Friday, June 29, 2018

The "Creativity is Dead" Creative Agency.

“Creativity can come from anywhere,” said ________ _______WW CEO of ____________________, a global advertising and marketing firm. 

“The mechanic who fixes your car is creative. A street musician mimicking Coltrane under a railroad trestle in Houston, she’s creative. The architect who designed our connected, chair-less workspace which optimizes our optimization processes, she’s creative.”

“We’re ushering a new Creative dawn at ________,
completely without creative people. With creativity coming from anywhere, we can just tap the people around us and create a collision of ideasTM that collides with our new concept the idea of collisionTM  to create not just ads—because people hate ads, but brand assets that consider recency, relevancy and ridiculancy and influence not just customer behavior but culture as an experiency of livingancy.”

To further optimize the optimization of the creative optimization process, ________ is establishing councils of creativity to support the experiency of voicenomicsTM.

“First,” __________ continued, “We will listen to many voices and have a cross-cultural superstructure to our infrastructure which will inform our Tomorrow and the Next-Day and Maybe Next Week Council TM. This Council will function to hone the futureness of our past and present work and drive the 3RsTM—recency, relevancy and ridiculancy.”

The council will have will have no permanent home or permanent members but will come-together when needed in the way you can always find a Dunkin’ Donuts when you need one. “It will just appear,” __________ said.

The Tomorrow and the Next-Day and Maybe Next Week Council TM will feed into the work of the Wow, You Really Did That CouncilTM which is charged with inspiration, aspiration, mastication and perspiration.

These councils will ensure that the key talent-can-come-from-anywhere individuals will maximize their maximization and drive culture and behavioral change for our clients. In our maker culture which is a culture of making the things we make, the way we move forward to a creative future is to have no creativity,” __________ said.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Working hard. Or hardly working.

There was a book review in yesterday's Times that, imho, is well-worth taking a gander at. You can read it here. It considers the central problem of our age: what is work, and what role do we, humans, play in it?

Here's an excerpt from Graeber's book, from Strike! Magazine where portions were originally printed:

"In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain and the United States would have achieved a 15-hour week….In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen....

"Instead technology has been marshaled…to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have been created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swaths of people…spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound."

In other words, there are a whole lot of paper-pushers out there who add very little to the common good. That's Graeber's pov, anyway.

I've always myself extrapolated from Viktor Frankl's classic "Man's Search for Meaning," when I think about my place on the planet. We all have to do a lot of dumb things as we wend our way through life.

In fact, I've come to believe, it's less what you do that leads to a sense of self-worth, but how you do what you do.

How well you create even a lowly banner ad. How you help your colleagues. How you try to make things better. Even, how you bring hope and laughter to tough situations.

Going back at least to Melville's "Bartleby," people have been disconsolate at work--finding no purpose in what they do day after day after day. A wise man once said, "if you don't hate what you're doing four days out of 10, you're ahead of the game." 

I think that's true with a lot of things. Work, relationships, even children.

There's value, however, in coming in. And self-respect that comes from doing your best. No matter what.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The six word agency.

Ernest Hemingway, famous for many things, some of them pertaining to writing, famously created a six-word novel. It read, simply: "For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn."

That's pretty good, actually and has led to a bit of a cottage industry of six-word stories.

For instance,

Evelyn Waugh:
Lovely spring weather, bubonic plague raging.

Dave Eggers:
Found true love. Married someone else.

Margaret Atwood:
Longed for him, got him. Shit.

These got me thinking.

Could we reduce what goes on during a typical work-day to just six words?

Here are a few examples I've thunk up.

"Good meeting. Tweak scripts. Due tonight."
"Bad meeting. New scripts. Due tonight."
"OK meeting. Re-write scripts. Due tonight."
"You're old. You're grey. Good-bye."
"This weekend. Sunny, warm. You're working."
"The wireless. Down again. Email unsent."
"Open plan. Too noisy. To think.
"Big pitch. No brief. Good luck."
"One day. Fourteen meetings. Oh, well."
"Brief at ten. Check-in. Noon."
"Phone dead, didn't get your text."

