Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I don't understand.

I just went on The Wall Street Journal's site at www.wsj.com and I saw the banner ad above.

What? Huh? Are you kidding?

First off, Wachovia, at least the consumer banking portion, is being jobbed out to Citibank. Second, I'm not sure anyone is thinking about investing right now. And third, I don't think anyone is concerned about "weathering market volatility"--people are thinking about merely surviving.

Some jokes for the High Holidays.

You can tell you're at a synagogue by all the German cars parked outside.

The rabbi was so boring I shot myself in the temple.

Why do so many Jews convert? They sit in temple and say "Jesus Christ get me out of here."

I always get up early on Rosh HaShanah. I want to make sure I'm able to nap in synagogue.

So, there's a synagogue with a rodent problem. The first exterminator puts out mouse traps and kills all the mice, but a week later, all the mice are back. The second exterminator bring a cat who chases all the mice away, but a week later, all the mice are back. The third exterminator puts cheese all over the bima and the mice all come out and he Bar Mitzvah's them all. So they never come back.

My seats were so good this year I could almost see the rabbi.

I first noticed this at the Republican De-mention.

At the Republican Convention, I noticed dozens and dozens of people waving placards that read "Service." In today's New York Times there is a photograph of Palin walking down an aisle and people waving placards that read "Country First."

What's the Orwellian point here? Why one-word slogans that say nothing--or imply that the other guy doesn't believe in the words on those placards. (Remember, at the very same convention, Obama was derided for his community service.)

Orwell wrote that in the thought-policed future, the sheer number of words would be reduced--because many words lead to a nuanced complexity of thought. Control the supply of words, control a nation's ability to think.

That's all for now.

Monday, September 29, 2008

No title.

I was just in the mood to write this.

"Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare;
Hoc tantum posso dicere, non amo te."

That's from a Latin poet called Martial and it means:
"I don't like you, Sabidius, and I can't say why; all I can say is I don't like you."

Robert Graves, he of "I, Claudius" fame, turned the whole mess into a nursery rhyme I'm thinking a lot about lately. Maybe it's work. The economy. The election. Whatever the cause, it's rattling through my head.

"I Do Not Like Thee Doctor Fell"

I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.

"I'm George Bush and I approved this platitude."

On a lark I went to whitehouse.gov, the president's homepage. When I clicked on the link that said "economy," I found the picture above as the header.

As Orwell noted:

War is Peace.

I guess this is coming:
Poor is rich.
Idle is busy.
Down is up.

The banking crisis.

As I walked through SOHO this morning, past the clothing stores featuring wares a mere executive creative director can't afford, past the restaurants that sell $15 cocktails, past the stores that sell $22 bars of soap, past the washed out painted ads on the sides of old factory buildings that read: Twine Rope and Corrugated Boxes, I do not wonder about why we are a nation in arrears.

We buy without paying.
We shop without needing.
We god without praying.
We reap without seeding.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

And now some words from e.e. cummings.

i sing of Olaf glad and big... (XXX)
e.e. cummings

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelovéd colonel (trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but-though an host of overjoyed
noncoms (first knocking on the head
him) do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments-
Olaf (being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds, without getting annoyed
"I will not kiss your fucking flag"

straightaway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but-though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation's blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skillfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat-
Olaf (upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
"there is some shit I will not eat"

our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ (of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you

What to drink during a Depression.

I am personally abstemious, that is, I am a non-drinker. But many of my advertising colleagues--or ex-colleagues--seem to take comfort from a bit o' the grape. Of course a bit o' the grape can cost a lot o' the green these days and more and more of my friends are looking for an alternative to the expensive swill they swilled when the stock market was in the five digits.

Fear not, friend. With some ingenuity the very products you have in your basement, medicine cabinet or under the sink in the kitchen are yours for the mixing. First a word about grape juice. Welch's, I'm told, sweet, viscous Welch's cuts the astringent taste of nearly anything. So put on that oversized raincoat and shoplift a 64-er from your local bodega (if it's still open.) Once home mix the Welch's (3 parts juice/1 part alcohol) with whatever you've found around the house--Listerine, paint thinner, rubbing alcohol, gasoline from the riding mower, even Drano--though for that, I recommend a 5 to 1 ratio!

