Baked & Wired.

DC has more cupcake specialty shops than I’ve ever seen anywhere. It’s kind of ridiculous. The coworker who sits next to me decided to look up how many cupcake purveyors there were within a 2 mile radius of our office. Turns out there are 12. And only 4 of those are bakeries that do more than just cupcakes… the rest are considered to do nothing BUT cupcakes.

I can’t help but wonder if the fad is about to jump the shark with openings of cupcake megachains Crumbs and Sprinkles.

When I first started at AKQA, everyone raved about Baked & Wired. They put down Georgetown Cupcake as though it was baked with sawdust and broken glass.

Admittedly, I fell in love with Baked and Wired almost immediately. The strawberry cupcake is one of their bestsellers for a reason. A big, golden cupcake laden with chunks of berry, topped with a fat mound of pink buttercream. Pure heaven.

Then, I tried a couple others. And then I hit a couple strawberry cupcakes that weren’t that fruity. Or the gold cake in it was somewhat dry or flavorless on a bad day.

I plugged up my ears and ventured off to the tourist hell that has become Georgetown Cupcake. The first time I went, I didn’t have to stand in the notorious long line of giggly tourist girls who are so excited to finally eat a treat featured on their favorite cable TV show (DC Cupcakes).

I went in and ordered a Peanut Butter and Chocolate cupcake, and a caramel apple cupcake. Both were glorious.

I’d found the first time I’d had a chocolate cupcake from baked and wired, I could barely taste the chocolate. It was clear from the first bite of both Georgetown cupcakes that the quality of the ingredients were consistently high. No shortage of intense chocolate flavor popping in my mouth. The caramel core in the Caramel Apple cupcake oozed out and coated all the teeth in my lower jaw.

Gooey heaven.

I recently called off my cupcake obsessions and abstained from the cupcake madness for a few weeks. Then, I went back to Georgetown Cupcake again with the coworker who’d done the original cupcake location research.

Today, I got a Vanilla Birthday cupcake and a Chocolate Lava. I started with the Vanilla. I knew from that first bite, from the first moment I eyed a few specks of Madagascar vanilla bean, that this was a superior cupcake. And I never thought their buttercream would beat out Baked and Wired’s… but it did. This is what a cupcake should taste like.

So, now, I have cupcake guilt. While I adore the staff and so very much about the cupcakes at Baked and Wired, I’m on the verge of changing my allegiance. For $3.75/cupcake, Baked and Wired needs to wow me with the intensity of their chocolate and how many berries they’re able to pack into a single strawberry cupcake. Right now… I feel like they’ve lost sight of their craft.

Georgetown Cupcake.

Meanwhile, there are 10 other places to try in that 2 mile radius. We’re tempted to put them all to the test. As soon as we get some stretchy pants and extra cash.

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Back when I was in ad school, I had a hard time getting sooooo much work done. Truly, it’s hard enough to complete a crapload of work and also do it well.

To beat drowsiness, I drank a lot of Diet Coke and espresso. It was especially easy to down 8 Diet Cokes in a sitting back in Atlanta — free refills everywhere you go! NYC restaurants aren’t usually quite so generous.

By the time I’d had about 3-4 Diet Cokes, I’d start to get buzzy and spinny. I’d be louder. I’d get hyper. And my ideas got crazier… and by crazier, I do mean better.

Soon, I figured out that I truly wrote better on a lot of caffeine. And then, I couldn’t write well at all unless I was completely high on diet cola.

I’ve been on and off with caffeine addiction. On those days where I pound a couple liters of diet soda, I definitely work better. But I also become extremely irritable. I bounce around like a freakin cokehead for 4 hours and then crash hard for 12. It’s very tiring being a caffeine addict.

When I look back at my portfolio, I can often remember when/where I thought of my best headlines or ideas. And 99% of the time, I was off-the-wall high on caffeine. “Oh! That one was at Starbucks!” “Oh yeah — that was at Panera after my 12th Diet Pepsi.”

Do I owe my career to caffeine? Would I be a secretary or a cell phone salesman if not for that precious molecule? Or would I, in my addictive nature, have reached out for a harder substance? And become a full-on addict of Naughty Snorty?

