Monday, December 20, 2021

End of Year Sabbatical


RoundSeventeen will be away for a while due to family circumstances.

 Until then, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Please hug the ones you love and squeeze them tight. There's magic in that warmth.

My New Year's resolution is to be a better friend to all who have extended their warmth and assistance to my family.




Thursday, December 16, 2021

Thursday Photo Funnies


It's been a while since I've done a Thursday Photo Funnies posting. Those of you who were National Lampoon fans, might notice how I have nicked the title for my own usage.

As a reminder, the Photo Funnies takes us on a journey through the very eclectic collection of digital photos on my iPhone. The choices were much more varied in the Before Times. And by that I mean when my hip was functional and I had the free time to walkabout Culver City, hike the stairs and not have to dodge homeless encampments on the sidewalk.

Now my sojourns take me to all corners of the inter webs, where I am particularly fascinated with white supremacists and more specifically white supremacists -- like the one pictured above -- who somehow evade the Woke Police and do not land themselves in FB Jail. 


Here's another toolbag who apparently has NOT violated Facebook's 
highly fluid Community standards.



And here's another, who brazenly took a potshot at
Big Nose Zuckerberg.



On a lighter note, here's a shot I snapped
while riding my Peloton. This scenic ride took me thru Peru and 
a first hand look at their wooly kangaroos.




A great ad from my former Team One colleagues
who set the bar for luxury car advertising and literally built
the Lexus brand. Kudos.




This requires little in the way of explanation.



Neither does this.




Nor this. I love how Red Hats own themselves.



This is a tiny caganer figurine, given to me by a friend who
had recently toured the Iberian Peninsula. It's now a family heirloom.


A surprising hefty nameplate from my first job 
at the old Chiat/Day warehouse. Best. Job. Ever.


And finally there's this, mobile chiropractic services for your dog and/or cat.
So damn Los Angeles.









Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Monkey Talk

 


As many of you over 40 years of age know, Michael Nesmith of the Monkees passed away last week. Of all the Monkees, I believe he was my favorite. He had a very dry wit about him. Not unlike George Harrison in the Beatles. Actually all the Beatles had an exceptional sense of wit and humor, watch their black and white movies for evidence.

Oddly enough, by way of marriage, several marriages, I have a relationship with one of the Monkees -- Peter Torkelson, who passed away in 2019. 

He was married to my ex-brother-in-laws sister. I met her but never met Peter. They all live in the suburbs of Boston and with the exception of Bat and Bar Mitzvahs, only got back to Massachusetts a few times.

Which between us girls was a lifesaver because after 3-4 days of that accent, I felt parts of my brain searching for the porthole to the large intestine and eventual escape. Plus I was born in the Bronx. 

Go Yankees!

But here's where the story gets semi-interesting.

As I was toiling as copywriter for Bernard Hodes Advertising and my buddy Jim was toiling as an in-house copywriter for Teleflora (The Beautiful Banquet Bouquet, was $8.99, now only $7.99), we both spent our free time chasing women and writing spec TV scripts. Rarely succeeding at either.

Somehow, and neither of us remembers how, we managed to swing a pitch meeting with the Executive Producer of The New Monkees. That's right, in 1987 some ambitious cable TV network execs thought it'd be a good idea to get the band back together. Not the original band, but new, peppier, edgier, Flock of Seagulls haircut young lads who could breathe new life into the Monkees franchise.

What, you don't remember the colorful, high flying antics of Dino, Larry, Marty and the other forgettable schmuck? I can't imagine why, but I can show you the opening credits to the show which unsurprisingly only lasted 1 season, much to the dismay of 13 regular viewers and the Executive Producer's mother.

You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pUFWumxo7Q&t=1s

I spoke with Jim last week and while he remembered our nervous trip up to Universal or Warner Bros. lot, he doesn't recall much else about the meeting. Considering Jim and his writing partner Tom would eventually find themselves pitching movie ideas to Steven Spielberg and a host of other Top Shelf directors and producers, it's little wonder he wiped this New Monkees debacle from his mind.

My career in Hollywood was inglorious and mercifully short-lived, so you'd think I might have some vague idea of what we pitched. I don't. I only know that because it was our first pitch meeting and could've have gained us entry into that world, we didn't come with one idea, we came with a dozen.

All of them equally pathetic and stupid, which if you watched the opening credits was the currency of the realm. I suspect they were somewhere along these lines:

1. In this one, Larry breaks a pinky and can't play guitar so the New Monkees have to audition a new member for an upcoming tour. Hilarity ensues.

