Thursday, September 29, 2022

I Blame Ian

Due to traveling, biking and termite killing, I have fallen behind on my blogging and was planning to  devote today's posting to the final hearing of the 1/6 Tourist Visit Committee.

It promised to be chock full of new revelatory shit about Captain Ouchie Foot and his juvenile plans to steal the last presidential election. I was particularly looking forward to the texts between Roger Stone aka the new Roy Cohn and his exchanges with the antisemitic, anti-American Oath Keepers. 

In the pantheon of punchable faces from the last regime including Steven Miller, Steve Bannon, Mick Mulvaney, Mark Meadows, and Kelly Anne Conway (yes I would punch her), Roger Stone leap frogs to the top of the heap.

But alas, Hurricane Ian put the kaibosh on all that and yesterday's hearing was postponed. And with it today's post.

Let's pray for 99.99999999999999999% of Floridians. 

And wish a heaping helping of hurting on the one Florida Guy who has wreaked so much damage on our Republic. May an errant, splintery windblown 2X4 impale him where the semi-digested KFC makes its inglorious exit.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

In the club

When it comes to clubs or organizations, I subscribe heavily to the Groucho Marx philosophy. 

I'm not going to quote Mr. Marx, knowing full well many readers of this blog are completely unaware (aka, too young) of his magnificent body of work. And his famous misanthropy. I'm hoping it will send some scurrying to the Google in search of answers.

If I can turn one reader into a Marx Brothers fan, my work here will be done.

My commitment to remaining an outsider is a lifelong one. To wit, I identify as Jewish and have a working knowledge of all its rich traditions, including the need to purchase tickets in order to attend high holiday services.

"You have to BUY tickets to sit in temple?", said a bemused Ms. Muse.

But I don't subscribe to many of its quirks and crazy religiosity. See Yeshiva University and its recent refusal to allow any LGBTQ clubs on campus. Fuck them, that's embarrassing and reflects a troglodyte POV I can't get behind.

There are many other instances where I have walked away from club-joining, including my aversion to fraternities while in college, runner's clubs when I was doing 10k races on a regular basis, and even my karate dojo, which felt a little too cultish for my independent ways.

However, I woke up the other morning after a tense and dreadful dream. I was back at Chiat/Day (see picture above which includes a glimpse of my old office, just to the left of the surfboard-toting old Datsun) in the heat of yet another life or death new business pitch. 

Interesting how after losing a pitch, many agencies will cut back and institute layoffs. And after winning a pitch, agencies will disburse bonuses to those, and only those, on the top side of an org. chart. The side I was never on.

Mind you, this is not the first time this type of dream has occurred. 

And while I can't provide the details of these cerebral adventures, I can tell you there have been many. 

And because I was always surfing my own adrenaline waves while in their employ, I couldn't get escape these dreams fast enough. Especially if they involved one particular under-skilled, alcohol-imbibing, pussy-grabbing member of upper management who always dropped a turd in my career punchbowl.

And yet, despite the unpleasant imaginary reliving of past vocational grievances, Chiat/Day is the one club I was, and still am, proud to be a member of. 

Perhaps, despite my protestations, I have always wanted to have that sense of belonging. And my membership in this elite club, that once ruled the roost in the ad world, did the trick for me. 

Still, it's been more than 20 years since I was gainfully employed there. I wish they'd get out of my dreams and that I could replace them. 

I'd gladly swap a new business pitch for something that involved Charlize Theron or Emily Ratajkowski.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Termites, pastrami and rubbery legs

I've been told the universe is turning in my favor lately. 

It certainly didn't feel like that two weeks ago when the recent spate of unusually hot weather brought some unwanted guests to my house -- termites.

From what I understand, termites are an interminable pest to homeowners whose homes are not built from cement or steel. Termites chew on wood and seek to destroy everything that is good, night and day, 365 days a year, and will never be eradicated.

Much like Shitgibbon and his brigade of Red Hats.

The best one can hope for is to wipe out one colony, thus giving pause til the next one arrives subterraneously and begins gnawing at the foundations, see aforementioned GOP analogy. 

And so I did what all homeowners must do every 10 years or so, I hired a fumigator to tent my home and pump it full of noxious gasses. 

More noxious and toxic than my own.

All of which gave Ms. Muse, my zealous bike-riding friend and I, an opportunity to skip town and head north to tackle the Lighthouse Century Ride. The ride comes in three flavors: 100 miles for the hardcore cyclist, with legs of steel and dreams of conquering the Ironman. Those days are long gone for me. 

There's also the Metric Century, 65 miles of pushing/pulling/heaving/hoing along California's scenic and often-hilly Route 1 all the way to Sam Simeon.

