Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On Pussy

The big TV in my house has been hijacked.

It's hard to argue with three women, my wife and two daughters, and their proclivity for fashion, food and all things New Jersey. And so I am learning the art of the retreat. To the man cave, where on my much smaller set, I can enjoy football, Hitler and all things prison-related.

Thanks to MSNBC's non-stop airing of Lockup, I have become quite well versed in the language of Penitientary. I know SHU is the Segregated Housing Unit. Also known as Ad-Seg, or Administrative Segregation. I know Chomo is a Child Molester. I know how to turn a roll of toilet paper into a makeshift burner capable of boiling water. And I know how to fashion a deadly shiv from an old credit card statement stuffer.

That's how scarily familiar I am with prison life.

The other night I watched as Dr. Rudy Vasquez, prison psychiatrist at California's Corcoran State Prison, explained the benefits of the Adopt-A-Kitten Program, whereby well-behaved violent offenders are given kittens from the local shelter. They take on the responsibility of a care-giver, feeding, grooming and attending to all the kitten's needs.

As the Doc explained, "it gives the prisoner a purpose and something to love. It also provides a lonely prisoner the company of a tender living creature that can return the love."

I may be an inveterate cynic, but that's the part that worries me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Whip it good

Spotted the other day in a conference room following an employee birthday party.

Truth be told I don't see whipped cream cans much anymore. We try not to keep a lot of processed food in the house. And even if we did, it would never occur to me or my wife to bring one of these home.

Maybe I'm a victim of today's design craze, but the whipped cream can technology seems so antiquated. Where do people keep these in their fridge? Next to the 2 cents plain seltzer bottles?

You'd think by now Crate and Barrel or some German Design Firm named, Uber, would have gentrified the whipped cream dispenser into some cool must-have kitchen accessory.

In college, the whipped cream can was a highly cherished item. Not for its creamy content but for the Nitrous Oxide propellant. The same Nitrous Oxide favored by dentists and outpatient surgeons and commonly referred to as laughing gas.

When my buddy Dave and I worked at Denny's in Syracuse, NY, we made it a point of getting the night shift on Wednesdays. That's when the dairy truck made its delivery and restocked the walk-in cooler with cases (note the plural) of whipped cream. As Mr. Zagrino was signing for the delivery, Dave and I were furiously ripping open the new treasure trove and inhaling the Nitrous Oxide out of every can.

The skilled Nitrous extractor knows the exact pressure needed to release the gas from its container without getting a mouthful of whipped cream. After six or seven 'puffs', the non-stop laughter began.

It worked out well for Dave and I.

It didn't work out so well for the truck driver pulling off the NY State Thruway for some well-deserved sugary dessert. From our cook's station behind counter, we'd watch the night waitress vigorously shake the can of whipped cream, point it at the perfectly carved out slice of apple pie only to watch the watery cream dribble out of the dispenser like an old man coaxing some cooperation from his over sized prostate.

At this point in the proceeding, the waitress would glare at us.
And we would start laughing all over again.

Ahhh, the memories.

When the party was over and the false employee camaraderie had dissipated and the doors of the executive conference room had closed, I snuck back in and sucked all remaining laughing gas out of the can. The next birthday isn't for 10 days, so I think I'll be good.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I hate you, Steve Jobs.

Now I realize a headline like that requires immediate explanation, particularly in light of the media love fest that ensued following Jobs' resignation last week, so allow me to elaborate.

In 1993 I was hired to work on the Apple Computer account. The new Creative Director at BBDO (Apple's agency at the time) had read some long copy ads I had written for Nissan and lured me away with the promise of career-making opportunities. Oh and a ton of BBDO money. He thought my snappy, sometimes cheeky, narrative style would be a healthy addition to the talented staff of writers already working on Apple.

He was wrong.

I had every confidence I could capture the Apple voice. (A lot of clients think their brands have a voice, they don't. Apple is one of the few that does. ) The problem was that distinctive voice was established in the early 80's when Apple was at Chiat/Day. And when Steve Jobs was at the helm.

