Friday, March 25, 2011

Gaki No Tsukai

My family and I are about to do something we haven't done in a while, take a vacation. Between the poor economy and trying to bounce back from the poor economy, downtime was just not in the cards. Thankfully, it is now. 

So today, in honor of the valiant people in Japan and the hope that you will give to the Red Cross to help them emerge from this ongoing crisis, I'm embedding one of my favorite all time pieces of video. For those of you who have never seen it, it's the Japanese Silent Library Game.

You don't need to understand a word of Japanese to get it, you just have to try as hard as the contestants not to laugh out loud.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Self Loathing

Yesterday, ran a hilarious piece by Kim Mok about the dreaded manifesto. And because there's nothing better than copywriters making snarky commentary about the practice of copywriting, I thought I'd pen one of my own:

Here's to the lazy ones.
  The copywriters.
    The dinosaurs.
      The digital ninjas.
        The overpaid hacks in a world of underpaid teachers, cops and soldiers.

The ones who complain all day.
They're not fond of originality.
     Nor are they capable of it.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
     disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.
      Because they’re petulant and they’re whiny.

They bitch.    They moan.    

    They rag.     They rant.   

        They preen.    They pose.
    They create the crap we all hate.
 Maybe they should all be fired.
How else can we rid the world of their commercial carcinogens?
 How else can we end this endless assault on our senses?
 How else can we look at a page on the Internet without some damn pop up or banner ad?
We put up with these tools.
          Some see them as necessary.
              We don’t.
Because the people crazy enough to believe this world would be better without copywriters just might be crazy enough to put us all out of their misery.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Recession is Over

It is with great pleasure and honor that I announce the recent promotion of Rich Siegel. Formerly the Chief Creative Officer at Rich Siegel Worldwide, Rich has earned, and is deserving of his new title, Main Man, which reflects his growing responsibilities with the organization.

The more astute of you may be wondering, "isn't this just the kind of title inflation we've seen run rampant in corporate America? And what good is a promotion if it doesn't come with more money. I never thought I'd see the day when Rich Siegel Worldwide would stoop to the same tactics as the large publicly held companies."

Whoah, whoah, slow down there Mr. Rhetorical Soap Box Guy.

Last year, Mr. Siegel produced more than 10 television commercials including a year end event campaign that resulted in a 52% sales increase for a certain unnamed automaker. He also played a significant role in the development of a social media initiative that has been the buzz in the digital world. If we simply bestowed Mr. Siegel with some kind of empty figurehead title, those efforts would have been for naught and we would risking losing him to a competitor.

Frankly, putting the viability of Rich Siegel Worldwide in danger.

So following a vacation and as of April 4, 2011, Rich will be earning the same day rate he was earning in 2008 before the financial meltdown. And while technically this is merely the elimination of a reduction and not technically a raise, it is the best we can do. After all, we have shareholders we have to answer to.

OK, that's not true either, we don't have any shareholders.
But it seems to work for the big guys on Madison Ave. and they have yachts.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Funny hair to me

Last week my wife and I took a break from the kids to do a little shopping at the mall. I had forgotten how pleasant it was to spend time with her without the nattering antics of two hormonally crazed daughters.

There was no rivalry. No pestering. And no pettiness. There was just myself, my wife, and a pocketful of disposable income ready to be doled out at the Toscani restaurant. If we didn't have to go through the drudgery of buying new socks, t-shirts and pants, the day would have been perfect.

Like most men, I hate shopping for new clothes. Fortunately I work in a business where I am expected to show up for work in the same clothes I would wear to a BBQ or a softball game. Other creatives will lie and tell you they got into advertising to find an avenue for their inner artist. Or to reshape media and the media landscape in order to manifest positive change in the world of commerce and the world at large.

I call Bullshit.
I got into advertising so I wouldn't have to wear a suit.

In any case, after several painful hours inside Banana Republic, I stepped outside for a breath of polyester-free air. And noticed a man in his late thirties pushing a stroller. The man was sporting the world's worst looking toupee. It didn't even look like hair. A four year old could tell something was amiss.

About ten yards behind the man, walked a couple and their friend. They seemed quite jovial and were thoroughly enjoying the 75 degree early March sunshine. One of the women made a comment that elicited hearty laughter from the other two.

And that's when I began to wonder how the man with the bird's nest on his head could actually go out in public and not believe the world was having a good laugh at his expense. Maybe this guy, and others like him (I've seen my fair share of bad fake hair) have the kind of supreme confidence that I just don't possess.