And finally, there's the perineum-pounding 45 miles (Century Lite) which stretches from Morro Bay (Land of Many Motels) to breathtaking Cambria, home of the Bridge Street Cafe (home of the most delicious pastrami sandwich this side of the Hudson River.)

I'm no Spring Chicken, though I often delude myself into thinking I still have the body of a fit 44 year old, and opted for option three. It's three days after the ride and my shoulders are still creaky from being hunched over the handlebars of my Cinelli racing bike. 

I won't lie, and admit that I am slightly disappointed that we didn't push ourselves north of Cambria to the obscenely gaudy gates of Hearst Castle.

However, on a positive note, my replacement hip performed flawlessly. Particularly when confronted with steep coastal hills, where I slid into the left side of the bike lane and effortlessly passed riders half my age. 

And make no mistake, I am gloating about that.


Monday, September 26, 2022

Blessing #24 -- "where to fellas?"


It isn't every day that you sell screenplay to a movie studio for 3/4 million dollars (and that's 1989 money). In fact it was the only day that I got experience this once in a lifetime experience. 

Thankfully, because of their incredible prodigiousness, it happened several more times for my writing partners Jim Jennewein and Tom Parker, who went on to pen Getting Even With Dad, Major League II, the Flintstones and more. 

More thankfully, Deb was with me when this Hollywood miracle happened. And what do three young copywriters do when they strike screenwriting gold and cash checks the size of a house down payment? They go all Clampett-style and blow it (some of it) on a night on the town in a stretch limo.

Our driver Meg, a young African American woman, had little idea what she was in for when she arrived to pick the 5 of us for a night of revelry. BTW, try to google African American female limo driver and you will come up empty handed -- stupid algorithm.

Our first stop was a fancy Thai restaurant in the terminal at Santa Monica airport. I doubt it's there anymore but at the time, the post-80's big hair era, it was the happening place on the westside. 

I'm not sure what we ate there. I am sure that feeling flush with cash for the very first time in our lives we told the waiter or waitress something obnoxious...

"Give us the left side of the menu. And if we're still hungry, the right."

Oh, yeah we were those guys. As odious and drunk as we were it was not too odious to Deb, who had for all intents and purposes, just started dating me. Perhaps she was laughing so hard she forgot to think, "oh my god this guy is so classless."

How classless, you might ask? If memory serves, the manager came by our table and asked us to "Get the Bangkok out of here."

I'm not sure Shane Black, the premier screenwriter at the time, would've reacted the same as we did. But we promptly told the manager to kiss us where the sun don't shine. And, in case, he was unclear on the vernacular, we showed exactly where they would be.

Deb rolled her eyes. A gesture I would see with increasing frequency during our 33 years together.

Nevertheless, she was nonplussed, and with help from Judy, Jim's girlfriend, guided the three of us, with our pants wrapped around our ankles, back to the safety of Meg and her big limo.

Normally stoic limo drivers are trained to ignore the antics of their passengers, but Meg was no ordinary limo driver. She couldn't help from laughing. And continued to laugh throughout the night. 

When we accosted pedestrians on Sunset Blvd.

When we took turns poking out through the sun roof.

When we needed to borrow $40 bucks for another bottle of Dom at a cheesy liquor store.

I wish I could recall more of the details of this magnificent (and now shameful) evening. I wish Deb were here to fill me in on all the stupid shit we did that night. 

I do remember that the memory of those magical times always brought a nonjudgmental smile to her face. And that whatever transpired she was thankful for the story. 

And I'm thankful she part of the story.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Love That Bob

 "When did you know you were heterosexual?"

It's not a question I'm (or other hetero males) often asked. But it's my understanding it is often asked of homosexual men. Just part of the hang ups of modern day America. 

Look, I don't really care about the sexual business of other men, or women. Or those identifying somewhere in between. It's one of those things that is frankly none of my business. Nevertheless I decided to pose the question to myself. 

And I think I'm pretty sure I know the answer.

I knew I was heterosexual when I was 6 years old. Maybe even earlier. And I can safely trace my preferences back to the appropriately-named star of stage and screen, Bob Cummings. A man, who oddly enough, was married 5 times.

Many of you are too young to remember this, but Mr. Cummings had a black and white TV show on in the early 60's. In it, he played a Hugh Hefner type photographer who shot pin up girls at his upscale studio. It was Playboy After Dark, only in the mornings. And I distinctively recall the times when I would set myself in front of the TV for what was to be a titillating 30 minutes of innuendo-laced humor. All of which went right over my toddler head. 

The pin up models, with their supernatural pointy boobs, on the other hand, did not escape my attention.

