It’s such fun to write agent queries. As you may recall, there was a problem with my last agent. He sold lots of books, and then something happened, and he stopped calling, and then it turned out he wasn’t running the agency anymore! What a merry surprise for all us. I still remember the last time I spoke with him. I’d been calling for . . . months. He rings me up, and that’s familiar calm and slightly amused voice. It was always grand to hear it. Agents know this. He used to tell a joke: A man gets home, the cops are outside, and they tell him they have news - your agent iust called, but here’s the problems, sir, your parents’ house has burned down, and they were inside, and your wife’s car was hit by a bus as she was rushing to the scene, and we’re afraid she’s dead. The man sits stunned and silent for a minute, processing it all, until he finally looks up with questioning eyes, and says “my agent called?”
See, he’d tell you that joke while you were on the phone, possibly because he’d called you, and you laughed! Oh the inside lore and lingo of our merry, clubby little world.
Anyway, he called. I was in the movie theater, about to watch a Batman, and I said I’d call hm when I was out. I did. He didn’t pick up. He never picked up again. He left town. Then he died. Of what, I don’t know. It was the worst conclusion to a friendship I’ve ever had. Yeah maybe worse for him, you might think, but I don’t know. The clients were left with varying degrees of fury and bitterness.
Now I’m trying to get another agent.
I am suspicious of all internet outrages. We all should be suspicious. If a story about an Internet Outrage quotes a couple of tweets that vow to never use the product / patronize the chain / etc again, well, there are people on the internet angry that Charmin announced it would use a gender-neutral animated bear in its commercials, even though they did no such thing. Charmin may have said it was introducing a new bear family, and someone mocked up a picture where one cub had pink hair and a nose ring,and people extrapolated from that. Give it an hour in the paint-mixer of Twitter and you’ll have people shrieking about previously innocent toilet-paper-shilling imaginary bears were now shoving gay propaganda down our throats. The fact that there was never a gay cub in the Charmin commercial is irrelevant; well, you wouldn’t put it past them.
So: Gillette comes out with an ad that decries Toxic Masculinity, and there’s brouhaha: I will never buy a Gillette blade again! Fine, great - Harry’s Shave is better, and I don’t just say that because I do ads for them. They are better, and cheaper, and more stylish, and there’s a note of whimsy to the ad campaigns. I thought: that’s a bad move for Gillette, though. If that’s what they did. There’s a vast cohort of young men who immediately and permanently disassociate from anything that uses the term Toxic Masculinity. It’s all they need to know. Not because they think all Masculine behavior is jacky-dandy, but because the phrase comes pre-loaded with a cargo-container’s worth of assumptions, preconceptions, and bilious ideas about the entire culture.
Then they make fun of these people. They are not defending bad behavior. They are ridiculing the people who live in a state of constant outrage and offense.
The key moment occurs at :39, when a row of men standing in front of BBQ grills, hands crossed on their chests, recite the Toxic Litany of boys will be boys.
The first half of the ad is stupid - all these guys staring in the mirror, wondering "Am I a straw man who actually laughed at that 'Married with Children' episode in 1999?" The clueless, fatal association of grilling with indifferent lunkhead men, the sort of detail that could only come from men who write long essays for Medium about how they feel alienated from grilling and always get nervous sweat when they have to go to a backyard party, because there are like, these dudes, standing over the fire? And it's so, like, primal? god none of these people ever listen to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me you can just tell but I guess I can stand here and joke while I drink this beer because airquotes it's what guys do airquotes
Here’s the thing, though. I am not completely outraged. Take care of your kids, set a good example, don’t catcall - sure. Yes. Men who do these things will surely agree. Men who do not are unlikely to be moved to behave otherwise. But men who do these things already will not find the commercial supportive; they’re more likely to be irritated that someone presumes they have to be told these things.
It’s like an ad for a women’s razor that suggests you aren’t nice to blind flowergirl who sells pansies on the corner, and you should be.
This is an old ad, but it’s relevant.
YOU ARE AWESOME YES YOU ARE, and no one gets to tell you anything.
The male version of this would be some guy who’s listening to cultural message about how he’s everything wrong with the world, but he doesn’t listen, because he knows he’s a good man. Scene: laughing with co-workers at the firehouse. Scene: playing with his two children, a girl and a boy. Scene: nuzzling his wife, who likes the fact that he’s a huge firefighter.
This guy sums it up. And I'm #4 as well.
NEXT OUTRAGE PLS
UPDATE: Harry's did the same thing in 2017, so we regret to inform you that the Milkshake Duck, etc., etc
New York, the late 1920s: The Brokaw Brothers store. No, different Brokaw.
Let’s examine the copy. It's as wordy as you'd expect from the era.
The business district of NYC was always marching north in search of more fashionable areas.
That would be the IRT Flushing line station, finished in 1927.
Consider the might of Gotham at this point, and the level of craftsmanship and beauty. The Brokaw building wasn’t anything particularly special - a box with a cornice - but it was big, and it had huge windows on the bottom three floors that gave the street a nice show at twilight and evening. Standing inside on the third, looking down - that must have been quite the view, and you’d hear it on the third, too.
Gah. I hate New York sometimes. That’s the Times Square Tower, and I can’t find any pictures in New York of the area before the Brokaw was razed.
This too was razed for something that’s worse than indistuiguishable. It’s ugly. It breaks faith with the streetline, has a dated style, and looks like it could be anywhere in any city where the architect started work on the design the night before it was due.
Archtypical late 60s early 70s windows. Alas.
But wait. Hold on. If you head up the block, you see a small survivor on Park Avenue that looks deserted. What’s this?
Curbed: "Referred to by the New York Times as'"a fading gentleman in a tattered old dinner jacket,' the house at 890 Park Avenue was built in 1884 by disgraced stockbroker Harry A. Groesbec.
Walter Schick purchased the aging townhouse from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development in 1997 and inherited several tenants along with it. As of 2012, word had it that Schick would wait until the building's sole 84-year-old tenant would vacate before charging ahead with work on the once-charming building.
I hope they added steps.
That'll do; enjoy the update, and I'll see you around. BUT I MUST NOTE:
The 2019 Fundraising for Gnat's College Fund continues. Eventually she'll send everyone a personal thank you, and a special drawing - when her Brazilian 28-day journey is done.
And remember: all fundraiser contributons (minus 10%) go to her college fund.