Jan 03

A different type of New Year’s resolution

DSCN5007 'Tis the season for resolutions, so I figured I'd share mine.

Unlike many, I have no need to quit smoking, lose weight or tackle new physical challenges. Ice climbing, long distance cycling and stand-up comedy fill those ‘voids’ very nicely, thank you.

My resolution is more of an emotional one. I resolve not to let professional and personal setbacks upset me to the degree they have in the past.

If a significant client cuts us loose, so be it. If a close friend decides to cut me off, c'est la vie. And, if the Mets continue to cut a wide swath through the N.L. East's cellar, that'll be ok, too.

I won't these other pet peeves bother me either:

– The Lexus 'December to Remember' TV commercials. Is there ANYTHING more obnoxious?
– PR awards' programs that allow large agencies to submit countless entries and dominate each and every category.
– Endless NJ Transit train delays.
– New Jersey's horrible image. The real armpit of the tri-state area is Wrong Island.
– Sarah Palin's nonsensical, moronic statements.
– Politicians who refuse to work with one another to solve our nation's ills.
– PR Week's hagiographic cover profiles of chief communications officers (the only thing missing are the halos).
– The latest transgression by a Catholic priest.
– Yet another heating or air conditioning glitch from the fine folks at 470 Park Avenue South.
– Unsolicited e-mails from new business rainmakers, database management experts and a certain Mr. Brown from Nigeria who needs my banking information in order to transfer some $7 million into my account.

So, bring on the New Year and its challenges. I pledge not to overreact to disloyal clients and friends or rude and uncommunicative NJ Transit train conductors.

If I should find myself slipping though, I know I need only schedule a few days of ice or rock climbing with Art Mooney (www.mooneymountainguides.com). It's the single best cure for what ails me and the best way for me to assure I deliver on my 2011 resolutions.

So, how about you? What are your 2011 resolutions?

Dec 22

Typhoid Mary-types need not apply

I enjoy reading employee e-mails saying they're 'sick as dogs' and will be working from home. Mind Typhoid-mary you, I'm not a sadist. Instead, I'm proud of the fact our employees know enough to stay home, take care of themselves and, critically, not spread their germs like some latter-day Typhoid Mary.

According to the fine folks from HALLS cough drops, though, my POV is unique. A survey they've just released says most Americans will still consider showing up to work when sick. A staggering 44 percent will go to work with a fever while almost a third will show up no matter HOW sick they get. (Ugh. Stay away from this blogger.)

Fear is driving this maniacal work-at-all- costs mentality. One in five HALLS survey respondents feel pressure by their boss or supervisor to head into work when they're ill. One in three say they wouldn't get paid for taking off for a sick day. And, more than 10 percent thought they wouldn't receive their next pay raise, promotion, or worse, if they stayed in bed (how positively Dickensian).

This is insane!

We make a big deal about worker health and productivity, and sometimes have to force people to go home if they're sneezing and hacking. We've actually had to stage interventions with certain maniacal workers who felt it more important to work than rest and recuperate.

I'm not sure if the HALLS results reveal a false perception on the part of employees or a genuine 'work at all costs' mentality on the part of management. If it's the latter, it's shortsighted, destructive and, ultimately, counter-productive. And, it will also adversely impact an organization's image and reputation (“Boy, those people at Moed Pharmacy show up for work even if they've got walking pneumonia. No way I ever work there.”).

So, send your sick employees home ASAP before they can infect the entire workforce. Communicate a stern message that employees who show up sick at work will be summarily turned around and sent home. Or, simply post a sign in the reception area and web site that reads: 'Typhoid Mary-types need not apply."

Dec 01

Instant Recess is gonna get you

Two completely different articles have reinforced something I already knew: the vast majority of 1190 Americans are in horrific physical condition.

The first piece was an Advertising Age article reporting that our nation's kids “…overwhelmingly chose McDonald's as their favorite fast-food restaurant (37 percent picked Mickey D's, 10 percent liked Subway and a mere eight percent opted for Burger King).”

McDonald's is so successful with kids, says one industry analyst, because of its Happy Meals. Eric Giandelone of Mintel says the calorie-laden meals make going to McDonald's “…fun for kids.” I'll bet the trips they make later in life to obesity clinics won't be as much fun.