Suffice it to say, at 6 years old I had no idea what was going one down there. And I certainly wasn't going to ask my mother, "Why am I feeling all tingly?" 

It felt like I was given a tablet of InstaWood™.

Had I been the slightest bit smart or even entrepreneurial, I might have thought, "I wish there were a way to capture these 30 minutes of lasciviousness and put them on some kind of recording tape and devise a machine that would allow me to watch the shows over and over again until the tape wore itself out."

But alas, I was just a numbskull 6 year old kid that knew for certain, "I play for Bob's team and like the ladies as much as he does in the photo pictured above."

Years later, my orientation became even clearer when my mother brought home a Herb Albert album. I went steady with that cover for about two years...

At 8 years old I developed an unnatural hankering for whipped cream. And a still unexplainable tingly feeling that made my corduroy pants squeak even louder.

It all culminated, when I made it a weekly ritual to sit myself down in front of the TV for the airing of I Dream of Jeannie, featuring the ultimate blonde shiksa queen, Barbara Eden. 

I'm picturing my parents discussing my unusual fascination of (and devotion to) this silly little sitcom situated in Cape Canaveral.

"Al, I think little Richie might want to become an astronaut."

"Isabel, this has got nothing to do with a love of outer space. Trust me." 

And not that there's anything wrong with playing for the other team, but I'm pretty sure Al (whose younger brother bore the burden of 1950's homophobia) breathed a sigh of relief.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

A Stoic beginning


If there's one regret about my collegiate life (actually, there are many) it's that I never took a class in Philosophy. You'd think that a liberal arts college like Syracuse University would have made that a freshman requirement, like English or Biology or Binge Drinking.

But it wasn't and now I wish it were.

Last week I came across an article regarding Scott Thompson, a recognizable actor known for Kids in The Hall and the brilliant Larry Sanders Show. 

You may be wondering what an openly gay Canadian actor whose home was once attacked by Islamic terrorists and left a note that said, "In the name of Allah, the merciful and compassionate, you will be dead" (Scott: They underlined the word dead as if being firebombed didn't freak us out enough) could teach me about philosophy?

Well, I'll tell you.

Scott had become interested in Stoicism. And had started reading Letters from a Stoic. 

I know a little about Stoicism, mostly from Russell Crowe's admiration of Marcus Aurelius in the movie Gladiator. But I decided I wanted to know more about a philosophy that emphasizes: the contempt of death, the value of friendship and virtue as the supreme good. 

So I ordered a copy for myself. Pictured here alongside a book of considerably less significance. 

In my short foray (a full review to come later) I am most impressed. So impressed that the flimsy cover of the book is bent backwards, hence needed to be weighted down by my wrought iron beer bottle opener, a household item that gets used way too often, much to my weight-losing detriment.

The astute reader will now notice the tone of my voice reflects the same tone used by Francis Barton Gummere, who has thoughtfully translated the letters collected by Roman Philosopher Lucius Seneca. And published by William Collins, a millworker from Glasgow, where I trace my own personal roots.

Here's a sample from the very beginning of the book:

"I commend you and rejoice in the fact that you are persistent in your studies, and that, putting all else aside, you make it each day your endeavor to become a better man. I do not merely exhort you to keep at it; I actually beg you to do so."

That's good stuff. And I love any sentence that properly used a semi-colon. Perhaps one day I will learn to do so myself.

There's a good chance that by page 242 I may even consider myself a full fledged Stoic. But I'll try not to bore you with it. 

It's not like I'm a vegan or into cross-fit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Put in all together

I can't imagine anything more boring then listening to other people's dreams, unless of course if they are of a prurient nature. BTW, isn't it interesting that a word like prurient -- which I suspect will send some to the Google dictionary -- is used to describe such base instincts?

Nevertheless, given the surreal vector my life has been on as of late, I thought I'd share. Mostly because unlike other dreams, the imagery in this one was so vivid and dare I say, memorable. In fact, Vladimir Putin makes a rare cameo appearance. 

Did you have a dream with Vladimir Putin? More on that later.

The dream begins with a contest, an advertising contest. OK, that's not fair. I never really know when one dream ends and another begins. These things are, by nature, a bit cloudy and don't move in a linear fashion. But I was in a contest. A Round Robin contest to come up with the best Super Bowl commercial for some unnamed car company.

Last week I was involved in a similar Round Robin contest of ideas at work, so very little is needed in the way of analysis there.

The contest stipulated that the spot must be taken in one of two directions. It must be humorous. Or it must be about safety. Being contrarian by nature, I decided to write a Super Bowl commercial that was both. 

Do I remember the spot? I do not. And even if I did I wouldn't post the details. I get a healthy day rate for that kind of stuff. 

