Not ready for Prime time

Take a gander at all the fabulous things I bought during Amazon Prime Day:

Sorry that I didn’t get sucked (or suckered) into your retail vortex, Mr. Bezos. First of all, “Prime Day” is a contrivance intended merely to get us to open up our wallets, much like the Tooth Fairy, Sweetest Day and Cincinnati Bengals home football games. And secondly, what you’re peddling is all just “stuff”… and “stuff” doesn’t bring long-term happiness. In fact, buying stuff actually brings us down.

All the gadgets, gizmos and geegaws are no substitute for a walk in the park, playing catch with your kids or having lunch with a friend. When you start selling that, let me know.

 

 

Getting to the non-meat of the matter

Over the weekend, my older sister sent me a link to this article in Time. WeWork is taking meat off the menu, and won’t pay for meals that include meat:

The startup has told its 6,000 global staff that they will no longer be able to expense meals including meat, and that it won’t pay for any red meat, poultry or pork at WeWork events. In an email to employees this week outlining the new policy, co-founder Miguel McKelvey said the firm’s upcoming internal “Summer Camp” retreat would offer no meat options for attendees.

“New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact,” said McKelvey in the memo, “even more than switching to a hybrid car.”

This is bad news for Arby’s.

But it’s good news for a planet that desperately needs it. WeWork’s new policy is a bold move – one that’s sure to get some backlash, yet one I applaud with my wimpy vegetarian hands.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go full Morrissey on you.

I gave up meat 27 years ago for health, environmental and economic reasons, and it’s worked for me, but I try to avoid prosthelytizing… usually. To each their own.

But “going veg” doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Perhaps there’s a less-meaty middle ground. Even a “meatless Monday” every week would be a big boon in reducing greenhouse gases, improving health and saving the planet.

Livestock alone account for more than 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and by 2050 the food sector could account for half if cuts are implemented in other sectors along the lines that countries have committed to doing. A vegan or vegetarian diet could cut those emissions by 70% and 63%, respectively.

Changing dietary patterns could save $1 trillion annually by preventing health care costs and lost productivity. That figure balloons to as much as $30 trillion annually when also considering the economic value of lost life. And that doesn’t even include the economic benefits of avoiding devastating extreme weather events that could result from climate change.

(from the Time article… and below are a couple  more fun facts from a CNN article about going vegan)

 

Perhaps it’s time for all of us to give peas (and pea proteins) a chance. Veggie options have come a long way in the past couple of decades.

Take a page from the WeWork workbook and ban the beef, chuck the chicken and pull pork from the menu, at least every once in a while.

C’mon, give it a try. The planet needs you.

 

 

Sunday morning coming down

A trifecta of odds and ends for your morning perusal.

  1. It’s the finals of the World Cup, with… that one team… playing… some other team. (Sorry, I know fútbol is the most popular sport in the world, but I just can’t get into it.)

I’m with Michael Cera

 

2. It’s hard to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor in a backyard garden when your garden looks like an illustration from a Beatrix Potter book:

Sorry for the fuzzy shot… my flip phone is only 3 megapixels, and I didn’t want to bother the bunnies while they were having dinner.

Those little buggers ate all of my cherry tomatoes. But they don’t like basil, apparently. Pesto, anyone?

 

3. I may not be into soccer, but it’s been fun watching the Reds lately. After an abysmal start, they’re actually playing decent ball. And they have the best defensive centerfield in the game:

It’s not the first time Billy’s stolen a homer from Matt Carpenter:

 

Enjoy your Sunday!

 

 

 

 

Days of future (of rock and roll) past

Last night I drove up to Oxford, Ohio to see my friend Dave’s son play guitar for the local band This Pine Box. But going to see the band was just a handy excuse, a smoke screen of sorts. Don’t get me wrong – This Pine Box is a great band. They’re getting some national attention and  they deserve it. But the real reason I made the long trek to Oxford was to see some old friends:

These are some of my homies from my days at 97X. Going left to right, it’s: yours truly, Steve Baker, Dave Tellmann, Gentleman Jim Mercer, Kathy Lucas, Billy D. the Fresh MC, Matt Sledge and Chris Adryan.

I could go on and on about each and every one of them (except maybe Kathy, because she spent a decade at 97X but that was after I departed), but suffice it to say the folks you see in the photo above, and dozens more that weren’t in Oxford last night, have fond memories of their time at a small-but-mighty modern rock station (a.k.a. “the future of rock and roll”) in a college town nestled among cornfields. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it was the least amount of money I ever made in a full-time job, yet it was the most fun I ever had at a workplace.

Seth Godin calls them “tribes”:

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” 

For the 97X tribe, the shared interest was the music. And even though our station’s broadcast range barely covered parts of Cincinnati and Dayton, we certainly had a way to communicate. Not just on the air, but at the concerts and the promotional events. Not everyone could get 97X on their radio, and fewer still actually “got” 97X, but those that did made it a fantastic ride.

 

Learning to fly… or not

Last Thursday evening, when I walked down my street from the bus stop (I’m such a tree-hugger), I spied a foreign object in our driveway. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, so from afar I thought it was a sweater. (Why I might think a sweater would be in our driveway on a 95-degree day is a topic for another day. Don’t question my logic!) But upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a baby hawk… deceased. It damn near broke my heart.

There’s a hawk nest in one of our neighbor’s trees, and we’ve been hearing hawks screeching non-stop over the past few weeks, and watching them go from tree to tree. Once I even spotted the baby’s head peeking out from the nest, which was so cool. I’m guessing this little lad (or lass) was from that nest.

I called Raptor, Inc., a local non-profit dedicated to the preservation of birds of prey through rehabilitation, education and preservation, because I wanted to know two things:

  1. What should I do with the body? Answer: dispose of it via the trash or burial… the only thing you can’t do is keep it/taxidermy.
  2. Why did this happen? Answer: Fledglings are still “getting their wings” – they tend to be rather unsteady fliers, so they’re prone to running into things. Also, there’s “failure to thrive” – if the parents aren’t still helping them get food once they leave the nest, they could be malnourished. And our current heat wave certainly doesn’t help matters. The woman from Raptor Inc. said they’ve been getting a lot of reports of dead baby hawks during this fledging season.

fledge  v. Old English *-flycge (Kentish -flecge),an adjective meaning “having the feathers, fit to fly,” 

I don’t know about you, but whenever I see a hawk soaring majestically over the highest trees, I’m jealous. “You lucky son of a gun, you get to fly! And you don’t even have to flap your wings much… you just float on the air!” This was a not-so-subtle reminder that life can be a struggle, even for the most majestic creatures.

On Saturday, I saw two adult hawks on the same branch of a neighbor’s tree. I felt like they were trying to tell me that things will be OK. One hawk may be gone, but the species will survive.

 

Odds and ends

A few leftovers on a Monday morning:

Heartbreak for the Hogs

It’s been a couple of weeks since this happened, but I was on vacation at the time (also, still smarting from it). The Arkansas Razorbacks were one strike away from clinching their first national title in baseball at the College World Series. One pop foul away, actually. Then this happened:

Great Bill Buckner’s ghost! You know what happens next… Oregon State ties it, then wins that game and the next one. What a way to lose. But the Razorbacks will be back.

The Great Pretender

I saw The Pretenders in concert on Friday night, and now have firsthand evidence that Chrissie Hynde is the coolest chick in rock and roll. (I’m using the term “chick” because I’m pretty sure Chrissie would use that term also.) While the set list was a bit short on classics (I’d be happy if they played their first album in its entirety), it was still a darn fine show, and Chrissie is still going strong at 66. (Must be that vegan lifestyle.) Props to original drummer Martin Chambers, too, working overtime keeping time on the kit.

I didn’t take this photo… Chrissie doesn’t allow audience members to take them, and our seats were much farther away.

Good news/Bad news

Good news: Superchunk is finally playing a show within 100 miles of Cincinnati. It’s been eons since that happened.

Bad news: The show sold out in 13 hours… before I could snag a ticket.

  

Ending on a happier note

 

 

The low profit Prophet, Chuck

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

That quote is attributed to Hunter S. Thompson. He never said or wrote it (he did write something similar about the TV industry), but it certainly seems to be appropriate.

If you’re a recording artist with mass appeal — the “1%” of the music industry — you can make some cash. Everyone else scuffles and struggles for table scraps. Chuck Prophet is firmly entrenched in the 99% category.

I saw him last night in concert at the Southgate House Revival in Newport, KY. There were maybe 250 people in the audience. Probably the same 250 people who see Chuck when he rolls through town each year. You can set your watch by his gigs. The swallows return to San Juan Capistrano, the buzzards return to Hinckley, and Chuck comes to Cincy. He — and his fabulous band The Mission Express — are consummate road dogs. They tour constantly. In a van, not a fancy bus. Hoping to sell enough merch to turn a small profit.

