Archive for May, 2009

Adapt or Become Extinct

Posted in personal, political on May 29, 2009 by barryshapiro

Although it is to be expected, I find the controversy around the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to be ludicrous and racist, sexist and just about every other kind of ist. It is typical partisan garbage. The woman is eminently qualified and should be admitted to the highest court without much of a hassle, barring any unforeseen scandal the Republicans can muster up. this is not to say that she should not be questioned and investigated – that is part of the process. But the BS flying around the last couple of days reeks like Limburger.

What really gets me however is this concept of “strict constructionist judges” versus “activist judges.”  As I understand it, the strict constructionists believe that they absolutely know the thinking of the Founding Fathers and can literally interpret the Constitution with impunity. Activist is a term applied to judges the Right deem unsuitable because they believe that the Constitution is a living document which is open to interpretation. What is clear to me and most students of history is that the Constitution is an imperfect document that was put together by men who had conflicting national views and interests. Even though it may be the greatest document ever written and stands as the basis of our free society, we have to remember that it was crafted at a time when there were no automobiles, airplanes, cell phones, AK-47 automatic weapons, SCUD missiles, stem cell research, no State of Israel, not even a State of California. Things change. Shit happens.

Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the world’s greatest thinkers got it right when he said that “all men are created equal” and that they have certain “unalienable” rights including Life Liberty and the Persuit of Happiness. Of course, he was referring to white, Christian men but that’s not how they articulated it and thank goodness for that semantic difference. Women, blacks, Chinese and Indians had no rights whatsoever in Jefferson’s world. That came later as the Constitution was ammended over time.

Jefferson was brilliant but his scope of knowledge was limited. I just read in the New Yorker that Jefferson believed, as did many scientists of his day, that all the species on earth were fixed, that is to say that God created all the animals of the earth for all eternity. When he sent Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Northwest he fully expected them to come upon live mastodons roaming the region. Somewhere along the way we learned differently. The dinosaurs died out just like Moa of New Zealand and countless other species. We are still learning and still adapting to life on this planet. (The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, May 25th)

And because we are still all evolving, as people and as a society, our Constitution will continue to evolve with us. If statistics prove correct, the country will soon have more Hispanic citizens than any other group. So Ms Sotomayor seems to be the right woman at the right time to bring a Latin understanding to the heart of our nations justice system.

Sex got in the way

Posted in art, personal with tags , , , , , on May 13, 2009 by barryshapiro

I recently heard from my old college girlfriend. She’s married and lives in Hawaii. She was a beautiful, sweet, fun, talented girl back in the day and I’m sure that she still is all of that. So I asked myself – how come she’s not married to me? It’s not that I am unhappy with my situation now – indeed just the opposite – but rather, what was it about myself then that when I had an opportunity for a lifelong relationship with a wonderful, seemingly perfect mate, who I really cared for, why did I walk away from that? And subsequently repeat that pattern in every relationship I’ve had since until now? The short answer is sex got in the way.

A couple of weeks ago I was speaking to a cousin and we briefly discussed another relative neither of us had seen in many, many years. Without going into the details, I was struck by a comment she made about this other woman’s ex-husband. She said that it was too bad that Patti was married to a sex addict. Sex addict? I didn’t know that. My first response was not empathy but rather I asked myself the question “Gee, what’s wrong with that?”

I always thought the problem was not getting enough as opposed to getting too much. In fact I’ve never heard of getting too much. What the hell is a sex addict? Aren’t we all sex addicts?

So I began to think about my college love affair and realized that we broke up because what I really desired more than a relationsip was to sleep with every girl at school. Now, this being the esteemed art school Pratt Institute and it was the early 1970’s, the idea of sleeping with every girl at school wasn’t that far fetched. I’m no Wilt Chamberlain and I cannot brag that I even came close but  assure you I did give it the old school try. And my girlfriend was pretty patient with me for a while but when she caught me in a lie she left me and that was that. I didn’t even make a decent effort to win her back. At the time I told myself that it would be no use but I think now that I really knew that I was sex obsessed and that I wouldn’t get any better at the boyfriend thing. As much as I cared for her, I just knew that it wasn’t going to work out. I knew I was not ready to settle down and I had plans to travel and see the world.

So I did. After graduation, I went off to see the world and while on the road I wanted to have sex with almost every girl I met. From Japan to India, from Hong Kong to Paris I spent about a year on the international chase of women. I also did some art, saw some sights, met some great people and learned a lot. I grew as a person and expanded my mind. I developed as a man. BUT, my main goal was still to have sex with as many women as possible – which means I was still just a boy.

