Tuesday, February 28, 2023

64 and so much more

If you're keen on Neil Young, and I know not everyone is, you recognize the title ot today's blog from one of his early hits. It's a slightly altered line from his song Old Man. He wrote that song when he was in his early 20's.

There is NOTHING I wrote in my early 20's that would stand the test of time. 

Today I turn 65 and could easily argue, in my patented self-deprecatory voice, that I still haven't achieved that elusive goal. But because it is my birthday I am giving myself the gift of immodesty. And telling the story of a goal I have met.

Years ago, I bought a free standing Olympic weight set. I didn't buy it new and pay an arm and a leg, a flabby arm and an ill defined leg at that. No, I ventured onto the Facebook Marketplace and found a fellow selling his 275 lbs. set for a reasonable price. They're weights, what did I care if they had been used. And in his case, they barely were.

You can read that story here if you'd like.

At the time of my purchase we were in the pre-pandemic era. It was also the Pre-Cancer era that took my wife's life, brought me to my knees and changed everything.

Well, almost everything. 

Because when I brought home the Olympic sized weights I had sworn to myself that this aging thing was nothing more than an arbitrary number. And that the number of trips I had made around the sun in no way defined me. I still subscribe to that. 

Even though I'm now closer to pulling the trigger and releasing the floodgate of Social Security money I have accrued and spending my money before the GOP spends it on premium high octane gas for their book-burning pyres. Or finely tethered yachts.

Ironically, having recently been laid off from PayPal, I find myself competing with freelance copywriters who are less than half my age and incorrectly assume I can't compete in the digital arena. How did one contentious no-name hack put it? 

"You're just an old washed up dinosaur who's living off the fumes of a not-so-great yellow campaign that no one even remembers. Go to sleep old man, go to sleep."

Maybe I should've CC'ed him on the memo, but I'm not done yet. 

In fact, I would argue, having spent the last 2 & 1/2 years working client-side and acquainting myself with landing pages, engagement cards and overly-provocative Subject Lines ("Rich, can you get in touch with HR immediately?") I'm better equipped for today's workload than ever before.

But back to the weights -- an indication of my vitality if ever there was one.

When I began my three day a week lifting routine, I told myself I would hoist up 225 lbs. This is the benchmark weight seen at the official NFL combine, where million-dollar athletes, in the prime of their lives peacock their lithe, fast-twitch wares to scouts looking for the next Patrick Mahomes or Jalen Hurts. 

If you've ever watched the combine, and I have, for the many promo assignments I did for the NFL, you know each prospect is measured for speed, verticality and strength. Many of the oversized linemen can bench press 225 lbs. upwards of 30 or 40 times. Some of the halfbacks and Euro-punters, not so much. Some not even in the double digits.

For the purposes of my delusional fantasy, I chose to pit myself against the latter. And now, on my 65th birthday, I am happy to say I have made good on the promise/goal I set for myself and hoisted the 4 plates (muscle-head jargon) 12 contiguous times, surpassing the reps of Jethro Clappershack, a 3rd string back up QB from South Memphis Technical University.

Tonight I will blow out the candle on my keto-approved cupcake and wish to see the day when I successfully put up 300 lbs. 

I should probably get a spotter.

Monday, February 27, 2023

It sucks

I have been riding my bike quite a bit lately. 

I don't mean my Peloton, which I purchased two years ago, a review on that is to come shortly. I mean my road bike. A 1989 Cinelli Mens Sana In Corpore Sano, meaning a healthy mind in a healthy body.

I purchased the bike when I was still competing in triathlons and decided all my hard work merited an expensive bicycle, the most expensive bicycle I'd ever layed my half finger gloves on. 

It's easy enough to hop on the Peloton and knock out 25-25 miles a day -- I average about 30. It's quite another to join Ms. Muse who lives in Sierra Madre, which I previously thought was in Arizona. That requires effort and the transport of my cult classic Cinelli to the outer reaches of Pasadena.

Enter the Sea Sucker.

I didn't want to put roof racks ($$$) on my Audi and suffer the incumbent wind noise. Nor did I want to disassemble the bike and jam it into the trunk like a fat guy squeezing into a too-tight blazer (see Chris Farley in Tommy.) My neighbor Aaron, a triathlete in his own right, suggested I pick up the Sea Sucker.

Having undergone the life changing event of widowhood 14 months ago, I decided I'd adapt a new, less-frugal perspective on life and stop denying myself the finer things unlimited credit cards have to offer. I bought this new fangled contraption and then I shelved this new fangled contraption in my garage because, of all things, I was afraid to use it.

Allow me to explain.

The Sea Sucker, as its name would suggest, operates on the notion of sucking. The idea is to remove the front wheel of the bike (much easier than the rear) and attach it via the front forks (the thing that holds the wheel on) to the three-cup mount seen above. From there one need only hoist the bike+mount, about 21 lbs. in all, and sit it atop my Audi S5. 

