Monday, June 22, 2009


Knots start twisting in my stomach when I hear that odious expression.

Those two little words fill me with dread, contempt, and an urge to curse at anyone who aims them in my direction.

When someone suggests that you go back to SQUARE ONE, they're really saying you're a loser and that your plans and hopes are idiotic and pointless. All of which may be true, but they don't have to wave it in your face and rub your nose in it.

And it wouldn't surprise me if they shamelessly borrowed the lyrics from a popular old song just to finish you off and reduce you to an inert lump.

So take a deep breath,
Pick yourself up,
Dust yourself off,
And start all over again.

For centuries, mathematicians have used the term, “Squaring The Circle.”
Years ago it was proven to be a mathematical impossibility. The term now refers to someone undertaking a futile task-- like Don Quixote and his arch enemies, the freaking windmills.

While all this has little to do with my SQUARE ONE story, I thought the diversion might be of interest to those captivated by SQUARE trivia.

And just so you know, I have no problem with SQUARE JAWS, SQUARE KNOTS, SQUARE DANCES, SQUARE DEALS, SQUARE MEALS, being ON THE SQUARE, SQUARING off, or even being a SQUARE.

But now let's rejoin SQUARE ONE. What does it really mean and why are we always going back to it? The term originated with board games that had numbered squares. When a player made a mistake of some kind, he was advised to return to his starting point, or SQUARE ONE.

Naturally, this is a lot easier to do in a board game than it is in real life.

Let's suppose the shape on those aforementioned board games--instead of being square--had been triangular, rectangular, or circular?

Would we be going back to TRIANGLE ONE? RECTANGLE ONE? Or ROUND ONE?

My money would be on ROUND ONE, given that starting over is a battle and you could easily get hurt. Speaking of boxing rings, why is it called a ring? Obviously, it's a bloody SQUARE !


Friday, June 19, 2009


TV commercials enjoy screaming at us. And we respond by having conniption fits. It's been that way for as long as I can remember.

Back in the early 80s, they had some ruling by the people in charge of cockamamie rules. It said that commercials couldn't be louder than the programs they appeared on. Oh yeah, that'll work.

Of course, that rule was ignored immediately by the advertisers paying big bucks for the programming.

My current theory, if you can identify with it, is that today's commercials are louder and more frequent than ever. I'm sure, unless you're lightning fast with the remote or make frequent trips to the bathroom, that you've noticed it too.

And those shrieking hucksters, the guys who often make $400,000 a year to shout their product messages, aren't helping with stuff like this:


Since I did voice-over work for three years after my copywriter phase, I know that even in soft-sell commercials, a certain amount of energy is required to put your story across in an engaging way.

But with hard-sell announcers, any attempt at charm or being cool or friendly is thrown out and replaced by YOU CAN'T IGNORE US SO DON'T EVEN TRY!

If you contacted a TV station, they would look you straight in the eye and tell you that the commercials are no louder than the programming. And by some warped standard of measurement, they're telling the truth.

But there's a loophole in their claim you could drive an SUV through. It seems that every program has different audio levels – soft, medium, loud and loudest to build or sustain the dramatic or comical effect.

The savvy advertisers, not big on nuance or subtleties, electronically process the audio track and crank it up to its legal limits of loudness.

At times the decibel level of a commercial can be jarring to the nerves. Especially if one of those BLOW-OUT SALES comes on after a tender scene with critically-ill Timmy kissing his mommy and daddy goodnight and both of them praying that he survives the evening.

If you're one of those people who needs an upbeat ending, I read recently that Dolby Laboratories is busy developing technology that would put a lid on commercial abuse, or at least soften it enough to keep us from flinging bric-a-brac at our TV screens.

If you require more than that, I'm at a loss.

P.S. In an effort to minimize hypocrisy and bring some truth to advertising, I must make one confession. A dozen years ago, when I was still writing ads, I wouldn't have cared if my commercials were loud enough to shatter your favorite wine glasses.