Monday, August 31, 2015

Washing windows.

It was another one of those weekends.

Another one of those mornings.

I was in with the window-washers.

Long before the guy who makes the coffee.

As Frank Loesser wrote,

"My time of day is the dark time
A couple of deals before dawn,
When the street belongs to the cop
And the janitor with a mop,
And the grocery clerks are all gone."

That ain't bad.

As poetry.

I don't mind being in with the window-washers.

That's what I do.

Wash windows.

Usually the grunt work that the effete can't do.

You can't think about it too much. You drop the brush in the water and swipe clean. Then you move onto the next panes of glass.

Work that needs to be done.

Not glamorous.

But better than pigeon shit obscuring your view.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cool. Back when.

The Times ran an article yesterday called "When Airlines Looked Cool and Showed It." You can read it here. And below, a few of the 33 posters in the slideshow.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


After nearly two weeks in a "Hot House" and a night last night that went almost to dawn, I slept in today and am slowly returning to the land of the living.

The first thing I did when I finally woke up was take a long walk along the river. I don't believe creativity is served if you are sequestered from sunlight. If you are shackled to a table and stink-eyed if you need to get out and walk.

As Yogi Berra might have said, 'you can observe so much by seeing,' but instead we were heads down in a sticky loft of iniquity peering deep, with electron microscopes, into our collective navels. Not an interesting view, or a good one, or one conducive, I think, to creative elan.

That said, I can't be wholly dismissive of the process either. It demands forced concentration. It brings in people from different entities who carry the banners of different disciplines and who trumpet different points of view.

I think all that's good. I think that part of the process produced a good amount of ideas. Which was the whole point in the first place.

Last night, the last couple of night actually, when work had to be writ, comped, proofed and revised, I thought of a World War II hero (and later Vietnam villian), head of the US Air Force, General Curtis LeMay.

I have a bit, or more than a bit of LeMay in me.

He earned the nickname "Old Iron Ass" for his ability to sit on his keister and grind out work for hours on end. I did a little bit of that for the last two weeks.

It's over now.

I think the work was pretty good and I hope it goes well.

I hope to return to the living soon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The pitch.

For the past month, a group of about 60 of us from literally around the world, have been holed up in a lavish Soho loft working on a giant pitch.

Today, we had our big presentation to The National Caper Board (NCB). Three fully-blown out campaigns, with TV, print, radio, mobile ads, activation, video case studies, landing pages, outdoor and sundry other channels represented.

I worked on all three of the campaigns we presented.

1) Capers. The salt of the Earth.  And,
2) Start a Caper caper. And finally...
3) Be more Caper-ble.

To say we blew the client away would be an understatement. We made them laugh, we made them cry. We even made them think.

No decision yet on the pitch.

BBDO goes tomorrow.

Wieden on Friday.

It's big, this one.

Fingers crossed.

One night, long ago in Saltillo.

The first pitch I saw as a rookie third-baseman for the Seraperos de Saltillo in the Mexican Baseball League 40 years ago this summer, came in big as a grapefruit, up and out over the plate. I couldn't have called for a fatter meatball. It was right in my power and I swatted it hard to right-center, between their rightfielder and their centerfielder and it hit the green plywood wall on one bounce, right beneath the large white numbers that read: 404, then below that in slightly smaller type, the distance in meters, 123.

There was no play at second, and no chance to making my hit a triple, but I took a pop-up slide into second nonetheless, mainly just to get my flannels dirty. I could hear in my head my old high school coach, Coach Babich yelling at me to do so. Babich didn't believe you were in the game, that you were in it to win, unless you looked like you stepped out of a 1934 photograph of the St. Louis Cardinals' 'Gas House Gang.'
Four dusty Cardinals of the 1934 'Gas House Gang.'

I obliged Babich's voice and stood like De Soto looking at the Mississippi on second. There was a smattering of applause from the Saltillo crowd, a smaller canape of the same from our bench. I had just joined the team that morning and none of the boys knew me yet.

Clemente Bonilla, our big rightfielder was next to the plate and he smacked another opposite field hit, a seeing-eye grounder that dribbled slowly between the first and second basemen of the Tabasco Olmecs. 

When I saw Bonilla's hit going through, and the Olmec rightfielder playing deep, I went full around third, saw the third-base coach waving me in and I scored my first professional run just two or four minutes after tagging my first professional hit.