And how many ad creatives could attribute many of their successes to caffeine consumption? I doubt I’m alone. I tend to think this entire industry owes a LOT to this nasty little chemical.

Anyway, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank caffeine for all its given me. Thank you for all the laughs, for getting me jobs, the late nights and early mornings. Caffeine, I salute you.

It’s all Her Fault.

April 14, 2010

Ok. Sorry I have been MIA for the past week. Sort of an interesting story…

For years, I’ve had the urge to do some kind of animal-related volunteer work. When I lived in NYC, I did a dog-walk at BARC in Brooklyn. (A great way to spend an afternoon and help a pooch in need stretch his or her little legs).

I’ve also considered adopting a second dog in addition to my French Bulldog, Hildy. However, she’s the kind of dog who will run around a dog park from human to human, ignoring all the other dogs. I wasn’t sure if a second dog was a good idea or not.

Cut to this past Sunday. Every year, Dallas holds an event at the Cotton Bowl called the Dallas Dog Bowl. They essentially turn the field of the Cotton Bowl into a giant, off-leash dog park with lots of vendors. It’s a lot of fun. Here are a couple pictures a photog shot of Hildy running amok:

Anyway, on our way in, I noticed a few rescue organizations set up with lots of cages and tents. I wanted to stop and look, but I decided to hold off till later.

On our way out, Hildy and I perused the crates and found the SWEETEST little Basenji mix named Yoda (note the ears).  She was so scared, so sweet, and only 3 mos old. One look at her sad little eyes and I knew I couldn’t leave her there. Especially since the organization was “desperate for fosters!” Apparently, they’d pretty much run out of homes to place these dogs in.

So I filled out a two-page application, got the thumbs up on the puppy from a friend who swung by, and I carried the puppy all the way to my car. She still didn’t know how to walk on a leash. In a matter of minutes, I was a foster mom.

It’s been a hectic week, but it looks like a good friend of mine will be adopting her on Friday! Which is great — Hildy has had a lot of fun playing with the puppy, and now they can remain friends. I’ve been calling her Rhoda (a bit more feminine than Yoda) and it looks like her name will become Roxy soon).

How does this story relate to the whole “from the front lines of the advertising industry” thing? Well… I’ll tell ya. For the past few years, I have not had time to volunteer. Advertising is a very chaotic, self-absorbing business by nature. And the idea of taking time out to just donate to a cause might seem somewhat impossible. I mean, sure — I wrote a couple checks to the SPCA last year — and it helps. And working on a pro-bono PSA campaign is quite nice. However, I’ve always felt that physically volunteering is so much more rewarding.

It’s one thing to donate money for puppy food. It’s another thing to help potty-train and give some love to an abandoned puppy… so that it can become a good pet for someone’s family, and not just another statistic.

I really want to encourage all of you busy ad folks out there to volunteer. Fostering Yoda/Rhoda/Roxy was a gamble and a bit time-consuming, but I was able to integrate it into my own life. My own schedule.

And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Death of the Laugh Track

October 2, 2008

I was having a conversation with someone about 9/11 this morning. A cheery topic to start off any day.

And we talked about how humor sort of went away for a while after the attacks on the World Trade Center. How comedians didn’t really know what to say after such a horrible thing had happened to our country. And it took a little while for us all to laugh again.

We were smacked pretty hard in the face by the cold, damp hand of reality.

Speaking of reality…

Reality TV started to pick up in popularity just before 9/11. Then it exploded after 9/11. And dramas slowly became more popular than comedies. Why is that? After going through so much emotional hardship, didn’t we – as a country – need to laugh more than ever?

I tend to wonder if we just couldn’t put up with the network fluff that was considered to be funny anymore. Laugh tracks and over-enthused studio audiences were subconsciously TELLING US when to laugh… and we just couldn’t be told when to laugh anymore. We’d been through too much.

Some dumb actress getting her blouse stuck in a drawer and then subsequent canned laughter wouldn’t cut it anymore. It just seemed so empty.

