Fresh Hell

Monday, 7:50pm
Reno, NV
“Whom the gods would destroy, they first give computers…” (Apologies to Euripides)


How’s your Monday going?

I woke up today to a phone call from the accountant.

Accountants, lawyers, detectives, ex’s (as in “all my ex’s live in Texas”)…

… your day is not gonna go well starting out with a jangle from any of those folks.

Actually, that’s too easy.

Some days, even people you want to hear from are calling with bad news.

One of my most favorite quotes of all time is Dorothy Parker’s line whenever she picked up a phone.

“And what fresh hell is this?” she’d say in a pleasant tone. Cheerfully expecting the worst.

(Parker, for the unenlightened, was a seminal member of The Algonquin Table, back in the 1920s. I’ve lusted after a similar arrangement myself my entire career — an ongoing drunken intellectual brawl in a NY back room, with the finest wits and sharpest minds of a generation in attendance.)

(If you’re not hip to that period of Americana, you’re in for a treat. Google “Algonquin table”. See the 1994 movie “Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle”. Read some of her excellent, and howlingly funny stuff. You’ll be stunned by the similarities between her crowd and the ironic angst our current generations are going through…)


I knew this was gonna be one of “those” Mondays… cuz I’d taken some time off last week to go debauch with some old friends. And play golf. And ignore all things marketing.

So, you know… I was “due”.

And I was semi-prepared.

See, early in my career, I forced myself to internalize a very difficult rule: Every day, make the hardest calls first.

Don’t put ’em off.

Just slam your coffee, gird your loins, and dial.

Our default setting is, of course, to ignore bad shit until it festers. Hope it goes away.

Part of the professional’s unwritten code, though… is to be that guy who faces the music.

Every time the band kicks into another woeful tune.

I’ll spare you the gory details of today’s misadventure.

Just know that my biz partner Stan and I are “on” to the universe, and how it works to destroy you.

The little buggers are out to get all of us.

It’s like, with the invention of the Web, all these new little demons were created…

… who huddle every day, and discuss perfect ways to screw with you.

They’re patient… they know all your hot buttons (and love to punch ’em)…

… and in cyber-space, they have an endless supply of ways to harsh your mellow. And trash your plans.

(Old Arab saying: If you want to make God laugh, make plans.)

For example: Gmail was down last week for several hours, mid-day.

That’s not supposed to happen. Gmail is supposed to be all Webby 2.0 happy-happy/joy-joy, an online goodie that acts like a desktop application.

But that can’t happen when you can’t access your account, can it.

Google is mum about the cause fo the outage…

… but it suspiciously happened around the same time Russia was hacking Georgia’s servers (coordinated with their real-world armored invasion).

Demons unleashed.

It’s kinda too big a potential problem to even get your head around.

And yet… I am actually more infuriated today because I’m also being pummelled by spam.

And tightening the screws on my filters does almost nothing to stem the tide.

May have to say bye-bye to yet another email address that just got away from me.

Oh, and check this out: Stan has encountered corrupted code at a critical moment in the creation of a new website we’ve had in the planning stages for months…

… leaving us high and dry, and him muttering like a madman. (Not sleeping for two days, while wrangling with voodoo-mysterious software and video problems will do that to you…)

And here’s a good one from the offline world: Somehow, I got on a secret “Call Every Freakin’ Day” list that apparently trumps the national “Do Not Call” list.

And I’m getting looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong messages daily about how awful it is that my car’s warranty has expired (and how I’m sure to die or something soon if I don’t fix it RIGHT NOW!!!!!).

Curious detail: Every single call starts out with “This is your final warning.”

Lying pigs.

They use a phony number for caller ID, so I’m stumped on out-witting ’em.

Waiting through the recording and demanding to speak to a rep and creatively threatening them if they don’t take you off their call list only prolongs the insult.

They will call again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

Final warning, my ass.

This has been going on for two months.

And I don’t even have a freakin’ expired warranty on any car!

Demons, I’m tellin’ ya.

Worse: I’ve been on the road a lot, and their long-winded spiels often push other callers into my “secondary” voice mail, which means I can miss important calls I want to receive.

This is just stunning to me.

There is no way I’ve found to make the calls stop.

I may have to get a new phone number. (Okay… up to now, I’ve been ridiculously lucky to keep this current one private and unsullied by “phone spam” for a long time now. I should be grateful…)

Anyway, I just felt like bitching today.

You gotta admit — most of my posts are upbeat and informative.

Today, there was just too much fresh hell to deal with.

How’d your Monday go?

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Hey — be sure to check out the last post… where I offer an inside peek at our shocking new program. It’s exclusive to folks on my hot list… but we’ve included blog readers, too.

You gotta hurry, though.

To get on it right away, go here:

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"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."

  • Peter Frank says:

    Hey John,

    Don’t you just love the crap of life. My latest dose has come via India call centres.
    They all claim to be someone calling from Melbourne or West Melbourne. All they want to do is give me a FREE phone.

    At the moment if I don’t recognize the number I just answer with.. “What are you going to give me to day for free… a phone… a holiday.. or what?

    I think the best response eI’ve heard dfor this sort of thing is from Sienfeld. “I’m busy right now… give me your home number and I’ll ring you back.” (or words to that effect)

    As for your current problem I haven’t come accross it myself yet. I suppose it can’t be far away.

    Chin up… don’t let the basdards get you down.