McDonald's disturbing success with our nation's youth dovetailed neatly with an excellent Jane E. Brody column in a recent New York Times Health Section. In it, Brody profiles Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at UCLA, who says, “Being sedentary is the norm in America.”  Ninety-five percent of Americans, says Yancey, “…spend most of our waking time sitting, reclining or lying down.' Let me repeat that statistic: 95 percent of us do nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. A Happy Meal legacy, perhaps?

Dr. Yancey has a name for America's inertia. She calls it “sedentary behavior disorder.” I call it laziness.

She has a solution for SBD and has even written a book about it called “Instant Recess.” Unlike the recess we remember from grade school however, this newer, adult version consists of “two, 10-minute breaks of enjoyable community activity as part of people's everyday lives.” Yancey suggests brisk group walks wherever people gather: workplaces, day care centers, conferences, etc. She says instant recess beats structured exercise since most people “get tired when they exert themselves just a little bit, which of course discourages them from exercising.” I'd call that laziness as well.

I'm all for Dr. Toni Yancey's instant recess strategy. I just hope the group walks don't pass by a McDonald's. I can just see one of the members suggesting an instant recess from the instant recess.

Nov 30

The Hercules of Hackensack

Thomas Jefferson was wrong when he wrote, “All men are created equal.” They aren't. Some can Article-1241060-07C9E3B1000005DC-34_634x382 jump higher. Others can run faster. And, some simply don't feel the cold like mere mortals.

I was struck by the inequality among my fellow man at the New Jersey Transit train station the other day. While huddled inside a makeshift windbreak waiting for 'Old Unreliable', I spied a few fellow commuters strolling along the platform sans topcoats. I was appalled. The temperature was 24 degrees and the wind chill had to be in the teens. Yet, these machismo types padded along the platform as if it were a pleasant Spring day.

Women don't do this. They feel the cold like most men. So, how come there's a certain class of guys who disdain warmth? It has to go beyond mere testosterone. And, it has to be more than mere narcissism. These deep-freeze defying denizens of December MUST have other reasons for encouraging a cold blast of arctic air to shoot up their pant legs. Could it be:

– A missing brain synapse that doesn't registers sensitivity to heat or cold?
– A desperate need to attract attention (“Hey, check me out! Am I the Hercules of Hackensack? The Samson of South Amboy? The Paul Bunyan of New Brunswick? Man, am I rugged, or what?”).
– A weather version of the Dennis Kozlowski/Jeff Skilling/Elliot Spitzer attitude that says: “Hey, normal rules simply don't apply to me.”

Whatever the motivation of the sans topcoat troupe, I think it's an ill-advised, if subliminal, image move. Not only do these guys repel me, I think their Summer in Winter wardrobe merely reinforces society's perception of men as bumbling Neanderthals.

In fact, I'm surprised Hollywood screenwriters and TV commercial producers haven't seized on this obvious folly to once again remind viewers that men are the inferior gender.

Oct 20

The ‘Other’ Big C

I'm in the midst of flipping through Jon Stewart's laugh out loud coffee table book, Earth. It's   TMCQuentinMeaseCroppedRGB written for aliens who have stumbled across planet earth long after we humans have annihilated ourselves. In it, Stewart provides his P.O.V. on the who, what, when, where, why and how humanity got itself into the mess that is life in the year 2010.

As is the case with all of Stewart's humor, the text is decidedly tongue-in-cheek. One section, entitled ‘The Phases of Man’ is both hilarious and insightful.

The middle-age section naturally hit home with me. It features a photograph of a portly, balding middle-aged guy rocking a Hawaiian shirt, mandals, a couple of tats and an earring. Various arrows point to the man's anatomy and contain captions such as this one about his visible chest hair, “Men of a certain age were eager to show the world not all of their hairlines were receding.” Another arrow pointing to the man's sagging chest reads, “Decreased metabolism manifested itself in the form of love handles, spare tires, saddle bags, walrus knees, beluga back and manteats.”

Stewart describes middle age as the period of time between 45 and 60 (Phew! I still qualify). He then goes on to say that middle age varied greatly due to changing life expectancies. “For instance,” he writes, “victims of midlife crisis during the Dark Ages would comfort themselves with the thought that 20 is the new 16.”

