Geezers Gallery 45

Samm Coombs
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Someone once said, “Samm Coombs is one of America’s two great copywriters,” which leaves all his peers vying to be the other one! Be that as it may, Samm is unquestionably an advertising Geezer having joined Folger’s ad department in 1950 and exiting the agency side in 1990. He has since held to the Geezer credo, “Press-on, regardless.” In Samm’s case he pressed on, with another Geezer, Hal Larson, into the Publishing business, forming Halo Books that in its heyday had a list of 21 titles, 8 of which were authored by the proprietors.

Samm currently languishes in California’s Geezer Mecca, Palm Desert, where he writes a Geezer-oriented newspaper column (under the banner, “Time Happens”), samples furnished herewith.

For the record, Samm’s advertising resume starts with the aforementioned Folger’s, thence to Koret of California (Promotions Director), followed by BBDO (Copy Group Head), McCann-Erickson (Creative Supervisor), Allen Dorward (Creative Director), Kenyon & Eckhardt (Creative Director), Wilton, Coombs & Colnett (Founder/President), C. Brewer, Hawai’i (Resorts Marketing Manager), Playboy Enterprises (Creative Director of a nascent radio network), Doremus/BBDO (VP Manager) and lastly, Samm Coombs’ Company (chief cook & bottle-washer). Mr. Coombs’ “long, strange trip” through the advertising business encompassed the 60’s creative renaissance, when the West Coast reigned supreme thanks to the likes of Guild, Bascom & Bonfigli, Weiner-Gossage, Chiat-Day, not to forget Wilton, Coombs & Colnett or the likes of Hal Riney, Fred Manley, Peggy Greenfield, et al.

Now that The Geezers welcome writers into the heretofore Graphics sanctum, Samm plans to attend the next gathering to receive the forgiveness of those who cut his copy to accommodate their pictorial demands.


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In Praise of Diversity

There are two ways of looking at life. One way is from several thousand miles out in space. From that perspective there are no nations or borders; no white faces or brown faces; no Christians or Muslims; no liberals or conservatives … just a small blue planet floating all be itself in empty space.

From this vantage point, it’s beyond comprehension that all over this little lonesome globe there are creatures called Homo sapiens who, since time immemorial, have been hacking each other to pieces because of their nationality, color and belief systems.

The other way to look at life here on the planet Earth is from your present point of view: up close and personal – where all the hacking and hating takes place.

Even from this viewpoint it is incomprehensible why the inhabitants of this tiny orb (located in an inconsequential solar system on the fringes of a relatively small galaxy within an incredibly immense Universe that was almost 10 billion years old before our home came into existence and will be around for more than a 100 billion years after our sun’s fires die out!) should have reason to hate/resent/distrust each other. One would think we’d be more inclined to hug one another considering our precarious position in the cosmos.

But, no … instead of loving one another, we grow up suspicious of and fighting with our fellows. If you stop to analyze why we humans are like that, it is because of differences. We find it difficult to hug someone who looks different, sounds different, acts different, believes and lives differently.

And yet we should celebrate diversity. Who wants to listen to an

all-saxophone band? Nothing wrong with saxophones. But they sound a helluva lot better when mixed with brass, strings and percussion instruments. That’s what produces symphonies!

Think about it — what a sad, boring place this would be if all the birds were blue, all the flowers red, all the days sunny.

What’s so special about Mother Earth is its biodiversity. Likewise, what’s so marvelous about this nation is its variety: its combination of races, creeds, politics, values, ad infinitum. Diversity/variety is what makes us so unique, so interesting, so resourceful and strong.

Instead of wishing everyone was the same as you – be thankful for differences: for immigrants, for Shakespeare, for Rock & Roll, for Democrats and Teabaggers … for all the different ingredients that make life such a delicious stew.

Granted, economics and geography create separation, and separation fuels contention. So one must concede there is no easy fix to the standoff twixt people. But we should –must—do a better job in seeking common ground; not only by tolerating/respecting diversity but by promoting it.

