About Damian

Writer. Humorist (in my own mind at least). Smart aleck. Old enough to know better, but still young enough not to care.

Cutting the cord

We dumped cable. Dropped it like a two-foot putt. Because I’m tired of paying a ton of money for it each month when I rarely watch it and the kids almost never watch it. I’m also tired of cable companies that offer better deals to new customers than to loyal customers. 

I’ve considered cutting the cord before, but never really found a Sling/Hulu/Netflix combo that had all the channels we wanted… live sports were using the missing link.

But YouTube TV has most of the channels we watch (no HGTV… much to my wife’s dismay… and my delight) and costs $40 a month. We dumped the TV and phone part of our cable “triple play,” kept our internet and signed up for YouTube TV. Now we’re saving about $80 every month. Sure, the picture isn’t quite as crystal-clear, and sometimes there’s a second or two of buffering, but that’s a small price to pay for paying a much smaller price. 

Cable providers are going to have to come up with a more enticing package than “get it cheap for a year, then pay through both nostrils.” If not, they’ll go the way of Blockbuster Video stores. 

Cornering the market on weird names

Believe it or not, I actually have to pay money to operate this blog. But I do it gladly so that you, the few, the proud, the dubbatrubba blog faithful, can get your semi-weekly dose of semi-coherent ramblings. You’re welcome (not sure if I should punctuate this with a question mark or an exclamation point…maybe I’ll do both)?!  

The company from which I bought the dubbatrubba.com domain (surprisingly, there was no bidding war…) is always trying to sell “extras” to me. Their latest pitch gave me pause: 

Whoa, I can actually get rubbadubba.com too? I’m thinking I should lock it down, and corner the market on goofy names. Perhaps later I can sell rubbadubba.com at a profit to Three Men In A Tub, LLC. 

But what really got me was the fact that “dubbatrubba.com” isn’t considered a premium domain, yet “batrepellant.com” is. 

Guess I’ll have to spend the weekend figuring out other ways to “monetize” my site. 

Monday morning music

You can be a corporate drone and still find a means of artistic expression (like a blog, maybe?). And you can be a real estate agent and still rock… just like Bill Janovitz, the lead singer of Buffalo Tom. 

Back in the 90s, he and his bandmates Chris Colbourn and Tom Maginnis released several albums on a major label, and toured the world.

But things have changed. 

First came love, then came marriage, then came a baby in a baby carriage… and Bill needed to provide a bit more stability to his family than the rock and roll lifestyle could offer. So he became a real estate agent. 


“Now it’s more about getting up and wearing a decent collared shirt”

You can listen to Bill talk about his day job in this Public Radio International interview.

Source: https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-11-15/making-life-and-living-after-buffalo-tom-s-heyday?amp&__twitter_impression=true

As Bill’s real estate bio states, he and his bandmates “still play and record music to this day.” Indeed they do… and they do it quite well. Here’s a great video for a song from their new album:  

Thank you Bill for so poignantly profiling middle-age malaise in your music… and for setting such a good example for other family-centered folks. 

Playing the hand that’s dealt you… or thrown at you

Ain’t it funny how time slips away. And ain’t it funny how some isolated, seemingly trivial incidents from your childhood get lodged in your brain for decades?

25+ Best Memes About Memories | Memories Memes

In December of 1976, I was a wee lad of 11. And even in the three-network universe of my youth, pretty much anyone with a pulse could get a TV special or even a summer replacement series (looking at you, Shields & Yarnell). In that fateful winter month of our country’s bicentennial year (remember the red, white and blue fire hydrants?), skinny, buck-toothed magician Doug Henning appeared in his second TV special, the appropriately titled “Doug Henning’s World of Magic II.”

Most Famous Magicians - List of Famous Magicians in History

Michael “Little House on the Prairie” Landon was the guest host (Doug wasn’t much of an emcee.) And one of the guests was fellow magician/illusionist Ricky Jay, who passed away a couple of weeks ago. It’s been 42 years since that show aired, but I vividly remember the segment with Ricky throwing playing cards into the audience.

