Thursday, July 28, 2011

What's named in Vegas, stays in Vegas

It is 1:30 AM. And I am stumbling through the shopping center at the bottom of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, having consumed way too much Knob Creek and having lost way too much money at the Black Jack table (I should probably not hit on a 17 hoping to draw a 3 or a 4, but good bourbon will cloud your judgment.)

That's when I noticed Assouline.

Despite the late hour and the self-pity, I did have the good sense to whip out my iPhone and take a picture of this ill-named high end boutique wedged between the Hermes and Louis Vitton.

To be honest I have no idea what they sell at Assouline. I never bothered to look past the window. I suspect I was still giggling about the name, not unlike Beavis and Butthead, "Eh-eh-eh, it says ASS."

But I do have a hard time imagining the owners sitting in a room and choosing this name for their retail establishment.

"We have some excellent choices on the table but we have to pick a name that speaks to the upscale shopper and reflects our refined taste and discriminating sophistication. I think we can all agree that the right, and only, name we can go with is, Assouline."

If that taxes the imagination, try to picture an excited shopper returning home to the Upper West Side and showing her fellow Gotham socialites the treasures she secured in Nevada.

"Look at this beautiful watch I bought. It's a one of a kind."

"That is gorgeous. Where did you get that?"

"This wonderful boutique at The Cosmospolitan. It's called Assouline."

"Assouline? I must stop there."

"I also got this fabulous purse from a shop across the way, the Douche Baggery." 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Just Stop

As an avid viewer of Jeopardy, I have become all too familiar with their sponsors. Fortunately, I watch most the shows via a DVR and can zip through the commercials, which I realize is heresy for someone who makes a living making this crap.

Of course, I like to believe what I do is in a different league, but in reality it's not.

It's nearly impossible to miss the Meineke spots, as they come on just before the Final Jeopardy question --only the most important aspect of the show. Not only do I take issue with the commercials, I'm having a little trouble with the marketing premise.

If I go to a car wash, I like being able to choose whether I want a basic wash or whether I want the super-duper protective wax. Occasionally, I'll go the whole ten yards and have the car detailed. You know just  to get the smell of my wet swimming towels and swimsuits out of the car. My wife will tell you I need to do that twice a week.

But when it comes to time to having my brakes serviced, I'm not so keen on spinning the wheel of pricing options.

What is Basic brake service? Do they replace the brake shoes with some old pads they pulled off a '92 Chevy? Or is it more like, "Oh you want us to put the tires back on the car? That's the Preferred Option."

No, when it comes to the brakes on my car, I want you to get the mechanic who trains the other mechanics to take his time, a week if he has to, and to use the finest state of the art equipment. When I pull away from the shop I want enough braking power to stop a 747.

Perhaps it's an excess of caution, but that caution is borne from experience. During the course of my life -- and this may be hard to believe but it's 100% true -- I have been behind the wheel on TWO separate occasions where the brakes have had a cataclysmic breakdown.

I'd like to go my grave without a third.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Louie Louie

So last weekend I was in Las Vegas, on someone else' s dime, to watch the Adidas Super 64, a huge tournament to showcase the nation's best high school ballers. It was a great weekend of work and pleasure, mostly work. While watching some 18 year old phenom flying above the rim, I noticed my old buddy Louis Orr in the stands.

Louie was a standout forward for the Syracuse Orangemen and later went on to play for the NY Knicks. He is now the head basketball Coach for Bowling Green.

I went up to the bleachers and said hello to Louie. Told him I was Syracuse alumni and he couldn't have been happier to see me. I asked his assistant coach to take a photo of Louie and myself with my iPhone. He snapped a couple of pics. This guy might know his X's and O's but hours later, I was to find out he didn't know anything about technology. He failed to hit the Click button.

So I don't have any pictures of me and Louie. But I do have a favorite memory.

Like most athletes, Louie tried to build a curricula of the easiest classes. Come to think of it, I was guilty of the same offense. We sat next to each other in a class on Public Speaking. It was known on campus as the easiest of A's. Each week the students were to prepare a speech and present it before the class. That was it. Do twelve 2 minute speeches, get three credits towards a sheepskin.

As a former class clown, the class was a bit of a cakewalk for me. The same cannot be said for Louie and the other football and basketball players taking the course. They were always being reprimanded by the professor and told NOT to do speeches that involved sports, sporting events or anything that even had the word sports in it.

On his last speech of the class, Louie started strong. He was telling the gripping story of his aunt and her ongoing battle with cancer. He drew the crowd in with a sweet anecdote about how she cooked Sunday dinners. He tugged at the heartstrings with the details of her disease. He stirred the emotions with the tale of her bravery through painful and often harrowing treatments.

