light presents, Real Men of Douchebaggery....

SINGERS: Real Men of Douchebagggery.

ANNCR: Today we salute you Mr. Computerized Phone Tree Inventor, you took the customer out of customer service. Not happy with your handiwork you didn't stop there, and thoughtfully threw out the service as well.

SINGERS: Please remain on the line, your business is important to us...

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Quit!

This may come as a surprise to some of you, particularly given my new found deference and easy-going attitude, but at one time in my career I was not exactly a company man. I never dealt well with authority or criticism or anybody or anything that stood in the way of getting the job done the way I wanted it done.

I used to tell myself it was always in the service of doing the best work, but now with the benefit of age and perspective, I've come to realize that at many times I was just being a brutish ass.

This accounts for my serial job hopping. A few times I "got quit" but most the time I pulled the trigger myself. To many, those magical two weeks after handing in the letter of resignation are seen as a time to goof off and engage in some lame-duck petulance.

Not so for me.

Those two weeks were often my most productive. Not at the actual work mind you, but at leaving little "Easter Eggs" around the office that would be discovered long after I had left or been escorted off the premises.

Once I crawled under a desk and, using flashlight and a space age gravity-defying pen, inked a 300-word missive on the underside about a particular Creative Director's lack of talent and her pervasive B.O. At another agency, I employed the help of my art director to photoshop pictures of my boss engaged in odd acts of reptilian bestiality. We then buried the jpegs in some obscure file on the hard drive that to this day might not have been opened.

I mention all this because I'm currently doing a long gig at an agency. And I've been asked to work out of a now vacant office. Yesterday when my wife called to nag me about something I decided the rest of the office did not to hear our well-honed nattering, so I closed the door.

And I'm glad I did. Otherwise, I might never have seen the little present left by the last frustrated copywriter...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tale of the Polish Stripper

After dropping my daughter off at camp the other day, I came to the intersection of Robertson and Venice Blvd. While stopped at a red light I noticed a young woman across the street.

It was hard not to notice her. She was wearing a skintight purple top. A very short black mini skirt. Black fishnet stockings and 6 inch high hooker boots. In her hand she was carrying a folder.

Having lived in Los Angeles, near Hollywood, for so many years it's easy to spot someone carrying their resume and a few 8 X 10 glossy head and body shots. (I tried to snap a picture of her but couldn't.)

But this woman was not looking for a role in a film or TV show. With her credentials in hand, she was looking for the hard-to-find Skin Gentleman's Club. You can see in the picture below, the beige building (right under the traffic light) is very non-descript and not immediately recognizable.

She kept looking at the address she had in her hand and kept searching the streets for Skin. She couldn't find it. It was quite amusing. Had the light not turned green, I would have gladly whipped out a stack of single dollar bills. Because this show was better than anything she could have done on stage.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ladies and gentleman, put your hands together

Last week I put up a posting about the merits of digital music vis-a-vis the deficiencies of analog. This sparked some debate from friends/audiophiles who know a lot more about the subject than I do.

The sad truth is, whether it's the reproduction of music, the Crimean War, the works of Shakespeare or the nuances of wine, most people know more than I do.

I'm a self-admitted intellectual lightweight. Able to fair well through the first round of Jeopardy, but much better suited for the Wheel of Fortune.

Of course lacking a great depth of rigorous knowledge hasn't prevented me from expressing a deal of opinion. As evidenced by this, the 317th entry.

And today I'm going to fearlessly jump back into the world of music and posit the following:
The names of today's bands suck and can't hold a candle to the names of bands I grew up with.

But unlike last week's diatribe about analog, today I come with evidence.

The Rolling Stones > My Morning Jacket

Led Zepellin > Vampire Weekend

The Who > Jimmy Eat World

The Sex Pistols > Limp Biscuit

The Beatles > Good Charlotte

The Kinks > 30 Seconds to Mars

Pink Floyd > Nickelback

The Allman Brothers > The Jonas Brothers

Grateful Dead > Death Cab for Cutie

U2 > Modest Mouse

Monday, August 16, 2010

Long Live the King

In recognition of his spontaneous outburst and subsequent unplanned departure from JetBlue flight #1052, Steven Slater was recently crowned America's new folk legend hero.