If I had had parents, or anyone back home in New York who cared, I would have written a postcard. "Dear Mom and Dad," I scribbled in my head. "A double in my first at bat. A run scored a minute later. Major Leagues, watch out."

But I had no one to write to, seldom have. I've always been as lonely as an ice floe, and I like it that way.

To be honest, I don't remember much of the rest of the game. You don't remember your second of anything like you remember your first, and the rest of the evening seemed to pass without event. I've tried to look up the boxscore on the internet. But the Mexican Baseball League was a ramshackle affair in those days--as were most Mexican newspapers, and I haven't been successful in finding an archive that would help me recall the subsequent happenings on that day in June, 1975.

I got back to the dugout that evening, having gotten a hit, having scored a run, and a few of my teammates introduced themselves, welcomed me and shook my hand. Later on that night, our stubbly catcher Isael Buentello sat down next to me on the pine. 

Issy put his arm around my shoulder. "You are welcome here," he said slowly in English. "Thank you," I said to him, tentatively in Spanish. Soon, he became my first and closest friend. He and my manager Hector Quesadilla, well, I became their little brother, or their little son.

I'm not sure why these thoughts are washing back to me now.

Maybe it's that I am beginning to feel at least partially settled in a new job, with a new bunch of people. Maybe I feel like they know or are beginning to know--after two of the most intense weeks of my working life--that I can hold my own at the plate, that I can line a double that makes the fence on one bounce, that I can field my position, run the bases, dust-up my uniform. 

That I can, strange as it may seem, be one of the 'guys.' One of the go-to guys.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


While playing third base for the Seraperos de Saltillo for one season in the Mexican Baseball League, one thing I learned is that it seems, at least sometimes, that waiting is about 80% of life.

As a ballplayer, you're nearly always waiting. Waiting for a game to start or a rain delay to end. Waiting for a ball to be hit your way. Waiting for your turn at bat. Waiting, even, for the pitcher between pitches.

Though I last played ball "for serious" when I was 17, before I enrolled in Columbia University in the City of New York, it's safe to say at that early age, I had earned my Masters Degree in waiting.

It was during that summer, a full 40 years ago, that I invented and became the all Mexican Champion at a game I called rafter ball.

The clubhouse had exposed 2x6 rafters crissing and crossing the ceiling. While we waited for this or for that, two or four of us would position ourselves underneath a rafter which ran about four feet over our heads. Underhand one of us would toss a baseball up toward the rafter. If it missed, that was an out. If the ball bounced on the rafter once, it represented a single. Twice, a double. Three times, a triple. Four times, a homer. And if the baseball somehow stayed on the rafter, it was an automatic grand slam.

We could play rafter ball literally for hours. We'd play with real imaginary rosters. Games that would go on for hours. Longer than real live human being games. Money, of course, would be bet. Tempers would flare. Time would be passed. Which was, after all, the whole point.

Today, like I said, it's 40 years later.

We are often sent off to do ridiculous tasks at ridiculous speed.

Then, of course, we wait for ridiculous feedback.

Rafter ball anyone?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Two sentences.

I ran across the sentences below in an email from "The New Yorker," announcing the publication, late next month of a new collection of writing from the really very surpassing writer Joseph Roth. You can read the whole piece here. And I think it's worth it. 

I've read a lot of Joseph Roth in my day, and I suppose he's in the top three of Roths out there. He's not Philip--the Roth who stands head and shoulders above all other Roths--read "Portnoy's Complaint" if you doubt that. And Joseph probably falls in behind, just barely, Henry Roth, whose "Call it Sleep," is pretty damn good.

Joseph specialized in feulletons. Little incidental marginalia. Still I regard his "What I Saw," as one of the great books of early pre-Hitlerite Europe.

But back to the sentence at hand:

"On Sundays the world is as bright and empty as a balloon. Girls in white dresses wander about the streets like so many church bells, all smelling of jasmine, sex, and starch."

When my younger daughter was about 15 or 16, I taught her to drink espresso as it should be drunk. Let a drop on your tongue, like ambrosia, and let its flavor spread over your palate.

That's how I feel about Roth's sentence. Each word or phrase is perfect and evocative. Let it sit on your tongue for a while.