My siblings and I were so enamored with that trick (and Ricky’s showmanship) that we tried to replicate it… with absolutely zero success. But the concept of throwing playing cards seemed so weird that it became a running gag for us. In the ensuing weeks and months, we’d pick up a playing card, shout “Ricky Jay!” and throw it to the four winds… or at each other.

Image result for peanuts playing cards

(It goes without saying that in the ensuing weeks and months, we could no longer play traditional card games because we managed to lose several cards from every deck we owned thanks to our Ricky Jay impersonations.)

Yes, we were easily amused… and maybe that’s the point. Throwing cards seems so tame (or, to use the current parlance “lame”) in a post-Jackass, Red Bull Stunt Team, Call of Duty, VR goggles world. But making your own fun can be the most fun of all. It’s the most memorable too… I guarantee you that if I picked up a playing card in front of my siblings and shouted “Ricky Jay!” it would still coax a smile out of them, four decades later. And that’s pure magic in my book.

 

P.S. Ricky Jay was quite the Renaissance man – in addition to being a master magician, he was also an accomplished author, actor and businessman (he and his business partner created the wheelchair that made Gary Sinise look like a double amputee in Forrest Gump). Check out his obit from the New York Times and the trailer of his documentary below.

Richard the Great

Oops, I did it again… I went and saw Richard Thompson live in concert again last night.

I’ve posted about him before. And I’m going to do it again, because he’s so doggone good. Nay, great. Last night it was the Richard Thompson Electric Trio, featuring RT, a bassist and a drummer (and occasionally Richard’s guitar tech on guitar, making it, as Richard said, “a very large ‘trio'”). They absolutely rocked the Southgate House – a former church… saints be praised!

To see a man who is 69 years old (and has been in the business 50 years) absolutely shredding on guitar is life-affirming to a middle-aged dude like me. Although it’s a double-edged sword – a couple of friends of mine who are in local bands (Wussy and Pike 27) were in the audience, and they joked about donating their instruments to needy kids after seeing Richard Thompson because they realized they’ll never be as good. But there’s no shame in that; millions of performers aren’t fit to carry his guitar pick. He’s a quadruple threat, as I mentioned in my previous post (with a few updates):

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. 
  • phenomenal voice – so strong, even at age 69. 
  • 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 droll British wit is always in evidence.

The Electrio Trio was fantastic (you can catch their entire Shrewsbury Folk Festival performance from a few months ago here). The songs from Richard’s latest album 13 Rivers are a great addition to his oeuvre. Back catalog highlights for me were “Wall of Death” and “Tear Stained Letter.” But late in the show Richard played back to back acoustic numbers that are utterly brilliant: “Beeswing” and “Dimming of the Day.”

 

Most artists would kill for just one song as good as those. But for Richard the Great, they’re just par for the course. I still have goosebumps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blossoming when it’s cold and dreary

Let’s talk about blossom.

Wait, wrong Blossom.

I’m talking about this kind of blossom:

“Let us be grateful for the people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

— Marcel Proust

Thanks for reading. I’m grateful for you. And that’s not a bunch of bullsh…er, fertilizer.

Love and loss… and more love

My friend Mike Argadine made me cry yesterday. (And today too, for that matter.) He sent me a link to the video below. It’s a song by the band Frightened Rabbit, as done by fans.

Frightened Rabbit wasn’t a global sensation, but they were big enough to have thousands of avid followers all over the world, and released several albums. They didn’t have any casual fans – if you were into them, you were cuckoo, head-over-heels, abso-tively posi-lutely in love with them. Their songs were burned into your brain, etched into your heart and seared into your soul. There was a lot of darkness in the music— with titles like “The Modern Leper” and “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” — but those songs resonated, they were cathartic, and they helped us make sense of an often-senseless world.

Frightened Rabbit’s lead singer and main songwriter Scott Hutchison took his own life in May, when the demons of depression and anxiety that he battled daily for 36 years overcame his better angels.

We mourn the loss. We miss Scott dearly. But his music will carry on… and carry us with it.

When it’s all gone
Something carries on
And it’s not morbid at all
Just that nature’s had enough of you

When my blood stops
Someone else’s will thaw
When my head rolls off
Someone else’s will turn
And while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth

 

“Be so good to everyone you love” was one of Scott’s last tweets before he left us. It’s up to us to honor that request, and make tiny changes to Earth.

