Thursday, July 27, 2017

Some thoughts from Papa.

I worked with a guy many years ago who was extremely talented. He worked at some of the best and some of the biggest agencies and almost never failed to do pretty good work.

By the time I knew him, he was high up at an agency. So high up that he stopped doing what made him good in the first place. 

He stopped putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, or nose to grindstone.

He once said to me, "I don't want to have to crack it any more."

I get a lot of Linked In requests and notes every day, every month. This is conjecture, and maybe a soupcon of egoism, but I think I get many of them because I'm pushing 60 and still doing the best work of my career--and plenty of it.

My guess is people think I have some sort of special sauce, some other-worldly good luck, or something I can help them get, too.

If I do, I'd have to say it's this: I don't want to give up cracking it. To me, it's where the pleasure (and the pleasurable pain) of the business resides.

I guess to reduce this to its most limbic, it's where the fear lives. The fear of failing. The fear of having lost it. The fear of putting yourself out there. The fear of younger, thinner models beating you out. The fear, in short, of being old.

My two cents is you have to face this fear--hit it head on with your best work, with your best self. Not some days. Every day.

Hemingway's Old Man said, "A man can be destroyed but not defeated."

I think the same might be true about careers. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A meeting of the minds.

On my way to work this morning, on a surpassingly beautiful summer's day, I ran into an old kvetchy friend of mine from days of yore.

We toiled together when the world was somewhat cooler and the business was somewhat kinder. But both of us being on the work-a-holic spectrum, neither had ever taken advantage of the bygone humanity of the business which, these days, has all but disappeared.

We bumped into each other on a noisy Manhattan street. This was at 7:15 and both of us were fairly rushing to our respective offices.

I spoke first.



We kissed while holding our work bags and our coffees.

"How are you?" I began.

"I'm well now," Diane said, "but last week I thought I had a cold. It turned out to be a sinus infection."

"They can really knock you out," I added, adding nothing.

"On Thursday and Friday, I thought I was dying," she said. "I stayed in bed all weekend taking antibiotics."

"And, of course, you were back at your desk on Monday. You should take two sick days just out of principle."

She gave me the look a young deer gives you after you shoot its mother.

"I've been doing this for 40 years," she said getting into a cab. "I don't think I've ever taken a sick day."

We kissed again goodbye.

"Me neither," I said. And I hustled into my ride share.

We streamed our separate ways down the avenue, waving goodbye through dirty glass.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sumer is.

Svmer is icumen in

Lhude sing cuccu
Groweþ sed
and bloweþ med
and springþ þe wde nu
Sing cuccu

Last night, by the time I had left the agglomeration of desks and wires and purportedly ergonomic chairs they call an office, the temperature had dropped precipitously.

When I arrived at work, the thermometer had been heading up toward 90 for the fifth straight day. But now it was in the low 60s, with a cool, wet wind blowing down 11th Avenue. As I was walking toward my ride-share, I saw an urban leaf—where it came from, I’ll never know, there are no trees on the far west side. The leaf was brown and desiccated; it was dressed already for Fall.

Rain fell while I was in my car. My driver was of the old school and refused to turn on his wipers, like wizened prisoners will sometimes refuse privileges while incarcerated, just to assert their independence, their right to say no.

The sun was peeking out from behind huge stratocumulus as I arrived in my sleepy neighborhood, and thanks to the rain, the streets looked clean, like asphalt straight out of LA. I saw a red Honda as I exited the Chevy Suburban, it was covered by a thick quilt of fallen leaves.

I walked to my apartment house—the car had dropped me 200 feet from my door—and I chastised myself for not having worn a light jacket. It was that cool out. Instead, I pulled my baseball cap down half-an-inch as if that would afford so protection, but no.

I thought of all the work we’ve done this summer. The commercials, the ads, the banners. I thought of all the late nights and endless rivers of powerpoint as long as the Ganges and just as dirty. I thought about all the beaches I haven’t visited, all the quiet walks along the East River I haven’t taken, all the ballgames I haven’t seen—not big games at tax-payer paid for stadiums only the rich can afford to attend, but Little League games in the park with eager kids playing for fun and young parents marveling at it all. I thought about all the soft-serve I haven’t eaten, and sweet corn with variegated yellow and while kernels. I thought about lemonade stands and earnest children selling a synthetic drink for a buck. I thought about lonely walks with Whiskey by my side, carrying her duck decoy in her soft mouth. I thought about all that disappearing and another summer, come and gone.

