11 May 2014

Charitable giving should be shrouded in mystery ... n'est pas?

Dear Reader, an engrossing article to be found/read over at Bloomberg by one Zachary Mider.  Loved every second of this petite mystery.  To be enjoyed on a wonderfully languid and relaxing "Happy Mother's Day!" day. Worth the read, I promise.  Link to Bloomberg below the tease/fold.  
The $13 Billion Mystery Angels  By Zachary R. Mider May 08, 2014
For many years, a Los Angeles psychoanalyst to the stars named Milton Wexler led the fight against Huntington’s disease, a rare and fatal congenital illness. His Hereditary Disease Foundation didn’t have much money, so he attracted scientists to his cause by inviting them to parties where they could mingle with his celebrity friends.

In 1997 a single donor began charting a new direction for the research effort into Huntington’s. He poured millions and eventually hundreds of millions of dollars into an aggressive search for a cure. At first he worked with Wexler’s organization, then split off and established his own network of nonprofit foundations. He hired a former banker named Robi Blumenstein to run them. In place of Wexler’s salons, where the talk had flowed freely from chromosomes to the arts, Blumenstein offered conferences with PowerPoint presentations on promising therapies and partnerships with major drugmakers such as Pfizer (PFE). “The word on the street was, wow, this is great. There’s this rich guy who’s creating this virtual biotech that’s tackling H.D.,” says Nathan Goodman, a scientist in Seattle. “My God, our prayers have been answered.”

By 2011 the donor was spending more than $100 million a year on Huntington’s, more than the National Institutes of Health was investing in a cure. Like everyone else, Goodman was grateful for the infusion of money—the disease had killed his father-in-law. He nevertheless found it frustrating that he couldn’t talk to the donor about his spending priorities. He says he grew more curious when he noticed Blumenstein at research conferences accompanied by a middle-aged, bearded man. A few years ago in Palm Springs, Calif., Goodman says, Blumenstein introduced the man to a group of attendees as the “donor’s representative.” He gave the man’s name as “Andrew.”

The unknown man’s donations to the fight against Huntington’s, it turns out, were just a small part of his generosity. 

(continue reading at Bloomberg!)

10 April 2014

the 4th Hour in the shade of a tree

April No. 10

just stay, at this hour.  let the light stop where it is.
a moment more, and it is changed.
mood, sentiment, breathless hope exhaled.

pull on the razor sharp hands of the clock.  stop time’s train in its narrow gauge.
for when history’s momentum jerks back clanging against this perfect setting,
a hazard’s worth of future turns its gaze back toward us.
with all of his cousins of hurry-ups and urgents, plying us for

our moment.  here. lovely and never to be again.

04 March 2014

I Know You, A$$hole ... Putin's Russia

In the words of Gene Hackman from The Royal Tenenbaums:  "I know you, asshole!" Rather, we know you, Putin's Russia.  Royal Tenenbaum is having an early morning leisurely smoke, looking out the 3rd story window of his manse, joined by his aide-de -camp "the Pagoda," when he flicks a butt out the window and, looking down, spies Eli Cash (Owen Wilson) defenestrating himself through a lower-level window.  

Just prior to Royal's highly appropriate vituperation toward the unctuous Eli, he asks his pal Pagoda (RIP, Kuman Pallana), "what's that jackass doing?"  And so it is with Putin's Russia.  We first wonder what is this third-world jackass doing?  Then we remember all too well that we know this boorish turd in the punch bowl all too well. We're all too familiar with the current Russian kleptocracy of corrupt oligarchs and former Soviet apparatchiks who have been and will always be happy to keep Russia a third-world coulda-been-a-contender -- albeit one that retains an atavistic and powerful hegemony in the region.  

Statecraft is the expert policy maker's chess game. And, Obama is not a nuanced policy guy; sorry, but he isn't.  And, he doesn't have the best folks around him to fill-in the gaps as most recent presidents have had.  He's got Rice, Clinton and Kerry.  Whilst Hillary and Kerry are terrifically smart, in my opinion they're policy wonks domestique, more comfortable at home carving out a beachhead for their power bases.  And, as much as I admire the career track of Susan Rice, she's not of the same caliber as these cats:

  • Carter had Warren Christopher and Z. Brzezinski;
  • Reagan had Schultz, Powell and Poindexter;
  • Bush 41 had Baker and Scowcroft;
  • Bill Clinton ("Inter-Bush" as Alec Baldwin once observed) had Christopher and Albright;
  • Bush 43 had Powell and Condi Rice.  

Obama 44 remains an activist and a great speechifier, but he's also the first ADHD president the US has ever had -- why hasn't anyone opined on this yet? -- who doesn't have the stamina, nor the attention span to play this foreign policy chess game out to its required long-game length.  Give Obama a few setbacks on his ObamaCare and before you know it, the family is off to a vacation, or, more likely, BHO is off on another record-setting round of golf (not for his low scoring, but for the number of rounds he's gotten in over the last 5 years).

