Monday, January 31, 2022


When I was just a little boy and winters were still cold, mastodons and mammoths roamed the streets of the tilted little glump of a neighborhood I grew up in. We lived in the armpit of Yonkers, itself the armpit of New York, hard fast against the northern border of the benighted borough of the Bronx.

The builder who built my parents' little home had never built a house before and after building my parents' would never build one again. The house was situated on one of the seven hills Yonkers, like Rome, is known for. But instead of building the house into the hill so the floors would be straight, the house followed the contours of the hill, leaving me to grow up on a seven-degree angle. It wasn't till I ventured out of that penny-nail neighborhood that I realized floors could be flat.

In those black and white TV days, winters were colder, winds were more vicious and it wasn't unusual for snow to bury a kid and you wouldn't find his frozen body until the summer thaw, his form intact but his eyes pecked clean by crows. At least that's what my mother warned me of when she dressed me to go outdoors so she could drink her Miltown and Metracal
© cocktails in peace.

I had a genuine used (my brother's before me) Mighty Mac corduroy overcoat with galoshes fasteners and a corduroy collar that was deemed too sturdy for Shackleton or Byrd. It was just right, however, to repel a day in the snow attacking the garbage trucks with snowballs while we hid behind snow forts that would have outlasted the Nazis' siege of Leningrad.

While it doesn't get cold today like it got cold when I was a boy, on one blustery morning not long ago, with the wind coming larruping out of the west, I thought about that Mighty Mac coat.

I've had a hundred coats since those cataclysmic ice-cracking winters of yore, but like Sam McGee in the great Robert Service poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee, I haven't been truly warm through a nasty winter since the moths belched out the last cord of roy from that tattered winter coat. 

I looked online to see if I could find a new Mighty Mac, but the company, once based in Gloucester, Mass, where they know a thing or two about chill, had gone belly up in the 80s. I'm sure a victim of c-level pilfertocracy and cheap Chinese goods. 

With some searching, however, I found on a site called Poshmark, a used Mighty Mac with a faux fur collar that happened to be my size, 44L. Without any deliberation whatsoever, though I have never before bought an article of used clothing, I bought this gem, my sartorial Rosebud, for a whopping $58--including delivery--and it arrived at my house, 84-percent clean in just about a week.

It has the same Mighty Mac Gloucester Fisherman tag I remember as a boy--dreaming of braving the gales off the Georges Banks while line catching piscine behemoths by the dozen.

I wear the coat now as a badge of my age, a symbol of my beaten past and a shield against the cold and, even more so, the forces of modernity where a cheap winter coat by Canada Goose (which I thought until recently was a codename for an HR violation) can cost $1500 or more.

I don't care a scintilla that the coat is worn and old and resolutely without style. I don't care that it arrived with four gum drops fused together in the deep of one of the side pockets. I don't care about any of that.

Let the world turn. Let those around me age. Let the hands of time creep ahead mercilessly, destroying slowly and without pity that which yesterday was young. 

Let the wind howl, and the wolves lurk. Let the Ichabod Crane trees cast their long-fingered shadows like Jack the Ripper grasping at my thorax.

Let all that and a thousand other assaults play.

I have my Mighty Mac.

I will be five years old forever.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Glum Friday.

I'm writing this on Thursday, January 27, 2022. People are calling today Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I haven't paid much attention to that. 

If you're a human, and a certain age, every day is Holocaust Remembrance Day, just as every day should be observed as Black History Month. These commemorations should not be confined by the conceit of a calendar. And to give something a month or a day, I think, minimizes its essential universality. 

Oppression continues. As do holocausts. And slavery. Let's stay vigilant. Let's keep humanity's inhumanity ever-present, or we'll look at horror as an anomaly rather than as human a condition as breathing or flatulence.

Some years ago there was an exhibit at the Holocaust Museum in Lower Manhattan. I believe it was called "Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away." I think remembering that history isn't about the past, it's about the now would be a good lesson for all of us to think about. As William Faulkner wrote in "Requiem for a Nun," "The past isn't dead. It is not even past."

When I was down at the Holocaust Museum, my wife went off to the lady's room. I sat on a wooden bench and watched a video screen play archival footage of some of the lives and families and hopes and dreams destroyed by the systemic hate propagated by the nazis and their many many acolytes. 

