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You missed.
I’m still going to work in my office on the 26th floor.
I’m still going to fly to Kansas City for Thanksgiving.
I’m still going to write advertising for my clients.
I’m still going to watch Monday Night Football regardless of who’s in the booth.
I’m still going to pray, or not pray, as I see fit.
I’m still going to own a ‘66 Mustang convertible one of these days.
I’m still going to invest in the stock market.
I’m still going to lose 10 pounds.
I’m still going to buy my daughters too many presents for Christmas.
I’m still going to live my life.
Because even though I’m still going to feel what you did for a very long time,
You missed, you sons-of-bitches.
You missed.
.
.
 (Thank you, Mike Coffin for providing artwork and always reminding me…)
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When I was in college, I took a course on rhetoric and debate in 20th century America. In it, we looked at numerous famous speeches made by famous people: Lincoln, Jefferson, King, etc. Learning from great persuaders how to fashion a rational and emotional argument would later become useful as a copywriter and presenter. During that semester, no document we studied was more powerful than Martin Luther King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail.

I am not being glib when I say Letter from a Birmingham Jail is one of the finest pieces of long copy ever written. No question Equal Rights was and is a big idea. I like LFABJ better than King’s more famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Not because of content (both are awesome) but because of circumstances. King was alone in a jail cell when he wrote it.

On this, the anniversary of what would have been MLK’s 87th birthday; I think it a fine thing to reexamine this seminal document. An excerpt follows. The full text is linked below it.

“We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

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Imprisoned, King set forth to writing…

When I was in college, I took a course on rhetoric and debate in 20th century America. In it, we looked at numerous famous speeches made by famous people: Lincoln, Jefferson, King, etc. Learning from great persuaders how to fashion a rational and emotional argument would later become useful as a copywriter and presenter. During that semester, no document we studied was more powerful than Martin Luther King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail.

I am not being glib when I say Letter from a Birmingham Jail is one of the finest pieces of long copy ever written. No question Equal Rights was and is a big idea. I like LFABJ better than King’s more famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Not because of content (both are awesome) but because of circumstances. King was alone in a jail cell when he wrote it.

On this, the anniversary of what would have been MLK’s 86th birthday; I think it a fine thing to reexamine this seminal document. An excerpt follows. The full text is linked below it.

“We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

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The older I become the less I covet things. Obviously, I enjoy and require a home and car and the clothes on my back. I’m fortunate that I have these things and that they are nice. But I don’t obsess about them, or other material possessions, like I used to. God, I remember in my 20’s and 30’s how important it was to acquire stuff. Nice stuff. So much of it was for validation. See, I can buy a house. See, I can decorate a house. See, I can buy a cool car. See, I can afford a slick watch. And so on. It kind of makes me feel like a dipshit now.

But I’m guessing I’m not the only one who was or is acquisitive to a fault. Kind of the American way, right? A free market system works best when everyone is freely marketing! Speaking of marketing, I’m well aware that that’s what I do for a living. I’ve always had a tension there. You don’t have to look any further than my blog’s theme for that: “We make you want what you don’t need.”

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I don’t think a diminished craving for shit is that big of a deal. However, I do think it is a good thing in my continued development as a human being. The more you become aware that you can’t take anything with you the easier it is to leave it behind – if not stop gathering it in the first place. What a relief this is. I don’t miss the subtle, crummy feelings of envy and jealousy, of wanting what I don’t have. Those streets lead me into a maze, where gratitude and satisfaction got left outside. Now I don’t have to resent people with cooler shit than me, or more money, or whatever trappings I deemed worth coveting.

Look, I am hardly “cured” of obsession over certain peculiar things, like the organisms I put in my saltwater aquarium. Searching for exotic corals and fishes and transplanting them into my reef system is heroin to me.  A couple years ago I was into collecting vintage leather jackets. I justify these obsessions by calling them “passions” or “hobbies.” A key difference is that I don’t care if anyone else sees my fish tank or those jackets in my closet. It’s nerdism more than materialism.

This all being said, I will call bullshit on myself for the simple fact that I happen to already own a ton of really cool stuff. Therefore, all of the above is indeed “easy for me to say.” Fair enough.

In addition, I have a big young family and my girls love stuff. Part of being a kid in the USA. I’m not going to harsh their mellow. But I am glad that they see their dad uninterested in acquiring things for the sake of showing off.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Rock on, America!

Happy Fourth of July! Our nation is 234 years old. Shit, that’s hardly anything. But for us it’s everything.

Especially for us in Ad Land, given our industry has such a direct correlation with the freedoms we hold dear. Used to anyway. Remember the old saw about being able to watch all the shows you want for free because of advertising? Now you can watch most of them for free without advertising. Thank you Hulu and You Tube.

Ah well, it was fun while it lasted.

My next post will be a follow-up to my last, where a great many of you commented on Leo Burnett’s brash, new campaign for Allstate. Seems a few of you feel the work, while excellent, is entirely too derivative of another insurance company’s campaign. We’ll look at that as well as explore the idea of ‘no new ideas’ in the Internet age.

Until then, I’m heading north, with a trunk full of quasi-legal fireworks so, in the words of Apu (from the Simpson’s), I can “celebrate the birth of our country by blowing a small portion of it up.”

God bless you and God bless America.

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