Tuesday's New York Times Science section neatly complemented Stewart's wisdom on middle age with an in-depth analysis of how and why centenarians make it to 100 years of age and beyond. There are now 96,548 humans 100 years of age, or older (there were only 38,300 in 1990). That's enough oldsters to fill the Rose Bowl! Of course, they'd fall asleep before halftime, but still…

According to the article, which cites findings of a New England Centenarian Study at Boston University, there's a direct link between longevity and people who are extroverts, have a healthy dose of self-esteem and strong ties to family and community (note: two out of three ain't bad). It also reports on a University of Pittsburgh study that followed 97,000 women for eight years and said those 'deemed optimistic' were significantly less likely to die from heart disease than were pessimistic women, which the study described as “cynically hostile.” (Note: I've had more than one cynically hostile client over the years). Pessimists were also more likely to be overweight, smoke cigarettes and avoid exercise.

Here's the kicker, though. A Swedish study of identical twins separated at birth and reared apart concluded that only about 20 to 30 percent of longevity is genetically determined. That's huge. That means we can play a major role in determining how long we live and whether we can make it to the 'other’ Big C.

My game plan to reach 100 is two-fold:

– Challenge my body with intense physical exercise such as this past weekend's rock climbing in New Hampshire  , the Tour de Pink charity ride and other seemingly nonsensical middle-age pursuits.
– Challenge my mind with daily blogs, bi-monthly podcasts, performing stand-up comedy and trying to devise new service offerings for Peppercom. I find battling with Ed also keeps my mind fresh. I may die before this blog is even posted, but I've got a ‘Big C Plan’ that I'm implementing. What about you? Are you thinking of making it to the other Big C? If so, share your game plan. Lifelong learning is another key ingredient in the lives of centenarians portrayed in the Times article. And, I'm all ears (minus the eDSCN4689arring, of course).IMAG0066 (2)

Oct 06

“Make a joke and I will sigh and you will laugh and I will cry.”

Nycc I thought this particular Black Sabbath lyric was especially appropriate in setting up my blog about Saturday night's Young Survival Coalition charity comedy event at The New York Comedy Club.
  
YSC needs all the help it can get. Its mission is simple, but stark: raise funds for, and provide support to, young women who are diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, though, YSC doesn't attract the buzz that larger, better-funded breast cancer organizations such as Susan G.  Komen Foundation enjoy. Ysc_logo

And, the charity ride is anything but charitable to the riders. We logged 230 miles in two-and-a half days, battled high winds, steep hills and precipitous descents. In fact, three riders fell and broke collar bones on the first day alone. That said, no matter how painful the experience, all one had to do for motivation was look ahead, behind or to the side and see a cancer survivor battling the very same elements. How could any of us give up when these survivors, who had already endured so much, were pushing their bodies to the max? We peddled on…
  
So, in addition to competing in YSC's Tour de Pink charity cycling event this past weekend, several other Peppercommers will be joining me for Saturday's fundraising comedy event.
  
Finally, in the spirit of social media, allow me to be totally transparent. Today's blog is nothing more than a bald-faced attempt to hype Saturday night's event, increase the gate (all proceeds go to YSC) and help the Coalition with its noble task.
  
Assuming you don't have prior plans, we'd love to see you.  (8pm, Saturday October 9th, The New York Comedy Club, 241 East 24th St.; reservations are advised: 212-696-5233.) And, even if you do have a conflict, click on the YSC link  (or on my personal YSL fundraising page) and send them a few bucks. It all helps. And, that's no joke.

Oct 01

Toys don’t contain calories. Or do they?

Guest Post by Maddy Gale, Peppercom

Happy meal This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is meeting to discuss an ordinance concerning toy giveaways in fast food meals marketed to children. The toys won’t be eliminated completely, but will be limited to children’s meals that fit into a set range of calories, fat, salt, and sugar decided on by the city.

Living in San Francisco, and watching a similar situation unfold concerning sugary drinks and city vending machines, I am not at all surprised by this news. But I am a bit torn.

