Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hello, Cleveland.

This landed in my mac account mailbox the other day. Surprising not only because my mac account usually does a good job of sorting out the spam, but also because I had no idea they had finally completed construction on the Kris Kringle Inventionasium.

Many of you may be surprised that there is a Ritz Carlton in Cleveland. After all, you don't expect to find one of the world's finest 5 star hotels located in the heart of America's Rust Belt.

This came as no surprise to me.

In fact, not long ago I had the "pleasure" of staying at the Ritz Carlton in Dearborn, Michigan where the factories may be closed but the falaffels' as high as an elephant's eye. And like its counterparts in the more sophisticated cities, like New York and San Francisco, this Ritz had all the accoutrements one might expect from such a storied brand. There was free soap in the bathroom. Free slippers in the closet. They even had color TV.

Sadly however, this promotion piece came to us too late and we will not be able to take advantage of the Winter Wonderland Wishes Package in Cleveland.

We've already scheduled our Christmas vacation in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Our ally, Hu Flung Pu."

(OK, I know I'm getting a lot of mileage out of this photo, but it's Monday I'm still hungover from a tryptophan high that lasted all weekend. And so with that I give you a reprint of a short column published in the huffingtonpost.com)

In a recent interview, Sarah Palin stated, "we gotta stand with our North Korean allies." Clearly this potential GOP Presidential candidate needs to brush up on geopolitics. I might suggest some simple mnemonics.

North Korea -- Naughty

North Korea -- Not Friends

Or, North Korea -- No

But I think this grizzly mamma might feel more comfortable with simple visual graphics. If questioned, she could use the same technique to answer any questions about our involvement in Vietnam.

(you can also see it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rich-siegel/palin-geography-101_b_788490.html)

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Third Coming

About two months ago I wrote about my adventure in the high desert and how I stumbled upon this haunting painting at a small Mexican bodega in Littlerock, CA. Weeks later I wrote about it again. Unable to put the painting of my head, I returned to Mica's (home of the high desert pork burrito) to actually purchase the painting. I gave it to an old friend thinking that would be the end of the story.

It wasn't.

Last week while working on some promos for The Early Show, I took a little break from the action and tried to look up an old high school buddy on Facebook. He didn't actually go to my high school, but I met him when I started working at the Spring Valley Jack in the Box, the first JIB ever built on the east coast.

Mark Fishman and I grew tight. He was a funny, scrappy, incredibly-intelligent kid who was way beyond his 16 years of age. When he wasn't showing me how to grill up Jumbo Jacks and Bonus Jacks, Mark was always vigorously rolling doobies. Smoking pot on the roof of Jack in the Box at 3 in the morning was always the highlight of the graveyard shift.

Our friendship lasted through college as well.

I went to Syracuse University to "study" mass communications, he went to the University of Buffalo to study civil engineering. We lost touch after that. I would do anything to reconnect with my old Jackster buddy.

But Facebook doesn't seem to be of any help.

I've scoured. I've turned over new leads. I've even managed to find other folks who used to work at the Box. No Mark Fishman. But guess what I did find? To my utter amazement and through pure randomness, out of the 500 million profiles on Facebook, I happen to come across this one...

My heart literally skipped a beat. From the ether, this eerie image of the thrice-crufied Christ has paid me one more unexpected visit. I'm a natural born skeptic so I'm not about to take up the sacrament, but I am willing to put this in writing; if this image crosses my doorstep one more time, roundseventeen will cease to exist and I'll be chanting the rosary at the nearest seminary.

Who knows, maybe that's where I'll find Mark Fishman?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Call of Duty: Dog Ops

In 1982, a scientist on vacation in the Caribbean happened upon an abandoned rum distillery. This is shocking on several levels.

I wasn't aware scientists take vacations. Much less, in the Caribbean. I think of the Caribbean as a haven for hedonistic Long Island gumbas seeking a respite from the daily grind of organized crime.

Furthermore, having spent some time on Anguilla, I can see no reason why a rum distillery would be abandoned. There is no way supply could ever exceed the demand.

Nevertheless, like any good scientist, he collected a sample of dirt, brought it home and discovered a rare actinomycete, Sacchaaropolyspora spinosa. From this odd bacterium he was able to derive spinosad.

Spinosad, as it turns out, is a highly effective pesticide that works particularly well on blood-sucking insects. (It may very well be the answer to the country's growing bed-bug problem.)

If you own a dog you need to know about spinosad.

You see, we've tried all those over the counter methods of flea eradication: the collars, the drops, the homeopathic crap you sprinkle in the dog's food. (In my world homeopathic is a synonym for useless. I like chemicals that need FDA approval.)

