Let’s keep it stuck in neutral

On Thursday, the FCC is going to vote to end net neutrality—breaking the fundamental principle of the open Internet—and only an avalanche of calls to Congress can stop it. Net neutrality is the way the internet has always worked… if it’s repealed, giant cable/broadband/phone companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T will be able to call the shots, play favorites, throttle speeds, charge more for internet services, block competing sites and censor content. Isn’t it funny how the current chairperson of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is a former Verizon attorney?

Please call your congressional representatives and let them know where you stand. http://act.freepress.net/call/internet_nn_call_congress/

 

On Dasher, on Dancer, on… Rover?

My wife’s uncle Neil, who passed away very suddenly this summer, was a great guy. He loved people and parties. He loved his job and the people with whom he worked. He loved promoting Mt. Adams, the hillside neighborhood and business district in Cincinnati where his company is based. He loved dogs. And he loved Christmas.

For 30+ years, Neil dressed up as Santa and visited family members and friends on Christmas Eve.

Today, all those things that Neil loved will be on full display. In Mt. Adams, the 28th annual Reindog Parade will be held. Thanks to Neil’s company, Towne Properties, the event has been renamed in his honor.

You’d better believe that we’re throwing some antlers on our pooches and participating.

And I believe that Neil is upstairs grinning from ear to ear.

The original “Just do it”

I recently read this book:

It was extremely interesting to me, as I’m fascinated by how the punk scene came about. Here’s a quote that really stuck in my brain, from Danny Fields, who signed and managed Iggy & The Stooges, signed the MC5, managed the Ramones and worked in various roles with Jim Morrison and The Doors, the Velvet Underground and Modern Lovers. It this passage, he’s talking about how the Ramones, on their 1977 tour of England, encouraged Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, who were just starting the Clash:

The Ramones said “You just gotta play, guys. You know, come out of your basement and play. That’s what we did.”

And it wasn’t just the Clash whom the Ramones inspired. Here’s more from Danny Fields:

Basically the Ramones said to them, which they said to countless other bands, “You don’t have to get better, just get out there, you’re as good as you are. Don’t wait till you’re better, how are you ever gonna know? Just go out there and do it.” 

You don’t have to be in a band for that advice to resonate. It’s the same advice that countless other folks have given, from marketing guru Seth Godin (“ship your product”) to creativity guru Elizabeth Gilbert (“done is better than perfect”) to… yes, shoe peddlers like Nike (“just do it”).

I had a blog for about two years before I shared the URL with anyone. Why? Because I kept waiting to “get better”… waiting for some fairy godmother of writing to sprinkle pixie dust on me. Eventually I realized that the fairytale ending wasn’t going to happen, and what I had to do was face my fears and “just get out there.”

My “art” – using the term very loosely – is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s lowbrow… raw, gritty, rough around the edges… it doesn’t hit all the right notes. That’s alright. Because I’m not really a blogger… I’m a punk rocker.

Danny Fields, who was quoted above, has lived an amazing life… he’s like the Forrest Gump of punk rock. Check out this documentary on him, called Danny Says.

 

I will follow… or will I?

Found these scraps of paper on the ground at my kids’ school:

“I will learn to follow the rules.” – written 25, or 50, 100 times, or however many times the teacher thought the kid needed to write it down to “get his mind right” as they say in Cool Hand Luke.

I have no idea what this kid did to be sentenced to writing this sentence over and over. But I do know that too often, schools push compliance instead of engendering a joy of learning. That’s a shame. I wish I could find the kid who had to write this, and tell him/her, that it’s OK to break some rules… to march to the beat of a different drummer. And I’d share these quotes:

Or, as The Replacements said:

Kids don’t need that
Kids don’t want that
Kids don’t need nothing of the kind
Kids don’t follow
What you’re doin’
In my face out my ear
Kids won’t follow
What you’re sayin
We can’t hear…. 