His 15 minutes began with a 3 second slide down the emergency slide after an unruly passenger verbally and physically abused the veteran flight attendant.

However, in the category of Most Audacious, Plane-Related Employee Self Terminations, his playground antics take a back seat --the one near the toilet that doesn't recline -- to one Gerard Finneran.

Finneran ascended to the throne back in 1995 before the internet, or cell phones with cameras, or social media, otherwise his name would be known throughout the land and not just to those of us who revel in rebellious employee behavior.

On a flight from South America to New York, Finneran, a high finance banker attired in his $2000 suit took his seat in First Class and quickly downed the welcome-aboard champagne greeting. He followed the first libation with several more, until Flight Attendant Ratchett cut him off.

And that's when things got beautiful.

A man not easily denied, Finneran decided to pour his own drinks while Ratchett was handing out headsets. She caught wind of this and demanded Finneran take a seat. And in a word, he did. While the rest of the passengers were cruising along at 35,000 feet, Finneran made an athletic move up to 35, 003 feet above sea level and climbed atop the serving cart.

With the full attention of everyone in first class, business class and some very curious folks in coach, Finneran then dropped his 100% wool trousers to his ankles, assumed a threatening squatting position and then "topped" the chicken almondine with his own personal dressing.

I'll clench my teeth and drive 100 miles in sheer agony so I don't have to drop the kids off at a public pool. So for him to pull off that kind of bold move, well that just takes the kind intestinal fortitude and intestinal command that I, nor many of us, will never possess.

The bad press subsided. Nevertheless Gerard was forced to resign from his job shortly thereafter, when it became necessary to begin every meeting with hushed whispering, "whatever you do don't say anything that might in any way piss off Mr. Finneran."

I knew Gerard Finneran.
And you Mr. Slater, are no Gerard Finneran.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gimme some tail.

Last week it was announced that Darden, the operator of many family restaurant chains like Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse, was putting the Red Lobster account up for review. Sales had been falling, franchisee's were getting unhappy and the advertising had gotten stale.

Cue the eager agency contenders.

I know from experience, weekends will be sacrificed in the pursuit of this crown jewel of advertising. People will work long hours. Couches will get slept on. Cold coffee will get nuked. And strategies will be constructed, deconstructed and put before the knowing eye of focus groups.

Backs will get stabbed. Inter-office jockeying will occur. And new office romances will bloom, fed by the aphrodisiac aromas of stale pizza and 11 PM body odor.

At the end of the review process, an agency will be selected, champagne will be uncorked and a brand-spanking new Red Lobster campaign will be foisted on the crustacean-hungry masses...

Open on hot melted butter drizzled over freshly steamed lobster tail.

Cut to tight shot of tongs placing lobster tail on a beautifully-dressed dinner plate.

Cut to steam rising off the fluffy mashed potatoes.

Cut to dinner roll being cracked in half.

Cut to extreme slow motion shot of flakes flying off the dinner roll.

Cut to beet red lobster tail shell being cracked open.

Cut to man wearing khaki pants, with extremely white teeth, biting into said lobster and smiling.

Cut to khaki pants man's wife, she is smiling too.

ANNCR: Right now during Red Lobster Red Tag Dining Days, you can get our signature lobster tail, mashed potatoes and your choice of farm fresh vegetable for only $9.99. Come on in now, we'll start melting the butter just for you.

End on beauty shot of dinner plate.

Starburst: Red Tag Dining Days. Just $9.99

Art Card: Red Lobster. Who's in the mood for Tail?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Analog, My Ass

The other day I was torturing my daughters by making them listen to old man radio in the car. There was just no way I could listen to that damn Rhianna and M&M mashup anymore.

The station, my station, was playing some classic Led Zeppelin, which I appreciated.
However, they were playing it on vinyl, which I didn't.

Seems some hipster douchebag station manager decided that music sounds better on those old LPs than it does on a CD. It doesn't. I can't tell you how much money I spent on dust cleaners, static cloth and new turntable needles just so I wouldn't have to hear all that scratching, clicking and distortion.

Now, in some misguided retrospective ode to the good old years, they want to us appreciate the 'rawness' and 'purity' of music on wax? I'm sorry but the battle of digital vs analog is like the Israelis vs the Arabs in the 6 day war of 1967. Digital is the precision flying of Israeli pilots in F-4 Phantoms. Analog is the feckless Egyptian infantry, "My pita fell in the dirt."