In 1993, Steve was nowhere near 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA. In 1993, the caretakers of Apple -- and the Apple voice -- were a team of clueless, corporate bureaucrats who were fond of committees, task forces and task force committees. They took the notion of decentralization to a weird and not-so-wonderful place. The kind of place that makes modern day Somalia look like the pinnacle of efficiency. Every decision was labored. Reconsidered. And reprocessed. Until it was successfully transformed into an indecision.

I'll give you an example.

One night I was held captive in the office until 1:00 AM (This was not at all unusual for anybody working on the Apple account). I was awaiting feedback on copy I had written for a 10-page insert that was to run in the Wall Street Journal. The copy literally had to meet the approval of a dozen different marketing "managers" (quotation marks inserted with great disdain).

In one of the emails I had received, one particularly well-crafted paragraph came back marked in red. With some colorful commentary from the Apple Brand Manager. "We can't say this. And even if we could, we wouldn't. This is not written well at all. Please redo."

Crushing, right?

But two minutes later, I received another email, from a different "manager" and that same paragraph was marked in blue. It too was footnoted, "This is the best copy I have ever seen. If we do nothing else in this insert, this paragraph of copy has to get published."

Mind you, it was one o'clock in the morning and I had no idea of the management hierarchy and whose supervision superseded who. Nor did I have any idea of how to proceed.

I only knew that at times like these, when mushy-minded technocrats ruled the day, I would have been happy to endure the clear-headed leadership of someone more mercurial.
Someone more demanding.
Someone, ironically enough, more capable of binary thinking.
But someone like that wouldn't come back until 1997.

For not being CEO of Apple when I was working on the account,  I hate you, Steve Jobs.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Not So Intelligent Design

Last week presidential candidate Rick Perry responded to a boy's question about whether he (Perry) believed in evolution, saying, "I'm familiar with evolution, but it's out there. There are gaps in the theory."

The governor pointed out that there are no fossils to indicate transitional mutations between animals, conveniently ignoring the mountain of evidence, DNA, bone structure, cell structure, organ functions, behavioral patterns, etc., that suggest a clear relationship among all living things.

A few days later, Perry affirmed his full faith in the gap-riddled theory of Intelligent Design.

And yet, like all believers in Intelligent design, he can cite no evidence other than devout faith, in support of his theory.

How, for instance, does Intelligent Design explain:

suicide bombers, car salesmen, theater talkers, CMO's, karaoke singers, The Situation, people who text and drive, Ryan Seacrest, indecisive salad bar customers, toupee wearers, the women of Walmart, clove smokers, nipple piercers, people who believe in holistic medicine, white supremacists, Furries, open mouth eaters, Rapturists, telemarketers, golfers who plumb bob their putts, focus group mediators, bedazzlers, fanny pack wearers, J. Alexander, beauty pageant moms, hipsters who pretend to disdain hipsters, West Virginians, international customer service representatives, enema nurses, people who say "awesome", honor killers, Digital Ninjas, Facebook meal posters, noisy neighbors, evangelical Libertarians, cheap rich people, and of course:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

They call me Diomedes

A wise man once said, "Innovate or Die."
So today I am innovating.

In addition to marketing myself as a Freelance Creative Director/Copywriter, I will also be presenting myself as a Digital Diomedes. You may recall Diomedes was an ancient Greek Warrior who commanded a herd of carnivorous equines.

Apart from the catchy alliteration, my new title demonstrates my growing expertise in the digital arena. I've complemented my traditional brand experience with a wealth of work on banners, micro-sites, app development and even mobile devices.

But Rich, you say, every copywriter has worked on banners, micro-sites and Facebook applications.
To which I reply, in today's parlance, "haters gonna hate."

Like the Digital Ninjas, the Experiential Entrepreneurs, the Innovation Strategists, that have preceded me, I am not going to let the lack of any rigorous education or meaningful accountability stand in my way. Once I master the jargon and cultivate a full head of unwarranted confidence, I will be a Digital Diomedes.