But then he blew the ending.

"The way she fought back and overcame the obstacles in her life reminded me of the time we were in North Carolina. It was the second half and we were down 13 points. Our 2-3 zone wasn't working and the Coach decided to go man to man with a full court press..."

Louie still got an A in Public Speaking, but I was happy to see he made a successful career for himself in basketball.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Stinky Ink

I was in Vegas over the weekend for the Adidas Super64 High School Basketball Tournament. The best 64 players in the country meet in a 64 team NCAA-type tournament. I saw some amazing kids. But also as you might expect watching high school ball, I saw a lot of sloppy play.

I suppose that's why all the top college coaches were here scouting; hoping to shape one of the diamond-in- the-rough players and teach him the fundamentals about pacing, team play and overall basketball intelligence.

While we're on the topic of intelligence, take a look at the man's leg and pay particular attention to the spiky-haired cartoon character tattooed on the side of his calf.  Now I've seen stinky ink. But rarely anything so poorly drawn. If I didn't know better, I'd say the tattoo artist had a hook for an arm.

My daughter draws better than this. When she was 3 years old.

I snapped this shot while waiting for my plane at the Southwest Terminal. I'm getting better at taking surreptitious photos. But this was especially difficult, particular when Dan (the account guy I was traveling with) and I were fascinated by a young woman seated behind us, an outrageously-endowed  blonde/stripper/escort dressed in see through sheer nylon. Apparently on her way back to Vegas after visiting a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who was offering four implants for the price of two.

Sorry, I didn't snap a picture of her.
But hey, you're on the Internet, if you're interested in that kind of thing I'm sure you'll be able to find it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Two days ago, a British provocateur attempted to slam a foam pie in the face of Newscorp CEO Rupert Murdoch. As someone who has worked in advertising for more than 20 years, I certainly understand the urge to throttle someone deemed evil or idiotic.

I have sat in too many meetings with too many cretins and listened to too many stupid remarks, it's actually shocking that I pen this entry as a free man and not as tattooed lifer doing my third bit for Assault and Battery. But I'm a grown up, with a wife, daughters and two mortgages to support. So I've learned to suppress my inner Neanderthal.

That wasn't always the case.

 In fact when I was 18 years old and filled with actionable piss & vinegar, I hit someone in the face with shaving cream pie, in front of a 100 stunned onlookers. Her name was Cindy. And she lived on the same floor in my college dormitory, which was mostly comprised of incoming freshman and sophomores. But Cindy didn't seem like a college student.

I have a hard time even picturing her as someone in her late teens or early twenties. The way she smoked her long thin cigarettes and spoke in a whiny, nasally voice made her seem like a 45 year old yenta, playing Mah Jong by the pool and complaining about her warm iced tea.

Those were just some of the qualities that made her so onerous. And it was all I needed to justify my actions. I planned my attack like Navy Seal Team Six. The RA's had gathered 100 or so students of Sadler 6 to hear the latest policies regarding phone use, meal cards and curfew hours. Cindy had taken her seat by a meeting table right by the stairwell. I, prepared with a home made pie of canned peach filling and Gillette shaving cream, stood at the wait on the 7th floor. I had also put on a full face ski mask, as if that would mask my identity. Given the high sign by a friend in the meeting, I bolted down the staircase, sprung through the door, spotted my target and firmly planted the pie all over her prematurely-aged face.

It was all so perfect. And all so perfectly uncalled for.

I can't believe I was ever that mean and petty and childish. Of course my behavior pales in comparison to some of the other guys on the floor who also had an unfavorable opinion of Cindy. If somebody ever attacks Murdoch with a fetal pig stolen from a Bio Lab, I'll share that disgusting tale.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Moe Overhead

A few years ago, a fellow copywriter and freelancer, asked if I'd be interested in doing a long term gig in Las Vegas. He was assembling a group of funny writers, somehow I got on the list, to write some TV show or something. I only remember I was booked otherwise I would have jumped on the opportunity to spend weeks with other writers crammed into a rented Winnebago.

As you can see from the picture above, it was a good thing I passed.

It seems while driving back my buddy misjudged the clearance of a highway overpass. Or he misjudged the height of the RV. In any case the vehicle came to an abrupt stop like an accordion exhaling one last sour note. Fortunately no one was hurt. Or decapitated.

As my occasionally funny buddy wrote when posting this picture to his Facebook page, "pretty sure we can buff this out."

