Monday, November 29, 2010

What if Christmas had nothing to do with getting presents?

I fianlly get it. I finally go the whole "Bah humbug!" thing. Scrouge and the Grinch, I understand, boys. Now, that's not to say I agree with the way they handled themselves, but recent less-than-promising behaviour by my children has prompted me to re-evaluate the meaning and context of Christmas.

Yes, it is the time we honor the birth of Jesus Christ. And for the sake of keeping my point from being diluted, all mention of Chanukah and Kwanza are not excluded but I hate the dumbing down of the season's enaing. When I was kid there was no real mention or understanding of Kwanza and Chanukah is for Jewish folks, which are all fine but not tied to the topic of commercialization I am making.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baller or White Collar?

My oldest son has decided he will be one of two professions in his [adult] life; a professional basketball player or a lawyer. Uh... OK. Both are ambitious. Both seem, well... reasonable enough. Both will take hard work. You know where my mind goes? "Son, how are you going to study for the Bar Exam while playing in the NCAA tournament?"

Sure, most athletes don't even get close to even considering the NBA. As a parent, I have to nurture. In my heart I know Aaron, my son, doesn't exactly cherish the idea of hard work. He can't even make his bed in the morning. However, if he feels the siren call of a life as an athlete, I will help him on that path.

The motivation? I'm not really sure.

Now my oldest son does indeed qualify for being a certified "mini-me". Dad loves basketball ("Go Celtics!"), he loves basketball. Dad loves Salmon on his salad. Aaron? Ditto. So I am weary that basketball is his passion because it is mine. That's OK, though, right? I mean we are all massively influenced by our parents. my son is as well. I also think he watches the NBA and thinks, 'yeah, I could do that. That guy air walking to the rim and slamming it over his shoulders is doing something I'm going to do.'

Law school? In discussions, Aaron loves to argue his point, more precisely, he likes to have the last word. Neither necessarily makes for a good attorney. Four years of pre-law, four years of law school, then you have to take the bar. Its a leap, especially for a little boy (12) who can't keep his eyes open past 9pm. I will encourage both but I will wait for the credits to roll on this one before I form any final thoughts.

NBA? Aaron truly loves basketball but he also loves Pepperoni Pizza with extra cheese, Steak, Egg & Cheese breakfast burritos and Pop Tarts. These are things that would need to be scaled way back and eventually eliminated from his diet, should he look to pursue being a pro athlete. Not that he can't, but that level of discipline has not been noticed in many other things up until this point.

Now all children struggle with equating that hard work brings desired results. How could they know that most 'ballers' have had a ball in their hand for as long as they can remember (some into toddler years, really!) and that the ability to jump 40+ inches isn't something that just happens. Being in the NBA is equal parts genetics, skill, ability, talent, divine providence and luck. Again, I will withhold further thoughts, but that is a perfect storm I will need to see before I can believe it.

As for being a lawyer, well, there is a lot needed to make that decision as well. What type of law? Where do you want to practice (geographically)? Giant law firm partnership or private practice? Ambulance chaser or corporate securities? There is a lot to consider.

I guess I will be content being a proud parent of a boy who, at 12, has decided that the future holds a metric ton of possibilities. Nothing says he couldn't be the first baller with a white collar. It certainly beats have a child that as no idea what interests them in the least.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spamtastic Advertising!

So there I was, trolling around on the Internet, looking for inspiration for a retro ad design idea I had and ran across this gem. The world that this ad spoke to has long since vanished but it will live on in infamy with cautionary tales of a time not-too-long-ago but well forgotten.

First, I absolutely LOVE the idea that the "recipes" are two-to-four words in length. Yum! Next, it appears that the same, cleverly disguised "Lois Lane" lady has the same brainstorm for every meal; SPAM. "What about dessert?" "Hot fudge Spam!"

While I am thinking about it, I love that not one but TWO processed-straight-to-the-grave-after-eating foods are featured. Did you catch the Velveeta/Spam Sandwich suggestion? Hey, put it on some Wonder Bread and you won't even have any real food any more!

You know, I got into advertising because I came to conclusion in college that advertising is our common language. It is what informs every Americans experience. Ask a friend; "Hey, did you see the new Gieco Commercial?" If they say no, four other people chime in about how funny it was and start quoting it, the person inevitably feels like a schmuck. "Oh, well, it's really funny -- wait until you see it!" Advertising becomes this common bond Americans share and allows for some of our greatest social events; the Super Bowl half-time show, where many actually tune in for the commercials. The holidays. Let's face it, holiday specials are about selling toys, costumes or Turkey Dinners. Valentines day is day engineered to guilt people to find ways of spending money on each other and Easter is an excuse to sell candy and vastly unbelievable concepts like egg-laying rabbits.

