Thursday, December 29, 2022

A crazy year


Everyone's doing it. 

Spotify is telling me that over the course of 2022, I listened to way too much Santana, Led Zeppelin and Mark Knopfler. And has reminded me how I wore out the grooves on Leon Bridges.

Strava, though I've only been on there since July, is singing my praises and has informed me I am in the top 7% of all athletes diligently recording their sweating, sweating and more sweating. And I have the yellowed T-shirts and bare-thread bike shorts to prove it. I'm also in the top 83% of people staring into a mirror in vain search of abdominal muscles.

Last year at this time, I found myself composing a Year in Review recap for my employer PayPal Honey. 

Congratulations Jane Doe you saved $1,293.87 cents by shopping with us and opened 104 emails written by your formerly award-winning copywriter. Thus doing your part to prevent his retirement and keeping him out of a dirty nursing home.

Thanks Jane.

And so, faithful readers of this blog, we here at RoundSeventeen Headquarters thought we'd provide you with a yearly recap of our own. To better inform you of all the time you've wasted and perhaps redirect your energy disbursements to better endeavors in 2023.

In 2022, you have been subjected to 74 posts about ex Precedent Shitgibbon, aka Captain Ouchie Foot, aka Colonel FuckKnuckle, aka Diseased Sack of Camel Haggis. 

While occasionally repetitive in nature, these political posts were more often topical and addressed the never-ending horsecockery this anti-American, Constitution-Shredding Hellbeast has foisted upon our once-great nation.

In 2022, you have read 38 posts regarding the demise of our advertising industry, the dumbing down of communications and the failure of the holding companies who continue to suck the revenue upwards while simultaneously extracting unpaid labor from "children" who have yet to discover their own worth. 

Our business used to be driven by ideas. Now it is fueled by greed, fear and data driven performance points that demand more data driven drivel. 

In 2022, you've been privy to my personal journey through grief. I thank you for indulging me and my oversharing. But journaling has been recommended by many therapists. It's part of the work. And it has done me good. As Ms. Muse has often told me, "It must be heartwarming to know so many friends and colleagues and even strangers are supporting you and are pulling for you." It is.

Of course, there are many things you haven't read about in 2022: 

* My life as a single father and the difficulties of navigating  a delicate new dynamic with my two daughters who I love dearly

* My plans and major decisions, which I was wisely told not to make for one year 

* And even my brief foray into the online dating world. If it weren't for certain familial sensitivities, I'd dive deeper into this veritable gold mine of comedy hijinks, including the one woman from Beverly Hills, who, 5 minutes after talking on the phone, asked, "Would you be willing to shave your mustache?"  

No. 

No I would not.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year, one that brings peace, hope, happiness and some much needed civility in this world.



 

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

On Old Man Strength


My friend, fellow blogger and man of my age, George Tannenbaum, has often referred to a phenomena called "Old Man Strength."

You younger readers might be a little skeptical, given your lithe muscles, youthful appearance and wild consumption of chemically-laden energy drinks brewed with Taurine, extracted from bull testes, but I believe George is onto something.

Old Man Strength is real.

It's derived from decades of shouldering life's great weights: responsibility, provision and protection. 

I cannot do these justice, but Denzel Washington, in the movie version of Fences can. 


Overly dramatic? Perhaps. But not far off the mark. 

I heard this monologue in some form or fashion many times over. My own father could not string words together like this, but the intent and the force with which it was delivered was unmistakably similar. Particularly, if he had filled his coffee cup with some daytime Dewar's. And ran out of Camel filterless ciggies.

And it is only now, in my own sunset...er, golden...er, prime (yeah, that's it) years, that I can appreciate the sentiment. 

Mind you, I have daughters and would never talk to them in this manner. Perhaps it's a blessing I never had sons. But, if asked, I'm sure they recognize the posturing. 

Sorry, but being a dad is hard.

Old Man Strength also manifests itself physically. You won't catch me posting pictures of myself in a Speedo, but I am currently down to 182 lbs. A benchmark I hadn't hit in close to 40 years. Additionally, since switching off red meat and consuming a grizzly bear's yearly portion of salmon every seven days, I am also stronger than I have ever been.

In addition to cycling more than 200 miles a week (Peloton & Road), I lift weights. And have recently launched 245 lbs. off the bench. I know I could do more, but I'm in my garage, without a spotter, and don't relish the idea of getting permanently pinned down to the rack until my daughters come over to wash their laundry.

I say all this not to boast. Ok, it's a little about boasting. 

But it's more about pursuing strength as a worthy attribute. And forging a newer me. I like being strong. And I like getting stronger, physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

Strong is a whole lot better than weak. I know, I've been there.




Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Got my mind on my country and my country on my mind


Good morning everybody (all 8 of you) and welcome back. Hope you had a Merry Christmas. I know I did. 

Last week, after a string of posts about death -- my apologies -- I received some life affirming and America affirming news: the January 6th Committee Report. I have no intention of reading the 800+ page opus, nor do I have to.

Not only did I live through that horrific day glued to my TV and to Twitter for up-to-the-second updates, I watched every hearing. Watched may be too soft a word. I savored every word. And every video clip. And every shocking inside-the-White House revelation that pointed to one, and only one, conclusion...

That Shithead ex president of ours orchestrated and is responsible for the whole damn thing.  

Let me bold that to indicate how hard my fingers are currently punching the keyboard. 

Whether it was sending America's Funniest Mayor to do a "press conference" in front of a cheesy Philadelphia Landscaping store to whine about the results, badgering and begging state officials in swing states to "find 11,870 votes", or egging his disciples to storm the Capitol to "fight like hell" and "be wild", there is no mistaking his tiny bloody hands are all over this.

Just because he couldn't bear the thought of losing. 

In a landslide, no less.

With the regular MSNBC staffers on break, I had a chance to watch a bit of Ari Melber stand in and deliver some crushing opinions on the matter. 

Initially, I was not a Melber fan. His constant reference to rap lyrics and rappers I've never heard of, nor want to, was a little off putting. I don't mind inside jokes, I just like them better when I'm on the inside and understand them. But Ari has grown on me. 

I know some Red Hats (if they're even reading this) will claim I shouldn't get my news from CNN or MSNBC, which I always find amusing because in 110% of those cases they're getting their news from OAN or NewsMax or Fox News, home of Sean Hannity, the man who testified in the current Dominion Voting Systems libel case, that, "I never believed for one second that the election was stolen or rigged."

I understand the media slant from both sides. And believe that by reading books and newspapers, I can separate the wheat from the Russian misinformation chaff. But that doesn't negate the fact that good logic is good logic.