Last week I found out he is leaving the freelance world and has accepted an ECD position at DDB in Los Angeles, which is located at the former home of TBWA Chiat/Day.
In the iconic binocular building.

I don't know if you can make it out from this picture, but the entrance to the underground parking garage passes right under the bridge of the binoculars. It's a pretty low clearance. Lower than many highway overpasses.

I just hope that if Erik decides to drive to work in his 2003 Sedona Maple Red Pontiac Aztec that he has the good sense not to put his prized Air Supply CD's in the visor pocket.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dickbrains & Big Brains

My friend Laura sent me a link to the best hostile parking notes left on cars. I liked a lot of them. But I liked this one best. There's a certain brevity and crudeness that just strikes the right chord. I like that the author felt the need to label the machine in which we are viewing the parking offender. Had it not been an X-ray machine, I'm not sure how we would have seen the phallus lodged in the man's cranium.

I also suspect some of my admiration stems from jealousy.

You see, I can't draw. Never could. Had I even the slightest ability to craft shapes and figures, my career might have taken a different path. I would have pursued a life as a cartoonist. And no doubt secured a staff position with the New Yorker.

In fact this cartoon reminds me of so many of my own limitations. I've come to realize that I have but one style of writing. It's a silly, inconsequential smart ass voice that I have spent years honing. But it wreaks of immaturity and will never produce anything of literary substance. I've tried my hand at short stories and other long form composition but have never been happy with the results.

Perhaps that's why I'm also jealous of musicians. They can seamlessly jump from one genre to the next. They're all the same notes, musicians just have to play them at different tempos with different rhythms  in different styles. If I were a musician I'd entertain myself night and day playing everything from Bach to Bachman Turner Overdrive.

Lately I've become a regular reader of George Tannenbaum's blog. George and I have never met, but we share a similar background. We're both Jews from NY, both employed in the ad business for quite some time and we're both willing to vent our frustrations with advertising, and life, into the blogosphere on a daily basis. Only George is much more prodigious than me, and sometimes writes two to three entries a DAY.

NYC will do that to you.

I like reading his columns for another reason. And again, this points to my own limitations. He uses words that I won't. More accurately, that I can't. A few weeks ago, he non-chalantly dropped the word miasma into a sentence. That's a great word. I know that word and I know what it means, but as I'm clacking away at the keyboard, that word would never trip across my fingertips. It's just not in my writing repertoire. He also used the word lacuna. That one went sent me straight to the dictionary. I know what it means now, but I can say with 99% certainty that I'll never use it.

I'm not sure George has the same appreciation for the Dickbrain cartoon as I do. I think it appeals more to simpletons like myself. And that's OK, because there's plenty of room in the blogosphere for National Lampoon-fed writers like me, and smart ones like George, who is clearly more erudite.

I just had to run back to the dictionary to make sure I wasn't calling him some kind of cave ornament.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Beautiful Siberia

Years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of working for Steve Hayden, the writer of Apple's "1984" and just all around Ad Legend. Steve is professorial-smart. And has the unique ability to walk into a meeting, stone cold on the subject, and within minutes be the brightest guy in the room. He also has a cutting sense of humor.

Sensing my displeasure working on the Apple Computer account (during the rudderless days when Steve Jobs was not the CEO), Hayden threw me a bone, a choice assignment that was right in my wheelhouse.

Somehow he had met some "businessmen" who were in the import game. These "businessmen" wanted to launch a new vodka in the U.S. They didn't have a lot of money and were going to pay the agency in trade,  I'm assuming a couple of missing trucks of vodka. I didn't care. I was just chomping at the bit not to be writing about bits and bytes.

The product was called Baikalskaya because it was bottled with the pure, fresh water from Lake Baikal in Siberia. This was before the time of the Internet so a trip to the library was in order. I steeped myself in the lore of this strange frozen outland and the deep lake that accounts for more than 1/5 of the world's fresh water supply. Two weeks later (in those days we had time to actually do the work) I came back to Hayden with a campaign he loved.

I wish I could conjure up some of the work, but sadly when the "businessmen" mysteriously vanished so did the work.

Of course with a natural foil like Siberia, I'm sure you can imagine the direction we took. One ad featured a picture, much like the one above. The headline was something to effect of: When your women look like this, your vodka better be good. The same could be said of their food, their houses, their winters, their schools, their herring-based desserts, anything and everything that made Siberia, Siberia.

My favorite component of campaign was a point of sale contest.