Whatever gets you through the night, as John Lennon sang, s'alright.

Tomorrow's post will feature money saving recipes. Squirrel fricasse, Pigeon au vin and Rat-atouille.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Presidential Mastde-bate.

Oy vey iz mir.

I watched the debate last night. I would have learned more debating the virtues of Maryann v. the Movie Star, Betty v. Veronica or Lassie v. Flipper.

Both of these blandidates are inspecting, recalling and defending decisions reputedly made in years gone by to the absolute addle-patedness of viewers.

I think either candidate could gallop ahead in a landslide (or, more appropriately a mudslide) if instead of focusing on the demise of Smoot-Hawley tarrif or some other legislative arcana, they focused instead wholly and completely on America, the brand.

Look what they've done to our brand, ma.

How do you, Sen. McCain think of America? Obama? What does America mean? Where does our brand stand today? How do we get our brand back?

At my agency I have banned all post-mortems because post-mortems look back in time. Instead I have instituted LANS meetings. Learning And Next Steps. Where is our work taking our clients' brands and ours?

I'd like to know the candidates' LANS.

I'd also like to know Sarah Palin's IQ but I've misplaced my magnifying glass.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Some context.

The biggest bank failure in American history went down yesterday. I just read about it in The Wall Street Journal and was struck by this sentence: "WaMu...still boasts...a network of 2,239 branches..."

Now the context part.

Thirteen years ago I was the co-creative lead on the account of the largest retail bank in New York. Those were quaint,old-fashioned times when we had a functioning government and regulation like Glass-Steagall (repealed under the Republican mis-lead Congress of 1999.) At that time, the largest retail bank in New York had fewer than 450 branches.

What happened that WaMu could have nearly 600% more branches than that?

A bit about me.

I had a strangely disturbing and bi-polar Kaspar Hauser-like upbringing in Haldane-hazed postwar New York that alternated in a modern stone-age way between cruel Dickensian bludgeoning and Socratic intellectual stimulation. (You can read all about it in my autobiography "The Son Also Writhes," Henry Holt, New York, 2003.)

One day my father scrawled on the wall in our tiny EIK (eat in kitchen) Polonius' advice to his son Laertes as writ by Shakespeare in "Hamlet."

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

We (my brother and I) were then beaten to the point of whimpering to discuss that advice for the next two weeks.

What's the fucking point, Geo? You ask.

Well,the fucking point is between clients,HR, office politics, et al trueness to thyself equals unemployment and perhaps large doses of state-administered thorazine.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The military-industrial-academic complex.

My daughter's school sent this form home. We have to opt out of having her name sent to the military for recruitment.

An ePoem about Corporations. The names have been removed.

1.-----Original Message-----
From: Creative services manager
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008 11:51 AM
To: Executive Assistant to Managing Director
Subject: Blackberry

Any word on (ACD’s) Blackberry?

2. ----- Original Message -----
From: Executive Assistant to Managing Director
To: Managing Director, Finance Director
Sent: Thu Sep 25 12:13:55 2008
Subject: FW: Blackberry

Was this blackberry approved?

3. -----Original Message-----
From: Managing Director
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008 12:49 PM
To: Executive Assistant to Managing Director, Finance Director
Subject: Re: Blackberry

Did he request?
Final approval lies with IT. Not Finance Director.

4. -----Original Message-----
From: Executive Assistant to Managing Director
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008 12:54 PM
To: New York IT, Director of IT
Cc: Creative Services Manager
Subject: FW: Blackberry

Was this blackberry approved?

5. -----Original Message-----
From: New York IT
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008 1:01 PM
To: Executive Assistant to Managing Director, Director of IT
Cc: Creative Services Manager
Subject: RE: Blackberry

We have not received a formal request from anyone requesting this blackberry. Managing Director first needs to approve.