Suddenly, I got punched in the solar plexus by a bulldozer. I saw this still-frame. I sat through the movie, pasted above, two more times so I could film the film. A record of sorts from a broken-down cosmic jukebox.

Sure, the spelling is different from how my branch of the Tannenbaums spell our last name. Sure, I don't know if my ancestors were cultured enough to have made the journey from shtetl to Vienna before they steeraged to their particular Philadelphia ghetto. Sure, I don't know if I share more DNA with a McChicken sandwich than I do with the Tennenbaums above.

That's partly the thing about how I wasn't brought up. There was no family. I have no idea where my ancestors came from or how they got here. Don't tell me about I don't even know the non-Americanized names of my grandparents. Or what their real last names even were.

I joke, which is what I do best when I'm sad, that I'm a blue-eyed Russian Jew with a German last name who was born on the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception.

That may come across as funny, but it's deadly serious. Like the fictional "Man Without a Country," there are a lot of us walking about whose lineage is as serpentine as the whorls of a lysergic fingerprint.

If you're an amateur historian like I am, you realize that the history of the world has been for tens of thousands of years--if not hundreds of thousands--a history of cruelty. Slaughter. Slavery. Rape. Starvation. Timesheets.

No one gets off this rock unscathed. And though I believe as Dr. King said that the "moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice," that's small consolation to those immediately suffering, in fact or through proximity, sensitivity or awareness, our species' current miasma of inhumanity.

I know this is a mean way to write a Friday post.

But it's a reminder.

Be aggressively kind. Don't let up.

Someone needs you.


Thursday, January 27, 2022

Langston, Youse.

When I was just a boy, an early teenager, my best friend and  my favorite teacher of all time turned me onto the African-American poet, sage, observer and chronicler Langston Hughes.

I'm not sure if Hughes is read today. If he just appears on a stamp or a processed online homily and we give him no further thought. But, in my eyes, he was one of the great American thinkers and writers of the Twentieth Century. And for flat-out plain-spoken wisdom that's relevant even today, 70 years post-writing, you could do worse than look up a few of Hughes' "Jesse B. Semple" stories. Order this slim book now. If you hate it, donate it to a public library. They could use it.

While I love Hughes' Semple stories (and there are literally hundreds of them collected in probably half-a-dozen volumes) the power of his poetry is what really gets me. Especially his "ditties," which are probably ignored by the scholarly set because they're so perfect they seem slight.

For instance, a poem called "Impasse."

                            I could tell you
                            If I wanted to,
                            What makes me
                            What I am.

                            But I don't
                            Really want to –
                            And you don't
                            Give a damn.

Frankly, and with all due respect to the agency-world's bot-led HR departments, that's better career advice that you're likely to get anywhere else. Try to leave meetings ten minutes early in order to keep yourself from telling people to fuck off.

But the Hughes poem that I keep etched in most frontal sections of my diminishing lobes is a poem called "Motto." It's a reminder, for me, to take a breath and to not over-respond when something doesn't seem to be going your way. It's not all about you, after all.

I play it cool
And dig all jive.
That's the reason
I stay alive.

My motto,
as I live and learn
Dig And Be Dug
In Return.

Sometimes, as a sole proprietor and a soul proprietor, I get nervous. I put my heart into my work and I work at speed. People, being people, don't always get back to me as I wish they would. Or they get back to me in a way I wish they wouldn't.

It's easy to have life knock you off your rails. 

It's easy to worry.

It's easy to feel that the mighty forces of the world are arrayed against you.

It's easy, in other words, to feel like the end is nigh.

It's easy to be a nut, with a capital filbert.

That's when I start fretting. And perseverating. And driving the people around me crazier than I ordinarily do.

When I'm smart about things, I calm myself down with "Motto." 

I start by trying to "dig all jive." That is the reason I stay alive.

Anyway, that's my motto and I'm sticking with it.


BTW, because I'm a decent guy, I'm pasting here a Simple story, from "Simple's Uncle Sam." These little pieces originally ran in the African-American newspaper, The Chicago Defender. They're 70 years old. They haven't aged.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Remembrance of Schwings Past.