I’m a good liberal arts college grad, having attended school in southern California where fruits and vegetables are bountiful year-round, and whose student body regularly spoke with school administration about where we sourced the food for our dining hall. Now that I live in San Francisco, I frequent the weekly farmers’ market clutching Michael Pollan’s newest sermon while stuffing my reusable bag full and discussing the biographies of my produce with the growers. I’m revolted by fast food chains and often find myself in conversation about the likes of McDonalds and Burger King and their ability to literally make a killing manufacturing highly processed, chemically flavored products and selling them as “food.” 

I seem like the type who would whole-heartedly support something that would upset and potentially damage the sales of fast food. But I’m not—at least not in this situation. Despite my desire to rally the type of enthusiasm I have for swiss chard and eggplants in the hearts and minds of all Americans, I do not think limiting the number of plastic toys that lay coated in French fry grease at the bottom of a child’s Happy Meal is the best way for city officials to encourage San Francisco’s youth to eat healthier.

Neither does Mayor Gavin Newsom who, according to his spokesman Tony Winnicker, believes dictating “what plastic toys can be put in a cardboard box is not the right way to achieve [getting kids to eat better].”

So who besides the Board of Supervisors thinks this ordinance will do any good? I can only guess the parents who are allowing their children to have the final say on what’s on their dinner plate—or tray in this instance. Perhaps these parents who are unwilling to withstand the tantrums and demands of their little cherubs every time they drive by a fast food chain are hoping that the city can suppress their kids’ desires by eliminating one part of the advertised meal. The part they can’t even eat. 

A child can’t make it to the drive-up window or down the street to sit inside the restaurant by themselves—a caregiver is the one taking them and asking if they want extra cheese on their burger. 

I appreciate what the Board of Supervisors is trying to do – encourage healthy living and keep health care costs in check. But this potential ordinance is just one of the many examples of children being victimized in the “obesity epidemic.” When is the country going to realize parents and caregivers are the ones who play the key role in supporting their growing kids – not the government? 

Sep 02

Thirty-four 90+ degree days is 33 too many

Let me go on record as saying I despise the Three Hs: hazy, hot and humid. The terrible trio  Thermomonsidewalk combine to turn the average Manhattan workday into a hellish tempest of melting macadam, short-tempered tourists and gridlocked traffic.

The modern Manhattan Summer bears little resemblance to the kinder, gentler ones of my youth. It's replete with carbon monoxide, toxic ultra violet rays blasting through a depleted ozone layer and enough carcinogens to conjure up images of Chernobyl in Chelsea. And lest you think these are merely the rants of a middle-age meltdown, think again. Heat kills. The last great NYC heat wave killed 1,100 people in 1966.  And, that cannot be good for tourism.

According to The New York Times, the summer of 2010 went down in the National Weather Service's record books as the hottest ever in New York City. We've had six official heat waves, 34 days of 90+ degree temps and an average daytime temperature of 77.8 degrees.

Who needs Hades when you have Hell's Kitchen?

I've also had the misfortune to run headfirst into the hottest summers in recorded history for St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia, respectively. And, as our Russian tour guide so eloquently put it, “Your Mr. Albert Gore was sure right about his world warming.”

Aside from a latter-day George Hamilton trolling the Westhampton beaches in search of some unsuspecting parvenu, an octogenarian suffering from poor circulation or a middle-aged Lolita sunning herself on the Jersey Shore in hopes of hooking-up with The Situation, I can't imagine anyone enjoying this horrific heat. As my business partner, Ed, so eloquently puts it, “This blows!”

As for me, I'm hunkering down, riding it out and waiting for that first crisp, cool day in October when Manhattan truly comes alive. When it does happen, and it will, I'll crank up one of the
most evocative tunes I know: Billie Holiday's 'Autumn in New York.'

Summer in the city? You can have it.

Jul 13

My Best Friend

If someone had told me 25 years ago that Chris RepMan, Jr., Cody would one day be my best friend,
Kilimanjaro 015 I’d have asked for an ounce of whatever he was smoking. But, I’m thrilled to say that Chris is, indeed, my best friend. I share this personal tidbit because it flies in the face of a highly controversial New York Magazine cover story entitled, “I Love My Child. I Hate My life”.

