Christmas Parties And Other Bad Ideas

It was ninteen eighty-something and I didn’t yet know that Christmas parties were a bad idea. I had on my best shoulder-padded dress and sheer stockings. I promised myself I would behave. This was my first real job after college and I stood in a glittering ballroom near Copley Square in Boston, assessing the passed hors d’oeuvres and the painted nails and the beautiful clothes I saw before me at the company’s annual holiday gala. I had arrived. But then I heard the champagne cork pop, and it all went downhill from there.

I ended up telling my co-workers my boss was a horse’s ass and my boss that he really should do something about the prominent birthmark on his newborn son’s cheek. I stayed at that job for another year and the next year’s party was an elaborate lunch laid out in the grand foyer of the building with only cheap beer and wine as a consolation. Business wasn’t as good and expenses needed to be cut. I grabbed a sandwich and a generous glass of cabernet and read a business journal, angrily, at my desk.

Attending Christmas parties tops a long list of bad ideas I’ve had in my day. There was the one time when I worked for a magazine in New York and the holiday party was held in an old train terminal building that had been converted into a terminally-hip nightclub. It was the hot spot of the moment, and after more than a few Bellinis I thought it would be a great idea to hop down onto the 1900s era train tracks that were still sunk into the ground at the end of the dance floor. Never mind that there were plenty of signs that said “Do Not Enter.” Never mind that stiletto heels and a stretchy mini-dress don’t mix well with gravel and railroad ties. Never mind that a member of the club’s security team blithely yanked me up by the armpits and suggested I leave out a side door.

Then there was the time a group of friends decided to go to a fancy Mexican—yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron—a fancy Mexican restaurant downtown to celebrate the holidays. We figured it would be festive since this particular establishment hung multi-colored Guadeloupe banners, the little paper hanging things that mark the Dec. 12 birthday of the Virgin of Guadeloupe, along with twinkling lights and strong margaritas. Everyone brought someone new to the group in an attempt to widen our collective circle of friends. The gal across from me leaned over and said, “You know, you look a lot like so-and-so big time model.”

I was thrilled, and especially so since the margaritas had kicked in and the entrees were running late. I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to say back to her. I felt like I had to say something, so I blurted out, “You … look a lot like … Carol Burnett!”

I didn’t know at the time that Carol Burnett has had loads of work done. My admirer looked shocked and then said, “Really? Before or after plastic surgery?”

I was totally flummoxed. I had no idea what the right answer was. “Before?” I suggested.

It’s been years and years and this gal still avoids me every time we find ourselves at the same event.

One year, I had to plan a party at a fancy Los Angeles art gallery for the magazine that employed me. I was hired as the marketing director, but the only marketing we did was host parties all around town. I worked with the best caterer du jour. Her vision was “it’s a Spring holiday” and she covered all the tables with sod and laid sushi out on the grass like it was the most normal thing in the world. This caterer was eager to try her latest discovery: cookies silk-screened with sugar. I ordered five hundred rectangular cookies with the magazine’s logo on them. When she asked me what color I wanted under the logo, I chose red (the magazine’s other color was teal). When the cookies were delivered just before the party, I discovered they had been iced in white and the red was airbrushed on top of the white and under the logo. This gave the rectangular cookie the appearance of a used sanitary napkin. I was horrified but the party was due to start in less than an hour and Los Angelenos always arrive early to a party with flowing booze and free food. I didn’t say a word, hoping no one would see the cookies the way I saw them.

Twenty minutes later the sales director came up to me, holding her second screwdriver, and said, “My God, the cookies look like we’ve been on the rag!”

The party attracted so many people that the fire marshal shut the doors twice. The heat of all the bodies in the gallery made the sod on the tables disintegrate, causing the floor to be covered in dirt which ended up on the white walls of the gallery. And everyone went home with an “on the rag” cookie, emblazoned with the magazine’s logo.

So here is my advice for how to weather the coming holiday party season. Taste the catering before party day, steer clear of the bar, arrive late, and leave early. Follow these rules, my friends, and you should sail through the upcoming holiday party season with no trouble at all.

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Thank You, Erin Andrews

Thank You, Erin Andrews, For Being as Great As The Greats,

And For Giving Us Back Our Sleeves

Erin Andrews World Series

Thank you, Erin Andrews, for being a sportscaster as great as the greats of this century, and last. Your work on the 2014 Word Series broadcasts was impeccable, authoritative, and exuberant. When you passed the mic to Bud Selig during the World Series trophy ceremony, your smile was one of a ten year-old girl delighted to be witnessing baseball history. You saved the MVP award ceremony when that poor fellow from Chevrolet almost hyperventilated and passed out as he was reading his speech to Madison Bumgarner.

Your preparation for and, therefore knowledge of, every game you cover is complete, and you roll with the punches when something unexpected comes up, like when you told Buster Posey’s son to “get it together” after the San Francisco Giants won the National League Championship. We, as viewers, always know it’s going to be a good interview when you ask the player, coach, or manager about the key turning point of the game. It’s clear the players, coaches, and managers respect you and they never treat you “like a girl” even though you don’t shy away from being “like a girl.”

