Monday, August 31, 2020

It's a New Day

By the time you are reading this on your computer, I hope I'll be spellchecking it on my new computer. It's scheduled to arrive today, Saturday.

I had put off buying a new computer for as long as I could. After all, cash is tight in these pandemic times.

Some would argue my money would be better spent on a fully glocked out AR 15 or AK 47 with the super titanium barrel, the 52X scope and the high capacity magazines with fully automatic rejigged loading flux modulator.

Admittedly I'm a little light on my ammo-sexual jargon. But I probably should bone up on this stuff before the first shots are volleyed in our upcoming Civil War II. You know, between the people with brains and the people with Red Hats.

But I went with the computer instead.

Holding steadfastly to the belief that the pen is mightier than the sword. Despite the apparent fact that folks who sport the Red Hat are incapable of reading.

It's been close to 6 years since I bought the last iMac. And I'll be the first to admit there's a little trepidation about getting this new one. And safely transporting all my treasured data from one shiny box to another.

I don't know how I could live if I somehow lost my precious 30 second scripts on the shareability of Tostitos Lime Flavored Tortilla Chips or my email blasts on the very attractive leasing deals on the new 2012 Acura RDX or my many, many pdf decks detailing Union Bank's new marketing efforts for 2015 and 2016.

The old computer, I have not attached a silly or sentimental name to it like some people do to their prized cars, had served me well. But I had grown weary of waiting for the transistors and motherboards and the microchips to catch up with the rapid firing of my own synapses.

Is there anything worse than watching this:

Oddly enough, as these things often do, the whole megilla had taken its toll on my wife. Who was about to snap if she had to listen to one more of my bitching complaints about the whole schmegeggie.

"Just buy a new damn computer already. It's what you do for a living. What are you waiting for? Why do you insist on torturing yourself. It's almost as if you enjoy the pain."

Let me cut you off you right there.

"Also, can you take out the recyclables?"

And of course my wife is right. She's always so damn sensible. In retrospect I should have listened to her more. She's been putting me on the right path for the last 30 years ever since she took over my sweater purchases and made me dump the Drakkar Noir in the toilet.

Thursday, August 27, 2020


I love Jason Bourne movies. Even the bad Jason Bourne movies are better than 99% of the crap that people commit to celluloid these days.

The action is gripping. And I love the fight scenes. Though I must say, I took two and half years of Karate and in all that time have never seen fighting of the same choreographed nature. Sparring/fighting was always a mad slapdash affair, that devolved to kicking and wild punching, like something you'd see in the hallways of America's high schools.

The Jason Bourne stories are always complex, though not too complex for my pea sized brain. There's an air of plausibility to every plot twist. And everything about the Jason Bourne movies is tight.

For all that to happen on film, it has to be even tighter on the written page. Having tried my hand at screenwriting, I can tell you that is not an easy task.

But this post is not about the well-oiled machine that is the Jason Bourne franchise. I only bring that up as a stark comparison to the movies of Stanley Kubrick. More specifically, a film you might have seen, Eyes Wide Shut.

I suggest you might have seen it because during these pandemic times when we're all looking for ways to distract ourselves and hence plunked in front of our TVs, Eyes Wide Shut seems to be airing 24 hours a day on every one of the overpriced cable channels.

You just can't escape the thing.

Unlike the Bourne movies, Eyes Wide Shut is loose, disjointed, a little fat, and not at all simplistic. Nor, it turns out, is it easy for me to turn my eyes away every time it pops up during my channel surfing. If I watch one scene, I end up watching all the way to the end for Nicole Kidman's perfectly delivered last word in the movie, "FUCK."

Of particular fascination, is the one scene, about 90 minutes into a movie that goes nearly three hours.  I'm referring to the masked party scene, which if my calculations are correct, was intended to be located in Westchester County or deep into the well-monied suburbs of Connecticut.

It is dark. And haunting. And one of the most riveting scenes ever put on film. Not to mention that is populated by a cast of the most beautiful naked women that you will ever see. That lone explains the repeated drooling viewings.

I love Stanley Kubrick and believe he was wildly original. A one of a kind film maker that comes around once in a lifetime. And just as I dug into the backstory of 2001: A Space Odyssey (the monoliths are time machines left by aliens), I indulged myself with some research about Eyes Wide Shut.

And without giving too much away it turns out the movie was intentionally shot to resemble a dream, a late night dream of Dr. Bill Hartford (Tom Cruise) who must come to terms with his wife's recently revealed imagined infidelity. Viewed through that lens, and the fact that the screenplay is an adaptation of a book called DREAM STORY, the dead end plot turns, the paranoia, the hallucinatory non-sequiter scenes, all begin to make sense.

Even the quizzical title, Eyes Wide Shut, feels appropriate. Because you view and participate and experience your dreams with your eyes wide shut.

If you get chance, watch, or rewatch, the movie. I just checked and it's on right now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Tumbler of Scotch Blues

In between my daily routine of cranking out banner ads and email blasts, you know, the glamour work of Advertising 2020, I like to comb through the griping boards over on the Fishbowl app.