In so doing it will make your neighborhood, town, state, nation and planet a better place. Guaranteed.

© Samm Coombs, 9-30-2010


Onward & Upward

I will herein endeavor to support the proposition that the force of Nature is inexorably upward, towards perfection.

Consider how far homo sapiens has come in the past few millennia. Can you imagine a pack of Vikings rallying to halt the slaughter of seal pups, or a bunch of Elizabethans protesting the cutting down of giant sequoia, or ancient Romans rising up in righteous indignation over an unjust war?

A few centuries ago the great mass of humanity lived as peasants and slaves. It required dawn to dusk labor to half fill their bellies. Survival left no time or desire to develop a vision of a higher order of existence. Howsoever, this evolution from bent-over beast to our present (relative) elegance is testimony that man, like Rome, wasn’t built in a day … much less six days.

Did you know a few thousand years ago (a mere tick on the evolutionary clock) Greeks, Persians, Indians, Chinese, Egyptians, et al, could not recognize the color blue?! Aristotle spoke of the “tricolored rainbow,” Homer of the “wine-dark sea.” In the Old Testament, the Rig-Veda, Herodotus’ histories, along with the epic Iliad & Odyssey, the sky is described thousands of times without one mention of blue. That’s because the eye’s ability to differentiate the full spectrum of color is relatively recent. Unless you are an anthropologist, this is no big thing – except that it demonstrates that (wo)man is developing; being perfected.

What is important to know is not all of us are being perfected at the same rate. Somebody had to see “blue” before somebody else. Blueness didn’t just happen to everyone simultaneously – as if God declared blue to exist and splashed it across the sky one morning so everyone would look up and exclaim, “Hallelujah, it’s blue! Because only a few eyes could perceive blue before the many, early blue see-ers surely had trouble relating what they saw to their blue-blind friends. (Maybe the first loony bins were filled with folk who babbled about blue.)

The faculty of morality, without which the Golden Rule will never rule, appears to be mankind’s latest acquisition. Being a relatively new trait, there are many people who are amoral—i.e., without morality—and many more who are occasionally moral, on a conditional basis. When they lapse, they are considered immoral.

A working description of morality would be someone with a sense of right and wrong – who instinctively feels what another person is feeling, hence is likely to treat others in the same manner he/she would like to be treated. Trouble happens when the moral person assumes everyone else is. At this point of mankind’s development that is not a fair assumption. You will find yourself playing with people who do not play by your (moral) rules. This can be awfully confusing and often dangerous.

It is almost impossible for a compassionate/moral person to understand how someone with the same physical attributes can coolly torture another human being (much less dumb animals). Anyone who could stick red-hot pins in some wretch’s eyeballs is not like you, he/she only looks like you. It is easy for amoral people to prey on their moral brethren. It’s quite impossible to judge who is playing by which rules. Many amoral people attend church and mouth pious platitudes. (After all, they don’t know they’re amoral.) But when the going gets tough, they’ll show their true colors: lying, cheating, and even killing to help themselves. Now, at least, you know why some people can be sooo bad.

All the above bears testimony that so so-called Age Of Aquarius (akin to Heaven On Earth) is a-comin’. In due time all of us will be incapable of doing unto others what we would not have done unto us. Fast on the heels of that evolutionary plateau will come the ultimate human facility: Cosmic Consciousness; an innate sense of inter-connectedness. Some few (a very few) possess this now – about as many who could see “blue” in Homer’s time. But what one has, all will have. It is the law of Nature.

© Samm Coombs 10-13-2010


The Eterhal “Now” Making Your Life A Series of Beginnings.

Time, as noted in a previous column, is a tricky business. In our sense-oriented, three-dimensional world, time is a man-made convenience measuring that period occupied by a body passing in space from one given point to another.

That sense we have of going from past to future is based on what physicists call “the thermodynamic arrow of time,” what causes things to go from ‘order’ to ‘disorder,’ low entropy to greater entropy (why ice melts, glass shatters and the young grow older). This thermodynamic arrow is the by-product of the cosmological arrow let loose by the Big Bang (or “Creation,” if you prefer).