Should anyone challenge my digital pseudo-proficiency or my cocky unflinching infallibility, I will respond as my twenty-something predecessors have:

"You don't get it, do you?"

And then I will sic one of my man-eating horses on their sorry ass.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Less Hats, More Work.

I see hats.
I see lots and lots of hats.
Knit caps. Pork Pie hats. Fedoras.

I guess it's part of the business, but it's way too affected for my taste.

In my day if you wanted to show the world you were a character or were blessed with unusual talents, you did the kind of work that would make others say "Damn." What you didn't do was skip over to some Melrose boutique to find a knit cap that matched your tatted sleeve so that others would say, "Damn, that guy is a pretentious tool."

Mind you, I realize I am unusually obsessed over this misguided sartorial choice but the truth is I don't work at an agency anymore. I'm a hired gun. And so I don't get to gripe about office politics or bureaucracy or the unfair revenue distribution at the big 4 holding companies. I'm a man without a curmudgeonly cause.

And so I choose hats and the douchebags who choose to wear them.

But as my style-savvy friend Laura puts it, if I were deadly serious about the matter, I could deliver a death blow to this haberdasherous behavior.

This was my father's Hobbs Fedora. It's one of the few possessions I received upon my mother's passing 6 years ago. If I were to start showing up at work wearing this handsome chapeau, I'm sure many a hipster would start removing theirs.

But I can't. Not because I don't have the cajones. The hat is about 5 sizes too small for my over sized cranium. And, having sat in my mother's condo for years on end, it still reeks of cigarette smoke.

Monday, August 22, 2011

More Energy

I didn't grow a legion of 4 readers and achieve 13 page hits a day by not doing my homework. Oh no. I study the Google analytics, pore over the charts and confibulate the html seo-optimized flik-flks to get a clear picture of my audience, their preferences and their hot buttons.

Did you know that my Filthy Cock posting on April 20 is still one of the most read pieces? So I'm well aware of your prurient inclinations.

The postings that bring second highest traffic are usually stories about advertising. That's no surprise either since many of you are friends and colleagues hoping I'll dish some dirt and name some names. Of course, that's not going to happen but I do like to skate perilously close to the edge.

Years ago, I was hired to write a radio campaign for a Mexican restaurant. After dozens and dozens of scripts, I got a call from the Creative Director. He liked one direction in particular and sold the idea to his client over the phone. Great, I thought. (Though in reality as a freelancer you'd like the client to keep rejecting the work so you can ride the day-rate gravy train.) Nevertheless it's always a good feeling to sell some work.

Then he surprised me with another tidbit. He wanted me to produce the spots. Great, I thought, because, I like to have control over my own work. Not so great when I heard the client will be at the voice over recording session.

That's where this train went off the tracks.

In general clients don't have a healthy understanding of production. Hell, I didn't feel comfortable with it until I had been on the job for 7-8 years. And this client, let's call her Ms. Shitforbrains, was no exception.

With every successive take she would ask, "Can she read it with more energy?" She could but that wouldn't make it better I replied. By Take 21, she stopped asking me to relay the direction and grabbed the box that allows the engineer to talk to the talent and shouted, "THIS TIME, MORE ENERGY!!!"

Apart from her unprofessional demeanor, this client was completely unsophisticated. Asking for "more energy" is perhaps the least constructive direction one could possibly give a performer. It is, as my friend Claudia puts it, "the last refuge of an idiot."

The two-hour voice over session turned into a six-hour battle. Fatigued and at my wit's end, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Upon my return I saw something I had never ever seen before. The client took my momentary exit as her cue to leave the engineer's room and enter the recording booth, where she literally gave the talent a line by line reading of how she wanted the spot to sound.

When it was done, the engineer played back her 60 seconds of non-stop, highly ENERGETIC screaming into the microphone. The client, quite pleased with herself, turned to me and said,
"what do you think?"

"Perfect," I said, "just perfect."

Thursday, August 18, 2011


A milestone passed a few weeks ago and somehow it went unnoticed.
It was the 500th entry here at roundseventeen.