I just don't have the cajones to strap a merkin to my skull. Which is odd, because I don't have the slightest problem with folks who laugh at me for dressing like a 14-year old.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My breakfast with Jean

There is something electric and seductive about warm desert air. It's relaxing in a way no other air can be. And it makes me wonder why my diasporic ancestral tribesman left the oasis on the Mediterranean for the grim, often-bloody and always-brutal winters of Grozno, Poland.

Years ago, my wife and I renewed our love affair of triple digit temperatures and single digit humidity. We started making weekend trips to La Quinta Resort located in, of all places, La Quinta, about 20 miles east of Palm Springs.

We don't go there anymore as my uncle has a lovely house right in the heart of Palm Springs. Not only are the accommodations a lot cheaper than La Quinta, we have his entire pool to ourselves and we don't have to endure other people's bratty children, or their boomboxes or their noxious Axe body spray. Plus it gives my uncle an opportunity to show us all the latest gay-themed restaurants in the Coachella Valley.

He once took us to a diner where a poster in the window read: Welcome to Ray's, where every burger is a fistful of meat. If I'm lying, I'm dieing.

But back to La Quinta and one of my favorite ad stories.

My wife suggested I play golf one early Sunday morning before the course reached baking levels. So I hightailed it over to one of the four PGA courses available at La Quinta. The starter put me on The Dunes course, the easiest of the four, and had me tee off with three complete strangers. There was a 60 year old dentist and his 29-year old son from Des Moines. And an older, grey haired gentlemen who seemed to be playing as a single. The starter paired me up with him.

The first two holes were kind of uneventful. A Bogey and a double Bogey for me. Same or slightly better for my partner. Enough to clear the early morning jitters. By the third hole, we started to engage in a little golfing small talk. Again, this is completely by the book golf etiquette.

Me: So, what do you do?

Him: I'm in business. In Paris.

(I picked up on the French accent immediately)

Me: Oh, what kind of business?

Him: Advertising.

Me: Get outtahere. (not sure if that translated well) Me too.

Him: Is that right? What do you do?

Me: I'm a Creative Director at an ad agency in Los Angeles.

Him: Oh yeah, what agency?

Me: TBWA Chiat/Day.

Him: Ok, well that's very strange, because I work for TBWA Chiat/Day in Paris.

Me: No way. What do you do there?

Him: I'm the CEO.

And then it dawned on me that I had been paired up with Jean Marie Dru, the highest ranking officer in the entire TBWA worldwide network. Now I suck at golf on a good day. But playing with my boss's boss's boss sent my normally sucky game into a shankathon.

On the next tee-box, I snap hooked a drive into a condo about two hundreds yards east of the fairway. I'm pretty sure we all heard glass breaking. By the ninth hole turnaround I had to run into the pro shop to buy a few boxes of balls to replace the ones I had lost and a new shirt to  replace the one I had sweated thru.

It was not pretty. But it was fun. Jean Marie turned out to be a very good sport. He bought lunch for our foursome and chuckled as he tallied up his equally disastrous score which matched the high temperature of the day: 113.

Death, it turns out, is not the only great equalizer between the haves and the have-nots.
There is also golf.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Penis penis penis

Years ago, while contemplating an exit from the exciting world of advertising, Rob Schwartz and I wrote an episode of Mission Hill, an animated series from the former producers of The Simpsons, Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein.

While we were flattered that the funniest writers in Hollywood, of the funniest show on TV, asked us to pen an episode ("Happy Birthday Douchebag") of their new show, very few of our jokes actually made the final cut.

Sadly, the best of the lines that we were given credit for but did not write, is included here for your amusement.

Other than shameless self-promotion, I bring all this penii up for another reason.

You see the other day I was watching CNN and the unfolding tragedy in Japan. There is nothing remotely funny about the earthquake, the tsunami and the biblical loss of life. But one has to find the silver lining somewhere. And in this case, a tip of the hat goes to the parents of the CNN foreign correspondent covering the story in Japan...

I find it amusing enough to go through life with one name (Richard and/or Dick) synonymous with penis. I can't imagine the teasing and humiliation heaped upon the poor reporter blessed with two.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ass tray

My gardener likes to smoke cigarettes when he comes to mow, blow and go every week. And once in a while I will find cigarette butts on the lawn or behind some bushes. I get the skivvies every time I have to pick them up. That's how averse I am to cigarettes.

The fact is, in my 40 plus years on this earth, I have never smoked a cigarette. At least, not of the tobacco variety.

In my 20's, I once dated a woman who smoked. I cringed every time she lit up. And spent many hours at the laundromat getting that awful stench off my clothes. I also went through gallon jugs of Listerine. Funny what a man will endure for the promise of regular sex.

