Thursday, February 11, 2016

Five Minutes with our CVO.

Ad Aged: CVO. Pardon my ignorance, but what does that stand for? Chief Value Officer?

CVO: Value? Ha! CVO stands for Chief Vomit Officer.

Ad Aged: Chief Vomit Officer? That's absolutely vile. What is it that you do?

CVO: Well, indirectly, I test the mettle of the people working for the agency. I'm here to see if they can come through in a pinch.

Ad Aged: Please explain.

CVO: It's pretty simple really what a CVO does. I talk an excessively big game and I am therefore given major assignment after major assignment.

Ad Aged: And then?

CVO: And then, I do nothing. I don't create, I don't do any work. I show up to meetings late or not at all. 

Ad Aged: So, get to the Vomit part.

CVO: Basically, when I'm through, where the assignment used to be, I leave a steaming pile of vomit. A crisis. A problem. A panic. And then I spring into action and...

Ad Aged: And...

CVO: And I disappear. I'm at a luncheon, or a client, or an edit suite. 

Ad Aged: I see. That's all very....

CVO: Listen, I have a very simple slogan that describes my modus operandi.

Ad Aged: And that is....

CVO: "If I don't shirk, you'll have no work."

Ad Aged: Thank you for that.

CVO: I'd love to go on talking. But I have work I have to avoid.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Only the living know Brooklyn.

It seems to me that everyone and his cousin have left the rarefied island of Manhattan, pulled up stakes and made it across the bridge to the even more rarefied air of Brooklyn.

It occurred to me that now that it appears that Bernie Sanders will be our next President, now might be the time to once again let our inner Brooklyn-accents out and embrace our god-given dese and dose.

To that end, I am posting here a story I've always loved by the great (and today, virtually unknown) Thomas Wolfe. A story of Brooklyn. Of life. And more.

