Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Today I'm chatting with Squeaky. That's right, the very weasel of website fame and influence. He's a little brown and whiskery fellow, and when I figure out how to upload a photo, he'll be making a regular appearance on this page. (He's already up at if you're anxious to put a face to the name.) For now, he's agreed to an off-camera interview so you can get to know him as intimately as I do.

Interviewer: So, you're a weasel then?
Squeaky Weasel: That's right.

I: Is this something you'd always wanted to be, or did the decision come to you later in life?
SW: Well, I never felt like I had much choice in the matter. Ever since I was a pup I've been around weasels. My father was one, and well, my mother was too for a while, until she had us kids. Then I think she kind of gave it up and became something of a stoat. But me, I've had a lot of positive weasel influences and you might say that pushed me in a certain direction. I certainly don't have any regrets.

I: Squeaky isn't your given name, is it?
SW: (Laughs) Now, how did that get out? Actually, you're right. My real name is Mustela Frenata, which I believe is Latin for "long-tailed weasel." Only my mother calls me that. Squeaky is a nickname I picked up with some of the boys from Long Island, and I felt like it suited me.

I: What's a typical day like in the life of a weasel?
SW: I can't speak for every weasel, because I do have my quirks. But me, I'm definitely a night person. I'll sleep most of the day in my burrow, then stalk and kill a small mouse or a bird. I come in to the office at least once a day to check my email and follow up on phone calls. Other than that, you know, I keep to myself. I hang out. Occasionally mate.

I: Is there someone special?
SW: I have a few females who are very special to me, but I still haven't met that special weasel. The girls I meet are mainly raccoons, marmosets. One of my closest friends is a squirrel named Bushie. We go way back. But we both know it could never work between us because we want different things out of life. Her whole world is trees. Now, I like to climb a tree occasionally, but I also swim, dig, and kill things. She doesn't want any part of that.

I: I'm sensing some sadness there, am I right?
SW: I suppose so. (Pause.) There's a part of me that wonders what life would be like with Bushie. She's a real family squirrel, real nurturing. She's going to be a great mom someday. That's something I haven't thought much about yet for myself.

I: That was going to be my next question. Where do you see yourself in five years?
SW: I try not to think about that. My great-grandfather lived to be 11, but toward the end he didn't have much quality of life. Most weasels in my family give it up around age 6. I think I'll retire to a quiet lumber pile outside of a subdivision in a few years.

I: Squeaky, thank you so much for meeting with us this morning.
SW: It's been my pleasure!

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

With apologies to husband for using his blog as a springboard for free associative thought...

it occurs to me that once you've been burned on making a reservation, the next reservation you make will be made with reservation.

You might further assume that the act of "making a reservation" is not referring to the act of actually placing the desired item on reserve, of picking up the phone and reserving that item for your exclusive use, so much as it is about creating in your own mind a reservation, a concern that the item you desire might not be available at the specific time you are requesting.

In fact, one might say that in phoning to request a reservation at all, you are tipping off those karmic forces that work to thwart you, and you might have been better off keeping quiet about the whole thing, showing up at the place at an unspecified time, and crossing your fingers for availability.

Absolute secrecy is required. All parties involved should be kept informed on a strict need-to-know basis.

Friday, July 26, 2002

It's a gloomy and overcast day outside, and as such it is the perfect day for a brilliant compilation of Radiohead that a certain person was good enough to compile for me. There's an art form to burning a CD, and it's an art that I'm not ashamed to admit I have never mastered. My husband is one who, if you mentioned a passing interest in a certain band or genre of music, would create an epic audiatory experience such that you begin to feel as if you not only grew up with each of the band members, you'd also like very much to bear their children.

My husband is a musical missionary. He seeks out the nonbelievers and takes them under his wing, i.e. those who think Brian Wilson wrote nothing of interest beyond Help Me Rhonda, or who feel that Elvis Costello's music is boring. These people become his projects, his converts, and I am among them. He taught me that music can therapy, spirituality, escapism, expression, and personal connection.

