Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Bionic Copywriter


"Rich Siegel, 44 year old copywriter. A man barely alive. Weighed down by the endless need for more urgent CTAs and more disruptive Subject Lines, not to mention the never-ending financial requests of his two underpaid daughters. 

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world's first bionic copywriter. 

Rich Siegel will be that man. Better than he was before. Better...stronger...faster." 

T-minus 4 days until I go under the knife to have my left hip ripped from its socket. The ball joint chopped off with a hospital-grade Black & Decker jig saw and replaced with the Smith & Nephew Titanium Glidematic 9000 Series K.

I'm told that after it's done I'll be asking myself why I waited so long. 

But at this point, having never spent a night in the hospital nor experienced any surgery (except when I split my finger open in a weightlifting accident on my birthday and required 11 painful stitches on my wedding finger) I am naturally apprehensive about the whole affair.

In light of this new mishigas, I'm debating whether I should be prepared and write all of next week's blog's posting in advance on Saturday morning, as I usually do. 

Or, go all Charles Bukowski and wait until I under the hazy spell of military grade painkillers and let the rebooted synapses spark where they will.

Mmmm, chemically-induced false euphoria.


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

K9 Love


There are so many good things about getting away, even if it's only for a few days. And even if the temperature soars into the triple digits. And even if the previous campers left a dookie in the campsite without properly burying said offensive material. 

Alright maybe getting away is overrated. 

But there is little that can match the excitement of seeing your dog again and getting all mushy about her unconditional love.

I see a lot of videos of combat vets coming home to their dogs. As well as folks who lost their dogs years ago and have only recently been re-united. If you watch enough of these you know that the doggies often don't put the face to the owner. 

There's a weird hesitation.

It's only after the olfactory juices kick that the mayhem begins.

Lucy and I have been inseparable since the day we brought her home from the rescue shelter three years ago. She attached herself to me like one of those Remora fish that never leaves its shark's side. 

I go to sleep and Lucy goes to sleep right next to my side of the bed.

I go to eat dinner, Lucy sidles up beside me to get anything that might not make it into my oversized jaws.

I go to to launch a lifeboat off the SS Assitania, and Lucy slides in at the last minute to disturbingly watch me do my business.

So when she saw me after a tortuous 4 days of not seeing me, I thought the reaction would be more explosive.

It wasn't.

Until 20 seconds had passed and she got a strong whiff of me, which my wife and daughter's will tell you does not require one full third of a minute.

After that, all hell broke loose. She started crying and whining. and wagging her tail faster than a Palm Springs windmill. Had a turbine been hooked to her tail, we could have gone a month without consuming a single gigawatt from SoCal Edison.

It's been about 36 hours since our return from Upper Greys Meadow, a five star campsite I recommend heartily, and I have almost tripped over her three times.

I'm not complaining however. Considering the eyerolls, the defiance, the whispers behind my back from my girls and my wife, it's clear I should be happy that at least I've earned the love of one resident in this house.


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Camping adventures 2021


Not that anybody noticed, and I sure hope they didn't, but I have been away from my computer, away from social media and away from the world for the past days.

For the 18th time in the last 20 years, we joined our friends the Levys and the Sinfield, and made our way to Upper Gray's Meadow, 7000 feet above the town of Independence, CA. Just a stone's throw from Manzanar Internment Camp, another shameful chapter in our country's history. 

This year, unlike every other year, we traded in our uneven and often rocky tenting space and the Cabinmaster 8000 Series 6 person(?) tent with the unzippable zippers for something a bit more accommodating.


Oh yeah, we stepped up in a major way. 

Mostly for my wife's comfort. But also because the thought of crawling out of my damn tent 7 times a night to empty my overactive bladder, filled with Mojitos and Corona Lights brought on a steady stream of nihilistic dark thoughts. 

Instead I opted for a comfy queen size bed and a flushable toilet just inches away from my feet where my clean flop flops awaited. And wouldn't you know it, ensconced in our rented luxurious 2021 Ram Coachman Nova, with the easy-on generator, on command hot shower and unheard of air conditioning to ward off the 3 digit temperatures, I only had to venture out of bed once the entire evening.

