Sacked by Scylla and Charybdis

This is the hardest time of year for me, productivity-wise.

Glorious late summer gives way to temperate early fall to lure me out to the Starlight Lounge for a cigar and a drink while the pro football season gets under way. The combination is Scylla and Charybdis imperiling the creative journey, at least for me.

And it’s not just that I affix my butt to the chair in front of the television for the New England Patriots games. I must monitor postgame wrap-ups, halftime shows and local sports analysis programs. Then I must scour the Internet in search of box scores, out-of-town coverage and any manner of pigskin tidbits to slake my unquenchable thirst for the things of the gridiron.

And, of course, I have to share my own scintillating commentary on social media. Lately, I’ve taken to launching a jihad against the National Football League’s hapless replacement referees, tweeting an interminable fusillade of #ReplacementRefsFacts.

Probably the best one was “The @nfl #ReplacementRefs shine their shoes with kielbasa b/c it says “Polish” on the package.” (Haw!)

Of course, none of that translates to finishing my novel or generating billable hours. It’s fun, and it scratches an itch for attention, I suppose, but it’s hardly a productive use of my dwindling hours.

So … let this be yet another line in the sand, another not-quite-so-new year’s resolution to wrestle my important projects to the ground. If you have any tips to help an inveterate time-waster stay on track, I’m open to suggestions.

Onward!

Cut the s#!t, already!

Hey, “Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” help me out with something: When is it OK to cuss on TV?

I’ve been on the radio a couple times recently as part of my work for my bigfoot client, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a television appearance — even if only on public access — is in the offing. So how should I handle things when I feel the need to let a four-letter word fly? (And, believe me, that’s a need I feel with some frequency.)

This morning I was watching your show’s Sept. 19 broadcast on my Xfinity DVR (If you watch TV on anything but Comcast, yer goin’ to hell!) and noticed that your first segment was called “Chaos on Bullshit Mountain.” At least that’s what you said, but the graphic read, “Chaos on Bulls#%t Mountain.” I guess you can say shit, but can only write s#%t.

OK, I think I’m with you so far. But then you crossed me up with a curveball.

In lampooning the typical Fox News dissembling, you say, “I’d expect this from residents of Asshole Cove, but not Bullshit Mountain.” Fine, I get it. “Asshole” is kosher on cable TV. Hell, even the networks were OK with it years ago on “NYPD Blue.” Yet, the night before, in your interview with author Salman Rushdie, “asshole” was bleeped out at least twice, which kind of belies the opinions/assholes chestnut. In your chat with “The Satanic Verses” scribe, opinions were plentiful, “assholes” were scarce.

However, I might have taped the Sept. 18 show (the one with Rushdie) during its 11 p.m. airing (Sorry, but your broadcast conflicts with my mandatory live viewing of “TMZ.”) and I definitely recorded the 12:30 a.m. airing of the Sept. 19 show, which featured the pop/soul singer Pink (or “P!nk). That wee-hours wrinkle might explain things a little.

That might, were it not for the aforementioned pop/soul singer’s performance of her new single “Blow Me (One Last Kiss).” During the first verse, she dropped the “S-bomb” (unbleeped) about a half-dozen times. But in the second verse, that shit was bleeped throughout.

I figured, for sure, Comedy Central allows only so many shits per episode, even during post-midnight airings, and the magic number had been realized.

Nope. As the song wound up, Pink’s “shit” apparently didn’t stink (it went unbleeped), but her background singers’ “shits” in response were censored. And after the commercial break, you, Pink and her guitarist chatted a bit and proceeded to “shit” all over the stage anew.

I’m not offended by the language, per se, but I’m a bit perturbed, or at least perplexed, by the lack of consistency governing vulgarity on the air.

Mostly, though, I don’t really give a shit. Or a s#!t.

 

My dog, Bill Belichick and me

I knew something was wrong when I found myself scolding my dog for her lack of “situational awareness.”

Holly, the lovely impediment to my ambulatory progress

Actually, at least two things were wrong. First, it was clear I’d watched one too many Bill Belichick press conferences. Second, I had grossly overreacted to my dog’s tendency to pause whenever she crosses a threshold or otherwise stand in front of wherever I happen to want to go.

“Situational awareness!” I shouted as I nudged Holly with my knee, perturbed because it was taking an extra second to move into the kitchen. Then I started laughing at the absurdity of my actions. Later, though, on our walk with her brother, Buddy, I thought about what could be winding me up so tightly. (Still haven’t quite put my finger on it.)