Then I came back to New York and things changed a bit. I met the woman who was to become my wife. From the moment I laid eyes on her I just wanted to have sex with her – forever. But since she was unavailable I decided that it would be OK to continue to try having sex with almost every other woman I met.

I moved to Boston for a while and I was girl crazy there too. I even had sex with my best friends fiance. What a schmuck I was. But I couldn’t help it. I just loved sex. It wasn’t about the person, it was all about the event: the chase, the act, the afterglow and then getting out of there as fast as possible.

In a couple of years circumstances changed and the beautiful woman I fell in love with became available and I pursued her like I’d never pursued anything before. Nothing ever mattered that much. And it worked! Much to my surprise, she fell in love with me and, as I mentioned, we got married. She was a model and travelled alot for her work and while she was gone I could only think of one thing – sex. Temptation lurked everywhere I turned. It was the onset of the 80’s, before AIDS and at the end of the sexual revolution and I was participating in est, the quasi-cult self awareness group experience. If ever it was easy to get laid it was at est. The place was teeming with young, impressionable, open minded, hormonal people. It was hard but I restrained myself, more because I was afraid of the consequences of being caught than because I was intellectually monogamous.

Yet, when she was away I was also extremely jealous. I figured that if I was so sex obsessed than so was every other guy and if she was hanging out in the hot spots in Milan and Tokyo with movie stars and high rollers and if she was as hot as she was (and she was!) she probably be out there having sex and enjoying herself. I was wrong about that but I was making myself crazy.

The marriage lasted almost 2 years. After I got over the shock and depression of my matrimonial failure I decided that the best way to get over it was by screwing every girl I met. Do you start to see the pattern here? I was living in Manhattan, the setting of Sex and the City and I was looking for the Kim Catrall character around every corner. Actresses, models, secretaries, lawyers, decorators, producers, art directors, agents, nurses, doctors, artists, film directors, musicians, students and teachers. If they were attractive and had a vagina I was into them. I dated them all for very short periods of time. The longest relationship I had between 1982 and 1999 lasted about 2 years and it wasn’t a monogamous one either. Well, actually I did have one long standing relationship with a wonderful gal from Lubbock, Texas who had a similar approach to sex and we saw each other on and off for years, although we never really went out on a date. We’d just get together sometimes when one or the other was in the mood to call and have sex. That was a great relationship for me indeed! No responsibility and no guilt.

The thing was that I would go for long periods where there would be no one in my life and it would get very lonely. At those times it seemed like I couldn’t get a date if I called 1-800-call-girl. I was never into prostitution. I tried that in Bangkok once and it was creepy. And anyhow, it lacked the elements that made sex so rewarding – like the chase. Who wants a sure thing?

So I bounced around like this for years. Everything was about sex – my work, my art, the way I decorated my apartment, my activities were all about sex, at least below the surface. There’s this great little film called The Tao of Steve. I really related to parts of that film. To me all art is about sex. I know that if John Lennon were alive he’d argue that it’s all about love. But I say sex is the driver. Love is a mental disease. It makes people crazy and irrational. It’s emotional and conceptual. Different people can have different ideas of what love is. But sex is physical,primal,  immediate and when done well, fufilling. Sex is really the ideal – not love. Love is the fantasy, sex the reality. People write poems and sing songs and write pages about love but what they always portray is sex. Painting is not only about sex it’s a sexual act in itself.

The best artworks I ever produced were portraits of women. These were portraits of women I had slept with or wanted to sleep with. They were not sexually explicit but the theme was always sex. When I was young and went through a period of self evaluation that led me to abstract expressionistic paintings, even though you could not look at those paintings and see a specific concept, I could see sexuality in every one of them.

All advertising is about sex. Well, maybe not “Shamwow.” But sex sells because it is what we all want. If you can love something you probably want to have sex with it. I’m not talking about your poodle – well, not really – but I did know a girl who claims to have had sex with an Akita. People say they love their car. Well, I say what they love is the sex appeal of the car, it’s how the car makes them feel about themselves and how they believe the car will make them attractive to the opposite sex. The car you choose is reflective of the sexual image you have of yourself. Otherwise, it’s just transportation and your driving a Ford Focus. What does that say about Mini Cooper drivers? Who can really say.