2. Helen, the Artificial Intelligent House Mother makes chili for the boys and they all get food poisoning.

3. The band takes a road trip and gets stranded in the high desert town of Boron. 

...and on and on, it went.

We didn't sell any ideas. Nor did we write any scripts. We didn't hitch our star to that of the New Monkees.

Bullet dodged.


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Tale of Becky Richards


 

You know me, I love a good scam. Not the scam itself, people who phish the internet looking for marks are scum. No, I love to scam the scammer.

Recently, I've been spending more time on Twitter, fighting the good fight and combating the GOP forces of disinformation. Oh and trolling shitheels like Boebert, Greene and Joel Osteen, he, of the cash hidden behind the bathroom drywall fame. 

A few weeks ago, I received a DM on Twitter from Becky Richard. She was looking for a friend. And I thought it must be difficult for an incredibly attractive, accomplished swimmer in her late 20's to make friends, so I took Becky up on her offer.

And with that we had begun to dance.

Becky wasted no time throwing chum more in the water.



It should be noted that I never go by the name Dick. And only used it in my twitter handle(@glasgowdick), along with Glasgow (my mother's birthplace) as a lark and never thought I'd be on the platform past 2007. 

But it served its purposes here very well.


Oh Becky, you not-so-little minx.

I knew that the request for $$$ was coming soon, but Becky was going to have to do some legwork before she saw a dime.


Naturally I obliged her curiosity.

Years ago, some vision-impaired friend said I bore a slight resemblance to Marlon Brando. It might have been the nicest compliment I ever received regarding my appearance. So I stored that in the mental vault. It too served its purpose here.



A week later Becky tipped her hand. With the rather juvenile Ask. I knew this was coming. I also knew that Becky was not Becky. I did a Reverse Image Search -- a great Google tool -- and discovered he/she/it was using a picture of a British Porn Star, Scarlett Jones, to lure unwitting victims. 

Further research reveals Scarlett has no problem making friends.

Now is when the fun begins...


Can you just feel the sexual tension?

I decided to string this out and make "Becky" who I picture as a 14 year old boy who is too clever for his own good, salivating over the thought of a free $100 Google Play Card so he can get Call of Duty 23 or Halo or whatever it is kids are playing these days.


Then, playing the role of a tech-delinquent, stupid old man -- not particularly difficult for me -- I asked for further instructions about getting the photo to her in Dallas, where she claimed to live.


And by now you can sense the desperation. 

Becky is giving me "her" actual phone number, which I'd be tempted to call, but I know better, so I gave her just what she wanted, a picture of the $100 Google play card.


Then, discovering I had wasted an inordinate amount of time with this ruse and failed to renew the registration on my wife's car, I decided, OK my eye-rolling wife decided, I had better things to do with my  time and played my trump card.


Bye Becky, better luck next time.









 
 


Monday, December 13, 2021

From Russia with love


Heard from my old Chiat/Day art director partner John Shirley last week. 

John had been cleaning out the garage at his mom's house, where she had been storing the leftovers from his storied career in advertising. Sadly, his mother had just recently passed away -- may her memory be a blessing. 

Like myself, John had recently become a full time caregiver. He, for his mom. Me, for my wife and my uncle.

It is not an easy responsibility. However, I believe that special adversity reveals, in an exponential manner, the true character of a person. I know I see John, and even myself, (both of us self admitted narcissists in the Before Times) in a different light for rising to the caregiving challenge. I tip my sweat-stained University of Colorado baseball hat to anyone handed that difficult assignment.

Back to John's mother's garage and what he found there. As the picture indicates it has to do with the Wall Street Journal. And flashbacks to our adventures pitching that business in 1999. Or 2000. Or 2001, it's all a blur to me.

Coming off the success of our yellow campaign for ABC, Lee Clow asked us to work on this media-adjacent account. It wasn't a huge revenue maker, but WSJ was certainly high profile. And the pitch included several trips to NYC to swap palm sweat with the big wigs at this famed institution, which I will readily admit was not on my reading list. Nor John's. 

As he often remarks, "I like picture books."

We toured the very staid editorial suite, walked through the newsroom, and broke bread with the movers and shakers of the financial world, exclusively older white men with silver hair who look identical to the founders of the John Birch Society. 

Then we'd leave, wash up at our fancy businessman hotel, and go out with the Chiat/Day team to an outrageously expensive restaurant, order Market Price menu items, single malt whiskey and discuss the latest episode of The Simpsons.

