Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Hey, hey we're the Monkees.

Come with us back to 1987. 

Hair was high. Reagan was senile. And two young copywriters, already jaded, bitter and cynical from writing ads for Tent Sales and cheesy Teleflora pre-planted bouquets, were looking to take bigger, more artistic and fulfilling challenges.

Cue the New Monkees. 

A hairbrained notion to recapture the magic of their 1960's ancestors, with a whole new cast, new producers, new settings, and a new crew of writers itching to make their mark in Hollywood.

I don't know how Jim Jennewein, my old mailroom boss from Needless Hardons & Tears, roommate and friend, and I got hooked up with The New Monkees, I only recall that we did. And though we were uncredited and hadn't really done anything other than coin the phrase, "Sales rise when you merchandise", we were invited to pitch show ideas for the new series.

Upon retrospect, I sense we were asked to dazzle them with our inexperienced brilliance because we were FREE. The producers had nothing to lose but an hour of their time to watch two rank amateurs put on cheap suits from ROSS Dress for Less and figuratively dance for them like...well, for lack of a better word, monkeys.

By the way, this ancient system of "Let's see what you got for no pay whatsoever" still exists in Hollywood. And it's why, despite the drop in theater attendance and thinning industry margins, the mucky mucks can still keep the klieg lights on and oceanfront pied-à-terres for their 20-something gummas. 

A similar and equally degrading version of this exists in our own ad industry. I could go on a rant about it, but not today.

Because today, while sifting through life's baggage, stacked alarmingly high in my garage, I unearthed a rare treasure -- one of the pitch ideas Jim and I tossed on the New Monkees pyre, which mercifully only lasted one season.

Truth is, I found the entire pile of our one-pagers, but this was the only one that was left unscathed by a red marker pen.

Given what I can remember from the show's "artistic" limitations and story bible, not altogether bad.

But in the rereading of the premise, I now would have made the failed attempts to wake Larry up the midpoint cliffhanger, raised the ante and built up the suspense of Larry making it to show on time at the very end of the show.

I'm sure that would have resulted in an Emmy. And charted a whole new path for our careers. Who knows, we could have ended as show runners and made our fortune with The Goldbergs.

Ce la vie.


Monday, January 30, 2023

A man can dream

I pride myself on being a 64 year old man who is hip to what the kids are doing these days. 

This is due, in large part, to the fact that I have two successfully-launched daughters in their mid-twenties. One of whom, was instrumental in bringing the word Cheugy into Pop Culture. You can read about it here

If you can't get past the paywall or suffer from the deranged notion that the NY Times is another mainstay of MSM who are hellbent on destroying America, well, you're on your own. Or just a sad lost cause.

As clued in to modern day American life as I am, there is one phenomena that has me scratching the growing white hairs on my chinny, chin chin. 

Like you I get stalked on social media. Particularly by attractive young women, who for reasons unexplained, are unable to send me a friend request on Facebook. These women often find me "charming", "handsome", "impressive" and "amazing." 

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

Of course, you and I both know they're grifters. Scammers hoping to lure men of lesser fortitude and cynicism and separate them from money that would otherwise be used to keep them out of dirty nursing homes in their later years. 

To bait the hook, many of these con artists will use pictures of very attractive women, who are often half my age. And hardly hurting for attention. Yet many men in my position fall prey. Because, well, because men are invariably stupid. 

I'm not stupid. At least this week, I'm not. 

And rather than ignore these juvenile traps, and because in between writing spam mail, I have some free time on my hand, I decided to let my curiosity get the best of me. And so, I did a Reverse Google Image Search on one of these baited hooks. 

That's when I discovered another as yet, unknown phenomena.

Many of the posers who want to "get to know me better and be besties" are pictures of women taken from OnlyFans. Maybe you've heard of it? Again, I will leave you to your own research. But get this, many of these OnlyFans "models" have registry pages. Wish Lists of shoes, bags, hats, and more shoes, they have selected in advance, for their fans to purchase for them.

Even more astounding, as logic would lead me to believe, if hundreds, nay, thousands of men didn't whip out their credit card to engage in such tomfoolery, hundreds, nay, thousands of sexy young women would not be running the same game.

And so, I am stealing a page from their well-worn playbook.

For my 8 loyal readers who want to express their appreciation for 15 years worth of semi-amusing blogging, I proudly introduce the RoundSeventeen Wish List:

I'd love one of these dashing Highlands Wool Tam Bonnets. 
I'm not spending $155 to get one, but you can.

This is a tad pricey for a coffee maker.
But the more and better coffee I drink, the more and better I blog.

Maybe you won the Powerball or you're a Holding Company exec
wanting to express his or her gratitude for 35+ years of finely hewn ad copy,
in any case, thanks in advance.

