Friday, June 27, 2008

for the dad who has, um, everything

Thanks, Malled, for pointing me to a purveyor I would surely never have found on my own

Too late for this year's Father's Day, but hey, you might want to bookmark the site for next year. Unless you live in Glasgow or Edinburgh where Father's Day is now banned. Reportedly, the new policy was put in place in deference to the growing number of single-parent and same-sex households. But isn't this penalizing kids with involved dads?

According to the Telegraph :
Father’s Day cards banned in Scottish schools

Thousands of primary pupils were prevented from making Father’s Day cards at school for fear of embarrassing classmates who live with single mothers and lesbians.

The politically correct policy was quietly adopted at schools “in the interests of sensitivity” over the growing number of lone-parent and same-sex households.

It only emerged after a large number of fathers failed to receive their traditional cards and handmade gifts.

Family rights campaigners last night condemned the policy as “absurd” and argued that it is marginalising fathers, but local authorities said teachers need to react to “the changing pattern of family life”.

An Office for National Statistics report in April found that one in four British children now lives with a lone parent — double the figure 20 years ago.

The Father’s Day card ban has been introduced by schools in Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Renfrewshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Clackmannanshire.
Scottish mums can rest easy--Mother's Day still passes the PC test. 

Thanks to DKR,  involved dad who lucky for him lives this side of the pond.

coming clean

After all this pondering the morality of the business we work in, I've decided to give back today by posting how to replace brand name cleaning products with recipes from eco-warriors who never have to wonder if they're doing the right thing. Yep, this should make up for all my years as an ad broad.


½ c baking soda
½ c vinegar

Directions: Pour baking soda into drain, followed by vinegar. Let stand 30 minutes, flush with boiling water.


¼ c olive oil
¼ cup vinegar

Apply to furniture, rub off.


2 cups baking soda
½ cup Castile soap
4 tsp vegetable glycerin

Store in sealed jar, lasts 2 years.

More eco-clean recipes at Women's Voices for the Earth

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

on doing the right thing

Auntie Christ has some interesting thoughts on making a contribution whilst pursuing our admittedly less-than-august profession.

We all need to earn our way, and making money has let me contribute to places like the Red Cross when natural disasters strike. That's probably one of the only ways our careers actually matter -- barring owning a million dollar apartment, we can afford to help others around the planet when the need is there. I'm not thumping a Bible here, just saying we can look beyond our own insulated selves and give a leg up to the people who go into debt buying the junk we help sell.

I've been asked how I can, in good conscience, work in advertising. (I've also been asked how I can raise kids in Manhattan--why is that question considered OK in polite company but it would be rude for me to ask someone how they can raise kids in Des Moines?)

Do we owe the world for applying our creative skills to pushing product rather than a greater good? Um, I think not. Say you ignored your need for the obvious motivator for most people in the business--$$, that handy thing that you can turn into food and housing and your kids' education--say you followed your heart and went to work for a nonprofit at a fraction what you earn now. It's no guarantee you'd leave the world a better place. Plenty of nonprofits, in my experience, exhibit just as much turf-warring and petty politics as offices in global conglomerates--only the turf they're fighting for is a lot smaller. 

I think our moral responsibility (should you decide to take on that mission) has more to do with having a conscience in our day to day work. Remembering that the spot or ad or site we're working on will be seen by hundreds or thousands or millions who will (god help them) take their cues for what is desirable, what to aspire to--and making choices in casting, copy, visuals (to the extent we have a choice) that reflect our own views on how the world should be.

Joker points out that he's "a hell of a lot prouder of what I've written in my blog and commented on fellow blogs than most of what I've done in my career." Unfortunately, unless you are as lucky as Copyranter, blogging isn't yet a paying gig. Until then, I'll be dialing for ad dollars and the world can thank me for not pursuing an even more morally reprehensible career. Say, politics.

Monday, June 23, 2008

when graphic design is more graphic than the client intended

Logo design is for professionals--don't try it at home.

Another treasure from the troves of GardenBroad.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

and, greetings from nuclear winter

Until now, the strangest thing I've seen in a snowglobe was a producer who spent 3 days in an inflatable one last December as a PR stunt for his agency, McKinney in Durham, NC. (Must have been some Christmas bonus they promised.) But though large as life, that sight was benign compared to these haunting miniatures, part of Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz's eerie Traveler series, available in limited edition snowglobes and C prints.

via Boing Boing

greetings from summer, upstate new york

Friday, June 20, 2008

wanted: copywriter in uniform

I'm doubled over laughing at Copyranter's Craigslist ad of the week:
A dynamic, entrepreneurial for-profit college in Northwest DC is looking for an experienced copy writer.