But, in un-Siegel-like fashion, I won the contest. 

Moreover there was a young woman, who I cannot identify, who I helped, and she won second place. I know this because in the dream there was a celebration dinner and she was sitting next to me and let me know how appreciative she was. This might merit some analysis, but this is a family blog. Plus, I don't think it's necessary.

This celebration party was attended by about 300 people. Among the guests were Xi Jinping, the Prime Minister, or President, or Dick in Charge, of China. He strolled by my table and darted me a long dark stare that reminded me of the times my former partner, also Chinese, at BBDO would silently express his disapproval of my childish hotheaded antics.

Also at the party was Mr. Putin. He too, was not happy that he lost this prestigious and totally fabricated contest to yours truly. And here's where it gets even more interesting, or at least a little bit interesting. 

Putin was smoking two cigarettes in his hand. 

I can't imagine any of my old black belt instructors from the Karate dojo smoking a cigarette. Much less two. Maybe Micheal or Noble, who occasionally read this blog, can confirm this. Though I do recall many of them savoring the opportunity to kick my ass on Sparring Wednesday Nights. I literally paid them good US legal tender to beat me up.

Even more disturbing, Mr. Putin, the former KGB chief who owned our former president, was wearing a humongous foam cowboy hat not dissimilar to the one pictured above. The hat made his tiny Russian head seem even tinier. But did little to diminish his displeasure at not winning the Super Bowl writing contest.

What does it all mean? Who knows?

But I defy you to walk around today and NOT picture Vladimir Putin, smoking two cigarettes, mumbling to himself, while donning a giant red foam cowboy hat.

Good luck.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Letters, we get letters

Last week, we looked at and talked about some of the unannounced fan mail I receive from the deepest corners of the ether. Today we're examining the flipside of all that, hate mail. 

Or, UnFan Mail. 

Perhaps it's the universe talking to me again, but as I was cleaning out my garage trying to figure out how to move the amplifier and stereo turntable into my newly arranged living room, I hit the jackpot. 

I stumbled across a collection of letters. 

OK, they're actually emails sent in the early days of the Internet and AOL -- go ahead imagine that iconic crackling sound of your modem hooking up to the interwebs -- all addressed to the ABC Community Relations Department. I always thought these would be great grist for the mill and wanted to do a series of commercials featuring our ABC spokesperson, the legendary Steve Shenbaum...

...answering each letter in his dry, sardonic manner, and seeking to convert every hater into an ABC lover. But the network powers that be, didn't see the opportunity nor the goldmine represented by these vitriolic digital missives.

Believe or not I don't like to revisit the work we did 25 years ago. But Ms. Muse, a fellow denizen of the tawdry advertising world, suggests I own it. 

Similarly, I. might have shared these years ago but that was in the early days of RoundSeventeen. And I'm quite sure those readers have already left the building and are on to more meatier and meaningful morning reading. Or they're listening to podcasts. So there's little chance of offending them by repeating myself.

Besides, I'm 64, I can just say I'm old and forgot.

Without further ado, our first piece of Hate Mail comes from Fred Smith in Groveland, OH:

I curse ABC each morning on my way to work when I pass the godawful yellow billboard that says: "Most people only use 10% of their brain. That's way too much."

Thank you Fred, your complimentary ABC coasters are on their way.

Thomas Watkins in Chicago writes:

Your advertorial, TV is Good is cretinous. To group Farah Fawcett's introduction, JFK's assassination and our moonwalk is not only vulgar, it's blasphemous. I bet the mope copywriter repsonsible for your ad is liekly an uneducated vulagian (SP) anyway, so I can't hold him responsible."

Thank you Thomas. Do you think I can get a refund from Syracuse University?

Amy Hooper from Vermont writes:

Husband Not Funny? Great, another attack on reasonable priorities. This time prescribing television usage as a way for a couple who no longer get along particularly well to spend time together. And somehow makeup for a lack of enchantment and romance in a relationship. Insulting.

We're sorry Amy, are there no counselors in Vermont?

That's just a small smattering. Perhaps we can revisit some of these at a later date when this round of readers has moved on and we welcome a whole new batch of readers to the R17 fold.

But before we sign off today, you should know that the people who took the time to express their feelings to the ABC brass were not all bad.

Frank Rosenbaum, another landsman from New York, writes:

I have seen many cool ads recently for ABC on the subway station. I like your campaign. I would like to inquire about the possibility of obtaining these ads in the same format to decorate my den.

Thank you Frank, what does Mrs. Rosenbaum think about all that?

Thursday, September 15, 2022

It's Din-Din Time

It isn't everyday that I get to speak of a product and life-changing in the same sentence. Today is one of those days. 