I did a little research, checking out the Nielson ratings from the past years.

In 1999, some of the top comedies were Friends, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, Becker, Dharma & Greg, and Drew Carey. All canned-laughter-shows.

The 2001-2002 season (which kicked off shortly after the attacks on the WTC) included comedies like Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Will & Grace, Becker, and Frasier.

Jump to 2005. In the top 20 shows, there’s really only one sitcom – Two and a Half Men – which does have a laugh track. Desperate Housewives was #4, but isn’t really considered a comedy. Nor is House. 2005 barely has a hint of laugh tracks in its top shows.

Look at the comedies we laugh at today: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Samantha Who, the second coming of The Family Guy, 30 Rock, The Office, My Name is Earl, Ugly Betty… Not a laugh track in the lot of them. Only CBS has a few laugh-track-shows left on their roster… and frankly, I don’t know anyone who watches them.

There could be another contributing factor to the laugh track’s death: technology.

Perhaps as people replaced their tube TVs with plasma and LCD screens, laugh tracks and cheap production values didn’t really seem to jive with the killer displays and surround sound. Shows like Ugly Betty and 30 Rock have the feeling of being shot “on location” and not in some lame studio. (Even though a good deal of 30 Rock and other shows are still shot on soundstages.)

With big TVs come the need for big drama, big production values, and big laughs. No sissy lame-ass jokes on a small scale.

So, maybe it’s the onset of advanced technology. Or we just changed the way we laugh at things in general. Either way, the laugh track is dead.

Get with it, CBS. It’s not 1999 anymore.

Ok. First of all, I know it’s been a while. I moved to Dallas. It’s been busy. But now I’m in my groove, and I’ll be sharing my adventures in advertising from down here, y’all. Should be a trip.

Anyway, this line is probably one of the better ones I’ve heard in a while. Came from this video from Current.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Basically, my friend down here sent me this video when I started obsessing over missing Pinkberry. There are a few knock-offs around Dallas (I’ve only tried BerryBerry so far… too creamy. Kinda gross. I need icy, tart, intense. I soldier on…)

Am I one of the many stereotypes? One of the women who can’t live without yogurt?

Do I care? No. But I have come to the conclusion that the gayer-sounding yogurt shops are probably more Pinkberry-esque. At least, I’m hoping my theory is correct. Gal needs her tart yogurt with strawberries, blueberries, and fruity pebbles, dammit. There’s only so many weeks she can go without it

Copywronger Moves South.

August 20, 2008

So, a couple weeks ago, I got two job offers within 10 minutes of each other (how often does that happen??)… one agency in Dallas, one in Dubai. Very tough decision. Ultimately, I’m off to Dallas to go rock out on some great clients with a great AD. If my posts are spotty over the next few weeks, I apologize… moving over 1500 miles is a BITCH! Wish me luck!

The other day, I decide to stop into a Duane Reade and pick up a box of Gobstoppers. I basically needed a sucking candy that I wouldn’t be tempted to bite into… jawbreakers seemed like a logical choice… anyway…

I popped into the Duane Reade at Broadway and Duane Street (the original location, I believe) and found an Indian woman in her 60s stocking the candy aisle. And no Gobstoppers. I felt foolish asking, but I couldn’t believe they didn’t have them. Nerds and Gobstoppers have always been at every drug store as far back as I can remember…

I asked her where the Gobstoppers were. She looked at me, puzzled, and replied in a thick accent. “Stoppers?” She turned to her manager, a Chinese guy about my age with his own thick, native accent. They went back and forth, neither of them knowing what “stoppers” or “Gobstoppers” were.

Now, I bring up the accent/ethnicity thing because, apparently, if they weren’t stocking this candy, these folks just really may not have heard of them. Apparently, these kinds of crappy fruit-flavored candies are only a staple in the diet of American kids..? And perhaps the translation of “gobstopper” in the 70s version of Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory came out to be another word..? (remember, it was a critical part of that classic movie…)

Anyway, I left there baffled and sugarless.

Along my walk, I passed another Duane Reade (surprise surprise…) and decided to pop in. Maybe that one store just didn’t have them.