There is spirituality in sex. Tantra has been around for centuries. There is regeneration in sex. But mostly there is instinct. Sex is the core of our existence, our most basic instinct and to deny that is to deny life. I’m 57 now and I think about sex all the time. I think I am finally beginning to understand Bukowski. Sex is like a drug, it’s better than booze and it can lead to nirvana! I still look at young woman and think in the back of my head that I could have sex with them if I really wanted to. That’s because that guy I see in the mirror every morning is not me. The guy with the gray beard and white hair, sagging circles under the eyes and a gut that makes me look 5 months pregnant is not the person that exists in my mind. The person I once was. I still think of myself as I did when I was 18, only I’ve accumulated more experience. But when I was 18 my primary focus was sex.

And the reality is that those young, seductive girls I see are looking back and seeing me – an old, paunchy, gray lecher! Not attractive….

Today I have to channel those sexual urges in another way, at least if I want to stay happily married. That young beauty I was so charged up about and married in my youth – somehow we found our way back to eachother 18 years later. It’s a different kind of relationship now and it’s very satisfying. But I don’t think she truly understands my sexual urges. She’s just glad that I still have them.

Tee Time

Posted in directing, marketing, personal on May 6, 2009 by barryshapiro

It’s 10:55 PM and this is the first time in a couple of months that I am not either working or utterly exhausted at this point in the evening. I’ve always been a night person, even as a young kid I could never fall asleep until morning. I remember laying in my bed after my mother had sent me to my room just lying there staring into the dark and letting my imagination run wild. Sometimes I’d read but one of the folks would see the light on and make me put my book away and “go to sleep!” Sleep did not come, at least not until everyone in the house had been down for the count for hours. In the winter months, when it was cold in my room (mine was above the garage and apparently not well insulated) I’d sneak into the bathroom with a book, crawl up on the floor next to the heat vent and read until I passed out. That’s where they’d find me in the morning. My parents thought I was weird. I believe this was all a natural response to my bio-rhythms. I was also lactose intolerant but no one figured that out until I was in my 50’s.

Needless to say I am also not a morning person and I don’t do well with people first thing in the AM. I need at least an hour to fully wake and coffee really helps. Since I’ve given up caffeine it now takes me a tad longer. Many of my relationships with women have ended by a remark I didn’t even know I made upon arising and finding a “bright-eyed, bushy tailed” young thing lying next to me wanting to be sweet and cuddly and talkative. For me that’s “shutthefuckup time.”

I guess that’s one reason I always stunk at golf. All my buddies wanted to get up at the crack of dawn to get a favorable early tee time. I wanted to sleep in, have brunch and get in a late round. Besides the rates usually go down after 12.

I live with a woman who thinks that the appropriate time to go to sleep is somewhere between  8:30 and 9:30 PM. She does stay up for parties and events but most evenings she’s in dreamland well before 10, leaving me to Facebook, blogging, Rachael Maddow and old movies. I don’t read that much any more at night cause my eyes get tired fast, especially after a day in front of a computer monitor. I try to draw but I have to say it’s hard to get my head wrapped around a project unless I can really absorb myself for 4 or 5 hours. Lately that has been impossible. That’s why tonight is great. I’m at the computer, my eyes don’t feel like they are bugging out of their sockets and I have some real energy. Just not much to say!

I will say that I just completed the 2009 radio campaign for the New York Shipping Association and I think we did a great job of bringing the plight of the New York-New Jersey ports into perspective. Great job by voices Alan Pratt, the lovely and charming Carolee Goodgold and the hysterical Brad Zimmerman. I love how Brad always tells me how great his career is. I kind of discovered him when he was a waiter at Chat ‘n Chew in New York’s Flatiron District. He was a very funny waiter for a lot of years. I put him in 2 or 3 commercials (one for Rush Limbaugh) and then his career took off doing stand up. His routine is all about being a 50 year old waiter. Catch him on You Tube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kc2IIxQxB6E.

I’ve worked with alot of comedians over the years. Going back to my beginnings in the ad biz I remember doing a spot with Morty Gunty when I was a PA. If you know who Morty Gunty was then you are Jewish, from New York and at least 50 years old. I was on a shoot with Gabe (Welcome Back Kotter) Kaplan. He wasn’t funny. In fact he was one of the biggest assholes I ever encountered in the business. I’ve been on the set with Stiller and Meara, Jay Leno, Gilbert Gottfried (has to be one of my favorite afternoons ever – what a freak!), John Ratzenberger (though I doubt he considers himself a comedian) Pat Cooper and my all time favorite, Henny Youngman.

