A Ferret Hitman and a Recipe for Success

My all-time favorite Super Bowl commercials are the old-school Budweiser series (shocking, I know). This particular ad series involved frogs, ferrets, and lizards, and it was a recipe for success. But I guarantee you no one walked into a creative brainstorm meeting and said, “I’VE GOT IT – A FERRET HITMAN! That’s the Super Bowl advertising sweet spot!”

I won’t pretend to know how this commercial came about – the creative process is a strange, emotional whirlwind – but I think it hit right on the mark. And few Super Bowl commercials since then have come close. In general, rolling out an ad series is a bit dicey. You never want to risk losing (or worse, annoying) your viewers because they might have missed something important.

Stepping out of the mind of an ad-professional, and into the mind of a Super Bowl ad-viewer, here are some tips (because you’ll never get those 30 seconds back…):

  • Don’t try too hard. We can tell.
  • Don’t be too “weird” – take a page out of Publix’s playbook. The soft stuff resonates.
  • Keep your clothes on. The “sex sells” mentality is getting old.
  • Be bold. (In this case, bold means new and different…but still classy.)
  • Sometimes simple is the way to our hearts.
  • Most importantly, understand that we are all judging you.

You’re welcome.

Advertisements

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Book review: The House in Paris

I’ll admit it. I judged this book by its cover.

The cover was the only reason I picked it up at my local used bookstore, Chamblins aka If Heaven Were Made of Bookshelves (and I hope it is). I had never heard of it, but the cover reminded me of a piece of artwork I might hang in my house – if there was actually room left on my walls. It didn’t hurt that the word Paris was in the title.

The book winds from the present (post WWI) to the past (a decade prior) and back again to the present. The “present” sections of the book take place in a single day, which is an interesting perspective. I am, at times, wary of books that unfold over a major passage of time.

The seemingly main character, Henrietta, is introduced as a traveling 11-year-old who is to spend the day at her grandmother’s friend’s house in Paris waiting for her next train. Her one-day stay turns into a somewhat thrilling journey into the private lives of everyone in that house. So much so that it remains hard for me to pick a single protagonist.

Leopold, a bastard child who was put up for adoption, is introduced as young boy waiting to meet his biological mother for the first time. I will admit; I was not a fan of his character. Though only nine, he seemed angry and overly willing to leave his adoptive parents in Italy for a new life with a woman he had never met.

To make a long story (actually a novel…) short, a trip through the past unfolds the secret that Leopold’s mother had an affair with her friend’s (owner of this house in Paris) fiancé. Enter Leo.

All of the characters seem flawed, save Henrietta. They all have their own agenda, ranging from selfishness to overboard selflessness (and I’m honestly not sure which is worse). Though happy to be on her way, Henrietta leaves the house smiling…perhaps thrilled to know that she was the only sane one in that entire house.

Don’t we all feel that way sometimes?

“Untrodden rocky canyons or virgin forests cannot be more entrapping than the inside of a house, which shows you what life is.” – The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen

From Basic to Beaming

Sometimes, I’m afraid I’ve lost it. Sometimes it feels as though all of the creativity has fallen out of me. The very creativity I once prided myself on. I like to refer to those times as “basic.” It takes a good book, an article, even a particularly moving movie to remind me that creativity is not so much a natural gift as it is a learned and practiced skill. A skill that gets rusty but can always be cleaned.

So how do you fight this basic feeling? Easy: with life.

In honor of the coldest day of the year and because I was wearing the most layers I would ever wear in Florida, I decided to get a flu shot. I struck up a conversation with the physician and found that she gave me my flu shot last year when she was nine months pregnant. Needless to say, today she was gushing about being eyeballs-deep in 1-year-old birthday party planning. (I will save my sarcastic comments on why we spend unexplainable amounts of money and time on birthday parties for a tiny being that wants nothing more than to shove its face in that over-the-top, specialty birthday cake for another post).

Our conversation bounced from babies, to coworkers, to the unbelievably cold weather. Nothing in particular was said and nothing was accomplished (besides a vaccination that takes 2 weeks to take effect anyway…so antibacterial soap is still a necessity). But I left with a better attitude and a small smile that came from nothing other than camaraderie found in the most unexpected of places.

Today I wrote, and tonight I will sketch because a moment spent feeling basic is a moment wasted. Every moment of every day is precious. Feeling basic is unacceptable. There are too many fascinating things to see; too many people to connect with. When I’m feeling basic, I pledge to talk to people, get outside, start a new hobby, memorize a song, run in the rain, laugh at a stupid joke. Inspiration blossoms when you least expect it.

“If you want to write, here’s a secret: the writer’s struggle is overrated, a con game, a cognitive distortion, a self-fulfilling prophecy, the best excuse for not writing.” – Roy Peter Clark

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

Words Are My Medium

I can assure you that no great writer sat down and immediately erected a masterpiece. Just as there are not many great painters, or sculptors, or entrepreneurs who immediately created a world-renowned picture, sculpture, or business. And I choose not to trust those who say they did.

I read somewhere that Hunter S. Thompson (all hail: Dr. Gonzo himself) copied pages upon pages upon pages of his favorite authors’ work. Not to be published, of course, only to capture their true value. To learn from the words.

Too often, we host a melancholy desire for instant gratification. Lost in a digital age, we plow through endless headlines pausing just long enough to grasp the essential meaning of each article before moving on to the next. We fight against storytelling that might – God forbid – hold our attention for more than 30 seconds. The world moves too fast for that, right? Unfortunately, we have collectively chosen quantity over quality.

My intent with this blog is not to come across as cynical – though at times I may seem that way. I simply want to appreciate words for what they are: infinite, stimulating, emotional, but sadly, sometimes forgotten.

I hope to end all of my posts with a quote…because what better way to pay tribute to the written word than to repeat it. Honor it. Enjoy it.

“He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master.” – A Christmas Story

“Bea says that the art of reading is slowing dying, that it’s an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming scarce by the day.” – The Shadow of the Wind

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” – The Book Thief