Finally, thank you, Erin Andrews, for giving us back our sleeves. Ever since 2008, when First Lady Michelle Obama stepped out in sleeveless outfit after sleeveless outfit, almost all newscasters and sportscasters have been sleeveless (Hello, ESPN, I’m talking to you). Perhaps someone did some research years ago that showed women in sleeveless shift dresses are more attractive to the viewing public than women wearing sweaters, or jackets. But now there are no sleeves, just a sea of well-toned arms and brightly hued shift dresses. Why?

We want our sleeves, and you have given them back to us. There you were, on the field and in the studio, in your comfy-looking jeans and turtleneck sweater, with SLEEVES, topped by a weather-appropriate, oversized blazer with turned-in lapels. You looked great, and you were wearing SLEEVES.

Thank you, Erin Andrews, for inspiring women to be successful, to accept bigger jobs than they think they can handle, and for wearing sleeves.

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Rules of Engagement, Or Why Democrats Should Behave Like They’re in Whole Foods on a Thursday Night

Whole Foods Parking Lot
This week was an exciting week. Thanks to Jill Robinson, a piece I wrote was posted on the Huffington Post. You can read the post here, and I’ve reposted the text below.


Machiavelli said, “Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”

Congressional Democrats would do well to heed such advice as they face the mid-term election in just over a fortnight. President Obama’s approval rating may be at an all-time low, but he got the Affordable Care Act passed and it’s working. Millions of people currently have health care who didn’t have health care a year ago. Sure, it was hard, and there were some bumps in the road (can you say “worst website EVER!”), but America has inched a tiny bit closer to the national health care standards set by countries like Sweden, the United Kingdom, and even Canada.

This is a giant feather in the Dems’ cap and what are they doing with it? Nothing. Not a darn thing. Congressional Democrats are letting the Republicans drive the story points in almost every race across the country. OK, we better beef up our armed forces otherwise ISIS is going to hit U.S. soil TOMORROW. But, wait, we can’t forget about closing our borders so that Ebola doesn’t wipe out half the population. Or maybe the best course of action is to reduce taxes, allow open carry, ban gay marriage, and put prayer back in schools. How about that?

What the Democrats need to do is pretend they’re at Whole Foods on a Thursday night. What they need to do, right now, is imagine themselves turning their Prius/Volt/Tesla into the store’s parking lot, only to realize, too late, that they turned down the parking aisle in which a medical-marijuana-toasted, middle-aged dude with no back-up camera on his beat-up, copper-colored Saturn repeatedly backs out of, and then into, a compact space that’s too compact for his mid-sized sedan. When faced with this situation, any self-respecting Democrat would see danger ahead and spy the hipster family walking straight towards their aisle carrying a mere two bags of groceries. Most intelligent Democrats would immediately turn on their blinker so as to warn all around them that they “own” the space soon to be vacated by said hipster family. If anyone else dare get near the soon-to-be-empty space, all REAL Democrats would honk and curse out the window to warn off the predators. But when faced with an opponent from the opposite party, no, they simply sit silently in their car and wish the crazy medical-marijuana-man away. It ain’t gonna happen. Ever.

What Congressional Democrats need to do, now, is go on the offensive. They need to remind Americans that the President’s party kept its promise to provide affordable health care to all. They need to remind Americans of the ridiculous lengths the Republicans went to to scare people into thinking the President, and his party, were going to turn this country into a Socialist state. You don’t hear Republicans referring to “Obamacare” now, do you? No, because they study Machiavelli and they know that “fear preserves you by a punishment that never fails.” Yep, the Republicans have the fear thing down. They realize Americans aren’t fearful about health care anymore, so they’ve turned our attention to ISIS and Ebola and higher taxes.

What the Democrats need to do, now, is use Machiavelli’s principles to direct voters’ attention to the fact that Republicans tried to block their access to affordable health care. When they lost that battle, Republicans even tried to reverse the Affordable Care Act. What Democrats need to do, now, is remind Americans that if they vote for a Republican, they are voting against access to vaccines for children, cheaper medications for seniors, and wellness care for all Americans. What Democrats want is to be loved by their constituents, but Machiavelli tells us that it’s better to be feared than loved because love is fickle while fear is not. Machiavelli is right.

The Democrats have the killer instinct in them. They do. They have searing ambition, which can blind them to the thin, gray line between ethical and unethical. Democrats have the potential to subsume their interest in others to their interest in themselves. But they have a problem. Their Achilles heel is they want to be loved. Their need for love seriously hinders their chances of winning the mid-term elections.

What Congressional Democrats need to do, right now, is pretend they got that parking space from the hipster couple and they are in line at the deli counter in Whole Foods on a busy Thursday night. There’s a confused, old man, with dirty pants, in front of them and he’s just put his little paper number on the deli counter for a second while he digs in his sticky pants pockets for a snotty hanky, or something. What Democrats needs to do, right now, is quickly switch their higher number with the dirty man’s lower number, which is the next one due to be called. If the smelly, confused man realizes something is wrong, the Democrats need only to begin ordering loudly and then answer an imaginary call on their Bluetooth earpiece.