The article, which is based on mind-numbingly extensive research, says becoming a parent doesn’t make one happier. In fact, it makes people sadder and undermines relationships. Experts quoted in the text say the findings “…expose the gulf between our fantasies about family and its spiking realities.” Holy counter-intuitive!

The article tracks a parent’s happiness from childbirth on and shows that it’s extremely low in the first few years of an offspring’s life (thanks to zero sleep), peaks when the child is between six and 12, and then tails off big time during the teens (no surprise, there). But, get this: the more children one has, the less happy one becomes (so much for twins). And the richer the parents, the greater their misery. Holy lose-lose!

And, talk about a relationship buzz kill. The cover story says parents spend less than 10 percent of their time ‘alone’ and that 10 percent is typically spent “exhausted and staring at a TV set.” Sound familiar? If one needed a coup de grace to the entire ‘parenting is what life is all about’ argument, check this out: 40 percent of all arguments between spouses are about their kids. Game. Set. Match.

So much for the image and reputation of becoming a parent. But, here’s the real kick in the head. Single people surveyed near the end of their lives always list ‘not having a family’ as one of their biggest regrets. So, it’s a classic damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

As for this blogger, I’m thrilled with my kids and very proud of them. Has raising kids adversely impacted my marriage? Probably. We still argue about them all the time. But, I know I speak for Angie when I say we wouldn’t have passed up parenthood for the world. And, how many dads can say their son also happens to be their best friend? That’s my bottom line. What’s your POV?

Jul 06

There are morons. Then there are cigarette smokers.

Thomas Jefferson’s words notwithstanding, all men (and women) are not created equal. Some
No-smoking-ad are gifted athletes. Others are Nobel Prize winners. Most, though, while away their lives staring vacantly at reality TV shows. I’d place cigarette smokers in the latter group. Can there be a more clueless and moronic class of human beings than cigarette smokers? Not only are they knowingly destroying their health, they’re paying huge amounts of money to do so.

I’d leave smokers to their inevitable plight if it weren’t for a new survey I happened across in a recent Daily Dog. It shows that one-third of smokers surveyed by GlaxoSmithKline misunderstand the health impact of ‘light’ or ‘mild’ cigarettes. Almost half (44 percent) say they typically smoke light or ultra light cigarettes, with one-quarter of these nincompoops saying they do so because they mistakenly believe light cigarettes are less harmful and easier to quit than regular cigarettes. Oh baby. And, I thought that two-year-old, chain-smoking Indonesian kid was clueless. He doesn’t hold a candle (or, lighted match for that matter) to American smokers.

The GSK survey was timed to coincide with the government’s intention to ban such words as light, low and mild on all cigarette packaging. Well, there’s a few more million dollars down the tube. The warning won’t matter. Smokers are too dumb to get it.

I wonder if the same morons who believe the words mild or light indicate a less toxic cigarette would accept similar adjectives if placed in front of other known killers. To wit:

1.)    Al Qaeda Light (“Honey, I’ve just been recruited by a real sweetheart of a guy named Osama. Even smokes light cigarettes.”)
2.)    A new, mild 9mm from Glock (“They say they’re safer, babe. They use softer, lighter bullets!”)
3.)    Low tar BP oil (“Surf’s up, hon. Let’s do some snorkeling in Gulfport!”)
4.)    Iran Light (“So what if they start building nuclear weapons? They’ll be nuke lights.”)
5.)    Wall Street Light (“Those AIG guys are 100 percent honest. They earned every nickel. So what if it was our nickel?”)

Maybe if we just referred to the Great Recession as ‘light’ smokers would happily puff away believing their life savings haven’t gone up in smoke? Might smokers also dismiss the Catholic Church hullabaloo as much ado about nothing if the Vatican started positioning the pedophilia cases as ‘mild’?

According to the same survey, smokers also think cigarettes are safer if they’re contained in light colored packaging! Maybe the Taliban should change from black-hooded robes to teal instead? I’d have to believe the Bloods and Crips could start recruiting smokers to their ranks if they began marketing a kinder, gentler line of gang clothing. Perhaps mocha and lime? And, if those Montclair-based Russian spies were really diabolical, they would have sought out American smokers within the intelligence community, donned light-colored clothing and asked for some mild intelligence and light secrets.

I ask you: is there anyone dumber than a smoker?