There's something soothing about reading the tales of misery from my fellow practitioners of advertising who are now decades younger than me.

With the benefit of hindsight and a whole new perspective -- now a client side perspective that will preclude me from ever working inside an ad agency ever again -- it's funny to see what occupies the minds of these noobies.

"Ive been working my ass off for 3 months, can I ask for a raise now?"

"My art director is weak on concepting, should I request a new one or tell the CD?"

"Advertising sucks, is it too late to get into HVAC repair?"

Most of it is inane. And it makes me cringe to think I sounded just like them, not too long ago. OK, long ago.

But one gripe remains and I suspect it has only gotten worse since I roamed the halls at Chiat/Day, Saatchi, Y&R, BBDO, ETC& ETC.

And that is the inability to get work produced. I suppose I'm more fortunate than some, but I can't help looking back on a career with many more stumbles than successes.

Take the Chivas Regal campaign pictured above. It's one of my favorites and included perhaps the most personal manifesto I have ever written.

My partner John Shirley and I did this work twenty years ago. It never got produced. That didn't stop John and I from putting it in our portfolios. Nor did it appear to stop Canadian Club from doing the same campaign (albeit executed differently) and winning a shit ton of awards about 15 years ago. Perhaps even after some creative saw our spec campaign.

And as a testament to the resonance of the idea, you might even recognize the folks at Progressive Insurance have made quite a bit of hay from this same premise.

Sadly, there are horizontal art files full of work just like this. Work that never saw the light of day. I immodestly believe I have enough unsold, unproduced work that would fill the portfolios of 5 copywriters.

I am not alone in this endeavor. This is a truth lived by every copywriter and art director who has ever cut a rubylith. Just as there is nothing I could do about then, there is nothing I, or we, can do about it now.

It's the cost of doing business, Or as Hyman Roth in Godfather II so eloquently stated,

"This is the business we have chosen."

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Post Going Viral Post

Last week I had something happen to me that has never happened before, despite my relentless jabs at #CaptainOuchieFoot.

I went viral.

It happened on August 16, while my wife and daughter and I were lounging on a beach in Santa Barbara. We'd been experiencing cabin fever and needed to just get in the car and get outta here, never an easy task in Southern California.

While we were camped out on the beautiful, white sands of Santa Barbara, I started getting texts from friends. It turned out my little mailboxsitting stunt, had caught fire. First on Dan Rather's Facebook page and then on Twitter.

It started out with a few dozen retweets. Then a few hundred. And then I lost count, because people were simply screengrabbing the picture and posting it themselves. People were calling me a Hero (Nope), a Patriot (Yup) and a veteran (I don't know how anyone got the idea I was a veteran, I corrected them immediately.)

Next thing I knew the hashtag #CaptainOuchieFoot was all over the place.

Had I been at my desktop, chances are I could've stoked this little internet fire even further. But I didn't need to. By Sunday night, as we were driving home and hitting traffic, friends were texting and suggesting that I'd be getting phone calls and invitations to appear on morning news shows. I almost expected news vans to be parked on my front lawn when we got home. Instead one of the neighbor's dogs had left us a big, sloppy, well-coiled turd.

That kind of sums up my life so perfectly.

In any case, the viral sensation was short lived. Like a Michael Bloomberg Presidential run. I knew it would be. And I'll be the first to admit, it was exciting. You work in advertising your whole life to create this kind of buzz. And then it happens. And then it disappears.

That's the nature of fame, particularly Internet fame. It's fleeting.

Life returns to normal. Bills need to get paid. Groceries need to get replenished. Slow bathroom drains need to get unplugged. And the hero worship fades away only to be replaced by the tiny marital digs that make up a working marriage.

"You have a dozen pair of expensive running shoes in the closet. You finally get a chance to go viral and you go out there in your rattiest ugliest sneakers?"

Monday, August 24, 2020

It's PT Time

Do you know what these are?

If you do then you are familiar with the self-inflicted hell they call Physical Therapy. I say self-inflicted because in addition to my two tortuous sessions -- which I willingly pay for -- with Amber at the Physical Therapy strip mall center, these deceptive primary colored elastic bands go home with me, so I can continue to abuse my body in excruciating ways I never thought possible.

The reddish pink band goes on my ankles so I can literally Crab Walk from my office, where I earn money to buy gourmet coffee, to my kitchen, where I brew the gourmet coffee, to the bathroom, where I return the gourmet coffee back to the sea.

You've never seen anything so pathetic as a burly, bald 44 year old man, Crabwalking around the house as if I had my shorts around my ankles and discovered at the very last minute there was no toilet paper left on the roll.

The shame is only surpassed by the pain, (if you sign up for physical therapy you're signing up for pain).  Maybe not so much on the first few movements, but by the time you reach double digits, your muscles will be screaming in agony, like the victims of yore who were drawn and quartered.

By the way, I think that when the Democrats finally return to power, I believe many GOP accomplices should be drawn and quartered. Or at the very least, subjected to physical therapy.