Recently I read that smoking levels in America are at their all-time lowest levels. I can believe that. There are few, if any members of our family that smoke. And we don't socialize with anybody that smokes. It's not like that's a rule with us. If we met some smart, funny people who shared our interests and were pleasant to be around we wouldn't preclude them just because they smoked cigarettes. We just wouldn't let them use the silverware.

Which makes it all the more surprising that I find so many kids at work who are smoking (as evidenced by the photo above.) And because most of them are kids (early to mid-twenties) it means they must have started smoking within the last decade. And that's when it gets even weirder. Because in the last ten years smoking has been banned in restaurants, parks, planes, bars, almost anywhere people congregate.

That means these kids saw the social pariahs of the last generation, huddled under an awning, battling the bitter cold, anxiously feeding their nicotine habit between status meetings and the writing of TPS reports and said to themselves, "Oooh, pass me a Marlboro, I want to be one of those people."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Things Jews Don't Do Part 9

It's been a while since I've posted an entry under the category of Things Jews Don't Do. If you'll remember there were previous stories about my chainsaw adventures, my NASCAR driving at the Richard Petty School and my yearly camping trips to the High Sierras. Although, as my darker-skinned, fellow-member-of-the-tribe buddies have pointed out, Ashkenazis may not camp but the heartier, sturdier-built Sephardim do.

Last week I chronicled the story of my older daughter's science fair project. This week, under The Fair and Balanced Sibling Blogging Act, I am compelled to write about my other daughter, Abby. That's Abby pictured above, navigating her 9 foot sabot. For those of you who are landlubbers, Jew and Gentile alike, a sabot is a small sailing craft. It has its own mainsheet, a jib, a rudder and a host of other nautical features, I could not begin to describe.

This particular sabot has its own captain. She's also the first mate, the crew and the only passenger. I have been dropping Abby off at sailing camp in Marina del Rey for the past two years but have never really seen her in action. Abby likes to do things but she doesn't necessarily like to have her parents watch her do things. Until a couple of weeks ago, when my wife convinced her to take part in the camp's annual sailing races and that we would be coming to watch the spectacle.

Watching her navigate the high seas all by herself made my heart swell. And of course when I say high seas I am referring to that calm inlet of water just south of Tony P's Dockside Grill.

Nevertheless it was exciting. Particularly the last race of the day, when Abby scooted out (I'm not sure that's the right phrase) to a big lead. She tacked around the big orange buoy and was headed for the finish line in first place. The nearest racer was 30 fathoms behind her (I know that's not the right terminology). Abby was headed for a sure victory. And as any parent knows there's nothing a kid savors more than victory over her peers.

But Neptune, Lord of the Seas, had other plans. Suddenly a microburst of thunder and rain kicked up. The wind was clocked at 30 knots, dangerous for even seasoned sailors. Abby fought valiantly, but the front of her boat torpedoed into the water and capsized. She went in the drink. As did almost every other kid on the water for that race.

I lept to my feet ready to dive in after her. But the sailing camp instructors assured me there would be no need for that. Abby valiantly flipped her boat back on its side.

She didn't win the race, but she was the first kid to swim to the rescue boat. And that should come as no surprise, because if Mark Spitz, Lenny Krayzelburg and Dara Torres have taught us anything, it's that while we may not be cut out for sailing, we Jews know how to swim.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mr. Science

Submitted for your approval, one fully-realized, three-dimensional model of a Deoxyribonucleic Acid molecule in all its iconic double helix glory. If you look closely, you can see the base pairing that bonds the Guanine to Cytosine and the Adenine to the Thymine.

Technically, this representational model belongs to my 14-year old daughter and was her official science project entry in Ms. Simons 10th Grade Honors Biology class. But who's kidding who here? This artfully crafted masterpiece is mine.

Who sifted through all the crap in the garage and spotted a plank of old particleboard shelving?
Who fired up the circular saw -- which by the way hadn't been used in quite some time--and cut a perfectly proportioned rectangular piece to function as a base?
Who sawed off the long dowel piece and positioned it perfectly in a skillfully drawn hole in the middle of the plank?
Who glued that dowel in place with just the right amount of Gorilla Glue and finished it off with sandpaper so that it was furniture-grade perfect?
And who rigged the 18 gauge aluminum wire to accommodate the blue and purple balls? (OK, I should probably know what those balls are if I'm going to claim credit for this, but my daughter had to do something didn't she?)

The point is, and I think I had a point going into this, is this what education has come down to? Arts and crafts? When I was in school, I don't think I had to make anything more elaborate than a drawing of a rhomboid. If I were ever assigned something that required a circular saw, my father would have sent me to garage to make it myself. Then he would have had another shot of scotch and added, "And keep the noise down, I'm watching All in the Family."

In any case, Ms. Simons is handing back the projects next Monday. I hope I...uh, we...get an A.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One Show Pencil Winner

A few weeks ago, the One Show, arguably one of the more prestigious of all the gluttonous advertising awards, presented their winners for the 2010 Branded Content/Entertainment. I don't really know the title of the award nor the comings and goings of the awards industry, like I used to, I only know this is a new award created to reflect the changing media landscape of our business.

The award didn't exist 10 years ago, when we produced not only a campaign for our client -- -- but a full length feature film documentary called Home Movie directed by Chris Smith. It was branded content, before there even was branded content.

And before there were awards for branded content.

Would we have won a Gold Pencil? I don't know, but I do know there were hundreds of films in 2001, very few of them earned Two Thumbs Up from Roger Ebert and the Other Dude. And few of this year's winners premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went to a nationwide theatrical release.

So I'm going to do what few creatives (with the notable exception of the Clio grabbing crowd of 1991) would and award myself and those responsible for the film, a One Show Gold Pencil. And so, on behalf of the team and CEO Stuart Wolff (now serving 5 years in a federal penitentiary for embezzlement), I'd like to thank the judges(me) for their thoughtful hindsight.

Stuart, I hope you're making new friends and enjoying the gruel and the communal showers.
And I hope the rest of you will enjoy the film.

Here's the trailer I recently found on youtube:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Let the Games begin

If you've been following the news lately or if you've ever stood in line at Mammoth's Chair 8 during the Christmas Holiday, you know that Iranian lunacy knows no bounds.

Having cleansed their entire country of political dissidents and homosexuals, the Iranians went looking for a new foe. They didn't have to look very far. In a letter to the International Olympics Committee, Iran's Secretary General Bahram Afsharzadeh warned of a possible boycott of the games because the new, and admittedly ugly logo, allegedly spells out the word Zion.

This should shock no one. Years ago, the Iranians called for a global boycott of Pepsi because it was alleged, the word Pepsi is simply an acronym for Pay Every Penny to Save Israel.

It's laughable.
As if an entire nation of people never got passed the third grade.

But Rich, I can hear the enlightened reader, is there any merit to the claim? If I'm being honest, perhaps. If you choose to read the logo counterclockwise and in a vertical fashion, then squint your eyes while scanning the jagged representation of the year 2012, you could possibly come up with Zion.

But using that same logic, you can also come up with icons that are distinctively anti-Zionist:

Can't see the Swastika?

Fair enough, how about this:

In fact, if you're willing to play along with the misguided imams in Iran, you can turn this little game on its head. With a little clever puzzlemaking, one can even assert that the London 2012 logo is not
Pro-Zionist as the Iranian Secretary claims, and is in reality, unabashedly pro-Islamic:

The truth is we don't have time to be designing subliminal Olympic Logos.

Between running the Hollywood propaganda machine, pulling all the strings on global finances, fomenting political strife on all 7 continents, masterminding world domination and slaughtering gentile children and harvesting their blood for our ritualistic Passover dinners, we have too much on our plate.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Living like a Trump

This week I'm working at my alma mater, TBWA Chiat/Day. As I look around the place, naturally I am struck by a stifling sense of jealousy. The kids that work here are all so young. Yesterday, I overheard someone telling a visiting executive that the average age of the TBWA employee was 27.

I have running shoes older than 27. Seriously, I do.
I know because my wife bitches about them all day long.

While these kids have everything to look forward to, I doubt they will ever experience anything as glorious, excessive and indulgent as advertising's Golden Age, the late 90's.
The 1990's, just to be completely accurate.

The Internet had just been born, the economy was firing on all cylinders and ad budgets were fatter than a White House intern.

To give you some idea of how awesome the awesome 90's were, consider this short story. My boss, Lee Clow called me one afternoon from San Antonio. It seemed a team from the NY office had dropped the meat in the dirt on their client, Outback Steakhouse. Lee wanted my art director and I to hop on a plane and meet with them at their offices in Tampa. (Having just produced an award winning campaign it was nice to be thought of as the go-to team, even if that only lasted a week or so.) Fine, I said, I'll make the travel arrangements.

"No", Lee replied, "my assistant will take care of everything."

At 5:30 AM the following morning, my art director and I found ourselves stepping onto a private LearJet at the Van Nuys airport. No baggage check in. No security screenings. No boarding area. I simply parked my car in the VIP lot and walked onto the jet. Never mind that the jet was not much longer in length than my car.