Achy Monday.

On Thursday afternoon, after what seemed like 96 straight hours in this giant brainstorm somebody deemed a hothouse, I felt a itchy in my throat and a burning in my eyes. By Friday this had advanced into a full-blown summer cold and by the time I woke up this morning, I was dizzy, disoriented, sick as a dog and dreading the 65-step ascent to the particle-board table I am working at with four or six other people.

I'm not sure who conceived of the idea that four or five dozen people in close confines in an unventilated apartment rife with too much noise and too few bathrooms would be conducive to productive thought. But it probably wasn't a person charged with doing the thinking. I'm 99% sure the people who come of with innovations like these never have to live with innovations like these. And more often than not, no one has the nerve to tell them that the wretched little creatures suffering under conditions like these are none-too-happy about it.

Nevertheless, I made it here, sweaty and achy and fairly disoriented at 8:20. There are just a couple more days and nights of this. Of course they promise to be late and riven by the effects of this illness that is having its way with me.

That's all right, really.

It's life and work and all that.

Still, I wish, as they say, I coulda stood in bed.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dig, we must.

Once again I started early this morning.

Early at a 'hothouse' where only the women putting out stale bagels were there ahead of me.

There's a lot of work that needs to get done over the next week.

A lot of work and not a lot of time.

A bit too much pressure for me to be loose enough to be productive.

But that's not my call.

You deal with the situation. You try to make the best of it.

When I was a kid, Con Edison, the electric company was, like now, always digging up this street or that. Seemingly causing the maximum amount of congestion on the maximum number of streets.

I guess due to the then-nascent women's movement, Con Edison changed its disruption signs from "Men at Work" to the pre-emptive, no argument "Dig, We Must."

That's how you get through days like today.

Weekends like this coming one.

Keep your fingers close to the keyboard.

Talk low. Talk slow. And don't say too much.

And dig we must.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Is there a hell?

I am, if you've been reading Ad Aged you'd know, ensconced in the middle of a two-week exercise my agency calls a "hothouse."

This is a round-the-clock affair where we work all day and into the night trying to solve some problem or another.

On Tuesday, our second day of the hothouse, we all got called into a group meeting. We returned to our wobbly desks clear out in the open after about 45-minutes. Someone, some bastard, stole the little $9.95 adapter that works with my old Macbook power source and lets me use it on my new machine.

I will say this to whoever stole it.

You'll wish there is a hell.

Because it's surely better than the place I have picked out for you.

Foul mood Thursday.

Lately, I've felt like Burl Ives' "Big Daddy," in Tennessee Williams drama "A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

Fat. Immobile. And angry at the state of the world.

We've been sequestered, us cats, in a hot, crappy apartment in Soho trying to solve problems, collectively, intensely, concentratedly. 

It's been hot as ass-sweat in New York the past week, and I half expect to start seeing gloomy Spanish moss begin to drape off of lamp posts.

The sedentariness of the setting (and sitting) has gotten to me. So today, I had my car drop me off way up on 23rd and Broadway. I was in the mood to walk a mile or two. Though when I finally arrived at our Soho address I was wet like a scuba diver and as pissy as a flight attendant.

But as Con Ed used to say when I was groaning up in the 1960s, 'Dig We Must.' And that's my deportment here.

I may not like any of it.

That won't stop me.

I'll do my best.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Same old same old.

One vestige from my 15 months of freelancing--some of it for silicon companies--is I get a lot of calls asking for my creative eye and hand, mostly from silicon companies.

I'm too busy now to take on such work, but still, I take a moment or two to try to discern who these companies are and what they do. What strikes me most as I do this research is the absolute sameness all these companies seem to exhibit--in the design of their sites, in their use of icons, in their color palette, in their tone and manner. It's as if one universal designer and one universal artificially-intelligent writing machine constructed all these sites during one rainy weekend when they had nothing else to do.

Leaping elsewhere now, I look at a lot of creative portfolios. The same sameness, more often than not, pervades these as well. From design to architecture, everything looks the same.

Our creative looks like a North Korean fashion show. Every outfit is a blue serge Mao suit.

Further, what I realized when I was making the freelance rounds, all agencies look the same. Their faux loft-like open plan, open ceiling mess of people and wires. The faux comfortable seating areas. The faux communal spaces. There is no uniqueness of design or ambiance.

