Monday, November 20, 2017

A bit more on more by way of Milton Glaser.

As I mentioned some number of posts ago, on Monday, November 13th, I traveled to Cooper-Union to see the legendary Milton Glaser interviewed by the legendary Steven Heller.

At one point in their discussion, Heller uttered a bromide we hear quite often in our business and in life. "Less is more," Heller said.

Glaser heard that and got a little peckish.

"I've heard that all my life," Glaser said. "And I've thought about it. Actually, I don't think 'less is more.'"

The entire audience of 500 or so waited for Glaser's conclusion.

"If you look at an Oriental carpet, it's very ornate, very complicated, very balanced. Every element is considered. Colors are placed close to each other and visually blend together. The whole thing works together in a very complex manner."

Again, the old man paused and took a thoughtful breath.

"I don't think less is more," he repeated. "I think 'just enough is more.'"

That's one I'll remember. More or less.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A bad stretch, home and away.

We’ve had a rough stretch, I guess you could call it that, at work lately. Late nights, heavy demands and high-expectations. It’s enough, to be perfectly candid about it, to fray your nerves and put your temper on a hair trigger.

As I clocked my 19th or 22nd night of working into the wee hours and working my typing finger to a nub, my mind traveled back to Saltillo, Mexico and that summer 42 years ago that I spent playing baseball for money in the Mexican Baseball League.

We had had a lot of rain that summer, and in the civilized world, that is those parts of the world where baseball is played for profit, rain means rain-outs and rain outs mean, ordinarily, double-headers. However, this being Mexico and the 1970s, and the summer having had an inordinate amount of rain, double-headers in one case gave way to something even more egregious, triple-headers—that is, three games in single day.

As our long-season limped to its sad conclusion (we were entrenched in next to last place, four games in front of the Sultanes de Monterrey and five games behind the Toros de Tijuana) we had a spate of make-up games to play, forcing us to play 11 games in less than one week: two double-headers, followed by the aforementioned triple-bill and two more double-headers.

I don’t know what it’s like working in a coal mine with a pickaxe for hours on end, or working on an assembly line, or doing hard manual labor. A ballgame is different. There’s maybe 45-seconds any one individual does in any ballgame. Unless you’re a catcher or a pitcher, there’s about 45 seconds of running, throwing, swinging.

A lot more time is standing around of course, more, even, sitting around. A fair amount of kibitzing and a giant portion of ragging and scratching. Still, 11 games in just five days fairly ground us to bone meal.

Mostly it started the way these things almost always start. Arulfo would be on the bench during a game next to Cespedes and he’d poke Cespedes in the ribs. Cespedes would brush his hand away. Arulfo would redouble his efforts. Before long Arulfo had poked one time too many and the two were rolling in the dust, squaring off trying to club each other halfway to hell or Hoboken with Louisville Sluggers.  

It was like that times the 25 guys on the team. As the youngest guy on the squad, only an ersatz Mexican and Hector’s putative hijo, I was fairly immune from such. That said, at dinner one evening German Barojas, who three seasons after I left Saltillo got called up to Detroit and wound up marrying and divorcing Karmen Rodriguez, hid a baseball in a heap of mashed potatoes and gravy on my plate at dinner.

Usually when ragging stuff like that happened, someone put cockroaches in your bed or Ben-Gay in your jock or glue in your hairbrush, I had enough personal wherewithal to walk away. That mashed potato dinner was different, at least that evening. Like the Hands of Orlac, I found mine gripping Barojas’ neck and threatening to choke him to death.

“Fuck you, Barojas.”

“No, fuck you.”

Generally, the discourse degenerated from there.

11 games in five days meant everyone hated each other. Players hated, coaches hated, batboys hated. Even Hector Quesadilla who was blessed with equanimity the likes of which I haven’t seen since Mother Teresa died, or since that summer 42 years ago, was frazzled to a fine crisp.