Say hello to the WOpet Automatic Dog Feeder. I suppose it could work for cats too, but I've never lived in Cat World and find their care and maintenance completely alien. I don't know the first thing about cats. Nor why anyone would want one.

Dogs, on the other paw, I know. 

And I know my dog Lucy was blessed/cursed with a preternatural biological clock. 

I could tell you when it's 7 AM or 4 PM with the accuracy of an atomic clock buried beneath feet of protective cement in the deserts near Los Alamos. She is astoundingly precise. And even more astoundingly vocal. If she doesn't get fed on time, I'm going to hear about it.

And if I'm not home, the neighbors are going to hear about it.

My life has grown increasingly active as of late: Hollywood Bowl, Dodger games, bike rides and anything else to get me out of the house and into the real world. And while I enjoy my current state of greater untetheredness, I'm not sure Lucy approves. 

So I sprung for the high end pet feeder from the fine folks at WOpet. 

And again, I write this as an unpaid influencer not seeking anything in the form of compensation or rebate. However if the WOpet people come up with an automatic dog walker and automatic dog shit picker upper, I'm more than happy to accept some renumeration.

With its Wi-Fi connection and handy dandy app, I can easily feed Lucy from all four corners of the Earth. 

Though I will admit my first few fumbling attempts to program the feeder were quite messy. Thanks to some language barriers in the instruction manual, I mistakenly entered 50 "portions" thinking it would dispense 50 pellets of her awful smelling NutriSource chicken and veggie dog food.

Instead, it meant 50 portions as in meal portions. 

The WOpet 9000 endlessly emptied out onto my floor like a huge Vegas Slot Machine that had landed on 7-7-7. Lucy had clearly hit the jackpot and ate a week's worth of pellets before I could clean up the gargantuan mess.

But all that is behind me. And I haven't had to bend down to scoop up Lucy's smelly grub from the pickle bucket I keep it stored in. That might not sound so rewarding to you, but for a 64 year old man with a finicky back, the WOpet is worth its weight in gold. 

Thank you WOpet, that's S-I-E-G-E-L


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

I'm blushing

A wise woman with a deep background in communications, advertising, PR and academia, once said to me, "You need to learn how to to take a compliment better."

That statement doesn't reveal any new insight. 

I've always been the first to admit that accepting compliments is not my strong suit. Bench pressing is my strong suit. 

Perhaps it's a remnant of the same Imposter Syndrome that plagues all copywriters and art directors who are convinced that by selling out their meager talents to the highest corporate bidder they have rendered themselves unpraiseworthy.

Years ago I was walking through my neighborhood and spotted a younger colleague who I had met at Chiat/Day. He was hosting a party in his front yard and his guests, all of whom had hair and worked in the business, appeared to be 30 years my minor -- aka, "the Kids."

My friend introduced me, "Hey everybody I want to introduce you to my friend...a great copywriter...He's a Legend."

I chugged the PBR (undrinkable, at best, but favored by hipsters) as fast as I could and made for the exit.

There are a handful of people on this Earth who warrant an introduction like that. I'm at the bottom of the waiting list, assuming that list runs from here to Alpha Centauri.

Every week or so, much more for my prolific friend George Tannenbaum, I'll get an email or a text from out of the blue, often from a stranger who I only know in the digital manner. For example, and I will block  out the identity of this person for discretionary purposes...

And that one is decidedly less gushy than many of the others. 

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate validation as much as anyone. I believe all writers want and need that. 

I was just never comfortable hearing it. I'm probably more comfortable with the notion that, "I suck. If I were any good at this, publishers/agents/studio chiefs would be pounding at my door like an eager Swat Team wanting to play with their new battering toys."

In any case, I'm getting better at this whole compliment-acceptance thing.

Will I be good at it?

Probably not, it takes a while to overcome 64 years of well-earned humility. 



Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Blessing #23 -- Road Trip


I've been crying a bit more this week. 

Don't know if it's because every time I change something in the house -- today was the hallway closet in the front that had been jelly-tight with a panoply of Deb's coats -- it brings forth a flood of memories. And a little bit of guilt.  

Or, if it's because I have weaned myself off the meds I had been taking since Deb's passing nearly 9 months ago. In any case, I went through some Kleenex, which all my widow/widowers friends do, even those that have remarried. 

It's the hand we've been dealt.

One of my friends, a member of the Club No One Wants To Be In, reached out to me this week and was sharing her plans to go cross country in a camper/van. I quickly volunteered that I had some experience with that.

Weeks after Deb's Y90 treatment in the spring of 2021 we went on a road trip. She had been wiped out by the custom made package of nuclear pellets that had been aimed at her liver and bile ducts, effectively destroying 95% of her massive tumor. We were optimistic, but bearing a heavy load of cancer fatigue. By the way, I always viewed her cancer as my cancer. 