Additionally, I'm using the green band to wrap around my ankle, lay on a yoga mat and yank on my quads in a way only NFL and NBA players could.

The yellow band is for the always-dreaded Sideways Clamshell, why are so many of these movements named after crustaceans that scour the bottom of the sea for nourishment? When performed correctly, the Clamshell produces more pain than the original injury that landed me in PT.

The good news is that it is starting to work. Or maybe it's just the hopeful placebo effect.

But it feels like I'm on the road to recovery from a groin muscle pull/hip flexor strain (three doctors have had three different opinions) that has kneecapped me for the past four months. Every physician I have seen thinks the injury was a result of me overdoing it in my garage gym and probably happened while deadlifting an amount of weight a man my age should not be lifting.

Their first piece of sage advice was to cut back on the exercising.

My first response was buy a Peloton.

I'm not only stubborn, I'm stupid. And, it appears, a glutton for punishment.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Going viral

As I have noted on several occasions, I'm not big on flattery. I don't give much. And I don't get much. Consequently, when I do, the hairs on the back on my neck start to curl up as if they were meant to be in a different part of my body. I leave the unpleasant imagery to you.

A few years ago, I was walking through my neighborhood. I walked by a yard that belonged to one of my advertising colleagues. Like all advertising colleagues he was significantly younger than me. He and his friends were in the middle of a front yard barbecue and so he invited me in for a beer. I obliged, but was sorry I did.

"Hey everybody, I want you to meet my neighbor, Rich Siegel. He also works in advertising. He's a legend."

I have a hard time even writing that out.

That is not a word I deserve or have even earned. Especially not for scrawling some funny wiseass lines on a piece of paper in service of rampant consumerism. This is not a humblebrag (that's coming later).

The legends in our business are the ones who parlayed whatever creative talent they had into something. They opened their own shops. They stewarded entire creative departments. They built something that would make a mark and create income for others.

I did nothing of the kind.

I chose a different, perhaps even more selfish, path. One that allowed me to do, and continue to do, what I love best -- write. Whether it be ads, books, movies, tv. Or, and here come the indulgent part, political memes.

Last weekend, as noted in Monday's post, I plied my wares in a new venue -- the streets. I also pimped my efforts on various social media sites, including the Facebook page of legendary newsman Dan Rather. With close to 5,000 likes on his page, it is by far the closest I have got going viral.

(update: this blog post was written before Sunday's twitter explosion (#CaptainOuchieFoot) that had close to 37 million hits. I can't vouch for that number, but these days nobody can.)

Even more rewarding however are the more than 300 comments, most from admiring young and not so young ladies, who for lack of a better word, want a piece of me. Allow me to share just a few of those:

Moreover, this has produced a flurry of new friend requests (all women) who just can't seem to get enough Rich Siegel.

As you might expect I am making the most of it, which is driving my wife and daughter bonkers.

"Rich, can you take out the garbage?"

"Yeah, I'm not sure that's something a Hero would do."


"Rich, can you empty the dishwasher?"

"I can, but I have other super patriot duties that are a bit more pressing."

Am I going to milk this for all it's worth?

This legend has every intention of doing so.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

America is not sending their best

Nobody knows more about these asshats than I do.

See how silly that sounds to proclaim yourself the most knowledgable person on the planet on any given topic? We do. But the Qool-Aid drinking numbskulls who dress themselves up in the fascist fashion of the day, do not.

Ashamedly I am more than familiar with the Qanon crowd and have even delved into their rabbit hole of anti-Semitic (it's always anti-Semitic) lore involving the Rothschilds, the media cabal, global financiers, pedophilia, disturbed copywriters and bad pizza topped with more pedophilia. Republicans are obsessed with pedophilia.

It is fascinating, if for no other reason than its unabashed ridiculousness.

It's the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, rebooted for the Internet age. Readers of Roundseventeen know of my previous correspondence with recruiters from the Illuminati, another topic of which I have some knowledge. Readers also know that the Illuminati front is just another variation of the Nigerian 419 scam. Suffice to say, the perpetrators of these con games are all on the African continent, a good 8 thousand miles away.

The Q folks are here on American terra firma. Moreover they are tied to the alt. right, the khaki pants wearing tiki torch holders and legitimate Neo Nazis. You know, the "very fine people."

I'd like to go toe-to-toe with these mental midgets (oh shit, am I not allowed to use that phrase anymore?), but I have a family to protect, so I'm not going to engage.

But, I'm not going to ignore them either.

I like to think of myself as a First Amendment absolutist. I am no fan of government interference with freedom of speech. I have great disdain for European countries who have criminalized speech about Holocaust denial and such. I'm a great believer in the disinfecting qualities of bright sunshine. You want to spew hatred, ignorance and fear? Throw on your Red golf cap and have at it, my friend.

"Let's everybody see your stupid shit."

But here's the deal, I get to exercise my freedoms well. So if you come to any of my social media platforms and start slinging slanderous comments about Joe Biden or Kamala Harris (I've seen your nasty JOE & HO buttons), I will delete those comments.