That's the registry list, so far. If this pans out, I'll add more. Stay tuned.

Also, did I mention my birthday is coming up?

Thursday, January 26, 2023

What The Hut?

No one OutPizzas the Hut.

I'm not exactly sure what that means, but then there are so many taglines which leave me scratching my now white-haired chin.

If by outpizzas, the good folks from Yum Brands, their parent company, mean no one makes a better pizza, I would make one small tweak : Every One OutPizzas the Hut.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say they don't even make pizza, they make toast with ketchup and cheese. Seriously, this ex-pat from New York won't go near PH. Even if they paid me. Which they did when I was freelancing on the account.

Last week, these faux Italian cuisine aficianados were in the news. They had, for no other reason than some hotshot creatives in their marketing department suggested they do so, assembled the world's largest pizza. You may have seen pictures of it on the news. 

A giant "pizza" spanning close to 1/3 of an acre splayed out on a soundstage/warehouse. Humongus, yes. Appetizing, only if you like your cold raw dough with accoutremont, served off the floor. How did the braintrust at PH cook said pizza? With patio heaters? Or flamethrowers?

You'd think a company that was so meticulous and detail-oriented in their marketing (sadly I know this from experience) would have thought this through a little better. I'm reminded of the time I was asked to work on their new bacon-stuffed crust pizza, which in hindsight was not an altogether bad idea. 

Everyone loves bacon. And bacon makes everything taste better. There's bacon ice cream. Bacon chocolate. Hell, sometimes I'll even wrap my nightly salmon with bacon.

You can imagine my surprise when I was handed this important directive concerning any new work for the promotion of the new bacon-stuffed crust...

By the way, this chart never fails to make me laugh. (it's not even drawn correctly)

It, perhaps more than anything I've ever encountered in my 35+ years in advertising, sums up the insipid nature and complete ignorance of how mass communication works. Or is supposed to work.

Well, at least it was for years.

With the world's largest inedible and useless pizza, the genii at the Hut have managed to Outpizza themselves. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

I'd like to speak with the MANager

Over the course of writing this blog, now approaching its 15th year, I have violated the unspoken boundaries of TMI. I know from the picture (aka, click bait) I have led with, I am once again walking up to that precipice.

Restraint Rich, restraint.

Let me start by saying, the algorithm, she is a crafty and cunning beast. Following the passing of my wife 13 months ago, my social media feed began changing. I started receiving all kinds of ads for male grooming and, how shall I put this...vigor enhancing products. 

I suppose the data collecting witches and warlocks, knew from the habits of other new widows, or even divorcees who had been married close to three decades, that I had moved into a new demographic and would be susceptible to folks hawking everything from ball deodorant to underwear with copper-lined Jewel Pouches™. 

It's also likely that the algorithm knew I spent nearly a year crafting copy for Dollar Shave Club. And was more than familiar with the new attention men were paying to their hygiene and the many manifestations of their manliness.

Finally, as a fella, with excessive hirsuteness, the fine folks at Manscaped had in me an easy target. 

And so I purchased one of their Testosterful™ (my word) packages, including all the necessary weaponry to rid myself of unwanted, now-white, hair follicles. Little did I know that I had not only purchased the equipment that would revitalize and soften my previously woollen skin, I had inadvertently signed up for a their subscription service.

Meaning, each month or so, I would receive a new lotion/potion/notion to make me ready for this Brave New World. 

I'm a longtime shit-shower-shave kind of guy and my metrosexuality only goes so far. And so I reached out to the Manscaped company and informed them of my disinclinations.

And this is where it gets interesting. 

Or, hopefully, interesting-er. 

They did not bat an eye. Unlike my previous experience with Butcher Box and their deceitful nature regarding subscription cancellation, Manscaped sent me 3 (not one) emails apologizing for the confusion.

Moreover, yesterday I received a new box from them. I offered to send it back for a refund. They would would have nothing of the kind. And insisted I keep the contents of the box. And quickly returned my hard-earned money.  

Maybe hard-earned is a bit hyperbolic. Writing and blasting out emails is hardly the same as cobalt mining or bull insemination.

Two things. 

First, "caveat emptor", let the buyer beware. The online subscription model is quite prevalent these days. Read the fine print before you checkout. Hopefully with PayPal -- had to squeeze in a plug for my employer.

And second, thanks to my complimentary bottle of Paraben-Free Crop Preserver, my Southern Territory has never smelt better.

Ooops, I went over that precipice.


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Taking the plunge

"I just flew in from Miami. And boy are my arms tired."

So goes the old Vaudeville joke. 