 

All I want for Christmas is…

All I want for Christmas is a pair of Mariah Carey-cancelling headphones, so I don’t have to listen to that song roughly 28 billion times each year over the course of a mere 55 days.

Seriously, just make it stop!

It’s on the radio. It’s on the Muzak system at every retailer. It’s played in every “festive” public gathering spot. I cannot take it anymore.

“Take your saccharine song and move it away from me. Now!”

 

There’s only one real solution.

 

 

 

Being There. But Jay’s not here.

NPR is streaming an album of outtakes, demos and alternate tracks from the 1996 Wilco double album Being There. I love listening to it, because that album was fantastic, and a quantum leap forward from Wilco’s debut A.M. the previous year. The difference-maker was Jay Bennett, who joined the band between those two albums. A multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, engineer and producer, he took Wilco from their alt-country roots to a more expansive, experimental sound. Ask pretty much any Wilco fan and they’ll agree that the three Wilco albums that feature Jay Bennett are the golden era of Wilco. My buddy Joe and I saw them play during that era at a crappy little club in Cincinnati (R.I.P. Ripley’s), in front of about 40 fans, and Jay was amazing, moving from guitar to organ to piano to pretty much whatever instrument was lying around on stage, cigarette dangling from his lips, long blonde hair flopping in front of his face. It remains one of my top 5 concerts of all time.

Jay got kicked out of Wilco by bandleader Jeff Tweedy in 2001, shortly after they finished recording their epic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album. (Some of the drama is captured on camera in the documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.) He released a few solo albums but largely faded into semi-obscurity, a footnote in the career arc of Wilco. That’s a shame, because without Jay Bennett’s prodigious contributions, Wilco might never have become the critic’s darling that they are today.

“When Jay was with Wilco, he really expanded the palette of the kinds of sounds and the instruments and arrangements that they were doing,” Loerzel says about him today. “You know, maybe Jeff Tweedy would have moved in that direction on his own, but Jay certainly helped him, and I think the two of them grew together in the band.”

What’s even sadder is that Jay Bennett died in 2009, from an accidental overdose. His health insurance wouldn’t cover his much-needed hip replacement surgery, so he was using a prescription painkiller – a fentanyl patch – to fight the pain while he worked to raise money to cover the surgery. (Think about that when you hear talk of repealing the Affordable Care Act.) He died in his sleep, at the age of 45.

I can’t listen to the outtakes album without thinking about Jay. Wilco is much more polished now, but I miss that grit, that soul, that energy. A couple of folks are making a documentary about Jay, and have already reached their Kickstarter goal. Check out the trailer below.

And check out these articles for more about Jay.

https://www.spin.com/2009/05/what-jay-bennetts-death-made-me-realize-about-wilco/

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2013/11/jay-bennetts-sad-final-days.html?p=2

http://nodepression.com/article/jay-bennett-gone-not-forgotten

 

 

Welcome to adulthood. Be careful!

Our oldest kid, Gabriel, isn’t a kid anymore. He turns 18 today. It’s a Monday. It’s a school day. He has to work at the pizza parlor tonight. Yep, sounds like most adult birthdays – booorrrrrrinnnng!

Now that he’s officially an adult in the eyes of the law, there are a lot of risky things he can do, like bungee jumping or skydiving or buying lottery tickets. (Actually, that last one isn’t risky at all – the house always wins.)

He can buy cigarettes but I hope and pray he never does.

He can get a tattoo but I hope he realizes that everyone has a tattoo these days, and the rebellious thing to do is to NOT get one.

He can buy fireworks and go to jail… somehow those two are related in my head, in an if/then sort of way. If you are stupid enough to buy fireworks, you are probably going to wind up in jail.

He can vote, and I hope he does… can we fast-forward to 2020 please?

But most importantly of all, he can get his own credit card… but I don’t see that happening anytime soon, not when his old man’s credit card works just fine at the gas pump and fast food restaurants.

