Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday morning gumbo

Greetings from the Big Easy!  Let's catch up on the goings-on in our world, shall we?

- Here in New Orleans, we'll see many tall men later today during the two games of the Final Four.  But, they'll not get within a foot of the world's tallest man--Sultan Kosen of Turkey.  Doctors at the University of Virginia were able to halt the Turkish giant's runaway growth at 8 feet 3 inches.  Said one doctor, "The human body and heart is not well designed for a person who is eight feet tall."

- A teacher in Nashville didn't like seeing teen PDA in the hallway so he threw a bucket of water on two kissing teenagers.  He went on Facebook to proclaim that the dousing "seemed to work and they stopped."  The teacher has been suspended.

- One of life's true pleasures is the beignets and cafe au lait from Cafe du Monde here in New Orleans.

- Over 65% of Americans say it's likely that President Barack Obama will be re-elected in November.  (Source:  Zogby poll)

- A former military dog handler was re-united with her bomb-sniffing canine pal, saving Sgt. Rex, a German shepherd, from being put down.  Former Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey completed over 100 missions with the dog and the two were both wounded in a 2006 bomb explosion.  When Leavey found out that Rex was to be euthanized, she got over 21,000 people to sign a petition urging the military to save the pooch.  She is now set to adopt the dog.

- Not only should you not text and drive but you also should not text and walk on a pier.  Bonnie Miller, of Benton Harbor, MI, fell off a pier in Lake Michigan while texting.  She was rescued by a passerby who dove into the water to retrieve her.

- And finally, the average member of Congress receives a salary hike of 1,452 percent once he or she leaves office and becomes a corporate lobbyist.  Some make in excess of $1 million per year.  (Source:  The Nation)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's (Mad Men) back!

When last we saw Don Draper, it was 17 months ago and he had just proposed to his secretary, Megan.  After returning from a family trip to Disneyland, where Megan went along to help with kids, the happy couple announced their engagement to colleagues at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.  The date?  October 1965.

Where will Season Five of Mad Men begin?  Will Don really be married?  And, what of Draper's former wife, Betty; Joan, Peggy and the others?

Here is what we do know as we await the Season Five premiere, which airs tonight on AMC in a two-hour kickoff episode:

- Early on, a new character will clearly show us how much time has passed since the Season Four finale.

- The opening scene will feature a bunch of ad guys that we've not scene in prior episodes.

- There is a new Bobby Draper.  Jared Gilmore, who was Bobby number three, now is on ABC's Once Upon a Time.  Mason Vale Cotton follows Maxwell Huckabee, Aaron Hart and Gilmore in the role of Draper's older son.

- Stay tuned for the credits--Jon Hamm (Don Draper) will be listed as Producer for the first time.  And, on next week's episode, Hamm will be listed as Director.

At long last, Mad Men is back.  And, we get to watch the best drama on television.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


No one prepared me for this.  Sure, there were the way-too-frequent "once she gets here blah-blah-blah" testimonies from other grandparents, which I shrugged off.  And, yes, I'd read all of the quotes and bumper stickers, e.g., "If I knew grandparenting would be this much fun..."  But, my desire to experience this for myself caused me to ignore the vast majority of unsolicited advice I received.

Then, the blessed event came on Monday evening, late.  Anxious moments in the waiting room, knowing that my daughter was in heavy labor.  The cursory text from my wife (in the delivery room) which said "she's here."  The hour spent waiting as nurses and doctor administered to our new mother and baby.  Finally, I got to see our precious little bundle...and my life immediately changed.

I won't try to expound here on what being a grandparent means--it's far too early in my tenure to explain.  I will say that I've never felt the emotions of seeing that little infant, in the arms of my daughter, that I experienced late on Monday.  I've never felt more proud than when I saw our granddaughter in the arms of my wife, sitting next to our daughter.

Grandparenthood, I can tell, is a journey for which there is no rule book but one which contains more touchdowns, three-pointers and holes-in-ones than penalty flags, fouls or bogies.  (Don't you love how I always have to bring life events back to sports?)  It's a journey which I don't want to rush, yet can't wait to take the next "trip."

