Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Aging Bull.

(With apologies to nearly everyone.)                                       

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Nobody Asked Me But…Late July edition.

Nobody Asked Me But…is my every-so-often tribute to the great New York sportswriter, Jimmy Cannon. Cannon was something of a workaholic—he wrote his sports column seven days a week. When he couldn’t come up with a topic for a column, he’d write a miscellany. A hodgepodge of random observations way better than these...

Nobody Asked Me But…

…I’ve yet to see how “enabling cookies” gives me a better website experience.

…Tuning into the Fox network is a racist act. In the 21st Century, it’s like eating at a segregated lunch counter was in the 1960s.

…Is there any automobile manufacturer not currently having a “summer event”?

…Likewise, does every automobile manufacturer over-use the word “adrenaline”?

…I wish the Pentagon were inscribed with the perfect words of Bertold Brecht: “Peace is a Waste of Equipment.”

…If you ever find yourself doubting the power of semantics, consider that the “Department of Defense” used to be called the “War Department.”

…Even if Equifax gave me their entire $700 million settlement, I still wouldn’t like them.

…I can say the same about Facebook’s $5 billion settlement.

…And the eventual Purdue and J&J pharmaceutical settlements.

…What I’d really like to know is who actually gets the money.

...I know it ain't me.

…I’m more than a little surprised that Dunkin’ Donuts is selling an “impossible” meat sandwich. Dunkin’ is hardly the place I’d go to for healthy eating.

…I wonder what would have happened if years ago one agency CEO said “open plan is stupid” and kept individual offices.

...It would probably be the world's hottest agency today.

…I don’t think I could ever feel comfortable wearing a Hawaiian-print shirt.

…Though I would like to be in Hawaii.

…I know it was a big deal, but I’m tired of hearing about the 1969 moon landing.

…Trump’s attempt to undercount the 2020 census makes me think of James Madison’s three-fifths law. Why fully count people who don't count?

…I’m a bit surprised no one’s turned the word “Warby” into a verb. 

…When a company like Chevron promotes that it spends “$100 million” on research, do they expect no one to know that they take in revenue of almost $160 billion?

…I don’t trust any company that uses the phrase “take it to the next level” in advertising.

…Likewise, I trust no one who actually says, “Booyah.”

Monday, July 29, 2019

Why tell the truth when you can lie?

It was all over the news last week, the fake presidential seal shown above. Four differences from what we used to consider the genuine article:

1. The Romanov "Double Eagle" rather than the "American" bald eagle.

2. It's clutching golf-clubs, not martial arrows,

3. It's holding cash not olive branches.

4. Instead of the Latin "E Pluribus Unum," (out of many, one) it says in Spanish, "45 is a puppet."

It's satire, I suppose, and popular. But as a communication, as persuasion, I wonder if it's missing the boat.

I wonder if we all are. Or are too often. Especially in advertising.

It seems that too many communications today don't really persuade. Don't really provide useful information. Don't really tell us anything new.

They merely confirm what we already believe. Or want to believe about ourselves.

Accordingly, they aren't real communications. They don't stop us. They don't make us think. They don't nag at our brains or upset our consciousness. 

They, instead, tell us that we were right all along.

Will the faux seal above convince a single anti-Trump person? Or will it merely add to the conviction and concomitant smugness of those (like myself) who despise the man and all that he projects and stands for?

The seal above may contain truth. But does it contain understanding of another point of view? Does it take into consideration the very real feelings of those who support our latest fascist tin-pot despot?

What about empathy?

In late September, righ before the 2016 presidential election, I read Arlie Hochschild's "Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right."
When I read Hochschild, one passage in particular, I turned to my spouse (about the only person who still listens to me) and said, "Trump is going to win." At the time, the Nate Silvers of the world were predicting a huge Clinton victory.

The passage was a metaphor that a person recounted to Hochschild about her life. "Imagine America is a shining sun over the horizon. I've been patient and hard-working, and I'm standing in line to to get that shining sun. Soon I see people of color cutting into the line. I see immigrants, handicapped, all manner of people cutting in in-front of me. I'm going backward. I'm getting pushed back, while others are cutting the line."

While Clinton was calling such people "deplorables," Trump was speaking right at them. Telling them why. Yes. Hitler did the same thing. Essentially blaming Jews for Germany's defeat in WWI and the hyperinflation that followed. Germany's carnage was caused by outside forces (Jews). Trump confirmed that America's "carnage" was caused by outside forces (no matter how inside they are) people of color and immigrants and Muslims.

Trump understood people. What would move people. Say what you will about the evil of the man, he expressed anything but Clintonian-solipsism.

The more I look at the communications our industry produces, we produce, I produce, the more I believe we are not reaching people on an emotional, truthful level. Maybe because everything is laden with copy points, brand names and MUST end with a smile.

They're not communications, they're blandishments.