In any case, none of it seemed to work. Moreover, it's expensive as hell. So it leaves you with this sinking feeling, not unlike the drug user who drops $100 for a bag of cornstarch and baking powder.

With my legs looking like I'd been abused in some North Vietnamese prison camp, I decided to increase my level of firepower. I called the vet and got hold of some Comfortis, a prescription-grade level medicine containing the magical spinosad.

I chopped up the pill and gave Nellie an early dinner. I watched her lap up every speck of the beef-flavored flea-killing concoction. The vet said the medicine works fast and kills fleas within half an hour. Those might have been the longest 30 minutes in my life.

Unable to contain my de-flea glee, I put on my running shoes and knocked out three miles. When I returned I put on my magnifying glasses for a canine inspection. And there under Nellie's thick coat, I found two fleas. Only this time they did not, and could not, jump from my pinchy fingers. They were already dead.

For the following three days I removed flea carcases (carcii) and deposited their unmoving bodies in the toilet. Every new find put a broad smile on my face. There may be greater joys in life. But right now, I can't think of many.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lucy Bouls

So the other day, my daughter was home because there were Parent Teacher Conferences. I decided to take her to the S&W Cafe in Culver City. We have been going there for close to 20 years. In fact, it used to be known as Sam & Woody's. Back then, the cafe was only half the size it is now.

And in a significant demographic change, the S&W used to be quite the lesbian hangout. On a typical Sunday morning, I was the only male in the place. Now that I think about it, a lot like my house.

While the clientele has changed, the operation at Sam and Woody's hasn't. They still don't take credit cards. They don't take guff. And they don't take reservations. You simply put your name and the number of guests on a list and wait until one of the heavily-tattooed girls calls for you.

This old-school, analog system works well. It also never fails to bring out the 14-year old boy in me. I didn't do it that day, because my daughter was with me, but I have on many occasion added to the list a name that screams out for being screamed out.

"Is there a Mike Rotch here? Table for Mike Rotch. Last call for Mike Rotch."

I know that's juvenile, asinine and sophomoric, but I never made any pretense of being anything but that. Some would say (like many copywriters) I've built an entire career around it.

Maybe you're planning a trip to the S&W cafe.
Maybe you'd like to write a funny name on a sign in sheet.
Maybe you should visit tuesdayswithmantu.com, scroll through the Extras section and try out the Scaminator 3000.

And don't forget, the book makes an excellent stocking stuffer for the 14-year old in your house.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ninja, my ass

This video has been making the rounds in the advertising circle lately. I love it because it so accurately skewers our business.

The digital inmates have taken over the asylum. I'll give you a good example. And try not to burn any bridges in the process.

At the end of 2009, a not-so-good year for the self-employed freelancer, I thought about trading in my mercenary status for an assigned parking space. A local digital shop was looking for an Executive Creative Director and they wanted someone who had some big brand experience and had produced a lot of award-winning work. These opportunities don't come around every day, so I threw my hat in the ring.

I didn't get the job. And now, close to a year after interviewing with the agency, neither has anybody else. They still have not hired an ECD.

I suspect other factors may be at work here. Maybe I should have packed another tin of Altoids. Or maybe my aluminum chlorate anti-perspirant wasn't firing on all cylinders that day. But my suspicion is that the agency brass had not seen enough web banners in my portfolio.

Why do I say that? Because these days, as the video implies, the production of web banners, and/or anything web-related, seems to be not only an important criteria in any hiring situation, but the only criteria in a hiring situation.

Is that the whiff of sour grapes in the air?

It's not. I'm actually happy I wasn't offered that job. I don't know how eager I am to fly all over the country, sit in client meetings or go to semantic warfare with 27-year old planners who think they have great insight into the human condition (hint: most of them don't.)

Besides, 2010 was an exceptionally busy (good) year. I've been involved with a lot of cool projects and worked with Creative Directors who recognize that ideas have greater value than the medium in which they are produced.

And to those who don't recognize that fundamental truth, I share the same sentiment of the little bear in stripes: Fark You.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spark it up

One of the cardinal rules of marketing is "know thy audience." So when it comes to roundseventeen and the handful of readers who bother to stop by everyday (OK, 4 days a week), I believe I know mine.

Suffice to say, that most of you are probably against capital punishment. Despite the recent moderation of my politics, this is where you and I will have to agree to disagree.

You see, I am FOR capital punishment. In a big, big way. And I'm not talking that Old Testament capital punishment. Those people were ready to stone people to death for having sex on a Saturday or eating a cheeseburger.