Here’s a story about Henny Youngman I’ve told a million times but worth telling again. I just hope it translates to the printed word (try reading it with a New York Jewish accent – it might help). The scenario was this: I was a Production Manager for the Normandy Film Group back in the mid-80’s and we were shooting a big package for New York Telephone (aka ATT, aka NYNEX, aka Verizon). This was before the breakup of Ma Bell into the Baby Bells and this job was a plum for my boss, Norman Cohen. He wanted everything to be perfect, especially for the several minor celebrities employed (does any one remember Alison Steele the Nightbird? She was in the spot too.) And the agency, which was Y&R, also wanted A+ treatment for these people, especially Henny Youngman, the King of the One-Liners. I was told to call Henny’s agent in LA and find out what Henny’s wishes would be – special food, drink, whatever. I spoke to an older gentleman with a think LA Jewish accent who told me that Henny would be happy with whatever we fed him, he just liked to have a little black coffee, especially since he was coming directly from the airport to the set.

I relayed the info to my employer and his clients who got pissed off and told me to cal back and find out what Henny really wanted in his dressing room and on the set – they didn’t want any complaints. I called back the guy in LA and he told me the same thing: black coffee. I pressed him and after pondering the situation he said simply “a bagel and cream cheese would be nice!” I went back to the producers with  the request and again they were pissed off, certain I had done something wrong and was not getting the correct info. Finally Norman called himself and got the same info. So I was told to fix up a special dressing room for Henny, arrange a limo from the airport and have the best bagel and cream cheese spread this side of the Carnegie Deli in his dressing room.

Now here’s where it got interesting. We were shooting on location that day at Sarah Lawrence College (by the way, one of the young actresses on the set was a then totally unknown Courtney Cox – I hit on her of course cause she was really cute but she was leaving for a big audition in LA that week so I didn’t ask her out  – she had just done the Springsteen video). Henny’s scene was to be shot in a dressing room at the school’s auditorium. On the location scout, and I have witnesses to this story, we were all pretty stoned but I managed to find a small library room near the location that had stone walls, red velvet curtains over beautiful stained glass windows, a beautiful leather couch and 2 great wing chairs. On the morning of the shoot we set up a banquet table with 2 giant silver serving bowls which I piled high with dozens of assorted warm bagels I had brought in from Ess-a-Bagel in the city, silver platters of lox, Nova, white fish salad, chopped liver, a pickled garden salad, potato salad, pastrami, corned beef, 3 kinds of creamed cheese, lox spread, a gigantic urn of fresh hot coffee, an urn of decaf, and urn of hot water and a selection of imported teas. We had all sorts of pickles and condiments too. In the center of the table was a beautiful floral arrangement and for good measure I had the NY Times, Wall Street Journal and daily Variety on the table near the sofa. It looked like a banquet for King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table if King Arthur had been an Eastern European Jew. We all anxiously awaited Henny’s arrival.

Finally I saw the limo pull up and ran to meet him. Out stepped a very tall, very disheveled old guy carrying a worn out violin case. He had dyed hair, a crumpled old black suit with red pinstripes which he must have slept in (several times) and a white shirt and red tie with food stains all over. He graciously shook my hand and introduced himself as Henny Youngman, King of the One-Liners and gave me his business card. “Here, have a picture of my pride and joy!” he exclaimed and sure enough on the back of the business card was a photo of Joy dish soap and Pride furniture polish. I knew then it was going to be an interesting afternoon. After all the big shots came over to meet Henny and take a few snaps I was asked to escort Henny to his dressing room where he’s have to wait for a few hours while we finished up the last scene.

We walked over to the building where the dressing room had been staged. I told him we had a special room just for him and anything he wished I would arrange for him (I was hoping he didn’t ask for a girl but soon realized those days were long gone). I opened the big wooden double door and led him in to the room. the sun was coming through the beautiful stained glass windows, the flowers smelled great and the food looked scrumptious. Henny took one look around, turned to me and asked “Who died?” turned around and walked out. He never went back into the room. When I asked him where he was going he said he wouldn’t stay in that room alone, it gave him the creeps and he spent the next hour with the crew at the craft service tale having a plain bagel with cream cheese and a black coffee.