Dere’s no guy livin’ dat knows Brooklyn t’roo an’ t’roo, because it’d take a guy a lifetime just to find his way aroun’ duh goddam town.
So like I say, I’m waitin’ for my train t’ come when I sees dis big guy standin’ deh—dis is duh foist I eveh see of him. Well, he’s lookin’ wild, y’know, an’ I can see dat he’s had plenty, but still he’s holdin’ it; he talks good an’ is walkin’ straight enough. So den, dis big guy steps up to a little guy dat’s standin’ deh, an’ says, “How d’yuh get t’ Eighteent’ Avenoo an’ Sixty-sevent’ Street?” he says.
“Jesus! Yuh got me, chief,” duh little guy says to him. “I ain’t been heah long myself. Where is duh place?” he says. “Out in duh Flatbush section somewhere?”
“Nah,” duh big guy says. “It’s out in Bensenhoist. But I was neveh deh befoeh. How d’yuh get deh?”
“Jesus,” duh little guy says, scratchin’ his head, y’know—yuh could see duh little guy didn’t know his way about—“yuh got me, chief. I neveh hoid of it. Do any of youse guys know where it is?” he says to me.
“Sure,” I says. “It’s out in Bensenhoist. Yuh take duh Fourt’ Avenoo express, get off at Fifty-nint’ Street, change to a Sea Beach local deh, get off at Eighteent’ Avenoo an’ Sixty-toid, an’ den walk down foeh blocks. Dat’s all yuh got to do,” I says.
“G’wan!” some wise guy dat I neveh seen befoeh pipes up. “Whatcha talkin’ about?” he says—oh, he was wise, y’know. “Duh guy is crazy! I tell yuh what yuh do,” he says to duh big guy. “Yuh change to duh West End line at Toity-sixt’,” he tells him. “Get off at Noo Utrecht an’ Sixteent’ Avenoo,” he says. “Walk two blocks oveh, foeh blocks up,” he says, “an’ you’ll be right deh.” Oh, a wise guy, y’know.
“Oh, yeah?” I says. “Who told you so much?” He got me sore because he was so wise about it. “How long you been livin’ heah?” I says.
“All my life,” he says. “I was bawn in Williamsboig,” he says. “An’ I can tell you t’ings about dis town you neveh hoid of,” he says.
“Yeah?” I says.
“Yeah,” he says.
“Well, den, you can tell me t’ings about dis town dat nobody else has eveh hoid of, either. Maybe you make it all up yoehself at night,” I says, “befoeh you go to sleep—like cuttin’ out papeh dolls, or somp’n.”
“Oh, yeah?” he says. “You’re pretty wise, ain’t yuh?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” I says. “Duh boids ain’t usin’ my head for Lincoln’s statue yet,” I says. “But I’m wise enough to know a phony when I see one.”
“Yeah?” he says. “A wise guy, huh? Well, you’re so wise dat someone’s goin’ t’bust yuh one right on duh snoot some day,” he says. “Dat’s how wise you are.”
Well, my train was comin’, or I’da smacked him den and dere, but when I seen duh train was comin’, all I said was, “All right, mugg! I’m sorry I can’t stay to take keh of you, but I’ll be seein’ yuh sometime, I hope, out in duh cemetery.” So den I says to duh big guy, who’d been standin’ deh all duh time, “You come wit me,” I says. So when we gets onto duh train I says to him, “Where yuh goin’ out in Bensenhoist?” I says. “What numbeh are yuh lookin’ for?” I says. You know—I t’ought if he told me duh address I might be able to help him out.
“Oh,” he says, “I’m not lookin’ for no one. I don’t know no one out deh.”
“Then whatcha goin’ out deh for?” I says.
“Oh,” duh guy says, “I’m just goin’ out to see duh place,” he says. “I like duh sound of duh name”—Bensenhoist, y’know—“so I t’ought I’d go out an’ have a look at it.”
“Whatcha tryin’ t’hand me?” I says. “Whatcha tryin’ t’do—kid me?” You know, I t’ought duh guy was bein’ wise wit me.
“No,” he says, “I’m tellin’ yuh duh troot. I like to go out an’ take a look at places wit nice names like dat. I like to go out an’ look at all kinds of places,” he says.
“How’d yuh know deh was such a place,” I says, “if you neveh been deh befoeh?”
“Oh,” he says, “I got a map.”
“A map?” I says.
“Sure,” he says, “I got a map dat tells me about all dese places. I take it wit me every time I come out heah,” he says.
And Jesus! Wit dat, he pulls it out of his pocket, an’ so help me, but he’s got it—he’s tellin’ duh troot—a big map of duh whole goddam place wit all duh different pahts. Mahked out, you know—Canarsie an’ East Noo Yawk an’ Flatbush, Bensenhoist, Sout’ Brooklyn, duh Heights, Bay Ridge, Greenpernt—duh whole goddam layout, he’s got it right deh on duh map.
“You been to any of dose places?” I says.
“Sure,” he says, “I been to most of ’em. I was down in Red Hook just last night,” he says.
“Jesus! Red Hook!” I says. “What-cha do down deh?”
“Oh,” he says, “nuttin’ much. I just walked aroun’. I went into a coupla places an’ had a drink,” he says, “but most of the time I just walked aroun’.”
“Just walked aroun’?” I says.
“Sure,” he says, “just lookin’ at things, y’know.”
“Where’d yuh go?” I asts him.
“Oh,” he says, “I don’t know duh name of duh place, but I could find it on my map,” he says. “One time I was walkin’ across some big fields where deh ain’t no houses,” he says, “but I could see ships oveh deh all lighted up. Dey was loadin’. So I walks across duh fields,” he says, “to where duh ships are.”