It has special meaning for me today. Not because I was flying, but because I was swimming. And as I struggle to summon the strength to click and clack these keys, I am writhing in pain from my shoulders down to my weary trite-producing knuckles.

Faithful readers of this blog, all 8 of you, know that true to my Piscean nature, this Siegel loves the water. I have written extensively about swimming and its magical therapeutic powers. It is, as I've told a new friend on Linkedin -- Head of the US Masters program or something like that -- a writer's sport. By that I mean it is conducive to thinking, breathing, and more thinking.

Years ago, I swam the English Channel for a fundraiser. 

Not literally, but figuratively. It was all at my local pool. And I managed to swim 3 miles a day for 7 days, the distance from Dover to Calais, and raised $4000 for Wounded Warriors. 

Then, like this morning, my shoulders cried out in pain and I scurried about the house to find and finish the remains of my codeine-enhanced cough medicine. 

Mmmmmm, temporary opioidal relief.

I was impressed with myself. But nowhere near the amazing literal crossing of the Channel by one of my daughter's friends and classmates from grammar school, Abby Bergman. I am a relative landlubber in comparison to her many achievements, in all manner of water

But last week I got the itch to get back in the water. Especially at the coaxing of Ms. Muse who pointed out, "you have a beautiful outdoor heated pool within a well hit golf shot of your house, why don't you start swimming again?"

And so, I pushed myself away from the PayPal-owned computer and the myriad of projects that always seem to be due tomorrow but not decided on until next quarter, and strapped on the Speedo. 

Speedo goggles, that is, I'm not Speedo swimwear ready. Nor are some of the other old geezers at the Plunge in Culver City.

As my feet broke the surface of the 79 degree warm water, I immediately felt a rush of adrenalin. I won't say it was like returning to the womb because dripping in amniotic fluid frankly doesn't seem so appealing, but I was in aquatic heaven. 

It was a balmy winter day in Southern California. I had my own lane. And, much to my surprise, the reliable freestyle stroke came back as if it had never gone away. Like ear and nose hair.

Stamina, on the other hand, is questionable. And I found myself huffing and puffing like a chainsmoker after a mere 100 meters. However, this is not my first aquatic rodeo. I know from previous swimming lapses, that my laps will return. And so will my rhthym, such as it is.

It just takes times, persistence and plenty of Extra-Strength Tylenol.

From my first outing...

Monday, January 23, 2023

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Claim

If there's one phrase I have heard -- and detested -- in my 30+  year career in advertising, it's the one uttered by CMO's, Assistant CMO's, Assistant Assistant CMO's, Wannabe CMO's and girlfriend/boyfriend of CMO's. 

It goes something like this:

"That doesn't seem to be On-Brand."

When that's uttered, along with other well-worn useless maxims like, "that feels negative" or "I don't like it, I don't know why, I just don't", you can be sure Round 16 of the work will quickly turn to Round 17.

My problem with the On-Brand label is that it assumes there is an On-Brand. With the exception of a handful of companies, who, by the way, continue to enhance their brands on dusty old legacy media, there is NO on-brand. 

It stems from this amusing misconception that people are walking around with preconceived notions of what a specific brand is. Or even wants to be. They don't. 

They just fucking don't.  

Walk up to a total stranger on the street and ask them to describe the Tostitos Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips Brand. Or the Bounty Paper Towels Brand. Or the Hewlett Packard Laptop Brand. You will be met with blank stares. And if you conduct this little experiment in NYC, it could sound more like this, "get outta my face you frickin' hard-on."

Listen to what esteemed Ad Guy/Author/Well paid Speak Bob Hoffman has to say on the matter...

I had the pleasure of working for Lee Clow, who one might argue has the clearest understanding of brand in America and its role in the success or failure of a company. I think the folks at Apple would agree with me. 

Lee would often speak about how difficult it was to claim any real estate in the minds of consumers.

Consumers who are more often than not thinking about avoiding the traffic on the 405, getting their kids to clean up their rooms, fixing the latest leak on the roof or wondering why their husband has downloaded pictures of woman's naked bony feet on his computer.

To make matters worse, there are thousands and thousands of other brands competing for those few precious neurons that are precariously tied to the purse strings. 

In all, it's pretty daunting. It's a battle. A fierce one at that. 

But it can be won. 

Just not with timidity. Group think creative. Anodyne advertising that elicits feedback like...

"I love it. I like how you've managed to squeeze in the 5 RTB's and the urgent Call to Action. But it doesn't seem to be On-Brand. What else do you have?"

SFX: Forehead hitting desk


Thursday, January 19, 2023

Thank you President Trump, seriously

If you have come across me on social media or if you've read at least 5 random posts on this blog, you know how repulsed I am by this walking, talking, braindead sack of fetid haggis. 