"Salaries frozen. Too bad.  Smile anyway."
"Timesheets late. Threatening note. From India."
"Meeting now. Room booked. We'll wait."
"Food's bad. Over-priced. Small portions."
"Got deck. Didn't read. Too long."
"I'll talk. Over you. Every time."

"George, stop. Too caustic. You're fired."

A view from a bench.

It's voting day in New York, and I was one of the 12 or 17 New Yorkers who rose early and walked down the block to a 1950s-era public school and cast my ballot.

As a registered Dimmy-crat, I had a choice between our long-time congresswoman, Carolyn Maloney, and an opponent I had never heard of, last name Patel.

"I'd love not to vote for Maloney," I said to my wife, "She's been in office for decades and I can scarce think of a single thing she's done."

"Patel's a liar," she answered knowingly. "And besides, if nothing else, she votes the right way."

And so, with no one else in the cavernous elementary school where we vote, I ticked the box for Maloney. The poll-watcher then dutifully handed me a little sticker that said "I voted," that I suppose is part and parcel of the notion that you have to announce to the world every insignificant thing you do, from having a glass of rose, to seeing a movie, to, perhaps, battling a case of flatulence. How far are we from "I farted" stickers?

In any event, I arrived by my office a good two-hours before the opening bell, and decided to write this slim tale in a small park that runs from 47th to 48th between Ninth and Tenth.

The park is small--about the size of a Goldman-Sachs partner's pied a terre, but a fountain is going, the indigent are collecting plastic bottles, two tow head kids are shooting hoops and a young couple, with apologies to Robert Frost, are literally playing tennis with the net down.

It's another surpassing beautiful morning in New York. The sky is as blue as a Hollywood starlet's eyes and the air is balmy and cool thanks to a gentle breeze out of the north.

When I was a kid, parks like this were called "vest-pocket+ parks and were the result of slum-clearance and knocking down a few old tenements and paving over the old brick. Vest-pocket is a good name for them, because that's about their size. Sure kids can play in the fountain, and impossibly fit men play four-on-four on the basketball court, but no baseball or even soccer could be played. It's more a park for reading a book, brown-bagging your lunch or just having a moment off when the world is too much with you.

The world, lately, has been too much with me. It might be a bite by the Black Dog. The fact is, every time I begin to, after four years, feel settled in at work and secure in my role there, something infects my head, and I turn to the Times and look for small houses in the exurbs where I could wind up my remaining days.

I had a premonition over the weekend that I would cash in my chips prematurely at the age of 68. Lugubrious, I know, and unlikely. Even my old-man, victim of eleven heart-attacks, kidney cancer, diabetes and more made it to 73. And my old-lady, termagant as she was, lasted a decade longer.

It's like that for me sometimes. My demons, and they are many, are never far away. I feel alone in the world--downcast and downtrodden. Fortunately, these feelings, as sensate as they sometimes are, don't last long. 

I'll snap out of it soon, I always do.

But for now, I'm sitting in the park, and against all of my dark, scarred soul's impetus, enjoying the splendor of New York on a perfect early summer's day.

Monday, June 25, 2018

My short career as a stone-skipper.

We were at the beach again this weekend with Whiskey. Summer in full-flower, public beaches are now closed to the canine set, but I've found a rocky half-mile of littoral that allows us to dip our feet in the Sound's murky waters as we watch Whiskey brave the surf.

There is always the danger that some cops will drive by on their ATVs and chase us away. In fact, a cop showed up on both Saturday and Sunday, surveyed the shingle, then turned his vehicle away and left us to our ministrations.

As dedicated readers of this space know, I tore my right rotator cuff five years ago and have been putting off surgery and putting up with the pain since then. The pain doesn't keep me from hurling Whiskey's rubber duck into the sea. 

Even worse than my right wing is my left, which suffers from jaw-clenching arthritis. It's not usual for either shoulder to keep me up at night. The pain is always with me.

However, the link of man and dog is such that Whiskey doesn't care. Often when she's tired, Whiskey will stare at her duck and then turn to me. "Throw a rock," she says to me with her eyes. "Show me where the duck is."