“Sure,” I says, “I know where you was. You was down to duh Erie Basin.”
“Yeah,” he says, “I guess dat was it. Dey had some of dose big elevators an’ cranes an’ dey was loadin’ ships, an’ I could see some ships in drydock all lighted up, so I walks across duh fields to where dey are,” he says.
“Den what did yuh do?” I says.
“Oh,” he says, “nuttin’ much. I came on back across duh fields after a while an’ went into a coupla places an’ had a drink.”
“Didn’t nuttin’ happen while yuh was in dere?” I says.
“No,” he says. “Nuttin’ much. A coupla guys was drunk in one of duh places an’ started a fight, but dey bounced ’em out,” he says, “an’ den one of duh guys stahted to come back again, but duh bartender gets his baseball bat out from under duh counteh, so duh guy goes on.”
“Jesus!” I said. “Red Hook!”
“Sure,” he says. “Dat’s where it was, all right.”
“Well, you keep outa deh,” I says. “You stay away from deh.”
“Why?” he says. “What’s wrong wit it?”
“Oh,” I says, “it’s a good place to stay away from, dat’s all. It’s a good place to keep out of.”
“Why?” he says. “Why is it?” Jesus! Whatcha gonna do wit a guy as dumb as dat? I saw it wasn’t no use to try to tell him nuttin’, he wouldn’t know what I was talkin’ about, so I just says to him, “Oh, nuttin’. Yuh might get lost down deh, dat’s all.”
“Lost?” he says. “No, I wouldn’t get lost. I got a map,” he says.
A map! Red Hook! Jesus!
So den duh guy begins to ast me all kinds of nutty questions: how big was Brooklyn an’ could I find my way aroun’ in it, an’ how long would it take a guy to know duh place.
“Listen!” I says. “You get dat idea outa yoeh head right now,” I says. “You ain’t neveh gonna get to know Brooklyn,” I says. “Not in a hunderd yeahs. I been livin’ heah all my life,” I says, “an’ I don’t even know all deh is to know about it, so how do you expect to know duh town,” I says, “when you don’t even live heah?”
“Yes,” he says, “but I got a map to help me find my way about.”
“Map or no map,” I says, “yuh ain’t gonna get to know Brooklyn wit no map,” I says.
“Can you swim?” he says, just like dat. Jesus! By dat time, y’know, I begun to see dat duh guy was some kind of nut. He’d had plenty to drink, of course, but he had dat crazy look in his eye I didn’t like. “Can you swim?” he says.
“Sure,” I says. “Can’t you?”
“No,” he says. “Not more’n a stroke or two. I neveh loined good.”
“Well, it’s easy,” I says. “All yuh need is a little confidence. Duh way I loined, me older bruddeh pitched me off duh dock one day when I was eight yeahs old, cloes an’ all. ‘You’ll swim,’ he says. ‘You’ll swim all right—or drown.’ An’, believe me, I swam! When yuh know yuh got to, you’ll do it. Duh only t’ing yuh need is confidence. An’ once you’ve loined,” I says, “you’ve got nuttin’ else to worry about. You’ll neveh forgit it. It’s somp’n dat stays with yuh as long as yuh live.”
“Can yuh swim good?” he says.
“Like a fish,” I tells him. “I’m a regular fish in duh wateh,” I says. “I loined to swim right off duh docks wit all duh odeh kids,” I says.
“What would yuh do if yuh saw a man drownin’?” duh guy says.
“Do? Why, I’d jump in an’ pull him out,” I says. “Dat’s what I’d do.”
“Did yuh eveh see a man drown?” he says.
“Sure,” I says. “I see two guys—bot’ times at Coney Island. Dey got out too far, an’ neider one could swim. Dey drowned befoeh anyone could get to ’em.”
“What becomes of people after dey have drowned out heah?” he says.
“Drowned out where?” I says.
“Out heah in Brooklyn.”
“I don’t know whatcha mean,” I says. “Neveh hoid of no one drownin’ heah in Brooklyn, unless you mean a swimmin’ pool. Yuh can’t drown in Brooklyn,” I says. “Yuh gotta drown somewhere else—in duh ocean, where dere’s wateh.”
“Drownin’,” duh guy says, lookin’ at his map. “Drownin’.”
Jesus! I could see by den he was some kind of nut, he had dat crazy expression in his eyes when he looked at you, an’ I didn’t know what he might do. So we was comin’ to a station, an’ it wasn’t my stop, but I got off anyway, an’ waited for duh next train.
“Well, so long, chief,” I says. “Take it easy, now.”
“Drownin’,” duh guy says, lookin’ at his map. “Drownin’.”
Jesus! I’ve t’ought about dat guy a t’ousand times since den an’ wondered what eveh happened to ’m goin’ out to look at Bensenhoist because he liked duh name! Walkin’ aroun’ t’roo Red Hook by himself at night an’ lookin’ at his map! How many people did I see get drowned out heah in Brooklyn! How long would it take a guy wit a good map to know all deh was to know about Brooklyn!
Jesus! What a nut he was! I wondeh what eveh happened to ’m, anyway! I wondeh if someone knocked him on duh head, or if he’s still wanderin’ aroun’ in duh subway in duh middle of duh night wit his little map! Duh poor guy! Say, I’ve got to laugh, at dat, when I t’ink about him! Maybe he’s found out by now dat he’ll neveh live long enough to know duh whole of Brooklyn. It’d take a guy a lifetime to know Brooklyn t’roo an’ t’roo. An’ even den, yuh wouldn’t know it all. 