In fact, apart from the people of Germany (circa 1920-1950) and their complicit murderers in the adjoining nations (I'm looking at you Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Ukraine), I have not hated anything or anyone more.

Nevertheless I'm trying to adopt a new mindset of gratefulness. And it had occurred to me that in addition to fresh frozen seafood delivered to my door and a local dispensary within walking distance to my house, I should be thankful for our esteemed, top secret document-pilfering ex president.

Here's why...

His descent down the golden (faux golden) escalator at Trump Tower was an inflection point and clearly marked the ascent of political awareness in America. 

From my personal point of view, I was semi-conscious of politics prior to this goatish boil-brained barnacle. And had admittedly fallen asleep at the wheel under the calming and steady leadership of President Obama, who stewarded an 8 year economic growth plan, resisted launching any new wars and brought a steady functional moral compass to the White House.

But following that apocalyptic day in November 2016, I was awakened in a way I didn't think possible.

For instance, the notion of the three branches of our Federal government came into clearer view. And their powers and roles were cemented in my head. I had never heard the phrase "oversight committee" or "Inspector General" prior to the arrival of this rump-fed puttock. 

Now, I see both as critical to the well being of our democracy. 

Oh, I'm sorry, as I've been told many times by pocket Constitution carrying Red Hats, our Republic. And by the way, a republic is a subset of Democracy, so technically either is correct.

Similarly, I might have been aware of it, but was probably distracted by many other things like dashboard videos of Russian automobile crashes, but the state structure of government closely mirrors that of the fed. I knew that before but it never found traction in my tiny brain, in the same way that I always find it difficult to spell medieval or rhthym. 

That of course has changed. And now I often find myself eyeing a possible political run for a California state senate position. 

Speaking of senate, at some point in 2017 or 2018, I could rattle off the names of all 53 GOP senators in the Upper Chamber. 

Do not think for a minute that I am being hyperbolic or in some manner or form, humblebragging. I knew their names because I had written letters and researched every single one of them. You can read all bout it my book, Mr. Siegel Writes to Washington, available on Amazon or wherever books of superior intellect + prurient juvenile humor are sold.

If it's any indication, I suspect from my anecdotal research on social media, that I am not alone in this greater political awakening.

It reminds me of 1999, when we were pitching for the Wall Street Journal account, which eventually went to Goodby. One of our campaigns centered around the strategy (given to us from Lee Clow, not the Planning Deparment) that "Business" had quickly become the "Sports" of the day. In that people were acutely aware of their growing investments, their 401k and the latest in mergers and acquisition. And were watching each with a certain fervor.

These days, thanks to our hyper-divisiveness and the orange, swag-bellied, hedge pig, "Politics" has  become the "Sports" of the day.

All, thanks to you know who.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Adventures in AI

I may be late to the AI party but that's only because the maid I had hired a few months ago is incapacitated now and I find myself with new additional housecleaning duties, which I'm discovering never seem to end.

How, I ask myself, can one man go through so many dishes?

Similarly, I ask myself, to cut down on laundry can I turn my underwear inside out or is that taboo?

Only now, I no longer have to ask myself those type of profound old bachelor guy questions. Now I have ChatGPT. To wit...

I'm sure this was not the intended use of Artificial Intelligence by the engineers, computer scientists, PhD's and nerdbots, when they began confibulating the flick flacks, dialing in the hyper-optimized javascript and solving quadratic equations that would shame the writers of the indecipherable Westworld. 

But I am a simple man who has made a career of asking the simple, and often dumb, questions.

Sadly, however, the answers provided by ChatGPT, are of the anodyne variety. And seem to be ripped from the same Wiki pages which pass for research in our rigorless world of instant but useless data.

Then I decided to get a little more personal and solicit fashion advice from this creature whose father (or mother) often favors pocket protectors. 

Now, we're getting somewhere and "cooking with gas" as my friend Jean Robaire might say. 

So I turned my attention to matters close to my own hardened heart.


I can do better than that in my sleep. Even during my salacious dreams that might involve Scarlett Johannson, Megan Fox or Miley Cyrus. Or all three.

But, I thought, perhaps I could get ChatGPT to shoulder some of the heavy lifting of my vocation.

Not sure any of those are going to send the stock price through the roof or earn me a first class ticket to Cannes -- do ad people even go to Cannes anymore? Or has Holding Company avarice curtailed that kind of monetary frivolity and scaled it back to Des Moines, which is French-sounding though considerably more downscale?

To summarize, I was less than impressed with ChatGPT, which in my humble but deadly accurate opinion needs a more user friendly name like Jennings or Solomon or Angry Karen.

That is not say I won't be playing with it. I will. Particularly after this favorable exchange.