Back in the early to mid-90s, I worked for the agency that had been named the 1980's "Agency of the Decade." They had won that moniker on the strength of their work for Federal Express, MCI, Saab, Dunkin' Donuts and various other esteemed underdog brands. 

By the time I got there, the dynamics of the agency business had already rendered them a dinosaur. Agency consolidation was in full fury and the holding companies were eating up agencies and vomiting out ex-employees like a cobra with bulimia.

Whereas the best agencies 30 years ago had about 300 people: Ally, Ammirati, Scali, Levine, Chiat, Riney--today those agencies have all either gone (bloated) belly-up or have been merged into some other form.

I rose very quickly at Ally. I came in as a copywriter in 1990 and by 1993, I was a Senior Vice President and Creative Group Head. My ascent was due to my ability to wrap my head around "grown-up" accounts, like banks. To take the otherwise boring topics and do good work for them. And a lot of it.

The account I worked on billed about $30 million and paid full-commission. That meant the agency netted about $4 million on the business. 

That $4 million was managed by a total of four creative people and four account people. We had a piece or two of a media person, a piece or two of production people and a piece or two of what we then called traffic. It was a small cohort of people who conceived, sold and produced maybe two ads a week.

In the five years I worked on the account, I can't recall any ridiculously late nights or losses of temper. People would come in in the morning, work hard all day and do the job that needed doing. There were hardly any moments where sweaty account people parked outside my office door and stammered, "Is th th th cop cop copy done yet?"

No, we just did it.

Over the past few weeks, tiny three-person GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company, is doing a major amount of work for a fast-growing company based in Los Angeles. They've asked for five campaigns, which is 40 percent more than agencies usually deliver. That's ok. We calibrated our fee accordingly.

My account person is based in Mill Valley, California. My art director is based in London. For much of that time, I had my feet in the cerulean seas of Turks and Caicos. 

The GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company team, in other words, was spread across about ten time zones and I was nominally on vacation. However, every Monday and Friday we would check in on progress over Zoom. We would share ideas over email almost daily. The work moved along like the Olympic torch. We made steady inexorable progress.

When I got back to my small seaside cottage in Connecticut we had developed eight campaigns. Now came the hard work of NOT over-delivering, of making sure everything was on-brief, fun and buttoned up. That took independent thinking, teamwork and a check-in just about every other day. We're having one today, as I type this, and it's Sunday.

My point today is simple. Stupid, almost.

The advertising business is not, fundamentally, a complicated one. 

If you owned a date shop in ancient Sumer 4000 years ago and had grown too many dates, you'd put a sign in front of your store: "Buy 1 cubit, get 1 cubit free."

How it was.

How it's going.

Today in the modern holding company industry, efficiency is achieved by monitoring, allocating, measuring and counting, and again, even when there seems to be very little to monitor, allocate, measure and account for. It's the up-to-date version I suppose of that ancient Latin question, "who will guard the guards?" There are legions of people watching over every dime with no one watching the millions being pilfered by the pilfer-class on lifelong salaries, seven-or-eight figure bonuses, private jets and yachts that have run aground at Cannes, but instead of taking on water, they're taking on Dom.

100 years ago when I played ball for the Mexican League Hall-of-Fame player and manager Hector Quetzacoatl Padilla (Hector Quesadilla) ornate strategies and statistical analysis were just starting to infiltrate the little benighted league south of the artificial border imperialist American slave-holders conceived. 

I asked Hector about it one day. 

"You know what my strategy is, Jorge?" he asked me. "When you're at-bat, hit a double. Opposite field if possible."

As usual, Hector had it right.

We can sing odes to "borderless creativity—operating, innovating, and creating at the intersection of talent and capabilities" and "networks that provide today's marketers with best-in-class strategic and creative services that help their brands play a meaningful role in people’s lives and build their businesses."

But most times, you're better off just trying to smite the ol' horsehide off the wall for a two-bagger, chugging into second base standing up.

There's a strategy: hire talent. Work your ass off.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022


About five decades ago before he self-destructed and bet on baseball games then lied about it, I read a quotation by the great baseball player, Pete Rose.

For about twenty years Rose was my favorite baseball player. As a player myself, I tried to model myself after him. 

Rose didn't have the most talent or the best skills. He wasn't a natural. What he had were two things I've tried my best to emulate.