"Good sir, I'll have your second most expensive steak stuffed inside your most expensive steak, thank you."

That's how we rolled.

We made several cuts on the first go rounds of the pitch and reached the finals where we were pitted head to head with Goodby Silverstein -- this was in the golden times before that esteemed agency lost its luster and found itself cranking out crappy spots for Sonic Burgers and Liberty Mutual

Liberty, Liberty, Liberty.....Liberty.

We came breathtakingly close to winning the Wall Street Journal. 

This, despite one last chemistry check when the WSJ team came to visit our offices in Playa Vista...technically Los Angeles, and were greeted by 1000 employees, including Lee, reluctantly donning serious business attire. Note to self: eschew any stupid pitch theatrics.

It's a shame, because we had what I believe to be stellar work( that I had long forgotten about). I know it's not fashionable to say things like that, but given the decline of the industry in the last twenty years I'm going to indulge in a little back-patting and let the naysayers have at it.




These were three outdoor posters that would, in typical Chiat/Day fashion, have plastered the walls at construction sites, dominated train stations, and smothered New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other major cities in an unabashed celebration of capitalism.

But, like the 1000 shares of MCI Worldcom that were going to make me a filthy rich man and then went underwater, it was not to be.

This work, like so much other unrealized ideas, now live in the ether, or more specifically, not in Manhattan but in John's garage in Manhattan Beach.






Thursday, December 9, 2021

Our nemesis: The Russians


I rarely do this, but it's been a stressful week and I just don't feel like doing the clicketty-clacketty thing.

After 11 and half years of doing this, I'm entitled to a break once in a while. this is that while.

But not to disappoint the now 13 regulars readers of this blog, here is your daily chuckle:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaeFr1OMJvY


Mmmm, unprocessed high flying bacon.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

How I got my start in advertising


Last week my friend, fellow blogger, and compatriot in curmudgeon-ness, George Tannenbaum published a blog about his friend, fellow blogger and compatriot in curmudgeon-ness, Dave Dye. It concerned our collective race to the bottom of the communications barrel and the rampant pedanticism that ravaged our industry.

You can read it here: https://adaged.blogspot.com/2021/12/proving-proof.html

You should read it. 

In fact, if you are at all interested in the state of our business you should regularly read George's razor sharp blog, Bob Hoffman's scholarly veteran take, the inimitable Dave Trott and Dave Dye's blog for revealing observations and experimentation.

Looking at the variety of ways Dave enticed strollers into the cheese shop triggered a long buried memory of how I really got started as a copywriter. You could argue it came about when I worked in the mailroom at Needless Hardons & Tears, with my good friend and now Professor of Screenwriting Jim J. But the truth is it went back further, to many cold wintry nights in Syracuse NY.

You see, unlike my fellow students who often drove fancy cars, had mini-fridges and host of other amenities I could only dream of, I attended the most expensive private university in New York State on a shoestring budget. Actually I didn't even own a shoestring, I had to rummage through the trashcans to get a used shoestring.

It was not easy. 

And so I worked at the Brockway Dining Center about a mile down the road from my dorm. There, I washed dishes, mopped floors, ran errands for the cooks and generally slaved for the entitled masses. 4 hours a night. Often 6-7 nights a week. You know, when I wasn't working my second job flipping burgers at the Red Barn on Marshall Street.

To ease the drudgery, I often went to work stoned. Smoking whatever weed was available in the hallways at Sadler dorm. Or eating cookies laced with $5 a bag skunk weed that one of the guys grew at his parents Adirondack cabin.

When I'd get to work, I'd slip on a plastic apron and one of the paper hats pictured above in order to comply with non-existent NY State regulations regarding the feeding of the asses...er, masses. 

If you'll notice, the rectangle on the hat is the same shape and dimension of a standard outdoor board. And every night, hazy from the cheap pot, I would scribble out a 6-7 word pithy thought in thick black magic marker. Some of them were even funny.

It didn't take long for the more privileged students to take notice. And I started growing a following. While refilling the CO2 containers or restocking the ice cream or grabbing extra napkins for one of the Long Island princesses, I'd have many students come up to read my hat.

It became a regular thing. And made my head swell.

Then it occurred to me to save the more popular hats. And so I did. I stored them in a leftover cardboard box from Rickel's hardware and held onto that box of youthful witticisms for a long time. And for an even longer time they took up valuable real estate in my parent's garage. Until a river of rainwater flooded the garage and wiped out what was in essence, my first real portfolio.