What do you think?

Would you like more polls?


Tuesday, January 17, 2023


I make a terrible party guest.

I'd like nothing more than to go to a dinner party or birthday party or a social gathering of any sort and speak about politics. As you might have guessed I'm somewhat zealous about our current state of affairs. And see us teetering at the precipice. Consequently I feel it needs to be discussed. I also like to think I'm fairly informed on the matters of the day, although that's arguable.

Others, mostly everybody, don't want to discuss politics. It's a violation of a long-held triumvirate of topics that are considered verboten: politics, money & religion. They'd prefer to talk about "the shows."

I don't watch a great deal of television. And rarely commit myself to a series. Particularly if they're on Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Geechie, Flubbly, or TTV. OK, some of those platforms are made up, but the truth is I can't keep track of it all. 

Nor am I a fan of searching for the show and mastering the channel changing thing on these platforms. The streaming often leads to screaming. And scanning the 10,794 viewing choices fry my brain faster than a snippet of Marjorie Taylor Green or Lauren Boebert in front of a microphone.

Nevertheless, with some coaxing, I started watching Outlander. 

The series -- and it's now up to 75 episodes -- has a distinct Twilight Zone feel to it, in that it involves time travel. More importantly, it takes place, at least the initial episodes, in 18th century Scotland. Given that I'm first generation American from me mum from Paisley, this has some very personal appeal. 

Also, it should be noted that what passed for an amenity in 18th century Scotland (fire, food, a good pint and more fire) are still luxuries in the 21st century. 

It's feckin' cold there.

Mike Myers played a legendary character on Saturday Night Live who often said, "if it's not Scottish, it's crap."

The unspoken corollary to that is, "If it is Scottish, you won't understand a word they're saying."

I've been around Scottish people all my life and still wish they spoke a dialect of English that didn't feel like calculus to my feeble American brain. And this got me thinking.

How and why did the original colonists, who sprung from Great Britain and brought the Queen's tongue with them, lose their accents? 

Was it lost in some strange dialectical Bermuda-like triangle in the North Atlantic? Did it have something to do with the more temperate climate of Virginia, Maryland and even New Jersey? Or was it a conscious effort to distance themselves from the mother country?

I'm truly at a loss about this.

Another strange part of the equation is that my mother never had a brogue or an accent. She came over at 17 years of age, a factoid that still amazes me, and can only assume that before she gave birth to me at 26, spoke the fluent indecipherable language of her rain-soaked, haggis-eating hearty ancestors. 

Even more amazing, on the occasions when my father would spring for long distance telephone calls, she would spend time chatting with her sisters in the motherland and with the consumption of each additional beer, her accent would return.

"Who is this woman in my kitchen?"

Suffice it to say, I am enjoying the series. And in addition to my new fascination with accents and/or lack of accents, I'm also pondering the hat wear of the day.

I'm normally not a hat guy, but do like the way this tam looks on Dougal MacKenzie, a mustachioed bald, burly warrior, and am considering the purchase of one. In that same manly shade of grey. 

 Ahhh, maybe not.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

It's a trap

 I don't know about you, but apparently I'm fascinating.

At least that's what I've been told by women like Sloan. And Kim. And Tiffany. And Lee Ann.

That, in and of itself, is not all that surprising. OK, hold the wisecracks. What is surprising is that all these young women are in their late 20's or early 30's. 

And they're all Asian.

And they're all from Singapore.

And they all attended Stanford University.

And they all work for Estee Lauder Marketing.

And they're attending a conference in Toronto but will be visiting your (insert your hometown here) to visit their parents and may be available for a "date" in the very near future.

One more thing, they all are under the mistaken belief that I, a man in his sunset years, would be susceptible to unwarranted flattery and not be able to spot an online scam when he sees one. 

Maybe you get these linkedin professional invites as much as I do. I get two to three of these a week. Or maybe the algorithm has assembled all my little data bits (widowed, bald, owner of a 70's style porn stache) and identified me as the perfect gullible candidate for their titillating little con game. 

If you are on the receiving end of these laughable invites, I'm sure you discard them right away. 

Me? Well, as many of you know I authored a book Tuesdays with Mantu, My Adventures with a Nigerian Con Artist years ago, and possess a 9th degree black belt in scambaiting. 

That is, I live to egg these people on.

Here for instance is just a small snippet of my interaction with Gy Nm.

OMG, You're thinking. This can't be real, can it?

Of course it can, reader who does not know me that well.

Are there more of these ridiculous overseas interactions? Sadly, I have quite a few of these on my hard drive. I know you'd like to see them. But while I clearly have TOO MUCH free time on my hand, I don't have enough time to go through my messy, unorganized files.

I wonder what Sloan is up to this morning?