Young and… let’s just call it restless, shall we?

As far as I know, there’s only one official “Olan Mills” portrait style photography image of my siblings and me.

Wait, that’s not the right photo. That’s one from the Awkward Family Photos website. I’ll wait right here while you spend the next 20 minutes looking through all those awesome shots….

Aaand, we’re back. As I was saying, there’s only one official family portrait photo of my siblings and me. And the only remaining print of said shot is in the possession of my older sister. (Don’t start looking for any birth order subtext or issues… I’m fine with this arrangement.)

I recently asked my older sister to text me a photo of the photo, if that makes any sense. Here it is in all its late 60s black and white glory:

That’s me in the lower right.

They say “every picture tells a story” (and by “they” I mean “Rod Stewart”), but you have to be careful with that today, because anyone and everyone can be a photo editor. You may look at that shot and say “what a lovely bunch of kids.” (You’d better, because it’s true!)

However, you’re not getting the full picture with the picture above. Why? Well, because when we four wee tykes posed for this photo, one of them clearly had to go wee-wee. Please note the placement of my hands in the full shot:

Nature was calling, but I couldn’t answer because the photographer charged by the hour.

I could be sad about the fact that in the one and only official siblings photo we have, I’m a bit too “hands on.” But I’m an optimist, and I’m going to look at the bladder as half-full instead of half-empty. Because this is really a photo of a trendsetter. Yes, it’s true, decades before Michael Jackson made the crotch grab part of our visual vernacular, I was doing it.

MJ was the King of Pop, but I was the King of Having to Pee. Long may I rain.

 

Batteries not included

Before you go out and buy that electronic doorbuster special for the wee ones on your holiday shopping list, you might want to consider these two posts:

First, there’s this old article from an ex-Googler, about how websites and apps are hijacking our minds:

…this is exactly what product designers do to your mind. They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you in the race to grab your attention.

But here’s the unfortunate truth — several billion people have a slot machine their pocket:

  • When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got.
  • When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got.
  • When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next.
  • When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match.
  • When we tap the # of red notifications, we’re playing a slot machine to what’s underneath.

Second, there’s this recent post from the always-brilliant Seth Godin:

If a parent uses a tablet or a smartphone as a babysitter, it’s a lot easier to get a kid to sit still. As a result, parents who are busy, distracted or can’t afford to spend as much 1:1 time as they’d like are unknowingly encouraging their kids to become digital zombies, with a constant need for stimulation, who are being manipulated by digital overlords to click and click some more.

If a kid can’t read, it’s not clear he should be surfing the web, watching TV or playing a video game for hours a day.

Boredom, daydreaming, a good book, building in three dimensions, interactivity with other humans–these are precious skills, skills that are being denied kids that are simply given a plate of chicken fingers and a tablet instead.

Tell the tablet and phone makers to take a hike. And take your kids on a hike instead!

What’s in a (wrong) name?

 

Did you know “misspelled” is one of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language? (People usually leave out the 2nd “s”.) Another commonly misspelled word is my first name. It’s Damian. But folks mess it up all the time. Not just strangers, mind you, but people who have known me for years. Granted, there’s also a name that’s similar, spelled Damien. But it should be easy to keep those separate in your head – I (DamiAn) am an Angel, and DamiEn is pure Evil.

I’m in the mentoring program at my alma mater, Xavier University, and they recently published a promotional video featuring my mentee and me. (I know why they did it… so other alums would say “geez, if that loser can do it, I can too!”) And of course they spelled my name incorrectly. (Warning: this video contains scenes of middle aged mediocrity.)

Poor Maddy. Not only did she get stuck with me as a mentor, but they also misspelled her first name.

It turns out that this misspelling has been going on for half a century. While going through the archives of the Jersey City Journal (I really need to find a new hobby), I found the obituary for my mom… and you guessed it, they messed up my name.

My co-workers… even folks I’ve worked with for more than a decade… often get it wrong.

Well, the joke’s on them now, because we just hired a DamiEn and I’m gonna forward all the emails with my name misspelled to him.