Now I often think maybe it's time give up this narcissistic journey. Maybe it's time to move on to something more productive. Start a hobby. Or take up a collection. My buddy, and current boss, collects clown paintings. He also has an impressive assembly of antique glass eyeballs. I've always wanted a collection of something but never had the discipline for that kind of pursuit.

Now I have a collection of mindless, stream of consciousness rants and ravings. I guess that's something.

And just when I'm about to pull the plug on this thing I get an email from one of you. Telling me how much you enjoy the blog. And how it provides a daily laugh.

I got one of these e-mails a few weeks ago from a friend I hadn't seen in a long time. He's going through a difficult time and his wife is going through an even tougher time battling cancer. I won't divulge his name or quote from his email.

But I was touched by the sentiment and flattered to know that what I'm doing here can somehow diminish the pain. Even if it's just a little.

And so for that email, and others like it, I thank you for the thank you's.

I know I've made light in the past about not getting paid for this endeavor.
But the reality is, I do.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pytka Part Two

They say ad people are all about shameless self promotion. Last week I did a little self-unpromotion and drew attention to The Worst Commercial I Ever Wrote. This is not something a lot of people would do, but as my wife likes to point out, I'm not easily embarrassed. In fact she says, I lack the embarrassment gene.

With that in mind, I'd like to share another Joe Pytka story.

Apple Computer is now the wealthiest company on the planet. But it wasn't always like that. In 1994 when Steve Jobs was nowhere to be seen, they were struggling to stay afloat. And if you knew anything of the marketing team that was running the company you'd understand why. Some of the most misguided, vision-less careerists I've ever had the misfortune of working with. As one of my former bosses put it, they were guilty of "muddy thinking."

I love that phrase.

For some god-awful reason we were trying to position Apple as a business computer, capable of running spreadsheets, P&L's and other uninspiring crap. The BBDO team created a fake sneaker company and hired Joe Pytka to shoot 10-12 commercials on the set. Some were scripted. Some were improvised.

On the third day of shooting, at 2 AM, we found out one of the actors scheduled for the next day's shoot dropped out. The production team started scrambling. Panic was scheduled to arrive at 2:15. Then Big Joe turned to the team and towards me and said, "Let's have Cheech (that's what he was calling me) do the bit."

I said, "What?"

He said, "Come on, you're a funny guy. It's three lines. A monkey could do it."

I guess that's why Pytka is known as an actor's director.

Long story mercifully shorter, I came in the next morning. Did the whole wardrobe and make up thing, walked onto the set (with jeers from my colleagues) and proceeded to act. I flubbed the lines a couple of times. But so did the actress I was working with. But after 7-8 takes I started getting the hang of it. Pytka shoots with a long lens, so after awhile you forget the camera is even looking at you. Maybe this would be the beginning of a whole new career, I thought.

Then I heard, "Cut." Then I heard the client whispering to the Executive Producer. Then I heard my 28- minute long acting career was over.

Joe pulled me aside and assured me I had done a fine job. He even mentioned casting me in some future spots. Yeah right. He said the client thought the spot would play better with a different actor (the one pictured above.)

Different of course meaning an actor with More Hair and Less Nose.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"They was dressed like caaawwpps."

I finally got around to watching The Town the other night.

That damn Netflix DVD had been sitting around for weeks. I'm going to have to rethink my whole monthly membership relationship with them. Why can't there just be a store with all the DVD's of all the movies and then you could go to that store and rent a movie when you want to see it?

Anyway, it was serviceable bank heist movie. Good actions scenes. Nice plot development. And lots of salty New England dialogue. You can count on Ben Affleck, a local boy, to capture the flavor and nuance of Boston.

It's a city like no other. My sister-in-law lives there and we have gone back for several family functions. I'm not familiar with the Charleston area where The Town takes place. We were charmed by places like Marshfield and Scituate, a little south of Boston and right on the water. At one point, we even talked about moving there.

And why not? Boston is an advertising city. I could have found work at Mullen or Arnold or Modernista (although in retrospect, that wouldn't have been a good choice). The public schools in the suburbs are excellent. You can buy a fresh Maine lobster for the price of a Tito's taco.