The twist: while you are writing copy you will also fill the role of security guard, working 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. We will buy your uniform. You won’t carry a gun. Applicants must be able to pass a drug screen as well as a criminal background check. The security guard spends most of the shift seated at the reception desk, and there will be very minimal security duties. Practically the entire shift you will be able to focus on writing copy – you’ll just happen to be wearing a uniform.
The pay: a whopping $18/hour. Interested? Click here. On second thought--if you're interested, click here.

it's take your dog to work day

Who knew? June 20 is Take Your Dog to Work Day, according to sponsor Pet Sitters International who estimates that 10,000 companies opened their doors to employees' dogs last year. The event is to "let employees demonstrate the value of their four-legged friends, and encourage those without pets to adopt from shelters, rescue groups and humane societies."

But if you're canine-phobic like I am, (terribly un-PC, I know) you'll be glad your fellow cube dwellers forgot.

(Thanks, Amy, for throwing me this lovely bone.)

on making a contribution

I've been thinking about El Joker's kind response to a post about the comparative social worth of our line of work versus that of, say, doctors.
On one part it's frustrating to not make a difference in the world and on the other, well at least I'm not being depended on to save a limb.
And what I'm thinking is: we DO make a difference, though it's easy to forget in the melee of dealing with deadlines and crazy clients. For better or worse we are the world's Culture Mongers, dispensing values and ways of life to aspire to, impacting boggling numbers of people around the globe, even in places where our campaign isn't running. (Like in rural China where Wilson tennis racket cases are coveted shoulder bags.)

Sure, one measly coupon insert or banner ad won't change the world, but we shouldn't forget that what we produce in the aggregate has a huge subliminal (and liminal) impact. Which is why stuff like Dove's Real Beauty campaign and Italian Vogue featuring non-white faces wields power beyond what research charts show, the power to (slowly but surely) right a wrong situation.

Of course, most of us don't get the opportunity to disseminate our own admirable values in a broadscale campaign that's ostensibly to push product. But we can make a difference, I believe, in seemingly small choices regarding casting or artwork or word choice in copy.

Now back to our regularly scheduled soapbox.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

international checkout queens, 1965

Starring in vintage industrial from The Super Market Institute in conjunction with that famous producer of blockbusters-- Reader's Digest! Featuring push button cash registers! Giant Hair! Clerks who speak English! Bag boys in ties!  And debut of artist making comeback at a Whole Foods near you: The Bamboo-Handled Plaid Shopping Bag.

as seen on Malls of America

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

for temporary relief of stress caused by onset of day in advertising

You'll think I am obsessed by blogs written by doctors, and maybe I am. In our business, if you have a bad day, an ad dies. But what docs have on the line is an actual person. I have to admire the cojones it takes to assume a job with that kind of responsibility.

Just as people make false assumptions about our work ("it's so creative"), I tend to imbue doctors with the unceasing reverence for the human body, the awe I imagine I'd feel in their shoes, if charged with reviving people instead of brand images. But docs who blog have disavowed me of this-- of course they joke on the job like everyone else does, albeit usually to other docs, not to their distressed patients. Their (sometimes sophomoric) humor in the face of medical emergency has the tonic effect of making my bad day seem a bit less horrific.

Like this post about a woman who came in with her arm rotated all the way around at the elbow which will make you feel better about whatever twisted brief you're working on today. (For xrays and complete writeup, see ER Stories.)

Here was a disturbing case we saw today. A middle aged lady made a diving save on the tennis court to make her point but fell hard on her elbow. Her arm was COMPLETELY twisted around at the elbow 180 degrees. It looked like is should have belonged to Plastic Man! YEOWCH!!! Luckily she had a good pulse and good range of motion of her hand.

