Happy Earth Day to You

Hey, it’s Earth Day, the one day out of 365 (or 366) that we actually give a damn about the planet we all share. Each year is the hottest on record. Smog is getting smoggier. Rains are turning to floods. Earthquakes are a fracking nightmare. A 94-year-old engineer may be our last hope.

OK, maybe I’m being overly dramatic. But I’m also being overly Dramarama…

What Are We Gonna Do? – Dramarama from Damian John Spooner – Upton on Vimeo.

What are we gonna do? Here are some ideas.

Happy Birthday, Planet Earth!

Dog days

You know that:

A. You’re of a certain age AND

B. you watched too much Saturday morning TV

If every time you see a German Shepherd dog, you think of Run, Joe, Run.

RJR (as we true fans call it), was a live-action Saturday morning show that ran from ’74 until ’76. The premise was… interesting…

[opening narration] WANTED: Male German Shepherd, Black And Tan. Answers to the name of Joe. Accused of attacking his trainer, Sgt. Will Corey. A crime he did not commit. Only Corey can prove him innocent, but he must find Joe before his pursuers track him down.

So basically the show was The Fugitive as played by a dog. (Fun fact: the narrator was Paul Frees, a voice actor who also played Boris Badenov, Burgermeister Meisterburger and The Pillsbury Doughboy.)

Thank goodness the description told us the German Shepherd’s colors, “black and tan” or else we would’ve wasted a lot of time tracking down all those purple German Shepherds.

Poor Joe was misunderstood, and always got in trouble when he was just trying to help. Like in this episode with Kristy McNichol. He gives a toddler  her milk bottle and chases a fox out of the chicken cage, and gets nothing but grief for it. (Also worth noting that Sgt. Will Corey had a car phone waaay before anyone else did.)

You’d think a single dog was OJ Simpson in a White Bronco the way he was chased by so many authorities. Guess that $200 bounty went a lot further in the 70s.

Read more about RJR here.

 

Where’s the funny?

I recently watched the new Amy Schumer stand-up comedy special on Netflix.

I was completely underwhelmed. A lot of empty calories, and very few laughs, or even giggles or smiles. Netflix really should change the summary to “Amy Schumer riffs on sex and bodily functions” because that was 99% of her routine. I’m sure some folks will find that amusing, but it certainly isn’t very creative.

I loved Richard Pryor, and he could be filthy, but a lot of his bits were both profane AND profound. Listen to this less-than-two-minute clip of Pryor’s bit on black males and cops… it’s from 1974 but it could have been written yesterday (sadly). There are more laughs in that bit than in the entire hour-long Schumer special.

Guess I should’ve watched the Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot instead. Or perhaps not.

ACT now

My oldest child got his ACT score this past weekend.

I’m thrilled for him… and happy for my wallet too. Life is not a standardized test, but fairly or unfairly, how well you do on a standardized test strongly influences scholarship offers.

He’s certainly thought that he’s smarter than his old man for many years now, but this makes it official.

Although I told him that I took the test way back in the 80s, before they dumbed it down.

 

Trying to make sense of the senseless

I usually like to keep the ol’ dubbatrubba blog rather light and fluffy. But when the largest mass shooting in the U.S. this year takes place a few miles from your house, it’s hard to ignore it.

Cameo nightclub. My kids used to play soccer games in the fields next to it.

The typical NRA response to a mass shooting is “make sure more people have guns.” Shootings in a movie theater (see: Aurora, CO)? Arm the movie-goers. Shootings in a community center (see: San Bernadino)? Arm the workers. Shootings in a school (see: a school in almost every state in the country)? Arm the teachers.

Map of school shootings since 2013. Source: https://everytownresearch.org/school-shootings/

 

But isn’t the Cameo nightclub a prime example of what happens when more folks have guns? Here are a couple of quotes worth pondering, from Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley:

That’s the challenge, isn’t it? If you have a dispute, and you have guns, you might wind up with a Wild West gun battle inside a crowded nightclub that leaves 2 dead and 15 wounded. And these sort of shots-fired altercations are much more prevalent than terrorist attacks. Just ask Chicago. Or look at this tracker of the last 72 hours.

I grew up in rural Arkansas with friends who went deer hunting, duck hunting, rabbit hunting, squirrel hunting, and gun racks were pretty much standard equipment on pickup trucks. I’m not a “take all the guns away” person. But I also feel very strongly that it should not be easier for someone to get a gun than it is for them to vote, or drive a car… or even buy Sudafed.