Where is work like this?

Do we even acknowledge the painful truths of eternal debt and shoddy manufacturing? No, all car advertising is empty roads, smiling drivers and luxurious leather. So far removed from today's realities as to be not even as accurate as a Looney Tunes cartoon.

 Do we do ads like this anymore? Or is every rental-counter staffed by winsome and smiling models? Is every business trip a happy occasion where the big deal is closed and the big raise is impending? In about half the commercials I see people spontaneously dance or high-five in celebration over something. 

Our realities have been utterly Disneyfied and focus-grouped.

We no longer as an industry have real empathy, understanding or caring.

As we near 2020, I'm dreading seeing commercials for Democrats with smiling people, handshakes and factories rising. Commercials that won't touch, persuade and be real to 99% of the people seeing them. 

Because they're lies.

And they don't have the artistry Swift employed back in the eighteenth century when he upset the world with words and images.

"I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled ...”

Friday, July 26, 2019

Writer stuff and human.

As a writer who actually writes (writing things down helps me think, helps me clarify and coalesce my thoughts) I often find I need to push away from my desk every hour or so and take a walk around.

This walking around helps clear my head. If I'm stuck on something, I usually puzzle it out while I'm walking around. More often than not, in just a few minutes I find myself rushing back to my desk--I've figured out a better way to say something and I want to scribble it down before it gets away.

Unless something is due in an hour or so, when I get whatever I'm writing to a place where I'm happy with it and I judge it good, I again walk away. I'll go to a meeting, or jump on another assignment, or even shoot the breeze with someone, while such an activity is still tolerated by the timesheet-industrial-complex.

Often, I'll return to what I've written six or seven times over the next 12 hours or so. I'll reread it, tweak it, rewrite and tighten. 

When I don't have the time for this methodical type of writing, I find that I turn myself into Old Iron-Ass. 

I won't leave my laptop till I've written something I like. When deadlines get like that, and I'm on the hook for something, I concentrate to such a degree that people who stop by to talk to me or ask me something, usually walk away leaving unsatisfied.

I'm too busy concentrating to ever notice them.

One of the things I've observed as I meander between drafts of copy, is that today it seems like something on the order of one-third of the people in creative departments today seem essentially just out of school.

As the old guy--maybe the oldest--in the agency, I think about all those just-out-of-school people. Us old guys are so busy now, so back-to-back-to-back-to-back in work and meetings, and it's so absolutely vital that we all must be 275% billable, that I wonder who's helping the young people.

I mean training. 

I'd like to, of course. But as I said, we're all so damn busy, there's hardly a moment left in our too-long days left to be human. There's hardly a moment for the older generation to do what older generations have essentially always done--what we're actually evolutionarily-programmed to do, that is, help younger people, or try to.

We can always give more. Get in earlier and stay later. We can always give more to the agencies that employ us. But the give:get ratio seems all off-kilter. We're expected to give. But agencies seem increasingly...impecunious. With money and praise and security and, even, kindness.

I don't really understand why things are the way things are. I don't really know why the industry seems bent on destroying itself by not generating its next generations.

I do know, if we don't start acting like grown-ups, like people who care about other people, it won't be much good for anything, or anyone.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

My new MacBook Pro is amazing.

I was working on something and had to shutdown. I got the notice below when I restarted. 

It's like the MacBook was built just for me.

A poetic night in the Tempus Fugit. (A repost.)

My wife, who just on Tuesday had her hip bionically replaced, returned home from the hospital yesterday afternoon. Though I consider myself a decent person and a more than moderate husband, I'll admit, I am not the most solicitous of people. I'd rather be waited on than wait on. Alas, now, I have no choice. Though my wife is no termagant, I am fairly at her whim and caprice.

Naturally amid all this turmoil, insomnia chose that very moment to strike. So, at approximately 2:47 in the morning, Whiskey and I made our way through the city to the invitingly dim incandescence of the Tempus Fugit.

"Did I ever tell you," the bartender began, as usual, without any pre-mumble or salutation. "Did I ever tell you of the haunt that haunts these latitudes?" He swung gingerly around the bar and placed a small wooden bowl of cold water in front of Whiskey. Then, back behind the mahogany, he pulled me a Pike's Ale (the ALE that won for YALE!) filling the requisite six-ounce juice glass.

"Haunts," I said, with my typical sagacity.

Violet Klotz, 1903-1930. Photo taken shortly before her murder.
"Haunts," he repeated. "Haunts that to me, resemble one Violet Klotz, the hatcheck girl in 1930 when the Tempus Fugit was still a speakeasy."

"A hatcheck girl. The place had class, huh?"

Ignoring my feint at cynicism, he continued on his way.

Hymie "Iambic" Goldstein. An artist's rendering by Patrick Hamou.

"Klotz was a looker, and the inamorata of one Hymie "Iambic" Goldstein. Goldstein was one of the roughest muggs in the Jewish mob."