And of course I love the people of Boston. Especially the bawdy Irish Catholics with their hard nosed drinking and their straight-faced sarcasm.

Not only that, housing prices in New England are much lower than here in Southern California. I could have sold my house and bought a 13-room Colonial with oceanfront views. And still had enough money left over for a proper Man Cave Basement with free flowing kegs and a lifetime supply of Sam Adams.

So what stopped us, you might ask.
Or, "what staaawwwppped us?"

That's right, it's that damn accent.

I can listen to it for about 10 minutes before it starts giving me a wicked awesome migraine. And I don't get migraines. It's not just one person with that pick-axe-on-a-chalkboard accent, it's all of them. From Duxbury to Rockport.

In 1965 Albert DeSalvo was identified and convicted as the Boston Strangler. Though doubts remain to this day whether the state got the right man. Seems they could never pin down his motive. I'm just spitballing here, but if I had to guess why that man was driven to throttle 13 women with his bare hands, it would have something to do with that accent.

That damn Boston accent.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Carmeggeddon 2012

Spotted in my neighbor's driveway.

Hard to believe that the little girl across the street, the one who loved playing big sister to my two daughters, is now driving a car. Poorly, I might add.

It's even harder to believe that today I am dropping my 15 year old girl at her first Driver's Ed class. I swear it was just yesterday that she stood in the driveway, naked as a jaybird, playing with garden hose. I suppose if that were yesterday-- and not 14 years ago -- Driver's education would be the least of my concerns.

But she's 15 now and she'll be driving next year.

When she isn't on youtube or texting her friends, she's spending an inordinate amount of time on If her driving habits are anything like my neighbor's daughter, I don't think a Volvo will suffice.

Maybe I'll buy her a tank.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Jesus Gene

Here's a little secret about writers, most of the time we don't write.

In an 8 hour day, for which I charge handsomely, about 33 minutes is actually spent writing. The other 7 & 1/2 hours? That's for Scrabble, Facebook, and general goofing off on the Internet.

A bean counter might look at that and have a coronary, but anyone intimately familiar with the creative mindset knows those 7 &1/2 hours are crucial to the process. It's like slow cooked chili. You put all the ingredients in a crockpot, set it on a low simmer and walk away. By the time the sun sets, you've got a delicious stew of spicy, meaty goodness that you just can't get by opening up a can of Hormels.

The other day during one of those diversionary flights of fancy and while "working" on a new car launch, I stumbled across this new Google map photo of the house I grew up in. The house bears little resemblance to the one in my memory. The trees are larger, the landscaping has changed, and the house has nearly doubled in size. The photo is pretty high up, but I'm willing to bet the yard has less weeds as well.

I can't help but wonder if the built-in bookcase that my father constructed still hugs the stairway railing. Or if the Swedish Redwood Sauna he installed in the master bathroom is still cooking at 130 degrees.

My dad was pretty handy around a woodshop. He could handle a left-handed miter saw. He knew his way around a 3.5 HP reversible router. What's more impressive is that it was all self taught. Compliments of the Time Life Series on Finish Carpentry.

My buddies would often come over and ask, "What's Al building today? A boat."

He had the persistence and the know-how, given a little more time he would have pulled it off and I'd be writing this today from the deck of a 50 foot schooner.

I'm now at the stage of my life when my father, and my uncle (who is also no slouch), took up woodworking. And I'm feeling the itch to buy a belt sander. But I suspect my inner carpenter will emerge much slower.

I'm still trying to figure out how to assemble my daughter's new Ikea nightstand -- Der Nittenflorka.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The worst commercial I ever wrote

Occasionally I will use this pulpit to critique other people's advertising work. I don't do it nearly as often as I'd like (let's face it there is a lot of crap out there) because I still have to work and put food on my table and bagging on potential employers is just not good business sense.

The other reason is, I don't want people thinking I walk around with the attitude that "my shit doesn't stink." Because it does.