And, though I have never unfriended or unlinked with people who have different political opinions than my own, I am hereby inviting any Q or Qanon followers to quickly find the exit door.

I have no interest or time for your quizzical quilt of quackishness.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

From the Golden Era of TV Cartoons

Last summer, we had a guest living with us. It was my daughter's college roommate. She had an internship with an LA production company. And because we had an empty room, we agreed to let her stay with us.

We quickly absorbed her into our Dinner and Jeopardy routine. And by the end of the summer she was ardently looking forward to my wife's bread crumb chicken and a lively half hour of world trivia. The great thing about Jeopardy is how it bounces all over the place. From capitals in Southeast Asia to home run hitters of the 1940's.

For some reason or other, last week we found ourselves talking about cartoon shows of our childhood. And that's when the topic of Magilla Gorilla came up.

My first recollection, was the intro song. Oddly enough, I remembered the tune but could not recite the lyrics, other than the chorus. I immediately went to the Google and found it.

Or at least I thought I did. They were badly remixed beat box versions and EDM versions. But not the original. Well, this morning I committed myself to a trip down Nostalgia Lane.

My oldest daughter, being preternaturally inquisitive, wanted to know more about this odd sounding show.

"What was is it about?"

My 44 year old brain responded and blurted out,

"Well, it's about this guy who owns a pet shop and can't sell this gorilla. Magilla Gorilla."

"What?", she said, "that's not a premise for a show. You people (meaning of my generation) had weird TV."

Let's gloss over the fact that these days you can watch a television show about 600 lbs. people who never leave their living room, people who hoard boxes, schmatta and tchotchkes, and couples who go apartment hunting in Ecuador.

Nevertheless I wanted to fact check myself and make sure my mind wasn't playing tricks on me. After all a kid's cartoon show about a pet shop owner who can't sell a talking gorilla did seem a little thin. Not to mention a little influenced by lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD.

It turns out I was right.

I'm not big on binge watching TV shows, but if this pandemic persists, and with nutty irresponsible fuckknuckles who refuse to wear a mask and insist on ingesting pool chemicals, I see no reason why it won't, I might have to hunker down for a few quality hours with Magilla and the peevish Mr. Peebles.

I bet that song is stuck in your head, isn't it?

Monday, August 17, 2020

Taking it to the streets

Last week, I reached my boiling point.

Admittedly my boiling point is significantly lower than it is for others. I don't like it when neighbors allow their dogs to bark wildly at 5 in the morning. I don't like it when neighbors allow their car alarms to go off, over and over and over again. And I don't like it when the President of the United States openly engages in election interference. In all cases, I'm likely to do something about it.

On Friday afternoon I found myself raging at the news about Precedent Shitgibbon defunding the USPS, unplugging mammoth mail sorting machines in urban-leaning (D) cities and literally snatching mailboxes off the street.

This administration, lake the fascists of the 1930's, is big on snatching. Whether it's snatching Mexican children away from their asylum-seeking mothers, BLM protestors in Portland, Seattle or NYC, and now our ubiquitous blue mailboxes, from which legitimate citizens are able to cast their votes.

It is inconceivable.
it is an impeachable abuse of power.
And most importantly, it is FUCKING OUTRAGEOUS!!!

So I did a little happy hands at home crafting and cobbled together a protest sign. I see many protestors making signs with magic markers and such. They always mess it up by using fancy colors, or too many words, or they make the type too small. I have a certain expertise in this arena and limited myself to four punchy words. I made the type as big as my printer will allow. And I went with a simple Helvetica Black on White Motif for maximum visibility.

I then parked my significant fat ass at the corner of Braddock and Jackson, strategically close to the Jackson Market -- the secret treasure of Culver City --where if necessary I could use the facilities and even snag a brown bag beer.

I'm new to the social activist game and didn't know what to expect.

I have seen the video of the brave white kid who went to the most racist city in Arkansas and held up a sign supporting Black Lives matter. The reactions of the townsfolk, was nothing short of shocking. Though I did take some personal pride when one of the hillbillies assumed the kid was a KIKE. Implying that when it comes to social issues of justice, (((my people))) have more often than not come out on the right side of history.

People noticed. They honked their horns. They gave me a big thumbs up. A lesbian couple pulled over their minivan and took a picture of my, one of the ladies was almost crying. In fact, many people pulled over to take a picture. As if what I was doing was out of the realm of possibility. When in fact, these tiny acts of defiance should be the norm. As my colleague and copywriting mentor Luke Sullivan often says, Democracy is not a spectator sport.

As you might have guessed, my favorite reaction came not from a supporter but from a detractor. A "suburban housewife" pulled up to the intersection in her imported SUV, opened the window and inquired...

"What's this all about?"

"Just my way of standing up to the GOP, who are trying to steal the election."

"Oh, you got that all wrong honey, it's the Democrats who are stealing the election."

A lame childish response if I've ever heard one.

"Really? Why don't you pull over and you can school me on how that works?"

