Johnny Depp Steals My Idea

Well, not really.  Disney’s New Mad Hatter Display that I pitched to Hill Holiday and Chili’s back in 2008, and they did a great job of it.

Using a flatscreen television, live video and audio, and an ornate picture frame, Disney made a seemingly flat digital display become an interactive attraction where park visitors got to speak directly to the Mad Hatter himself.  It was fantastic!  Check it out below:

Thing is, White Paper on Chili’s Interactive as a Harry Potter promotion in Chili’s restaurants back in 2008. The folks at Hill, Holiday never even responded. If this idea is already eight years old, imagine what we could do now?

White Paper on Chili’s Interactive to see my 2008 white paper on how Chili’s could have used this technology to boost customer visits to their store, while cross-promoting the Harry Potter movies.

Social Media Tip: Talk About Other Brands

I find too often that brands don’t want to mention other brands on their social media channels. They feel they shouldn’t be “diluting” their message, and often feel they’re providing a service for free.

I say this is silly.


His first name ain’t baby, it’s Captain. Captain Morgan if you’re nasty.

The first rule about writing a good ad is to write like  you’re speaking with someone. If you write like you talk, you’ll notice you talk about real world things, using brand names more often than you think. Heck, just think to anytime you were out at a bar. You didn’t ask for a “spiced rum and soda,” you asked for a “Captain and Coke.”  That’s what makes the show  Chopped so odd at times – they won’t use common brand names when referring to food items, so you’re often sitting there trying to figure out just what the hell the ingredients are.

In our day to day lives we refer to brands all the time, and that’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to say them on your social media channels. It’s better for communication, and besides, you may accidentally back into a cross-promotion.

Most importantly, however, it allows you to have fun, and fun means interesting to your followers.

Here’s an example:

Your client is AMC, and they want you to write a social media post for their hit show “The Walking Dead” to get people excited about the upcoming new season about the zombie apocalypse. Which of these two posts do you think is going to get the most traffic, shares, and participation?

Option 1:
“Hey folks, The Walking Dead returns February 14th! To celebrate, tell us who is your favorite character and why.”

Which Craypocalypse color do you like most?

Which Craypocalypse color do you like most?

Option 2:
“Hey folks, The Walking Dead returns February 14th! If Crayola were to make a box of colors celebrating the apocalypse, what new colors do you think would be added? Nuclear orange? Ebolavender? Add your own!”

Not talking about other brands is a handcuff that makes no sense for social media. Besides, only talking about your brand is boring, and bores your audience.

After all, the last time you ordered that Captain and Coke at the bar, did you really want to hang around with the guy who only talked about himself all night?

The Biggest Lottery Ever – Explained

This Wednesday’s Powerball drawing is for the largest jackpot in US history. The Powerball website lists the jackpot at $1.5 BILLION dollars – but will you really receive $1.5 billion if you win?

Probably not.

There are a few things you should know when expecting to become an overnight billionaire through the lottery.

maxresdefaultFirst, you have to be the only person to win the jackpot in order to get the whole thing. If anybody else has the same numbers as you, you split the jackpot evenly.

Second, the jackpot isn’t for $1.5 billion, it’s actually for $930 million – the jackpot’s “cash value.” You see, the big number the lottery people tell you is the jackpot is actually an estimated return based off an annuity, or an investment (or series of investments) that pay you dividends over a number of years. In the case of Powerball the annuity is 30 years.  That means the lottery people will take the $930 you won, give you some of it, and then invest the rest for 30 years.

Here’s the kicker – if those investments don’t do well, you could be paid less than promised. What if the annuity does better than planned? You get no more than promised.

So with the annuity you’re giving your money to a non-profit organization overseen by members of the government, and hoping that they invest it wisely for you – instead of taking the money yourself and investing it privately. Because you know how the government is known for being financially so wise.

Third, you’re paying taxes every time you get a check, whether you choose the annuity or not. The federal government is going to take $119,996.25 of your first $413,200, then they’re going to take 39.6% of everything you make after that. Then your state is going to tax you if they have income or lottery tax, and then your local county, city, or town may tax you if they have a similar tax.

If you take the cash option when you win, you’re only taxed for that first year.

If you take the annuity, you get taxed EVERY year for 30 years. If your state or local government raises their tax rates, you’ll pay MORE taxes on those years. So with the annuity, you’re already gambling the government will invest your money wisely, and then you’re gambling the government won’t raise taxes – which, you know, they are historically famous for doing.

Lastly, inflation is going to kill the value of your prize if you take the annuity. Inflation is when the cost of goods goes up over time. The cumulative rate of inflation for the last 30 years was about 120%, meaning you’re now paying over twice as much as you were paying for things 30 years ago. Check out this inflation calculator to see what things cost over the last 100 years, and what they cost now.

In summary – if you take the cash value of your jackpot immediately, you’d give up almost half of it in taxes, but still could be worth over half a billion dollars right away! Here in Massachusetts, you’ll get a one-time check for $514,290,000.