1. TWTW. That is, The Will to Win. 

2. TWTW. That is, The Will to Work.

Those two characteristics were expressed in a quotation. Rose said, "I'd run through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball."

I like that.

And that's the way I feel about doing my job the right way. (And the right way is doing good work that makes a material difference for the businesses I serve. And the viewers I am speaking to.)

I'd run the hell in a gasoline suit to do the right things for my clients and their business.

Since the beginning of January, GeorgeCo., LLC., a Delaware Company, has been hard at work on any number of assignments. Many of those are individual efforts. Just me and a CEO or a CMO trying to hammer something home. To figure out what they're about and why they exist. Or the gnarly job of delineating what makes a particular offering different.

I did a lot of work like that when I was still at Ogilvy. It's a high-order of value. Though very low of the "cool assignment" meter. 

There's a lot of sweat involved and writing and writing and writing. Then taking a walk around the block eleven times and finding a way to articulate why I did what I did.

The best assignments, however, are the ones that aren't solo flights.

On one of them I'm working with a long-time account person, Hilary and my long-long-time partner, Sid. The three of us had a big assignment for a big brand due on Monday, January 24th.

Sid's in London. I'm in New York. And Hilary is in San Francisco. And for much of that time I was three sheets to the wind in Turks and Caicos.

And the work was due the Monday after the Monday I returned from the Caribbean.

It's a funny thing how life goes, or how life can go. Many times the best things that ever happen to you are the things you'd never prepare for, yet they happen all the same.

I was relatively unprepared for being fired and never ever had any intention of starting my own agency. The last thing I want in my life is to worry about renting an office and leasing a color copier, or whatever it is you have to do to be considered a small business. (Other than turning 50 percent of your revenue over to the Feds and the State.) 

But here I am.

And frankly, the best part of my career is taking place now that I no longer have a career. 

First off, clients are calling me. Not vice versa. 

Second, they don't come to me with KPIs and such. They come to me with ontological questions like "who are we? What do we stand for." 

Third, I don't work with people I don't like. And I don't have a stratum of people whose job it is is to make sure I'm doing my job. Like I said, I work with grownups who are generally self-motivated. And who get well-paid because they're self-motivared.

Fourth, I'm not dealing with 21 levels of clients and their spouses. I usually deal with two or three people, including the CMO and the CEO.

Fifth, these clients have come to me because they like my particular oddities. I don't have to put a lid on my personality because a joke is going to thrust someone's nose out of joint.

Finally, a podcaster just sent me a question. It lead me to yet another list. That's how I'll end today's post, listing--as usual. 

15. What's your favourite project of all time?

I love all my projects. My personal belief is that true creative people have two things in common. 1. We like solving problems. That's why so many of us play Wordle or do the crossword. An advertising brief is a problem to solve. And 2., good creative people are generous. With their ideas, their brains, their references and imaginations. Good projects allow both problem-solving and generosity. 

The third part is when you work with people you love. The fourth is when you work for clients who appreciate what you do.

That's about all there is to it.


Monday, January 24, 2022

History. Mine and the Greeks.

Like Herodotus' messengers of yore, my wife and I are prodigious walkers. We're out every morning, whether we face the 85-degree temperatures of Turks and Caicos or the 15-degree temperatures (with Shakespearean winds) along the Gingham Coast of Connecticut, we don't miss a day.

Herodotus wrote: Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. 

For something roughly 2500 years old, that's pretty good. I can't imagine even trying to improve upon it--the current state of humanity's literacy be damned.

In any event, my wife and I were out walking one blustery morning. The sea just yards away from us doing its best North Atlantic imitation--it screamed cold and death. 

With my usual blithe spirit, I asked my well-read wife if she's ever heard of the Siberian Dilemma

She hadn't.

I mumbled something like this, with my usual Mr. Peabody authority: "Kurt Campbell in the New York Times tells of fishermen of northernmost Russia who go out onto the frozen lakes of Siberia in temperatures at times approaching 60 degrees below zero centigrade to fill their catch. 

"They know from experience that the biggest fish congregate at the center of lakes where the ice is the thinnest. They slowly make their way out across the ice listening carefully for the telltale signs of cracking. 

