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Scott McKay is a Toronto strategist, writer, creative director, patient manager, half-baked photographer and forcibly retired playwright.

This little site is designed to introduce him and his thoughts to the world. (Whether the world appreciates the intro is another matter.) If you'd like to chat, then you can guess what the boxes below are for.



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    "They had their cynical code worked out. The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket."

          – George Orwell






    "Advertising – a judicious mix of flattery and threats."

          – Northrop Frye






    "Chess is as an elaborate a waste of time as has ever been devised outside an advertising agency."

          – Raymond Chandler


    Entries in buckaroo banzai (4)


    and don't tug on *that* either

    A long time ago I wrote about the fact that writing is like composing; change one word and you can change everything. Even if most people can't articulate why the words feel like they mean something different, even if they can't actually see that there is a difference, it's enough that I know and feel that there's a difference, and I'm going to try my damnedest to articulate that change so you understand it.

    I forget sometimes that the same is true visually. When it comes to the web (as everything else) there are rules of design and alignments and cues that actually matter; it sounds goofy to say, but those details are the difference between creating something that users know is trustworthy, and something that just doesn't feel quite right. And that's not a feeling you ever want users to have.

    When those details are working right, you actually don't notice them; you're simply using and enjoying the site as you want. You're focusing on what you want to do.

    When they're not right, when they haven't been considered, or have been forgotten in the clench of compressed timelines and budgets, you become conscious of the process of using the site, and vaguely critical of it. You've been taken out of yourself and what you want to do.

    And you unravel everything that you've been trying to do.



    Planet 10 sounds like a pretty good idea right now

    Tonight my life (okay, my mood) was saved by the inexplicable The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! Inexplicable because I just can't imagine anyone with money actually agreeing to finance a movie that's aggressively weird, chock full of in-jokes and pretty much guaranteed to not appeal to a mass audience.

    It's not easy to encapsulate in a quick synopsis. There are some evil aliens called Lectroids who steal something Buckaroo (who is a physicist/neurosurgeon/racecar driver/rockstar) has been working on called the overthruster so they can go back to their home planet and reconquer it, only the good Lectroids get in touch with Buckaroo...

    What matters are the details. For instance, all the Lectroids are named John Something, as in John Bigbooty (pronounced Big-boo-TAY), John Smallberries, John Yaya, in order to fit in seamlessly on Earth. The President looks exactly Orson Welles. John Lithgow as the head rebel, Dr. Emilio Lizardo, is about as out of control as it's possible to get on a movie set. The rest of the cast is full of brilliant folks like Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli who never got the kind of recognition they should have. And the writing is full of gems, like this call and response between Lithgow in full Hitlerian mode and a factory full of Lectroids:

    "Where are we going?" bellows Lithgow.

    "Planet 10!"


    "Real soon!"

    I saw it a couple of times when it came out, in theatres that were nowhere near half full. Which was too bad for the writer and director, and for the producer.

    But its distastrous run somehow just deepened my love for it.


    "we've arrived and to prove it we're here"

    My grandfather (click on the link and scroll down to the picture, fifth row, far left) was a math teacher, headmaster, and serious polymath geek, if you'd call anyone who was born in 1899 a geek. He was just someone who was interested in math, in science, in history... in why. And someone who had a very academic sense of humour.

    Whenever we drove somewhere and parked the car, invariably the first line out of his mouth was the above line. It's a mathematician's joke, a goofy assertion and a goofy proof. It's dumb, but I love it. It's a silly way of focusing me on the here and now.

    Because really, where else are you?

    In the marketing world, another metaphor that's to the point is "the grass is always greener." After two or three years, people begin to think about moving on. They hate their client, or their boss, or their co-workers, or whatever, and they start to look around and they go...

    And the inevitable lunch-bag let down happens. They discover the exact same issues, the same hatreds, the same problems, in the new place, only much more quickly this time. 

    And maybe they move again. And slowly, at least some of folks begin to discover that everywhere they go, they face the same issues and people and problems. And they realize that the only thing that matters is how they deal with those things.

    As a manager, it sounds self-serving and condescending and faux philosophical for me to say, but damn it, it's true.

    Your presence, your attention and your attitude is what makes the difference. No matter where you are, it's up to you to make something happen.

    "We've arrived and to prove it we're here." As my grandfather said, it's all about presence in the here and now.

    Or, to put it even better, in the immortal words of everyone's favourite philosopher-physicist-rockstar, "Wherever you go, there you are."


    don't tug on that

    It's been, um, a busy week. Lots of typing and presentations happening very quickly. Yesterday I got feedback on some copy which was approved except for one word. One little word. Change it and everyone's happy, and we can get on to everything else. No big deal, right?

    Wrong. One wrong word sitting in the middle of a whole bunch of right ones makes all of them wrong. Clients and account people aren't paid to listen for nuance and emotional impact and, well, flow. But we are. Because people out there notice. Sitting in their car listening to the radio, or when they bother to click on the one potentially interesting email in their inbox, people care if what you write feels wrong.

    The fact that the words have to feel right is why not everyone who slings words can actually write. It sounds finicky and stupid but it's true. People read not just the sense but the sound of your language. You have to be aware of the poetry in the language of even the most mundane buckslip. Even if you can't formally scan the metre of what you're writing, you have to hear it. It has to flow. If it sounds wrong, or if it sounds out of place, it probably is.

    It's why I think about writing as composing.

    So when I present a deck to my client, it works. It hangs together seamlessly. (In my mind at least.) You can't just pull out one stitch and think that the whole blanket will hang together.

    Changes are of course fine. But tell me what the issues are, so I can incorporate them and still write something that flows. Don't tell me what the changes must be. Don't try to pull a word out and jam something else in.

    To quote the immortal words of the great scientist and rock star Buckaroo Banzai, "Don't tug on that. You never know what it might be attached to."