Most times I can "spot" the duck with an underhand toss, but about two or three times a play-session, the canardian-distance demands I make a painful overhead toss. I execute the throw with surprising accuracy for an old man, and Whiskey responds to the splash and makes her way duckward.

My wife, of late has grown fascinated with my ability to skip stones. I've always been a stone-skipper, always been shockingly good at it. It's not entirely unusual for me to get seven or even 10 skips across the brine. 

A couple weekends a guy was walking on the beach with his kids. He spotted one of my more successful skips and turned to his boys and said, "Look. This guy's a professional stone skipper."

I laughed, of course, but I'd be lying if it didn't feed, somewhat, my not inconsiderable ego. 

This Sunday, after another Zeus-like toss that skipped fairly from Rye to Glen Cove, my wife, innocently, said to me, "do you ever feel like having a catch?"

I guess that question hit a sore shoulder. I snapped at her.

"I missed the Old-Timers' Game in Saltillo this year because my right shoulder has a torn rotator and my left is arthritic. I'd love to have a catch, but truth be told I can barely anymore lift a salt shaker."

She nodded solicitously.

Then handed me a flat stone that I skipped across the sea seven or nine times.
By the way, I've just now done a little research on the web and found that there is a bona-fide stone-skipping championship held each year in Riverfront Park, in Franklin, Pennsylvania, a small city about 100 miles north of Pittsburgh on the banks of the Allegheny River. This year's event is just two months off, on August 18th. I have a good mind to fire up the Simca and head out to witness the event.

That said, I'm humbled to discover that Drew "The Canadian" Quayle skipped a stone 40 times to win 2017's trophy. And that the world record stone-skipping is an incredible 88 skips. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Tillie and Millie at the Public Library.

Last night I ran over to the New York Public Library after work to hear the brilliant polymath Paul Holdengraber interview the even more brilliant polymath, Seymour Hersch.

My wife had arrived early and so secured us seats in the third-row, center. I arrived about twenty-minutes till seven, the time the show was to begin, and settled into my seat.

The average age at a New York Public Library event is Methuselean. Meaning that to three-quarters of the audience I was a young whippersnapper and 23-skidoo. Two older women were sitting behind me. Over their long years they had lost the ability to modulate the volume of their voices.

"You heard about deer ticks," Tillie said.

"Ach," said Millie.

"They're coming into the city. The city should do something. They're coming."

"I heard they're already in New Rochelle." Millie said Rochelle with the slightest bit of a French accent.

"They come in on the backs of raccoons. There are raccoons in Central Park and they all have deer ticks. Mark my words, the city should take this seriously," Tillie continued.

"It's not just deer with deer ticks, then. There are no deer in Central Park," Millie said. "Deer ticks can come in on dogs if they roll in the grass."

That salient fact outraged Tillie. 

"Mark my words, the city should take this seriously. They took it seriously when there were coyotes in the Bronx. But the raccoons, they're everywhere."

"I wonder," answered Millie, "who are a raccoon's natural enemies?"

"What you want to bring bears in Central Park to eat the raccoons? The deer ticks will get the bears, too."

"And what do we do with all the bears?"

The evening's discussion was about to begin and Millie and Tillie began to settle down.

The night's speakers were walking onto the stage as Tillie said one more time, "You mark my words. The city should do something."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Bill Bernbach in Cannes. A ghost story.

Last night with a shock I sat bolt upright in bed. No one else was awake in my apartment, but I heard a clattering sound coming from one of my spare bedrooms.

It was a sound I was familiar with, but couldn’t immediately place. A sound I hadn’t in years heard. I got out of bed and grabbed an old pull-up bar off its bracket in the hallway. I’ve used that bar against the putative advances of burglars since the bad old days of New York in the 1970s and 80s.

Brandishing the steel bar like a medieval mace or sword, I headed to our extra bedroom and the clacking, clattering sound emanating from it. Just then, I heard the “ting” of a small bell. It brought into focus the sound I was hearing. Someone was typing on the old blue-green Olivetti typewriter I had decorating my rolltop desk in the room.

I swung open the door and at the desk wearing a well-blocked fedora and smoking a Chesterfield a man sat as an apparition. He removed the cigarette from his mouth and sipped at a cup of coffee. Then the being rose and put out its well-manicured right hand, to shake mine.