I also thought about Belichick, his lexicon and his adroit verbal aikido during the press conferences the New England Patriots head coach clearly doesn’t enjoy.

“It is what it is,” has become a ubiquitous, impossible-to-refute mantra applied to any situation around these parts. Though Belichick certainly didn’t invent the phrase, he has popularized it. (See also “Football players play football.”)

In fact, I’ve contemplated fashioning a nifty bingo card from his nonresponses to reporters’ questions after each game. Just trying to compete … what’s best for the football team … all three phases of the game? Bingo!

Of course, some smarty-pants types at Harvard have already done me one better, writing a computer program that can spit out Belichickian responses in a variety of situations.

Situational awareness. The aforementioned program has it, so why doesn’t my dog?

Why don’t I?

Picking up hookers instead of my pen

Yesterday I alerted my Twitter followers and perhaps others to my most recent post to this blog, after adding a couple links (including one to my new client). After all, Twitter, like Facebook and Linked In, is a pillar of my laughably anemic social media strategy.

My to-myself attaboys didn’t last long, though: I checked and saw my most recent update was nearly a fortnight ago, and any semblance of work on my novel was even farther in the distant past. So what the hell else have I been doing besides writing?

Well, unlike the protagonist of the Willie Nelson classic penned by Sharon Vaughn, I haven’t been picking up working girls, exactly. Instead, I’ve let the words of my youth fade away by picking up other kinds of “hookers” — those little foxes that spoil the vines of creation and productivity.

Cigar smoking under the warm and abundant summer sun. Dinner and drinks out with friends. Any manner of perquisites, the rewards of gainful employment, which sap time and ambition.

In other words, living life. But life is necessarily a balance of work and play and, like a distracted deli clerk heaping pastrami on the scale, I’ve piled up too much of the good stuff, ignoring the cost.

But today’s a new day.

I, the Copywriter

Pitch meeting completed. Materials received. Price quoted. Now all that’s left is the slightly more-than-prospective client to OK the deal and I’ll be for me to start writing copy for an annual report for the latest client. It’s not quite booze and showgirls in Vegas, but it’s work.

Besides, this engagement could be fun and rewarding, since the contract involves an independent school (rooted in the Catholic tradition) for disadvantaged girls. This won’t be flogging one of many indistinguishable robust, seamlessly integrated, best-of-breed solutions (or whatever the high-tech argot is these days — it’s been a while). The work these folks do (and, by extension, the work my sister and I will be doing) is important stuff. But I’m already way off track.

What’s with the oddball title of the post, “I, the Copywriter?”

This morning while goofing off (my favorite vice, surpassing even whiskey, cigars and crap TV), I basked in the sun and leafed through the pages of the latest Cigars International catalog, a/k/a “cigar porn,” contemplating my next purchases I can scarcely afford. There, amid the Sumatran-, Oscuro- and Connecticut shade-wrapped stogies, I encountered some of the most crisp and pert copywriting around.

Churning out fresh and flowing text in the face of the hundreds of handmades to be touted in each month’s catalog must be a Herculean undertaking, but Cigar International’s copywriter tackles the task with gusto. It’s as if Mickey Spillane had chosen a career in grinding out catalog copy rather than hammering out bestselling crime novels."I, the Jury" by Mickey Spillane

The following could describe an impossible-to-resist gun moll, yet it’s applied to a Nicaraguan cigar:

“El Mejor is quite the package. Beauty, charm, substance, and flavor in spades. If this little beauty only did laundry and made a rockin’ meatloaf, I bet more than a handful of you fellas would be down on a knee in no time.”

Yeah, corny as hell. And entertaining as hell. (Of course, the pairing of a masculine noun with feminine characteristics is impossible to overlook, and the word “beauty” is repeated in one sentence. It ain’t Shakespeare but, then again, neither is “I, the Jury.”)

Elsewhere, cigars are seen “sporting a chunky 54-ring frame” or “draped in an oily, richly hued Ecuadoran Habano sun-grown wrapper.” And these wares sprouting from Central American soil aren’t just bargain-priced, they’re a “scorching-hot dealio.”

Someone had some fun writing the Cigars International copy, and I had fun reading it (then writing about it here). I’m hoping my own copywriting journey will be as diverting.