"You're not worth talking to, you dumb libtard."

It wasn't KIKE, but I'll take it.

Before she rolled up her window, she flipped me the bird. I passive aggressively smiled at her and said...

"Have a blessed day."


Update: I wrote this blog piece on Saturday morning. Before this whole thing and #CaptainOuchieFoot starting blowing up on Twitter yesterday. When do the checks start coming in?

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Memories, fuzzy, funny memories.

Spotted yesterday, a 1971 Chevrolet Impala.

At the time of its release it was the largest car sold in America. It was also one of the best selling. The 1965 model, sold over a million units. A record, I believe, still stands today, despite the unexplainable ubiquitous appeal of the Toyota Prius.

The Impala featured a monstrously large 350 cubic inch big block V-8 engine. And because of its lack of seatbelts as well as its wide, wide benches, it could comfortably seat 6 adults. But you can't convince me some overly productive Irish Catholic or Hasidic mother didn't stuff it with 8 or 9 kids.

I mention all this because the 71 Chevy Impala was the first, car, I ever drove. It was the vehicle of choice for the Suffern High School Driver's Ed Program.

The one we drove was cream colored. And it sat low to the ground, probably due to its massive weight, unlike the model pictured above which is jacked up and sports low profile tires and 1000 dollar black titanium matte finished rims.

Had I not been stoned most of my teenage years, I could probably reproduce some vivid memories of those hot, humid, and sticky summer driving lessons.

Here's what I do remember.

The Driver's Ed teacher was Coach Brentnall. I was never fond of the hard ass Coaches at my high school. Mostly because I got the feeling they were sleep walking through their jobs. I was never good at the team sports, but had certain aptitude for solo sports like swimming, weight lifting and even wrestling. Would have been nice if one of those guys had offered me some encouragement in those areas. I'm sure many of these apathetic boneheads would have been shocked to learn I would go on to run marathons and complete several triathlons.

But Coach Brentnall was the exception. I liked him.

He was a big bear of a man. And had quite the hearty laugh. Moreover, he was an easy laugh and he seemed to enjoy his work. I would think that would be a prerequisite for any man or woman, stepping into 71 Impala with 5 numbskull teenagers, who could barely distinguish the accelerator pedal from the other pedal.

"That pedal stops the car."

For the life of me, I can't remember the names of the other kids in the car. I know there was one girl (I think her name was Nancy, though almost every girl in my high school was named Nancy) and three other guys besides myself.

The one guy I do remember was Jimmy B*%$#@w. I won't write his name out of respect. Suffice to say, that while small and wiry in stature, Jimmy B. had a huge smart ass mouth. Like me. He could be quite mischievous. He made the Coach and I roll over in laughter.

Particularly when Nancy was driving.

On one occasion, she literally plowed the big Chevy into a row of hedges. The unscratched car came to halt. Panic ensued. And Jimmy took the opportunity to lean over from the backseat and whispered to Nancy, "Punch it."

Which she did, kicking up mounds of dirt and digging a ditch for the big Impala, thus requiring assistance from a tow truck.

The incident makes my Top Ten Hardest Laughs I've ever experienced in my life.

Now you understand why I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the 1971 Chevrolet Impala.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A visit backstage

There's a bar about a quarter mile from my house. It's up the street at the corner of Culver Blvd. and Motor Ave. If you're having trouble reading the neon sign, it's called the Backstage. Or perhaps it's the Cocktails Backstage.

It's been there for close to an eternity. Why would they give a bar that name, you might be asking. Well, what you can't tell from the picture is the bar's amazing proximity to one of the world's largest movie studios -- Sony Pictures.

To see that, let's stop looking at the front of the Backstage and look more closely at the back of the Backstage.

There, in the background is the arched Motor Ave. entrance to what is now Sony Pictures. In days of yore, the studio was home to MGM. And every movie star you can name has driven those heavily guarded gates. I once ran into Seth Rogen at the Shell station on the right.

Moreover, many of those actors, actresses, directors and producers -- notice I didn't mention writers because writers never get any credit or recognition, just Google the joke about the Polish actress -- who played their wares at the old MGM studio, often finished a long day of shooting with a long night of drinking at the Backstage.

It's said that Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster were regulars here.

When I do picture them tossing a few back after 100 some odd takes on a scene that would eventually never make it past the cutting room floor, I imagine them chain smoking cigarettes at the seedy bar. Seated on leather seats that were ripped and duct taped for posterity. And knocking back shots of blended whiskey, none of that fancy single malt crap. And chasing it with flat beer that made up in sheer coldness, what it lacked in carbonation.

I see them bitching, arguing and fighting with some uncouth fan from Iowa who had the temerity to interrupt their hard drinking.

"Get outtttta my house," I picture Bogart slurring, adding, "before I introduce your fat skull to the curb."

That romantic era of Hollywood is long gone now. And the bar is home to millennials and Gen Z'ers, who prefer to entertain themselves with karaoke and open mic Talent Nights. You can be sure they no longer serve Pike's, the ale the won for Yale.