I think that may be a common phenomena.

Nevertheless, having all the energy of a roofied sloth, Deb was insistent that we do our annual camping trip to Upper Gray's Meadow in the High Sierras. 

And so I made that happen. 

By going on and finding a local owner who rents out his beautiful Ram Camper Van for those willing to shell out top dollar so as to have a shower and not have to sleep in a cramped tent with mosquitos as big as hummingbirds. 

That would be me.

It would be the first time we had ever done the camper thing -- vs. the tent thing. Sadly, it was also the last time Deb would see our campground for the past 20 years or so. (I think my dog Lucy is chopping onions in the other room)

I wish I had bothered to take more pictures inside the van but she didn't believe she looked her best, Deb would not permit me. She did a lot sleeping (comfortably) and barely emerged from the van. In fact, she couldn't even summon the energy to make our sunset visit to the meadow with Beth, Colin, Paul and Deanna, for cocktails, pub cheese and crackers, leftover ceviche fermented by 95+ degree temps and many stories about camp pooping.

And yet, this, the shortest of our camping trips (3 days) and the most sedentary, was the one she cherished the most.

It was also the most expensive. 

Truth is, I would have paid ten times the price just to be able to give her that experience. Did I say ten times? 

I meant a hundred and ten times.


Editorial aside: If you zoom into the picture you'll notice the number 12. Though I'm not big on tattoos, particularly numbers on Jews, my daughter prepared a special blend of ashes and ink to have 12 placed on her arm as a tribute to Deb and the campsite we called home.

"Lucy, that's enough onions, damnit."

Monday, September 12, 2022

Dark clouds on the horizon

This ad for Harley Davidson popped up on my social media feed last week. 

With it came the aroma of a freshly opened One Show book or the distinctive smell of a dog-earred CA Annual that had been passed around the creative department and pilfered relentlessly by ambitious young art directors and copywriters who thought, "some day I'm going to do work of this caliber and become a CD and make 1/2 million dollars and have a personal assistant who'll get my dry cleaning."

I seem to have gone off track.

The point is, and was on the social media feed, that this is the kind of work that is simply not done anymore. 

For a myriad of reasons, alluded to by those same formerly young art directors and copywriters who now find themselves pimping prescription pimple cream or resizing banner ads for Instagram or heaven forbid, Truth Social.

1. Why is the motorcycle so small? I'm no mathematician, but I play one on these pages, and I suspect the photo of the bike covers less than 4.7% (specificity = humor) of the double page spread. And the astute naysaying client would be correct. On the other hand, my intuition tells me that would-be purchasers of a Harley Davidson already know what a motorcycle looks like. They're more inspired by the boundless panaorama and the thrill of commanding the open road. Mind you, I have no data to that effect, but back in my motorcycling days I had seen hundreds of ads, few as evocative as this.

2. This could be for any motorcycle. And again, the hesitant ad manager would be correct. You could swap out the Harley for a Honda or a Kawasaki or a Triumph. You could, but you'd be tossing out the rewards of category leadership and the singular privileges earned by the brand and the loyalty of its followers. I have heard this argument countless times in my career and every time I am shocked by the lack of foresight and confidence by people who should know the brand better and leverage it when possible.

3. Print is dead. Can't argue with that. Just a few weeks ago, I canceled my expensive subscription to the NY Times, which had been stacking up on my already cluttered dining room table, and decided I would follow their journalistic activities online where it's been pointed out, I spend too much time.

What? And miss stuff like this:

The point is...wait what was the point?...this type of work is no longer being done. Nor is it being asked for. Or created. Or even considered. The industry lives where clients live -- at the bottom of the funnel. 20% off this. This offer will end soon. Click NOW! 

Sadly, there is no attempt to return to doing work like the ad pictured above. 

Instead, we're on a slippery slide, coated with peanut oil, on an A/B tested, data driven, death spiral to the bottom.

Thank god I'm 64.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

The Botox blues

I haven't written about advertising much lately, but after a a discussion with Ms. Muse, I thought, "now there's something to muse/ramble/write about."

Somehow we found ourselves discussing the state of healthcare in this country, more specifically the abysmal state of healthcare. What makes it abysmal? To a great extent it's the capitalist profit motive. 

In 99.99% of the civilized world, healthcare is universal and and widely available thanks to the State. 

Or as Red Hat Republicans call it the tyrannical, Bolshevik-led Deep State who want to control every facet of our life and deprive us of our god given right to freedom, liberty and expensive medications that can wipeout a lifetime worth of savings. 