Sometimes it's hard to see the line between the man and his passions. Then again, I don't think there is a line. You are what you love.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Sales meeting: A time of unspeakable psychological horrors.

Sales meeting is a gathering of marketing managers and sales representatives to unveil new titles, discuss strategy, and outline objectives. In the weeks leading up to the sales meeting, marketing comes to advertising with requests for nine hundred brochures, eighty flyers, and six thousand little one-page "product guides" to use in their presentations to the sales force.

Sales meeting projects are like gnats. Small, unassuming, and easy to handle -- until they all come at you at once, swarming and biting and crawling into the corners of your eyes until you are finally driven mad, pleading for death upon your knees.

In years past, I've always taken a certain amount of pride in being able to produce whatever marketing needed, because they seemed so desperate. "For the love of Christ!" they'd plead, "Please! Can I get this in time for the sales meeting? We NEED this for the sales meeting!"

And so I imagined my brochure in a spotlight at the front of an auditorium, glowing with impeccable writing, being held aloft by a marketing manager for all the eager reps to see. "The textbook itself is not as well written as this brochure!" he'd cry, the end of his sentence drowned out by thunderous applause and cheers.

Last year, sales meeting was held in town, so the creatives were able to attend. I brought along an extra pen in case I was asked to autograph any of the brochures I'd written, and I kept my sunglasses with me in case I was mobbed by admiring reps and needed to make a quick, anonymous exit.

So I picked up my name tag at the front desk of the hotel, Hi, my name is... Squeaky Weasel, Copywriter, and proudly fastened it to my sweater. As I turned around, I nearly bumped into a tall, skinny, designer-suit-wearing girl who nudged past me and announced her name to the front desk clerk, who handed her a name tag. As she was pinning it, she glance up at me and smiled broadly. "Isn't this fun! I don't think I saw you at the bar last night. I'm Shana, west-central region. What's--" At that moment, her eye fell on my tag and her entire demeanor seemed to step up onto an invisible pedestal so she could conveniently look down her nose at me. Her smile turned to plastic. "Oh, you're with marketing?" she patronized, and then turned on her heel and Prada-ed off toward the meeting rooms.

I soon learned that it was even worse that she'd assumed. In the sales meeting pecking order, I was even lower than marketing. I was advertising, barely worthy of more acknowledgement than the hardening edges of the cheddar cheese cubes on the veggie platters in the lobby.

But the final blow came during the strategy sessions, where I'd been told my brochures would illustrate all the features of the new textbooks. I took my place in one of the chairs lining the wall (my "place" -- out of the way) in a room where marketing and sales gathered around a long conference room table. The marketing manager flipped through some notebooks, talked about numbers, then finally -- finally -- I saw her reach into a binder and withdraw what I recognized as my beautifully written brochure. She tossed it down on the table in front of her and continued to talk. No one so much as glanced at it. No one opened it, no one read it, no one used it. It laid forgotten on the table until the end of the meeting, when the marketing manager said, "Okay, that's it! I have a brochure you can look at if anyone's interested. Otherwise... thanks, people!" The brochure was summarily tucked back into her binder and everyone crowded out toward the exits.

Later, I caught up with my fellow creatives, all huddled in a tight circle in one of the hallways passing around copies of each other's work and trading kudos. "I got copies from marketing of everything we did!" said my boss, as if that made our presence there worthwhile. She handed me one of mine. "This one was a real hit!"

By "hit" I assumed she meant that no one had actually thrown hardened cheddar cheese cubes at it. I took it and held it up in front of me, trying to see whether it looked more impressive in a hotel setting than it had in my office the day before. I imagined a spotlight on it, applause, congratulatory pats and handshakes. It was still just a brochure. I opened it and read through the familiar copy.

Good copy should be invisible. Its job is to create a picture in the reader's head without the reader even being aware of the words that put it there. If that's the case, my invisible brochures do their job, and I just have to slip on my sunglasses every now and then to the roar of imagined applause.