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Back to the Past


I did not sleep well last night.

Perhaps it was because of the rain (which I love) or because my neighbors sump pump was on overdrive and dutifully emptying their 1920's-built root cellar from all the excess water. I also love my neighbors, so I'm not going to say anything.

In any case, it resulted in many stop and start dreams.

Lately Ms. Muse and I have been comparing our dreams. That's when I began to notice that while her dreams were about a panoply of things and, more often than not, forward looking things, mine were distinctively rooted in the past. With an unusual preponderance of work-related dreams.

I've written about this before but it's starting to bother me. 

For instance, take this morning's flight of REM fancy. 

I was set to go on a camping trip to Colorado. Why Colorado? Perhaps because my daughter went to school in Boulder. But ostensibly it was to go star gazing. I was going on this trip with an old Chiat/Day colleague whose name I won't mention.

We were also to be accompanied by my old art director partner from J. Walter Thompson Recruitment. I hadn't thought about this fellow in more than 30 years. Then suddenly he pops up in my dream. And not just pops up, he arrives while driving his DeLorean. 

It should be noted that way back in 1987, he actually had one. It wasn't in mint condition but hell, it was a Delorean!

Now here's the odd part about that. I know another fellow, also from Chiat, let's call him Adam. I won't give his last name because I didn't secure his permission. But, he's also an art director, and he also drives a Delorean. And he often posts about it on Facebook.

I don't know how or why my mind cobbled all that together. But it did. 

And I wish it would stop. 

Because two days earlier, I was in another dream about a new business pitch dream. And like a bad re-run, my old boss Lee Clow was not happy with the work we had presented and wanted to see more. 

More work. 

More pressure. 

More brain hurt. 

All at a time in my life where I think I've earned the right to less of each.

It has me wondering if I've let my career, such as it is/was, become an undue part of my identity? Has it consumed me like a fat guy at an all you can eat pasta bar? 

All of which would explain my excessive self loathing. Especially since I've spent a lifetime pimping overpriced cars, shitty TV shows and sugary, brown fizzy water.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Earl the Pearl

Earl Boen died last week.

You might not know that name as he was a member of the large community of actors who often go by, "You're the guy who was in that thing....you know...with what's her name...it'll come to me."

It never does. 

That's the burden carried by character actors. Character actors like M.Emmett Walsh, who lives in the house behind me and lives up to his descriptor in so many ways. 

BTW, that's Earl in the middle, in a scene from the first iconic Terminator movie. I think they're up to double digits in sequels. 

Terminator 17: The Rise of the Three Armed Pescatarians

I met Earl a long, long time ago. So long ago that my addled brain can't tell you what year. Or even what decade. And barely what century. I do remember he was the consummate VO guy. Willing to do take after take, variation after variation, ad infinitum...

I believe it was when I was new to the business and had been entrusted to conduct my own voice over sessions without the watchful ear of an ACD or CD. It was all on-the-job training. Of course I was always accompanied by a great producer. And had the pleasure of working with the best producers in the business. Whether they were from Abert, Newhoff and Burr, Bozell, Chiat, or Team One.  

I miss those days. I miss being treated like royalty by the recording houses. 

"Yes, I do believe I will have a custom omelette made with exotic Japanese mushrooms, thank you." 

They were mostly located in Hollywood or on Cahuenga, wedged between Hanna Barbera, makers of family friendly cartoons and Vivid Pictures, makers of adult pictures about activities that can sometimes result in families.

I miss chatting with the talent behind the scenes and listening to their many fascinating on-set stories. And who's kidding who here, there's something fun about working with these folks and being the director (boss).

"I think you popped a P on that one, can you do that again."

"Try it with a little more smile."

"That was great, how about 5 more, just for safety."

Not once in my questionably-successful career did I ever use a safety take. 

But it was fun. And colorful. If I can indulge in a little namedropping, I've worked with David Duchovney, Joseph Fiennes, Dan Castellaneta, Hank Azaria and Tres Macneile (all Simpsons), Ed Grover and Owen Wilson. I'm positive Owen showed up at the session stoned, but that did not faze the entire studio female staff, who were in a surreal state of swooning and hung on his every word.

Anyway, I just wanted to say, Rest in Peace, Earl. 

I apologize for this vocational walk into the land of nostalgia. I'll get back to composing emails now, those snappy Subject Lines aren't going to write themselves. 


Monday, January 9, 2023

Round 15

Today, we bring you an almost, very special edition of RoundSeventeen, compliments of your very own Grand Old Party. As you probably know, they went 15 rounds before picking a Speaker of the House, falling just 2 short of a magical event. 

For me, at least.

If the shenanigans of the past 6 years did not convince you of the utter, unAmerican cravenness of Republicans, including two impeachments, incitement of an Insurrection, the theft of Top Secret documents, the tanking of the economy due to a botched handling of a pandemic that killed more than a million people, then surely last week's Gavel Grabapolluzza probably didn't sway you one bit.

Nevertheless, it merits an autopsy. If for no other reason than to talk about the post-Trumpian fuckknuckles who are now commandeering the Halls of Congress. The same hallways that were stained with trailer park feces from their very own constituents two years ago.

Let's back the GOP shitwagon up a little, shall we?

Because the 2022 Mid Term Red Wave, promised by stalwart and always-accurate right wing media like The Daily Wire, Epoch Times, Breitbart, Fox, NewsMax, OAN, New York Post and The Blaze, never materialized, the margin in the House was slim. Very slim, at best.

And like it did in the Senate from the 2018 election (see Manchin and Sinema), it put decision making power in the hands of a very few. Including the intellectual heavyweights of the GOP: Boebert, Gaetz, Gosar, Biggs, Clyde, and the charismatic Chip Roy, who, if you've heard him speak (ramble) seems to be missing a few chips in the old brain case.

Together these clowns make up the American Freedom Caucus. 

Which is not concerned about America at all. Has little to do with Freedom, unless we're talking the freedom to ram their religion, their dogma and their intolerance down our throats. The only thing accurate about their name is Caucus. 

As in all Caucasoid.

Their agenda is best summed up by: "A woman in every kitchen and two AR-15's in every household."

I jest, but there's nothing to laugh about. 

If these Learning Annex graduates had their way there'd be no reproductive rights for women, no restrictions on gun ownership (or advanced weapons of any kind), the state religion would be Christianity (not the kind, generous, welcoming Christianity as seen in the Bible) and the country would be guided by an ugly disdain for anyone who doesn't fit their default settings for what constitutes a Real American. That would include LGBTQ+, Asians, People of Color, and of course, those with Hebraic Seasonings.

Given that we're living in the long shadow of the Holocaust, it is scary to witness the rise of populist Neo-Fascism. Maybe not for you, but certainly for (((me))).

The only saving grace to all this is knowing these know-nothings live and operate on the fringe. 

Moreover, they're more performative then they are strategic. And even moreover, they are the Lower Chamber. So, because of their never-ending fecklessness and the archaic rules of the Congress, they will never be able to pass any legislature.

Thank god for our institutionalized American incompetence.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Hello World!

 If I were to take any advice about retirement it would be from a fellow fella who, as my father would say, "makes a living from the luft." 

From the air, for those of you who don't speak German or its less rigid cousin, Yiddish. 

Steve Lopez, LA Times columnist and author of the book Independence Day (as previewed yesterday and thoughtfully given to me by Ms. Muse), is a good candidate for the job. Like me, he has spent years observing life's oddities. And for years he has penned those observations. To the delight of millions, for Steve. 

To the delight of 8 loyal readers, for me.

Unlike me, Steve plied his wares with the LA Times. I poured what little writing talent I had into the more whorish industry of advertising. 

I had always dreamed of being a newspapermen, like Art Buchwald, or a magazine man, like PJ O'Rourke. But then found myself rooming with a news reporter in college, and thought I'm not going through life living on a pittance and finding 18 ways to prepare Macaroni & Cheese.

I still have twenty or so more pages in the book. I'm a slow reader. 

Plus, it turns out the leisurely life of a widower is not so leisurely at all. This big house, 2400 square feet of it, always needs something cleaned, scrubbed or de-grimed. 

But I can tell there will be no surprise ending to the book. Steve finds himself on the same fence I find myself impaled upon.

I don't want to work anymore. But I don't NOT want to work anymore.

As one of his interviewees told him, "You're a writer. You can't just turn that off."

And so, rather than taking the risk of hanging up my writing cleats and boring myself to death, I've decided to bore you, dear reader. 

It'd be nice to be able to monetize this blog, you know, other than populating these pages with Google's programmatic advertising from orthotics makers, Salon Pas and ED pills. But after 14 years of cranking out these blogs, that's probably not going to happen.

So now I'm wondering if I could redirect my efforts to something that would marry my limited ability to make people laugh and the need for hoteliers, resorts, parasail operators, airlines, tuk tuk drivers, etc. to make people fork over their money. 

In other words, maybe bring a new voice to the world of international travel reviews, thereby affording me the opportunity to keep clicking and clacking, while enjoying exotic blowfish sushi, yachts, and deep tissue massages on the other side of the world. All on someone else's dime.

A semi-retired, professional schnorer, if you will.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

New Year's Dissolution


Currently on the nightstand. 