  • Tom Ash says:

    Hi John:

    My Monday was pretty good, but can I offer you a dose of perspective. I was talking to a real estate agent about the volunteer work I do up at what used to be called Tahoe Adaptive Ski School (you live in Reno I believe so you may know it). I told the agent on the phone how my perspective was totally changed after volunteering up there. I had some health issues that had made me a little “perspectively challenged”, and decided to try and relocate my head from where it was residing. After seeing soldiers from the Wounded Warrior Program skiing while missing limbs, seeing children who would never live to see 21 try to ski, or a dying man trying to ski, I was blown away.
    I shared my history of volunteering with the agent, and told her how my perspective had been changed by the amazing people I see up at the Ski School. The agent went on to tell me that her brother had committed suicide two weeks ago. Once again my perspective was changed. In other words, it made me realize how good I have it.
    So anyway, now that you have read all this, how was your Monday? Thanks as always for your writings: I enjoy them greatly.

    Tom Ash

  • I spent my Monday waiting around all day for a property management company to approval my application for a new beach house.

    Bastards have been taunting us for 12 days now, saying… “The owner is still out of the country”.

    Argggg! I know they are just cherry picking applications and trying to find a better renter. I don’t get it, especially since I offered to pay 6 months rent up front. You’d think they’d take the 20 grand and sign the damn papers already.

    Ah well. Maybe they just don’t want to rent to a tattooed surfer punk who’s living the good life.

    Speaking of the good life, Frank and I were commenting the other day about how cool it would be if you were down in Cali.

    Out of nowhere, we were like…. “It sure would be kickass if Carlton lived down here”.

    I have no idea how the idea spawned, but it was a good one at the time.

    Anyhow, know that you have a bedroom waiting on the oceanfront anytime you want. We got extra boards, Xbox 360, fridge overstuffed with cold Mexican beers, and just about anything a guy would need for a killer vacation.

    Cheers and beers,


    John Carlton replies:

    Thanks, man. Was a time, I’d load up the car and move to a new city on just such an opportunity.

    Kinda rooted now. Mortgage, Michele, dogs, employees…

    I loved living at the beach. I was in San Diego back before it got Yuppie-ized, and spent 10 years in Hermosa/Redondo. A block from the ocean, hearing waves crash 24/7… and my soul neatly attuned to the groove of walking through sand.

    We’ll have to think of more excuses to just get together down there…


  • I woke up dreading another day at the J.O.B.

    I knew it was going to be great…F.e.a.r.l.e.s.s leaders…these guys just dont really care. If Staples made a “That Was Stupid” button I would wear the hellout of it lol.

    Why??…Glad ya asked.So were have a big ol’ crane that people invented yanno to move heavy cargo….I think it was intended to work smarter not harder… yeah I think the guys I work for didn’t get that memo.

    With 5 people moving equipment from a smaller ship to a bigger ship at the rate we were going it would have been completed umm…next week. …and to top it off we had to move so much equipment that at the rate we were moving them.

    So I sucked it up and worked from 7am until noon,had lunch and went back at it. All that lifting computers, and servers, and printers wore me down and im not a lil guy.

    Enough was enough…I said “Hey…there’s got to be an easier way”…he said “Well they got something else going on” (AKA – Thats nice but I don’t care because I’m not sweating my balls off) So I walked away and found someone else who could understand my words, because that guy sure as hell didn’t.

    Asked for help couldn’t get it…bc people were oww so busy

    So I said, forget Mr.Nice Guy…I made my stand and pretty much said ok….If you don’t help me carry all this equipment won’t have Internet and you won’t be able to use Outlook. (It’s funny how you can motivate people to help you out)

    That pretty much wrapped up my Monday..after all that I was able to get 30 people to help, and finally finished moving everything in a short time frame. It’s scary what can happen when you put common sense into play. ….shhh dont tell anyone I work with I have “Common Sense”….lol


  • I’m totally with Stan… I once did some video testimonials for a project. And since I was involved in that product and wanted all the donors (people with money) to be happy, I didn’t want to just put the videos on YouTube. Nope, wanted to make it a fancy DVD, all through fulfillment company with nice professional label and stuff.
    So, sat down a couple of nights, got into photoshop, creating the labels, etc.
    Added subtitles to the videos.
    And then wanted to make it into “DVD format”. So people can just put it in their player and watch it on TV. You’d guess it should be really easy, shouldn’t it? With all those Nero software stuff, should be push-button, no? Apparently there was some file conversion stuff with .mov files and I spent every free minute for about two weeks trying to tackle this final last step… until I finally handed the whole thing to someone who knew what he was doing and paid a little money for that.
    Drove me insane. Those computers can make you feel like Michael Douglas in “Falling Down”.

  • Markus says:

    Client just sent my copy out to his list. Headline changed. Subheadline changed. Offer totally changed, price of product more than doubled?!?

    Bummer. Should have listened to my gut feeling before accepting the assignment. I guess someone made some less money today….

    Anyway, booked up well into 2009. Your “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” and Underachiever Melbourne 2006 was a pointer into the right direction. 🙂

    Best wishes from Germany.
    Markus Trauernicht

  • Lynn says:

    Dorothy Parker is an idol of mine. Her sayings are priceless.

    I thought I was the only one gifted with the calls about my automotive warranty expiring. Don’t have one either. Also I keep getting the calls offering to consolidate my credit card debt. What credit card debt?

    And they always say that this is my last chance. Promises! Promises!

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