Little did I know that I was training myself to become a copywriter. 

Less surprising, outdoor advertising is still my favorite format. 

And now I buy legal weed from the dispensary near the gentleman's club on Robertson. 

Good times.


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Memories.


Yesterday I wrote about Apple's wonderful Christmas spot. Today, in my perpetual search for easy blogging material, I am revisiting a spot we did more than 10 years ago, when I was enjoying my life as a steadily employed overpaid freelance writer.

It's a modest little spot with a "small" story that was shot in one long 10 hour day (actually night) in the Angeles National Forest near Pinion Hills. I've thoughtfully marked it off for you, in case you were curious. I've also marked off the desert hamlet of Littlerock on the Pear Blossom Highway (138), in case you have a taste for the odd.

If you ever get a chance you must stop off at the Kite/Souvenir/Nazi Memorabilia store. I kid you not. This amazing compound of tchotchkes is a sight to behold. It's literally 6 or 7 smaller buildings, each with its own theme of worthless Chinese-made crap.

On a sojourn there, I told my oldest daughter to pick out something funny for Deb, and the dependable off-kilter Siegel genetics led her directly to this...


Sadly, I had to screen grab this photo as my wife either hid ours or chucked it when I wasn't looking. This was going to be a family heirloom!

Also, if you do make it out to the Antelope Valley, which I find fascinating for so many reasons, you can swing by the wedding chapel made famous in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2, one of Tarantino's underrated films as far as I'm concerned.

I miss going on shoots and doing productions with creative people I genuinely enjoy and admire. More often than not they turned into laugh-fests. And almost all of them resulted in stories and memories that are now buried deep in my cranial hard drive.

As I often say when getting together with old colleagues from back in the day, "We didn't know how good we had it."

For example you might have noticed the shot of Santa Claus included a pan left to show reindeer. We had eight of them on set. Eight actual Arctic-born reindeer. If this were to be shot in 2021, the budget would not be so forgiving. 

And instead you'd be looking at two Great Danes with fake antlers glued to their heads.

Truth.





 

 

Monday, December 6, 2021

Fare un Cinema (Make a Movie)


 

By now you have probably seen Apple's new holiday...er, Christmas commercial. I have no problem saying Christmas, Merry Christmas or Joyful Christmas. That shit is simply a wedge used by the GOP to split us. I'll have none of that.

Just as the John Lewis commercials are a Christmas staple in Britain, the annual Apple spots are a treasure here on this side of the pond.

There are a few things I love about this spot, which you can see in its entirety here

The fact that the commercial was shot on an iPhone is certainly noteworthy. And impressive. Made slightly less impressive when I discovered the spot was not made by a pre-teenage girl, as I had assumed. But by Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman, and director of such films like Thank You For Smoking and Juno.

Small aside, my partner John Shirley & I, met with Jason when he was a kid and wanted to direct one of our spots. If memory serves, he even sat in our cubicle (after Chuck & Clay went on to become directors themselves)...


...I can't remember what the project was, or why we didn't hire him, I suspect it had something to do with his youth, which John & I had already started to resent. Not to mention his robust hairline, which I shamelessly envied.

If you indulge yourself in the full three minute viewing, I think you'll agree it comes off like a small movie. Many clients talk about "engagement" or "brand loyalty", but few companies have actually achieved that feat, like Apple. 

Note to Fortune 500 companies: Tagging shit with smiley emojis does not engagement make.

But what I love most about the spot, even in its condensed 60-second form is the "smallness." 

Is it contrived that a 10 year old girl would fall deeply in love with her snowman, Simon? Maybe. I have two daughters and for the longest time my youngest made a large cardboard box her personal castle. There is photographic evidence of this phenomena, but I did not get her permission to publish the pic.

Nevertheless, if you allow yourself to go for the ride, you quickly get caught up in her efforts to save Simon. It required her imagination, perseverance and commitment to make it to the next winter. In other words, it revealed her (Olive's) character. And it did so without special effects or grandiose trickery. It was small.

As noted on these pages many times, I'm a believer in small with regards to story. In light of all the insipid superhero movies that take up our movie screens, that makes me a contrarian. Shocker.

I also admire the shocking twist at the end of Olive's journey, which Jason takes and turns it on its head in a most satisfying way. And again, kudos to Apple for going that route. 

I know from experience that 100 out of 100 past clients would have rejected that outright. Perhaps that what makes Apple, Apple. 

And everyone else Not Apple.


Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Tail of the Caganer


If you're looking at the picture above and thinking, "What the hell...that looks like a large man in an elf hat...at a shopping mall...uncoiling the remains of his Thanksgiving dinner", congratulations you've passed the eye exam.

As faithful readers of R17 know it's that time of year where I uncork my tales of the Caganer

Let's harken back to the 80's, well maybe not that far back, but to a time when advertising was driven by TV commercials, legacy media, and work people could actually point to. For the record, those times are gone. And you'll never find yourself at a dinner party or a holiday gathering and hear someone say, "Hey did you see that tweet from Home Depot?" or "I loved that page-takeover from Hellman's mayonnaise."

I was working on a sales event for Acura "luxury" cars and wanted to do something different that the red bow on a car trope. So I began researching odd X-mas traditions from around the world. That's when I discovered the Caganer -- The Pooper in Spanish.

In Spain and Portugal, 18th century celebrants of Christmas would often stage a Nativity scene in front of their homes. Only their Nativity scenes were different that the ones you might find in Peoria, or Boise, or Tempe. Because in addition to Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and assorted Jewish servants friends and attendants, there included a small figurine, positioned just outside the manger, with his caftan around his ankles and caught in the act of "launching a lifeboat off the SS Assitania."

Why?

Indeed why? 

Organized religion has never made sense to me. In my book, God did not create man. Man created god. And yet, the reasoning for the Caganer seems more rational than myrr, frankincense and whatever else is going on here. 

You see winter solstice on the Iberian peninsula is when the farmers start getting the soil ready for the upcoming planting season. And to mark that special period of time the Caganer is symbolically fertilizing the ground with his own man-made fertilizer. Keep in mind this was in an age before almanacs, broadband and other time-keeping devices to aid poor rural Catalonian farmers.

The Caganer is performing a vital and necessary service while also maintaining a healthy digestive regimen.

This week one of my neighbors assembled a nativity scene on his front yard. I happened to be walking the dog and ran into him while he nailing Wiseman #2 to the ground.


We engaged in some small talk and I took the time to tell the Tail of the Caganer to him. Not sure he was prepared for what I was unloading on him. As I was leaving, he scratched his chin and said, "Ok, have a nice day."

Part of me wants to go online, purchase a 2 foot high Caganer and surreptitiously add it to his front yard party. 

My wife said No.



Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Another day in the neighborhood.


Seen on the inter webs. It's not my sign. 

Perhaps not the best marketing message an anxious home seller should be using. 

I'll give it a 10 for attention getting purposes, but a 2 for strategy. After all, who wants to live next door to a certifiable douchebag? I don't. Particularly one with two vicious pitbulls, who have on multiple occasions, bolted through the front door to ambush my dog as I walked by on my way to the park. That's certifiable douchebaggery.

But I don't want to get into specifics regarding my close to 30 year beef with Mr. I Don't Give A Shit About Anyone Else. 

And just to be clear, the people who live on the other side of my house are some of the nicest in the world. Our dogs play with each other. Our daughters know their daughters. And we have broken bread and uncorked adult beverages with them. In other words, it's not me.

This is more of a general piece about our knowledge or lack of knowledge about the people who share the street, the air and the environment, in our nearest vicinity. 

From where I'm sitting, and because I work at home and write on the side, I'm in this incredible comfortable Herman Miller chair quite a bit, I am within a foot of a window that looks out onto the street. Moreover, I have security cameras situated on the roofline for maximum coverage of the street below. 

In short, I have what martial art instructors call "excellent environmental awareness." Add to that, my nature as an observer and student of human behavior.

Here's what I've noticed: 

Many people lead quiet, solitary lives. 

They don't go out on weekends. 

They don't have parties. 

They don't have friends over. I'm not sure some of my neighbors even have friends.

And it's not that they're unfriendly. I often run into and chat with them while walking my dog. Or, back in the day, when I would run my daily three miles in the neighborhood. 

Nor am I passing any judgment. It is only now, after multiple vaccinations, that we feel safe enough to have people over again, drink my expensive whiskey, use up my precious toilet paper, and leave me a sink full of dirty dishes. 

I don't know what to make of all this. Well, actually I do. 

I started writing a book about Neighbors I have known, and experienced, in the Before Times. Including the former president of Rhino Records, a professional dart player, and a sad actor who posed for many Younger Boy/Older Lady Spanking magazines in the late 80's. I've had some doozies.

If the lady's dog across the street would ever shut the fuck up, maybe I could revisit that unfinished project.