"If a fisherman is unlucky enough to fall through the ice into the freezing water, he is confronted immediately with what is known as the Siberian dilemma. If he pulls himself out of the water onto the ice, his body will freeze immediately in the atmosphere and the fisherman will die of shock. If, however, he chooses to take his chances in the water, the fisherman will inevitably perish of hypothermia. Such is the stark choice presented by the Siberian dilemma."

These days, as the general collapse of civilization seems to gather momentum, I get about three calls a week, two from ad friends, one from regular humans, wondering what to do.

"If I stay at big agency, my life and career seem over. I'm working longer and longer hours. The work is less and less satisfying. My salary is going in the wrong direction. There's no mentorship and each year I get closer to..."

"What happened to me. Tossed out like a browned apple core."

"You said it," I say and we laugh.

"George," they rap on my forehead, "should I stay or should I go? Should I go freelance? Or stay where it's safe."

Well, who the fuck am I to say?

I wasn't born an entrepreneur. I'd hate chasing people for the $62,000 they owe me for the $120,000 of work I did. I hate worrying about where my next assignment will come from. I hate the logistics of W9s and paying the people who help me. 

In fact, I hate everything about the advertising business except the business of creating ads. Of getting proper input and sitting down and writing up ideas and bringing them to appreciative clients.

So we face a Siberian Dilemma.

Do we squash ourselves and stay in our near-frozen lake, or do we hoist ourselves from sure death to the surface and hope to find our own impossible way home?

It's been two-years-and-eight-days since Ogilvy fired me at 4:30 in the afternoon, nearly eight hours after they fired four other ECDs. I suppose they wanted to keep me, but found out they still hadn't hit their WPP-mandated "fat old creative white man" number. So, zing went the strings of my heart.

In those big 738 days since my spiritual tablecloth was pulled out from my place setting, I've become a better advertising person and a better person period.

The agency talent-tamping is no more. The squeamish staying in your place and buttoning-your-lip is no more. Marx (not Groucho) was right.

We workers have nothing to lose but our chains.

Life is uncertainty.

Of not knowing what comes next.

But now, back to the ancient Greeks.

Think of clever Odysseus. From the land of the Lotus eaters, to capture by Polyphemus to Scylla and Charybdis, to Circe and Sirens to more. 

All those obstacles are a metaphor, folks.

Every journey, every decision involves a Siberian Dilemma of sorts.

Everywhere we go we make choices.

Do we stay or do we go?

The trick is not letting yourself freeze.


Friday, January 21, 2022

The limits of limits.

If you think about how things are made in the modern world and how that differs from an older world, you'll quickly notice that many many humans have been "de-skilled."

There was a time--say 150 years ago or so--that if you built something or cooked something or farmed something, you did a little bit of everything. 

A farmer would basically run his entire farm. An engineer would build an entire engine. Even a lowly writer would likely work with a printer to get whatever was being written typeset. In baseball, too, most players were generalists. 

They didn't just bat against lefties. Or just field one position. Or only pitch to one catcher. They could do a little bit of everything.
That made them more valuable and extended their careers.

As our economy became more sophisticated and Fordism and Taylorism came into fashion, most jobs were broken down into component pieces. 

Nobody made an entire engine anymore. The engine-making task was broken down into hundreds of operations and each worker would do one. You might spend your life, literally, tightening five bolts 500 times a day. (My guess is that the scene above from Chaplin's Modern Times will feel strangely familiar.)

This sort of specialization delivered a lot of power to management and took a lot of power from workers. Very few people can build an engine. But virtually everyone can tighten five bolts 500 times a day.

All at once, the worker became a replaceable part. Anyone can do it.

The same has happened, sadly, in advertising.

Individual jobs, scope and responsibility have shrunk. People call themselves "digital" writers, or "content" writers. Or "story" people. Or "systems" people. Or TV people. Or whatevs.

The thing we're supposed to be is large, not small. Multi-faceted, not limited.

To serve clients and serve your craft and serve your career, you should be capable of thinking of 92 ideas on how to solve a problem. No, literally 92. In 12 different channels.

I recently eavesdropped on an eminent friend's LinkedIn conversation. He's an old guy like me but way more accomplished and famous. And I caught my friend talking about things that by rights he should know nothing about--like UI and motion graphics.