Almost 30 years ago, a start up agency, Keye Donna Perlstein, ran a series of ads announcing a spoof agency they called "Mammoth Pervasive and Bland." They were, I think, prescient.

I blame a lot of this sameness on the gradual then rapid squeezing out of time from the creative process. I also blame it on the epithet "award-winning." Award shows are so ubiquitous and redolent that every communication now tries to look award-winning, so, they all look the same.

We have become an industry, I'm afraid, of blanderizing copycats. If something doesn't look like what it's supposed to, it isn't accepted. It never gets out of the agency.

With apologies to Malvina Reynolds:

"And the people in the agencies.
All went to four-year ad schools,
Where they created boxes,
And they came out all the same."

That holds for ads, points of view and people.

We have homogenized ourselves until we have the character of dull government cheese.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Uncle Slappy on my Hothouse.

I got a call last night, as you may or may not expect, from Uncle Slappy. I haven't seen the old man in a while, he stayed away from our family reunion in New Jersey two weekends ago, and I have to say I missed the old man more than usual.

The truth is, barely a week goes by where I don't talk to he and Aunt Sylvie, and hardly a month passes that I don't see them. But this hiatus was a long one. I haven't seen Slappy and Sylvie since my older daughter, Sarah, defended her PhD. back in June.

"Boychick, you're dead maybe," he began with a bit more than his usual sarcasm.

"I'm sorry we haven't seen you lately, Uncle Slappy. But now that our apartment is 95% finished our guest room is up and running."

"For the Joosh holidays we're coming up," he mangled. "They're early this year."

Uncle Slappy was the one who formulated the astute thesis that the Jewish Holidays are always either early or late.

"Yes," I replied mechanically, "they're right after Labor Day. With any luck our Hot House at work will be over by then."

About 60 of us, for the next two weeks, are being sequestered off campus to think about one of our major brands. I enjoy the challenge and pressure, though not necessarily the sequestering.

"I realize," the old man began, "that advertising is prostitution. But a whore house at work? No good will come of that."

"Well to be frank," I answered, "It is a little more intimate than usual. Maybe too intimate."

"Listen, take my advice. And I was in the service. When you're in whore house."

I gave him the respect of not interrupting his Jack-Benny-esq timing."

"When you're in a whore house, keep one eye on the blondes and the other on the exit."

With that, he hung up the blower.

I began to count the days to Rosh ha Shanah.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Prior to two-weeks offsite.

I am a solitary worker. I enjoy shooting the shit with planners and art directors and even supervisors. But when I have something to really do, I arrive at work at six or seven. Usually by that point I've turned the issue over in my head a couple hundred times. Usually I have an idea or two that I think are pretty good.

I arrive early and work out the 'structure' of the idea. I work to put it in the shape it needs to be in.

That's how I work.

That's how I write.

That's how I formulate ideas.

It's not a group activity to me.

I guess I'm not loose enough, confident enough to brain blurt. I tend to keep to myself. Until I've worked out what I need to work out.

We'll see how the next two weeks goes.

Two weeks of brain storming.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Five Minutes with our CFO (Chief Fear Officer.)

Ad Aged: I remember when CFO stood for Chief Financial Officer.

CFO: No. If we kept with that mode of thinking, we'd all belly up and perish. The CFO--The Chief Fear Officer keeps everyone on their toes.

Ad Aged: So what is it that today's CFO does?

CFO: Well, primarily I issue proclamations. Let me run this one in a 300x250 banner space and see if anyone clicks at it. 'We are entering a new modality in which the old rules will be abnegated and new paradigms and cost-exingencies will demand more from agencies at enhanced productivity coefficients."

Ad Aged: That's pretty daunting. Do you mind telling me what it means?

CFO: Well it means what most everything that comes out of the ever-expanding C-suite means. You have to work longer and harder for less money. Or else.

Here's another one: Periodically we have to make strategic reductions in resource alignment to coincide with diminished client expectations due to fluctuations in the new media landscape.

Ad Aged: Translation, please.

CFO: That's easy. It means I'm going to lay your fat ass off.

Ad Aged: Wow, that does the trick. I'm feeling fearful.