The Bush doctrine, as ably articulated by Sec. Condi Rice around the world, was to support nascent democratic movements in their respective climes and environs.  Especially those trying to shake free the shackles of tyranny and despotism.  However, Bush's foreign policy wasn't a 70's style CIA backed sub rosa, seeking to undermine sovereign governments, but he was in the business of nation building, which ultimately cost taxpayers at home untold billions still to be calculated.  But, Bush was strong and played the long-game to its logical end.

Now, am I advocating US involvement in the Crimea or the region?  Uh, no.  I wasn't in favor of Syria involvement, nor was I really all that keen on Iraq, truth be told.  Afghanistan was a tough call, but a necessary quagmire, and I'm glad we're getting out of Dodge as we speak.  If there is a distinct, limited, and well articulated US interest, with enumerated goals, then let's cowboy up and get the fugly done and done, because in this big, bad world, the grownups have to make tough decisions and move on.

Because Obama has been sized-up by Putin and his cadre of former KGB hacks now "legit" entrepreneurs, as being skittish on US involvement -- especially in light of Syria -- Putin will do whatever he wants in Ukraine and Obama will do little to nothing to reply in-kind.  Obama needs to realize that Ukraine and Poland are similar in their beginnings.  A feel-good ground swell, accompanying street demonstrations, with leaders from within risking life and limb to speak out -- not puppet proxies placed in Soviet Satellites by Russian leaders arrogating for themselves strategic territories.  Putin wants 1989 to go away.  He wants to pretend it never happened, and that the "domino theory" can never work in reverse, with regions and people groups laying claim for the first time a right to representative governments, whatever form they may take.

Note, Dear Reader, if you haven't seen this quaint Wes Anderson mise-en-scène, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.  The Royal Tenenbaums can be found on eBay or Amazon.com for purchase or rent. 

08 February 2014

Life is a Beautiful Sport ... Lacoste 2014 Campaign

In a world of fashion brands and magazines and Terry Richardsons (and the many impresarios funding those of his ilk) and reality TV shows and the Internet seemingly sexualizing our culture (and our young kids) at every turn, it's nice to see an advertisement that can celebrate the first kiss in such a bold fashion. That's it.  Just a kiss.  And what a kiss.  Note: to see the ad, scroll down below the fold.

The "first kiss" ... powerful thing, that.  My first kiss was when I was 5 or thereabouts. Samantha King, who lived across the street from our family, she and I were both in kindergarten, and it was a purloined kiss, stolen in front of the entire class.  Our teacher had us playing "around the world" where she would hold up vocabulary cards, and whoever said the word first, that child would stand behind the next kid trying to defeat the entirety of the semi-circle of kids.  One joker was making his way "around the world," slaying all comers.  He'd stand behind each child in a one-on-one competition, reading "cat" or "ball" faster than the kid seated before him, letting out a "hmmph!!" each time he'd clobber some hapless knuckle-dragger.

Samantha was seated next to me, and ole joker was now behind yours truly, with his cold little fingers gripping the back of my plastic chair. The teacher pulled her next vocabulary flash card.  "Classroom!" I shouted. He was no match against a future and confirmed sesquipedalian, and I pumped my triumphant fist in the air. Then in one singular motion and in the exact fashion of that 1970's game show, The Newlyweds (whenever the husbands would get an answer correct, they'd always kiss their wives seated next to them), I proceeded to plant a firm and unmistakable wet one on Samantha King, seated next to me, and her soon-to-be-bright-red cheek.  Boy, oh boy, did pandemonium break out. It was glorious. Today, there would be lawsuits, suspensions, and newly fashioned guidelines about how to properly play "around the world."

As many a reader of this space knows, I am the Anglophile at heart, but as a good Frenchman (Cajun boy, actually, by way of Canada, where they occasionally get the breezes) I will of course rock the Croc e'ry now and then.  Lacoste has boldly gone forward with their "Life is a Beautiful Sport" ad campaign this year the likes of which will only help pad their $2billion plus in annual revenue.  Good on them.

I read a recent article about the BETC agency in France that produced this spot for the campaign they pitched to Lacoste.  It's a nice read if you're into that sort of thing.  My gig as head of marketing keeps me firmly ensconced in such ephemera, but I like the storytelling aspect about this brand campaign very much.  When you watch this spot, notice his nervousness, the false starts and hesitation both on the rooftop and at the table.  It's a sweet, bold spot, that nicely captures his flailing about mid-air, bringing his legs and arms akimbo into something of a smooth landing for a first kiss. The rest of the campaign is equally spot-on, with men and women active, walking and perched in the air, strong vision and vantage of what's happening in the busy city, and what the future holds for those like-minded Lacoste loyalists and aspirationalists.

I shared this ad with my two sons (16 and 13 respectively).  The subject of first kisses and dating has come up quite frequently as of late.  My sons look like their mom, which is a good thing for them and their future girlfriends, believe me. I've shared some advice in this regard, but only because I've been asked.  My main advice?  Don't do as I did, but be a bit more suave. Don't bumble and stumble, but be brave, bold, self-assured, and .... humble.  It's not the cocky, but the confidently sweet who make the best first kissers, er, in this rather paunchy, squishy fuddy-duddy dad's opinion.