(Now, if I could convince everyone that they can quit calling me "Hey...grandpa"--a simple "congratulations" will do just fine, thank you.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

The next adventure

May 14, 1990.  That’s the day I walked into an office building set squarely on State Line Road in suburban Kansas City and embarked on a job with a new employer, which—amazingly—ends today. 

Little did I know, on that spring day in 1990, that for the next 21 years and 10 months I would hold a variety of marketing positions within the company, travel to major cities across the U.S., deal with major brands in various marketing partnerships, and gain exposure to some of the best advertising agencies—and minds—in the world.

My journey at Sprint is over.  And now, it’s on to the next chapter as I try to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. 

The journey has been one I never could have anticipated.  And, while the highlights are many, the biggest source of fulfillment has been the many, many deep relationships I’ve built, with co-workers and partner company colleagues, over the course of this career.  It’s an amazing network of friends who not only have experienced the ups-and-downs of professional success with me, but also the joys of major life events, as well as the tragedy that occurs along the way.

I depart, thankful for the opportunities I’ve been blessed to receive, proud of the accomplishments of the teams with which I've worked, and excited about the next great adventure.  Let’s see what happens next, shall we, with my professional life? Stay tuned to this space as I chronicle my journey and what I encounter in that brave new, unknown-career-next-step world out there.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It's madness!

It's madness!  No, no--not that basketball tournament which takes place this month but the wacky world of pop culture, language, naming and assorted other goings-on.

- I've written in this space before about my head shaking over the brand name Kum N Go--a chain of convenience stores primarily located in Iowa but in 10 other states as well.  Well, add to that the name Bone-Us Bag, a bag filled with treats for dogs.  "Bone Us"...really!?

- What exactly is a widget, anyway, and why is it so frequently used in business conversations?

- Kim Kardashian, fresh off her verbal dust-up with Jon Hamm, is ticked at a doctor in Mexico who is using her likeness to advertise plastic surgery.  Kardashian said, "Estoy enojada y voy a demander," which, translated, means "I'm pissed and I'm suing."  Muy bueno.

- No member of the Rolling Stones made the trip to Carnegie Hall, New York, last night for a charity tribute show to the band.  The bill included Jackson Browne, the Black Crowes, Ronnie Spector, Steve Earle and Marianne Faithful.  It was Faithful who, at 17, first sang "As Tears Go By"--the first song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

- The latest tour from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicks off Sunday at the Philips Arena in Atlanta.  The rockers previewed the show last Friday at the Apollo Theater in New York with the most pleasant surprise being the presence of Jake Clemons.  Clemons is the nephew of the late Clarence Clemons and took the spotlight for "Badlands," "Thunder Road," and "The Promised Land."  The tour will also feature a full horn section playing with the E Streeters.

- Here's the latest on the Stones' 50th anniversary tour--it's not happening in 2012.  In separate interviews with Jagger and Richards, by Rolling Stone magazine, both said that the band isn't ready and that a tour is likely more realistic in 2013.

- Who came up with words like "whatchamadoodle," "thingee," "thingamabob", and "whatchamacallit?" Just curious...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rainy Sunday afternoon

- Talk about a lesson in listening to your mother!  Ryan Kitching, a teen in Penicuik, Scotland, was ordered by his Mom to clean up his room after nagging him for several weeks about the mess.  Discovered in the mess was a winning lottery ticket worth $83,000.  Kitching promises to use the winnings to take his mother on a trip.  Oh, and he promises to keep his room clean too.

- Which workers are the happiest?  A recent survey of 43,000 workers found that government employees are the happiest.  The least happiest work in agriculture, mining, for Internet firms, and in media.

- In the category of "you just can't get away with anything, anymore" are the following.  In France, a man took Google to court for posting on its Street View service a picture of him urinating in his yard.  The man says that he has become the laughingstock of  his village, even though his mug was blurred out in the video.  In Germany, video footage surfaced recently showing Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble secretly doing a sodoku puzzle on his iPad during the debate on the 130-billion-euro bailout of Greece.