She was amazingly in not that much pain considering how awful her arm looked. However the fracture was open (ie compound) and was going to need to go to the OR soon. Of course the ortho guy was over an hour away so we had to try to reduce it a bit. It took a BIG haematoma block (injecting lidocaine directly into the fracture) and a twisting of the arm that made sounds disturbing enough to make the strongest stomach turn. Good thing we rotated it back the normal way and not around accidentally for another twist! LOL

Monday, June 16, 2008

RIP Tony Schwartz, best ad hack in political history

from The New York Times
Tony Schwartz, a self-taught, sought-after and highly reclusive media consultant who helped create what is generally considered to be the most famous political ad to appear on television, died Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 84.

Of the thousands of television and radio advertisements on which Mr. Schwartz worked, none is as well known, or as controversial, as one that was broadcast exactly once: the so-called “daisy ad,” made for Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidential campaign in 1964.

Produced by the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach in collaboration with Mr. Schwartz, the minute-long spot was broadcast on Sept. 7, 1964, during NBC’s “Monday Night at the Movies.” It showed a little girl in a meadow (in reality a Manhattan park), counting aloud as she plucks the petals from a daisy. Her voice dissolves into a man’s voice counting downward, followed by the image of an atomic blast. President Johnson’s voice is heard on the soundtrack.

happy bloomsday

It's Bloomsday, observed all over the English-reading world to celebrate the life of James Augustine Aloysius Joyce and his novel Ulysses, written about an ordinary day in Dublin on June 16, 1904. (Name comes from protagonist: Leopold Bloom.)

Joyce picked the day to commemorate his first date with his girlfriend in which they, in keeping with wholesome courting practices of the era, walked to the Dublin village of Ringsend. (Send ring, indeed-- Nora soon became his wife.)

By chronicling a character going about his everyday business, Joyce wrote a book in which nothing or everything happens, depending on your point of view. It was originally serialized in a magazine out of Chicago, then published as a book (cover pictured) in Paris a few years later. When the published book was imported by boat to the US, the shipment was seized and declared obscene by New York Society for the Suppression of Vice because it contains a scene in which the main character masturbates. The ban was reversed years later by a forward-thinking Judge who declared it not pornographic, but emetic (adj: causing a person to vomit.)

I thought this was the perfect day to try out a new site Adverblog kindly pointed me to--Read At Work, which disguises books as every day office computer documents. But, alas, Joyce isn't yet  on their shelves. You're in luck, however, if you want to read Orwell or Tolstoy while appearing to pore over Powerpoint docs.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

how my dad taught me to survive in the business

When I was eight, my father taught me how to keep from drowning.

One evening after work on a hot summer day, he came home to the suburbs, changed out of his heavy suit and damp shirt, and took me and my sister to the neighborhood swim club where he instructed us in something he'd learned in college, called drown proofing.

It's a simple water survival technique that a small child can learn, even one who doesn’t know how to swim. I have no idea why it isn't required learning for kids. It can keep you afloat without a lifesaver for hours, even days. Here's how to do it:

1. Take a deep breath. Relax your body. Pretend you are lying over a barrel, face down in the water, arms out in front of you.

2. Breathe out slowly under water.

3. To breathe in again, pull your arms down and lift your head until your lips just clear the water. Submerge your head again, return to relaxation.

The technique works because of a quirk of physics. A totally submerged human body with a lungful of air is slightly lighter than the same volume of water. So it’s a natural way to stay afloat.

It took years for me to realize that in teaching it to me, my father was conveying other valuable life lessons, too:

1. I learned that I was not powerless. When faced with a problem, even a problem so overwhelming it got the better of most people⎯my efforts against it need not be in vain.

2. I discovered that getting worked up about a problem usually makes it worse. One reason drown proofing saves potential victims is by sparing them the panic and hysteria which causes many people to drown in minutes when they could survive for much longer.

3. I learned that sometimes in the face of crisis, the best thing to do is to stall for time. The longer you manage to stay afloat, the greater your chances of surviving until help is on the horizon.

4. I learned that my hide was worth saving. Perhaps this was the most valuable lesson of all. My continued existence was important enough to my father that he gave up what little leisure he had at the end of a day to teach me to survive in a world that wasn't always a safe place.

5. I learned that the world isn't always a safe place. My father didn't sugarcoat facts or sanitize fairy tales. He told me what to expect and helped prepare me to cope with the world as it was, not as he wished it would be.

Teach your kid drown proofing and it could save her life, as it has saved mine on many occasions, even when I have been far away from any body of water. Thanks, Dad.

is your name isaac?

