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A Copywriter’s Blog

According to the Mayan Calendar. Cheery, no?

But since I follow Lunar and revised Gregorian calendars (which are noticeably lacking in doomsday predictions) I’m not gonna worry too much about it. Except to suddenly realize that GDAMMIT if I’d thought of that line a month ago I’d have made a killing printing 2011 Happy NewLast Year shirts.

Shit.

Ok, over it. Moving on.

So in last year’s post I claimed that I never used New Years as an opportunity for self-reflection. Maybe that was true at the time, but this year I’ve done more self-reflecting than a narcissistic mirrored fun-house. Please indulge me in ye olde bulleted recap:

  • I got a new job. I love it.
  • I’ve done a bunch of ads I’m proud of. That’s fucking huge. See point one.
  • I started teaching again. And apparently did well enough/pissed someone off enough that they gave me a portfolio class to teach. This still sort of boggles my mind.
  • I wrote a book. This still boggles many peoples’ minds.
  • I wrote more short stories. Most of them sucked pretty bad, but I’m learning from them.
  • I got back in shape. I weigh less now than I did in college, and I can run faster/further. When I don’t injure myself in the process. Which I do. Often. But theoretically, I can run faster/further.
  • I totally screwed up my priorities in life on multiple occasions.

So clearly management’s stance on the whole self-reflection thing has shifted slightly. But I do still believe, strongly, in my personal whatever-you-want-to-call-it of “doing better than you did last week/month/year”. For example, I’d like to think these pre-New Year recap posts are getting better. But looking at the previous two I’ve penned, that ain’t saying much.

2010 was pretty awesome. 2011, you’ve got a lot to live up to.

Especially since, y’know, once you’re over, the world ends.

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Addendum Ben Levy 28, December

The previous post was really difficult for me to write. Not just because I was trying to inject some personal truth into it, but also because I was doing so in a way that caused me to put words and opinions in other peoples’ mouths. And then I woke up this morning and realized it was all wrong anyway.

Hang on to that thought for a second- have you guys seen this shit?

New Battleship

That’s the new version of battleship. Yeah. MiltonBradley Battleship. No foolin’.

While I’m not thrilled that yet another part of my childhood has changed, I do understand that they went with a hexagonal grid because it allows more variety in ship placement. So much so that they had to reduce the number of possibilities by adding “islands” you can’t place a ship on. And I sort of appreciate how they reduced the chances of your opponent beating you by a single turn by including a POW on one of those islands that can only be found once all of your opponent’s ships are destroyed.

All of which is a detailed-but-much-shorter-than-it-could-have-been way to say that I think far too much about game mechanics.

And also that (here comes the reincorportation) the previous post was wrong. I’m simply a gianormous geek. It’s just that my coworkers are well aware of it, and The Wife’s friends haven’t caught on yet.

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Between a Doc and a Hard Case. Ben Levy 26, December

Unless I have a split personality no one’s told me about, I’m just one guy. So I find it entertaining to see how I’m received in different social circles.

The Wife is a doctor, which means we have many doctor friends. They tend to marry early, start families, and be super smart. They have fun, but their parties are rarely broken up by the cops. And the thing about doctors is they marry other doctors. So when we show up to doctor parties we’re walking into a room where it’s all smart, stable people. And me. The weird creative guy. The Wife’s husband. “Have you heard? He works in advertising. And he’s an author. Yeah he’s the one who wrote that dick book. Yes, that one.”

Understand, on more than one occasion I’ve walked into a room full of these people and they’ve all congratulated me on being a writer. It’s absurd.

In advertising, the exact opposite is true. I’m married, which is bizarre. Half the people in advertising never get married. And if they do, they sure as hell don’t do it at twenty-four. I can count on two hands the number of parents I’ve ever worked with. My co-workers are all people who have traveled the world twice and jumped out of planes and off buildings. They drink on a near daily basis, and are fascinated by the fact that I don’t. Also, I’ve got this weird religion thing going on. And “What do you mean he’s never had a friend bail him out of jail at 3 am?”

Last week a few of my co-workers coined the term “pulling a Ben”. It means to do something surprisingly responsible. Like leave the bar after one drink.

In one world, I’m considered mildly interesting. Which is even more ridiculous when you consider that everyone else in that world saves lives for their living, and I sell stain-remover to middle-aged housewives. In the other, I’m a competent but boring guy who reads too much and is already (faint look of disgust) married.

They’re probably both wrong right the truth.

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Sorry it’s late, I was sick. On the upside, I can now personally recommend you take a couple dayquil before viewing these really dope water sculptures. Wheeeeeeeee.

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Dear Waitress: We’re Cool Ben Levy 19, December

Last week, The Wife and I ate lunch at Hillstone, otherwise known as Houston’s. There was a slight misunderstanding and The Wife, contrary to her order, received a burger with mayo, mustard, and ketchup on it. The waitress apologized and said she would take of it.

A little while later the manager showed up and also apologized, saying they would take care of the check. We didn’t really think it was that big a deal, but if they wanted to pay for the burger, who are we to argue?

Then the waitress appeared again to apologize a second time, calling her behavior “completely inappropriate”.

Um…what?

“Completely inappropriate?” Really? You put extra condiments on her order, you didn’t kick her mother in the shin and insult her faith. Calm down. By the time we finished the meal, she had apologized several more times, hoped our next experience dining there would be less disappointing, and made it clear that not just the burger, but the entire meal was on the house.