6. -----Original Message-----
From: Head of IT
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008 1:47 PM
To: Managing Director
Subject: FW: Blackberry

Hey Managing Director,

So I guess you approve this request?

7. -----Original Message-----
From: Managing Director
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008 2:11 PM
To: Head of IT
Subject: RE: Blackberry

Nope. Just letting people know that Finance Director is not the decision maker, you are.

I don't think I have seen this request before. I am waiting to hear from Executive Creative Director. Should be his call, not mine.

8. -----Original Message-----
From: Head of IT
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008 2:16 PM
To: Managing Director, Executive Creative Director
Subject: RE: Blackberry

Ok thanks Managing Director,

But the process is that all requests must be approved by the Managing director of the office in which the request was originated.

I also had not seen this request before.

Executive Creative Director,

Do you approve?

Thanks all,
Head of IT

9. -----Original Message-----
From: Executive Creative Director
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008 2:22 PM
To: Head of IT, Managing Director
Subject: RE: Blackberry

I approved it on September 10th when Creative Services Manager first raised it as a request. We have just spent $300 of man hours on a $200 device.

10. -----Original Message-----
From: Head of IT
Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008 2:22 PM
To: Executive Creative Director, Managing Director
Subject: RE: Blackberry

Yes that’s about true.


I approve please proceed.

Thoughts on life (inside agencies and out.)

This is from Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Many years ago a partner and I would scream it down the halls when our bombastic and talentless ECD walked by. Those were the good old days.

What's that smell in this room?

Didn't you notice it, Brick?

Didn't you notice the powerful
and obnoxious odor of mendacity?

Yes, sir, I think I did.
Ain't nothing more powerful
than the odor of mendacity.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An observation.

If your kid gets a piece in the mail from a summer program that promises enrichment, it's sure to make you poorer.

A bit of Ogden Nash written by me.

You must admire Ben Bernanke.
His judgment's shrewd, his suits are swanky,
Give him 700 bil or he'll get cranky.
But do not worry, he'll say "thank-ee."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Advertising by the pound.

I just heard about an RFP being rejected by a prospective client because the agency deck went over the prescribed weight limit.

No, I am not making this up.

Some context.

I took a few economics classes in college but I am no economist. I do, however, especially for a copywriter have quite a facility with numbers. So, let me pick a number out of the air.

$700,000,000,000. Seven-hundred-billion dollars.

My calculus says that's about $2300 for every man, woman, child and parakeet in the US.

So, a family of four is contributing $9,200 to the Fed's bailout. In addition to the $8000 they are already contributing to the Invasion Department (formerly known as the Defense Department.)

Now, one or two other numbers: Carly Fiorina (an ex-client of mine and McPalin advisor) reduced the market value of H-P by 50% and cut over 20,000 jobs. She walked away from her H-P failure with over $40,000,000. Stanley O'Neal set up the pre-conditions for the demise of Merrill-Lynch. He parachuted home with approximately $120,000,000.

Now a bit more context. If the period at the end of the previous sentence represents one dollar, the dot representing $700,000,000,000 would be the size of Karl Rove's head including all his chins.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Once in a while.

In this business, and I suppose in life, every so often you work with an honest-to-goodness genius. The people way out on the right end of the bell curve. Most often these people are tremendously frustrating. They aren't good about doing what's asked. Doing it on time. Being sensitive to people around them who are not as capacious as they. They stink, usually, in dealing with those who do not see the god in the details that the geniuses have slaved so hard over.

There's more. HR hates these people because they aren't "bridge builders." Account often hates them too, because they push, they make demands and they think, often brilliantly, while on their feet. They make demands that strain infrastructure of the agency and the client--all to produce a better product. Often a better product than anyone wants.

Usually these people get canned after about two years. Too many feathers ruffled, bridges nuked and status quos upset.

There must be a Latin aphorism somewhere that says, "Pity the different for they are all alone." But I couldn't find one.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Quote of the day.

From Maureen Dowd of The New York Times.

Sarah Palin thinks “The Flintstones” was based on a true story.

Would be funny if it weren't true.

Three observations.