CFO: Before you get too comfortable just being afraid--check out this one: "As part of the growth and evolution of our business, we have made some tactical and strategic adjustments of our staffing structure to align with current market needs. Team members will be referred to in-network contingencies.

Ad Aged: That means?

CFO: We're laying you off but will give you some phone numbers at other agencies in our holding company.

Ad Aged: Any final remarks?

CFO: Yes. Are you writing this on company time?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Laborare est orare.

Some mornings, and I suppose this is one of them, the words aren't coming to me. Maybe it's because I was out late last night with a friend and had one too many. Or two too many. Maybe it's because I am effectively sublimating my disdain for some of the shit happening in the office and it's serving to keep me quiet. Most likely, it's just because I'm weary. I've been going pretty hard for a long time, under a lot of pressure, and at the very least I need a day off.

Today would be a great day for that. The sky is a deep blue. The temperature is moderate. As I walked Whiskey alongside the East River this morning, the breeze had just a hint Autumn in it. Nice.

I thought about calling out from work and taking a day. But my o'erweening sense of responsibility chastened me. So here I am. Here I am with nothing to write about.

Some friends tell me that maybe my writing, and my mood, would be better if I did take days off. But I have too much of an austere work ethic for any of that. I am like an old New England farmer. I work come hell or high water.

Writing for me is exercise. There are some days when your muscles ache and your bones creak and your mile times are a good two minutes slower than the day before's. But. You do it. You lace up your shoes and go.

So, with the soft light of a beautiful summer day for illuminate and the whoosh of white noise as the soundtrack of my morning, I write this. I exercise my fingers and get something down.


I know, it sucks.

But I did it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I'm afraid.

Above is from my personal email-box. It’s, to my mind, evidence that many marketers or e marketers or digital marketers have chosen to ignore David Ogilvy’s maxim:
“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her.”
I’m afraid.
I’m afraid that too often, in our quest to assuage the lowest common denominator we are pushed to do work similar to what the spammers above are doing.
We dumb things down.
We tell dumb jokes or vulgar ones.
We rely on tired adjectives or even-more-weary platitudes.
We make spurious promises and punctuate them with gleaming orthodontia.
We forget that there is an element of rational to many buying decisions.
We forget what Francis Bacon said so many centuries ago: “Knowledge is power.”
I’m afraid that vapidity, cupidity and stupidity are our guiding principles. The tenets which earn us industry accolades. That give us the assurance that we must be doing it right since we’re doing what everyone else is doing.
What if we imparted useful consumer information in an executionally brilliant way?
What if?

Thank you, Hector.

Early on in my season with the Saraperos de Saltillo, Hector Quesadilla my manager seemed to have it out for me.

I had always played 3rd base, the hot corner, the esquina caliente, but Hector, after seeing me in a couple of my early games deemed me a liability in the field. I wasn't like Dick Stuart, a hard-hitting, bad-fielding first-sacker who played for the Pirates, Red Sox, Phillies and a handful of other teams in the late 50s and through most of the 60s.

Stuart hit 228 home runs in his 10 year career, including 1963 when, for the Red Sox of Boston, he slugged 42 round-trippers and led the league with 118 RBI.

So bad was Stuart's fielding that he earned two sobriquets along the way. One was Dr. Strangeglove, an homage to both Kubrick and his Swiss-cheesed leather. The second was, given my literary proclivities, my favorite. In a tribute to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, they called Stuart "The Ancient Mariner," because "he stoppeth one in three."

No, I wasn't that bad. But Hector set out to improve, polish and generally refine my glove work.

We would arrive at Estadio Francisco I. Madura early. I would change into my gear and run out to 3rd base. Hector would encamp in the grassy area before home with a bucket of beaten horsehide and his famed fungo bat. Hector, like many of his school, used his fungo bat as a magician uses his wand. He could put a ball anywhere with it, on the dime. I'd seen him dot the "i" on the Cerveza El Presidente billboard in right-center.

Hector would then proceed to kill me, hitting a grounder to my left, a grounder to my right, left left left, right right, pop up behind third, line drive left, screamer right. And so on. Rapid fire like a hockey goalie at a rifle range I was soon, despite the cool of the early morning air, sweating like a stuck javelina.

Today, of course, missiles at work fly all around us at rapid-fire speed. They seem unrelenting and directed as if they have intent to kill.