I was in heaven. Who knew heaven was just off scenic route 395 in the heart of MAGA country. 

Quick aside: While fueling up in Lone Pine for the return trip, we stopped at a Carl's/Shell station. There are a lot of these odd combos up here in MAGALand; The Pizza Hut/Ace Hardware store, The Taco Bell/Bed, Bath and Beyond and the Subway/Hobby Lobby. 

As my wife was exiting the store, she noticed a tattooed, bucktooth local yelling at an Asian family, all wearing the appropriate Covid-prevention devices.

"Take off your fucking masks, you pussies."

To which my wife, even not at full strength, responded, "Mind your own fucking business."

I love her feistiness. And her incomparable sense of right and wrong.

Thankfully, the brain addled local did not hear her as he was hightailing his way to the park across the street to smoke some Meth.

God Bless America.

Good to be back.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

A little R&R


Gone camping, if you can call this camping. 

See ya next week. 

Maybe.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Juggling 101


There is an old anecdote, documented by Walter Isaacson in his book JOBS, about a meeting involving Steve Jobs and my old boss, Lee Clow.

It is said that Steve wanted to add a few copy points to a thirty second commercial, you know that old school media stuff. Allegedly, Lee stopped Steve in his tracks and crumpled up several pieces of paper. He then slid the balls of crumpled paper to Steve and asked, "If I asked you to juggle, which would be easier with 1 or 2 balls or 5 balls?"

Steve did not pick up the wads of paper and start juggling. The point was made that 'Less is More.'

I don't know if this is true. In all my years of working with Lee, I can safely say he not given to boardroom theatrics. 

Except when we were pitching the Wall St. Journal. After several trips to NYC for chemistry checks and the mandatory factory tour of the WSJ newsroom, we had a very good feeling we were going to win the account. So good in fact that a week before the decision was made, the brass from WSJ came to visit our sprawling Playa Vista campus and were met by 1000 employees, all sporting business suits. Including the tall grey bearded one.

Goodby Silverstein won the account.

Nevertheless, the original point stands, "less is more." 

It's something I've been saying for years. You've been saying for years. And clients have been ignoring for years.

Last week for instance, my daughter convinced me to sign up for a new pre-packaged food delivery service. To ease our busy schedule and to eat good fresh, low carb food. Now the good folks at Hello Fresh won't stop sending me e-mails.

I'm not interested in their emails, I'm interested in their gluten-free carnitas tacos and their Mayo/Siracha sauce.

Tomorrow, we are going camping in our luxury RV rental. But before we can leave town I have to skip a week of food delivery with Hello Fresh. A task easier said than done because to find the option to Skip A week, I have to plow through 37 web pages of promos and other assorted non-sense.

It is, like so many things on the Internet, so complicated.

A testament to a point I have made years ago; this country doesn't have an unemployment problem, we have an over-employment problem. We have too many people shouting too many messages.

Pick up one ball and juggle.



Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The Tale of Patient #996275


A surgical waiting room is nowhere you want to be. Though I will say the one at the UCLA hospital in Santa Monica, a newly built facility that was quirkily designed to look like an old mission style building, is surprisingly comfortable.

The room is fitted with a huge flat screen TV. Once your loved one is admitted into surgery you are given a 6 digit number. And you can follow the progress of each patient's procedure as it is broadcast over the TV. If you've ever been to Vegas, it's like a big Keno board. 

And there is ample Wifi. So that the tortuous wait can be relieved, momentarily, by iPhone distraction.

None of which can erase the tension, anxiety and dread that fills the 1000 square foot room. 

I watched as a teenage boy with his arm in a cast, was nervously waiting to be admitted. Despite his massive size, about 6 foot 3 and weighing in over 300 lbs., he was tearing up like a baby.

An older woman, sporting fancy pearls and aided by her emotional support dog, escorted her frail husband into the room. I couldn't help overhearing her as she chided the admittance nurse over some billing questions. 

I get it. The bills and paperwork of modern healthcare are today's equivalent of the Gordian Knot. Nevertheless her outburst was uncalled for. 