At least, that's what they were doing before the President dropped the meat in the dirt and led us into this pandemic clusterfuck.

The bar is closed now. Hopefully, they'll re-open soon.

Maybe after living next door to them for close to thirty years, I should stop in for a drink?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

My new Avatar

Like many of you, I find myself on back to back to back Zoom calls these days. Only the company I work for doesn't use Zoom, we're on the Google plan. A difference without distinction. The point being is that I'm on camera all day long.

The camera and I are not good friends, so I will often turn it off and resort to an avatar. This brought on sudden pangs of panic the other day, as I had been using a photo of Pai Mei, from the Kill Bill movie, as my icon.

For the unfamiliar...

Those that know me, know I lean towards the irreverent. Accordingly, I thought it was completely innocuous to use this photo.

But we live in a time where sensitivities are high. And lawsuits are plenty. It occurred to me, during a call that included the company CEO and CMO, that someone, of Asian descent or not, might take offense to my usage of this character. Ignoring that fact that I admire Pai Mei for his unflinching grouchiness. And godlike agility.

And so, bowing to an abundance of caution and my sudden awokeness, I went searching for a replacement avatar. And found the cartoon pictured above.

This of you who put in time at Chiat/Day, will recognize the handiwork of in-house storyboard artist extraordinaire, Hank Hinton, another man of legendary curmudgeonliness. It was something he scratched out for me many, many, many years ago.

I laughed and didn't give it a second thought then. But I'm glad I had the good sense to hold onto it now. You see not only has Hank had a hand in every groundbreaking ad campaign to ever come of out Chiat/Day, he drew the storyboards for Apple's 1984, the spot some say is the greatest commercial ever made. Thus linking me, in the most insignificant way ever, with a little piece of advertising history.

I would hope this post would somehow come across Hank's iPhone or laptop. Because it's my way of saying Thank You. But I'm pretty sure it won't.

In fact, if you were to ask Henry if he reads Roundseventeen, I'm sure his reply would be something like...

"Why would I read that asshole's shit?"

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Today's Topic: Mushroom

If I were to ask you to name the largest living thing on Earth you might be tempted to go with The Blue Whale. Or the Sperm Whale. Or the Grey Whale. To be honest, I have no ideas what separates the species.

If I were to narrow it down a little ask you to name the largest living thing on dry land, you might answer the Elephant. Or at one time, the Brontosaurus. Or Stegasaurus. Or something something-aurus, again, I'm an idiot when it comes to dinosaurs, but my nephew knows for sure.

If I were to narrow it down even further and ask you to name the largest living, plant or animal, you might pick the Giant Sequoia. Ditto.

But we live in a world inhabited not just by plants and animals, but by organisms.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you the lowly Mushroom. Or in this case, the not so lowly Oregon Honey Mushroom, the largest living organism on the planet. It's tucked away, fittingly, in Eastern Oregon, home to many Nazis and White Supremacists, and other bottom feeders.

Scientitians say the Mushroom can be more than 8,000 years old. Older than Joe Biden. And it covers more than 2200 acres, more than Precedent Shitgibbon's combover hair. If you were to scoop it up from the ground, it's estimated it would weigh up to 3500 tons.

You might be wondering why I'm so suddenly fascinated by mushrooms.

I had no choice as they have suddenly invaded my yard.

Moreover, the neighbors have invaded my yard, meaning people walking up and down the street have stopped to take snapshots of this fungal phenomena (Fungal Phenomena, great name for a band.)

Last week some old codger -- funny how I see older folks and make derisive comments about them yet fail to realize that at 44 years old I'm quickly becoming an old codger myself -- stopped to take some pictures with his big Cellular One flip phone. I stopped what I was doing, probably watch Sara Cooper videos or making my own memes about Captain Ouchie Foot, and stepped outside to chat with Grandpa.

Good thing I did. Because he explained what I was seeing in my yard, was literally just the tip of the fungal (love that word) iceberg. He said there was probably a gargantuan mushroom growing beneath the surface, eating up dead organisms, as fungi were made to to do.

All of which made sense because years ago we had cut down a huge tree in our yard. A tree with an invasive root system. The dead roots were left underground. And now, apparently, the mushroom had started eating away at it.

I asked Methusalah what I should do about the explosion of mushrooms on my lawn.

He said to do nothing. Let the ugly mushroom do its job, eventually this tentacled organism will scarf up as much as it can, and the unsightly, possibly toxic fungus will go away. And in a strange turn of events the decay from the mushroom will serve as nutrients for healthy, beautiful plants.

I know there's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A word about choices

Inspired by my recent Covid-related garage overhaul, some good friends of ours, longtime friends of ours, recently tore apart their car storage unit and uncovered some treasures. Including this picture of my wife and I from the early 90's. The early 1890's.

Thankfully, that awful pebbly sweater no longer exists. I believe it was donated to Goodwill or cut into pieces and turned into car washing rags.

It was stark reminder of a past life. Including my checkered hit or miss dating days. Clearly I won the jackpot when I met my wife, because let's face it, I'm not everyone's cup of tea. Frankly, I'm always surprised that I'm anyone's cup of tea.

That was made apparent last week as my long running social media political commentary came under attack. Not from some anonymous snaggled toothed hillbilly in Alabama, or even some pathetic clueless "doctor" from Kansas, but from people who I know and think highly of.

Or did.

You see, had they questioned my data or my sourcing or how I reached a certain opinion regarding the failed economy, the president's feckless mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis or even my assessment of GOP malevolence, that would be one thing. But, and I may be wrong here, they seemed more perturbed with my relentless hounding of one candidate to the exclusion of the other.

One former colleague even suggested that while I was, at one time, a good advertising writer I should not venture into politics because I didn't know what I was talking about. My robust data bank on the foibles of Commander Fuckknuckle suggest otherwise.

Indeed, they (meaning more than one) audaciously suggested how I could temper my position with posts about this, that and the other thing.

I think you can probably guess how that turned out.

I'm pretty thick skinned. In fact I'm thick everything. I have a thick neck, a thick nose, a thick waist, everything about me is thick. Except for my hairline. And so that type of criticism runs off me like water off my thick back.

I'm also of a certain age and a certain stage in my life, when I don't really care what others think of me. I'm not doing any of this to change votes or sway political opinions or win the most important election this country will ever face.

I'm simply venting.
I'm exercising my creative muscle.
And I'm expressing myself. And getting a few good laughs from the endeavor.

You don't have to like it. You don't even have to read it.

The mouse on my computer has a scrolling function. It allows me to skim past crap I don't want to see. If your mouse has the same capability, I suggest you use it.

Failing that, the stinging rebukes of the stupidest man on the planet will continue. And with every "Person Woman Man Camera TV" or "It is what it is" stumble, will no doubt increase in frequency up to the election.

Or, in the incomprehensible vernacular of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup: Sorry, not sorry.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Let's eat

For reasons I need not explain, my wife no longer visits the supermarket. Though she would give anything for that type of outting.

"A stroll down the produce aisle, that would be heaven. ROMAINE LETTUCE!!!" she pines.

And so the hunting and gathering of groceries falls on my broader than average shoulders -- I bench pressed 245 lbs. a few weeks ago. Only worth mentioning because I did it while I was drunk. And old.

I like going to the grocery store. I especially like going to the grocery store without my wife. Because it means we can get all the good stuff I like to eat: creamed herring, white horseradish and Red Hot tortilla chips, though not all at once.

You know, the foods she conveniently leaves off her list.

Also, I don't like the idea of a list. I prefer to go up and down the aisles and picture scenarios in the upcoming week where I might want Bubby's Jewish pickles, chocolate granola cereal or Teriyaki Beef Jerky. And then, mindlessly, I put them all in my cart.

Though we are a health driven family, given to high protein, natural produce, fewer carbs and even fewer saturated fats, these days it's hard not to push good nutrition to the side in favor of convenience.

We all work, my wife, myself and my finicky 24 year old daughter, who is whip smart and would make a great employee for any ad agency, production company or client side marketing department in search of a unicorn.

Hence, in my hunt for ease and convenience, I was gravitationally pulled toward the frozen food aisle, where I snagged three frozen DiGiorno pizzas. Thankfully, this newbie took a good long look at the boxes. Because I almost made the mistake of getting three Hawaiian style pizzas with pineapple.
That's not pizza in my book. That's an abomination. And the fact that Hawaiians eat pizza with pineapple as well as spam, makes me more than suspect and lead me to conclude we should allow them to secede from the union.

Sadly, the Syracuse-cold section of the supermarket did not have any frozen blintzes in stock. I know, I've made mention of this before, but I love blintzes. Again, apparently my wife doesn't, as she has never brought any home.

Compensating for this, I sallied back to the packaged food aisle and grabbed a few boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (cue the Celine Dion music). I was even lucky enough to snag a box with Disney's Frozen characters on the packaging (see above.)

I spent more than a good hour cruising the local Pavilions market, while sporting my FUCK TRUMP face mask.

I accumulated 10 bags of food, including my favorite bourbon, a tomahawk steak and enough beer to get me through a lockdown should we ever get out of the first Coronavirus wave and move into a second.

In total, I spent $413.79.

But I'm not done.

I'm going back tomorrow. That's when I'm told they'll be restocking the freezer with blintzes.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The King of Queens

I'm about 3/4 of the way through Mary Trump's new book detailing the more personal side of Grandpa Ramblemouth's ascent to the highest position on the planet. I'm still flabbergasted when I put those words to paper.

I probably should wait until finishing the 210 page tell-all, but between memeing, lifting weights, tree trimming, drain unclogging, dog poop picking upping, bill paying, groin muscle stretching and all the other activities that occupy a 44 year old man's working life, who knows when I'll get to finish the last 50 pages?

As I have noted before, The Donald and I share some scary similarities.

We are both first generation Americans, born to Scottish mothers.