I work to handle them. To field them cleanly. To make the play.

Sometimes I'll bobble one. But most, I do ok with.

Thank you, Hector.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Rainy day reflections in a muddy puddle.

The rain this morning is coming down in sheets and lashing the plateglass of my 11th story window. It makes long streaks like tears on the glass as if it's buffeting us, this Tuesday morning, with cosmic sadness.

It's already 8:15 yet the only sound other than the pelting rain is the whoosh of white noise meant to mask the oppressive din of our open plan work space. I suppose the rain has slowed New York's creaking 1850's infrastructure to a near halt.

Nothing works anymore because we haven't the will to find money to fix what is broken. Instead we look for cheap band-aids and magical panaceas.

A friend is visiting the states from China with a group of Chinese business associates. They're amazed at how decayed things are. The roads look like they've been hit with artillery. The paint on bridges and overpasses comes off in large, rusty clumps. There are potholes that warrant their own zipcodes.

Still, we won't pay to have anything fixed. The gasoline tax hasn't been raised in over two decades and the anti-tax anti-government minority that imposes its will on the nation seems ascendant.

I'm wondering if the same morass affects our business.

As Bob Hoffman pointed out yesterday, we are slave to two statements: we need to get younger and we need to get more digital. There's a subtext in those statements that no one wants to call out. That is, I need to do things cheaper. I don't want to invest in my brand. I'm not willing to think long-term.

Everybody, every brand, at one time or another, says 'let's be like Apple.' But no one's willing to do the work. 1) Have a clear message. 2) Stick to that message. 3) Invent innovative products. 4) Show how those products work. 5) Make great ads--TV, outdoor, print.


As a nation and as an industry, our pursuit is of short-cuts, cutting corners, the quick fix.

Even the absurd proliferation of awards short-cuts the success that once came with actually driving sales and building brands.

Instead, we take a short-cut.

Hand me a trophy and say we did something important.

That's our world today.

We do nothing good and expect rewards for it.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A sunny weekend.

I was lucky enough to take Friday off from work.

Originally, my wife and I had planned to travel to see my cousins who were encamped in Brigantine, a small seaside community just a dice's throw from Atlantic City. I seldom get to see family, and this was to be a rare gathering. Cousins were flying in from Boca, San Francisco and Santa Monica. There would be a dozen of us in all.

Unfortunately, at the last minute, my wife's jury-duty obligations extended an extra day. And rather than being able to getaway to the Jersey shore on Friday, and thus beat the always horrific traffic that clogs virtually every road in the tri-state area, we awoke at 5:30 Saturday morning and hit the road by 6:15.

As my cousin Howard said when we arrived at around 9, "I didn't know the Lincoln Tunnel was open that early going to New Jersey."

That's the kind of weekend it was in a nutshell. A wonderful cacophony of silly jokes, life-updates and rose-colored memories. Oh. And lots of eating, though there were times, almost inexplicably that we went as long as two hours without sitting down to a meal.

I grew up with virtually no family save for the people we visited this weekend. My father was estranged from his brothers and my mother was estranged from reality as well as her three sisters and one brother. So, I'll admit, I never knew the joys and travails of extended families. I never got to experience and  enjoy the love and the nuttiness.

Over the years, thanks to the cousins I visited this weekend, I've gradually learned. Family doesn't come naturally to me, but I am learning, and, I suppose getting better at it. Proof of that is we played mini-golf. 11 of us.

Sadly, my kids weren't able to make it to the reunion. My eldest, Sarah, was at a gigantic convention of psychologists in Toronto, where she was presenting a paper she and a partner had worked on. And my youngest was off in the Grenadines somewhere, leading a dozen teenagers 100-feet underwater while teaching them how to scuba dive. Maybe next year.

There's a sickness in our industry now where we crave fictional outward signs of our success. Not only do we all seem to crave awards like addicts crave crack, we even get awards for winning awards.

They've never mattered to me, awards. I've yet to do an ad or a communication where I've given it less than my best. After that, you let the chips fall where they may.

The awards, or rewards, come from weekends like the one I just had.

Friday, August 7, 2015


Of all the things that have served to all but kill the advertising industry, and most others for that matter, the most vicious has been that old stand-by: greed.

To my mind, the most blatant demonstration of bald-faced greed came into practice when the television industry transitioned from being delivered through the air to being delivered through cable. TV went from being free to being something you paid for.