Then the sucking begins.

Each cup is cleverly designed with an internal pump that when pushed several times with the thumb, extracts air between the rubber cup and the clean metal on the roof of the vehicle. As a result an airtight vacuum is formed. If you've ever shot a toy pistol with rubber cup ammo against a bathtub wall, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

If however, you're a born cynic who still doesn't understand how 747 jets, loaded with overstuffed Samsonites, can hurl themselves into the air and stay aloft, like me, you know the whole thing looks sketchy. I was convinced that while tooling up the windy Arroyo Seco Parkway, my Cinelli would come untethered, fall off the car and impale the brother or sister-in-law of Jacoby and or Meyers, Southern California's leading personal injury attorneys. Thus wiping out my nest egg in one fell and messy, litigious swoop.

Hence the Sea Sucker sat in my garage and went unused for more than 7 months. That is until last weekend, when Ms. Muse suggested we ride with the PAA, Pasadena Athletic Association (I'm hoping this plug will earn me a free jersey) on their 50 mile ride from Whittier to Seal Beach.

I decided to set aside my cognitive dissonance and harken back to my 10th grade knowledge of elementary physics. 

"Let's see if this sea sucker works," I said to myself.

Guess what? It worked. It worked like a charm. Having completed the 29 mile trip to Sierra Madre, that's 83 minutes in LA drive time) I emerged from the car and checked it out. The bond was rock solid. If you didn't know better you'd have thought a team of persnicketty German engineers had bolted the device into the Audi with legendary Teutonic precision.

I'm now a Sea Sucker sucker...convert, and determined to use it as often as I can. Even if I'm just going to the dry cleaners or the supermarket. I have 7 months of collecting dust to make up for.

I give the Sea Sucker, 12 Gears Up, the same number of gears found on my precious Cinelli.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

On Influencing

As many R17 readers know, I was recently laid off from Honey. Many people also don't know what Honey is, so for clarification purposes, it's a division of PayPal that automatically tracks down internet promo codes and saves you money while you're shopping online. And it's free!

See PP, I'm still hawking for you. 

You're welcome.

In any case, it's time, whether I like it or not, to figure out the next phase of my life. And what I, as a 65 year old man, who has somehow made a living being a professional smart ass, is going to do for money.

As I have stated on many occasion, I refuse to end up in a dirty nursing home. And should I live as long as Methusalah, will write copy as long as need so I don't find myself doing chair yoga and gumming soggy nursing home vegetable lasagna.

Several weeks ago, I floated the idea of starting a podcast. I've been the guest on several podcasts and had a good time shooting the shit with hosts and spouting off my lame-ass opinions. Why anyone would listen to them is beyond me and a great mystery akin to how our former president's frontal hair deck remains aloft?

However, if you are looking for an entertaining and informative podcast about the movies we all loved and grew up on, you can do no better than listening to The Rewatchables hosted by the inimitable Bill Simmons. 

You'll find out more about him, here

And you'll thank me afterwards.

I also considered monetizing this semi-daily tripe and migrating this blog onto SubStack. But for the same reason I abhor birthday parties, suspect nobody will attend and whatever money I make wouldn't buy me a crunchy, overrated taco from nearby Titos.

But let's be honest, the last thing this world needs is another podcast or another blogger trying to cash in on his or her's miniscule equity.

And that's when it occurred to me to become an Influencer. 

Hear me out on this. 

I know, better than most, that there is an abundance of kids out there pimping everything from cauliflower crust pizza to permanent eyeliner makeup. I'm also aware that these Influencers often "receive" free stuff from eager purveyors not willing to market their goods via legacy media. Or with any meaningful marketing whatsoever. So they peddle their wares via homegrown "experts" who have never seen an 8 track cartridge or heard of Spiro Agnew.

Do you see the niche baring its bald head and greying beard?

There are NO influencers for older people. 

At least none I can find in my limited, half-ass research. And boomers and Gen X'ers are the fastest growing demographic in America. Plus, they have the most disposable income. I could show you a chart on that, but again...no.

Anyway, that's where yours truly comes in. I'm happy to fill that void. Joyfully critiquing products. Making recommendations. And going all hard-sell of stuff that makes my life better and keeps disposable income in my pocket.  

Of course, it goes without saying that in the process, I'd be taking receipt of all kinds of complimentary goodies geared for geezers like myself. Like orthopedic inserts, reading glasses, beard balm, anything and everything I find myself buying these days.

Taking my inspiration from Mr. Beast, I'm thinking of a snappy moniker and naming my new Influencer Enterprise: The Schnorrer.  


Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Penny for your thoughts

Perhaps it's appropriate, but I spent the better part of President's Day, engaged in some very optimistic Numastics. That is, the examination and valuation of coins, many bearing the likeness of our long deceased forefathers.

Turns out that while going through my garage and the mixed bag of belongings my cranky uncle has deeded to me -- by sheer forfeit -- I stumbled upon a plastic cup full of pennies, nickels, dimes and grimy quarters. 

In total, about 30 coins.

Additionally, while sifting through my closet, I stumbled on a keepsake box and discovered another stash of coins collected by my father-in-law Bob Weinblatt, the very uncranky Bob Weinblatt, including a commemorative Pearl Harbor coin. I believe that while in the Navy, Bob served there in post-war late 1940's.

I've watched enough reality TV shows and harbored enough Ralph Kramden-like fantasies to believe perhaps one of these little slivers of less-than-shiny metal could be worth beaucoup bucks. 

So I did what any 2023 Man of Leisure would do. I downloaded a free app -- CoinScan or CoinWorth or FatChance -- to see what I was holding. 

It's pretty simple. You point the iPhone camera at the coin, both sides, and the app spits back an estimated value.

You can imagine my surprise when the first sooty dime, ten cents in US legal tender, could fetch a whopping $4.59 on the open Numastic Market. If my math is right, and lately, due to excess coffee drinking or the early onset of old man senility, it hasn't been, that's a 460% increase!

That was just the first coin.

Surely amongst these highly collectible coins, that were nonchalantly stored in a dentist's plastic rinse cup, there'd be a big, big winner worth thousands, nay, millions of dollars. And surely, you know nothing of my life, even after reading more than 3000 posts here on RoundSeventeen. Because that kind of mighty windfall and magnificent luck just doesn't happen to me.

Moreover, it's off-brand. 

Siegels don't win things. In fact, we're the kind of people who visit the local bodega or supermarket and end up standing in front of the people who DO buy winning lottery tickets.

"Oh, you just have a banana and a bag of chips? Why don't you go before me."

Granted, I didn't go through every coin. I know I just don't have to. Besides, I had important stuff to do, like overstuffing the washing machine, vacuuming the stairs, emptying the dishwasher and picking up Lucy's backyard fertilizing gifts. 

All the kind of chores that would be best performed by my new butler, Edward. But I don't have a new butler Edward, because the $13.98 I have in old coins is only worth about $97.28. 




Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Mailbox Money


First, I want to say thank you to the many folks in our industry who have reached out with support -- privately and publicly -- following the announcement of my involuntary layoff last week. 

It's heartening.

Plus, as it was so eloquently noted by Ms. Muse, "People like you. They really like you." 

It's a mystery to me, in the same way it's a mystery so many companies, the ones that foisted the Long Table of Mediocrity™ and FFDKK's upon us, have soured this once-great business.

I also want to say you need not worry. I may still end up in a dirty nursing home, my greatest fear. Or I may make it to the finish line with the help of some Hollywood magic. Of course, I'm referring to Residual Checks (see picture above.)

For the layman, or as idiots in the Entertainment Industry condescendingly call you, civilians, residual checks are also called Mailbox Money. It's part of a unique distribution system developed to compensate actors, directors, producers and occasionally writers, for their efforts in creating "intellectual property." 

Simply stated, every time a TV show, or a movie or a performance of some kind, runs on-air or plays in a theater for money, the creators are sent a check. 

For someone like Tom Cruise, the size of those checks can be astronomical. Risky Business could be playing on the TTV, Turkmenistan's official TV network and Tom could be getting a single residual check more than you'll make in a year. Or even 5 years.

Now you know why those Scientology folks can afford expensive Super Bowl commercials, with the glitzy, cheesy special effects.

It goes without saying, or at least it should be glaringly obvious, that Rich Siegel and my participation in movie-making merits far, far less. Particularly since of the two theatrical movies I had a hand in, only Stay Tuned went through the guilds and spits out actual legal tender. 

The other movie was a documentary for homestore.com (Home Movie), a client of TBWA Chiat/Day, whose board members all went to prison for embezzlement and stock manipulation. I suspect any revenue produced by that film has been confiscated by the court and sent directly to the ponzi scheme victims, who are no doubt spending their golden years in a dirty nursing home and eating sloppy vegetable lasagna. Stuffed with broccoli. 


In summary, I'll be OK. I may not be able to find another full time job. And with the swirl of freelancers out there, often lowballing their day rates to compete with free ChatGPT, I may not even be able to secure some gigs. 

But thankfully, I will always have the generosity of Hollywood and the Golden Goose revenue producing of a movie made 30+ years ago that is wowing audiences in Sudan, Urugauy and the far reaches of the  Kwajalein Atoll. 


Thursday, February 16, 2023

You don't say


A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had started a new Netflix series, Outlander. I'm always reticent to start a new series, particularly when I'm behind 6-7 seasons. However, Ms. Muse can be quite persuasive and the show did have some personal interest.

And as you'll see, that interest gets even more personal.