And so I was throughly impressed by Melber's legal theorem that defies any claims of bias.

To wit:

Let's assume ex Precedent Shitgibbon did not call for an Insurrection. That he truly wanted his followers to be peaceful and to respect the law enforcement officers at the Capitol building. I don't believe that for a second, but let's assume he did.

Why then would he wait 187 minutes -- that's more than 3 hours for those of you don't math -- to tell his people, the special ones who he loves, to cease the attack and go home?

Even more stunning, when taken in context, if he did NOT want violence, destruction and bloodshed, as he is currently postulating, why then is he offering up Presidential pardons to those who ransacked, defiled the offices with their rancid, post-franks-and-beans feces and put the violent beatdown on hundreds of Capitol Police?

The logic is irrefutable. Unless you've got the strap on your MAGA cap on too tight and it is constricting the flow of oxygen to your brain. He wanted an insurrection. He loved the Insurrection. And he is monumentally responsible for the Insurrection.

LOCK.

HIM.

UP.

 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

365 Days


It has been one rotation around the sun since the very worst day of all the 23, 349 days in my life. 

A day I can barely remember except for the searing memory of those minutes before my Debbie took her last breath. 

A day when I magically and blindly drove what remained of my family home from the UCLA Hospital ICU unit, where we had been camped for the previous 4 days. 

A day when the very life force in me was sucked out with all the merciless fury of a fusion-powered tornado. 

A day.

Had we been traditional or religious Jews, today we would be unveiling a tombstone in Deb's honor. But she didn't adhere to those conventions and told me that if she were to go, she'd like to have her ashes scattered at the Upper Grey's Meadow Campground. 

Not her happy place. 

Her happiest place. 

Perhaps my daughters will accede to going on that mission with me, today? Or, perhaps they're not ready to part with her remains, because that would be too difficult. 

I get it.

Not to get all Talmudic on you, and let's be honest rabbinical rhetoric is hardly my strong suit, but we tend to sleepwalk through life and quietly hope the following day will be equally inconsequential. But some days, the ground beneath you sinks, you fall and quickly reach terminal velocity. Gravity has a grip on you stronger than any black hole. 

String a few hundred of those hellish days together and you will have some idea of the pain I experienced after 12/21/21.

However, without hitting absolute rock bottom, which I did, there's no way one can appreciate those days that the universe shines on us: like when you get married, or have a baby, or find a parking spot on Abbott Kinney Blvd. 

I know how completely trite this can sound, like some dime store self-help pamphlet, but there's truth to the trope that without pain there can be no growth. Or in the vernacular of plate-heads, no pain no gain.

And Debbie's passing gave me the gift of growth. 

I carry her light. And make a daily conscious effort to embody her warmth, her calm, her pragmatism, her remarkable ability to speak to a stranger and turn them into a friend, and her patience, which is not at all easy considering the 405, the 10, the 110 and the Gordian Knot of freeways that define Southern California. 

Most of all, I'm trying to be more present. More than I've ever been before. And trying to reflect and savor the time we have been gifted by the gods. And just trying to be a better version of myself.

I debated whether I wanted to write this today. It's a little off-brand and kind of corny, even in my book. I might've asked Deb if she thought I should hit the publish button. She would've replied, "Yeah, why not,  nobody reads your crazy blog anyway."   

Actually, she would've said...

"You write what you want to write. Isn't the point of your blog? Do what makes you happy. I want you to be happy."

I wish you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year (Bonne Annee) -- be present for every day of it.

-----------------------------------------------------

Addendum: the scarf pictured above, was Deb's favorite. I found it while organizing the closet and the drawers. It's the scarf she wore everyday when we traveled through Europe in 1990. I have made all of her clothing, shoes and belongings available to my daughters and my sisters-in-law. 

All, except this still-lightly-scented scarf.






Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Saputo


A little more than two weeks ago, my friend and former colleague, Tom Saputo passed away. 

That's Tom and me pictured while freelancing at TBWA Chiat/Day about a dozen years ago. 

We were gleefully horsing around, shooting the shit, and goofing off while "earning" an exorbitant day rate. Look at us, working hard trying to make Tostitos-sharing moments go viral, adding useless hashtags to Infiniti social media, or repositioning Pepsi to better align with their multi-million dollar logo refresh, which stands as a living testament to the awesomeness inherent to the makers of carbonated, brown sugar water.

We happened to be similarly attired that day, and agreed to a quick photo. Though Tom's impeccable sense of style and design (one of the industry's best) makes mine come across like a shabby Trump NFT trading card. His impeccable work never failed to impress, whether it was a brochure for Lexus or a series of logos for hand crafted beer. Saputo had a signature look.

He fought bravely against an extremely rare lung disease that necessitated two lung transplants. I cannot imagine how painful and traumatic those operations can be, nor the toll it takes on the human body. 

With the exception of Tom's heart.

That was always strong. 

And gentle. 

And even rarer than the disease that consumed him.

I have never heard a foul word about Tom. Because, there were none that he merited. And trust me, I run around with a brutal rhetorical crowd of bitter, cynical and jaded ad folks. 

Last year, during a rare night off giving full time care to my late wife, Deb, I ventured in the car and headed to Northridge, CA.  I met up with Tom and our friend Jean Robaire, at Brent's Deli. In a city that sports a sizable representation of people with Hebraic Seasonings, LA is stunningly deficient in the way of good delis; where they serve tongue, carp heads and slippery creamed herring that is best eaten with a spoon.

We got seated in a big booth, the only way one can truly enjoy the deli eating experience. And Tom was looking better than we had ever seen him since learning of the respiratory nightmare.


This photo was taken after we had scarfed up three monstrously huge pastrami sandwiches. 

We Kibitzed. 
Kvelled about our kids. 
And Kvetched about the various medical afflictions that go with growing older. Oh and we laughed. 

We laughed hard enough to forget the soup was cold. The waitress was rude. And the cole slaw was excessively wet.  

The next day, Robaire (who sadly lost his 99 year old father last week, may his memory also be a blessing) and I spoke about Saputo. By the way, that's the New York part of me that never went away: referring to friends, particularly the ones I love, by their last name. 

We agreed that Saputo was looking better. And we both knocked on wood that his continued weight gain and recapturing of his strength and even his voice were signs of improvement and cause for optimism.

But that's just not the way the world always works, is it? And it's decidedly not fair. And it is maddening.

I will miss you Tom. 

And to your menschy credit, so will many others, too.





Monday, December 19, 2022

The good die young


Louis Orr just died.