Funny thing is, I'd bet 1/2 the equity in my home that most Red Hats haven't a clue about Bolsheviks. Or Communism. Or even Socialism (you know, the Bible). To them it's an all inclusive pejorative not worthy of any further discussion.

I don't give a rat's ass what you call healthcare in the civilized world, I only know that while on vacation in London I had come down with some serious breathing issues, rushed to a nearby NHS hospital and for a mere $50 was attended to, and saved, by three teams of emergency doctors. 

So fuck Lindsey Graham, fuck Mitch McConnell, fuck Mike Turner and fuck any Republican who have deluded themselves into thinking we have the best damn healthcare system in the world.

We don't.

Because the people who are truly in control of our healthcare are not politicians, not doctors, or even specialists. 

They're sales reps.

Attractive young women and men, who roam freely in our medical centers, pimping pharmaceuticals from their roll-on pleather briefcases. From Keytruda to Cialis to Botox™, makers of America's favorite face filler, these are the folks who have the candy, the pills, the potions, the magic elixirs to heal what's ailing America.

Only they don't. And the fact is they should stay out of the medical lane, where they don't belong, and hawk stereos at Best Buy or Toyota Corollas at the next Toyotathon with Jan.

I don't want my doctor determining my medical care based on 'incentives' or worse, 'kickbacks' from a sales rep hoping to peddle another case of Ozampic just to win this month's contest and an all-expense paid vacation at the Hyatt Regency in Kauai.

"Hey Tiffany, let's go parasailing."

I write all this at great risk to my personal career, which is already on a steeper decline than an Olympic ski-jump. 

As many of my colleagues, vocational brethren who once stewarded the brands for Fortune 100 companies but have been aged or salaried out, know, there's a good chance that before I hang up my click clacking cleats, I might be spending time writing Pharmaceutical Advertising. 

And though I got an A in Biology 101 at Syracuse University (newsflash: everyone did), I should not be in any position to incrementally persuade a doctor on any prescription advice for even the most routine case of the sniffles. 

However, I will say, there's very little copy to be written on each ad --which are dominated by legal disclaimers -- and the money, from what I understand, is quite significant. Plus, I've always wanted to make a return trip the inimitable Hyatt Regency, with its pool-adjacent, lazy river, swim up bar, and heavenly southern Trade Winds.

Mmmmm, swim up bar....

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

On Leon

Ever come across a new musician that grabs you by your Dumbo ears and simply won't go?  

Last week while doom scrolling through my social media feed I came across some homemade drone videos via my friend and former Chiat/Day colleague, David L. (I didn't secure his permission so I'm leaving this open-ended). 

The video featured a music track from Leon Bridges, pictured above with his amazing back up singer, the beautiful and soulful Brittni Jessi.

The track, Coming Home, intrigued me so much I decided to dive head first into this cool cat named Leon. 

Granted when it comes to today's music I'm not the expert I pretend to be in other areas of my life. In fact, if Modern Music came up as a category on Jeopardy, I would have my ignorant ass handed to me by my two all-knowing daughters.

And so it should come as no surprise that I may be the last fat old white guy in the greater Southern California territory jumping on the Leon Bridges train. If you read yesterday's post, maybe I should say formerly-fat. 

The point is, I'm late.

But that hasn't stopped me from diving into the deep end. In fact, as I write this --and I never write with music playing -- Leon & Brittni are playing on a non-stop stream compliments of Pandora. Do the kids still use this Pandora? Or are they still on Napster?

If you bother to investigate this amazing musician and his singular style you will find someone who is equally out of touch with the times. Making music from another era, another universe. 

See for yourself:

Maybe I'm just getting melancholy in my soon-to-be old age. But I find Leon & Brittni have the ability to transcend the space/time continuum. They are like the Rod Serling of Rhythm and Blues.

Next Stop, Willoughby.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Blinded by the potential

There was an article in the NY Times last week about Peloton. The demise of Peloton. And the rush of Peloton users to sell their Peloton bikes. 

You'll have to pry mine out from under my overworked, rock hard quads.

I love my Peloton. 

And no, I'm not being paid as some senior influencer looking to score some brownie points with the Peloton brass. Or maybe even a free year's worth of the overpriced subscription which really should contain more scenic rides and a wider range of music choices. But chances are I will post a link to this piece on the Peloton FB page, you know, just in case.

What began as an obsession has now become an addictive part of my everyday living. And whereas I once  struggled to crank out 30-45 minutes on the machine that without regular wiping would be caked in the salty remnants of my sweat, is now upwards of 75-120 minutes a day.

And so it should come as no surprise that at the end of each day I have close to 6 hand towels, including the 4 Peloton-branded towels Deb bought me for my birthday last year, that need time in the washer and dryer. 