And here’s his song of the day, a dedication to his parents:

 

 

Don’t call it a comeback… unless you want to make us feel worse

I was checking out at the grocery store yesterday (“bloggers – they’re just like us!”) and saw this on the cover of Us Magazine:

TAYLOR SWIFT: MY AMAZING COMEBACK!

Comeback? Excuse me… did I miss something here? Because the last time I checked, Taylor Swift had released five studio albums prior to her latest release, each one coming roughly two years after the previous one (and perfected timed for the late-October/early-November holiday shopping season, might I add)… and the crappiest selling one of them is quadruple platinum.

Am I the new Rip Van Winkle? Have I been asleep for the 20 years when Taylor Swift fell out of the public eye?

            

Have I entered a Twilight Zone where her every dalliance isn’t documented on a daily basis?

Are we now living in an alternate reality where T-Swizzle lost her entire $250 million fortune on orange juice futures?

What exactly is Taylor Swift’s “amazing comeback”? Coming back from her own private island, perhaps. Her newest release just sold 1.2 million copies in a week… in a day and age when people don’t buy music anymore.

Can’t wait for next week’s issue of Us, maybe they’ll have another great feature like:

Scrooge McDuck: My Amazing Rags to Riches Story!

 

Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy

On Friday morning I saw a very life-affirming presentation… from an expert on dying. Cole Imperi is a designer, but she’s also a thanatologist… an expert in death, dying and bereavement. And she has a great hairstyle.

She spoke at the Creative Mornings monthly breakfast lecture, about Big Death vs. Little Death (the former is when someone passes away, but the latter can be any significant change in life – a divorce, losing a job, etc. – and we need to mourn those too) and Big Voice (your ego) vs. Little Voice (your passion/purpose). She has spent countless hours with folks who are dying, and she said you can see the regret on their face, and 99% of the time it’s about things they didn’t do but wished they had.

Cole also had us all write a quick obituary, following the standard form (name, age, city of residence, job, hobbies, etc.). Then she asked if any of us felt like our obituary was perfect – we had accomplished everything we wanted to in our lives. Of course no one in the audience felt that way. So the good news is, we’re not dead yet.

We still have time to do what truly drives us. After all, as Dylan said, “he not busy being born is busy dying.”

Cole believes that better living comes from knowing dying. Jason Isbell covers that territory beautifully in a song from his new album, “If We Were Vampires.” Watch the interview after the song when they talk about the line “maybe time running out is a gift.” As Jason says, “maybe the best thing of all is death, because that’s the only reason any of us get up in the morning. It’s the only reason any of us fall in love. It’s the only reason any of us care about anything…. is because one day we’re gonna be dead.”

Happy Life Day! But not this Life Day:

 

 

 

Five-fidgety-finger discount

A couple of our kids deliver a weekly community newspaper… actually it’s just Gabriel now, Peter had to “retire” due to his work and sports schedules (pizza joint and bowling team, respectively, if you’re keeping score at home). Let’s just say the Forest Hills Journal will never be mistaken for the New York Times…. or the New York Post for that matter. Whereas the Times covers “all the news that’s fit to print,” the Forest Hills Journal‘s motto is “all the news that fits, we print.” But it’s great if you’re a Gladys Kravitz nosy neighbor type.

Each week they list all the home sales in the area, so you can find out exactly what that house down the street sold for. And they also have each municipality’s police report. This week, the Fairfax neighborhood was heavy on theft, especially in the 4000 block of Red Bank Road:

My favorite is Theft of figget spinner. I’ve heard of fidget spinners – they’re as ubiquitous as the Kardashians these days, and their popularity is just as inexplicable — but figget spinners must be extra fancy if they get their own category of theft. Maybe they are fidget spinners made out of gold nuggets.

Or better yet, fidget spinners covered in Fig Newtons.

I can see why someone might get sticky fingers (literally and figuratively) with those.

And why the major crime wave in the 4000 block of Red Bank Road? Need you even ask: