***By some weird fluke, I was nominated to be the graduation speaker for the Brandcenter class of 2017. It was truly an honor to represent my classmates who I admire, respect and envy so much. Here's the speech.***
Faculty, staff, students and other people I don’t recognize. Thank you for giving me one last chance to be evaluated.
I’m not sure why I was chosen to speak today. I’m thinking the criteria for voting was the person with the smallest muscles or the most rapidly receding hairline. Whatever the reason, I’m humbled to represent the class of 2017.
When I first came to the Brandcenter, I was like many of you: a married man in my early 30’s with two young children.
Being a dad at the Brandcenter has given me some unique perspective and experiences (and an ulcer). For example, when my classmates were out partying on the weekends, I was at home, changing diapers, picking up toys and watching movies such as Kung Fu Panda 3. (It’s actually a pretty good show, you should check it out sometime.)
One part of this movie that really stood out to me, was when Po (the panda) is talking to his teacher, the wise Master Shifu, kind of like Fenske, only shorter. Po’s feeling frustrated and like he isn’t measuring up and says, “I’m never going to be like you!” To which Master Shifu shakes his head and smiles and says, “I’m not trying to turn you into me. I’m trying to turn you into you.”
We’ve learned a lot of things at the Brandcenter over the past two years. We’ve learned to become better writers, better strategists, better art directors, better … whatever it is you XD people do. But more than anything else, we’ve learned how to be ourselves. I think it’s interesting that there’s a place at our school called the cocoon because it talks about this transformation we go through. We come in as cute, cuddly caterpillars and leave as bright beautiful, butterflies, ready to take flight. If any you take issue with being called a butterfly, I apologize.
As I was writing this talk and deciding what to say, two words kept coming to mind: oh crap. But two other words also came to mind: thank you.
Thank you first to the unsung heroes of the Brandcenter: the custodians. I can’t imagine the wretched and foul things you find in the building where we spend 24 hours a day.
Thank you to the staff, another group that does not always get the appreciation and attention they deserve. I could always count on a warm smile from Ashley, a friendly wave from Hawley and an indifferent stare from PJ. Especially when I was asking him if I could please just have one of his paper clips.
Thank you to the faculty, without you we would not be the people we are today. We would be much happier people. Michaelangelo said he carved everything away from the marble that wasn’t David. Thank you for carving away everything that wasn’t Jeff or Jansen or Jessie or Josh or Jason or John. We have a lot of J people in our school.
A lot of our teachers don’t need to be here, they’ve had long and successful careers, but they choose to be with us, to share their knowledge and wisdom. Thank you so much for everything.
Last and most importantly, thank you to my fellow students. You’ve also taught me so much. Hard work, perseverance and a variety of modern slang terms. I just want to say, respek, mad shouts and bless up. I mean that sincerely, I really do. When I first got here, I was a little shy, timid and scared to put myself out there. Thank you for being vulnerable and putting yourself out there and helping me to eventually do the same.
It’s almost Dan Wieden time, and I know we’re all excited to hear what he has to say. Thank you so much, Dan, for coming all this way to talk with us. I have some resumes and my mom’s here if you need a reference.
But just to wrap up, I want to say one more time that this school is not about our portfolios. It’s not about who we talked to at recruiter session or who we didn’t talk to. It’s not about the jobs we got, or in my case, still haven’t got. Sorry wife. It’s not about the work we’ve done. It’s about the people we’ve become. Thank you very much.
If you’re like me, you have really skinny ankles, a fear of suckers and all things sticky, and an undying love for sports movies. You know, the ones with the inspiring music, the down-and-out team/player and the euphoric ending.
Today I’d thought I’d give you a rundown of my top-five jock flicks (yes, of course, you’re welcome). If you don’t agree, please send an angry letter to 123 Fake Street to air your grievances.
Here we go…(in reverse order).
Some people remember Dennis Hopper as the eyepatch-wearing, cigarette-smoking pirate in the 1995 movie Waterworld. But I’ll always think of him as the basketball-obsessed, heartbreakingly-alcoholic dad in Hoosiers.
This all-time classic is a trip back in time to small-town Indiana in 1951. No detail is spared, and everything feels authentic to the time period -- from the shiny yellow uniforms, to the musty old gymnasiums you can almost smell, to the players themselves, who seem to have been cryogenically frozen in the 50’s and thawed out for filming.
It’s got great music (by Jerry Goldsmith, more on him later), great storytelling and, oh yeah, Gene Hackman who delivers what is, in my opinion, the best performance of his career as coach Norman Dale.
#4 Rocky IV
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) gets punched in the face approximately 47 times by a muscle-bound Russian boxer named Ivan Drago. And doesn’t die. That’s the premise of Rocky IV, which came out in 1985 and won my heart from a young age.
I’m not sure this movie is for everyone, but for a 14-year-old at a sleepover, it’s as good as it gets. There’s punching, cool cars, punching, a montage of Rocky training in the middle of Siberia while Drago gets pumped full of roids, punching, punching, and finally, punching.
Like I said, as good as it gets.
Conversely, Moneyball is a “sports movie” that even non-sports fans can enjoy. Why? For starters, you’ve got the ultra-hunky (not that I would know) and charismatic Brad Pitt, who is fantastic as Billy Beane, the forward-thinking general manager of the Oakland A’s.
Then, you’ve got the story, which is about a small market, low-budget baseball team (think small business) trying to compete with much wealthier, big-city franchises (think major corporation). And then, you’ve got an amazing screenplay by the master Aaron Sorkin of West Wing fame. (The dude can make anything interesting, yes, even baseball, ye smarty-pants unenlightened.)
If you like sports, you’ll love Moneyball. If you hate sports, you’ll at least find it tolerable.
#2 Field of Dreams
The runner-up on my list is a movie about dead people coming out of cornfields carrying baseball bats. But instead of wreaking death and destruction on the local community, they just want to play a friendly game of nine-on-nine.
Field of Dreams is the story of Ray Kinsella, an Iowa farmer who starts hearing voices (“If you build it, he will come”) and decides to construct a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield, much to the chagrin of his local community, brother-in-law and psychologist.
This 1989 film captures the mysticism and magic of baseball better than any movie I’ve ever seen, with one of the most satisfying endings of all time (have some Kleenex handy). Plus, Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are … [enter superlative here].
If you’re looking for the ultimate underdog story, that’s actually good and not painfully sappy, look no further than Rudy, a 1993 film about a Notre Dame football player whose playing career lasted all of two plays and 27 seconds.
Of course, the movie isn’t just about those two plays (c’mon that would be WAY too short and everyone would ask for a refund). It’s about all the hard work and never-giving-up that came before.
Two things stand out to me about this movie. #1 is the incredible soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith. “Tryouts”, one of the main songs, was used as the official theme of John McCain’s presidential campaign and has been featured in 12 trailers, including Seabiscuit and Good Will Hunting. If you’re ever feeling down in the dumps, give it a listen. See if it doesn’t put some pep in your step.
#2 is the acting. That starts with Sean Astin who oozes heart and underdog-iness and is absolutely perfect as the good-natured yet fiercely determined lead character. There are also great performances by John Favreau as Rudy’s tutor and eventual friend; Ned Beatty as Rudy’s dad who doubts his son and his crazy dreams; and Charles S. Dutton, a former ND player turned stadium groundskeeper who mentors the undersized defensive end. (Bonus: see if you can spot a much younger and slimmer Vince Vaughn. It took me years to recognize him.)
Rudy has everything you want in a sports movie, or any other movie for that matter. A great story, awesome acting, wonderful music and lots of heart. All of which makes it hard to beat.