Most of you don't know Louis, #55 playing for the eternally-hopeless NY Knicks, but I did. 

From 1976 -1980, he was part of the Louie & Bouie Show, or was it Bouie & Louie Show, with the Syracuse Orangemen. This was a time when the program was in its heyday and consistently ranked in the AP Top Ten.

So formidable were the Orangemen of my college days, that when lesser teams from upstate NY came to Manley Field House, they were humiliated beyond the pale. Worse than the people who shelled out $99 for a Trump Trading Card. 

Their defeat was so secure that prior to their arrival, the Daily Orange, the school newspaper sponsored elaborate and zealous pep rallies under the laughable auspices of "Beat Sienna", "Beat Le Moyne" or "Beat the Mighty Bonnies" (terrible name for a sports team) from St. Bonaventure.

We were that cocksure.

In any case, Louis Orr was figuratively and literally a BMOC, Big Man On Campus. You can imagine my shock and delight when, on the first day of the second semester, he sat next to me in Public Speaking 101, widely regarded as an easy A. Though not always the case for student athletes.

The course presented its own difficulties to Louie, who was shy and reserved by nature. Though I'm happy to say he was always a receptive audience to my half-assed, always-stoned speeches that produced laughs, but nothing of any consequence.

Louis made the mistake of always falling back on basketball. He'd start a speech about learning to drive a stick shift. But invariably the speech would veer off-course into the retelling on one of his recent games. "It was like that time we were playing the Johnies of St. John and Bouie set a ball screen for me and I drove the lane and went to the rack..." 

He didn't do that was once. He did that all the time. 

But I was just thrilled he knew my name. And would acknowledge me on the off chance that we met on campus. Or, in later years, if he came into Sutter's Mill and saw me bartending. He was salt of the earth, through and through. And never had the affect that other star athletes -- I'm looking at you, football players -- might have had.

In 2011, a lifetime since those college days, I found myself on a freelance assignment for adidas and was sent by TBWA Chiat/Day to go to Las Vegas for a weekend. For the record I hate Las Vegas. 

Also, for the record, I love Las Vegas when not only is everything comped, including a super deluxe room at the Aria, but when I'm getting paid my full day rate (plus overtime) to film a college basketball recruiting tournament and given the chance to interview the nation's top coaches. 

In between talking to Roy Williams, Bill Self and the legendary Coach K, I ran into my old friend, Louie Orr, who was the head coach at Old Dominion or Bowling Green. He didn't remember me at the time. But I refreshed his memory by bringing up our time in Public Speaking 101. His face up like a menorah on the 8th day (please note the timely reference.)

We exchanged some small talk. And I didn't want get in the way of him recruiting a ball handling phenom and future point guard from Brooklyn, so I asked if he'd having his assistant coach snap a picture of us. Either Louie's slim 6' 9" didn't fit in the picture or his assistant didn't know how to operate an iPhone. I think it was the iPhone 3 at the time.

I don't have the picture of me and Louie, but I will always have the memory of a sweet big man who always had a smile and never got too big for his britches.

Rest in Peace, Louis Orr. 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Artificial Stupidity

 


As my friend and official blogger to the industry, George Tannenbaum, noted recently there's been a lot of chatter about AI lately. 

Being of significantly greater intelligence than I, he can speak about the latest iterations, throw in some tech mumbo jumbo, and elaborate on the many philosophical and spiritual implications of this growing and pervasive technology on humanity.

Me? I'd like to talk about my stupid AI driven Roomba. 

Actually, it's not even a Roomba. I had one of those and it would make a lot of noise. Moreover, because I could never figure out how to schedule the damn thing. It would go off at all hours of the night, start sucking on an errant shoelace and set off the internal Roomba Voice...

"Error, error. Please immediately get out of bed and yank this sneaker away from my sucking orifice!"

The Shark, a poor man's Roomba, is equally obnoxious. But thanks to advancements and the appearance of apps, I no longer need to program a schedule into the machine and can start the thing up with my iPhone.

But there is still no joy in Mudville as it often rolls right over spilled bread crumbs and doggie hairballs. Then I find find myself kicking the furry remains in its path. To no avail. And, it too has a penchant for shoelaces and a tendency to knock over paintings or artwork I have not yet got around to hanging up.

On another AI front, I keep getting these ads (thank you Big Algorithm) on my facebook feed that scream:

Write blog postings

Up to 10X faster


I don't know who needs to hear this, but I have no interest in writing my blog postings ten times faster. Nor am I interested in some machine, even with expertly calibrated flick flacks and Super Duper JavaScript, scripting my personal, sometimes overly personal, blog.

I'm sure AI could improve on my grammar. And correct my years long habit of mistaking an en dash for an em dash. I'm equally sanguine about AI's ability to write a devastating diatribe against the GOP and ex Precedent Shitgibbon given I have filled up two hard drives with said material.

But I wonder, could Wilson, or whatever the AI faux writer is called these days, pump out a readable or laughworthy piece on Caganers and the colorful poopenisms ("I have an Exit Interview with Mr. Brown") that always accompany my posts?

No thank you, AI, no thank you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

"Let's get a Christmas tree"


Went Christmas tree shopping last weekend. 

That may not seem like news to you, but for this 64-year old man with "Hebraic Seasonings" (again Thank You Aaron Sorkin for that colorful moniker) it was a First. 

Bear in mind my mother was from Scotland and identified as an Episcopalian. Or Presbyterian. I always get my less dogmatic versions of Protestantism mixed up. Hence, one might say, Christmas Tree shopping is kind of in my blood.

But in all my years, I've never partaken. That is until Ms. Muse, lured me out to east Pasadena for the very detailed and meticulous selection of a Douglas Fir, for her festively decorated living room. To be completely honest I was dreading the experience. 

Not because of any religious hesitancy as one might speculate. I'm not big on organized religion and remain loosely affiliated mostly for the jokes. And the latkes. And the halo effect of my more my exponentially more successful and accomplished mishbucha

But being a X-mas Tree virgin I had no idea what to expect. Indeed, I was sure I was going to be put through a "7 hour death march all over the city to find the perfect tree", if I may quote Mila Kunis in the highly underrated movie, A Bad Mom's Christmas (if nothing else watch it for the Ty Swindell scene)

Nevertheless I was up to the task. It's funny what a man will do in return for tasty M&M blondies and delicious home cooked chocolate chip cookies. 