1. Who gets to design the ballots for the up-coming presidential election? What if they decide to add the candidates' middle names? How many people will vote for Barack Hussein Obama?

2. One of my pet peeves is people who use the phrase pet peeves.

3. How can a flight be non-stop?
Eventually you have to land. For convenience, I prefer one-stop flights.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My island tis of thee.

I live on a small island off the coast of America. Even though this island is well less than a mile from the American mainland it is worlds away in most other regards. My island is not very large. If it were an American state it would rank about 35th or so in total population. But unlike our American neighbors, we have virtually no army or navy and spend a pittance on defense. Also unlike our American neighbors everyone on my island gets along pretty well. Black, white and brown. Rich, poor and in-between. Muslim, Jew and Christian. Straight and homosexual. Men and women. And so on.

On my island we look over and can see America so we think about America a lot. How can it be that in a land so close to ours handguns aren't banned though they kill 30,000 people a year? How can it be that a person running for vice president does not believe in the scientific fact of evolution and has governed a population 60% smaller than my island?

There's more of course. But I'll stop now. Thankful that I live on my island.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What happens when the money guys takeover.

There used to be news on nightly news shows. The networks had news departments that were dedicated to keeping a certain worldliness and seriousness in the news.

Then the news divisions were turned into money makers for the networks. They have high viewership and they don't cost much to produce.

We are now fighting two wars and are facing what Alan Greenspan has called the biggest economic disruption in 100 years. I just saw a promo for channel 7, ABC's NY station.
They had a blurb about a "talk show host brutally beaten," and "how we helped a pizzaria save a lot of dough. And they made us a channel 7 pizza."

When everything is about money nothing is about integrity.

Daily dumbness update.

I stumbled across a title just now: "Chief Digital Officer." I don't understand what this means. Is the officer digital, is she made of pixels, or binary code? What is a Chief Digital Officer? Do they deal with digital photographer? Does the CDO have turf wars with the Chief Film Officer and the Chief Paper Officer and the Chief Film Stock Officer. Since in tough times more well-titled people get hired (it's a matter of the well-heeled taking care of the well-heeled friends) will we have a Chief TV Officer. A Chief Radio Office?

I think if a title doesn't explain what you actually do all day it's dumb.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Perhaps the funniest thing I've ever heard a client say.

"There's no irony in the legal department."

OK, I make odd connections sometimes.

This is from Saturday's New York Times. The edition no one reads. So the edition our the government uses to sneak out news that might otherwise cause a furore upon its release.

"The Bush administration is pushing through a broad array of foreign weapons deals as it seeks to rearm Iraq and Afghanistan...From tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to missiles, remotely piloted aircraft and even warships, the Department of Defense has agreed so far this fiscal year to sell or transfer more than $32 billion in weapons and other military equipment to foreign governments, compared with $12 billion in 2005."

In other words arms sales are up nearly 300% over the last three years. That makes me think, for some reason, of the poem below which was writ by Martin Neimoller a German anti-Nazi who wound up imprisoned by the Nazis in Dachau and Sachsenhausen.

"All the Moose That's Fit to Shoot."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Every once in a while I read a sentence I love.

I read this yesterday. It is by JM Barrie, the author of "Peter Pan."

"God gave us memory so that we could have roses in December."

Once again.

Billions in bailouts for giant companies. GM petitioning the government for $25 billion to develop alternative energies as they pillage the environment, reduce benefits and eviscerate their work-force.

Once again, socialism for the rich. Capitalism for the poor.
Or if you're tired of that one:
For the poor it's survival of the fittest.
For the rich it's survival of the fattest.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Signs of the times.

In 1978 the Saatchis created the poster on top. It's earned the epigram "the poster that won the election."

Now it's 2008. Here's my stab at creating the same result.

A friend of mine wrote me a note.

"I think my dad was right when he jokingly said, 'You have to stand up on your knees.' Which was his ironic way of saying you either stand up to your full height or you are on your knees with your cap in hand."

Make your choice.

I should have said this earlier.

