Sunday, August 17, 2003

Three Questions

While I was never on the debate team in high school, college or at a very progressive pre-school, informal training as a naturally curious individual provided me with adequate opportunities to hone my skills. I rather enjoyed taking the role of “devil’s advocate,” which was probably prompted by a repressed rebelliousness to my conservative religious upbringing. Not everyone has appreciated my inquisitive nature, however.

I still remember a traumatic experience in eighth grade, where my homeroom teacher, Mr. McEachran, publicly limited me (and me alone) to three questions per class. This created quite a bit of stress for me, as I then had to constantly evaluate whether each new question I pondered warranted being one of the sanctioned three. While I obviously still harbor some deep-seated resentment towards Mr. McEachran, I can now appreciate that having to make these hard choices was a valuable experience.

Fast forward 20 years, and I find I am using these same skills as a pubic relations professional. Okay, wait, before you start slamming down your misguided anvil of judgment, let me debate the innocuousness of my particular role in this dubious profession. I do not represent Exxon. Nor do I represent companies involved with logging, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, or things your mother would frown upon. Sometimes, do my efforts make large corporations buy software with more functionality than they’ll ever need? Yes. Of that I am guilty, but a nice kind of guilty that lets me sleep at night and happily cash my pay check to buy frivolous consumer items with more functionality then I’ll never need.

Now that I’ve hopefully coaxed you down from your horse of elevated stature, I will continue with some droll observations on how my adolescent years prepared me for my current position. The bulk of my days involve writing press releases – those wonderful 2 or 3 page documents that litter the email boxes of editors around the globe. Of course, the difference between my press releases and other ones out there, are that mine are the ones that editors should care about. This is an important distinction.

As I think about what makes a really good press release, it pains me to realize that Mr. McEachran’s questionable middle school injunction has most likely had a positive effect on my current press release writing capabilities. You see, with a press release you have to carefully choose 2 or 3 main points you want to get across. Forget the small stuff and quickly get to what’s important – for you have to get your point across in a span of time that is dictated by how long it takes an editor to maneuver the mouse to the delete button. If you’re lucky, the mouse’s roller ball might be gummed up with lint, dust and skin cells, which could buy you a fraction of a second more. However, if you’re unlucky, two words: optical mouse.

My experience providing metaphorical legal representation for the prince of darkness has also proved extremely valuable. Essentially, it’s better that I poke holes in overblown corporate marketing claims that were recklessly created during a binge drinking session with the company Kool-Aid(tm). If I don’t, editors will. They love that sort of thing. But really, don’t we all?

There’s something satisfying about letting someone know they got their facts wrong. Like the other day when someone claimed that it was late president Van Buren that tried to buy Cuba. Everyone knows it was Buchanan, and it was while he was Secretary of State under Polk. Despite the obviousness of this blunder, my innate graciousness led me to merely correct this person politely. But I digress, when really I should be wrapping this up.

The point being that you often learn valuable lessons from difficult experiences, and secondly, that not all PR people are evil. When it comes to professions with the worst reputation, I believe that lawyers have edged us out of the top spot, and I hope this little expose helps to keep PR out of the number one position. So in light of all this, someone might question whether it makes sense to still hold resentment towards Mr. McEarchran. Unfortunately, I believe that someone has already used up his three questions.

Sunday, August 03, 2003


Truth be told, I love my dog. A lot of people are fanatical about their dogs, there’s nothing new about that. A lot of people would also say that they have the cutest dog ever. The difference between those “fanatics” and me is that my dog actually is the cutest ever. These other poor saps have been so emotionally manipulated that it’s impossible for them to see how inferior their dog would be to mine. It’s sad really, but a mixture of denial and fantasy world living works for some people.

To prove a point, I can make a quick analogy that will hopefully clear things up for any doubting Thomases. When it comes to beauty, humans have placed the highest value on the ideal represented by the latest batch of supermodels. (Before you start making a point about my leaving out male representation, first inform me of any male model that makes 10 million dollars a year on looks alone.)

So now that I’ve established an accepted standard for supreme attractiveness, it’s best to analyze the attributes that make supermodels successful. Based on media attention and lucrative contracts, I would say Gisele is a prime example for examination.

After conducting careful research, much to the chagrin of my wife, I have concluded that it mainly comes down to three factors: long legs, thin waist, big boobs. Now, examine a photo of my dog, Katy.

She has all of that going on: very long legs, super thin waist and an extremely large chest. If that weren’t enough, she also completes the comparison with her egotistical, prima donna personality. Furthermore, like most supermodels, she was discovered in a humble setting – in this case a local animal shelter.

So there you have some empirical evidence that establishes my dog as being the cutest ever. The next time someone else makes an erroneous comment about their dog being the cutest, please kindly correct them. Feel free to download a picture of Katy to prove your point.

Now as cute as my dog is on the outside, I never really wanted to see what she looked like inside. That’s a mystery that I’m happy to live with – just like the Loch Ness Monster, Area 51 or how Michael Jackson fathered his three children. In fact, I’m pretty content with not seeing the insides of any living thing. I think it stems from a traumatic experience in 4th grade where I almost fainted during a field trip to a blood bank. Of course, I was only 10, so it’s not too surprising. It would be another thing if I was 30 and fainted while getting a hemoglobin-style yellow fever shot. And luckily, that can’t be proven beyond hearsay and rumor.

I was actually fairly calm when I received the X-rays of my precious pooch. Not that I’m an expert – which, if there’s any truth to these fainting rumors, I never could be – but the black and white images seemed to be pretty normal. The veterinarian at the urgent care animal hospital agreed with me on this point, and also commented on the voluminous size of Katy’s bosom when mentioning the unique placement of her organs, which was dictated by her attainment of the feminine ideal of tiny waist and big chest. So now, I know what Katy looks like inside. It doesn’t really change the way I feel about her – except when I think of how I could have spent that $100 another way.

You may be wondering why my wife and I got X-rays of Katy at 11 p.m. at an after hours animal veterinary hospital. You can chalk that up to the inexperience of new puppy parents. To us, the odd looking puke that resembled the yellow and white insides of a Cadbury’s cream egg seemed very odd, and potentially life threatening. More experienced dog owners laugh at us when we tell the story.

We began to feel like we might be overreacting as we noticed the other dogs that were in the animal ER waiting room: the German shepherd who had suddenly lost all use of his limbs, the lab mix with a large splinter impaled through its paw and Yorkshire terrier with internal bleeding. These dogs stood, or laid down, in stark contrast to our dog, whose slight indigestation did not keep her from enthusiastically trying to jump up and kiss the other owners' faces. Regardless, now we know, and at least we had the sense not to opt for the $150 worth of lab work expertly promoted by the veterinarian by his subtle calls to our sense of compassion.

In the end, we did get something out of it beyond the macabre 11x17 glossies – professional validation of Katy’s striking waist to bust ratio. We didn’t set out looking for a supermodel dog, but I’m not so naïve to think that we weren't unduly and subconsciously influenced by the media’s relentless promotion of the feminine ideal.