If you are a responsible gun owner, this nightclub incident (and all the other ones like it) should sicken you. You should want to work to prevent atrocities like this in the future. There has to be some rational middle ground between “all sorts of guns for any sort of person” and “no guns for anyone.” Between “no regulations” and “outright ban.” Can we have a respectful, responsible adult discussion, please? Lives are at stake.

 

 

 

Bye Bye David Dye

David Dye, longtime host of NPR’s wonderful music program World Cafe, signed off a couple of Fridays ago after a quarter century of spinning a ton of great tunes.

My musical tastes veer away from the mainstream, to singer-songwriters and indie rockers and “legacy” artists who still push the boundaries. I could always count on World Cafe for two hours of music that was right in my wheelhouse – check out David Dye’s list of 25 albums from the 25 years he hosted the show for a taste. Better still, the show also featured interviews and live performances from the artists. It was appointment listening for many years for me, on the local affiliate WNKU-FM. Now David is gone, and WNKU is soon to follow.

But when one door closes, another opens. My wife got me an Amazon Echo Dot for Christmas, and all I have to do is say “Alexa, play radio station KEXP-Seattle” and I’m immediately tuned in to what is, in my humble opinion, the best station going.

It’s not the same as having a local connection, but I’ll take what I can get. Gotta keep rockin’.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant

Straight from the “We Couldn’t Make This Up If We Tried” Department comes a report from the Louisville Courier-Journal that the Kentucky Coal Museum has a very interesting new installation: solar panels. Yes, a museum that showcases all aspects of the coal mining industry, in an old coal camp town in Harlan County, in the heart of coal country in southeast Kentucky, has put solar panels on the roof to cut their energy costs.

The coal museum’s electric bill typically costs about $2,100 per month, but this initiative is expected to save between $8,000 and $10,000 a year.

Trump can talk all he wants about a “war on coal” and “job-killing regulations” but really it’s a war of attrition. Coal’s contribution to climate change (it’s real) and environmental and health issues, along with increasing competition from both natural gas and renewable energy sources, are digging coal’s grave.

If DT really wants to create more jobs (with less pollution, btw), he should consider the following facty-facts (not alternative facts) from this article:

In 2016 alone, the US solar industry created more new jobs (51,000) than there are coal miners still working in the US (50,200). There are now 260,000 solar workers in the US — five times the number of coal miners.

“Follow the day and reach for the sun…”

 

 

 

King Richard the First… and Only

Last night I saw Richard Thompson live in concert at the newly refurbished Memorial Hall in downtown Cincinnati.

I’ve seen him a dozen or more times over the past quarter of a century. I originally opted to skip this show, mainly because:

  1. I had seen him so many times prior to this show.
  2. Tickets weren’t cheap and I’m trying to save cash.
  3. As a suburban 52-year-old with a job, a wife and 4 kids (two of whom I have to wake up at 6 a.m. every weekday) I can’t make as many shows as I’d like to.

But last week some friends of mine were talking about going, and I got the fever. One catch: the show was sold out. I checked StubHub and SeatGeek to no avail. On a last-second “what the heck” whim, I checked Craigslist, and lo and behold, another suburban dad had a pair of tickets that he had to unload because the concert conflicted with a Daddy-Daughter dance. Which is how I wound up at a Kroger parking lot on a Wednesday night, meeting a stranger for a ticket purchase.

The show was a typical RT show… which is to say, amazing. I don’t think you’ll find his rare combination of talents in too many folks:

  • virtuoso guitarist – I’d put him up against any teenage phenom. Even solo and acoustic, like last night, the dude can shred
  • phenomenal voice – so strong, even at age 68. And the acoustics in Memorial Hall did it justice.
  • fantastic songwriter – great, sometimes twisted lyrics and wonderful melodies. It’s no wonder his tunes have been covered by the likes of R.E.M., Elvis Costello, Bob Mould, Bonnie Raitt, Reckless Kelly, The Neville Brothers, Marshall Crenshaw and Dinosaur Jr. (that’s a festival lineup I’d like to see).
  • entertaining stage presence – that dry British wit is always in evidence. Last night after absolutely tearing up the solo on “Valerie” and getting much-deserved applause from the audience, he shrugged his shoulders and said “it’s easy.” He also referred to himself as a “folk rock dinosaur.”