The Pride of the Yankees
Major League 2
Angels in the Outfield
Sometimes people ask me, "where do your ideas come from?" I just smile and shake my head and say, "From my brain, ya silly." Then after I'm done being such a smart-alecky jerk, I take a deep breath, put on my serious face and respond, "It's a little something I like to call ... (dramatic pause followed by an equally dramatic whisper) ... PROCESS.
My process has changed a bunch in my time at the Brandcenter -- you could say it's been a bit of a...you know...process. When I first got to school, I would brainstorm for a couple of hours, lock onto an idea I liked, and then spend the rest of my time on that one thought. Then, in our second semester, our freaking awesome professor Mark Fenske taught us the principle of QUANTITY, i.e. that the "process" of thinking up as many ideas as you can, inevitably leads to QUALITY.
So -- this is how I do ma thang.
First, I sit down with a big sheet of easel paper (see below) and write everything that comes to my mind regarding the product or service I'm focusing on. I try not to judge the ideas, just let them come, total firehose, stream-of-consciousness style.
These big ol' legal pads work well too.
Also: occasionally it's nice to mind-dump on a computer. I like minimizing the document window so I can't even see what I'm writing, then turning on some music and just typing like a crazy person. It's fun and liberating and often hilarious to look back at what I've written. Which leads me to ...
Editing!!! This is the long, tedious and occasionally euphoric "process" of picking through the wreckage of page after page of what sometimes seems like pure nonsense -- searching for gold. I'll then make a long list of anything I think is halfway decent, headlines, paragraphs, scripts, and share them with my A.D. buddy bud.
To sum up, this is where my ideas come from! Hours and hours of thinking, writing, editing and sobbing that hopefully leads to something I'm halfway proud of.
Postscript: I should add that creative thinking by definition doesn't fit into a box or flow out of a formula. More often than not, inspiration comes out of nowhere. But process still plays a part. As David Ogilvy once said, "Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process."
I didn't get much sleep during my time at the Brandcenter. So when I was completely exhausted and delirious, I wrote love notes...to my bed.
It's times like these in the still hours of the morning, that I find myself lost in thought. Awake, but dreaming. Dreaming ... about ... you (only fitting, yes?). You are my soft and strong companion in the night. My everlasting crush. My heart. My bae. My bed. I love you.
I know we haven't seen much of each other lately, and that's on me. I feel like I'm being pulled in a million different directions, and not one of them is down. Down into the warm, soft embrace of you. It is only when we are alone in the dark that I feel completely at peace. Can't wait to see you tonight.
I can't imagine life before, or without, you. Thank you for nine wonderful years together (with a me-sized indentation to prove it). You are my rock (in a manner of speaking), that always gives me a soft place to land. There's no one I'd rather spend 1/3rd of my life with.
Pretty much everything you need to know about me.
This is the best letter to Santa from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that I have ever written. No foolin'.
As part of my divorce settlement with Clarice (no prenup sadly), she gets 50% of my trademarked name. She will take "Rudolph the R," and I will heretofore be known as "Ed Nosed Reindeer."
Sorry for any confusion.
A couple of years ago, Apple came out with a campaign showing all the amazing pictures people were taking on the new iPhone 6. At that time, I was still toting around the comparatively prehistoric 4s, which was not getting me any love from the cool dudes and dudettes I was trying to impress.
One day as I was staring at my lame-o excuse for a phone, I thought to myself, self, wouldn't it be funny to do a spoof called Shot on iPhone 4s? And my self agreed that, yes, that was a pretty good idea.
* * * The sign on this parking garage promises a lot. * * *
* * * Who are these sick people? * * *
* * * There is no lost-and-found for moments * * *
* * * Who are these sick people #2 * * *
* * * What. Happened. * * *
* * * Those special times * * *
* * * Postscript * * *
Last Christmas, just as I was getting excited about my fun new project, my wife surprised me with the just-released 7. (Aaaggghhh, c'mon!!! How could you??!!) So...I sold out. Ok? I'm sorry. I have no soul.
iPhone 4s, shot on iPhone 7. Rest in peace.