I'm sorry for everything I've said and done during my fifty years and I'm even sorrier for everything I will say and will do in the future.

In the world today if you speak your mind, use language that has grit, emotion, truth, the guts to be candid and perhaps the wit to breakthrough--in business, you are an HR problem, in politics, you are finished before you start, in a relationship, you are an anathema.

America today is linguistically Soviet. We speak in ways that don't reveal true meaning. Lee Atwater remarked when he ran Ronald Reagan's campaign, "You can no longer say: nigger, nigger, nigger. So you say states' rights, states' rights, states' rights." No one can call you a racist because you have "coded" your speech.

Today we say, "______ isn't fulfilling the exigencies of the changing dynamics of our employment modality." That's how we code that someone's a lazy slug.

Those who refuse to make their language bland--who refuse to comply with obfuscatory delicacy--must become what were called in Stalinist Russia, "whisperers." Don't let anyone hear you. You'll get in trouble with HR.

Explaining a lot.

Not long ago The Washington Post held a contest that was pretty simple, yet, profound. Take a famous line from literature and re-write it in a way someone from LA and under 40 would understand.

I think it explains a lot about America today. (I won't mention Palin or Bush or the people who think "I'd like to have a beer with him/her" is a criterion for choosing a person to be the leader of the "free" world.)

John Donne: "Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

LA under 40: "Ding dong. It's for you."
Jane Austen:
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."?

LA under 40: "Everybody knows that a rich single dude wants to be married. Not."
Psalm 52: "Thy tongue devised mischief's; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. Thou loves evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah. Thou loves all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue."?

LA under 40: "Liar, liar, pants on fire!"
Edgar Allan Poe: "A feeling, for which I have no name, has taken possession of my soul — a sensation which will admit of no analysis, to which lessons of by-gone times are inadequate and for which I fear futurity itself will offer me no key.

LA under 40:
"I am soooo wasted."
William Shakespeare: "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears."

LA under 40: "Hey, YO! Up here."
Shakespeare: "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more."

LA under 40: "Life sucks and then you die."
Shakespeare: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate."

LA under 40: "You're hotter than Miss July!"

Monday, September 15, 2008

I was down on Wall St. this morning.

I visited a client down in the financial district this morning and dozens of middle-aged men in well-tailored gray and blue suits were falling like hailstones all around me. Fortunately I had brought my man-brella with me and was able to fend off the 200-pounders.

Sewage treatment, 2008.

When I was a kid growing up there was a hardware store in my neighborhood that had just about everything. Barrels of different kinds of nails, screw, bolts, sprays, filters, lumber, tools of every description and some you probably could never describe. It was staffed by about a dozen men, some who had been there for ages, some who were relatively new, who knew where everything was and what everything was used for.

There was also a drug store in my neighborhood that had the same basic zeitgeist. Anything you needed, they pretty much had. And they knew where to find it. And they would help you. And they were friendly.

Now stores like those are essentially gone. Replaced by bland megaliths that seldom have the things you need (unless your needs run to bland and megalithic) and where the staff knows nothing--not the whereabouts of what you're looking for or what those things do or how they can help you. Simply put, they don't care and they don't serve you. What's more they follow a strict corporate orthodoxy that insists they repel every request that is not one of the four or so they know how to handle.

I thought about this last night as I was thinking about the people running for the highest offices in America. Utility, experience, knowledge, character (ok, along with some moldiness) have been replaced by fluorescent beige.

The label on one candidate essentially reads: "Now with 20% more war hero." On another, there's a starburst that screams "With the Fresh Scent of Vision!" On yet another candidate there's a blurb that reads "recommended by the AEA--American Evangelical Association. 100% Evolution free!" And on another there's an ingredients box that delineates his many attributes, the recommended daily allowance of: "grey hair, outside the beltway insiderness, and wizened wiseness."