Fortunately, Ms. Muse, who sometimes goes by the name Sheryl MacPhee, is quite clear minded and knew exactly what she wanted. And what she wanted to pay for it. Spoiler Alert: I had no idea what a Christmas Tree would cost and figured it'd be in the $35-$45 range, I was woefully wrong. And so off we were to Santa & Mike's, a block north of Foothill Blvd.

We looked at the Noble Firs, which were quite tall and wide, some topping 12 foot in height. And the smaller selection of Douglas Firs, which were equally impressive in their size. And then we moseyed over to the fresh cut choices which were trussed like a rib roast.

The proprietor at Santa & Mike, I'm assuming it was Mike, offered to cut one open for a better look. But, as it was pointed out to me, when fully splayed, had some very noticeable "holes", that is spots where there were no branches and one could see the trunk. This, I discovered was a no-no. 

Mike slit the twine on another tree, shook off the dead needles, which emitted quite a scent, and we stood in admiration of a beautiful 6.5 foot tall Douglas Fir that was without holes and was symmetric in every way. This, I was told, was what non-Jews look for in a Christmas tree.

And so, after barely 25 minutes, we had a tree. And it was tethered to the top of the Honda CRX. Driven back to Sheryl's place. And carefully plunked down into the Christmas Tree stand/holder thigamajig.

Getting the tree to stand up straight, playing with the wing nuts, and passing inspection, took considerably longer.  And required many drop-to-the-floor adjustments which resulted in much groaning and took a mighty toll on my tight Hebraic back. 

A pain that can always be ameliorated by a delicious chocolate chip/walnut encrusted cookie.

Merry Christmas.




 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Super Stupid Bowl™


 If memory serves me correct, now is the absolute worst time to be a creative staffer at an ad agency. Although it could be argued, with not much effort, the last 20 years have been the worst time to be a creative staffer at an ad agency.

But we are in the middle of December and agencies (and their clients) must decide on which speculative creative idea is going to be turned into a reality. And ready to be unveiled at Super Bowl LVII, that's 57 for those of you unfamiliar with Roman numerals.

It will be contentious. 

It will be ego-driven. 

It will be a shit show I wish I had tickets to. 

Though I always enjoyed a good cage match at the agency, particularly when it came to arguing with perpetually-soused CEOs or barely out-of-college strategists/planners boldly willing to school me on life's great truths, nevertheless, I'm thrilled to be sitting on the sidelines and watching from afar. 

Frankly there's just way too much pressure on hitting it out of the ballpark. 

And yet for all the micro-managing, committee frame fucking, and data driven optimization, there hasn't been a truly great spot since Super Bowl XLVI or XXIX or maybe XXL. Oh wait, XXL were the shirts I donated to Goodwill because they no longer fit my svelt 182 lbs. body.

Nor have the behemoth efforts been helped by the revelatory teasers. 

When did that become a "best practice?" (don't get me started) Why on earth would you want to spoil your surprise gift to the Tostitos-sharing, chili-chugging, football-loving masses with a 6 or 15 second bumper you can slap onto every fucking YouTube video? Only to be unceremoniously ignored.

Two words: SKIP AD

If only ad people listened to the sage advice often given to me by Ms. Muse, "A girl's gotta have some secrets."

The sad truth is we -- the "professionals" at communication -- shot the goose that laid the golden egg. And we were so messy about it, the poor buckshot bird can't even be stuffed with oranges, garlic cloves and kosher salt, and eaten. 

Folks used to say, "I love the ads and don't even watch the game." They don't say that anymore.  And nowadays are often bored by both. 

Between this sad phenomena, the digital-first movement, the gutting of creative departments, the wage inequality, the unremunerated labor, the ageism, sexism and racism, one has to wonder what bonehead, misguided, overthought act of self-sabotage will the ad industry come up with next?

"We're removing the foosball tables."


 


Monday, December 12, 2022

Whiskey and celebrities


I don't often go out hobnobbing with stars from Saturday Night Live, but when I do it's with the talented Kevin Nealon. And with my Kevin Nealon-adjacent friend, Jeff Gelberg, who writes a very funny blog of his own.

Jeff and Kevin are good friends. So when I was invited to go see Mr. Nealon’s art gallery opening in Brentwood I decided why not? Keep in mind I am almost completely illiterate in the world of art. I am to art gallery openings as Red Hats are to discussions about complex international geo-politics.

Nevertheless the gallery was situated across the courtyard from Maria's Italian Kitchen in Brentwood, makers of some of the most New York-ish Pizza this side of the Mississippi River.

As Kevin and Jeff were reminiscing, I took a gander at some of the insanely great artwork. Surreal cartoonlike renderings of many top celebrities, including Christopher Walken, Jennifer Aniston and Billy Eilish. That's when I stumbled into Ruthie, a very attractive Aussie woman who was photographing Kevin's latest book next to a bottle of some artisanal Kentucky Bourbon.


I'm more of a Rye Whiskey guy but never averse to bourbon, so when Ruthie offered to pour me a sip I was happy to oblige. Particularly when she told me this specially-crafted spirit was 120 proof. I'm no stranger to high octane whiskey and recall receiving a bottle of Noah's Mill for my birthday.

I was mentally preparing my throat for that lava-like burn, but was pleasantly surprised at how smooth the Lucky Seven went down. Moreover, the Lucky Seven bourbon had a distinctive taste, not sweet, not spicy, but enough of both to make it that much more satisfying. I'm not one of those tasting connoisseurs who can blather on about finishes, hints and expressions. I'm a simple Bulleit Rye guy who should probably get out more often.

Had I not the 7.7 mile drive (an odd coincidence) home to Culver City I would have gone for two fingers instead of one. 

It was getting near closing time at the gallery and Ruthie insisted I take the bottle with me. I guess I'm more charming than I give myself credit for. In return I told her I would write a review of her boyfriend's whiskey endeavor on my blog. 

I didn't tell her that despite going on my 14th year and more than 3000 blog entries, I've only managed to secure 8, possibly 9, loyal readers. But I guess if she or her boyfriend are reading this, they know now.

All in all, a pretty, pretty good night.

Thanks MarĂ­a.
Thanks Ruthie.
Thanks Kevin. 
And thanks Jeff.



Thursday, December 8, 2022

Storage Wars


 

Months ago, I began a new themed series of posts right here on R17. It was entitled: Things I'll Never understand. Not being the brightest bulb in the package, you can very well imagine the boundless topics this might entail.

For instance, my friend and former colleague Cameron Day, spends a great deal of his time rebuilding old cars. He documents his progress often on Facebook. And each time he does, I think, "I know how to change the oil in my car but I'd be damned it I had to build the whole oil circulatory system in a 1972 El Camino." That's just not my wheelhouse.