I forget what we were asking people to do, but I do remember the reward for entering.
The 1st place prize was an all expense paid week in Siberia.
The 2nd place prize was two weeks.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Oy, it's so dusty"

Last story about last week's camping trip, I promise.

After the frog races and three-legged sack races at the local park, my buddy Paul (master of the arcane roadside attraction) promised us a surprise adventure. We formed a small caravan and drove up Rt. 395 just 1/2 mile north of town. We pulled to the side of the road and followed Paul as he walked us into a dusty field. And there, in a barbed wire, fenced off area, no bigger than a volleyball court, we saw the remains of Owen Valley's first, last and only Jewish Cemetery.

As I might have mentioned in previous writings, there isn't a Jewish presence in this high desert ghost of a town. The closest thing to a Jew is Manny the Pakistani, who now owns the combination Chevron/Subway/Tackle Shop shop. And the only reason he bears any resemblance to MOT is because he has a swarthy complexion and his name is Manny.

There were only 5 graves in this tiny cemetery. But that was 5 more Jews than I had ever expected to be laid to rest here. Some of the tombstones had tell-tale Hebrew inscriptions. And all, sadly, died very young. 

My wife suspected they were German merchants trying to cash in on the 19th century gold rush. But I think my wife read too many history text books from high school and college. I suggested they were the early pioneers in the Jewish world domination plan. 

Despite what Zuckerberg said at the last meeting (and by the way, the sandwiches were very soggy), social media is not the silver bullet. You can't expect to wield supreme Hebraic global power and pull the strings on finance, media, science and geo-politics, unless you're willing to have boots on the ground. 

Even if that ground is in Independence, CA.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Another post about doodie

There is an unwritten rule in advertising that all OOH, or Out Of Home advertising, as in billboards, transit posters or any kind of signage should be limited to 7 words. I have, on occasion, broken this rule and refused to shorten a headline to accommodate some whiny art director or witless client, but let's not dwell on that.

This recently spotted sign has no less than 18 words. Close to 300% of the agreed upon minimum. And to what end? The designer fails to let the visual do any of the work. There's useless information; I don't think people who neglect to pick up their dog's business care one way or another about transmitting disease. And what's the man doing with that 9 iron?

It's just poor communication.

Particularly when one considers the much-more effective and mercifully shorter old school sign:

Perhaps I'm just an aging Luddite. But I have a sneaky suspicion that next year's version of the sign will include one of these useless widgety things foisted upon us by the technologists who want us to engage with brands/companies/organizations on a deeper, qualitative, transactional mutually-cognitive basis:

BTW, the minute I start understanding marketing jargonese as in the sentence above, is the day I get out of advertising and start studying to become a Math Teacher.

Monday, July 11, 2011

DJ Yahshua

When you roll past the many gas stations, fast food joints and adult bookstores that line Main Street in the town of Mojave, you begin to lose contact with Los Angeles based radio stations. That means, for the next 300 miles, until you are in earshot of Reno or possibly Carson City, you have to endure non-stop Jesus Radio.

You can play Russian Roulette with the scan button, but it won't matter because every tower in the Eastern Sierras and the Owens Valley is pumping out the good word of the bearded one. In all the barely discernible flavors no less: Lutheran, Methodist, and the ubiquitous Southern Baptist.

If you're lucky, you might catch a snake-handling, fire-and-brimstone, talking-in-tongues preacher who understands that radio is still an entertainment media. I love these guys, particularly as a Jesus-denier, I like to know exactly where and how I'm going to spend the exceedingly warm days of my eternity.

You'd think technology might be able to solve this dilemma but you'd be wrong.

Why not turn off the radio and listen to an iPod, you might suggest. And you'd be smart. God knows I have plenty of iPods. My house is literally awash in them: old ones, new ones, pink ones purchased because my daughters loved the color. The problem is there still isn't a decent way to play music trapped on an iPod through a car's audio system.

We can arm a pilotless drone, the size of a bumblebee, to take out an entire platoon of Pakistani Taliban Jihadists but we still can't come up with a whatchamacallit to plug a damn iPod into a 2004 Toyota Sienna.

OK, I seem to have strayed.

Anyway, I can live with Jesus radio, I suppose I have no choice. I just find it ironic with so much proselytizing on the airwaves there seems to be such little effect. Particularly in the poorer high desert towns  where in addition to the intolerance and illiteracy you see the tell-tale ravages of meth and alcohol abuse.

I don't want to offend any friends, but I think Mahatma Ghandi said it best (and I'm paraphrasing here), "I like your Christ. But many of your Christians are so unlike him."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Outdoor Plumbing

We just returned from our annual 4th of July camping trip to Independence, CA. This was the 9th consecutive year our family, as well as some other friends, ventured up Route 395 to the Owens Valley.