It's not pretty. 

What is pretty is the descending numbers on my scale. And the little tags on my clothes that indicate my former girth. As mentioned in previous posts, I'm now in the 180's. Ok, the high 180's. Ok, 189.9 to be embarrassingly honest. But Rome wasn't built in a day. Conversely, as the folks in Ukraine can attest, Chernobyl wasn't disassembled in a day, either. 

My goal is to get to the 170's which would put me in the acceptable healthy range for a man of my age and diminishing height. I haven't been in the 170's since I was Mr. Albanese's 7th Grade Biology class. 

I might wear out the leather in my special Peloton shoes, but damnit, I'm nothing if not determined. As many a crying Planner/Strategist/Account Executive will confirm.

If I may paraphrase, an expert in this area once said, "the best workouts begin in the kitchen." Or something like that. 

To that end I have all but eliminated packaged food from my diet, leaning into the major food groups that are most important: fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whiskey.

In fact, I've all but cut out red meat and replaced it with a variety of seafood; salmon, halibut, shrimp, codfish, scallops and even lobster tails. They reach my house via the good people at Sea to Table. 

Again, I'm not writing this as an influencer post, but should the fine folks at Sea to Table want to spring some extra 'tails' or sandy scallops on me for pimping their excellent selection of frozen fresh fish, who am I to say no?

I'm beginning to see the magic in this influencer blogging type thing. This could open up a whole new avenue for me. Particularly now that I am considering replacing the 25 year old wood blinds in my house with fine, luxurious shutters from the industry-leading pioneers in custom shutters, Hunter Douglas.

Hello, Hunter Douglas.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Happy Labor Day

Labor Day weekend is upon us. 

Meaning it's the unofficial end of our unofficial summer in Southern California. I say unofficial because it's essentially summer 365 days a year, here. 

If I can stroll down to the end of my driveway in January, wearing nothing but shorts, a T-shirt and flip flops, it's still summer. I only wish my neighbor afforded me the same courtesy and put on a T-shirt as well. Dude, put on a shirt or start working on that core.

Had I been returning to school, our English teacher might ask, "What did you do this summer?"

I'm glad you asked (he said to no one in particular.)

This summer was different. It was the first in 34 years that I spent without Deb. That's a deep sadness very few of you, apart from my fellow widows and widowers, will understand. Unlike me, Deb was all about finding the joy in the life. And I am retooling myself to internalize her adventuresome spirit.

A sentiment best expressed by this short piece...

With that in mind and with the knowledge that she would want me to move forward, with intent, let me offer a short recap of a fun filled summer that was restorative in so many unexpected ways.

* Went to Chavez Ravine. Twice.  It had been a while since visiting the stadium to see our billion dollar Dodgers. The parking, the crowds, the traffic have made it a less-than desirable experience. And let's not forget they stopped offering diced onions for the Dodger Dogs. But both outings (one loss and one win) were incredible. At the risk of sounding cliche, there is nothing that compares with spending some time with the Boys of Summer.

* Bike Rides. My old triathlon bike, a classic Cinelli, was gathering dust and cobwebs. I changed all that and had the bike (expensively) refurbished and brought up to snuff. And then found several occasions to actually sit my fat ass in the seat and rack up some miles. In fact I found a zealous riding partner who joined me last night for an easy 14 miles, all in preparation for a 60 mile ride fundraising ride in Morro Bay next month. Me and my precious perineum are looking forward to it.

* Concerts. As mentioned in previous posts, there was an evening with Robert Plant and Alison Krause, two incomparable musicians who harmonize like no other. Another night with the LA Philharmonic scoring the movie Amadeus, which was even funnier upon a second viewing. 

And last week, perhaps the most unexpected live music performance I can recall. We literally walked through the front door of an eyeglass store in South Pasadena. Passed a panoply of spectacles and sunglasses, to a parking lot that had been converted into an impromptu amphitheater. There was dancing, there were little kids playing, there was beer and munchies, and there was a joie de vivre that felt like it came from a different time and place -- "Next stop, Willoughby."

Oh and there were lots of eyeglasses, did I mention that?

In short it was a summer of heaviness and happiness, a seemingly counterintuitive thought, but one that is sculpting my new definition of Self™.

One last note in a nod to something that will never change -- my disdain for the GOP, their unabashed fascism, and the misappropriation of the American flag, a symbol that used to represent the best of this country. 

I have a good mind to unfurl the 8 foot long flag the US government gave me to honor my late uncle for his military service. That is if I can figure out how to hang it from my porch so it won't touch the ground.

Here's a little treat regarding the flag from Robert Klein:

Skip to 27:42