Advertising is even responsible for many of our most advanced forms of social technology and information exchange. In fact, radio and TV were invented to bring product ads to large-scale audiences. They inserted plays, music and television shows to attract audiences to hear about products. You can't even go to the movies now without seeing ads for soft drinks, community colleges and cable TV shows.

D0n't even get me started on the internet. Is there any surprise that junk mail is called "SPAM"?
And that, brings me to my final point. If SPAM was such a great meal alternative, why does it have such a bad rap? As a child, I grew up consuming my fair share of the canned processed meat wonder, I'm sorry to say.

I leave you with these chilling thoughts right from the closing words of this ad, which sums it up beautifully: "Because it does not need refrigeration, it's easy to keep a good supply of SPAM always on hand... ready for action. Speak to your food dealer today. Say: SPAM!"

I gotta' go. Apparently I am supposed to shout things at my "food dealer". Whoever that is.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Pretty Good" isn't

I have worked in the 'creative industry' my entire adult life. I have reviewed or shown hundreds of portfolios of writers, designers, art directors, photographers, illustrators and stylists. The best ones speak for themselves. The greater majority are good-to-mediocre and some of it needs explanation. Not an earmark of anything bad but a noticeable degrade in quality. The there are my favorites.

Once while acting as a creative placement agent, I had a young man in his very early twenties show me his [graphic] design portfolio. He was clearly self-impressed and had no interest in my critique. He would say things like, "this was best in my class", this is awesome and, my personal favor tie "pretty good, huh?" Though that interview was in 1998, it bothers me to this day. Pretty good, huh? He wasn't kidding. He was serious. The statement precluded any opinion to the contrary, in fact, it implies, "hey this is pretty awesome, as any idiot, even you, can plainly see".

Let me offer a little background color. He had shown a series of his student design projects and one whose assignment was too find an ad the student found to be inferior and re-design it. For the sake of expediency, I will simply say he did the opposite; taking a pretty decent ad and made it worse. What was even more horrifying, wasn't that it was worse, but he clearly thought it was better.

When children show you something they have done; spelling, art, even math and science work; it is necessary to offer encouragement and be supportive. Even if, lets say in a child's drawing, you have no idea what the hell they have drawn, I still have to be excited, complimentary and supportive. And while I may have to struggle to decipher a pic of Batman battling demons with light sabers on a sunny hillside, I have never heard any child say "pretty good, huh?". When one of my kids shows me a drawing, I want an explanation, a discussion and a dialogue. I have found that it further informs and inspires their imagination. It also shows Dad is listening and that, more important than 'pretty good' feelings and emotional responses are important. Ultimately, they wait for my response.

I wonder if that young man I interviewed those many years ago, ever had a Mom or Dad who was supportive of their art and creative endeavors. Maybe no one who creates something should become so self-impressed that they assume it is a thing of greatness. I guess the shorthand is, no matter what your age might be, if you have to ask "pretty good, huh?"... it probably isn't.

Monday, November 1, 2010

If you wanted me to take you seriously, why would you wear a hat like that?

Have you noticed what the Tea Party folks have been doing and saying? It's spellbinding, really. Dressing up as a group of colonial Settlers with knickers, bobby socks and muskets. Is this a joke? When has being an American been about playing dress-up? C'mon guys, this is embarrassing!

Now I should say, I don't affiliate with any political party. They don't fully represent my views on anything, so I vote by informed research. I went to the Tea Party Patriots web site. No kidding here is a link: "After Election Day: Know your enemy, then Do the Right Thing" What does that mean? It implies things that are very uncool and very UN-patriotic. People like Christine O'Donnell can't be taken seriously. She doesn't even know what is written in the first amendment. And she's running for political office? Hello!?!? Is anyone home?

Honestly, I don't begrudge anyone their belief system but this stuff that's going on is just... nuts. My children are watching our countrymen dress up, act immature and look foolish. What am I supposed to tell them? They are misguided? They are idiots? Not for dressing up, but for staying blissfully ignorant of what is really going on. It saddens and frustrates me as an American to watch this stuff. When does common sense and reason figure in to this equation? I must be an idealist. The best I can do is tell my children that the people they see on TV walking around shouting about harming or deporting our President (or worse) and dressing up looking silly. When I get mad, I don't put on a goofy costume and make mean spirited signs about evil thoughts. That's not mature, that's delusional.

We have a responsibility to our children to show them how to handle things in a mature and polite manner. The world is watching!! We already have a bad rap –Stop it! Put down the muskets and the 18th Century headgear. Engage and elect your leaders based on fact, intelligence and platform. Please!! Stop embarrassing me! Stop embarrassing your country! You're like that guy at the party that gets wasted and wears a lampshade on your head and then proceeds to start crashing into everything. Everyone just shakes their head at what a fool you are.

Please... stop.

And in the meantime kids, this is an example of how adults should NOT handle themselves. Because dressing up as a rebel doesn't mean you are one.
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