I'm talking about the rational, logical acknowledgment that there are human beings who are not fit to live among human beings. And frankly, we should not let them live among human beings. We need to put them out of our misery.

Case in point: the recent conviction of home invasion robber/kidnapper/rapist/murderer Steven Hayes of Connecticut. He and his accomplice Joshua Komisarjevsky burst into a home, tied two teenage girls to a bed, raped their mother, then set the house on fire, killing all three.

A jury rightly sentenced Mr. Hayes to death. I know some of you will have a problem with state-sponsored death. I don't. Perhaps it's because I am a father with two teenage daughters of my own that this case has struck such a chord.

The truth is, given the opportunity, I would gladly hop on a redeye flight, rent a car, drive to the McDougall-Walker Correctional Facility and pull the switch that would send 50,000 volts through that monster's worthless body.

But I would bring a friend. An electrician. And have him skillfully reconfibulate the flik-flaks on Old Sparky. So that I could administer those 50,000 death-inducing volts, 100 painful jolts at a time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Please spare me

So I'm at the Lexus dealership the other day to drop off my car for a service and I spot this bozo's car in the lot. ("But wait Rich didn't you just buy a new car? Why is it in for a service?" Please, I'm trying to be mellow and zen and not get into any of that.)

I generally abhor people who take the time and money to have a license plate engraved with their own vanity message. If this guy were really thankful for the Lord blessing him with an LS 460 he should've taken the $89 he spent for the vanity plate and donated it to St. Judes.

The hypocrisy is only superseded by the narcissism.

Does this blowhard literally believe the big Sky Captain had anything to do with putting him behind the wheel of this beautiful luxury sedan? Because I guarantee you that on the same day he was praying for a big, new shiny car, little children with leukemia were praying for a new treatment, women in Iran were praying not to be whipped with morality sticks, and families in Africa were praying for their next meal.

But the good Lord saw fit to ignore the prayers of those needy people and answer those of Mr. I-Need-a-GPS-System-to-avoid-traffic-on Beverly-Glen.

Is that the way it works?

The Lord has time for people who want cars, football teams who want victories and actresses who want meaningless trophies, but no time for people in true despair. If so, not only are you a Dick, Mr. LS 460 owner, your Lord --who seems to need endless praise and gratitude-- is an even bigger Dick.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Lovernator

Last week, me and my fellow Californians elected Jerry Brown to be the next governor. Jerry was hardly an enthusiastic choice. He was more the proverbial lesser of two evils. I'm no fan of his special ties to big labor unions who stand in the way of real reform.

But, I'm an even lesser fan of Meg Whitman and other greedy corporate billionaires who take from the till and line their pockets while telling employees there's no money for raises or promotions or anything else that might improve morale.

There's something else at work here. The crazy world of 6 degrees of separation. You see, it turns out the entire trajectory of my life was changed by Jerry Brown, more specifically Jerry Brown's family.

A little more than twenty years ago, some colleagues at an ad agency wanted to set me up on a blind date with a friend of theirs. Trying to move past since the recent passing of my father I agreed.

But a week before that blind date was to happen, a buddy of mine said he knew about a big bash in the Hollywood Hills. It was at some mansion. The party was being thrown by Jerry Brown's nephew while his parents were out of town.

I went. And by sheer coincidence, so did the woman who was to be my blind date the following week. So instead of strained small talk over spaghetti bolognese, we met, with about 300 other people, at a wild summer soiree in a home that belonged to the sister of our future governor.

Today I share a bed, a family and a life with that woman. And we both recall the night so vividly. Like the cliche, it was love at first sight.

21 years later, we still love each other. But now that love has its own rhythm and cadence. And often sounds like this, "Do you have to put the toilet paper roll on upside down?" Or, "I don't like the way you breathe, do you have to breathe like that?"

Monday, November 8, 2010

From the lucrative world of publishing

(reprinted from this Month's issue of Brief magazine from Promax.)

I live with my wife, two teenage daughters, a retriever mix named Nellie and two goldfish, who for the purposes of this article, I will assume are also female. As the lone Y chromosome carrier in the household, it’s my job to take out the garbage. If I don’t take the cans down to the curb, the cans simply do not get down to the curb.

You may be asking what any of this has to do with TV, broadcasting, advertising or promos. But, I suspect those of you in creative roles can spot the stretched metaphor from a mile away. As a copywriter with more than 20 years experience, I’ve gotten quite accustomed to taking out the trash. And by that I mean the creative brief.

I still make my living writing for ad agencies, clients, cable networks, digital boutiques, etc., so I’ve got to tread lightly here. I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me and keeps my fridge stocked with Blue Moon.

