Monday, April 21, 2014

If you can go through life without experiencing pain, you probably haven't been born yet. +Neil Simon

There was something special about Simon from the moment we met on Noah’s Ark. He was the last leftover kitten from the litter in a house with two dogs, two birds, two turtles, two fish and all the rest. One look in those big, deer-in-headlights eyes and I knew it was time to bring him home.

The original plan was for Simon to keep the then 4-year old Rosie company in my humble abode in Los Angeles. That didn’t work out so well at first. What transpired from there was 17 years of cat antics that only the very unique Simon could pull off.

Let’s start with the time he moved the kitchen cart across the room, spraining an ankle and needing Advil for the first time. Or just moments after I brought home my first beagle and Simon proceeded to scratch my chest (still have the scars) and climb into the kitchen ceiling for 6 days. I won’t ever forget when he tried to hop onto the bookcase and ended up jumping on my head instead. Simon was very vocal, and had absolutely no shame in singing to himself in the middle of the night.

It’s fitting that I named him after Neil Simon the playwright, as he was the most amusing cat I’ve ever met. He’d ride Rosie around the house like a horse, would bite your hand off to get the last piece of steak and managed to escape singlehandedly from all three of my homes in the Bay Area. He always made me laugh and he was very loyal; a rare trait for a cat.

I always felt bad that Simon seemed to live in his late sister Rosie and surviving sister Stella’s shadows. So handsome, so sweet and always the perfect companion to two female felines with very big personalities. Don’t worry, Simon. You were truly loved. Even by Rosie. Who’ll never admit it out loud.

Goodbye, Mister Sir. Your funny little spirit will be part of me forever.

Now go pay attention in heaven. Rosie knows where the steak is.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Be wise with speed; a fool at forty is a fool indeed. +Edward Young

When I was turning 35, I thought I had so much figured out that I dedicated a blog post to making a list of sage advice. It's just 5 years later, and my views have matured more than I expected. Below is 25 more nuggets of perspective wisdom. I'll let you know how things turn out upon turning 50.

1. Money isn't everything, but sure comes in handy.
2. Sex and love are not the same thing. I can't have one without the other.
3. Having a long history does not mean you must stay friends.
4. You can make your own family.
5. With hard work, you can have anything you want.
6. Most fashion trends don't apply to me, regardless of the location. 
7. Having a dog is right up there with necessities like food, clothes and shelter.
8. Alcohol is the most complicated drug on the planet.
9. All women are crazy, myself included.
10. There is other music out there besides the Dave Matthews Band. Kind of. 
11. No matter what anyone tells you, business is totally and completely personal.
12. Progress, not perfection.
13. Tell people you love them. Period.
14. I own 26 pairs of Jack Purcells in various colors. I almost always choose the white pair.
15. There is no other magic like sisters.
16. Play hard, but remember that the recovery time has doubled since you were 21.
17. I used to buy products to make my eyes look older. Now I buy items to make them look younger. 
18. You get what you pay for. Always. 
19. Love can conquer all. If you pick the right person.
20. Teena Touch is the coolest name ever.
21. Karma is not only a bitch, but she has a perfect memory.
22. Feel free to lie, but the truth always comes out.
23. Be thankful for what you have, not obsessed with what you want.
24. Quality, not quantity. In just about everything. 
25. Control is just an illusion.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How can a society obsessed with privacy be equally obsessed with sharing their every personal moment? +Sean Gourley

When Facebook launched Beacon back in November of 2007, it created such controversy that created a special group that drew 50k members within a week. A class action lawsuit was brought against Facebook and The PR team at Blanc + Otus suffered for months during the utterly insane privacy backlash that ensued until Beacon was shut down in September of 2009.
Beacon was Facebook’s early attempt at the monetization of social media. The advertisement platform was designed to allow users to share their activities with friends on Facebook. For instance, if you bought a new DVD on Amazon (it was 2007, people. Streaming wasn’t real yet), this external purchase would show up in your Facebook feed. If that new DVD was a birthday gift for your Mom, she would no longer be surprised when ‘Singing in the Rain’ arrived on her doorstep.

The drama that ensued was so intense, our Facebook team at Blanc + Otus worked days and nights to combat the backlash. How dare people share what they eat, where they go, what they buy and who they are with when they do it? I mean. The nerve. We don’t want anyone knowing our personal business!