To top it all off, I noticed I had a minute long message from an unrecognized number. My wife's doctor had butt-dialed me during the operation at the precise moment my wife was having an adverse reaction to the sedatives. That freaked me out. Particularly when the doctor turned to the nurse and said my wife "freaking out."

I found out later that the nurse literally had to slap my wife in the face to snap her out of whatever was going on. We laugh now. Actually, we're still laughing.

And then, later in the day, having sat and squirmed in my chair for 7 hours, I noticed a tall, skinny Asian doctor, still in his scrubs, walk into the room and kneel by a young African American woman sitting alone in the corner. He was sharing the results of her ,loved one's surgery. And even though she was wearing a mask I could tell she was hanging on every word. 

Finally, he delivered the good news. 

Her shoulders dropped. And as if to counterbalance that huge weight, her face lifted. Her eyes smiled. I mean her eyes literally smiled. I don't know if I've ever seen a purer expression of Joy in my life. I do know I will never forget that moment. 

For a brief minute, I selfishly stole her joy and imagined our doctor bringing me the same good news. 

An hour later I was summoned to the Surgical Recovery Room to see my wife, whose procedure, with the exception of the anesthesialogical mishap, went "perfectly. 

I grabbed my bag and made my way to the recovery area, but before I did I walked over to the young woman and thanked her. I told her why. And through our blue paper masks, we smiled at each other and exchanged a human moment.

She thanked me. 

And we went back to being strangers.




Monday, July 19, 2021

The Self Immolation of Precedent Shitgibbon


I will not lie, I wake up every morning fresh with the hope that today will be the day the pivotal piece in the Trump/Jenga Tower will be dislodged and it will all come tumbling down in a monumental fiasco worthy of Pay Per View.

But if I have learned one thing over the past 5 years it is that the wheels of justice move painfully slow, slower than the completion of the new big and beautiful Trump Healthcare plan. 

Moreover, because politics are involved, the calculus is complex and perhaps can only be deciphered by Mohammed ben Patel, the mind-boggling brilliant Pakistani student who sat next to me in Math 595, Advanced Differential Equations, while a student at Syracuse University.

In all likelihood, justice will not be delivered in one swift blow, but like the feckless fascist regime he towered over, it will manifest itself in a series of a thousand small cuts.

This morning, for instance I arose to news that Brett Baier, one of the GOP toadies at Fox, had declared the election was "not stolen" and there had been no "massive widespread fraud." 

In Arizona. Or Anywhere.

This was quickly followed by a late night dispatch from the boudoir at Bedminster wherein Captain Ouchie Foot threw a humiliating word salad tantrum and swore off his former friends at Fox.

At least for 23 hours, until Tucker or Hannity or Pirro return to the airwaves for that oh-so-pleasant public taint licking.

I will be the first to admit that I am unhealthily obsessed with this fishbrained jack wagon. I want to see him go down and I want it to hurt. For him and his entire morally-bankrupt, maggot-infested family. I want it to hurt because having closely followed his fascist regime of cruelty and incompetence, I have an amateur journalist's clear-eyed view of the damage he has inflicted on this country. 

Including, but not limited to:

* 600,000 unnecessary Covid deaths 

* Thousands kicked off healthcare

* Trillions of dollars added to our national debt

* Thousands of innocent refugee children separated from the their parents

* Billions of dollars given to super wealthy American oligarchs

* Weaponization of the DOJ, Intel Community, the Pentagon

* Bastardization of the Supreme Court

* Corruption on an unheard level

* Degradation of American leadership around the world

* Nurturing of domestic white supremacist terrorists

* A failed coup and the continued attacks on American democracy

(TAKES DEEP BREATH AND EYES THE XANAX IN THE MEDICINE CABINET)

And so I've resigned myself that this sordid chapter in American history will not have the satisfying conclusion that one might recall from the Shawshank Redemption.

Instead, I'm teaching myself to savor every little bite and pace myself. Like that time my parents took us to Farrell's Ice Cream and set before us put a trough of hot fudge and sprinkle covered delights. 