“Bill Bernbach,” the ghost said, introducing himself. “Sorry to barge in like this. But I just got back from the festival at Cannes and I couldn’t find a typewriter anywhere.

I stood there mute. As I’ve written so many times before, I’m no stranger to seeing ghosts but I hadn’t expected Bernbach—especially since of the 12 or 16 agencies I’ve worked for, I never got into Doyle Dane.

“Hello, Mr. Bernbach,” I said dumbly. I pulled up a seat near him.

“Get me another cuppa jamoke, willya?” he said, turning back to the Olivetti. “Black. And hand me my attaché case.” He rifled through the case, found some scrawled-upon yellow legal pads and went back to the old Olivetti and began touch-typing again.

I shuffled into our kitchen and made a pot of coffee. I filled his mug and ran back into the spare room.

“It’s my dispatch from Cannes,” he said. The carriage of the old machine was moving like a piston in an old V-8. He typed for a few moments in silence, pausing only to drag deep on his Chesterfield or to drain another cup of Joe.

Then he pulled the sheet of foolscap from the machine, pushed back in his seat, rotated to face me and then read with his cigarette balanced on his lower lip like a skilled tight-rope walker.

“Cannes, France,” he began reading like Ed Herlihy or another old newsreel announcer. “Dead on arrival, 2018. The advertising industry. Dead from an overdose of its own self-absorption. Killed by a passel of gimmicks soaked in rosé and served with a heaping portion of egomania, pretense and indulgence.

“Here lies the ad industry. Overwrought, overproduced, over-professionalized. Infested by consultants. Made soulless by research. Destroyed by data. Bastardized by best-practices. Beaten by blockchains. Trampled by transparency.

“We award and herald ads that never ran. We create pharma ad after pharma ad, for illnesses that don’t exist. We have devolved into indulgent statuary and stunts, pretense and puffery. We pat ourselves on the back as our industry is withering and dying. We have forgotten, or worse, ignored human emotion—we fail to connect with people in honest, warm and comforting ways. We afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable. We forget to make—and keep—promises to our viewers and treat them as we ourselves would like to be treated.

“We subject people to Stasi-like surveillance and sell their personal information to profit on their every motion, move, hover and thought. We do this in the name of commerce and have become, as Marx foretold, the rattling stick inside the swill bucket of capitalism. We have become the embodiment of Gresham’s Law—bad has driven out good.”

Like a powerful outboard engine running out of gas, the old man was fairly sputtering now. While his words, his tirade was accelerating, his image was right in front of me growing dimmer and more diffuse.

And then, as ghostly as he had appeared, he vanished. 

I returned to bed. But not to sleep.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Etiam si omnes, ego non.

The following is not political. It's human.

The title above is in Latin, a language I have studied off and on for nearly my entire life. There's something magical about Latin. Things sound profound and important in it.

The phrase means, "Even if all others, I not."

In other words, I will not go along with the horrors that are happening in our country right now.

The violence against the environment. The violence against our own citizenry. And the violence against those attempting to emigrate to the US for their own safety.

Back in 2014, the great German writer Joachim Fest wrote a memoir of growing up in Nazi Germany. It was called in German, "Icht Nicht." In English, "Not I."

The book, it pains me to say this, is worth reading today. Not as a memoir, but as a warning. You can read a review from the Times' here.

Things are bad in our country. And we must pay our taxes and obey our laws. So we are going along with it.

You might want to read Nobel-prize winner Paul Krugman on the matter. Here.

If the economy really picks up, or an American Reichstag fire is discovered, there's a decent chance the Regime's popularity with soar.

With that popularity will come oppression of people like myself who speak as loudly as they can against the Regime. National broadcasters are already demonizing the opposition. Former politician and television judge Jeanine Pirro on national TV just called Democrats Demon Rats.

Once you start calling people rats--whole groups of people--mobs violence probably isn't far behind.

There's not much we can do. We can spend our money to support blue candidates and our time.

Until things, god willing, change in November, I will remember a Latin phrase and a German one.

Etiam si omnes, ego non.


Icht nicht.