Grumbles on a Wednesday.

Sometimes I get in early with the best of intentions. I will write my blog, I tell myself, and I'll still have an hour before anyone else gets in to get some work done.

Unlike some of my blogging peers, I don't plan out my blogging week or write my posts early Saturday or Sunday morning. I've tried to keep this thing free from the things that, to me, make it feel like work. Not that I don't feel obliged to have a post every morning. It's just that stacking them up and knocking them off, well, that's not what's comfortable for me.

I thought of writing about a conversation I had with a young candidate.

He came in to the agency like an old-West gunslinger with both .45s firing like Jack Palance in "Shane." (One of the all-time great pictures. Shane is to "The Hateful Eight," what Frank Sinatra is to David Cassidy.)

He told me, virtually before he had his coat off, how messaging was old and dead and dumb. He told me that no one watches TV anymore. (This 36 hours after 100+ million people watched a crappy football game and gabbed ceaselessly about the commercials.) He told me that the agency he entered was completely of the past and a tired, dead shop.

I've heard a lot of the folderol over the years having been a fairly senior player at two major digital shops. I always picture two soldiers in a trench in World War I, pinned down by artillery and machine gun fire. And one says to the other "We have nothing to worry about. Peace is just around the corner."

He told me how we should be making products for consumers.

I looked at myself.

I was wearing a sweater, jeans and a pair of boots. 

No new products there.

I do have a fitbit, I thought, and an Amazon Echo.

Those are new products.

But what else?

So far, it seems to me that the world practically has more products than it knows what to do with. As odd as it may sound, I will never buy hummus that squeezes out from a tube or 99% of the crap festooned with the word "new."

In fact, I can scarcely think of a new product from the last five or ten or even 50 years that's really had a material impact on my life. Most "new" products aren't even new. They do something only slightly better and different than their predecessor products.

Even the Mac I am writing this on ain't that different from the old Royal typewriter my hag of a mother typed 120 wpm on.

This is, by the way, if you want to get all deep dish about it, the subject of a new book by a macroeconomist, Robert Gordon, from Northwestern (where my old man taught) called "The Rise and Fall of American Growth." Paul Krugman, a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner reviewed it for the "Times," and I mentioned that maybe he should read it before he gets all hoity on me. The Rise and Fall of American Growth

I guess my real point today is two-fold.

One: I found something to write about.

And two: Before you start spouting homilies, cliches and cockeyed-so-called verities, do a little research.

Here's a bit from Krugman's review, and something to think about.

“Now, in 1940 many Americans were already living in what was recognizably the modern world, but many others weren’t. What happened over the next 30 years was that the further maturing of the Great Inventions led to rapidly rising incomes and a spread of that modern lifestyle to the nation as a whole. But then everything slowed down. And Gordon argues that the slowdown is likely to be permanent: The great age of progress is behind us. But is Gordon just from the wrong generation, unable to fully appreciate the wonders of the latest technology? I suspect that things like social media make a bigger positive difference to people’s lives than he acknowledges. But he makes two really good points that throw quite a lot of cold water on the claims of techno-optimists.
“First, he points out that genuinely major innovations normally bring about big changes in business practices, in what workplaces look like and how they function. And there were some changes along those lines between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s — but not much since, which is evidence for Gordon’s claim that the main impact of the I.T. revolution has already happened.”