Chuck has been releasing albums since 1985, when he joined Green on Red. He’s been putting out solo albums since 1990. He looks — and often sounds — a lot like Tom Petty. If you listen to his releases, you find Americana/indie rock/call-it-whatever-you-want gems on every album. Two of his most recent albums, Temple Beautiful and Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins, are wall-to-wall stellar.

Chuck could be bitter, but it certainly doesn’t seem that way. He’s up on stage smiling, laughing, joking, having fun with the audience and his band (which includes his wife Stephanie Finch). At one point in the set, he even said “let me tell you a secret: I’m having a blast up here!”

Barring a miracle, Chuck’s never going to make it big in the music industry. But if writing and recording great music and putting on a great show night after night for a small but appreciative audience count (and it my book they do), then Chuck’s a superstar.

 

 

Bridging the digital divide

The excerpt above is from the introduction to The Moth, a book of 50 stories from The Moth storytelling organization, which includes a radio hour on 400+ stations around the country.

The book came out in 2013, but those lines are even more relevant (and incriminating) five years later. We’ve all done it, to varying degrees. Sending a text instead of making a call. Trading a birthday lunch for a Facebook “like.” Netflix binging instead of getting together with friends over the weekend.

Often our noses are so buried in our phones that we don’t even look up anymore… at the trees, the sky, or our friend sitting across the table from us.

Do your friends a favor: meet with them, face-to-face, and leave the phones out of sight and out of mind. And just listen.

And now for fans of 80s tunes and/or videos that feature copious amounts of rouge on both male and female performers, here’s Missing Persons with their 1982 semi-hit, “Words”:

 

Dad fail

I have four kids, yet the only one who occasionally reads my blog is my daughter Leah. We were on vacation last week, so I took a vacation from posting. Big mistake. Because Leah’s birthday was last week. And she pointed out to me that I blogged about Peter’s birthday, and Andrew’s birthday, and Gabriel’s birthday, but not hers.

So, better late than never…

Leah turned 15. She’s 6 months away from getting her driving temps, which just boggles my mind. I still picture her as just a few years removed from this shot:

Don’t worry, she got braces.

In addition to being my only blog reader, she’s also the only kid who, when we’re in the car, puts up with my weird bands with weird names who play weird music (the other kids immediately switch the station to hippin’ and hoppin’). She actually likes Car Seat Headrest, and thought it was cool that Craig Finn of The Hold Steady played a house concert at our place. On the drive down to Florida last weekend, we took two cars (wife and kids are staying two weeks, I’m back at work) and the AC went out on one of them. So I got up early last Saturday morning and drove it from our hotel stopping point in Troy, Alabama (so scenic!) to a dealership that was on the way to our final destination, while my wife and kids headed straight to the beach. Here’s a text exchange with Leah:

I didn’t text and drive, I used speech-to-text.

I love her empathy and her sense of humor. And she also crushed it at school this year, coming up just shy of straight A’s (darn you, Latin III). I pointed out that her birthday was her quinceañera and she immediately broke into this song:

Apparently this song clip has become a meme with the teen set. So I’m learning from Leah.

So sorry I let you down, my darling daughter. Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for being you.

 

Tune in, turn on, drop out (of the mainstream)

I took an LSD trip last night, and I loved it.

When the tour was originally announced, I figured I’d skip it, because I’ve seen Lucinda, Steve and Dwight a combined total of at least two dozen times. And tickets were expensive – I’ve got to allocate my limited concert funds wisely. But the closer the show loomed on the calendar, the more I realized that I love all three artists and there’s no way I should miss this three-fer gig. I’m so glad I caved… and I got a ticket in the very last row of the pavilion for a paltry $20. (Thanks Arby’s “we have the seats” promotion!)

Holy smokes trinity

Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam are three birds of a feather, a trio of misfits: not country but certainly twangy; not folk but as lyrically literate as Dylan and Townes; not quite rock but completely rockin’.

They’ve been performing on the fringes for decades, and they’ve still got it. Each one performed a 50-minute set with a crack backing band. Lucinda did one duet in Steve’s set, Steve played on a couple of tunes in Lu’s set, and they all got together on stage for the encore. That song alone was worth the price of admission. Here’s a video clip of the same encore song from another stop on the tour:

Lucinda, Steve and Dwight are three of the brightest gems in the Americana universe. So worth the trip!