In the very first or second episode about a British Army nurse who time travels back to 18th century Scottish Highlands, we see Claire (our protagonist) being captured by Scottish rebels, who are sowing the seeds for the Jacobbite Rebellion.

Unsure of the English woman's roots or agenda, the men will often deflect and speak in their native Gaelic language. Or Celtic. I haven't done enough research to find out the difference. I only know that when I heard them speaking, I couldn't understand a word they were saying. 

Not unlike the feeling I get when they 'speak' the Queen's tongue.

What I did notice, was the tone, inflection and pronunciation had a distinctively un-UK feel to it. It reminded me less of sitting in a pub and listening to kilted gent reciting poetry from Robbie Burns and more like a contentious, loud dinner with my Bronxian relatives on Jerome Avenue. 

The dialogue was scattered with a lot of "chhhh's" and "yechhhh's" and "bluchhh's". Additionally, it had a certain phlegmy characteristic to it, that belied the unspoken formality one often associates with people from Brittania. 

And so I took to the Google.

Well faith and begorrah you can imagine my surprise when I found a whole Wikipedia (the amateur's, aka, lazy man's, research) page all about Dan. 

Dan, you say, who the hell is Dan?

I'm glad you asked. There is a popular theory that among the lost tribes of Israel, who spread from the Fertile Crescent to parts unknown, that one of the tribes, the Tribe of Dan, settled in Ireland. Jews in Ireland? Want to read more about it? 

Of course you do

Last year when I did some 23andme research, I discovered that many people from Scotland, including my mother's family from Paisely, also hailed from Northern Ireland, County Donegal, to be specific. And until recently I had always thought of my mother's family and my father's, sprinkled with heavy duty Hebraic seasonings, were from two separate worlds. As disparate as toothpaste is to a pint of Guiness. A stretched metaphor, but you get the gist.

Now, however, I see the similarities. 

For instance, my ears do not deceive me, and there are close to 1000 words of Hebrew and Gaelic and/or Celtic, that have similar linguistic roots.

That's just for starters. Anecdotally, you can also see that Irish/Scottish people and Jewish people place a high value on humor. It's probably not apparent from this piece, but trust me, having been in the company of both, I know this to be true.

There's also this notion of clannishness. How many times have you heard people, possibly even Joe Rogan, saying my people are guilty of clannishness (as if that's a bad thing.) Hence the obvious: 

Clan = Tribe

Tribe = Clan

And finally there's the commonality of frugality. I know I'd be stepping on thin ice here, so I won't. Besides, it's time I go to the grocery store for some week old fruit and off brand ground coffee.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023


If you read yesterday's post you know I am now staring at involuntary retirement. 

More specifically, through no fault of my own, I was a victim of the massive tech layoffs that are in so many of the day's headlines.

As such I have decided to embark on new activities that in all honesty should have been regular activities. 

Which leads us to a new feature here on RoundSeventeen: 

The Man of Leisure Chronicles: Day 1

As I am writing this it is Monday morning. And as you can see from the picture above, I have challenged and conquered my unruly kitchen pantry. Maybe yours looks much cleaner and better organized than this, but I'm in Marie Kondo heaven right now having sifted, sorted, tossed and trashed so much kitchen detritus that has resided in this pantry since Eisenhower was in office.

Ok, that's an exaggeration. But I did come across some boxed Tomato Soup and Chicken broth that said it was best sold in the year 2015. Normally that would not phase me, as I believe many of these best sold dates are simply examples of comestible planned obsolescence. 

Sure, these foodmakers want us to throw out perfectly good food so they can sell us more perfectly good food. I'm onto to you, Big Ag. 

However, since I now reside alone there is a distinct possibility that had I slurped up the now-lumpy, aforementioned tomato soup, there is a chance I could keel over with gut-wrenching botulism and writhe around on my kitchen floor, with no help in sight. 

Additionally, as I made my way through shelf after another, I discovered an alarming number of duplicate items. 

For instance I had 4, count 'em 4, bottles of red wine vinegar. Admittedly, I use a great deal of red wine vinegar and olive oil as part of my new Mediterranean diet. And to make my homemade chimmichurri sauce which adds flavor to my daily consumption of salmon. Salmon. And more salmon.

Note to self: prior to grocery shopping and to avoid future duplication, write note to self.

It took more than an hour to reconstruct the pantry. And you'd think that would have exhausted me, particularly since I still have swimming, weight lifting and bike riding to do. But there is no rest for the unemployed. And so, feeling invigorated, I set my sights on something even more challenging than the pantry.

Behold the Junk Drawer...

Again, yours may look a whole lot better than this. But I'm awfully proud of the way I put the various screwdrivers, pliers, and tool-like object in one container. The cables and various electronic accoutrement in another. And even carved out a separate space for an old Casio calculator from 1983. I know there's a calculator on my iPhone, but I come from a family of CPA's and just couldn't part with this tactile relic from the past.

