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A Copywriter’s Blog
Nomenclature Ben Levy 31, May

I think the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as an advertising copywriter is name something.

In ancient times, names were powerful things. To name something was to be it’s master. People also believed that to know the true name of a person or thing was to have absolute power over it. And whether you buy into magic or not, I think we can all agree that in our attention-span dwindling, keyword-crawling society, names are key.

My problem with naming things is that a name means everything and nothing all at once. iPod? If we’re judging it on name alone, I would assume an “iPod” to be some sort of prefabricated bachelor pad. Of course, with Apple’s multi-billion dollar marketing campaign, everyone knows what an iPod is. In fact, the name became so powerful that it’s lowercase prefix became the de facto signature of the Apple brand.

But the point is that if you had asked me to name this little solid-state memory music device, “iPod” would have been at the bottom of my list. Right behind “Inedible Musical Broccoli” and “Tiny Player Thingy”.

Names are also tricky because if you call anything the same name long enough, it becomes it’s new name by default. This is a real danger when working on unnamed projects. Because if everyone refers to that blue web site as “the blue website” for a few months, sooner or later it changes to The Blue Website. And then you’re left standing on your desk screaming about why you can’t call it The Blue Website just because you’ve gotten used to calling it that, and everyone is looking at you incredulously asking “Why not? It’s blue.”

And so the question becomes what you’re hoping to achieve with the name. For example, when a brand of premium ice-cream wanted to appeal to adults, they picked a name that meant nothing but sounded European and expensive: “Haagen-Dazs”.

I think the truth is that Shakespeare was right: a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, as long as the marketing campaign it was launched with still focused on it’s aromatic properties. But there’s no arguing that a good name can do wonders for your product. If you get it right, a product’s name becomes introduction and sales pitch all at once. At least, that’s my opinion.

Ben Levy is the author of the book “I Have A Dick. Now What?” a title which he feels is an introduction and a sales pitch all at once. He is also a jackass who thinks this is a terribly clever way to finish this post. It is not.

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I warned you. I warned you all.

First hockey, now Kung Fu. At this rate they’ll be hacking the pentagon using a supercomputer made of bamboo rocks by this time next year.

We’re doomed.

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Burnout Ben Levy 23, May

Earlier in the week a friend of mine linked to some article about some thing that had a point but the important thing is it contained the following sentence:

“What I learned is that burning out isn’t just about work load, it’s about work load being greater than the motivation to do work.”

When I read those words, they appeared in my psyche as six mile high letters, written in fire, and surrounded by winged cherubs shredding air guitars and ghost-riding the whip.

I’ve felt burned out before, of course. But it’s often hard for me to figure out why I feel that way. Indulge me just a second here, and fasten your safety belts for my ego trip:

I went through Comm Design at Syracuse University. I survived CP+B as an intern. I can work 72 hours straight, and still write coherent copy and think up client-worthy concepts.

The point is, it’s really tough to burn me out on hours alone. Hours I can handle. Sleep deprivation I can handle. At some point I will start having conversations with an imaginary purple muskrat named Timmy, but the dude has had some pretty awesome ideas in the past, so I’m ok with it.

So it’s never hours that burn me out. It’s that other thing. The thing I wasn’t able to express very well before reading that line in that article. The 40-hour a week temp job doing data entry. The single “easy course” I’d take just for the credits in college. The one stupid project that I don’t really care about I just want it done but I also won’t let it suck and now it’s taken all afternoon and I feel like I’ve just completed a marathon running on the soles of my brain.

I’m not sure that last example even made sense. But it also kinda did. I’ll leave it in.

But now that I’ve seen the cause written plainly, I’ll know what to look for if the symptoms set in again. And I’ll be on the lookout for the opposite: those projects and jobs that I want more than anything, where the amount of work involved is irrelevant. Because when you find those, it’s like a cheesy energy drink commercial. You go hours, days, weeks without feeling tired, and there’s no crash at the end.

Write The Future from Nalden on Vimeo.

That’s an ad.

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Shut-up, Younger Me Ben Levy 16, May

The Wife is officially on vacation. She saves baby’s lives for a living, and therefore is about a trillion times more useful to humanity than I am, so I think she’s earned it. I wanted to mark the occasion by surprising her with dinner.

Before you get all excited about how I burned down the kitchen, succumbed to smoke inhalation, and had my unconscious form dragged to safety by the dog, let me tell you that everything went off without a hitch. (Well, the fire alarm went off once, but that happens if you shut the door too strongly, so it doesn’t count.)

No, what I wanted to share was part of the conversation that occurred with a friend of mine before I started cooking. We’ve known each other since we were four, or some similarly preposterous small number. Growing up, he was the friend I told everything to. Not my best friend, but my Best Friend.

Incidentally, he also has an excellent recipe for salmon, which he gave me over the phone.

“Oh and by the way” he told me afterward “we’ve now just officially had a phone conversation to exchange dinner recipes. Our 8-year old selves are laughing at us right now.”

I stood there for a second with my mouth open, fighting a sudden urge to make fart jokes and dig up some G.I. Joes to play with. I quickly tried to come up with some rationale for why 8-year old me would think knowing how to cook salmon was cool. But I’m not even sure 8-year old me liked salmon that much. Shit. I bet I would totally think I was a loser.

Then I realized that guy hadn’t even kissed a girl yet. So who cares what he thinks?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go play Lego Star Wars before I get any more mature.