He's not doing the one thing he was trained to do so many years ago. He's not staying in his swim lane. He's looking at the world and figuring out how to do it better.

I think that there is the key.

Looking at the entire picture of what motivates someone to buy or what makes your product interesting or what might bring a viewer a bit of comfort or information.

Not asking anyone if it's "in scope."

Not worrying about toe-stepping.

Not being an asshole, but

doing it.

I think that's how we bring dignity and dimension back to a career, a life and an industry that seems bent on making us piece workers.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Nobody Asked Me But....2022 Edition.

Jimmy Cannon, the great New York sportswriter wrote five columns a week, or six. A prodigious output when he was working--an unbelievable output today, when a columnist might write three days a week at most.

When Cannon could find nothing to write about--speechlessness happens, even to New Yorkers--he would write a miscellany called "Nobody Asked Me But." I'm in similar circumstances today--I have no ideas. So once again, I am stealing from a master.

Nobody Asked Me But...

...There's no more meaningless adjective in the world today than "award-winning." When I see an agency call itself "an award-winning agency," my auto-rewrite function responds with 
"an unoriginal agency."

...I can hardly think of anything more asinine than Oscar Meyer and its bologna facemasks.

...Unless it's Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and its ass-eating social department.

...I'd love one person to show me what NFTs are and why I should be interested.

...I'd ask them if they've ever heard of the "greater fool" theory.

...Ditto with the metaverse. I have no idea what it is or why I'd want it or how it would help me.

...I know I'm old and cynical, but to my eyes a GIF is basically taking something that isn't funny and repeating it until it is funny.

...Boring companies run boring ads.

...Judging by the ads I see, most companies are boring.

...And agencies might be the boring-est.

...In ads, everyone is smiling and fit. 
In America, everyone is depressed and fat. 
Somehow this makes sense to our industry.

...Rule of thumb: people shouldn't say things in commercials that they wouldn't say in real life. No, what's in your wallet?

...I'm against capital punishment, except for when I'm in an airport and I'm asked how my "restroom experience" was.

...It never hurts to do one more re-write.

...Except when it does.

...I don't care what it says on your t-shirt, mug or the sign you're holding. 

...I don't trust anyone who brags about being humble. That's like dunking a basketball to say you can't jump.

...One of my favorite movie scenes ever. David Lean and Great Expectations.

...And another, John Ford directs Victor McLaglen in "The Informer."

...If you're looking for a book to read before baseball season starts, you'll probably enjoy Joe Posnanski's "The Baseball 100." It's the first baseball history I've read that gives a decent amount of attention to what were once called "The Negro Leagues" and the stars who played in those leagues.

...There should be more outrage.

...It doesn't matter about what.

...There just should be.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

A few questions that could make a difference.

A short course in how I do what I do.
(What I do, btw, is not art direction. So take it easy on me.) 

P.S. I stole and adapted this from my friend Neil Raphan. Steal away, but give credit where it's due.








Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Sowing in the Corner of our Fields.

If you were a farmer in the middle-east 6,000 years or so ago, you probably abided by some wisdom that made its way into the Torah--what some people call "the Jewish Bible," when the Bible is in fact the "Christian Torah." In Leviticus, Jews were advised "not to sow in the corner of their fields." 

In other words, don't maximize every bit of profit. Grow for your family, grow for next year, grow for the poor, but respect the land and let some of it rest every season. Don't try to get blood from a stone.

The same wisdom made its way to the Greek worlds. A small portion of a farmer's land was left for Demeter and Persephone--a tribute to those deities for the abundance they provided.

The Anglicized translation from Leviticus goes like this:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the corner of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger..." 

Today, of course, the heretical teaching of a trillion MBAs says we must always maximize our profit--the gods, the poor, the future be damned. As Terry Malloy said to Edie Dugan in "On the Waterfront," "You wanna know my philosophy? Do it to them before they do it to you."

That seems to be current course and speed for the workings of today's economies around the world. Strip mine the future and hope somehow the mess gets cleaned up--probably by near-rich assholes like me who pay 65 percent of their income in taxes because the true one-percenters no longer pay their share of tax if they pay any at all--so the burden falls heavily on people like me--we make money but not enough to money to make laws.