Big time.

Many moons ago, when I was a Creative Director at Chiat/Day, my partner and I were put in charge of the account. The CEO of this fledgling company fancied himself the next Bill Gates, and he might have been, had Bill Gates been a sleazy, underhanded snake of a man without a shred of personal integrity. Mr. Gates is now giving away billions of his dollars to starving children. The former homestore CEO is now sitting in a federal prison for stock embezzlement.

We had proposed a great campaign for homestore -- which is now with all the real estate listings in the country. The campaign was all about Americans who live in unconventional housing. It was a great way to demonstrate the broad spectrum of American individuality and how that is expressed through the homes we chose to live in. Eventually the campaign became a documentary, Home Movie, that aired at Sundance and went on to a national theatrical release.

But the homestore CEO didn't think the idea was big enough to launch the company. He wanted something epic. And, like many who walk into the Chiat/Day building, he wanted something like Apple's "1984."

And so to get to produce the work I wanted, I had to write the spot I didn't want. 

Despite Joe Pytka at the helm, despite the beautiful landscape and cinematography, despite the million dollars of production value, the spot is a bloated dud. The music is wrong. The tone is wrong. The concept is wrong. Mind you I had a hand in the production, so I take full responsibility. But at the end of the day, the homestore CEO got the epic he wanted -- an epic turd.

The only good to come from the entire debacle was the Media department telling us there was very little inventory left for 60 second commercials. So the spot aired for three weeks in 1999. With very limited rotation.

I wince every time I see it, so if it aired once, it was once too many.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thanks Coach

Is it me or is everyone in the world becoming a Life Coach?

Seems a day doesn't go by that I don't hear the wonderful news that someone has received their Life Coaching Certification and that they are accepting new clients. Ten years ago it was friends and family selling vitamins or Amway products, today they are becoming Life Coaches.

I have to tread lightly here or I will surely offend a growing number of people, including friends and colleagues. But it should come as no surprise that I'm not a candidate for Life Coaching. I don't need someone to help "marshall my inner resources" or "create a personal action plan" or "set into motion game-changing behaviors."

I just have to stop eating fatty foods.

My skepticism is not without merit. Years ago, one of the companies I was working for offered to pay for me to see a Career Coach.  He helped me to see that corporations did not operate as a meritocracy. He helped me to understand that if I was not being given the raises, promotions and company cars I thought I deserved it was because I had allowed myself to become a victim. Or as he put it, a jailhouse bitch. Turned out Coach Ray knew exactly what he was talking about, as I learned he had spent 8 years in the penitentiary for Fraud.

Of course now I don't work for corporations, I work for myself.
Consequently, I'm much happier.

So I won't be spending any time with a Life Coach, particularly someone who refers to themselves that way after purchasing this:

That's not to say there is no room for improvement, there always is.

But if I need additional motivation, I'll take that up with myself. And if I need advice or outside perspective, I'll take that up with my friends. And if I need to get something off my chest, I'll take that up with you -- the four regular readers of roundseventeen.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Earlier this week I pointed out a mural that stands in the lobby of Wieden & Kennedy in Portland. I may take issue with the sentiment of the piece but there is no denying this agency does some of the smartest, coolest advertising on the planet. They are so pitch-perfect in everything they do I have a hard time spotting any missteps.

The same cannot be said for other agencies.

This spot ran more than 10 years ago and yet they could run it tomorrow and it would still move me.

What I like most about it is its simplicity. With the exception of 1/2 second on Vince Carter and another 3/4 of a second on Apollo Ohno, the spot features no celebrities or superstar athletes. Here's how the script could have looked:

Open on kid running.

Cut to montage of people playing frisbee, golf, hockey, little league baseball, etc.

SUPER: Just do it.

LOGO: Nike Swish

And that's it. It takes real craftspeople to bring such a minimalist idea to life. But even more so, it takes a visionary client to see how something so simple on paper could be so magnificent on film. Chief Marketing Officers like that are rare.