- The Western, which hasn't been seen on a major network in years, is returning to CBS.  Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis will star in an untitled Western pilot.

- Saudi Arabia is refusing to send a women's team to the Olympic Games this summer in London.  In 2009, the government shut down 153 women's gyms as officials in this conservative Islamic nation consider women who exercise in public "shameless."

- Watch out for this name--AnnaSophia Robb.  Robb, 18, was in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and has landed the plum assignment of playing Carrie Bradshaw in the 1980s-set CW prequel, The Carrie Diaries.

- And, finally, did you know that 40% of current Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or a child of an immigrant?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The homeless...and stealing a TV in your pants

- Homeless citizens in South Florida got a treat recently when the South Beach Wine & Food Festival donated almost 30,000 pounds of food to local soup kitchens.  The area's poor and needy had the opportunity to dine on Kobe burgers, braised short ribs and slow-cooked pork.

- Lost in the hubbub of Mad Men's return on March 25 on AMC is the return of The Killing on the same network.  The Killing's second season begins on April 1.

- Speaking of Mad Men, today is Jon Hamm's (Don Draper on the show) 41st birthday.

- A Cincinnati man complained on Facebook that his estranged wife was an "evil, vindictive woman."  A judge then ordered the man to post daily apologies or a month or risk going to jail.

- Up Wisconsin way, 36 parked cars fell through the thin ice on Lake Winnebago.  The cars were parked there for an annual fishing competition.

- In the "you can't make this 'stuff' up category," a man in Minnesota was arrested after he tried to steal a 19" flat screen TV--in his pants.  A policeman noticed Eric Lee King hobbling out of the store and stopped him in the parking lot, only to discover the "large rectangular shape" in the perpetrator's pants.  The cop also found that King was carrying a remote control, power cords, and a bottle of brake fluid.

- Consumers seem to be getting more cautious about social media.  A Pew Research Center study found that 63% say they've deleted people from their "friends" list, 44% have deleted comments from their profile, and 37% have untagged photos of themselves.

- And, finally, more women are getting inked than men.  The percentage of Americans with tattoos rose from 14% in 2008 to 21% in 2011, with more women than men getting the body "art."  Of those women with tattoos, 30% say their ink makes them feel sexier and 25% say it makes them feel rebellious.  (Source:  Harris Interactive)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Retail hits and misses: Of Mad Men and Ellen


I continue to watch the new J.C. Penney campaign, starring Ellen DeGeneres, and feel that it's failing to fully optimize the investment in their spokesperson.  The spots are expensively produced but fall flat, failing to tap into DeGeneres' comedic appeal in a way which works.  I'm not sure that setting the spots in ancient Rome or a western town help convey the desired messages.  DeGeneres tries to salvage the work, and elicits a smile just by playing herself, but this campaign feels over-thought and over-produced.

Another retailer which is missing the mark is Banana Republic.  I applaud the tie-in with Mad Men, the hugely successful, buzz-generating series on AMC.  However, the male model used in the advertising and point-of-sale force fits a 2012 "pretty boy" look into a 1960's era, slim lapeled and trousered suit.  The facial hair and overall look just don't work in trying to bring to life a modern-day Don Draper.  This is a case where casting is absolutely critical--and it fails.


Trader Joe's isn't everywhere.  The stores are not big.  And, the selection is pretty minimal.  Yet, TJ's knocks it out of the park every time I visit.  The retail environment is clean, the associates are amazingly helpful, and the product is first-rate and different from "normal Joe" grocers.  The brand stands for quality and convenience with a strong nod to fresh and eco-friendly.  This is a case study of a brand who knows what it wants to be and does it right--every time.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Language, beer pong and Apple stock

- Who says language has to be a barrier? In Charlotte, N.C., Larry Bushnell, 85, met Columba Rosaly, 97, in a retirement home. He wooed her with notes translated into Rosaly's Spanish by using the internet. They now are learning each other's language, with the help of translator Iris Newton, and are set to exchange wedding vows this weekend.