I know the Democrats can do this. I have seen them at Whole Foods on a busy Thursday night, doing whatever they need to do to get their artisanal ham and hand-crafted, soft cheese. I have seen them.

It is better to be feared than to be loved.

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Live Long, And Prosper

Star Trek logo over LondonThis is super cool. Quadcopters rose in the sky over London last weekend and formed the Star Trek logo. It’s a bit hard to see it in the picture and the video but the idea is brilliant. The execution needs work but the idea is brilliant. You can probably do this with old-fashioned fireworks or you could also do a guerilla-style installation with projections on important buildings. As Mikey would say, “It’s good! I like it!”

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Nice Sphinx-er

Check out this new ad from Netflix. I have a no puppets and no clowns rule in advertising but I’m willing to rethink it based on this ad. Not only is it funny and engaging but it shows a good use case for the product. I can’t find anything about who produced it but I think it’s great.

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What’s Wrong With Football? It’s Not The Refs.

football with flamesI’ve been a football fan since I was a kid. I love it, but what’s going on now is ridiculous. No, it’s not the referees that are ridiculous. Those folks are doing the best they can in a bad situation. The problem I have is with the coaches (many of them, anyway). Football is SUPPOSED to be about sportsmanship. Most of the coaches are seeing that they can get an advantage by intimidating the refs and pushing the players to play dirty. Their ethics are astonishingly bad, and the league should be ashamed of itself for letting this go on.

Belichick should be fined. The Harbaugh brothers need to shut up And Pete Carroll? Sorry to you USC alums out there but the only reason that man is coaching in the NFL is because he cares more about himself than the players and he had to get out before the sanctions were imposed. And shame on ESPN for allowing Jon Gruden to go on and on about how bad last night’s game was. When he was coaching, he was a master at

stomping along the sidelines and screaming foul when one of his players stubbed a toe but he pushed his players to play dirty. Mike McCarthy deserves a big, fat THANK YOU for bringing his players back to defend the final point. That’s sportsmanship.

Those of you who know me well know that I have thing about ethics. I believe the only way society gets better is if we all raise ourselves up just a little bit. Professional sports is America’s currency in the world. There is no leadership in the NFL right now, and those of us who are fans need to stand up and start howling for what’s right. Let’s reward the people who are in the game for the love of the game. In my book, those folks are the sub refs who are doing the best they can. Roger Goodell, and all the networks that broadcast the games, need to show some leadership now.

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Yes, I am a crabby old man

Banksy ImageAh, the elusive artist is at it again. This time, he’s ranting against advertising and how it’s fine to deface advertising because it assaults us day and night. I love art and I love most artists but artists who just want to create controversy for controversy’s sake are wasting as much time as people who create bad advertising. Who is Banksy anyway? Is he Mr. Brainwash? Is he really an artist? “Exit Through The Gift Shop” was a good movie but I just don’t know about the “artist” himself. I guess I think art has to be aesthetically pleasing to be “art.” What do you think? I found this post on Adverve.

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Re-Civilized or Uncivilized?

Nivea ad

Twitter is a-titter about a new campaign from Nivea. I think Draft fcb did it but I’m not certain. The overall campaign’s theme is “Look like you give a damn” so we know, up front, it’s going to court controversy (the Christian right doesn’t like it when people day “damn.” Damn.). The campaign shows a black man about to throw an afro-clad head far, far away. There is a version with a white guy who looks like he’s going to throw a Jesus head but apparently what irks people is that the headline on the ad with the black man is “re-civilize yourself”. So it’s clear Nivea and its agency wanted to get “earned impressions” by being controversial but it’s bad for the brand in the long run. Unlike the successful Old Spice campaign “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”, this one is getting press by harkening back to a dark time in this country’s past. Dumb, dumb.

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Talk To The Hand

Wowa! Or I guess that’s “Lady Wowza” to you. There’s a new campaign just out from Summer’s Eve which uses a hand to represent a va-jay-jay. Fifty bucks says there were more men than women involved in the development of the concept. All kinds of groups are up in arms because the ad that targets Hispanics features a leopard thong and the ad that features an African American hand is a little too “gurlfriend” for some people’s tastes. I think it’s actually a great idea for communicating a difficult subject to promote on TV but the execution is flawed. Yes, they definitely pandered to ethnic and racial stereotypes. They could have done something simple, like the talking heads from Anthem, and it would have been much funnier and more effective. If the adage that any press is good press is true then these folks have a winner. Adweek thinks it’s a great improvement over last year’s campaign, which had the message that if you douche more you earn more. Like I said, wowsa!

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Wowsa, That’s A Lotta Budget

It appears David & Goliath are acting more like Goliath than David with this :60 TV spot, which supposedly will run during the Superbowl. Wow, all that money to advertise a $19,000 car. The visuals are interesting but I have to say I think they could have done more with sound design. The animation of Poseidon is terrific. The aliens don’t look fierce enough or cute enough for me, though. It will be interesting to see if the :60 or the :30 runs during the Superbowl.

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