Someday, I hope to run into one.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Afghanistan Banana Stand

At this writing we still have no idea whether the Congress will raise the debt ceiling or let the country go into default. But perhaps if we adhered to our own love of capitalism and the free movements of the marketplace we would not find ourselves in this precarious position.

Allow me to elaborate.

Last week CNN reported that militants in Afghanistan hanged an 8 year old boy after his father refused to comply with their demands. This is so abhorrent, it is hard to put into words. Why waste a perfectly good piece of rope when stoning, a much more economical way to punish insubordination would suffice? I've seen pictures of Afghanistan and I know that while they are not abundant in many other natural resources, they are not hurting for rocks.

And yet this rope, paid for by the American taxpayer, had to be wantonly used in another display of government financed waste. It makes the blood boil, doesn't it?

Here's a better idea. Let's reduce our national debt by one trillion dollars in one fell swoop. Let's pull ALL our troops and resources from this forsaken country and let them fend for themselves.

I'm well aware of the argument that if we leave, the Taliban and or Al Queda, will unseat the 'democratically-elected' Karzai government. Let them. We haven't won the hearts and minds of the Afghani people, neither will these Islamic extremists. Let them take over and deal with the issues of nation-building. If they can't provide food, water and electricity to the people because they are spending money on bombs, guns and suicide vests, they can deal with the wrath of the locals.

In other words, let the universal forces of supply and demand dictate the outcome for Afghanistan. And let my tax dollars pay for something more useful like teachers, cops and Navy Team Six.

BTW, I went to Home Depot to get an accurate cost of 12 feet of heavy duty rope needed to hang a
100 lbs. boy and come next April, I'm deducting $23 from my taxes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Overheard on the streets of San Francisco

Premium $80,0000 German automobile with a useless top speed of 160 mph and the same basic technology found in a $30,000 VW -- Check

High grade aluminum roof rack capable of hauling 500 lbs. of cargo -- Check.

Imported Italian baby stroller with anti-lock brakes and built-ipod connectivity -- Check

Ergonomically designed Marc Jacobs Baby Bag with storage compartments for bottles, food and parents matching knit caps -- Check

Change for the parking meter -- Damnit.

"Honey, hand me one of those disposable diapers...whaddya mean there's only three left?...Maybe if you stopped feeding him that pesticide-free, organically-grown fruit puree he wouldn't be shitting every 5 minutes like an old man in a nursing home."

Monday, August 1, 2011


This mural sits in the lobby of Wieden & Kennedy, an agency I have admired since I started in advertising. They are one of the few agencies that still does smart, challenging work that respects the intelligence of the consumer.

This little aphorism, Fail Harder, actually appears from the negative space created by thousands of push pins.

It is intended as a reminder to the students enrolled in Wieden's intern program.

It's a beautiful display and while I appreciate its intent I'm not so sure I concur with the sentiment. It feels like it was born from that same cushy school of thought that is less concerned about results and more concerned about self-esteem. The "we're all winners"and here's your trophy for participating mentality.

Sadly, I am all too familiar with this as my daughters have spent the last 8 years at a progressive, creative, developmental school. I could have added the words private and expensive, but that would be like rubbing salt in my own self-inflicted wound.

Next month they start at Catholic High School, a rigorous, college-preparatory school that embraces the 'sink or swim' philosophy. Where losing or not meeting expectations has consequences.

Maybe I'm being old school about this and don't see the wisdom of the Millenial Ways of the world (I also don't see a great body of work coming from them but that's a different story). But I do remember the way it was when I was learning the business.

We did our own self-policing. My partner and I would discuss the merits and the pitfalls of each idea. We did our best to come up with solutions to the client problems. And because we were so rarely given the opportunity to work on the choice assignments, we worked out butts off and swung for the fences. When our ideas didn't make the cut, we found out why and vowed to mend our mistakes.

But we never took any false pride in not winning.

Our credo was best summed up by Gene Kranz, Mission Control leader of the Apollo 13 -- for you younger readers that was one of the rockets we used to regularly send up to the moon -- who had a different take on the topic and said, "Failure is not an option."