But not for too long, as Mr. Lopez one of the few LA Times columnists I have always made a point of reading, writes in a clean, crisp, often humorous, manner that makes for quick work.

For some reason I've never thought about retiring. 

Much to the dismay of my co-workers at PayPal Honey, I'm sure.

I never gave it much brain space for several reasons. First among them is I don't feel like I'm 65 years old, the long accepted benchmark retirement age. At least it was before all the billionaires snatched up our underpaid labor and set class progression back a few notches. 

Now, with skyrocketing healthcare and housing costs and the fear of ending up in a dirty nursing home, many of us will "punching the clock" well into our 80's. If for no other reason than to avoid dirty nursing home veggie lasagne. I had the displeasure of sampling the "the food" at my uncle's last pit stop and frankly would rather eat a muddy leather shoe.

Secondly, I'm technically not 65. At least for another month or so. But in no way feel like I'm old. At the risk of humble bragging, I feel healthier today than I did when I was real 44.  

I'm often the only person at social gatherings, or stadium events, who has never had Covid. I probably shouldn't be saying this for fear of taunting the gods, but I can't remember the last time I had so much as a cold. I've been told I have the constitutional immunity of a horse. Albeit one who is on a quickening trot down the path to the glue factory.

A point well made by Mr. Lopez, who can see the horizon approaching, even through his industrial-strength reader glasses.

The third point worth considering is, I like what I do. 

Granted, I used to like it a lot more in the past when coming up with unusual and sometimes effective ideas and seeing them to fruition was highly lucrative and rewarding. Moreover, I could actually point to the work, on TV, in print, or on outdoor boards. These days, if I wanted to show you my handiwork, you'd have to go searching through the Trash File on your email server.

The last point and possibly the most salient, is what would I do?

In search on that elusive answer, Lopez talks to academics, Father Gregory Boyle (of Homeboy's fame), to Mel Brooks and even to TV macher Norman Lear. I had the pleasure of ghost-writing a speech delivered to Mr. Lear at a recent honorarium and discovered I had a certain knack for putting my words in other people's mouths. I'm told some of my wisecracks even got a few laughs.

Perhaps I should finish the book before tackling that which cannot be tackled at this juncture.

Part 2 of this post will be written tomorrow.

Unless I take a nap. 

I like napping.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

A fight to the finish.

I never win anything.

I know many people say that, but in my case it's true. I just don't have the "luck of the Irish." Even though technically, via my Scottish-born mom and her boozy ancestors, I do have several pints of Irish blood coursing through my body.

Of course, I did win a partial Regents Scholarship back in my college days. But that was mostly because my father would grind good grades out of me. And had little tolerance for my underachieving ways. So I didn't really win it as much as I earned (slaved) for it.

And in 1984, I was the 12th caller at KMET and won two tickets (nosebleed section) to see Bruce Springsteen on his Born in the USA Tour. Had I known you, Jeff Gelberg, at the time I would've brought you along.

And there was that one night in Vegas where I sat down at the Roulette table with my friend Jean Robaire and stacked up more than $1000 in chips. It was either beginner's luck -- I always thought the roulette table was a sucker's bet -- or the ball spinner, or whatever you call her, found my unique brand of bourbon-induced humor to her liking and was playing with magnets under the table. 

As you might have guessed I didn't leave the table with $1000. More like $37.

But last week I did WIN! As evidenced by the photo up above.

For the uninitiated, my Facebook friend and advertising colleague, the very talented Jon Soto conducts an addictive Name The Thing contest on his page.   The thing can be anything from a new Netflix Show, a nail polish, or even an album cover. The Album Covers, I suspect, are the most popular. 

I never met Jon, but knew of his reputation in the San Francisco creative community. I know the Dodgers/Giants rivalry gets all the attention, but there was always jousting between the Southern and Northern California ad folk. To be completely honest I found the work done at Riney, Goodby, Butler & Shine, etc., to be slightly smarter and more elegant than what we were doing down here. Of course I never received a portfolio call back from one of the aforementioned agencies, so screw them.

In any case, you can imagine the intense competition Jon draws from his followers, many of whom are from the Bay Area. And week after tantalizing week, I would fare well in these unremunerated contests. And week after week, I would lose.

Well I beat the buzzer on 2022 and snatched victory from the unrelenting Marin County jaws of defeat when I cracked the code and not only named this totally fictitious show but also nailed the logline for what I'm convinced would actually be a winning black comedy.

"She had the money and the trust funds they were all looking for. They had the bad haircuts and questionable fashion choices. It's a fight to the finish. Don't miss this week's episode of The Missing Oxycontin."

In any case, I'm gonna savor this little win, maybe with Mercury now in retrograde my fortune is about to change.

But probably, not.