But the truth is, most creative briefs I see are neither creative nor brief.

An agency planner once told me, “You can’t expect the kind of creative strategic brilliance like the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign on every brief.”

Is that so? I’ll have to employ that method of managed expectations on my next creative presentation, “You can’t expect great creative on every assignment. Here’s my invoice.”

What about brevity?

Years ago, a dozen or so freelance teams were assembled to rebrand a major car manufacturer. It was, we were told, to be a milestone campaign. A clean break from the past. A blank slate on which we would be free to rewrite automotive and advertising history. What creative person would not be excited by that kind of opportunity?

“As soon as we receive your signed NDA,” said the agency creative administrator, “we’ll email you the 109-page briefing document.” She was not kidding. It looked like the blueprint for an Iranian nuclear facility. There was more clarity to the Pentagon’s plan for victory in Afghanistan.

The best brief I ever got wasn’t a brief at all. It was just a guttural insight from Lee Clow, who said, “People think of TV as a sanctuary.” From that, the ABC “Yellow” campaign was born.

I don’t know how to solve the garbage in/garbage out phenomena. But I do know if we want the work to get better, the briefs have to get better. They have to get simpler. Shorter. More visceral. And they have to stop rehashing the same ideas over and over and over again.

That reminds me, I have to take out the recyclables.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Born every minute

I did something last week that I hadn't done in a good seven years --no, it has nothing to do with the unwanted hair in my ears -- I bought a new car. OK, not a new car. Only suckers buy new cars. I bought a Certified Pre-Owned Car.

To be able to swing that I had to trade in my old car, the one you see pictured above. Upon seeing my old Lexus for the first time, the dealer went into great detail to describe his disappointment with the vehicle.

"Wow, this isn't at all like you told me over the phone. It's pretty ratty. The leather's all beat up, there's lots of scratches and dings, the car definitely looks a lot older. I don't even know if I can sell this rust-bucket." (He didn't actually say rust-bucket, I just like that phrase.)

You can imagine how surprised I was to see the car on their internet listings the following day.
You can imagine how even more surprised I was to hear it described as, "super-sharp, well maintained quality luxury automobile." And sporting a price that was well above what I got for it.

The dealer is probably is on the lot as we speak. Telling a prospective buyer that this creampuff was driven once a week to church by a little old lady from Pasadena.

It kills me to know I'm that little old lady.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The new ink cartridges are here

Try as I might, I cannot get over last week's attempted bombing of two Jewish Synagogues in Chicago by some crazed Yemenis. CNN reported that one of the temples was dedicated to serving the lesbian and gay community, hence the photo of Rosie O'Donnell.

I know Rosie is not Jewish but when you type the word 'Lesbian' into Google Search, the result is a lot of pornography. It's a Sunday morning, my daughters are running around the house and I can't be pouring through hundreds of shots of sapphic erotica, titillating as that may be.

Actually, if I'm being honest and brutally candid, and when am I not, lesbian porn does little for me. I know some men are into it, I'm not. Even though I profess to have a healthy imagination, when I see two women satisfying each other I can't help feeling like I've been left out of the equation. If anything, I'd enjoy watching two naked women wrestling. Then, at least, I could fantasize that they were fighting over me.

I seem to have gotten a little off track.

Back to the bombing.

I can't imagine life in Yemen is any picnic. Between the heat, the sand, the illiteracy and the camel shit which stretches out as far as the eye can see, it's no wonder Yemenis are jumping on boats to skip across the Sea of Aden for some well-needed R&R in nearby Somalia.

What I don't understand is how a bunch of k.d. lang-loving, lattke-making yuppies from Ravenswood, Illinois have anything to do with the sad state of affairs in Yemen. I'll grant you these women have a misguided love for deep dish pizza --for that matter so does everybody else west of Trenton, NJ -- but that is not a crime worthy of an inkjet toner full of plastic explosives.

Of course through it all you have to admire the Jewish sense of humor in the face of such terror.

When asked about the possibility of opening the ill-fated package, Congregation Beth El Binah President Diane Litke remarked, "we get our office supplies from Office Depot, not Yemen."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Here comes the Crescendo

In case you missed it, last Thursday's post was published in the Huffington Post. You can read it here on roundseventeen or you can go to the link I've provided:

I think you should read it there. Somehow it feels much more legitimate when it's in the company of real writers and journalists.

Now on those rare occasions when the Huffington Post or some other publication decides to publish what I've written, I like to reward myself with a day off. Today is one of those days. So I leave you with this photo I stumbled across in a column about "The 10 Most Unintentional Sexy Album Covers Ever Produced."

Take it away Ms. Gruebbersolvik.