These people, pure and simple, are products like cheese whiz, wonder bread and (in the case of Palin) hot pockets. Tasteless, nutritionally void concoctions designed to appeal to, in Mencken's epithet, the Boobocracy. They require no effort on the consumers' part. They are pre-processed, supposedly easy to digest, and slippery enough so that they pass through your system and into a sewage treatment plant in a poor neighborhood for more processing where they become the non-biodegradable effluvia that cancers our world.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Buckminster Fuller on Madison Avenue.

There is, as you likely know, a Buckminster Fuller exhibition at the Whitney Museum on Madison Avenue and 75th St. On the plate glass of an empty storefront just south of the Whitney is a quotation from Fuller.

I think our bedrooms spend two-thirds of the time empty.
I think our living-rooms spend seven-eighths of the time empty.
I think our office buildings spend one-half of the time empty.
I think that is something to think about.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A poem about a noted German philosopher.

Whenever I think of Friedrich Nietzsche,
I always get a little itsche.

Advice to freelancers everywhere.

This is wisdom from my therapist which therefore cost me tens of thousands of dollars. Ad Aged, as a service to you, dear reader, bestows it upon you for free.

"If you get too generous, snort."

Sloppy thinking. Bad writing. Part 9,342,384,505.

The other night on the way home I saw a restaurant on 6th Avenue with the following tagline: "Food for the five senses."

"See" I get. "Taste" I get. "Smell" I get. But "Touch" I don't get unless they serve only apples, grapes and popcorn. And "Hear" is even more inscrutable unless they specialize in Rice Krispies.

Then, I saw this copy in a banner ad:
"Show your __________ and enjoy complimentary access to participating airport clubs when you fly."

Two issues:
1. When I'm flying, I can't enjoy an airport club. I'm generally in an aging aircraft.
2. And when I'm not flying, I ain't hanging around airport clubs, i.e. "Hey, honey, we have nothing to do tonight, why don't we head over to JFK and hang in the Ambassador's Club and eat Triscuits."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Modern Times.

Life and work sometimes folds, spindles and mutilates us. And then sometimes you have a bad stretch.

Tonight I took two minutes and watched the first two minutes of Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDnDaDYZ2AQ

Click on the link here and watch from minute 1:01 to minute 1:20. It may make you feel like you're not alone. And that may help.

A spasm of cynicism.

This morning I saw this headline in The New York Times: "Nation Marks Seventh Anniversary of 9/11."

It worried me.

How long before we have the "Sleepy's 9/11 Sale-a-thon"? Or the "Best Buy Bombing Bonanza"?

"Getting and spending, we lay waste our power."

The title above is from a Wordsworth sonnet called "The World is Too Much With Us." I was thinking about it recently and actually had the hubris to rewrite it: "Meeting and meeting, we lay waste our creativity."

Believe it or not, however, this is not a screed against meetings. It's a screed against not breathing. Now let me tell you a story. Not long ago I was in a creative meeting. We were intently discussing briefs, brands, thoughts, etc. Though I was listening, I started looking out the window. And there, over Manhattan, was a glorious rainbow.

Here's my point. Whatever you're doing, stop doing it so hard. Stop your meetings, stop your getting and spending. Stop you-toing and froing, your hemming and hawing. Instead, look for rainbows. I bet it makes your work and your life better.

That's a hell of an orgy.

I heard this on NPR this morning: "The lawyers are literally in bed with the industry-leaders they're supposed to be monitoring."

No, they're metaphorically in bed.

I hate to be punctilious. But I hate stupid more.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lawyers run amok.

Of the myriad perks that come along with working at a major international agency, perhaps the most impressive of all is the free packets of Quaker Oats oatmeal that are yours for the taking--along with, get this, free hot water.

This morning I dug deep into the corrugated box containing the little 1oz. packets of oatmeal and saw these words printed in 96-point type on the top of the box. "FRAGILE. THIS SIDE UP."

Believe it or not I was quickly jump-cut to the legal department of Quaker Oats and the three weeks of billable time they spent declaiming on why oatmeal is fragile.

I didn't go to law school. I don't even watch "Law & Order," but it seems to me that if you drop oatmeal it won't get more mealy. Likewise if you ship it or store it upside down nothing that bad will result.