I went with my neighbor/friend Mark, a true music fanatic (he’s been to hundreds of shows over the last 40 years, still plays in a local band, went to Cleveland a few weeks ago to see Patti Smith… you get the picture). Mark’s a longtime Richard Thompson fan, and saw him in 1986 in the same venue as last night’s show. The vast majority of folks in the audience were in the same age bracket as Mark and I are. (The show should be sponsored by a doctor who specializes in knee and hip replacements – he’d make a killing.) That’s a shame. Richard’s always been a niche artist, an acquired taste, a critic’s darling almost completely ignored by the mainstream. But he puts on a fantastic show every damn time. You whippersnappers should go see him – now get off my lawn!

Next time I have a chance to see such an amazing artist in a gorgeous venue, I won’t trust my fate to Daddy-Daughter dances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going, going… Gong!

Chuck Barris, the creator and host of one of my favorite childhood shows, The Gong Show, passed away a couple of weeks ago. The Gong Show was unlike anything else on TV back then, and I loved the complete wackiness of the entire thing. It was like a sideshow version of America’s Got Talent. Amateurs would perform all sorts of weird vaudeville-style acts (or “stuff” as Chuck would call it), and three celebrity judges (a roster that included Jaye P. Morgan, Rex Reed, Rip Taylor, Jamie Farr, Arte Johnson and David Letterman) could either hit a giant gong to end the awfulness, or give the acts a score if they liked them.

  

Chuck didn’t fit the mold of a classic game show host – he wore wacky hats, cracked up instead of staying in character, brought out stagehands to dance… he was in on the joke and brought us along for the ride.

Barris’ original idea had been to create a show that featured fine performers, but in his search for talent, he frequently encountered awful acts. “I came back and said, ‘Let’s change the show, have all bad acts and one or two good ones, and people can make a judgment,’ ” he said in a 2010 interview with The Archive of American Television.

“Everybody could relate to somebody wearing a lampshade and dancing around,” Barris said. “Bad acts are inherent in everyone.”

[from this obit in The Hollywood Reporter – well worth a read]

Chuck also boosted the careers of folks like composer Danny Elfman (as part of Oingo Boingo), Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens and The Unknown Comic.

 

Chuck seemed a bit crazy, and he probably was (later he wrote a book Confessions of a Dangerous Mind where he claimed to be a CIA assassin). But he was crazy like a fox. He wrote a hit song in 1962, “Palisades Park” (a now-defunct amusement park that was close to my birthplace of Jersey City, NJ).

He was the creator of two other classic game shows, The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game. He wrote two bestselling books, and was a pioneer of first-run syndication, selling The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game to TV stations after ABC cancelled them. In 1986 he sold his shares in Chuck Barris Productions for a cool $86 million. So he was dancing all the way to the bank.

So long, Chuck, and thanks for all the great stuff!

 

 

 

 

Cheaters never prosper… except at the University of North Carolina

Tonight the University of North Carolina will take on Gonzaga for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship. The Tarheels are favored to win. And speaking of favoritism, there’s been very little press about the UNC decades-long cheating scandal where hundreds of athletes (especially in the revenue-generating sports of basketball and football) took sham/non-existent classes to boost their GPAs and maintain their eligibility.

News of the scandal broke way back in 2011, thanks to Raleigh’s News & Observer newspaper, which reported that an incoming freshman football player had been enrolled in an upper-level African studies class and received a high grade. That transcript ultimately exposed 18 years of fake classes, most of them created by Deborah Crowder, a clerical employee in the African and Afro-American Studies Department. UNC’s internal investigation blamed Crowder and a “rogue professor,” Julius Nyang’oro, and claimed that no one on the athletic side (AD, coaches, tutors, athletic advisors, et al.) knew anything about it. Which just ain’t so. The latest NCAA allegations (which came out in December of last year) say UNC and the athletics department “leveraged the relationship with Crowder and Nyang’oro to obtain special arrangements for student-athletes in violation of extra-benefit legislation.”

“Many at-risk student-athletes, particularly in the sports of football and men’s basketball, used these courses for purposes of ensuring their continuing NCAA academic eligibility,” the notice said.

But the only current article I can find about it is from the New York Times – it’s a great read. You’d think there’d be more talk of it, especially in light of the fact that UNC won two national championships during the years in question. This year’s group of athletes wasn’t part of the scandal, but you could rightly argue that if the NCAA had handed down any sanctions (postseason bans, scholarship reductions, etc.), this year’s team might not even be playing.
Funny how the NCAA is so quick to slap penalties on players and programs for the most minor of infractions, but in this case, with widespread, systemic cheating, it’s been radio silence. “Too big to fail”?