Mmmmm, Farrell's.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

A thoughtful Thursday


Years ago, while freelancing at Campbell Ewald in Los Angeles, I wrote a quiet and serious commercial for Kaiser Permanente, not my strong suit by any means. 

It centered around a woman coming out of a doctor's office and getting in the minivan with her family.

After a long uncomfortable pause, we cut inside the minivan and see the father and the kids crying.

VO: When you get cancer, the whole family gets cancer.

The Chief Creative Officer said the story and the restrained way it was told, made her cry.

I had no idea when writing this spot how prescient it would be. 

About a year and a half ago, I had to rush my wife to the emergency room for a stabbing pain she had in her back. It turned out to be a 3 AM inflammation of a kidney stone -- these things always happen at 3 AM, like smoke detector batteries.

While the hospital was doing the scans, they found a large tumor on my wife's liver. And two days later, we received the news that knocked our lives off the foundation. 

I share a lot about my life on this blog but was hesitant to share this. It is not easy, but cancer never is. However, watching my Debbie go through what she has gone through in the past 16 months has given me a strength I did not know I had. 

People will joke that having lived with me for close to thirty years has made my wife battle-tested. And there can be no doubt about that. And to be sure, the endless chemo treatments have certainly pushed her to the edge. 

Sometimes I wonder which is worse, the cancer that has thankfully not affected her liver function, or the chemo treatments which have the knockout power of a Tyson uppercut.

Nevertheless, she has persisted.

This morning, I am at UCLA hospital, in my biased view the best healthcare people in the world. And today Deb will be getting the Y90 radiation treatment which literally injects minuscule radioactive pellets into the tumor, hopefully obliterating it and putting us on a strict managed regimen. 

The world of Oncology has changed so much since cancer took my father's life more than 30 years ago. And thanks to the internet, and a little bit of maturity, I've learned so much about it. The helplessness with dealing with my wife's pain can only be countered by vigorous research and self education. 

I have made it my job to stay informed. And so we are, and remain, optimistic

I say all this, not to elicit pity. Nor for your thoughts and prayers, I think I've made it clear on my relationship with god. And right now we are not on speaking terms. Debbie is more spiritually sanguine, so Positivity, whether divine or earthly, is always welcome.

But for the 8 people who read this blog regularly, I thoroughly endorse regular visits to the doctor with an eye towards early detection. And that goes doubly to you fellas who don't relish that finger in the butt. 

It's a small price to pay to get your prostate checked and it's good grist for the mill when you're drinking with your buddies and need a good cheap laugh.

Finally, on a political note. 

This is where our leaders have failed us. Both Republican and Democrat. Cancer affects us all. Maybe billionaires could cool it with the dick-measuring space flights and do something valuable with their money. Fighting cancer should be made a national priority, in the private sector and the public one as well. 

We have the resources, the technology, the imagination and the wherewithal to tell Cancer to...

...Fuck Off.



Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Book Review


I'm not in the habit of pimping other people books, particularly when they are about advertising. 

And particularly not when my book RoundSeventeen &1/2: The Names have been Changed to Protect the Inefficient, is currently languishing on the Amazon sales chart at about 2,783,941. Right behind #23 in the Survivorman's Guide: How to Recoup the Nutrients in your Own Poop.

But in Thomas Kemeny's case, I will make an exception. 

I just finished his debut book, Junior, Writing Your Way Ahead in Advertising. And when I say finished I mean I polished it off in an afternoon, in between a session on the bench press, taking out the garbage and nailing a plastic decoy owl to my pergola to ward off the Norwegian Tree Rats.

The book is mercifully short. 

I say mercifully because, and I think Thomas would agree, no one wants to read that much about our business. In fact, after living in Los Angeles, the entertainment capitol of the world, for so long, I can tell you people outside of this business don't want to read about it all.

But Mr. Kemeny's book is written for a specific audience -- those who want to get in. 

For the life of me I don't know why anyone would? The hours are long, the stress is tortuous, and the pay...well, the pay is about 1/3 of what it was when I was coming up through the ranks. Of course, we didn't have free Le Croix water stocked in the fridge and that seems to be the big selling point of most ad agencies these days.