Yea, there's craigslist, facebook, blogosphere…but hopeless romantics still social network via hard copy. Good luck, Jaseoasis. This post's for you.

Is your name Isaac? Did I meet you a few Fridays ago by the skatepark on Riverside? It was evening and closed and no one else was there. I was looking to build up my skate photography portfolio..and we talked about film and architecture? I really liked you and wonder why is it that in New York you can run into people you know all the time but not the ones you meet at momentary fleeting times you let slip away…



Friday, June 13, 2008

why daughter still hasn't called 12 hours after she landed-UPDATE

1. She's lost her passport and is in deportation
2. She was abducted during layover
3. She was rerouted to Australia and is still in the air
4. Her pickup never came, she's still at the airport
5. She's rendered mute by the smog in Beijing
6. She's been abducted by aliens.
7. She's forgotten our number.
8. She's been hit by pedicab.
9. She lost her phone.
10. She's dead.


sorry, busy in the nonvirtual world

Apologies for recent lack of posts. (Do hope you've noticed!) Teenaged daughter just left for two months in China. Tai jian, Babe. Travel safe, safe, safe.

and speaking of blasts from the past…

Auntie Christ excavated 1974 casting session for Mason Reese, complete with handwringing and Prince Valiant haircut. He's shilling for Dressel's cakes, but "I want a sandwich!" Bonus commentary from stage father.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

if you know what this is

you once wore metal roller skates with adjustable clamps that gripped the sides of your PF flyers. Of course, you needed a key to get them on and off. 

Who would have guessed that something so benign and ubiquitous years ago would come to be this strange and vaguely sinister looking object? (Thanks, Terri, for the memory.)

advergirl, on breaking glass

Advergirl listened to Hillary's speech this weekend and, like me, took heart in her un-PC acknowledgement of sexist barriers that aren't supposed to exist anymore:
HRC: Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it. And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.
Hillary's speech made me reach for a mollifying plate of wheatgrass, but happily it made Advergirl reach for her keyboard.

Here's a few excerpts from her clearheaded, without-rancor post which should be required reading for office dwellers of any gender persuasion. She diagnoses ways that men (most of whom don't mean any harm) create "boys clubs" which limit the daily success and career potential of their female peers--here's the short version:

Access: When everything from department structures to project plans are routinely being discussed in forums women don't have access to, it creates discrimination.

Stacking: It's common when talking about gender in an agency to mention what percentage of women work there - as in, women make up 45% of our staff. The trick is in asking - which 45%? Is the "About our leaders" section of an agency Web site populated with 15 guys all wearing the same suit? 

Communication: Men tend to put their hands up right away and shoot from the hip. Women tend to think about it for ~12 seconds. They think conceptually, consider lots of different angles, come to a conclusion. Cultures that communicate only by yelling, fighting and jocking for position ( a more masculine way of communicating) rewards one gender-specific style over another one.

 You miss out on a lot of great ideas and insights by steamrolling over your peers.

Entertainment. Apparently it still has to be said. Emailing pornography. Making lists of the hottest women in the office. Talking about your peer's breasts or ass or propensity for, well, you know. Yeah, that's all wrong. It creates attitudes of disrespect and otherness in cultures that by-and-large already have enough problems.

(Full diagnosis here, worth the click.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

copywriters can be suckers, too

A middle-aged woman with luminous skin sold me a plate of wheatgrass at a farmer's market today. I was seduced by her sales pitch. And, of course, her luminous skin.

It was a dinner plate of soil from which grass was growing. How do you eat it, I wanted to know. She pulled out a scissors and took some off the top. Snip, snip, snip, like she was cutting hair. She gave me a wad of grass that I chewed, like cud. At first it tasted bitter, then very sweet and left an aftertaste that was not unpleasant.

As I chewed, I read a laminated laser-printed sign elucidating the benefits of wheatgrass ingestion:
--improves the digestive system!
--prevents cancer, diabetes and heart disease!
--cures constipation!
--detoxitfys heavy metals from blood!
-- makes menopause manageable!

I'll take some, I said. It was $9 a plate. Which seemed a bit steep for a plate of grass. But her skin was luminous.