- NBC has ordered 13 episodes of Hannibal, based on Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lambs prequel book.

- For fans of The Good Wife, look for Matthew Perry (Friends) who has joined the show in a recurring role as an attorney with possible shady motives.

- In the always fun category of "You can't make this 'stuff' up," a New Jersey man who was hit by a car after playing beer pong for three hours has lost his bid to sue the bar where he was drinking. The judge ruled that Alan Berger had voluntarily engaged in the drinking game at Wicked Willy's bar and had "consumed alcohol to the point of diminished capacity."

- Down Florida way, a judge ordered a man to take his wife out to a romantic dinner--at Red Lobster. Joseph Bray was charged with domestic assault after he forgot his wife's birthday, leading to an argument where he shoved her onto a couch. The judge determined that Sonja Bray did not fear her husband, thus sentencing him to buy her a card, some flowers, then take her to dinner at the popular seafood chain. The judge said, "And, after dinner, they're going to go bowling." Sounds like a fun time.

- Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio may be collaborating again. Scorsese is considering a real-life based crime story, The Wolf of Wall Street, with Leo both starring and producing.

- Here's good news--the number of pets euthanized in the U.S. has dropped from approximately 20 million in 1970 to about three million last year, even though the number of American pets has more than doubled in that period. The biggest reason for the change is the widespread acceptance of neutering. (Source:

- Men's Health has this advice on how to request a raise. The publication suggests: Make peace--get along with your boss; Schedule a sit-down--request a meeting when business is going well; Rehearse--prepare as you would for any presentation; and, Overreach--put a big number on the table early.

- And, finally, one more amazing statistic for you--a share of Apple stock is now worth more than that of Microsoft and Google combined. (Source:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Anniversary - The Godfather

Forty years ago this week, a film debuted which would ultimately become recognized as perhaps the best American film ever--and certainly the most impactful movie series ever.

The Godfather, based on the 1969 novel by Mario Puzo, was released in 1972 and featured a cast which included Marlon Brando, James Caan, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton and John Cazale. The film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

Paramount Pictures, and Robert Evans--then head of the studio--wanted an Italian American to direct the film which chronicled the life of the Corleone family. Sergio Leone turned down the director's role as did Peter Bogdanovich. Coppola initially didn't want to direct the film given fears that it would glorify violence and reflect poorly on his Sicilian and Italian heritage. He ultimately was convinced to do so and later claimed that the studio wanted him because he was young and could be "pushed around."

Coppola and Paramount clashed throughout the making of the film. Making matters worse, the studio was in financial trouble and desperately needed a big hit, thus making the pressure on Coppola even more intense.

Even though the film features some of the most lauded actors of our time, the casting decisions made by Coppola were unpopular at the time. Paramount initially refused to cast Brando in the lead part but relented once Coppola got the star to appear for less salary than his previous films. The studio also wanted either Robert Redford or Ryan O'Neal to play the role of Michael Corleone but Coppola wanted an unknown who looked the part. He found that actor in Al Pacino even though the studio also auditioned stars like Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen and Warren Beatty.

Duvall eventually got the role of Tom Hagen, with names like Steve McQueen and Paul Newman considered for that character. Others who unsuccessfully auditioned were Sylvester Stallone (Carlo Rizzi), Anthony Perkins (Sonny Corleone) and Mia Farrow (Kay.)

The Godfather won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Writing (Screenplay) and Best Actor (Brando); the film was also nominated for eight other Academy Awards. And, the American Film Institute has ranked it second only to Citizen Kane among their list of greatest American motion pictures ever.

Many films were made, prior to The Godfather, about gangsters but Coppola's magnum opus paved the way for future films like Goodfellas and the TV series, The Sopranos. While the trilogy has a crime family as its core characters, it is at its foundation a study on familial relationships with an ensemble cast which will never be replicated again.