It was unbelievable. I’d hate to have seen the response if they had served us someone else’s food:

The waitress would enter, head downcast, hands bound in front of her with a length of rope. The manager follows along behind.

“Wife-san, this one has brought dishonor upon our name. We beg you to cleanse this stain for us.” So saying, she holds out a katana.

The Wife hesitates of course, prompting the manager to continue “I understand- you should not be forced to sully your hands on so unworthy a waitress. Allow me to do it for you. Or perhaps you wish another form of execution? We have a shooting squad out back, and many implements of torture.”

I feel like that scenario would be funnier if I weren’t so concerned it may have happened once or twice in the past.

So waitress, please. It’s ok. Were cool.

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Friday Feature: LA Noire Ben Levy 17, December

Remember when parents complained that video games like Wolfenstein were too realistic? Ha. Haha.

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I went through a period of about 3 months where I had no free time. When my schedule loosened up enough that I had an hour or two to relax, I let my brain flatline by playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good technique. 60 minutes of video games or TV equal the kind of mental rest usually reserved for six-week coma patients.

But when my schedule became semi-normal again, I forgot to adjust. I wasn’t just gaming for an hour or two to try and make up for thinking the last 18 hours straight. No. I was gaming for 8 hours because, well, this guy here needed me to go get this thing from that other guy, who would only give it to me if I did something for him, and don’t you realize the fate of the princess/country/world/universe depends on this shit?

But I didn’t appreciate just how far down the rabbit hole I’d fallen until I got home one day to find The Wife glued to the TV over a midget marathon. I swear, TLC stands for The Little Channel. It’s fucking ridiculous. 3 footers, 24/7. I digress.

I did some chores I normally would have done days earlier. Then, after seeing that I still couldn’t repel the alien invasion because the little people were in the middle of adopting a little dog, I came and typed this post. On a Wednesday. Because this is what I used to fill my time with. Writing. Drawing. Creating. Not just consuming.

I love gaming and letting my mind take a break, but gdamn it’s dangerous. And while I wouldn’t say I was addicted (she told me the marathon ended 20 minutes ago, but I’m finishing this post first) I am going to keep an even closer watch on how I’m spending my time. Killing stuff to unwind is fine. But if I let my brain flatline too long, I might not be able to start it up again.

Related: This awesome post by Seth Godin

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Friday Feature: Jumping Rope Ben Levy 10, December

Look, I understand that you see a video entitled “AMAZING Jump Rope” and think I lost my gdamn mind. I understand. All I ask is that you watch it. Then, if you’ve ever done or know someone who’s done even half of this shit (synchronized, no less) you can leave me a comment telling me Friday Feature has jumped the shark.

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Last week I had an experience so traumatic that the only way I can express its true horror is by making an analogy to a multple choice math problem.

Step 1:
The first step in solving any multiple choice math problem is to remember that you fucking hate math, and to curse yourself for winding up in a situation where people can ask you questions about it.

Which was exactly how I felt on Friday night, when the new synagogue rabbinical intern stopped me on my way out and said “You look really familiar, do I know you?”

Step 2:
Eliminate all answers that cannot possibly be correct.

I’ve been traveling a lot recently, and haven’t been to synagogue in a few weeks. Also, I’ve never been introduced to the rabbinic intern before. So of course the answer is no.

Step 3:
Have someone explain to you that the reason you’re struggling is because you fucked up step two.

“Is your name Ben? Ben Levy?”

Step 4:
Stand there dumbfounded.

Lady, I don’t know you. Or even your name. Even though I know the Rabbi mentioned it like seven times tonight. I wasn’t paying attention because NO ONE TOLD ME THERE WAS GOING TO BE A TEST.

Step 5:
Have the person start to explain how to find the right answer. During this step, you will be able to follow everything they say. All of it will make sense. But you still won’t understand how it leads to the right answer at the end.

“Did you go to Camp Ramah in the Poconos? We were in the same Adah (age group)! With [CENSORED] and [REDACTED] and [OH GD I KNOW ALL THESE PEOPLE SHE'S NAMING BUT I SWEAR I'VE NEVER MET HER BEFORE]!

Step 6:
Stare at the person with the look of one who is cursed to seek the answer to this problem for all eternity and to never find it.

This step isn’t even an analogy. It’s just what happened.

Step 7:
The person has now proudly, logically, reached the end of their explanation as to why you’re a complete idiot. You still don’t get it.

“It’s me, [FIRST NAME]!”

Step 8:
They run through the explanation a second time.

“[FIRST NAME] [LAST NAME]? Remember?”

Step 9:
With dawning horror, you realize that of course that’s the answer. You would have sworn on your Grandparents’ graves that was the least likely answer of all the choices given. But you were wrong. You were so wrong that it feels as though you didn’t just fail to understand a multiple choice math problem- you failed to grasp a basic law of reality.

Oh my gd. I do recognize her face now. I….I’ve had dreams where I showed up to school naked that were more comfortable than this.

Step 10:
Here the analogy breaks down. Because in a multiple choice math problem, the horror ends at step 9. But in my life, this happened:

“You remember my mother don’t you? She was a teacher at Camp Ramah.”
“Oh, hi Ben Levy!”

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Patty-Cake Cats With Commentary Ben Levy 3, December

Magnificent.

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