Similarly, fellow blogger and most well read person I know George Tannenbaum, can go on for days about ancient history and name you the king or queen who ruled Babylonia from 761 BC to 593 BC. WTF!

Me? I don't even understand how a phonograph makes music come out of a plastic disc.

But just when you start thinking you're the stupidest guy in the room, along come 1,719, 397 Georgians who can make you look like an absolute Mensa. Of course I'm talking about the miscreants who pulled the lever for their miscreant/sheriff/valedictorian Herschel Walker. 

I was at a Christmas party at USC on Tuesday night with Ms. Muse. Along with 300-350 other people. As we bit our collective fingers and watched the election results come in, it occurred to me that every person in the room, some with liberal leanings, others with conservative leanings, but every one of them, including the bartenders and appetizer passers, would be 100 times more qualified to serve as US Senator than Mr. Walker.

In fact, in retrospect, every person on the Expo Train line that I took to get to the USC campus was better qualified. 

That includes the woman eating her overly aromatic Thai noodles from the local Panda Express. The homeless man slumped over his stolen imported Italian bicycle. And the two giddy teenage girls seated behind me who set the world record for saying "Like" in a 5 minute conversation.

How did we reach such a sad state of Idiocracy?

Oh yeah, the guy coming down the golden escalator. 

Yesterday morning, it was reported that MORE documents, marked Top Secret or Classified, were located at a West Palm Beach Storage facility (possibly the one pictured above) frequented by ex Precedent Shitgibbon. Stored right next to his old poorly tailored suits and faux wrestling belts given to him by the WWE.

Holy Horse Hockey!!!

We are just now seeing the untold damage Captain Ouchie Foot has done to the Republican Party -- damage that was presciently predicted by Lindsey Graham in 2015. With each passing year I suspect we will uncover more of the irreparable damage this clusterfuck of a man has done to the country.

And yet, in keeping with the theme of this post, millions of Americans will still pull the lever for him. 

And that, I will NEVER understand.


Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Let's Sing


If there's one tell tale way to spot a hack creative in advertising. It has to be dancing. I know this is a pet peeve of my friend George Tannenbaum, it's also one that I share. 

In the vernacular of our business, dancing as an expression of conspicuous consumptive joy is simply cringey. It's a tired variation of the old Bite And Smile. Bite And Boogey, if you will. 

Wow, macaroni & cheese, let's dance.

A new low refinance rate, let's dance.

Weather strips for my old pickup truck, let's dance.

I'm no longer in a position to judge, or even create, this kind of work, but there'd be holy hell if some kid brought me that tripe. Maybe that's a little exaggerated. I like to think that when I was a Creative Director, my temper was never directed at the ones working for me but more towards the planners who presumed to think for me. 

I'm told that when I "got quit" from Chiat/Day back in 2002, many a planner/strategist was driven to keep a box of Kleenex nearby when dealing with me. I wish I could unring that bell.

Last weekend, in addition to my excessive exercising, I indulged in some rare excessive TV-watching and picked up on the newest trend: copysinging

Don't know what copysinging is? Allow me to show you.

In this latest gem from Cologuard -- the people who want you to shit in a box -- we see a bevy of ethnically diverse, squeaky clean people belting out a poor Sinatra cover song. In doing so they are taking way too much joy about pooping in a plastic bag (I hope) and sending the remains of their meat loaf, chicken tetrazinni or tofu burgers back to Cologuard Headquarters. 

As a former mailroom clerk, I can only imagine what it's like to be on the receiving end of that postal nightmare. 

But I digress.

Cologuard is hardly alone in this practice. There's a new radio campaign from Amazon that also employs this technique. Though way more artfully. And with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Kudos to their copywriting staff for putting a campy spin on holiday shopping. 

And again, these two advertisers are not alone. While watching endless football games, back to back to back to back last weekend, I noticed a spate of these kind of spots. None of which I can remember due to the rapid deterioration of my once razor sharp mind.

Some were good, some were not-so-good. Suffice it to say, I prefer copysinging over copyprancing.

And of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out an effort I was part of not so long ago while under the employ of Dollar Shave Club. 

By the way, posting this spot here will probably result in more views than the bare thread media budget that accompanied this hard fought campaign.

Note to clients: If you're going to pay to make something, you have to pay to show it. 

Lunch isn't free any more than media is. 


Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Shook the World


Wow.

That's the only appropriate word to describe Apple's new long form X-mas spot. At this writing it has 8 million views. Which is disappointing, because this is a little film that deserves to go viral in the biggest of ways. 

Particularly these days as we are just emerging from the Shitgibbon/Covid/Insurrection era of misery.

You can see the spot here.

I can be accused of some paternal bias. 

After all, my daughter is a junior producer at MAL (Media Arts Lab) that handles 50% of Apple's advertising. Though she didn't work on this amazing project.

 In fact, because of the contours of the Apple Marketing responsibilities, it's not clear whether this spot came from MAL. Or if it originated in Cupertino, with the very talented in-house marketing team that understand Upper Funnel advertising, proper budgeting and what it takes to "earn" brand loyalty. 

Did I ever mention that 'subtlety' is one of those words I always have trouble spelling?

Apart from all the pitch perfect casting, the editing, the music, the organic display of actual Apple products making a real difference in people's lives, there's the writing. It wasn't until I did a little more digging that I discovered the song's lyrics were actually snippets from Mohammed Ali...

"I am the greatest"

"His hands can't hit what his eyes can't see"

"I'm so mean I make medicine sick."

"The world champ should be pretty like me"

"I shook the world!"

But what I love most about this spot is how it harkens back to the 80's (sorry Mark Reed) and 90's, when brands crafted big, bold beautiful advertising that didn't depend on special effects, or gimmicky techniques, or the reliance on digital bullcockery to manifest its impact.

You don't have to go on some fakakta cyber journey of hashtags, IG's and VR helmets.

You simply have to sit back and let yourself be amazed and inspired by people playing the cards they were given and managing to find a way to shake the world.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Caganer, 2022: poops, Kanye and Jews

 


It's December, already. 

Christmas is just one paycheck cycle away. And so it's time to break out my annual Caganer post. Of particular interest this year, as we have some new readers who might not be familiar with the caganer lore. 

And because this Christmas season there's seems to be a space laser aimed at my people by the likes of Ye(or Kanye or Can-Ye-All STFU), Nick Fuentes and even our ex president, you know the least racist man in the world, it seems a good time to address the sulfurous antisemitism that has polluted the airwaves.

Let's start with the Caganer. 