Of course not everything is in its place. The middle container houses all the miscellaneous stuff that didn't match my demanding organizational criteria. Think of it as a junk drawer, within the junk drawer.

Maybe I'll save and tackle the new shrunken junk drawer for a future Man of Leisure Chronicle entry? Bet you can't wait.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Going on the dole.

Maybe you heard. Maybe you didn't. I'm not divulging anything here that isn't public knowledge, but PayPal is, or is in the process, of laying off 2000 employees.

That's 7% of the total global staff, if I'm reading the press releases correctly.

Turns out my old jowel-ly 65 year old neck, was on the chopping block. 

I know other employees, and by other I mean all the ones who are younger than me, roughly 99.999999% of the company, are freaking out about this. I am not. At least not yet.

As someone who has been in the industry in 5 separate decades, I know it's the cost of being in this glamorous business. It's not my first rodeo. And as I was explaining to one of the younger women (again redundant) it's perfectly natural to get laid off/fired/terminated at least 2 times, sometimes 3, sometimes in the case of being over-opinionated (though always right), the axe can fall even more often than that.

Am I upset about it? 

Well, no one likes to get to told to get lost. And naturally I would have liked to leave the job -- and really how much of a job can it be when you work from home in your pajamas without ever shaving for the occasion -- on my own terms. 

But a little more than a year ago, I lost my wife of nearly 30 years. And that was after two grueling and emotionally-draining years of being her full time caregiver and another year and a half of caregiving for my crazy, impossibly cranky uncle. 

In other words, I've been put through life's pointy, spiky arsenic-tipped ringer and come out on the other side.

And now, as a man in his sunset years, I face the daunting task of finding a new job. Or new work. Or winning lottery tickets.  

Having read about the slew of tech employee slayings, I've taken some precautions. I've put my irons in other fires. To date I have not received one email back for the dozens of jobs I have applied for. Jobs I suspect I am thoroughly overqualified for.

I wonder if the other 691 candidates applying for the Creative Director job at Apple have heard anything back. 

I've also switched from Starbucks coffee to the less-tasty, less-expensive house generic brand of coffee -- I believe Pavilions Supermarket calls it Signature. Though I'm not sure Juan Valdez would sign his name to these beans.

Also, as I told the concerned Ms. Muse, "I embrace adversity." Mostly because it nudges me into survival mode, something my people know a little about (see yesterday's post). 

I've also rewired my brain to seek out the new, walk bravely into uncertainty, and put smiling cheery emojis at the end of anything I write that even has the slightest whiff of snark.

Good bye, PayPal. 

I wish you the best of luck. 😊😊😊

Monday, February 13, 2023

Meet me in the cage, Joe

Fuck this guy.

Don't know he is? It's a shame fate didn't keep it that way. 

This is Joe Rogan, amateur MMA fighter and a poor man's Tony Danza. 

He also the host of Spotify's most popular podcast. Meaning millions of listeners, the ones already satiated on red meat from the previous administration, scarf down his monumentally-ignorant bullshit everyday. 

Last week, doing his best impersonation of Kanye West, he took to the airwaves and thought it wise to say,  "the idea that Jews aren't into money is ridiculous. That's like saying Italians aren't into pizza."

Yeah Joe, it's just like that.

Except no one attacks a pizzeria with an AR-15 and mows down a dozen Italians because they dig the pepperoni and thin crust. Whereas, your little bon mot feeds an antisemitic trope that has lasted as long as Jews have.

It's why sitting Congresswoman feel free to ramble on about space lasers belonging to the Rothschilds. Or the current Speaker of the House inferring billionaires like Bloomberg, Soros and Steyer, "bought the 2020 election."

And it's why Jewish blood gets spilt everyday and find themselves the victims of hate crimes you so cavalierly ignore.

Fuck you Joe Rogan.

Maybe it hasn't occurred to you, but it has occurred to me. 

Money is a tool of survival. Money permits escape when Romans/Greeks/Crusaders/Cossacks/Nazis/Red Hats come crashing through the door, hellbent on our demise. Money buys passports. Visas. Papers. Money bribes guards. Money secures passage. 

Money moves mountains.

And so yes, (((we))) need to be vigilant about having some. 

Not for a rainy day, but for a murderous one.

Here's the other thing about money, Joe. Oh and congrats on signing that new $200 million contract. I have no doubt your Jewish agent worked hard to get you that deal. 

The only way to get money is to work hard. A reward in its own right. And so we work hard. All due respect, but before there was this stoic "Protestant Work Ethic", there was a Jewish one. 

We work hard, because it produces results. In science, medicine, business, literature, music, technology, and even in Certified Public Accounting. These results make Jews an asset. A precious asset to mankind. And sometimes that saves our ass.

You see Joe, it's not the money we love, it's the survival.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Letter from a Communist

I don't know whether you heard it or not, but apparently I'm a Communist. 