I would love someone's legal opinion on this. But I probably couldn't afford it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A scary discovery and a sure sign of stress at work.

I lost my penis this morning.
I got to work and went to the mens’ room to pee.
So I unzipped and reached in.
No penis.
It was gone.
I couldn’t find it anywhere.

Then I realized.
I had put my boxer shorts on backwards.

The MPA wins a "Worstie."

In yesterday's New York Times I came across an article on a new ad campaign from the MPA, the Magazine Publishers of America. This new campaign is so bad it wins the eleventh or ninth or twenty-seventh Worstie award--Ad Aged's award for ads so bad we don't even keep track of how many Worsties we've bestowed.

Anyone in the reality-based community knows that magazines--all print media--are in trouble. Readership and ad pages are down. The Publishers Information Bureau (who spell their name with no possessive) reports that magazine ad pages have dropped 6.4% in Q1 2008 and 8.2% in Q2.

So the MPA, via Toy, an agency formed by ex-Fallon-ites and ex-Cliff Freeman-ites, has concocted a new campaign to illustrate how integral magazine ads are to the buying process of consumers. This campaign is headlined "Under the Influence of Magazines." Every visual shows a millennial who's bought too many of something because, I assume, of the mesmerizing effect of magazine advertising.

Humor, pure and simple, is based on exaggerated truth. There is no truth in these ads. So the situations depicted aren't humorous--they are absurd. If my industry were hemorrhaging, I might use humor to attempt to reverse the trend. But I wouldn't use absurdity.

The Worstie is herewith awarded to the MPA for taking the easy way out in its ads. For abnegating credibility in its work. For believing that viewers will believe this drivel.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Another meeting.

When you feel sad.

Find something by Maira Kalman. It might not help, but it couldn't hurt. This is from her stroll around Tel Aviv.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

When we want your opinion, we'll tell it to you.

Now that the Republican and Democratic conventions have skulked into history--the ash heap of history as Trotsky might have said, I've had a chance to reflect a bit on what we viewed.

But first, this. Recently I bought a four-dvd set of the entire first season of the classic 60s television show "Get Smart." Get Smart was pretty good stuff. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry were no slouches as comedy writers and Don Adams had timing and facial expressions nearly equal to great film comedians like Laurel and Hardy or Harold Lloyd.

Despite the talent involved with Get Smart, however, some producer somewhere felt the need to add a laugh track. A laugh track, that is, "you don't know what's funny, we, the producers (or sponsors) don't trust your ability to think or react, so we'll prompt reactions via sound design."

Now back to Denver and St. Paul. Spout lies, half-truths, over-simplifications and paeans to pusillanimity--then cut to the blondes in the audience lapping it up, laughing, clapping, ooooohing and ahhhhing as they're told.

This is what we've become reduced to. We don't think. We respond to cues.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Useful phrases from Click and Clack.

The following is from the NPR radio show "Car Talk." I'm sure the phrases contained below will come in handy.

Alternative Ways of Calling Someone Stupid

*A few beads short in her rosary.
*A few too many lights out in his Christmas tree.
*A few french fries short of a Happy Meal.
*A room temperature IQ.
*A walking argument for birth control.
*Batteries not included.
*Differently clued.
*Elevator doesn't go all the way to the penthouse.
*Elevator goes all the way to the top but the door doesn't open.
*Four cents short of a nickel.
*Got into the gene pool while the lifeguard wasn't watching.
*He's so dense, light bends around him.
*His head whistles in a crosswind.
*His mind wandered and never came back.
*If he were any more stupid, he'd have to be watered twice a week.
*If you stand close enough to him, you can hear the ocean.
*It's hard to believe he beat 100,000 other sperm.
*Knitting with only one needle.
*Living proof that nature does not abhor a vacuum.
*Plays solitaire for cash.
*Receiver is off the hook.
*So dumb, blondes tell jokes about him.
*Takes her two hours to watch 60 Minutes.
*The cheese slid off his cracker.
*Uses his head to keep the rain out of his neck.

Friday, September 5, 2008

And the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and bathroom stalls.