You can spot him in the Nativity scene pictured above. He's the one on the extreme far right. He seems to be kneeling down. 

In fact, if you'll look closer, he is kneeling down. 

Look even closer and you'll see he has his pants around his ankles. 

Look even closer than closer, or if you have Hi- Res, and oh my god, that little farmer man is "Launching a Life Boat off the SS Assitania!"

During some research years ago I discovered the Catalan tradition of festooning their Nativity scenes with a young man "Dumping all his Shares of Hometown Buffet." 

Lest you think I'm shitting you about this odd practice, you can read more about it here. I discovered the Caganer (translation: The Shitter) more than a dozen years ago and have naturally been fascinated by it. Mostly because it allows me to revisit my many self-styled Poopenisms, like: "There's been a Prison Break at the South Gate."

But also, at least this year, it gives me an opportunity to talk about Nativity scenes, which also fascinate me. Especially seen through the lens of the Kanye Nazi. Because given enough hindsight, it's obvious that the Nativity Scene disproves all the antisemitic tropes currently being peddled by Ye and his ilk.

1. All Jews are Not Wealthy. I could point to my ascendants, a cab driver and and a garment district sewing woman who spent more money on cigarettes than they did on fresh produce to prove that. But the Nativity Scene, populated by all Jews (who should be sporting a little more melanin), and perhaps a Druid shepherd, is so much more visceral. They're having a baby in a nasty outdoor shed for Christ's sake! 

Isn't there a Cedar's Sinai anywhere nearby? 

2.  All Jews are Not Wealthy. Again. I'm sorry, but this is a point that bears repeating. What did the three wise men bring as gifts: Gold, frankincense and myrrh. Ok, maybe the guy who brought gold had some shekels in his pocket, he was probably a lawyer. But frankincense and myrrh? Who brings that as a birthday gift? A box of Pampers would've made a better gift. 

And myrrh?

3. Jews Don't Control Everything. Really? We control everything? This Puppet Master trope has been around for ages. But fails to explain why, in the face of such wielding so much power and mastery of global dynamics, there was the Inquisition, the pogroms and the camps. 

And as the nativity scene amply demonstrates, why were Joseph and Mary denied accommodations throughout the Holy Land and forced to birth the King of Kings in a lowly Bethlehem barn? 

Where, upon further contractions and dilation and great pain, the very pregnant Mary looked over her shoulder and spotted the Caganer, exclaiming, "Oh my god, is that man taking a dump?" 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

The Lazy Man's guide to blogging


Bill Gates once famously said, "I always choose a lazy man to do the hard job because a lazy man will find an easy way to do it."

A wise man is that ultra rich fellow who wanted us to inject ourselves with vaccines armed with microscopic chips in order to control our lives and enslave us in a DOS world of futility.

In any case, it's Thursday and rather than address the hard job of coming up with another blog post, I'm falling back into lazy mode and stealing some glory from my less than glorious past. 

You see my good friend sent me a text this morning about my other other social media platform -- the now defunct tumblr.


Jim is a world class connoisseur of funny. You may have even seen his handiwork, like the cult classic Stay Tuned. Or one of his many other movies including Getting Even with Dad, Richie Rich, Major League II and The Flintstones. 

And so upon his inspiration I revisited my old Tumblr blog and decided to share some of my past forays into politics on the other side of the world, namely Korea, where my daughter might be heading for a work assignment. I don't want to sound immodest, but I think many of the entries still hold up and make me chuckle. 

And really, in the end, that's the only audience. Cause truth be told I do this shit to amuse myself. Everything else is gravy. Nevertheless I hope you enjoy.











Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Confessions from a Foodie

 


Although we didn't eat Turkey for Thanksgiving, I'm still suffering from post-holiday, faux-tryptophan fatigue, and so here's one more post regarding our recent trip to Joshua Tree.

Having exhausted ourselves from driving, hiking, and tip toeing around each other's frail sensibilities, we decided to go out to eat on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Knowing the options in this remote high desert area would be slim, I commissioned my daughters to find us a good place to chow down.

They have a nose for this kind of thing. And besides it would provide me with an excellent opportunity to score some Dad points, which I apparently need to do after all my years of paternal transgressions.

They located a restaurant named Pappy & Harriet's, which is in Pioneertown, and not technically Joshua Tree. Given that we had time on our hand and a mission to mend our once amicable relationship, I thought, what the hell, what's driving another 25 miles gonna cost me if it makes them happy?

Keep in mind however that 25 miles on a windy, dark desert road, smeared with the carcasses (or is the plural, carci?) of foxes, possums and jackelopes is no small feat. 

We arrived at the nighttime oasis, which seemed to gather locals the way moths are drawn to magnesium-fueled bonfire, at 7 o'clock hoping to beat the "crowd." But the parking lot was jelly-tight with pick up trucks and RVs. Many adorned with bumper stickers that read: Let's Go Brandon.

The unnecessarily rude hostess told my daughter the earliest we could be seated would be 9 o'clock. And we'd have to listen to the live band that was playing that night, Jethro and Carburetor Calibrators.

At that point, it was time for Dad to make an executive call. And off we were back to Yucca Valley and a visit to the local Applebees. 

It must be noted that I abhor chain restaurants. And with the exception of Olive Garden, my girls do too. Only they can explain their unbound love for OG's as they colloquially refer to it. The only thing chain restaurants have going for it is consistency, albeit consistently sub-par. Nevertheless, the devil cook you know is better than the devil cook you don't.

After much grumbling, we pulled in, and should have left immediately when we were greeted by three young 18 year olds at the front desk. Two of them were eating. And the third had some unidentifiable cheese sauce on her cheek.

Turned out the shoddy greeting was the best part of the meal. Suffice it to say, "We were not eating' good in the neighborhood."

The crispy chicken sandwich was not crispy.

The french fried potatoes were barely thawed.

And the server, a man (and manbun) in his late 30's, who was working his second night on the job, was MIA.

I understand that I'm running the risk of appearing like some Westside food snob, I am not. Truth is, I spent many years working as a line cook at these kind of restaurants, including TGIF, Cheesecake Factory, Denny's, etc. It is hard, hot, sweaty work, with very little in the way of rewards or advancement. 

In other words, I understand the temptation to sleepwalk through the shift. Workers at these places invented the notion of "quiet quitting."

Thankfully, Applebee's serves ice cold draft beer in their patented and aptly named pint sized glasses...


If I were the CEO of Applebee's, I'd start with the refreshing Brewtus glass and build the entire brand around that.



Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Let the Father beware


For the first time in a very long time, we spent Thanksgiving away from home. 