But I digress. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Kemeny's book. Particularly the first half when he reviews his exploits of getting his first break at Crispin Porter. His confidence and willingness to break all the rules of business engagement was refreshing. I wish I had half that swagger at that point in my career.

Instead, I followed the staid directions of people like Maxine Paetro and ended up writing crappy Help Wanted ads in Recruitment Advertising for three years. 


Thanks Maxine.

Not only did I enjoy reading Junior, this grizzled old 44 year old learned some new tricks. Which I plan to start employing in the email blasts, banners and CTA buttons I now craft on a daily basis.

Maybe I'll start working on a companion book to Mr. Kemeny's, Seasoned Senior, Writing Your Way OUT of Advertising.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Ebb and flow


I never held the purse strings at any of the ad agencies where I toiled for so many years. And so, perhaps this opinion piece is borne of naΓ―vetΓ©.

However, as I climbed the corporate ladder, I had increasing contact with the people who made those financial decisions. 

Similarly, as someone in upper middle management, I had increased contact with the people who actually did the work of coming up with ideas, designing and writing the advertising, as well as the incumbent production and distribution of the fruits of that labor.

As such I heard many tales like this.

"I  haven't had a raise or a bonus in 4 years."

"I haven't spent a weekend  at home in 8 months."

"I have to leave this job at 5:30 so I can get to my other one by 6." 

And try as I might to have fixed those type of situations, they were always met with, "Well, we're tightening our belts and can't afford those kind of monetary niceties this year."

Sometimes, more than ironically, those retorts came in the form of a text, from C-suiters lounging on the deck of a rented yacht.

Anchored in Cannes. 

In France. 

In Europe.

As a result many of my former colleagues left and went to work in-house or at a PR agency or even at any number of emerging production/media companies.

Yesterday, I read an interview with a newly appointed CEO of Marketing at a big Hollywood talent agency, UTA. 

He went on to explain how old legendary media -- meaning commercials, print ads and OOH -- no longer worked in today's changing landscape. And how UTA was uniquely positioned to come in and scoop up all those ad dollars by integrating commercial messaging into movies, TV shows and streaming entertainment.

That may work for big well known brands like Delta or Toyota, but I don't see how that's going to play out for minor players like Hellman's Mayonnaise or Drano Liquid Gel.

Thankfully, as someone no longer employed in the ad agency world, that's no longer my problem.

But I will cop to some serious schadenfreude as I watch big agencies crumble, consolidate and attempt to squeeze every last droplet of profit from a raisin they left in the microwave. 

And can't help but feel the people at the top would not be hurting so much if they had taken the time to listen and respond to the people at the bottom.


Monday, July 12, 2021

The nerve of the YIMBYs


I have called Culver City my home for more than 30 years. 

I first rented a crappy little studio apartment here, because it was all I could afford. And slept on a mattress that sat on the floor. The mattress was also my couch. It made such a great impression with the ladies.

Later I moved into a flop house with the Jennewein brothers. They already had a couch, so the mattress went into a bedroom, cue the music from the Jeffersons.

After that, I secured a loan from my family so I could put a down payment on a condominium in Heather Village. I was on the second floor. My third floor upstairs neighbors were in-home aerobics instructors.

Finally, my wife and I pooled our money together and bought the shabbiest tiny house in Carlson Park. It took us years to remove the carpet, the old lady scalloping, the caked on linoleum which had been used to line the kitchen shelves, and a dozen layers of paint.

Later we added a second story to the house because finding a bigger house in West LA was just not in my budget. Or the budget of 99% of Americans.

I am providing this longwinded timeline for a reason. 

Because as of late, a small group of misguided social engineering schmucks want me to forfeit the years of hard work, careful financial management and emotional attachment to my house, so that they can "up zone" my neighborhood and literally take away all that I have worked for. 

They'd like to turn my R1 zoned community into a higher density R4 zoned community, allegedly to make room for affordable housing. Yet when asked how this "affordable housing scheme" would work, they are painfully low on answers. And insultingly high on left wing progressive pejoratives.