We enjoyed our normal activities. we spent a day at Keogh Hot Springs, a relic of the 1920's. We hiked the Onion Valley Trailhead, making it to Gilbert Lake. (A few of our campers including my oldest daughter almost made it to Kearsage Pass.) And of course, we took in the very ambitious fireworks show put on by the Independence Fire Department.

I hate to sound like an  East Coast elitist but I swear there is nothing that amuses drunk white trash more than the properly supervised ignition of gunpowder.

But this year's trip did feature an activity other years did not. About 4 days into our stay, the Upper Grey's Meadow Campground suffered a broken mainline pipe. That rendered the very rudimentary bathroom stalls  useless. Which meant any serious business would require a 12 minute ride down the hill to the nearest gas station.

And as my buddy Paul will tell you, sometimes you don't have the luxury of those twelve minutes. Fortunately my wife had purchased the Colghan's Folding Camping Shovel.

Afterwards, Paul spoke so highly of the au naturale experience that I found myself securing a rattlesnake-free spot amongst the high chaparral. This was, up until a few centuries ago, how mankind went about its business for the past 2 million or 6,000 years -- depending on whether you're a Darwinist or a follower of Intelligent Design (worst. theory name. ever.).

The joy was contagious. And I'm proud to say that on the last day of our trip, even my wife found herself with the origami-like shovel in her hand. 

The sleeping bags have been put away and the tents tucked neatly in their sacks. But next year, our tenth year, it is hoped that everyone in attendance will proudly cross that excretory threshold and initiate themselves into Club Meadow. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The 718

A few days ago I mentioned that I had grown up in Flushing in Queens, NY. Out of curiosity I went to Google my old neighborhood named Electchester in honor of the Electricians Union who had purchased the land built the neighborhood for its members.

Oddly enough, the California neighborhood I live in now was similarly built by tradesmen and craftspeople working for nearby MGM, which is now Sony Pictures.

We only lived in Flushing for two years and hightailed it out of there when my brother and his buddy were walking home from a park at Queens College and got jumped by four black kids. I mention their race because it is only with time and hindsight that one can recognize the incredible and excessive racial fear at that time. Our rush to the 'burbs was truly White Flight.

Many kids in NY live in apartment buildings, most of them are 6 stories tall. I had the unique pleasure of living in a skyscraper -- by Flushing standards -- that soared 23 stories into the noisy flight paths of nearby JFK and LaGuardia.

We lived in 22B. Had my father been smarter he would have rented 23B and avoided the many confrontations with the noisy, clog-wearing Schmerlers and avoided punching so many holes in the ceiling wall with a broom handle. (But that's another story.)

Each apartment had a an exposed outdoor corner terrace. You can imagine how tempting this might be to an 11-year old boy. That terrace, a football field high in the sky, served as a launchpad for many an item: goldfish, pennies, SuperBalls. In fact with so many kids in the building and so many terraces, it was literally raining tchochkes, night and day. Turning the entire perimeter of the building into a hazard zone.

On many occasion I would rush out the door and start walking towards P.S. 200 only to sprint back to the lobby of the building because I had forgotten my lunch. And being too impatient to wait for one of the two tower elevators, I would simply get on the intercom and ask my mother to express mail the bag lunch.

Still in her pajamas and still smoking her morning cigarette, she would non-chalantly toss the bag over the edge. Hours later I would be sitting in the cafeteria eating something that only resembled a lunch. You see gravity and terminal velocity have a way of turning a perfectly good tuna salad sandwich into a tuna salad pancake.

The unripe bananas however, suffered no such fate.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My New Tool

If you were to scroll to the bottom of the page, you would find a new feature here on roundseventeen. It's an internal search box. With it, you can find old entries with a simple keyword, like: cock, Iranian, advertising, underachievement, etc.

I installed this handy little gadget more for my own benefit than yours.

You see with close to 500 entries and with a self-imposed duty to publish four times a week I run the real risk of repeating myself. Sometimes I'll start writing and furiously hacking at the keyboard about farting or account planning or swimming, and then I'll have to stop myself because I've already covered that area.

That is not to say that I don't mine rich veins that produce a wealth of material. Running topics like Things Jews Don't Do or crazy shit my neighbors do or just weird stuff I see around LA. Like this very creative Mariner...

But I do try and keep things fresh. And to that end, you'll have to excuse me as I am late for my appointment at the Beverly Hills Gun Club.

More on that, later.