I don't know about you but I dread the travel associated with holidays. I prefer the comforts of my own home, like running out of underwear but having the wherewithal to wrap a towel around my now-shrinking waistline, and throwing a new load in the washer while the Detroit Lions continue their Thanklessgiving Day tradition of losing.

Fortunately this year's travel did not necessitate a heart-stopping visit to LAX. Instead, we traveled to nearby Joshua Tree via the friendly freeways of Los Angeles. The 2 hour drive on a Wednesday afternoon only took a tad bit over 5 hours. 

Nevertheless it was well worth it. 

If you haven't been to Joshua Tree, and you appreciate the desert, as half my ancestors did some three thousand years ago, by all means go. Just not on the Wednesday, Brake Light Wednesday, before Thanksgiving. Here's a preview...







I included the shot of the billboard featuring some of the local businesses in Joshua Tree as a means of transition to the topic of commerce.

You see, after a moderately challenging hike to the 49 Palms Canyon, my daughters wanted to spend a day thrifting -- the abbreviated, conjugated verb of thrift shop shopping. That gave my brother and I more time to consume beer, watch football and renew our 60 plus year of sibling rivalry on the Cornhole court.

When the girls returned, Rachel told me she had filled up the car with fuel. How thoughtful and sweet, I said to myself, shamefully thinking I don't give my girls enough credit. 

The filling up of the gas tank came with its own little story.

"There was only one gas station nearby and we didn't want to get stranded, this being way out here in the high desert. But the gas station had this yellow tape wrapped around the two pumps. The only thing they had left was the green nozzle. I think the green means its eco-friendly. So I filled up the tank with that. Plus, it was cheaper."

I put down my beer which was no longer cold and quickly gaining heat from the blood boiling throughout my body. I took a deep breath (per my therapist's suggestion) and worked mightily to control the lava-like words that were about to shoot from my mouth.

"You filled up the car with DIESEL!"

At this point, my mind went blank. Green is diesel right? Eco-friendly fuel? How did she she drive back here? I was ready to explode. But before I did, Rachel, and Abby, who was surreptitiously filming me on her iPhone the entire time, burst out laughing.

Moments later, I was to find out that this little scenario is a meme floating around Tik Tok. Unless it has to do with our former president (I still can't believe that schmuck was in our White House) I'm always late to contemporary social media culture. But apparently the "Tell Your Dad You Put Diesel In The Car and Film His Reaction" schtick is very popular.

Who knows, by now, my daughter who helped make Cheugy a household phrase, may be trending on Tik Tok with her redfaced dad.

Pretty funny, I told my girls, but I'm no stranger to the well-played prank. 

No stranger at all.


Monday, November 28, 2022

The dirt on Sportswashing


Learned a new phrase last night at dinner in Old Town Pasadena-- Sportswashing

I also learned that sending a salad back to the kitchen is a risky endeavor.

Sportswashing came up during a discussion of the World Cup. It's in Qatar of all places. It should be noted Qatar is to human rights as ex Precedent Shitgibbon is to ethics, honesty and green vegetables. You can learn more here.

On the day of this writing, Qatar had just prohibited the sale of alcohol at all 9 venues built for the WC festivities, which will be significantly less festive. I'm not much a soccer fan and prefer my football played the American way, with trash talk, plastic armor wear and 300+ lbs. men crushing the living shit out of each other. 

But what I do know? 

Well, I do know that soccer fans love their beer. 

Though in all liklihood, how many soccer hooligans are going to board a British Airways flight to hop on down to sun baked Qatar? Knowing the tendency of fair-skinned Brits, they'd need to pack huge jugs of SPF 50 sunscreen just to step onto the tarmac.

Sportswashing, that is the thinly-veiled affiliation with international sporting events in order to curry PR points with the unwashed masses, has been around for quite a while. 

I'm hoping the photo of Herr Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games doesn't land me in the digital slammer but the notion of a fascist, antisemitic country trying to bolster its international image is very apparent. Which is a real shame because it's my understanding the 1930's produced a bevy of talented Jewish athletes. you know, before (((we))) got into the global domination game via worldwide media and banking control. 

You're welcome, Ye.

Perhaps the most egregious display of Sportswashing comes to us from the wonderful world of golf, which I'm not so sure should be considered athletics. I don't think anyone could look at Ray Floyd and John Daly (again, I'm dating myself) and say, "Now, those two guys are athletes."

Of course I'm referring to the breakaway LIV tour sponsored by the world's number 1 ranked abuser of human rights, Saudi Arabia. And naturally LIV is associated with the world's number 1 abuser of all-you- can-eat dessert bars, ex Precedent Shitgibbon. 

These cads, in their plaid pants and designer polo shirts, left the PGA to give credibility to a sham tour designed for the express purpose of detracting from Saudi atrocities. Does the Never Forget Red Hat crowd not recall that 15 of the 19 perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks were from this overheated hellhole?

Not to mention their abusive treatment of women and the criminalization of the LGBTQ community. It is 2022, god, if he or she or it exists, does not give a rat's ass what two men or two women or two women and one man or two men and one woman or two men and an unspecified furry, do behind closed doors. 

Why on Earth are we deriving our moral code according to the whims and fancies of ignorant Abrahamic shepherds and goat herders from 1500, 2000 or even 3000 years ago? 

That's all I have to say on Sportswashing. Oh and that I probably won't be watching a minute of the 2022 World Cup. 

Mostly because (apologies to my friends Paul and Colin) it's not really football, is it?



Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Wherein, I give Thanks.


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A holiday that presents its own difficulties for me and my family, as it will be the first without Deb.

As many of you know I lost my wife last December. My daughters lost their mother. My family lost the glue that bound us. 

Suffice it to say, the last year has been the most difficult in all my 64 spent here on Earth. As many of you also know, Grief is a searing pain, that dulls over time but then rears its head unexpectedly and with the impact of a well-placed uppercut.

Nevertheless, I want to give thanks because I am grateful and choose to take this time and space to acknowledge that.

I'm thankful for my daughters, who made the day-to-day living possible. They put their grief on hold and consoled me, lived with me and picked up life's duties when I simply couldn't. Without them, nothing would be possible.

Similarly, I need to thank my three sisters-in-law and my brother for seeing me through days when I was broken, numbed over and could not function.

And I'm thankful for the many, many friends who fed us, comforted us, and came to our aid, sometimes reeling from the uncomfortableness of it all, to be at our side. For fear of missing a name or two or a dozen, I won't name names, you know who you are. 