"You're just a selfish right wing Republican." (Wrong)

"You're a racist." (Wrong)

"You're one of those people who thinks 'I got mine, you get yours.'" (OK, not so wrong)

Those of you who know me or have read a week's worth of this blog know I'm the furthest thing from a right wing Republican, particularly the Republican Party of 2021. 

Also, neighbors on either side of my house are people of color, as well as the house two doors down and the house across the street. I have no problems living with any of these folks. Some of their yapping dogs on the other hand...

But I do take serious issue with people who believe they're entitled to live in this admittedly expensive neighborhood by ripping up single family homes and putting in dense apartment buildings. And that the government should help them do so! 

WTGDF.

What happened to the notion of hard work, sacrifice, patience, setbacks, persistence and blood, sweat and tears? When I was in my late 20's and early 30's I wanted an oceanfront home in Malibu, a restored 1967 SS Camaro and a couch.

It never occurred to me to write a letter to someone in the government to ask for that.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Kids!!!


I'll be the first to admit it, when it comes to internet sensations, I am usually the last to the party. 

This is understandable as I don't Tok Tok and I don't follow Instagram, even though I have two profiles on IG.

It's just not a worthy use of my time. Particularly when there are 74 million unimaginably clueless Red Hats out there that NEED to be school and deprogrammed -- a thankless job I have assigned to myself.

Last week, a Scottish Facebook friend with a howling, out-of-oxygen laugh like my late Scottish mother posted a video of Marleigh, the Yeet baby. She and her uncle Chris are known to millions of work procrastinators. 

And I think you can see why.

Watch this three minute video.

I asked my daughter if she had heard of this phenomena and of course she had. That was after she rolled her eyes at me and took the last piece of perfectly cooked Uncured Applewood Bacon.

Not only did she know about it, my bacon-hogging daughter had dug her curious claws into this story and while ago and had read how Uncle Chris' reaction to the many, many, many spills and messes Marleigh had made were textbook positive reactions and an example of what apparently millions of parents should model.

At that point she glared at me as if to say, 

"Remember all the times you snapped at me for spilling the OJ or knocking over a tent or misprinting a fence or hitting the garbage can with the car or leaving the refrigerator door open or not replacing the toilet paper roll or putting unranked dishes in the dishwasher or not making the bed or not putting the gas cap back on the car or leaving the Superglue out or recording over the basketball game on the DVR..."

I'm sure she kept going, but I was already in my car to go to the supermarket for more bacon. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

passing the baton


I'm sure it hasn't escaped your attention, but I do a lot less complaining, ranting or even writing about the advertising business lately. More likely it has escaped your attention because let's be honest, no one follows this long-in-the-tooth blog that regularly. 

It's embarrassingly immodest of me to assume anyone does.

Nevertheless, I rarely, if ever, rag, on the business that has delivered so much grist for the mill for the last twelve years. 

Mostly because I've tackled every topic known to the overworked ad man and ad woman. And more accurately because other bloggers like George Tannenbaum, Bob Hoffman and even the more sporadic Jeff Gelberg, do a fine job taking down what was once the best, and most gleefully decadent, business on earth, advertising.

Even more accurately, I don't dare bite the hand that feeds me now that I am steadily, if not a bit underemployed as a staffer and dare not rock that boat and put at risk my incredible health benefits.

And while I no longer sling darts and arrows at the industry that put a roof over my head and overfed the bursar's office at two out of state universities, I'm happy to introduce you to a new blogger that does; a fellow copywriter who brings much more flair and well-hewn breeziness to the endeavor, Mr. Jeff Eaker.

In other words, I am passing the baton, as if I were ever holding one, to a writer who deserves your attention. 

And a blog that merits a bookmark -- https://kingdomoffailure.blogspot.com.

I am in now way suggesting you stop visiting the well-worn digital pages of RoundSeventeen, though to be clear I have long since stopped measuring my traffic and page views. I am simply suggesting you sample some casserole from long buffet of Cranky Jewish Writers Who Could Be Playing Golf But Prefer To Endlessly Vent Their Frustrations Via Clicking And Clacking.

Jeff, if you're inclined, a bottle of Noah's Mill Rye Whiskey would be nice.



Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Fair is foul and foul is fair


I might have mentioned this one or two times in the past, but I enjoy Jeopardy. It's sort of a family staple here in the Siegel household. And lately when my oldest daughter comes over for a free dinner or to wash her clothes or pilfer some furniture for her new apartment, she has been kicking my ASS.

It wasn't always like that. 

In the past my wife and two daughters would watch and grit their teeth as I consistently blurted out the answer -- questions -- before anyone in the room could. This was especially annoying to them and conversely rewarding to me, during the Final Jeopardy phase.

"Who is Rachmaninov?"

"What is Lichtenstein?"

"Who were the 1969 Baltimore Colts?"

To be frank, I don't know how some of these factoids lodged themselves in my brain, they just did. When it comes to trivia I am a font of uselessness. Just don't ask me to name any of my wife's cousins or describe any of the branches on her amazingly large and confusing family tree. 

Unlike my family tree which is more like a bonsai consisting of: We don't speak anymore or he owes me money or she tried to sue me once.

Likewise, don't ask me anything about Royals, be it from England, Spain or hellishly hot Saudi Arabia. The medieval concept of blue blood and the generations of their inbred descendants does not interest me in the least. Nor am I interested in the drama or the pomp and circumstance that accompanies their every movement.

If I'm gonna carve out any real estate in my brain to follow a family and their daily travails, it will be the Corleones, or the Sopranos, or the Sacklers, or even the always-colorful misdeeds of Precedent Shitgibbon and his line of unstable ungeniuses.

On a slightly similar and highly embarrassing note, I know little, if not nothing about the royals Shakespeare wrote about. Which explains why I will never have any credibility amongst, or among, my friends who are real writers. In fact the only piece written by the Bard with which I have any familiarity, is Macbeth. 

And then only because I had a small role in our school production. I played the nameless Drunken Porter. It might have been some prescient typecasting.

Consequently, when Jeopardy features Shakespeare as one of the Double Jeopardy categories, I am shamefully reduced to:

What is Macbeth?

What is Macbeth?

What is Macbeth?

What is Macbeth?

What is Macbeth?

I usually have a 20% chance of getting one right.



Thursday, July 1, 2021

Tomatoes - 3, Rats -- 1


Things happen.

Unexplainable things.

Let me back the truck a little to explain. Last year, in fact for the last couple of years, we have not had much success with our annual garden of tomatoes, cucumbers, and gut-exploding hot peppers. As I explained to a colleague this week, I do not suffer from Jew Stomach and can tolerate as well as enjoy the most fiery fruits to arise from the ground.

The poor bounty is hard to explain, since, at the nagging of my wife, I had gone out of my way to water the veggies with painful regularity. That it turns out was my first mistake. 

The helpful clerk at the nursery advised me to water three times a week instead of my previous fourteen. And low and behold, with July not yet upon us, the garden is bearing fruit. Or shall I say vegetables. We have two cucumber plants doing amazing. My Serranos and Habaneros are already turning color and turning my intestines into a blast furnace. And one of on my tomato plants already has more than a dozen orbs getting bigger by the day.

As I was checking one of the larger tomatoes at the bottom, steam started exploding from my ears. Turns out, it had been nibbled on by a squirrel. Or worse, one of the many Norwegian Tree Rats that scurry about the neighborhood in the wee hours of the evening.

Upon further examination, I had to pluck three green unripened tomatoes that been ravaged by some sneaky rodent. That was three days ago. And I am still fuming about my bounty being pirated.

No sooner had I got done griping about the theft and complaining to my wife, producing the expected eye roll, did I see this infographic (see above) come across my computer screen. It is the perfect summation of my agricultural woes.

Like I said, things happen.

That is not to say I haven't exacted my revenge. I have.

Contrary to that old maxim about not being able to build a better a better mousetrap, some clever engineers in China who work wonders with molded plastic have done exactly that. 

And thanks to the algorithmically agile folks at Amazon, I now have in my possession two KatSense Covered Rat and Chipmunk Traps™.

And they work. 

Even on the oversized, overfed bullies of the litter.