All at once, playing commercials started, again to my mind, double-dipping. We were paying for TV with money, why did we also have to pay by having to watch commercials? TV was making us pay twice.

Then, of course, the cable companies decided since they had a government-endowed sinecure which gave them a monopoly, that they could rake consumers over the coals. The idea that you have to pay and pay and pay for things you don't want--because they're bundled--is absolutely un-American.

I don't watch a lot of television, in fact, I've never watched less. But when I do watch, I utilize one of about seven channels. Of course, I'm paying for 2,000 or more--even with the most basic service.

Those who know me--who know my insomnia--know that the chances of me tuning into the Garlic Channel's "Back-to-School" Special is slim. Nevertheless, I have to pay for it.

I think most people, Trump supporters or not, feel that the television industry is yet another powerful force over which they have no control. They know they're being schtupped and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

So, we have a nation of victims.

Victims of advertising they're paying for twice.

Victims of television who are ripping them off.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Early morning, Saltillo.

There's a lot I love about the quiet of the morning before there are other people about. When I was 17 and playing for the Seraperos de Saltillo I would arrive at Estadio Francesco I. Madura, our 7,000-seat band-box of a ballpark long before everyone else.

The hundreds of noises that accompanied, that magnified the quiet, were soothing to me, like, I suppose the muffled heartbeat of the mother I never had. I would change into padded sliding shorts and a fungo t, with 3/4-length aqua colored sleeves. In the silent distance would be the plink plink plink of drip from the half-dozen showerheads 15 feet from where I sat in front of my locker. Above me, I'd hear the ca-dunk of seats being closed so the sweepers could sweep the aisles free of ballgame flotsam, peanut shells, crumpled scorecards and, of course, cans and bottles and cups of cerveza strewn everywhere.

Outside, alone, in our small field, Uribe, a Serapero from the 1940s and our groundskeeper now, would be sending a forceful stream of water from his whooshing hose, fighting his never-winning battled to keep the infield green against the persistence of the summer's sun. He would make long-arcs across from first to third, making lazy S shapes with the flow, hoping hoping hoping that today some clouds would find the sun.

In the outfield, early like this, you could hear the electrical hum of millions of little cicadas holding court under leaves and in the bark of the spindly trees in the park just beyond the Estadio. They would be answered, at times, by the friendly chirp of crickets who made their home in the desiccated shrubbery that circled the park. I'd hear the whoosh thud of my spiked feet as I kicked up the dewy grass during my outfield jog.

Later more prosaic sounds would echo through the place. The pop of a ball in leather. The crack of ash against horsehide, but mostly the chatter and laughter of thirty men-boys who chased a round sphere for a living. Under the ever-present glare of the sun and the ever-present view of Hector Quesadilla.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Queequeg's lament.

Chapter 110: Queequeg in his Coffin
Blisken signed a check.

I have enough dough now for six months.

So, keyboard in my lap, I sang him something I'm still working on..."Queequeg's Lament."

QUEEQUEG:                         The bones have foretold
                                                That I will not grow old,
                                                That I’ll perish right here,
                                                On the sea.

                                                The gods have decreed,
                                                Their will I must heed,
                                                That I’ll perish right here,
                                                On the sea.

                                                So silent I sit,
                                                I cannot fight it,
                                                I’ll perish right here,
                                                On the sea.

                                                Yes, my death’s in the offin’,
                                                Carpenter, build me a coffin!
                                                A strong wooden box
                                                For my home.

                                                Make it long as a river,
                                                So it will deliver,
                                                My soul to the Kingdom
                                                Of god.
                                                Make it wide like Gibraltar,
                                                And strong like an Altar,
                                                A strong wooden box
                                                For my home.

THE CREW:                           Oh!
                                                Carry him off in
                                                A custom-made coffin,
                                                For Queequeg’s fortold
                                                He must die.

                                                Make it strong, make it stout,
                                                No man can get out,
                                                When he has foretold
                                                He must die.

QUEEQUEG:                         There’s no use resisting,
                                                The gods are insisting,
                                                They’ve summoned this pagan
                                                To die.

                                                They’ve torn me asunder
                                                I’ll die there down under,
                                                Under the spell
                                                Of the sea.