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I’ll be honest Microsoft Word, I’ve never liked you that much. But I’m a writer and you’re a word processor, so I thought at least we could maintain a professional relationship. But lately, you’ve been making that damn difficult. Because you’re fucking fat.

The sheer amount of bloat contained in your code makes me want to “call Jenny”. Your job is not that difficult. I press a key, you record the letter. There’s barely any processing power expended. So explain to me, if you don’t mind, why you move slower than a fat woman in front a bakery window display? What is your bloated digital carcass so preoccupied with?

Let’s talk load-times to start. If I reboot my entire computer, it takes perhaps two minutes. But you take so long to chow down on auto-updates that between the point at which I click your smug, stupid “W” and the point at which you actually open, I have time to perform brain surgery. And that includes the roughly 12 years of education required beforehand. You’re a glorified text-editor you wheezing, bloated, processor-whore of a program. What exactly are you trying to suck down your input hole that entire time? And don’t you dare say “fonts” because I checked, and I barely have the standard compliment on my machine as it is.

Your software is so morbidly obese that- even if you’re already running- it actually takes me less time to open the text editor than it does for me to ask you for a new document. How is that possible? I am asking you to furnish me with the computer equivalent of a blank sheet of paper! There is no information to recall! No themes to load! How in the name of Steve Jobs can you justify a forty-five second new document load time? And don’t think I haven’t noticed you shoveling pre-loaded templates or auto-update functions down your craw when you think I’m not looking.

Now, let’s discuss the crashing. Yes, crashing. Are you aware I wrote a book, Word? No, of course not. You’re not aware because I didn’t use you to do it. In fact, I used google docs. I don’t konw if you’ve heard about this: it’s a browser-based word processing program. It crashed on me perhaps twice in the process of writing a fucking book. You start wheezing trying to save a bulleted list, you fat asthmatic turd.

I don’t know what’s causing the bloat, but you damn well better find a way to fix it. Lay off the cake. Stop eating the ice cream. If you’re so sad Clippy’s gone, find some other way to cry about it besides attempting to chow down on an entire clip art gallery just in case someone wants an image. I promise you I’ll jump off the roof before using one of those, so you can spare yourself the effort.

I’m serious. Cut this shit out. Or I swear I’ll re-arrange your preferences so hard you’ll have to run a diagnostic scan to find your 0s and 1s.

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A brilliant use of (semi) aerodynamic edibles, or a crime against dessert? Discuss.

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This is not the post Ben Levy 3, May

This is an experiment. It is an 11 o’clock experiment. You see, I am sick. Well, I have allergies. I know this is allergies because I felt the exact same way a month ago, for about a month, and you can’t get sick the same way twice like that. I hope. I desperately, desperately hope.

Mind you, the last time I felt like this the symptoms were so severe I wound up with laryngitis for a week. This is the part of the post where I am now not going to think about that.

This is not any of the posts I was wanting to write. It’s just that I’ve hit that magical point where the medicine has almost perfectly balanced the symptoms. This leaves me of course in that zombified state that makes people wake up wondering if they are not in fact about to discover all the mysteries of life beyond the pale, and are only sad to find that they won’t be able to tell any of their living friends about it.

Put another way- I’m am dried out to the point of dehydration from all the sinus meds, but my nose is still running. It’s like a war is being fought in my nostrils and I’m quite concerned the meds are dedicated to winning even if it kills me. Their goal is commendable, but there is such a thing as too much dedication, y’know?

The trouble is, I feel horrible, but who takes a day off for allergies? Allergies. You can’t even fix those. There’s no treatment- you’re just applying chemical band-aids to your insides. But it’s taken me about 24 hours of medication just to reach a point where I can sort of sleep, and once I woke up I thought to myself- you know what might be fun? If I spend the few I’m-ok-whoops-no-i’m-not zombie moments I have to see what happens when I write a post in a drug induced haze after finishing-

I was going to say “after reading part of a Terry Pratchett novel,” but apparently what happens is that I knock over a full glass of water onto my desk and keyboard, and then stare at it stupidly for several seconds before remembering I have to unplug my keyboard if I want any hope of saving it. Luckily, I use the meteorological filing system on my desk, which means that those papers near the top of the stack (or nearest the strata) are more useful. So it wasn’t a total catastrophe that all the papers on the bottom three layers soaked up all the water to the point where I had to peel them off the desk. In a way I’m quite relieved. I wasn’t sure how to finish this post, which I’m now writing on the wife’s machine, but this is about as good an ending as I can ask for.

Attempting to keep water from damaging my keyboard used up the last of my energy, so I’m now off to do what I should have done in the first place, which is switch from daytime to nighttime meds and go the fuck back to sleep. If I don’t make it, I love you all. Except you in the back. You’re a git. Which I think is British for prat. Which is British for jerk.

I’m gonna be so pissed if this becomes my most popular post ever.

Delay of Post Ben Levy 2, May

I developed an incredibly painful sinus headache this evening and I can’t keep my thoughts in order long enough to do justice to any of the 5 posts I’ve been waiting to write. I also have a new short story in the works, but that’s not ready either.

Now you might be asking yourself what I was doing this afternoon that kept me from blogging earlier in the day when I could still think straight. I can answer that in two words:

Mythbusters. Marathon.

One of five posts will be up later this week, once the Clariton kicks in.

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