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.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Back at my desk.

Ah, yesterday I returned to the paper-cacophony I call my desk. The chaos, the noise, the friends, the stimulation, the alive-ness, the mess, I call my desk.

I landed at JFK--after a lifetime of reconstruction, a much improved JFK, at 11:30. Magically, I was in a cab and speeding for my desk by noon, making it to my desk by 1:15.

For all the Van Goghs I had seen in Amsterdam, For all the Steens and Rembrandts, for all the death I had tasted in Berlin, for all the sleep I had missed while walking a dozen miles a day over ancient European cobble, I had missed my desk.

As angry, depressed and disconsolate as work can sometimes visit us with, my desk--and my days--have meaning for me.

It is here I do my thinking. 

It is here I fuck up.

Here I fail.

And here, too, I have such successes that I have.

Even in the days when I was lavished with an office the size of the Ritz, my desk looked very much like my desk today looks. 

It's loaded with things I might need. Half scripts, briefing documents, the flotsam and jetsam of the life of a brand. It's ringed with small stones I have brought in from the beach. To remind me of the ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny of the waves. Or to throw at a wayward head, if I ever have the occasion.

I have notes to myself. Writing puzzles I try to, like an advanced mathematician, unravel. And of course, this being the digital age, myriad wires and cables that, despite all the technology advances of our age, insist on tangling themselves in the most Gordian of fashions.

That's my desk.

I missed it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Amsterdams, old and new.

After five days in old Amsterdam, I am in the airport now, waiting for my flight to New Amsterdam, aka, New York.

I read, some time ago, Russell Shorto's book, "Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City." In it Shorto conjectures that Amsterdam is liberal in part because it is below sea level. To survive, its people had to work together for the common good, building dikes, draining flooded ground, carving out canals.

According to Shorto, that communal spirit carries over to this day, with people pre-disposed to look out for each other and the common weal.

That said, Amsterdam was just about the most dangerous pedestrian city I've ever been in. You could hardly crane your neck to look at yet another 6'2" blonde without being hit by a bicycle, a scooter or a tram. They all seem to go every which way--and no matter which way you look, there's a rickety old bike bent on having you kiss the paving stones coming from another direction.

Bikes are everywhere, flying around like neutrons in a cyclotron, chaos theory in practice. At the central train station in town, there's a three story bike parking garage that is filled to overflowing with bikes. There's barely a patch of pavement anywhere that isn't strewn with bikes, or a railing that doesn't have ten or a dozen clamped to it.

Even with canals ringing the city, there's little peace and quiet in the place, people are fairly careening everywhere, and smoking dope all the while.

I stayed away from the marijuana shops and the sex shops too, especially the sex shops. Seeing women in their skivvies posing in the window selling themselves seems degrading, disgusting and depraved. But, on the assumption that sex sells and always will, I guess, it's better out in the open and under government auspices than illicit and shadowy.

Anyhow, I'm on my way back to good old New Amsterdam and the bad old USA. Which, for all its faults, and all the indignities and embarrassments of our nation's descent into the Trumpian cesspit, I am glad to return to.

Like, I think, Edgar Guest said so many decades ago, be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.