All of which is a roundabout way of getting to the picture above.

We were at Pitfire Pizza the other night. (It was an old Shakey's Pizza but has since been remodeled, updated and vastly improved. Seems America has had it fill of Mojo potatoes. And good riddance to them.) Pitfire has a great menu of personal handmade pizzas and an incredibly wide offering of tasty micro-brews. They also offer beer in a bottle. Including, and this is what set me off, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Anybody who drinks beer knows that PBR hardly qualifies for the "beer" label. If it ever won a beer tasting contest you can be assured it was the only entrant. It is swill of the worst variety. If, as teenagers we ever stooped to buy Pabst Blue Ribbon, I guarantee it was with the last few pennies we could find under the seat of my 1966 Plymouth Valiant.

So why, in the company of so many other excellent, equally-priced brews, would someone go out of their way to actually drink Pabst Blue Ribbon? I can only gather that some sideways baseball cap wearing, Ashton-Kutsher wannabe is under the illusion that it's retro-hip.

It's not.

I bet I could sell my old scratchy Emerson, Lake & Palmer Trilogy album to one of these ignorant ass-napkins.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

For better or for worse

Right now, a mailroom clerk at CNN headquarters in Atlanta is sifting through thousands of Thank You cards sent in from married men all across America. OK, that's not exactly true. Many of the Thank You's came via e-mail.

The story, in case you missed it, was about best selling author Holly Hill and her contention that controlled infidelity can actually strengthen a marriage. It was, according the CNN analytics, one of the most viewed stories of the week.

Can't say I'm surprised. But with all due respect to Ms. Hill, the idea is hardly new.

Years ago, during one of our semi-weekly get togethers of henpecked husbands and frazzled fathers, we gave this matter the serious thought it deserved. In a flash of delusional brilliance, known only to writers with a drawer full of unsold scripts, we came up with National Infidelity Day -- 24 hours of guilt-free, consequence-free, alimony-free promiscuity.

We talked about how it could stop wars, end road rage, create jobs and generate billions in additional revenue. All of a sudden Hallmark would have a brand new category. We even picked out the perfect date for National Infidelity Day -- August 14th. 6 months after Valentine's Day (a day of pre-fabricated romance) and 6 months before Valentine's Day.

Plus, August is one of the few months on the calendar without a nationally recognized holiday.

The idea was gaining a full head of steam. We pictured ourselves getting out of advertising and TV, creating websites and Facebook applications, collecting licensing fees, going on Oprah, etc.
But then Jim, the more level headed among us, asked a very pointed question, a question that prompted us to resume the bowling and the beer drinking and shelve the whole notion of National Infidelity Day...

"Do our wives get to celebrate too?"

Monday, August 9, 2010

God Hates Fags?

When it comes to hype, my daughters could be the most susceptible beings on the planet. As overzealous fans of the Food Network, they take copious notes about which chefs are recommending which restaurants. Not that I always mind. Thanks to their sage advice, we discovered Gloria's Cafe on Venice Blvd. and some of the finest Salvadoran food to ever burn a hole through me.

So last weekend when my daughters suggested we make our way to Macarthur Park to sample the Hot Pastrami Sandwich (as seen on Best Things I Ever Ate Episode #29) I was more than game. We made our way through the crowded neighborhood, which is more like a Tijuana flea market --one vendor tried to sell me a VHS tape of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop for $2.00. Muy Bueno condition. Mira, mira. -- and arrived at legendary Langer's.

Sadly, the deli was closed. What kind of deli closes on a Sunday afternoon?
That's prime Jewish noshing/kvelling/kvetching time.

One does not dismiss the hankering for hot pastrami so easily. So we jumped back in the car and made our way to Canter's Deli on Fairfax. And that's when I discovered this obnoxious sign.

The Hebrew reads: Ra-aw-shot hach-mo ye-ros haw-ado-noi. Roughly (look, it's been a lot of years and there's no vowels.) Or as King David said, "The Fear of God is the start of wisdom."

Frankly, it saddens me to hear my people using the same type of rhetoric as the notorious Fred Phelps. Because the God I don't believe in, is loving, forgiving and has a good sense of humor.

But I'm hardly a scholar of religious texts.