Not the stuff for a column in the Mobile Home News? Well then, let’s reduce “Time” to matters concerning your here and now, the key being NOW.

As you are reminded every day, our bodies deteriorate over time. The only constant is the present NOW. Our material form is allotted a limited number of quantitative NOWs. To make the most of them, we must resist having disturbing memories or future fears to pollute the potentially perfect present.

You say your personal present is not perfect? You aren’t in any kind of pain right NOW are you? You aren’t starving to death, or having a lung removed at this very moment. You may have just received an IRS notice to appear at some later date – but the fact remains, right NOW, as you read this page, everything’s okay (or you wouldn’t be reading this!). Maybe yesterday wasn’t okay, maybe you won’t be okay an hour from now, much less when you visit the IRS. But right NOW, there’s nothing wrong, right? You can be unemployed with no means to make the next mortgage payment, If that makes you feel non-okay, it’s because you’re anticipating a moment when won’t be feeling okay. But that’s not NOW. Even when that horrible moment arrives, that NOW will be so filled with activity, you won’t be asking your self if it’s good or bad. You’ll be handling the situation. Soldiers don’t stop in the middle of a battle, after receiving a gunshot wound and say, “Hey! This NOW is no good.” Those few NOWs that are not good take care of themselves – they are action NOWs. The NOWs we dote on are private, passive and contemplative NOWs, all of which are perfectly good NOWs. And yet those controllable NOWs are the ones that get out of control to make us miserable. The lesson here is don’t use the present to fear the future or regret the past.

This does not mean we do not have to deal with the past or provide for the future in the present. What would happen to Mr. Squirrel come winter if he didn’t collect nuts in the Fall? Making provisions for the future doesn’t mess up the present. Buying life insurance should be a pleasure.

As a moment in time, NOW is a clean slate, open to any possibility. You are always at the point when any future can overtake you. Not to put too fine a point on it, every NOW is a beginning, a springboard, the point from which all possibilities proceed. The old saw “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” is right-on.

© Samm Coombs, 11-6-2010


Press On, Regardless

Those of you who are in your late 70’s or beyond are statistically deceased, living on borrowed time. So what’s the logic for planting an orange tree that will bear little fruit for a number of years yet? Assuming you don’t believe in reincarnation, why be concerned about the degradation of our planet when, after all, the sea level won’t inundate Wall Street for 50 years or more? Why invest for the long-term or take up a new hobby that can never be perfected? And you may be excused if you’re unimpressed with 100,000-mile drive train warranties.

Well, in the first place, it’s not over till that Fat Lady Sings. And even after her Swan Song, many seniors believe there is another act on a much larger stage to follow their physical demise. But that’s not the issue here.

The issue here is why do the aged keep on keeping on? From whence comes that indefatigable, indomitable, never-say-die spirit that keeps us tall in the saddle rather than lying about in the barn complaining about saddle sores? What motivates us to round the bend into old age at full trot is not easily explained. It’s not some secret you stumble across in your autumn years. It’s a matter of dignity, and dignity is a product of your past; something you build into your life one brick at a time.

Your quests never end, nothing is ever finished; the war is never won; every battle must be re-fought for different reasons on different fields.

To be sure, there will come a time when Nature whispers something in your ear – no one knows what … until it’s your ear!—signally it’s time to hang up your helmet and retreat to the rear to await further instructions. In the meantime, life is tumultuous; we are always losing and regaining our balance. Win some, lose some. What matters is our willingness and readiness to (re)join the battle. “Once more into the breech, Horatio …”

This is not easy. One might be forgiven come 6 A.M. tomorrow morning to question the point of it all. How much easier to remain in bed rather than showering again, brushing your remaining teeth again, taking your meds again, taking out the garbage again, shopping again, cooking again, eating again and all the other agains. But, you place your feet on the floor because, 1) what’s the alternative?, 2) you are at a point where any future can overtake you, and 3) dignity demands you Press On, Regardless.

© Samm Coombs, 11-21–2010[/column] [end_columns]