It’s now 2013, and we can check-in wherever we go, giving our followers our exact geographic location. We take pictures of our food and post them to make others jealous of our gourmet palate. When we get engaged, dumped, or meet someone new, it’s never official until we update our status on Facebook.

Health and fitness technology reveals that we cut our last run short by 10 minutes. We also inform whoever will listen when we’ve reached our weight loss goals. This was formerly reserved for Weight Watchers meetings and private training sessions.

Truth is, there really isn’t much we don’t share publically, including millions of cat videos, selfies, sunsets, sunrises and the best part? We have Instagram that comes with lovely filters to make our photography even that more sharable. Our esteemed youth post half-naked photos all over the place, and this seems perfectly acceptable. Quentin Hardy Tweeted a few months back: Remember when people actually had private thoughts? No Mister Hardy, I can’t.

When the NSA shenanigans surfaced, we all freaked out. How dare someone read my email? Look at my text messages; listen to my phone calls? That’s private. But where you had dinner with your Mom last night is okay to share with the world? Oh, okay. If we’re going to overshare all the time, we must accept the fact that nothing is private unless you proactively keep it private.

How can we be so ferociously protective of our privacy, yet so eagerly willing to share almost every intimate detail of our lives? I think it comes down to approval. We don’t want anyone and everyone to know our business. But what we do want is approval from our peers. What a great vacation to Spain! Your baby is adorable. Congrats on the new job! No, what your best friend said about you is totally wrong. It’s not that we want to share every single detail of our mundane life, it’s that we want those around us to declare approval of who we are, where we go and what we do.

If it’s one thing I’ve learned after 18 years of telling people what to say in a professional setting (also known as, public relations), it’s that you can only control the message to a certain point. A good reporter will dig the truth out of your message no matter how good the spin. 

I suggest we start applying that reality to our own privacy. Don’t just control your settings on Facebook. Making your Tweets private isn’t enough. Don’t check-in publically on Foursquare. Think about the message you’re broadcasting out to the world. Always double-check yourself. And remember, someone is always watching.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Beagle in the City

It’s been six months since we moved to New York City. Well, not counting the two weeks I was chilling in LA and the 6 hours I had to hang out with luggage underneath a really loud flying tin can. So we’re here and settled now, and I have a lot to smell and eat and tell you about.

Forget the burritos, chicken wings and blunts on the streets of Berkeley. Since Mom picked this house in Gramercy Park, which is right near Murray Hill (aka Curry Hill), I have had my selection of curries, samosas, naan and basmati rice. This does not include pizza, hot dogs, pretzels, lobster, kale, potato chips and sometimes an ant-covered chicken nugget. I’m telling you, this shit’s fantastic. Mom made me go on a diet over the Summer to counteract my gorging.

Part of it’s her fault, in my opinion. We have this terrace on the corner of Lexington and 26th (no, I can’t read. She told me.). A million smells rush my nostrils and make a comfy little home there for as long as I stand outside. Mom lets me just kind of sit there and smell. I think I’m more hungry than usual. Damned diet.

Here’s the weird thing: it’s less stinky and noisy on Saturdays and Sundays. In California, all the days ran together. The pace was the same even if Mom didn’t go to work. There’s much more leftover food to choose from, what with people barfing up their evenings quite frequently.  We see a lot of haggard people in the mornings on the weekends too. I always wonder why they look so tired and their clothes are inside out. They always seem really happy to see me.

Okay then there’s the busy days when I get to go to Doggy Day Care. Oh my God! Doggy Day Care! It’s amazing. It’s the best. There’s like 5 other dogs just like me and we hang out when I go there. So awesome. But sometimes they make me take a bath; not a fan. Overall, though, people are nice here. Not at all what Simon said before. Everyone is on a mission too, going somewhere, to do something, to be the best at whatever that is.

We’ve met some really memorable characters, some sort of annoying. Some sort of fascinating. The usual douchebag. But different than California, people are kind of real. Not a lot of bullshit. I like it. Mom seems to really like it. So that’s good.

I miss Stella. I kind of miss Simon, but don’t tell him that. There are a lot of other dogs here, but their owners are really idiosyncratic about their fur pets. So we just kinda chill with other Beagle homies.