If you take the annuity you’re gambling the government gambles well with your money. Even if they gamble well and pay you $50 million every year for 30 years, you’re going to lose 39.6% of that every year, at a minimum, but that will probably increase. Likewise, your dollars become worth less every year, so it effectively becomes a smaller payment.

Your first annuity payment, if you lived in Massachusetts, would come to about $27,650,000, but the 30th payment would feel more like $10,000,000.

The moral to the story here is yeah, the annuity is a piss-poor deal for people who are too lazy to win half a billion dollars and learn how to invest it wisely. But then again, hey, you’re still a freaking multi-millionaire until 2046! Just go buy a ticket!!

Where’s Pat’s Memorial?

As I read in the papers this week that a memorial bench is being dedicated to Puppy Doe here in Quincy, MA, I can’t help but wonder if we as a society have our priorities straight.

I favor the strong new laws punishing those who harm animals.  I believe dogs are the closest things to angels on Earth – they truly are great creatures, and anybody who harms them is a lowlife who should be punished.  If we need to erect a memorial to an unknown dog to help remind people that we don’t accept cruelty to animals, then so be it.

But if we can justify all this time and money to remember Puppy Doe, where’s our memorial to Patrick J. Kelliher?

In 1908, Patrick J. Kelliher was a four year veteran of the Quincy Police Department when he received a call that a group of men were causing trouble on a train.  He went to the Quincy Square station and arrested the lead instigator.  Back then patrolmen didn’t have individual squad cars.  In fact, they didn’t have radios!  Kelliher had to drag his suspect to a nearby call box to get a wagon to pick them up.  While on the phone, the suspect’s friends attacked Kelliher and savagely beat him.

Officer Patrick J. Kelliher's headstone.

Officer Patrick J. Kelliher’s headstone.

Four months later Kelliher died from his injuries.  He was 39 years old.

Is there a monument somewhere in Quincy Center remembering the sacrifice Officer Kelliher made there?  No.  Is there one perhaps in another part of Quincy, maybe somewhere Kelliher enjoyed walking with his wife?  No.

In fact, the only physical remembrance of the sacrifice Officer Kelliher made is his headstone hidden way back in a remote corner of St. Mary’s cemetery on the western edge of Quincy.  It’s in a part of the cemetery you can barely see from the road – if you could even call Reardon St. a road.

Kelliher’s headstone is hidden behind a towering granite wall, and on the other three sides by trees.  Unless you were brought to the location, which I was, or given the geological coordinates, you probably wouldn’t be able to find it.

Way in the background you can barely see the entrance to the small area in which Kelliher's headstone is located.

Way in the background you can barely see the entrance to the small area in which Kelliher’s headstone is located.

How is it conceivable that we’re dedicating a monument to a dog, when we’ve failed to remember a man who dedicated his life – literally gave his life – to us?

In 1938, Quincy Police officers used their own money to build a memorial to departed members of the Quincy Police Relief Association, now known as the Quincy Police Mutual Aid Association.  This isn’t a monument for officers lost in the line of duty, it’s simply a memorial for all of their brothers and sisters who have passed for any reason.  We didn’t erect this, nor did we pay for this.  The cops paid for their own monument.

Since Officer Kelliher’s death, there have been four other Quincy Police officers who have died in the line of duty.  And to be brutally honest, there have been countless cops who suffer from or have succumbed to the stress and emotional trauma they suffer on a daily basis as part of the job.

I think it’s fine Puppy Doe is getting a memorial bench.  But could we perhaps try to remember Pat Kelliher, too?

Bad TV Spots: State Farm “Road Trip”

She dropped everything to go help her asshole son.

She dropped everything to go help her asshole son.

You’ve all seen the State Farm commercials, where a state farm customer needs something from their insurance agency, and simply by singing the song, a representative appears in a puff of smoke to help them.  It’s a bit silly, but cute.

In every commercial, another person who doesn’t have State Farm sings a similar magic jingle and somebody shows up who can’t help much.

In “Road Trip,” some guy named Jimmy rear-ends a family of four and both guys sing their magic jingles.  The first guy, who Jimmy hit, has State Farm and is fine.  When Jimmy sings his song, his mother shows up.  They’re in the middle of the desert, and his mother magically appears to help him, sitting on the phone, on hold, to assist her son.  When his mother says there are six callers ahead of them, Jimmy tells her that she’s not helping rather petulantly.

Wait, what?

Jimmy can’t fucking drive and hits a family of four from behind, and then when his mother travels to the desert to help him out, he gets flip with her?  How much an asshole do you have to be to ask your magic mother to drop what she’s doing to cover your stupid ass, and then insult her in front of strangers?

The commercial should have ended with his mother shooting a bolt of lightning up Jimmy’s ass.  No, mistreating your generous mother is  never funny.  This commercial failed.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, here’s the TV spot below:

Guinness: Empty Chair

Obviously being an Irish-American man living in Boston, I consider a pint of Guinness my birthright, and that Guinness is a brand that can do no wrong.  I’ve grown up learning from my Irish-American doctor that Guinness is good for me.