With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, I was just in the mens' room at a quick service restaurant for a quick service pee. And the little, plastic perforated thing at the bottom of the urinal designed, I suppose, to keep cigarette butts out of the drain had an advertising message on it.

"Swisher. A healthy respect for hygiene."

I know I haven't a media background but I can't quite comprehend the value of urinal advertising.

Why does a local fish market have a smarter positioning than virtually every company in the Fortune 500?

Early yesterday morning on my way to work, when most account people were still in bed dreaming of 89-page decks, I saw this truck. Its slogan made me smile. Which isn't the worst thing a slogan can do.

(BTW, I don't like fish. As W.C. Fields once said when asked why he never drinks water, "Fish fuck in it."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

George Orwell on the Republican Convention.

George Orwell's novel 1984 refers to the Big Lie theory on several occasions.
Here are two examples:

“The key-word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.”

“To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed."

A topical octad.

I can say without fear of failin'
I have a crush on Sarah Palin.
She's the veep of John McCain
Her shapely legs drive me insane.
I think you know just what I mean,
She makes me wish I were seventeen.
I'm not just speaking for my-silf,
She's more than a VP, she's a VP-ilf.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Clarity of thought. Beauty of expression.

Yesterday a Creative Director I work with showed me a piece of copy that a freelancer wrote. It was dreadful. Run-on sentences. Mis-placed modifiers. Subject/verb disagreement. And, perhaps worst, the copywriter buried the lede. (Lede is the correct spelling in this case. You couldn't write "lede" "lead" because "lead" is a printer's term and therefore would be confusing. But I digress.)

As the CD and I were lamenting the decline of writing, thought, America and the fact that no one finds the original "Get Smart" funny anymore, I started thinking about one of my writing heroes.

Joseph Mitchell worked at The New Yorker for nearly sixty years. During that time he produced millions of words in hundreds of brilliant pieces of journalism. Many of the cognoscenti regard Mitchell as one of the founders of "New" journalism. Check out his collection "Up in the Old Hotel," or my favorite of his (which has just been republished) "Bottom of the Harbor." The selection below is from the later:

"Nevertheless there is considerable marine life in the harbor water and on the harbor bottom. Under the paths of liners and tankers and ferries and tugs, fish school and oysters spawn and lobsters nest. There are clams on the sludgy bottom, and mussels and mud shrimp and conchs and crabs and sea worms and sea plants. Bedloe's Island, the Statue of Liberty Island, is in a part of the harbor that is grossly polluted, but there is a sprinkling of soft-shell clams in the mud beneath the shallow water that surrounds it."

That is writing.

PS. The painting above is called "McSorley's Saloon." Mitchell wrote a wonderful series of essays about it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Just give me ten seconds.

Imagine for ten seconds that Sarah Palin was black. She of five children. She of a husband convicted of drunk-driving. Most important, she the mother of a 17-year-old who went and got herself knocked-up.

Imagine the outrage, the racist venom, the welfare-mother, Willie Horton equivalency if a young, black female candidate had a teenager unmarried and preggers.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The joy of dumb.

As a New Yorker, I consider myself lucky. Though their numbers are fast dwindling, we still have a few independent bookstores left. In such stores, the staff can read, the books are well-displayed, and the selection is usually devoid of books by Ann Coulter that mainstream anti-semite. In other words, there is a degree of intelligence in such stores.

This morning, however, I stopped in on a Barnes & Noble, the Duane Reade of bookstore. I came upon this section: "New History."


A year ago I was in Arizona.

Driving up to see the Grand Canyon.
Occasionally there are scenic overlooks.
You pull over to look.
And you see the sheer cliffs.
The striated geology.
Then you read what the National Parks Service has to say about those rocks.
Formed billions of years ago.
That level there formed billions more years ago.
I wondered.
At the time.
What would happen to those signs.
If a "creationist" were elected president.
Would they be re-written to describe.
The longer finger of god remaking the landscape.
His whim. To create a canyon overnight.
What will happen.
When a moose eating, polar-bear denying, shale shill is.
Vice president?