I read somewhere that the great Yankee perfesser, Casey Stengel, once said, “the secret to managing is keeping the 10 guys who hate you away from the 15 who are undecided.” Well, in this Hector had a lost cause. Everyone hated each other, everyone hated him, everyone hated the stupid league we played in and the game we had dedicated our lives to.

A typical conversation would go like this:

“Their pitcher telegraphs his curve. Watch how his elbow tucks in,” one player would say to another.

“Fuck you,” would be the invariable response.

Soon a gaggle of men would be standing in the dugout, groups of six, maybe, squaring off, teetering just millimeters from a full-blown pier six brawl.

11 games in five days, and we lost the first four, dropping both ends of a double-header twice. My bat had all but vanished and as a rag, someone, I don’t know who, had taken all my lumber from the bat rack in the dugout, hidden my wood and replaced it with an old fly-swatter they had stolen from some down-at-the-heels Holiday Inn in Campeche or somewhere.

We won, magically all three games of a triple-header, leaving us at 3-4 for the stretch and then proceeded to drop the next three by a combined score of something like 50-10. They were out-and-out slaughters, which only raised the tension and the rancor in the clubhouse.

Our last game, our 11th, before a day-off started inauspiciously at best. “Brutus” Cesar, our fleet centerfielder was leading off. Adame in the on-deck circle called as Cesar stepped up.

“Brutus, you suck.”

Cesar stepped out.

“Fuck you, Adame.”

“No. Fuck you.”

In seconds, the two were sprawled on the ground and our bench was empty with a dozen guys backing Cesar squaring off against the dozen guys backing Adame.

Hector had had enough. He ran out to the imbroglio grabbing the first thing he could put his hands on, a 10-lb sack of sunflower seeds. He began swatting at the boys with the bag and yelling, “Parada, pollo cabrones.” “Enough chicken fuckers.”

At the exact moment Hector said pollo cabrones, Hector’s bag of sunflower seeds split, spilling thousands of seeds everywhere and sending Adame and Cesar ass over teakettle onto the dirt.

The 4,000 or so fans in the stands were clustered predominately behind home and saw the whole shebang. Naturally, they picked up on ‘pollo cabrones’ and began chanting it in an elongated fashion, pooooy yooooooo caaaaaa broooooo nessssss.

Whatever, the pollo cabrones fight broke the tension of the week. For the rest of the game we were loose again, slapping each other on the back with a hearty greeting of chicken fuckers.

I think we scored 12 runs that last of 11 games, going into a much-needed day off, and we won like a good thoroughbred, going away.

Or rather, we won like a bunch of chicken fuckers, flapping our weary wings away.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dour day.

Ever since I was a kid and I saw my old man's once-high-falutin' career crumble like a sandcastle at high tide, I've perseverated on the Willy-Loman-ization of the workforce.

Lately, perhaps it is a pre-vacation miasma, I am feeling particularly lugubrious. Too much work is too often dumped on me. Too vague assignments allotted too little time. It all leaves me with the feeling that the world, in Wordsworth's words, is too much with me.

Willy, like my father, was done in by old age and his belief in the old, stale blandishments of the Powers that be. Willy believed the promises of his boss--that he'd always have a job, that his dedication and toil was appreciated and would pay him life-long benefits.

My old man grabbed that bait as well. Reckoning that he deserved recompense for years of labor. But when new management came in, for both Loman and my father, both were tossed out on their asses. Leaving them, really, with little more, in the words of Arthur Miller, "a handshake and a smile."

No conclusions to be drawn from any of this. No real point, just--time for another literary reference--a tale of sound and fury, told by an idiot, signifying nothing.

That's me in spades.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


The Awardies.
The first Award Show that gives Awards for entering Award Shows.

The Awardie Primo—The Award for Work most-entered in Award Shows.

The Awardie Good— The Award for Work purported to do the most social good if it ever actually was produced but wasn’t.

The Awardie Self   The Award for Work best-created to get the creative team a new job or promotion.