Before you go reaching for that musket or worse, the Unsubscribe button, you ought to take a good look in the mirror, Comrade. Because if you're not on-board with the All-MAGA, All-Cretinist agenda, chances are, you're a Communist too.

It seems every time I pick up a newspaper, read a book, see an interview with the intellectually-challenged  folks on the right, they're always tossing about the Communist or Marxist or Radical Leftist pejorative. Even odder, since many Red Hats are also unabashed Russophiles -- OG birthplace of the Bolshevik movement.

Odder still, since if you challenged the New Cretinists on the right, including Boebert, Greene, Gosar, Lake, Gaetz, Clyde, Tuberville, et al., I'm sure they haven't a clue as to what defines a Communist.

Nor could they identify Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin or even Marx. 

Speaking of Stalin, someone posted this on my Facebook page the other day and I could not help see my own face in the likeness of Uncle Joe.

At this point, I feel I should cop to the fact my grandparents on my father's side hailed from Western Belarus and did harbor some extreme leftist views. Not at all surprising since they were working class people and tired of their station in life. 

Not surprisingly, when they came to the US, they fought mightily for unions and worker's rights. My grandmother, it is rumored, was a card carrying Bolshevik. And a boisterous Shop Steward in the sewing mills.

None of which justifies the name calling we are treated to on the nightly news. 

It's even more laughable when it comes from the ideologically-bereft schmuck we used to call our President. Here is a silver spoon buffoon, who, starting at 3rd base in the Game of Life, has built an "empire" by sucking at the teat of government welfare.

We, the people, via Chapter 11, have bailed out close to a dozen of his failed businesses.

We, the people, have financed his father's (now his) properties with federal, state and local grants, much of it ill-gotten.

And we, the people, have poured millions, and billions (Jared), of dollars into his enterprises via the pay-for-play corrupt practices of his administration.

Lest anyone forget, he also "fell in love" with Kim Jong Un, the world's most ruthless Communist.

Anyway, that's all I've got to say on the matter. 

This Communist has to get back to work. Back to fueling the engines of Capitalism. With advertising that sparks consumption. And puts revenue in the hands of industry. And grows the economy. And enables the masses to own flat screen TVs, air fryers, custom-crafted Cornhole sets, and semi-automatic assault weapons like the AR-15.

God Bless America.


Wednesday, February 8, 2023

The new debit card is here!

Got my new Debit Card today. 

That should not be newsworthy. However the fact that Wells Fargo, not known for their efficiency or for their stellar customer service, got it to me before the old one expired should not go without notice.

These are the same folks who kept me on hold for more than 4 hours and 38 minutes at one time in my life. That was before the advent of, 

"Due to unusually high level of demand, our customer service representatives cannot get to your call. If you'd like, we can call you back. You will not lose your place in line. Your call is important to us and we will reach you as soon as possible."

But this post is ostensibly not about my troubled 39 year relationship with Wells Fargo and the many times they have left me scratching my head thinking, "I should leave this crooked bank and put my nest egg -- such as it is-- with a different financial institution that cares and helps its customers." 

You know, if they ever existed.

While removing the new debit card from the envelope, I could not help but notice that the color had changed. It was red. Now it's black. Not exactly black, it's kind of a matte black with hints of brown. Think of your favorite dark chocolate. Now think of it a few shades darker.

It's also flecked, not unlike the hundreds, nay thousands, of quartz stones Deb and I looked at while searching for the just the right counter when we remodeled the kitchen in 2018. Oh the hours we wasted and tortured ourselves with while nail-biting NFL games were going on and not being watched by me.

And then it occurred to me, those same back and forth and forth and back discussions took place at the conference room(s) at the prestiged offices of Wells Fargo. Only worse. Because it wasn't just two people angsting over the decision. In fact, you could hardly call it angsting when one of the two people -- me-- was heard on many occasion to say, "I'm fine with that Deb, just pick the one you want." 

No, in the case of the debit card color selection, I'm going to go out on the corporate limb here and suggest there were at least two dozen Marketing, Customer Operations, and Cost Analysts, scrutinizing, touching, flipping and rescrutinzing the card, every which way to Sunday, when NFL games are typically played, to get the color selection and textural feel just right.

This process, challenging as it was, must have dragged on forever. They probably could've settled the matter when it reached 17 rounds of revisions (SWIDT?) but more likely went 170 rounds. Because with folks working a hybrid schedule, many of the important decision makers at Wells Fargo were on Zoom calls and could not get a bead on the color or the unusual feel of the card.

All of which leads me to -- Why?

It's overthinking taken to exceptional levels of American bullshiterry. And it's but one tiny example of why we can't have nice things. If they were to bring in a Sigma Six cost expert to audit the design, manufacture and useless hammering out and compromising, I'm sure WF would find they dipped, if not sank, into huge vats of red ink.

"Welcome to Wells Fargo, where we take the profits and pass the excessive costs on to you."