The doorman opened the door for me and said something innocuous about the cold. I guffawed back, as I do, with a big gregarious laugh.

“Yep,” I said, “summer’s slipping away.”

He walked me to the elevator, being friendly.

“Not so fast, Mr. Tannenbaum,” he said. “Not so fast.”

Monday, July 24, 2017

Uncle Slappy's intermittent Slap of the Week.

Sleeping in.

It doesn't happen very often, but it happened this morning.

Both my wife and I slept in.

We slept past the 5:30 alarm. 

Past the 6:00 reset.

Finally getting out of bed at 7.

We hustled around the apartment like an old-radio-show couple from the 1940s, like Fibber McGee and Molly, with things falling out of the closet, with coffee being sipped while teeth were being brushed, running out of the house while hopping on one foot while tying the shoe of the other.

I finally got to my desk just before nine--well before the office wakes up. Only now are people trickling in like cockroaches after the lights go out for the night.

Maybe it's the impending dog days of summer that have made me lethargic. Maybe it was being on-call for work and an incessant pelting of work emails all weekend long. Maybe it's the sump of humidity and the drumbeat of rain that have settled over New York. Or maybe on this crappy mid-summer's day, I'd just rather stay home and watch Andy Griffith and Leave it to Beaver on TV, assuming they play things like that nowadays, which I'm almost sure they don't.

But like Robert Frost wrote so many years ago, "I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep."

So I hustled into a black Chevy Suburban with a cracked front windshield and bounced through the cratered asphalt to the far west side.

To an empty office.

Maybe I'll sleep in again tomorrow.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Summer in the city.

Air made of hot clay has settled over New York and even the most over-achieving air conditioners are straining, tongues out, to mitigate the oppression.

I woke up at five this morning. I had some work that needed doing and was planning on being at my desk at six. The weatherman said it was 77-degrees already and going up another 20. New York is also under something called a clean air advisory--meaning the monoxide, dioxide, ozone, and cats' piss is so redolent, it's barely safe to do much out-of-doors. 

To quote Raymond Chandler, whom I almost always cite when it's hot like it is today: "On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."

My neck survived the morning. I walked over from Ninth Avenue, past the homeless and residual drunks drinking 20 oz. cans of Coors from sad paper bags, and made it to my desk 15 past six, and did the work that needed doing.

It gets like this in New York.

Keep cool.

And watch your neck.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

English as she is spoke.

My FFB (friend from blogging) Dave Trott just sent me the following link. Yet another slaughter of comprehension perpetrated by the Jargonocracy. You can read the article here.

Years ago when I was working at the world's most-awarded digital agency, I was daily confronted with a flood of bullshit, proclamations and obiter dicta. 

I'd be told things, or briefed, in a language only roughly resembling English, that I simply couldn't understand. For instance, I'd hear from someone or another that what was most important for brands was to "earn" Facebook likes.

Rather than accept such cockeyed notions, I'd do something that was regarded as heretical. 

I'd ask for proof.

I'd say, "give me one example of a brand built that way." Or I'd say "I'm 50 years old and make a lot of money, I've yet to click on a banner ad or social tile. Please show me proof they work."

That policy, of course, brings me back exactly where it should, to George Orwell, who said "in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

I think of these professional bullshit artists as the traveling snake oil salesmen of the early part of the 20th Century. By the time they're exposed as frauds, they've picked up stakes and moved onto other prey.

The jargonauts are very good.

Their proclamations are almost always one-step ahead of logic. 

All that is a long way of saying, it's time once again to reprint a small portion of George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." (It might have been called "Marketing and the English Language," but Orwell had bigger fish to fry than account executives.)

In any event, here goes.

It's worth pinning to your wall.

1.  Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2.  Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3.  If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4.  Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5.  Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6.  Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.