Nope. This other Duane Reade didn’t have Gobstoppers either.

My disbelief and confusion suddenly turned to sadness. Had the Willy Wonka company stopped making them? Had the brand suffered so much that no one cared about the Everlasting Gobstopper anymore?

No. I found them at a Shop Rite in NJ. They’re alive and well… although much smaller than I ever remember them being. You used to be able to suck on a Gobstopper and go through 3 or more different color/flavor layers before reaching the core. Now it’s just two.

Growing up, the brand “Gobstopper” wasn’t questioned. If you said “Gobstopper”, people immediately knew what one was. Perhaps in all the kerfuffle of brand extensions and candy trends, the Everlasting Gobstopper lost its way. And now, people don’t know what one is anymore.

Ask someone what a Gobstopper is. I dare you. See what they say.

Blame the airlines. Blame fuel prices. Blame the guy next to you who SHOULD have bought two seats (I mean, c’mon bro. You needed TWO seatbelt extenders. Take a hint.)

Nah. None of these things make holiday travel suck the worst. On my list of things that makes travel blow, KIDS have got to be a stark choice for #1.

On my way through security this morning at LGA, a seemingly calm prospect at first, a couple with two small children busted in line. Right in front of me. Just after I’d sent my shoes and laptop thru the scanner. “We’re late for our flight. Do you mind?” What if I’d said “yes, I mind”? You think they would have let me stay with my $2500 laptop? No. They have kids. They take priority. They threw all their shit up on the belt, held up the line, and caused pure chaos. The parents were so flustered, they didn’t even listen to the TSA agents when given simple directions. Finally, they made it through the line and yanked their tiny children down the hallway to their assigned gate.

And another family jumped in front of me to go through the metal detector. Three kids in that family.

And walking into the airport, I was cut off by many parents saddled with kids.

And once I got through security, I was greeted by the hysteric screaming “NO! I WANNA GO BACK! NO! I WANNA GO BACK!” (My first thought was ‘…and this is the trip Little Billy’s parents discover his fear of flying…’

Now, you could blame the parents. They are the ones in charge. And to some degree, I have some empathy. It’s gotta be hard to take a flock of kids to see Mom and Dad back home in Tulsa. And you can’t keep the kids at home their whole lives because it’s just easier. That’s how people become sheltered.

HOWEVER, I do think there’s gotta be a better solution. Kids cause chaos. Period. Adults lose their minds trying to control them, especially in the already-stressful climate of air travel. And lord knows, I’ve thought of grabbing a few screaming babies, opening the emergency hatch on a plane, and tossing them out into the wind.

So here are a few of my “Mad Max” solutions to keeping order and peace at airports, every day of the year:

1) Sedation. Make it look like a chewable vitamin, perhaps shaped like Spongebob. Once the low-dose sedative has taken effect, you can push the kids in a stroller or cart wherever you want. And if the flight is really long, the sedative can also be made into a dissolvable strip (like those Listarine strips) and simply deposited into the child’s mouth as he/she sleeps. Keep that little fucker out.

2) Kid Air! Someone should make an airline for kids. Something kids would be really excited to take and parents would be equally excited to take their kids on. Parents could get sound-proof headphones, wifi, and wine. Kids would get built in viewing stations at every seat – video games, cartoons, etc. In fact, if parents know the only thing that will shut Little Jenny up is her favorite Elmo video, they can upload the movie to the airline’s server and have it available to watch at the seat with a simple password.

And the rear of the plane could be sectioned off as a sound-proofed nap area & daycare. With a childcare professional. It would probably cost a little extra… ok. A lot extra (it’s an airline, after all)… but some mommies and daddies actually have work to do. Could probably be a write-off at work, right?

Basically, you can’t get on the plane unless you have a kid with you. No pedophiles, thank you.

3. Offer No-Child flights. You can’t board unless you’re 13 or older. And they could probably charge a premium for this. And think about it… American Airlines flies from Chicago to NY into all 3 New York airports. They could just designate JFK as the no-kid hub.