BTW, I prefer the old red card. When fumbling through my overstuffed wallet, the color difference made it easier to find.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

In the beginning

Today, in further Cleaning-Out-the-Garage Adventures, we travel back to the year 1984. And proudly, ok, maybe not-so-proudly, bring you remnants from the NH&S Wall of Shame.

But allow me to back the mail cart up and give some context here.

There's a reason why so many of advertising luminaries (present company excluded) started their careers in the mailroom. Notably, it's an entry level job. In actuality it's a below-entry level job, if that's even possible. It's mindless work for penniless schmucks like myself who wanted a career in writing but had no idea how to make that happen.

Hence, the schlepping of boxes, the running of errands for cavalier executives and the endless grinding of being stepped on, day in/day out from 9 in the morning until 5 at night. Please note that in those days, at least at NH&S, the office shut down at 5 PM. Sharp.

But, as org. charts have shown, many who started in the mailroom worked their way up to the C-suite (again, present company excluded). Why? I suspect it's because clerks in the mailroom had daily contact with every other department in the agency. 

Moreover, quick-thinking, under-employed, college graduate clerks, like myself and my boss Jim Jennewein, were able to survey the landscape and develop a well-rounded view of the agency as a whole. A perspective not shared by any of the people siloed throughout. 

It was Ad Agency 101.

The mailroom was also a place we desperately wanted to leave. That's we in the collective sense, me, Jim, Hal Riney, Barry Diller and so many more. There's a reason  why no one retires as a Mailroom Clerk.

But getting out would take time. Sorry kids, we all have to pay some dues. 

So while we were trapped in that interior box office with the company's stash of envelopes, pencils, reams of paper and precious Pendaflex Hanging Folders, we made the best of our time. 

Jim and I cordened off a corkboard and dubbed it our Wall of Shame. 

There, we hung pictures snipped from the many agricultural trade magazines no one would claim. That included photos of prize cows from all over the country; Holsteins, Jerseys, Brafords and Belgian Blues. And because there were times we had nothing better to do, we wrote little Playboyesque type profiles on each of the now-named cows. I'm hoping I come across these in my garage clearing activities.

What I did find however, were these lithographs of 19th century farm life, reborn with our not-so-clever captions. 

If I remember correctly, we incorrectly (and naively) thought if Larry Postaer, the Creative Director at the time ever walked in and saw our gut-busting handiwork, he'd immediately pluck us from our vocational abyss and put us to work on the next commercial for the Honda Civic.

Suffice it to say, that did not happen. 

And when you read the following captions, you'll know exactly why. Nevertheless, I'm humble enough to share. And admit my shit stinks. Just like everyone else's. 



Monday, February 6, 2023

Missing: SWM

Let's pour one out for the poor, straight white man and the horrible afflictions he finds himself oppressed by in these deeply troubling times. It's appalling and no one seems to want to talk about it.

Well, except Marjorie Taylor Greene and an esteemed advertising colleague of mine, who doctored the photo above to point out the glaring and disturbing absence of the SWM. 

I won't quote the latter, because he doesn't deserve any unearned eyeballs. But I will share the "wit and wisdom" of the former who said (in a video) that:

"There's not a lot of lobbyists here for regular Mr. and Mrs. American, you know like mom and pop shops...the average white male trying to climb the corporate ladder, when his problem is being white and male, so there's not people in here fighting for regular Americans"

Let's unpack a little of that shall we? 

Let's start with regular Mr. and Mrs. American. Who is that Marjorie? Are we to gather that regular Mr. and Mrs. Americans don't include Hispanics, Asians or People of Color? Or does regular not apply to them. As if the agreed upon Default Setting for American is a White Male or Female? 

Oh and before anyone makes assumptions, let's be clear, I don't identify as a white male. According to MTG and her semi-minded followers, I, a man of Hebraic Seasonings, didn't make the cut and belong to a group commonly referred to as Mud People. 

You know, the same group as Jesus.

Furthermore, it's clear she believes the only people running Mom & Pop shops are all equally homogenized and whose birthday suits included no melanin.

Moving on, let's look out over the landscape of America. Who among the various groups of people, homeless folks, veterans, single mothers, poverty stricken seniors, needs the most help? Apparently it's the   average white male struggling to climb the corporate ladder. 

While you're looking over that landscape, you better avert your eyes to the mahogany-laden C-suites in America's Fortune 500 companies. Because despite the advancements of DEI, 90% of those over-furnished offices are exclusively white and male. And have been since someone invented the calendar.

The fact is, and I hate to break it to the scholar from North Georgia, or the self-unaware bro-dude from advertising, if there's one group of people who has reaped the unearned rewards of their skin color and their sexuality in the 5,000 - 10,000 years of modern civilization, it would unanimously and undeniably be the Straight White Male. 