"Iambic?" I asked.

"He spoke, believe it or not, Hymie did, in perfect iambic pentameter. It was the most uncanny thing I ever saw."

"Short syllable then long syllable. Uncanny to say the least."

"Iambic made fortune for the mob, stealing cars and losing them. The gang would collect $100 insurance per, and Iambic would make $10 of that. Things went along fine until he got too clever by half."

"A stressed syllable that should have remained unstressed," I added.

"You could say that. Iambic, instead of ditching those cars, he brought them to a junk dealer. Together they stripped the cars and Iambic made another $10 bucks."

"You can't blame him," I offered, "it was the Depression. Who didn't need the extra scratch."

"Well the mob didn't see it that way. They pushed Iambic off the roof of a 17 story building."

He pulled me another amber and offered me a bowl of salted Spanish peanuts. As always, I dismissed the goobers and drained the suds.

"Violet was checking coats when the boys that pushed Iambic came in. They were feeling good and laughing. One guy--I can't remember his name--kept repeating 'He got metrical feet, but he ain't got no wings.'"

"Quite a mouthful," I said, starting on Pike's number three.

"Violet got wise. She realized Iambic was no more and she pulled a small pearl-handled on the guys who offed her man. They beat Violet to the draw and gunned her down right over there, next to where there was a signed photo from Gene Tunney wishing me all the best. It was a veritable fusillade that did Violet in."

Gene Tunney, World Heavyweight Champion, 1926-1928.

"Wow," I said. "So now she haunts the place."

"She died amid the chinchillas and minks. And comes back every Halloween looking for Iambic. The holes in her corpus whistling in the wind."

"Grisly," I said getting up to leave. I slipped the leash on Whiskey and slid two twenties across the bar.

He pushed them back my way. "Happy All Hallow's Eve to you, says I."

All in perfect iambic pentameter. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

"How was your day today, honey?"

I just got, this is not at all unusual, yet another stern email in all-caps WARNING! THAT I WILL BE LOCKED OUT of the “system” if I do not do my timesheets with both alacrity and dispatch.

This morning, some hours before receiving my almost daily threatening timesheet email (the sum total of my interactions with corporate—the same entity who claim they want to improve the “culture” of the agency) I read a small item in the ever-failing “New York Times,” about Lee Smith, a right-handed relief pitcher primarily for the Chicago Cubs who was just elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Smith, at the time of his retirement, had saved more games than anyone else in major league history. He led the National League in saves three times, was selected to seven All-Star teams, finished 802 games, and recorded a total of 478 saves over his 18-year career in the big leagues.

The Times wrote: “Smith was famous for napping during games…‘Man, I could sleep anywhere. I remember the old stadium in Milwaukee, it was tiny, and I could actually sleep right in the middle of the floor. The trainer’s job was to make sure I was up in the sixth inning and I had on the right uni.’”

Even so many salad days ago when I played about 125 professional games for the Saraperos de Saltillo in the Mexican Baseball Lague (AA), I realize that I spent far more time scratching than I did running or fielding or throwing.

What’s important in most jobs is being ready for the brief bursts of doing something between hours and hours of waiting. Claude Debussey, the French composer, put it this way: “Music is the space between the notes.” Or as another Frenchman, perhaps the greatest film-director of all-time put it, “The foundation of all civilization is loitering.”

In the modern MBA-industrial-robotification-dehumanization complex, of course, we understand how to measure but we don’t know the meaning of what we’re measuring. We know how to count. But we don’t know what we’re counting. We know how to add, but we don’t know what the totals mean.

I’ve always struggled with timesheets because to my modus operandi creative people are always working.  

We’re always reading, viewing, walking, hearing, observing, thinking, talking, listening, arguing. We're working even when resting, sleeping, goofing, drinking, ping-ponging, etcetera-ing. All of that ing-ing are the raw materials of ideas, of sentences, of thoughts, jokes, clarifications. They’re all inputs that help a creative person create outputs with impact.

Just now, I stumbled across a series of charts that showed how famous creative people of the past spent their days. You could do worse than spending a few minutes thinking about this information.

Here are two more detailed looks at the daily lives of these creative people.

This chart looks at how much of their day famous creative people spend doing actual creative work.

Keen to develop better work habits? Discover how some of the world's greatest minds scheduled creative work into their daily routines.
Click image to see the interactive version (via Podio).

This chart looks at how much famous creative people sleep. It must have been shitty to live next door to Franz Kafka.

From early birds to night owls – discover the sleeping habits of some of the world's greatest minds.
Click image to see the interactive version (via Podio).

Then I wondered.

What about us? The not-so-famous and so-called creative people who toil in the fleshpots of Madison Avenue?

I got to thinking about how we spend our days. And nights.

I came up with this. Now I think I'll take a nap.