      My only complaints: 

  1. It annoys me that I’m not allowed on the Subway.
  2. Or a Broadway show.
  3. People that shout in bars over just about any sporting event need to shut up already.
  4. Thunderstorms scare the crap out of me.
  5. Rats are mean.
  6. Roaches are meaner.

     That’s about all I have to report for now. Will check back again in another 6 months. Please send dog treats in the meantime.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Piracy Schmivacy

When I was first interviewed to run the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) Anti-Piracy launch campaign, the biggest question on the table was my moral stance on stealing free content. Was I opposed? Could I see both sides of the conflict and communicate both equally unbiased? Should filmmakers lose considerable profits primarily due to the American public acquiring their motion pictures for free? Well, no. But is it fair for consumers to be criminally persecuted if they got their hot little hands on the latest Oscar winner? Not really.

Even then, I was torn on this subject.

Last week, when FilmOn X was persecuted by ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC who all filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the company, I was reminded of this ongoing battle with digital rights management (DRM), piracy and just who owns what. It’s a clusterfuck and I’m not sure there’s a clear solution to this problem.

I still see NYC street vendors selling pirated DVDs of films still in the theater. My former fiancée had access to pretty much any media file that existed on the planet: books, music, video etc. I always felt kind of slimy watching the Oscar nominated movies from the comfort of my cozy bed.

The FilmOn situation points out that "This decision is a further confirmation of our position that a commercial service that provides Internet retransmission of broadcast signals without permission is unlawful and violates our rights under the Copyright Act." 

So it’s all about permission, then? A very smart woman I know published a book on plagiarism in the Digital world and trust me, permission never comes into play when it comes to taking someone’s original content and making it one’s own. But is it plagiarism if the content owner never knows that his work has been replicated elsewhere?

And then there is the unjust story of Dereck Seltzer, whose artwork was outright stolen by Green Day and used in every possible way during their 2010 global concert tour. Another example of taking content when you don’t have the right to do so.

I reckon that this problem will plague artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers and broadcast networks alike. If someone ever invents technology to track all of this stealing and borrowing, they might just save the day for content owners and broadcast companies around the globe.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die. +Thomas Campbell

Dear Gramma,

I just finalized the last of your personal matters this week and it finally feels right to send you this goodbye letter. I know we spent your last two months together, holding hands every day and talking about the past for hours at a time. But, I never really had the chance to look in your eyes and say goodbye. I was there just 4 minutes after you left us forever, and I remember those moments like they happened 10 minutes ago.

To say that you’re a part of me forever is putting it very, very mildly.

My first memories of childhood involve you giving me baths and bringing me chocolate ice cream cones. You taught me how to catch my first pop fly and how to hit a home run without blinking an eye. I watched you in the kitchen as a child, making fresh pasta and brewing your special “gravy.” You and Grandpa threw these huge dinner parties for the family and close friends. I always thought, “my God this woman cooks for an army!” And now I always overcook, even when it’s just me and the dog.

Rachel, you were the best example of who to be when I grew up. I was lacking in mother figures, role models and someone to strive to be. Your gentle ways, mixed with tough cookie smarts gave me the gift of compassion mixed with tenacity. Your unconditional love for your husband and son taught me to be loyal and loving, even when it hurts. And then there was your laughter. A sound I miss almost every single day.

I know that you sacrificed a great deal along the journey of your life. Having to take care of Grandpa as he was dying of cancer, coupled with your troubled son and crazy Italian family….it was never easy for you. I just want you to know that I always saw how hard you tried and how much you gave without hesitation.

There have been hundreds of people who have been touched by you and your life, Rachel. I know you’re sitting up in Heaven with Grandpa, probably knitting and drinking your boiling coffee. You’ve been watching me as I make the life I’ve always wanted in New York City. I wish I could call you every Sunday morning like before, just to tell you about the weather and what I had for dinner last night. I miss you more than any words might articulate.

Someday, I’ll join you and Grandpa up there at the Pearly Gates. In the meantime, I’ll carry your strong legacy of extraordinary compassion, intelligence and charisma. I won’t ever be able to duplicate your magic, but I’ll never stop trying.