And now, because they don't have lobbyist groups and no longer show up in TV commercials, life's laughable lottery winners want to claim they're the victims.

Color me amused.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

On my soapbox

Despite my daughter's continued warnings and unnecessary guidance, I am as woke as any man of 65 years can be. Yes there are still some edges that need to be buffed out, but I'm a work in progress.

It should also be noted that I don't mind being called woke. It's not the insult many Red Hats seem to think it is. It simply means I am empathetic and have enough human decency in me to be able to recognize what life must be life in shoes other than my own size 11, triple E. 

That's right, I have fat feet.

With that preface out of the way, I'm going to say I'm not a fan of the encampments. They are all over Los Angeles. And don't seem to be subsiding. They're an eyesore. They're the scene of many fires. And I wouldn't go stepping near one, lest I get some post-digested bean burrito on the soles of my shoes. 

I'm also not a fan of being painted as some kind of heartless monster because I'd like to see the encampments gone. I understand the people who live like this need help. That they have fallen on hard times. And that the state needs to provide a safety net. 

The disconnect, for me, is that our leaders have failed miserably to solve this problem. 

With the outbreak of Covid in 2020, the Chinese government built fully functional hospitals in 10 days. In the US it takes ten days to get an ordinance proofread and put on the ballot. Followed by months of discussion. Years of circling back. And followed again by a new administration doing its best to undo the work of the previous administration.

I know democracy can be messy but the inaction (on so many fronts) is simply exasperating. It makes the machinations of an ad agency -- internal or external -- feel like a well-oiled performance engine.

As of late, and because I've been doing more bike riding along the beach, I've noticed there are more and more of these encampments popping up on the sand. 

How and why this is happening is particularly vexxing. 

If I may digress.

In 1979, my first summer in Southern California, I found myself heading up to Zuma Beach for a Saturday of surreptitious drinking and weed smoking with my friend Jim (RIP) and my new colleague from the Good Earth restaurant, Pete. 

Neither of us had cars, as we were living hand-to-mouth and had been known to steal food from our employers. Pete's girlfriend, a nurse at a local ER did have a car, and reluctantly agreed to lend it to us for the day. Long story mercifully shortened, by the end of the day, Pete had managed to lose the keys to the car. 

We scurried to the nearest payphone (1979, remember) and Pete's girlfriend, already not happy with the sad company he was keeping, told him, in not so many words, to pound sand. And so we did. Literally. 

We shivered under wet towels, gritted our teeth and spent a miserable night with the Pacific just 20 yards from our frost-bitten toes.

We were awakened the next morning by bulldozers grooming the beach and Ventura County Sheriffs who angrily rousted us and divvied out substantial tickets for sleeping overnight.

I understand the apples and oranges comparison here. I also understand that our beaches are precious. And  decidedly public. Moreover, just as wealthy folks in Malibu cannot privatize and claim oceanfront property as their own, neither should the unhoused.

This, along with sexualized M&M's, are problems that desperately need solving. 


Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Out with a whimper

It's Monday morning as I write this. And like you, harbor a certain amount of dread about the upcoming work week. In fact, I'm only a couple hours away from "punching" in.

The dread is not borne from an oversupply of challenges. Or because the work is too difficult. 

It's not. 

Whereas at one point in my less-than-illustrious career, I was writing potential Super Bowl spots (this years will be my 31st consecutive year without a contender) and sitting side-by-side with CEOs to steward Fortune 100 brands, now I am doing the work of a marketing journeyman. 

No need to get into specifics, suffice it to say, the hardest part of my job these days is not solving the ask. It's figuring out what the ask is.

Hence, the birth of the ADLOB -- Adlike Objects. Things that look, smell and taste like an ad, but aren't, lest they attract the microscopic attention and criticism of 1/3 the staff on the company org. chart.

Similarly, since we've all been downsized (in the mass communications sense of the word) to the digital domain, the work, such as it is, is clouded by a swirl of indecipherable acronyms. 

I fondly remember the day when a campaign would consist of a TV spot, 3 print ads, a radio spot, a full page newspaper (preferably long copy) and maybe even some point of sale executions.

Today, the word 'campaign' is tossed around with such nonchalance it can be used to describe an email blast, a banner ad and an engagement card. All with the mandatory appearance of luggage that matches. As if anyone remembers.

Dissecting this paradigm is clearly not my wheelhouse. For that I suggest you read Bob Hoffman's take on advertising's reversal of fortune, here. Bob hails from academia, plus a few hundred years in the biz, and has a distinctively scholarly, and expectedly acidic take on all this. 

Here's a small sample.

No point to all this, except that my 65th birthday is just around the corner. And a week from now will mark my second anniversary of being on staff and more vesting of my less-than-sizable equity. 

In other words, the finish line is in sight. 

But so is that dirty nursing home I swore to never lay down in. Guess it's time to grab my vacuum, put on my best Willy Loman face, punch in and make with the small stuff.