In minutes, we were airborne and cruising at 47,000 feet. I learned private jets fly higher than commercial planes. The thinner air allows the jet to fly faster. It was also remarkably smoother.

We touched down in San Antonio to pick up Lee. And literally, within minutes again, we were in the stratosphere. No taxi-ing down runways. No waiting for the gate. No warnings about electronic devices. It was all so civil.

In Tampa, we did the obligatory dog and pony show for the client. This part of the story isn't so pleasant (after all there were clients involved) so I won't go into any unpleasant details. Suffice to say, we were all  happy to be getting back aboard our private jet and heading westward.

After a well deserved bottle of Merlot, Lee instructed the pilot to change the flight path. He wanted to go to LAX, where his car was parked, instead of the planned route back to Van Nuys, where my car was parked. Naturally the pilot obliged.

This left me in a bit of a logistics conundrum. Not an issue said Captain AtYourService. He lined up the LearJet behind an American Airlines 767 and touched down on Runway L24 on the south side of LAX. Lee and my art director exited the plane, leaving me, by myself, alone in the backseat of a 7 million dollar private jet.

My chauffeur...uh, pilot, throttled up the engine, trimmed the flaps and had us arcing our way 3000 feet over the Santa Monica Bay. The flight from LAX to Van Nuys airport was so short, I'm not even sure he retracted the wheels. But I do know I soaked in every gravity-defying moment of the experience. If only my shtetl-born grandparents from Poland and my working class ancestors from Scotland could see me now.

I may never get my 15 minutes of fame.
But I'll never forget my 6 and 1/2 minutes of living like I just won the lottery.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

That's My Spot

Last week, MIT published their 2nd annual list of the 50 Most Innovative Companies.

Sadly, Hodes Parking was not on the list.

But that's what makes this country great, there's always next year.

Good luck, mi compadres.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Good Night, Sleep Tight

I love how my computer knows me. When I needed a ceiling fan for my office/man cave, I started hunting around and within minutes I was barraged with banner ads from Fans R Us, The Fanporium, and Frank's House of Fans.

But last week, I started seeing ads for sleep apnea devices show up in the borders. Maybe my Mac with the Dual Intel Core and hyperRAM memory chips has surmised from my age and my excess poundage that I have a snoring problem. I don't.

I'm told I'm an exceptionally quiet sleeper. Unlike my brother, who lives 3.2 miles away in Playa Vista. On warm summer nights, when the wind is blowing off the ocean and traffic on the 405 is on the light side, I'm positive I can hear his distinctive log-sawing from my house in Culver City.

I can't imagine having to wear one of these contraptions and getting a good night's sleep. Nor can I imagine why I've been targeted by the sleep apnea industry. Unless of course my wife was shopping around for one of these. She does snore. A little. On occasion. Maybe once. But I do know the dog doesn't sleep in our room anymore.

I think I'd rather listen to her esophagus singing in the middle of the night than to roll over and see her outfitted like some fetishized dominatrix.

Or, would I?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

That's how it's done.

Last week an old college friend, Joe, sent me an email. Joe sends me a lot of email. He takes digital political activism to new heights. On the political spectrum, Joe stands so far to the right he makes Hitler look like a Communist. Which is a little odd, since in college Joe and I used to hang with a crowd of pot-smoking liberal tree huggers -- literal tree huggers as they were students at the SUNY Environmental School of Forestry -- these were hippies that were so far to the left they made Marx seem like a Fascist.

I use these hackneyed hyperbolic metaphors for a reason.

You see, the email Joe sent me last week didn't concern our muted response to the Libyan crisis. Or the union busting in Wisconsin. Last week's email was a list of the funniest analogies written by high school students on test papers.

I'm no stranger to taking liberties on high school tests. I still have one of those blue pamphlet books somewhere in my garage. I seem to recall fudging some answers on an 11th grade history exam.

Explain the significant contributions of Henry Cabot Lodge.

"He set up temporary housing units for battle-weary Union soldiers and was the forebearer of the modern hotel industry. Today many institutions honor his name and you can still find decent affordable quarters at highway Motor Lodges across the country."

I skated by a lot of classes just by being a wise-ass.

In any case, here are some of my favorite's from Joe's list:

She was as easy as the TV Guide Crossword.

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 PM travelling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 PM at a speed of 35 mph.

The dandelion swayed in the gentle breeze like an oscillating electric fan set on medium.

And the best/worst analogy:

He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

I love that. If I were a Creative Director back in the agency world and I saw that in a young copywriter's portfolio, that kid would be looking at a 6 figure job with full dental and vision coverage.