The Awardie Math The Award for Work that allows you to list 100 awards on your site.

The Awardie Grande Zero—The Award for Work you found a client for after you produced it.

The Awardie Zero  The Award for Work you produced but never had a client and never ran.

The Awardie Zero+—The Award for Work you never even bothered to produce.

The Awardie Lucre—The Award for Work on which the most money was spent to enter Award Shows.

Uncle Slappy's every-so-often bi-weekly Slap of the Week.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Today's stupidest use of the word "experience."

From trying to sign into my MSFT Office. 

Their new "sign-in experience" consisted of typing my password into a rectangle.

I heart Milton Glaser.

It’s hard to have grown up when and where I grew up and not be a fan of Milton Glaser.

He is as New York as the New York Yankees—but without the Yankees arrogance and bombast. Between having designed the I [heart] New York symbol, New York magazine and the Grand Union supermarket chain, he is all New York, but humble, self-effacing and kind. Those attributes are embodied in Glaser's work.

Last night, Milton held court in front of 500 fans in an interview by Steven Heller. The ostensible topic of the discussion was the republication of Glaser and Mirko Ilic's 2005 book called "The Design of Dissent."

For our current political and social sump, Glaser's updated the book. The 2017 version is subtitled "Expanded Edition: Greed, Nationalism, Alternative Facts, And The Resistance."

Glaser is a passionate man but a man without anger. He believes that anger--in protest, in politics, in the interpersonal makes communication less effective.

And perhaps there is no anger in the man. But there is surely passion. Passion and a belief that old-fashioned New York liberalism is a better, fairer path than the avaricious, kleptocratic oligarchy which rules so much of the world--our world today.

Years ago, I was asked to work on a poster and brochure for an elementary school Columbia University was establishing on the upper west side. 

I was the copywriter on the assignment, and, good-fortune shined on me, Glaser was the art-director. I ran down to his office and had a cup of coffee with him at his big work table. 
We batted ideas around for about an hour--and talked about a headline I had come in with.

When it was time to leave, he said these words to me about the work we had sketched out together.

"Let's let it marinate a bit."

I think that is Glaser's Talmudic advice for the ages. Do something. Work hard. Be outraged. Be pasionate. Be, even, angry. Then Think. And write. And draw.

Then let life marinate a bit.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The world, upside down.

A desert place.

[Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches]
First Witch
When shall we three meet again
Second Witch
When the hurlyburly's done,
When the battle's lost and won.
Third Witch
That will be ere the set of sun.
First Witch
Where the place?
Second Witch
Third Witch
There to meet with Macbeth.
First Witch
I come, graymalkin!
Second Witch
Paddock calls.
Third Witch


We are living in the world of Macbeth. Where fair is foul and foul is fair. Where everything, in other words, is backwards and upside down. Where the prevailing order, is no order.

We have an uneducated, uncouth letch as president. And are about to elect an even worse example of the human species as Senator in Alabama. We pretend more guns will bring us more safety--ignoring all facts and figures to the contrary.

We tax the poor to lavish the rich. We eviscerate education and the environment, and all other social welfare expenditure because we can no longer afford them, though we add nearly two-trillion to the deficit and pour a trillion a year into unwinnable wars that cause unspeakable carnage.

Even our business, we eradicate experience, we ignore truisms that have worked in the marketing industry since merchants sold figs in ancient Sumeria. We pretend and grin fuck in meetings that people don't or can't read, though "content is king," and more books are published each year than ever before in history.

Most of all, we upside-down, topsy-turvy Bernbach and Gossage and Ogilvy, ignoring simplicity, ignoring in more cases than I care to, or can enumerate, ignore what's worked, what's common-sense, how people think, act, consume, learn, buy.

Then we wonder why things don't work. We issue specious and unfounded proclamations about audiences, based on anecdotes at best, and when, once again, things don't work,
we wonder, once again, why.