I made a flyer for an outfit called Keep Your Keys.

I answered a CraigsList ad asking for “flyer modification.”  I met John Shaver at a coffee shop in Goleta. He said he had a lot of responses to his ad but I was the only one who was truly local to Santa Barbara.

He showed me his existing flyer (right). He wanted a better one.The flyers were to be delivered door to door for his foreclosure prevention company.

I interviewed him about what he wanted. I made the parts that he said were most important larger and easier to see.

I charged him $50.

May 15, 2023

Interesting article about memory and creativity.

Part of it is about a study of Patient N.N. who had a memory impairment. He was unable to remember anything about his own personal life but retained information about everything else. Give him a list of words to be memorized and he could do it.

A surprising corollary was that NN was unable to conjecture about the future.

“The case of N.N. suggested to Tulving that there was potentially a neural connection between memory and imagination–that our ability to think retrospectively about the past was in a fundamental way connected to our ability to think prospectively about the future.”

I wonder if this is part of the difference between humans and Neandertals. Or maybe between early anatomically modern humans and true modern humans.

Skeletal remains identical to our own have been found dating back to 300,000 years ago, but they were associated with the exact same stone tools as found with Neandertals until about 70,000 years ago.

That’s when the original Stone Age version of Moore’s Law began. Innovative new kinds of stone points proliferated, and then ingenious combinations of stone and wood and antler and bone connected together.

It was around this time that human body lice re-evolved to adapt to the new human invention of clothing–the same time that Adam and Eve noticed that they were naked, according to oral history.

So maybe the big change was the evolution of this ability to “remember the future” in an imaginative way, an ability that left an insurmountable chasm between humans and Neandertals.

Neandertals had language, but the new human memory trick allowed grammatical structures containing immensely more information than the Neandertals could handle.

That’s my conjecture, anyway.

Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.
–Robert F. Kennedy

Genetic evidence suggests that our remnant Neandertal DNA is due to Neandertal women preferring human men as more competent providers, and some fraction of the Neandertal DNA has been retained to this day.

May 1, 2023

May 1, 2023

At the Writers Workshop Saturday I yakked with Brian for a few minutes before the meeting started. He’s a Brit trying to get his memoirs written about his adventures working in many different places around the world, now retired from his job as a technical writer at QAD here in Santa Barbara. He’s in his 70s.

QAD Inc. “provides enterprise resource planning software and to manufacturing companies with customers in over 100 countries around the world.”

Brian said it is a hard thing for him to break out of the requirements for technical writing and put emotion and action into his writing. He said it must be similar for me–trying to break out of adbiz writing.

No, I said, I’ve always tried to use the same rules for everything I write. Good ad writing is good writing, first and foremost.

Our Chemical Eden

Our Chemical Eden explains the beginnings of life in the hydrothermal vents in the ocean deeps.

This has long been my preferred theory and it was good to see it explicated in persuasive new detail.

My previous sources for this theory are THE DEEP HOT BIOSPHERE (1998) by Thomas Gold and QUANTUM EVOLUTION (2001) by John Joe McFadden.

Many leading theories of life’s origins had their roots in Charles Darwin’s speculation of a ‘warm little pond’, in which inanimate matter, energised by heat, sunlight or lightning, formed complex molecules that eventually began reproducing themselves.

For decades, most origin-of-life research has focused on how such self-replicating chemistry could have arisen. They largely brushed aside the other key question, how the first living things obtained the energy to grow, reproduce and evolve to greater complexity.

Life began not as a free-roaming creature, feeding off natural organic molecules drifting in the ocean, but as a tenant that made its own food in the mineral compartments of underwater rocks.

At first, ocean vents were simply sites of geology, gases and dissolved minerals bubbling up to form rocks.

But in the microcompartments of those rocks, something unusual began to happen. The carbon dioxide in the ocean reacted with the hydrogen from the vents. Under typical conditions, this reaction wouldn’t occur, but the minerals in the compartment walls, rich in iron and sulfur, coaxed this reluctant partnership.

These reactions created small organic molecules such as acetyl-CoA, one of the most ancient metabolic pathways ever discovered.

Read the whole article:

What kind of copywriter am I?

      I was thinking about a BBDO moment…I was assigned to write a newspaper ad for pickup trucks for a Dodge dealer in Buffalo, New York.  The way everybody else at the ad agency did it was to look in the files for an ad that was approved in the past, and use that while adjusting the details for the present moment.

     Instead I got out a binder with a hundred pages of all the options available on Dodge trucks. What did I know about Buffalo’s market conditions? Zilch. But I knew about the “lake effect” that buries Buffalo in snow every winter. So when I saw that there was a snowplow attachment available, I made that the focus of a new ad.

     Not a SALE! price, I had no authorization for anything like that. Just calling your attention to the fact that you could outfit any Dodge pickup with a snowplow.

     Kazam, I was suddenly a genius. The Buffalo office tried to lure me away with double my salary. Move to Buffalo? Fuhgetaboutit.

     My usual procedure when I am assigned to write an ad or brochure is to examine the information and examine the situation before writing anything. Usually my examinations from alternative viewpoints brings up a salient fact that can be used to spotlight an offer and sidestep the competition.

     The other defining characteristic of my copywriting is my ardent focus on readability. I am astonished at what a low priority “readability” has in the tech marketing sector.

     “We aren’t selling to kindergartners,” seems to be their attitude, as though “readability” means “dumbing down.” They seem to believe that the rules of syntax and grammar do not apply to them.

     I am outside the TV commercial universe, as far as being a writer. I wrote TV for Dodge but none of my subsequent clients has had the budget for TV commercials. I’ve worked a different patch.   

     Many tech companies have videos to be looked at but they don’t appear to be copywritten. Video production is so cheap and easy these days that you can just wing it and then edit it into a seamless presentation. Except they don’t.

     They present text that assumes the reader already knows all the details of the innovation, and what it means in the marketplace.

     They’re aiming their marketing at the competition instead of the customers. Nyeah, nyeah, we have disruptive Kafoozalini™ and you don’t. We got there first!

     Tech companies with something new think that by coming up with a new name for their thing, they are communicating with their customers. They believe they’ve solved the communications problem by calling their new product Kafoozalini, and if you know Kafoozalini, then everything else in the ad/site makes sense. So they never bother to discuss what Kafoozalini is. Sheesh, if you don’t know that, you must be really dumb.

     Trademarking a neologism doesn’t mean anybody will notice it. It takes a lot of money to embed such things in the consumer’s mind.

     I’ve often talked to CEOs about their product and they tell me good stuff, and then I ask, “Where on your site can I find out what you just told me?” and they say it’s not on the site.

     Then how are people going to find out about it?

     That’s the salesman’s job.

     I’ve had a lot of marketing directors (back in the days of print) tell me that the brochure is irrelevant to sales, it’s just something to put into the mark’s hands while the salesman spins his magic spiel. All the brochure needs is some pretty pictures and whatever text Legal says we gotta have. Nobody’s going to buy anything because of a brochure, not in our niche.

May 15, 2023

Interesting article about memory and creativity. Part of it is about a study of Patient N.N. who had a memory impairment. He was unable

Read More »

May 1, 2023

May 1, 2023 At the Writers Workshop Saturday I yakked with Brian for a few minutes before the meeting started. He’s a Brit trying to

Read More »

Our Chemical Eden

Our Chemical Eden explains the beginnings of life in the hydrothermal vents in the ocean deeps. This has long been my preferred theory and it

Read More »