We both spent our childhood in Queens, NY. He, in fancy schmancy Jamaica Estates. And me in Jackson Heights and Flushing. There's nothing remotely fancy schmancy about a place called Flushing.

And we both had severe, empathy-challenged, domineering fathers.

The first half of the book delves into great detail about Mary's father, Freddy (Trump's older alcoholic brother), who like me, was the first born son who bucked at following in his father's predetermined footsteps. It led Freddy to a rebellious life of excessive drinking and disease. It led me to advertising.

Donald, appears in the second half of the book, opportunistically shoving his older brother to the side and using his oily charm to step into his father's good graces. Not surprisingly that's where the money was at. He also tried the snake away all the money in the old man's will, but fell two ink strokes short of closing that deal.

From the very beginning we witness the habits, mannerisms and piss poor work ethic, that has followed him right into the Oval Office.

When his business ventures went south, he declared bankruptcy. And rather than learn his lesson, he doubled down on the very arrogance that landed him in Chapter 11. It got so bad that the folks at Deutschbank had to put him on a $450,000 a month allowance. And, if you hadn't guessed, Commander Fuckknuckle quickly ignored those limits and spent money as if he'd never have to pay the bills.

Which he often didn't.

It's that same refusal to be held accountable that has given us this.

As an avid Trump hater, and I have no shame about saying that. I HATE this man with a passion, for what he has done to this country and continues to do. And for what he hasn't done. As I write this, it is Saturday morning. The twitter machine has just told me he has arrived at his own private golf course, for the 7,925, 461st time.

Eleven days ago, and 6 months too late, he told a corps of press reporters and TV journalists (meaning it's on tape) that he was in the middle of "developing a very, very powerful strategy for dealing with coronavirus."

Apparently that strategy involves a fairway wood.

Fuck him.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Ahhhh, the freelance life.

Ever since I started writing Roundseventeen, I have made it a point to mark an anniversary.

This year, amidst the mask wearing, the hand washing and the nail biting over the fate of our beloved country, I somehow forgot to pen the annual post. And so, two months late, I am penning that obligatory post.

I remember the day in June, 2004 as if it were yesterday. Hell every day seems like yesterday. And every tomorrow feels like today. Or something profound like that.

I was coming home from my job down in Irvine, California. Home of chain restaurants, faux Mediterranean residential architecture, and intellectually challenged, mask averse people who regularly appear in internet memes because they want to believe this whole pandemic is a hoax. Or worse, a devilish government plot and 5G towers.

I'm not clear on the mechanics of that, but neither are they.

The drive from the parking lot at Y&R/Irvine to my home in Culver City is (was) 56.3 miles. But who's counting? And that's only if I snagged one of the prime parking spots, which I never did because of my late arrival because the drive is 56.3 miles. Did I mention that?

On this one particularly horrendous commute home, there were snags on the 405, the 90, and the 605. Culminating with a jack-knifed truck on the westbound 105. In sum, it took me an hour and 45 minutes to traverse the 56.3 miles. By the time I walked in the front door, my two daughters had been tucked in and gone to bed. Meaning I would not get a chance to read Zundl The Tailor to them.

As I was eating dinner, by myself, and pulling the last hairs from my head, hairs # 137, 138 & 139, I turned to my wife and said, "I don't know how much longer I can do this."

The job was not all that rewarding. We were doing respectable car work for Jaguar (nothing great). And  I had some good kids in my group, many of whom have gone on to become awarded creative directors. And I was working with an industry legend, John Doyle, and another industry hero, my buddy John Hage. But that damned 56.3 mile commute was ripping the life from me.

"Why don't you quit?" my wife said in a her quiet, nonplussed wise way.

"I can't just quit. I don't have another job to go to. And there just aren't a lot of agencies who are going to hire a 44 year old writer making that kind of money."

She was too busy cleaning off the kitchen counter and putting away the leftovers. She shrugged her shoulders and repeated her earlier advice, "Just quit. It'll work out. It always does."

And so, for the first time in my advertising career, I left a job voluntarily, without having another job offer waiting in the wings.

In a fateful instant I had ceased to be a highly remunerated Group Creative Director, SVP at a major Holding Company ad agency and had become an unemployed freelance copywriter, with no plans but to not drive my car for as long as possible.

It was the best decision I have ever made in my life.

Except for the decision to marry my wife.
Except for the decision to listen to my wife and buy a house in Culver City.
Except for the decision of heeding my wife's advice again and putting a second story on the house and installing that expensive quartz counter in the master bathroom.

Let's just say it was good decision.

Because my freelance career blossomed. Soon I was booked. Double booked. And even triple booked. Making more money in one year than many CCO's, burdened with clients, shareholder worries, and dusk to midnight meetings. The kind of life that lands many in my shoes in Divorce Court or an early start on the Dirt Nap.

It's been, and continues to be, a great ride. Allowing me to do the thing (perhaps the only thing) I enjoy most about being in advertising -- the writing.

My only hope is that this trajectory continues. And that I am still clicking and clacking and cashing checks until I'm the ripe old age of 45.