Or, finally…

4. Dog carriers. Kids are durable, right? Put em in a little cage with some juice boxes, a blankey, and a portable DVD player. That should do the trick.*

So now that you all think I’m completely insane, consider the euphoria. Flights without crying. Airports without screaming and tiny children with even tinier rolling suitcases in tow. Basically, less chaos.

And once that’s been taken care of, we can work on everyone else.

*By the way, it was a little disturbing to see HOW MANY pictures of kids in dog crates were posted online. Just proves that adults would love to see their kids caged up occasionally.

So, I feel like we’ve been hearing a lot about carbon footprints. How many tons of crap do we put out into the world, killing it everyday? (I tend to think if the quiz I took had a category for “advertising,” my score would have been much higher…)

My score was 9.1 tons of CO2. I might have been off by a ton or two… it’s kinda hard to estimate how many gallons of oil I use in my apartment building…that sort of thing. I tend to think my score was so low because I barely drove a car this year.

The American average was just over 20 tons per person. Guess it’s good to ride the subway everyday, right? Just doin’ my part, Momma Earth.

Wanna find out how much of a planet killer you are? Click here.

Seinfeld Trial 2007?

December 2, 2007

Almost 10 years after the cast of Seinfeld was sentenced to jailtime for criminal indifference, in an undeniably disappointing final episode, I think back on that double episode with a bit of curiosity. I caught a little bit of the final episode recently… the judge tells Kramer, Jerry, Elaine, and George, “I do not know how, or under what circumstances the four of you found each other, but your callous indifference and utter disregard for everything that is good and decent has rocked the very foundation upon which our society is built. I can think of nothing more fitting than for the four of youto spend a year removed from society so that you can contemplate the manner in which you have conducted yourselves.”

And frankly, I didn’t buy it. I kinda bought it back in 1998. But today, in 2007, I don’t. I think I’ve become numb to the bullshit crimes against humanity Jerry and George committed. Sure. They were shallow and douchey… but how do they compare to the TV characters of today?

I mean, a lot has changed in 10 years. 9/11. Bush in the office for almost 8 years. And TV has definitely changed. Even the characters on South Park have become crazier. Look at the progression of Stan’s dad and Mr. Garrison. They’ve definitely become 50 times worse than a Seinfeld character. Family Guy and American Dad are front-runners too… taking immorality to great, animated lengths. (I’m not complaining. I love these shows.)

In terms of live-action comedies, look at Arrested Development. Or Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Even a couple of characters on 30 Rock. These characters are considerably more morally bankrupt than the main characters of Seinfeld.

Like… when Dennis becomes a man-whore.

Or when the gang finds a dumpster baby and tries to turn a buck on it…

Or many other moments… the guys try to fuck each others’ moms, Dee and Dennis become crack addicts to mooch off the government, etc.

The parents in Arrested Development aren’t exactly stellar examples of good parents…constantly lying, playing favorites, etc. Gob and Lindsay are particularly soulless… I couldn’t find any good clips on YouTube. Fox pulled all the good ones. Bastards. Consider that two young cousins basically want to do each other, the patriarch framed his twin brother on multiple occasions to avoid prison, and the family’s company built model homes (forts) in Iraq. A little worse than George eating an éclair out of the trash…

I could go on and on… Californication, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Lucky Louie, Weeds, Samantha Who, etc etc etc. All these shows feature soulless assholes…and we laugh at them. It’s become the latest trend. The worse, the better. And I tend to wonder when we became so numb to it all.

Personally, I love it. And that’s why more and more of it is coming our way. It’s taking that much more to shock us.

Watching the finale of Seinfeld in reruns was even more disappointing today than it was in 1998. Who cares if these losers go to jail? Now, if they’d become crack addicts, ruined people’s lives more severely, or run from their illegitimate children… okay. I might buy it.

I’ll give credit where it’s due. There was a certain shock-value to what the cast of Seinfeld did in its run. It set the stage for shows like Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Arrested Development.

However, if that same trial happened today, comparing Seinfeld‘s infamous four to the other characters in TVLand… I’d say they’d only get a mere slap on the wrist. If that. A warning. Maybe a fine. But not prison.