"Bring the dish back next week, would you?" the woman said sweetly, as if she were handing me a neighborly plate of homecooking instead of selling me soil-- $392,040 an acre.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

another reason why i heart nyc

Central Park. 843 acres. 26,000 trees. 58 miles of pedestrian trails. 0 cars on weekends.

from annals of anorexia

Demonstrated by diner at next table at museum cafe:
How to eat an apple:
1. Cut in half.
2. Halve into quarters.
3. Cut each quarter into quarters.
4. Now you have a full plate.
5. Eat each piece slowly, with knife and fork.

via someecards

Friday, June 6, 2008

youtube, youtell

I just heard that an acquaintance is breaking up with her husband, courtesy of Facebook which showcased her new "relationship status " with a broken-heart icon, just in case I was too dense to read.

Facebook, you stalker, gossipmonger, snoop, intruder, dispenser of unasked for personal details, too much information, more than I need to know about anyone. I do not care that X and Y are now friends. Or that Z added new photos. Or that G is attending a party I wasn't invited to and that S is no longer interested in Shopping.

I don't care, but I know companies do. Which is why YouTube is introducing a new service that gives uploaders free statistics, charts and maps about people who watch their videos. It's a lot like Facebook's weekly Insights reports-- in fact, Youtube didn't even bother to come up with a new name. Their new service is Insight. So next time you watch a Youtube video, know that your age, gender and geographic location are being transmitted to the video's uploader.

Which is probably why Facebook now greets me, age first.
Hello, XX Year Old Female. Enter your zip to get free samples of your favorite products!
And they're not talking tampons. Come to me, Botox Cream, Fibercil, Cellulite-Busters.

1 out of 10 doctors recommend against breastfeeding

Why make time to go to a doctor when without leaving your keyboard, you can get cantankerous advice from an actual physician on a range of medical topics:

The medical literature abounds with evidence of the beneficial effects of breastfeeding: maternal-infant bonding, enhanced response to immunizations and higher intelligence in breastfed infants, to name just a few. I don't dispute any of this, but I would like to point out an unintended consequence that I have not seen addressed previously.

Breastfeeding is too damn expensive.

Using my family as an N of 3, we observe that the first two children, each breastfed for about a week, ended up graduating from high school in the middle of the class and went on to in-state public colleges; a highly economical way to obtain a higher education. The third child on the other hand, breastfed for two years, wound up fourth in his high school class and now attends an outrageously expensive out-of-state private university, where expenses run five times higher than those of his siblings.

Clearly the effect of enhanced intelligence from prolonged breastfeeding led directly to these ridiculous tuition bills. Even if you banked all the money saved on formula via breastfeeding, there's no way to accumulate $40,000 per year; no baby eats that much!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

avartising wars

Quick! Click over to Creative Beef and get your WiA avatar and start playing the game that's the most fun you'll have in adland today. Duke it out with mortal enemies Account Executive, Art Director, Copywriter or Client. (Depending on your department affiliation.) Reigning champions so far are Jane Sample and Girl Riot who waged awesome battle (pictured). But wait! Where's Freelancer? ( Just Back from Vacation, Knows Everyone, Retro-Frame Bifocals, Always Working on Pitch) How can I play without her?

Monday, June 2, 2008

are fairy tales now NC-17?

I lunched with a friend today who reports that her 8 year old isn't allowed to read fairy tales at school. She adds that he's one of few in his class whose parents permit him to read them at home. Apparently grade school PTAs are rampant with vigilante censors of fantasy written by "un-PC" authors like Brothers Grimm. Approved versions of stories have been sanitized. Riding Hood gives her bread to Wolf, who after all is homeless and hungry. Rumpelstilskin learns to spin wool himself and celebrates being a Little Person.

Of course, we all want to do right by our kids, but by wite-outing darkness from tales that have appealed to generations of children, aren't we underestimating our kids, even undermining their ability to work out their fears. (Yes, Good Parents, every Child, no matter how Coddled, has fears.) When you were read Hansel and Gretel as a kid, you were probably glad when the witch went into the oven. And while the image might have been scary, it was reassuring to learn that children aren't powerless against wicked folks bigger than they are.

Allan Wolk (Toad) points out (in a tweet today) that "it's hard to find classic fairy tales- most preschooler stuff is branded: Dora, Princesses, Thomas, Diego, etc."

But I think we owe our kids fairy tales, and not just the branded, marzipan versions, for the sake of their imagination, their self-esteem...perhaps even the creative capacity of our future workforce.

Who was it who said, "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Oh, yeah. That Giant, Albert Einstein.