This TV spot is tremendous.  With all the wasted airtime out there spent on ads, it’s so refreshing to see simple, meaningful spots like this one.

A Young Andre the Giant

Andre the Giant has a posse indeed.

Andre the Giant has a posse indeed.

When we think of Andre Roussimoff many images come to mind: as WWF champion wrestling persona Andre the Giant, as Fezzik in The Princess Bride, and even as Bigfoot in those famous episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man.

But have we ever imagined him as a teenager?

I found this YouTube video aired in France in 1966, a month before Andre turned 20.  It’s really interesting seeing a skinny, yet huge, G.I.T. (Giant in Training).


Legalize My Damned Fireworks

Apparently I can’t buy fireworks here in Massachusetts because I’m going to blow myself up.

Every year I get a mailer asking me to drive over the border to New Hampshire to buy fireworks.

Every year I get a mailer asking me to drive over the border to New Hampshire to buy fireworks.

Perhaps before I was born in 1972 there was a rash of human explosions, but no matter how far back I look, I can’t find even one death by firework in Massachusetts.  In a new report released this month by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, only eight people died in the United States in 2013 in incidents involving fireworks, none of them were in Massachusetts.  Half of them were in Virginia where fireworks are illegal.

Eight people.

According to the National Weather Service, twenty three people died from being struck by lightning that same year.  That means you had a 288% better chance of getting killed by lightning than dying by fireworks that year.

But let’s take a closer look at those unfortunate eight people who died in 2013:

  • Two people in Arkansas were taking fireworks apart inside a building, while they were smoking, and lit the building on fire.  They succumbed to the fire.
  • One guy in South Carolina, while drinking, decided to open up a big mortar shell with a knife, held it up to his chest, and lit it on his enclosed porch.  He died of the resulting explosion after he made the firework unsafe.
  • A guy in Virginia was also performing surgery on fireworks, while smoking of course, and lit his house on fire.  He and another woman died in the fire.
  • Another guy in Virginia sat inside his trailer filled with fireworks, gunpowder, and other chemicals, cutting fireworks apart and trying to make new ones when he blew himself up.
  • A dude in Virginia set up a large PVC pipe on the beach, put a shell into it, and then placed his face over the pipe while he lit it.
  • A different dude in Michigan did that, too.

That’s all eight of them!  There isn’t one story of someone dying by using fireworks responsibly, or being near people using fireworks responsibly.  Every story reads like entries to the 2013 Darwin Awards.

Apparently, your risk of firework death goes up in direct proportion to your level of stupid.

The year before only six people died from fireworks accidents, all of them from being stupid.  Of course there were twenty eight deaths from lightning strikes that year, too.  Yep, in 2012 if you went outside to light off a skyrocket, there was a 467% greater chance of getting killed by a bolt of lightning.

Apparently there have been no deaths by ferret since they became legal.  Go figure.

Apparently there have been no deaths by ferret since they became legal. Go figure.

I can’t stand when lawmakers try to protect me from being stupid by passing laws prohibiting things.  You know, for about sixty years here in Massachusetts it was illegal to own a ferret, because they were dangerous.  Yes, ferrets were illegal.  Then in 1995 it became legal to own one.  Do you know how many ferret maulings there have been since?  None.

Legalize my damned fireworks, please!

It’s Hard To Be Nice, Sometimes

Some time ago a friend asked how much my publishing house would charge per book to sell her book club copies of my book, “Vikings, Vampires, and Mailmen.”  She only needed about ten books.

I decided to be a nice guy, and made her a deal: if each gal in her club promised to donate five dollars to Little Hearts (a charity that helps kids with heart problems), and review my book on Amazon when they were done, I’d get her the books for free.

She agreed, but months later there were still no donations or reviews.  I contacted her recently to make sure our agreement was still good, and she couldn’t have been nicer.  She promised to get a fifty dollar check out immediately, and that she’d have the gals post reviews.

Only one woman reviewed the book, and she tore it apart:

“This book has a lot of potential and a great title.  The storytelling was hampered by poor editing and mechanics. The dialog was weak and the characters were flat.”
(2 out of 5 stars)

Obviously I was a little hurt, and a little angry.  I mean, she’s entitled to her own opinion, and I don’t have a problem with someone telling me their honest thoughts.  I can’t get better if people are afraid to tell me what they really think, right?

Just because you can’t do it, doesn’t mean you need to hate on everyone else that’s doing it.

But not being able to properly spell the word dialogue in context (“dialog” is used when referring to computing/programming), while you post a review suggesting you know anything about editing?  That’s just silly.  It seems spiteful, which is what hurt.  Here I was trying to do something nice for them and for a charity I support, and this person spent probably less than a minute to thank me for it.

I don’t mind two stars. Heck, I like feedback of all types.  I bet anything this clown claims to be a writer or editor, though.  It would actually be hysterical if she works as an editor, because in three lines she proved she can’t even properly edit a book review.  How can you criticize the editing of an entire 390+ page book if you can’t edit a three-line review??