Maybe God is angry, vengeful and hell bent on human suffering. Maybe the fear of God is the start of wisdom. Maybe Fred Phelps is right. Maybe God does Hate Fags. And infidels. And atheists. And people who eat shellfish.

Maybe God Hates a Whole Bunch of Us. In which case, I don't mind saying, "I Hate God."

But I do love a good pastrami sandwich and for that, I'll give him thanks.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Swing and a miss

A couple of weeks ago I did a post about the inability of many American males to throw out a proper first pitch. To separate myself from this group of girlie men, I got a baseball out of my garage, set up a video camera and hurled a fastball that painted the inside corner with blazing 56 mph speed.

Today, it occurred to me, that baseball had some nostalgic value. (You see, I have daughters so there are not many hardballs floating around my garage. We have softballs, volleyballs and rollerblades that were used once in 2003, but we're pitifully shy on boy stuff. So I grabbed the only baseball I had.)

It was a ball autographed by Eric Karros, first baseman for the LA Dodgers many years ago and former coach Tommy LaSorda. I met both gentlemen when we were doing a Nissan commercial. Eric was a humble, soft-spoken guy who was generally pleasant to be around. Tommy was...not.

Well as you can see from the picture above, the autographs are gone. They've either faded away by years of sitting in the garage or puppy saliva. It's just as well. I never really understood the whole sports memorabilia thing anyway.

A long time ago, I also did a bunch of commercials with basketball coach Pat Riley.
I didn't get anything from him.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I like children. Fried.

"Hey! You kids. Turn off that loud humming. What is it with you and that damn chanting? And you, didn't you wear that Tye-Dye shirt yesterday and the day before? Your mother and I work all day to pay for the food, the electricity, the water, and all the appliances. You could put a load in the washing machine once in while so you don't have to wear the same ratty clothes day after day. You smell like a Pakistani day worker on his way home on the 7:51 train to Gujranwala. Speaking of work, why don't put down your mantra's, grab a shovel and plastic bag and start picking the damn oil off the beach? That Gulf isn't gonna clean itself, Mister. And you're not waiting until Lucita the housekeeper comes next Thursday. Are you listening to me?"

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Shit You Not

I may have in the past spoken harshly about being in the advertising business, but every once in a while I remember what drew me to this crazy business.

Recently I found myself working on a Christmas promotion. I know we're still in the thick of summer, but like the snake who has swallowed a small moose, the process of getting work through the corporate pipeline can be long, slow and excruciatingly painful.

In any case, without going into too many details about the assignment, I needed to research odd Christmas celebrations. And that's when I came across the Caganer.

Now you may be asking why is there a man "having an exit interview with Mr. Brown" right outside the Nativity scene? I know I did.

Well, it seems it's an ancient custom from Catalan. Before the kids were born, my wife and I spent two weeks on the southern Iberian Peninsula. Now I wish we had been a little more thorough.

Being both scattological and inquisitive, I gave the Caganer the attention it deserved. All the more enjoyable because someone was actually paying me to do so.

Wikipedia offers several explanations about how and why the Caganer (loosely translated -- 'Shitter') appears in the the typical Catalan Nativity scene. My favorite: the idea that God will manifest when he is ready, whether we human beings are ready or not.

Wow, if the Messiah comes while I'm busy "launching a lifeboat off the S.S. Assitania",
I'm going to tell him I need a minute or two.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hot Monkey Love

Last week it was reported that Taliban militia had been training macaques and baboons to fire AK-47 machine guns at American soldiers.

This latest strategic move makes a lot of sense, particularly in light of the recruitment difficulties currently facing these Islamic extremists.

Seems it's not so easy to attract local farmers and villagers to play for the Taliban team. Human Afghanis' don't care for the practice of poisoning children, executions by stoning, and the very confusing practice of bombing one's own mosque.

So, unable to lure Homo Sapiens to the tempting tenets of Sharia law, the Taliban have set their sights lower on the evolutionary chain.

After all, with their diminished IQ's and their gift for mimicry, monkeys are the perfect species to follow in the brainwashed mentality of submission.

I'm just wondering whether, in the name of modesty and in accordance with the Hadith, female monkeys will soon be required to wear the burka; which may result in some very embarrassing dating situations.

Or, maybe not.