As I write this, on Sunday before Martin Luther King Day, I am preparing for an onslaught of falsehoods from various people and brands. My social feeds will be teeming with tributes to Dr. King. Ostensibly these marketers are trying to convince me that they give a damn about King and what he stood for.

They'll say nothing on whether or not they in actuality propagate hate because they advertise on Hate TV (Fox, OAN, Sinclair) or Hate Radio or, in general, the thousands of Hate media outlets. They'll "virtue up," with some quotation from King or a stock photo they likely didn't pay for. Maybe they'll claim to donate some sum to some fund--probably one-quarter of one-half of one-percent of their untaxed profits.

Then, they'll continue to show respect for King and what he represented by attacking my inboxes with their faux-corporate solemnity while they're beckoning to me with their "I Have A Dream" Mattress Sale, or their "Go To the Mountaintop" Vacation Plans.

The point isn't just Martin Luther King Day, of course. It's every day and every pixel turned over to exhortations to buy buy buy. It's the sullying of all solemnity and tradition and patriotism and even, if you believe, religion with the maximization of TMR--Targeted Money Removal.

We've become a giant casino. WIth trillion-dollar brands feeling no shame or sense of propriety about thrusting ten hands or a hundred into your pockets and removing everything they can grab. And taking your "data'd" self and stealing it from you for no compensation and then selling it for as long and as often as they can.

In days of yore, meat processors used to boast that they sold "every part of the hog but the squeal." Today, we sell every part of everybody, over and over because data (that's all we are to marketers) can be sold innumerable times.

All the bs in our industry about doing good, about caring for the world, about purpose and meaning, never looks backward to the wisdom of our predecessors on our dying planet.

We keep sowing in the corners of our fields. Then we call ourselves moral creatures. And we'll keep doing it.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Martin memories. (A repost.)

I, probably like most of white America, had never heard of Martin Luther King until the day he was shot.

It was a Thursday and my parents had gone out for the evening. My brother Fred was 12, I was ten, and my sister Nancy was just eight. 

I remember it was Thursday because that was the night the TV show Dragnet was on. It was on from nine to nine-thirty and my brother Fred and I had secured permission to stay up past our bedtime to watch the show.

When we turned on the set, when it finally warmed up, instead of "This is the city, Los Angeles, California," we saw a somber announcer telling us that Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

Even though we were pre-teens, assassination was old news to us. You immediately had something to compare it to--JFK's. As a Borscht Belt comedian might say, "Now THAT was an assassination."

My brother and I were annoyed. 

How dare they pre-empt Dragnet for just another assassination. 

Of course we were white and our parents were well-off. 

We didn't know who Dr. King was. 

I was only five when he was speaking about "being to the mountain top."

So King's death didn't hit me like a bullet from some mercenary's high-powered rifle.

Over the years, I've read and learned. As much as any man can, I think. I would recommend the book I'm currently reading to anyone who gives a shit. Here's the Times review.

Our country was founded on hate and subjugation. On cruelty, violence and caste. As Malcolm X said, right now, today "the chickens will come home to roost."

What's happening in America now is nothing new. The haters, so afraid of the race they enslaved, kept that race out. No schools for you. No pools. No restaurants, hotels or even a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. No votes, or rights, or opportunity.

They blew up churches. They killed little girls in white dresses. They blinded teenagers with acid and castrated them and shot them in the face and tied them to a large industrial piece of steel and threw their bodies into rivers. 

They bound them and gagged them and hung them from tree limbs like a strange fruit. Then they tore their bodies apart, burned them and sold the relics. They printed post-cards and wrote to friends. The whole town turned out, even the little ones, it was the social event of the season.

Then, on occasion, they convened their all-white juries and said "it never happened." Then they laughed the laugh of hauteur and hubris. Then they probably prayed in church and kissed their loved ones and went to bed with the sense of righteousness on their side.

Not many people, I think, will think of Dr. King today. Not as the American ship is being torn-apart by hatred and violence. They'll watch football or go to Raymour and Flanagan or the Toyota dealer because some jackass determined that what are meant to be sober and solemn days of reflection are better off being parts of a three-day-sale-a-bration.

But that's America now.

I think of King today.

I think of an ignorant ten-year-old annoyed.

I think of the hate.

We could all use a little thinking. And a little less hating.