He spent about an hour in makeup and about 20 minutes on the set and he was done. He popped back into the limo and headed back to the airport. I packed him an extra bagel for the trip. And that was Henny Youngman, the man who said “Take my wife… please!”

OK, off to bed now.

Twitter Is Pissing Me Off

Posted in marketing, personal with tags , , , , , , on May 5, 2009 by barryshapiro

I can’t take it anymore. Between Facebook, email, texting, work and this blog I have simply run out of time. Now it’s twitter. It has been suggested that I Tweet for True Healthy Products and though I love working for this terrific company I simply cannot spend one more minute losing my sanity and sleep just to Twitter my life away. My first attempts were not so brilliant and all I proceeded to do it have a bunch of people I don’t know send me emails telling me they are now following my Tweets. And all I can say to that is “Why?” there must be a better way for people to learn all about Protein Power Mix (I think you just did) without having to know that I went to the bathroom and had a successful bowel movement (I didn’t).

That said, I just found out Mercury is going to be in retrograde starting next week and I should make any big plans or business deals until the end of the month. Thank you Monte Farber at http://www.theenchantedworld.com/blog/content.php?Subpage_ID=2903. Seriously, I love Monte and his beloved spouse Amy Zerner like they were family but they now have me spooked to buy a plane ticket and I want to go to New York. What am I to do? If it weren’t for their little blog memos on Facebook I would have bought the ticket, taken the trip and ever realized that I had blown a life-altering financial deal if only I had stayed in Florida. Life was simpler PF (Pre-Facebook).

All this technology is making me spend money I don’t want to really spend. I now realize how behind the times I really am and I need an iphone. How can I live without one? I see a crowd of friends and I walk over to chat. They are all talking and texting and as soon as I whip out m 6 year old LG flip phone they look at me like I must be yesterday’s old shorts and start to drift away to text and tweet in peace. It’s so embarrassing. I struggle with Quicken too, although I do love that little cash register sound ever time I enter a transaction. I used to be able to balance my checkbook at the first of every month just using a pencil and calculator. Not only can I not now balance my checkbook but I don’t even try. It never works out. I can’t even find my checkbook. And I don’t know how to scan a document and I still have a fax. This is why I don’t have friends. I’m just so 4 days ago.

I am digitally challenged. I feel so inadequate at times. Like when I can’t get on a webinar cause I screwed up the PIN codes.  And oh, I hate textimg too. I know that makes me an outcast but it’s true. I see kids text one-handed faster than I can touch type and I wonder if we are developing a nation of arthritic thumbs.

Well, I have to go hydrate now. And watch a video about how to successfully twitter. Watch for me – I’ll be out there!

Getting Old Sucks

Posted in personal with tags , , , , , on May 1, 2009 by barryshapiro

I haven’t been in such good shape in years. I’ve always been somewhat athletic – for a Jewboy from the Bronx that is. I’ve always liked sports, though I was average at best. But over the last 10 or 15 years I started to deterioriate a bit. I used to run but I was having foot and knee problems. I belonged to a gym for a while but I was always having sinus problems or colds. When I moved to Florida I got pneumonia. My only exercise was golf or occasionally riding my bike. I gained a few pounds and then a few more.

I’ve been battling high blood pressure for years. I used to be able to control it was diet and exercise but I finally had to go to medication. I have been on two medications for the last year. The meds had side effects so I started taking supplements to counteract them. I would get tired and spacy alot. About 4 months ago I decided that something had to change.

I read a great book called Diet Wise by Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby and by following his plan I realized I had a lactose intolerence. I gave up eating dairy. I still eat the evil red meat but not alot and no junk at all. Decided to run. One morning I got up and ran down the street. I thought I’d die right there. I walked home completely winded. The next day I got up and did it again. Now I run a mile or two every morning. I began to use a whole food vitamin mineral supplement. I’ve never been an advocate of vitamin use but I discovered that most vitamins are a waste of time and money. I believe that whole food vitamins are making a big difference for me. Recently I started taking a small amount of protein in my morning shake, despite concerns that the protein is whey based. The one I am using is a new, all natural blend called Protein Power Mix and it so far seems to have had littel negative effects but I think it is been great for my overall physical condition.

Bottom line is my pressure is under control, my weight is down, I’m way more alert throughout the day and I’ve cut the meds in half.  So, whats the lesson? Well, mother always told me to eat right and exercise and I guess mother always knows best.