But I do want to give special acknowledgement to my friend of 40 years/ my former boss/my writing partner/ my accomplice on so many laugh-filled adventures, Jim Jennewein. He dropped everything on his plate to fly out from Brooklyn and shack up for a week in my living room on a crappy air mattress next to the doggie bed. In addition to his oversized heart, Professor Jim has the wisdom of a Talmudic scholar, albeit one who went to Catholic High School and Notre Dame and never memorized the Beatitudes.

I want to thank the widows and widowers I knew from my Suffern High School days, Nancy, Bob and Other Nancy. Who emerged from the blue and proffered their unique perspective about being in the Club No One Wants to be In. They have helped and continue to help me walk this difficult unchartered path that has yielded unexpected personal growth.

Thanks are also due to my therapists, individual and family, Christina, Michael and Mathew who have and helped and continue to help me, help myself. 

I want to thank Ms. Muse, for randomly populating my world, renewing my sense of joy, tickling my sense of humor and revitalizing my love of cycling. Oh and baking the finest chocolate chip cookies.

I want to thank my friends/co-workers at PayPal Honey or Honey Paypal who gave me a second chance after submitting a Subject Line: Here's what's trending besides football and Nicki Minaj's cousin's swollen testicles.

I want to thank the readers of this blog, who have reached out publicly and privately. I don't know why anyone would want to read my daily screeds, but I'm glad you do.

And I want to give thanks to Universe for the 180 degree course correction and for rewarding my resilience and pointing me in the direction of what I thought was impossible -- Happiness.

That is the way Deb would've wanted it. 

Of that, I'm certain.

Hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Trolling in Culver City


This is one of the underpasses along the Ballona Creek Bike Path. 

It's a path I've been riding along for the past 35 years. And a great way to get from my humble abode in Culver City to the ocean without having to navigate traffic and careless drivers who are texting their spouse what they'd like for dinner or applying makeup via their rearview mirrors.

Last week the local FB page reported that due to the underpass overcrowding and post apocalyptic conditions, the homeless people or if I want to be politically correct, those suffering from homelessness, had been moved out of their rent-free quarters.

I, for one, couldn't be happier. 

The situation had become untenable (see pic above). And every time Ms. Muse and I would ride under one of our scenic underpasses there was always the danger that we'd be confronted by people suffering a mental condition, or addled by drugs, or worse, both, and in serious want of an expensive bicycle which could be sold on the black market.

Indeed I left a comment to that effect on the FB page and was quickly taken to task by a young lady who said these unfortunate people had more to fear from people like me than the other way around. 

Really? 

I asked, if this were a gut feeling on her part. Or if it was backed by any real evidence? Moments later, she had sent me a link from a The Streetwise News, a newspaper published with the express purpose of helping/promoting the needs of homeless people....sorry, people suffering from homelessness.

In the article, 51% of males felt threatened by housed people, while 57% of females felt threatened by housed people. This is what passes for journalism these days. 

Feelings.

It didn't take long for this young lady to then read me the Riot Act about being some cold-hearted, selfish Boomer who doesn't understand homelessness or the difficulties of the working poor. She then went on to boast about her superior first hand experience as a former homeless person who struggled and continues to struggle with making the week's paycheck outlast an empty pantry.

None of her ignorant projections about me are true. 

I didn't bother to tell her the many times in my life that I had the work two menial low paying jobs just to put another plate of poorly made mac & cheese in front of my face. Or the time I had experienced my own homelessness on my first sojourn to Los Angeles and resorted to sleeping on the roof of a building until I could find and afford housing. Nor did I explain my first hand understanding of dealing with the state of New Jersey to get my uncle into a state-assisted living for mentally handicapped. 

By the time she started slinging unmerited Boomer invectives my way I knew the argument was over. 

I don't know what the solution is. 

Maybe with more people working from home, those vacant office buildings can be converted into housing. Maybe we can build low cost homes the way the Chinese put up hospitals in 10 days. Maybe the billionaires of this country who are allegedly our best and brightest, can put their heads together and come up with a solution.

All I know is, I'm glad to have the bike path back.

At least for now.



Monday, November 21, 2022

Someting is rotten in upstate NY


There isn't much I consider Must-See-TV. 

Does that phrase date me or what? 

But The Vow, the docu-series on HBO detailing the lurid and often comical behaviors/platitudes/volleyball tips of the NXIVM cult, led by Keith Raniere, is definitely phrase worthy.

We are now in the thick of Season Two, wherein we are seeing the hands of justice slowly forming an iron fist and about to spike a thorny volleyball in the face of the one time, diminutive, greasy-haired Svengali. I'll try not to give away too many spoilers for uninitiated, but Season 1 is a must see primer.

Raniere, a skilled salesman, who toiled for many years in various multi-level marketing schemes, found himself in the company of many wealthy Jewish women from New York and upstate NY. Mishbuchah, if you will. (In fact, during some post-viewing online research I discovered this clownish cult leader actually went to my high school and was only two years behind me!) 

He also found himself in the vicinity of a whiteboard and some magic markers and began spitting psycho-babble verse. What Eminem was to the gritty streets of Michigan, Keith Raniere was to Manhattan socialites and well-to-do suburban dwellers seeking "self improvement wisdom".

"Fear and resentment are cousins. They live near each other. And are co-dependent. To eliminate one one must sever the relationship with the other. Who wants to be the libero?"

Did I mention Raniere's demented obsession with volleyball?

The dozen of his disciples soon became dozens. Then hundreds. And those hundreds included small time Hollywood actresses and wealthy relatives from the Bronfman Empire, whom made money the old fashioned way -- they sold liquid spirits and got people soused.

At one point, the cult, headquartered near Albany, NY, had franchised outlets around the world. I've been to Albany and can't understand why anyone or anything would be headquartered there. Albany makes Syracuse look like the Amalfi Coast. 

It ain't.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping aspect of this pre-Pete Davidson character was his extraordinary ability to bed down women, who not only fell under his "charm" but would do so in droves. I never understood women before watching this series. I understand them even less now. I'm as clueless as a Red Hat in a library.

If I haven't convinced you to to tune in...er, stream...the hijinx of a narcissistic douchebiscuit corralling willing sheep into an abyss of self destruction (sound familiar?), consider the picture above. 

It is the result of human branding, that's right. He convinced his harem to sear their flesh with his own less-than-cryptic brand via a custom made iron rod heated to more than 1000 degrees.

I say less-than-cryptic because if you flip the picture 90 degrees to the left, you are left with Keith's initials.


Point. Set. Match.

I hope this fancy man gets his cumuppance in the Big House -- misspelling intentional.