About Damian

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

Pick a day, any day

For the stoner set, today’s an “earth day” of sorts.

4/20 dude!

The official date is this Sunday, April 22nd. It’s been that way since 1970. I really didn’t know that much about the origin of Earth Day, but this page on the EarthDay.org website sheds a lot of light on it. Here are my favorite excerpts:

The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. “It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”

Wow, that’s powerful stuff! Can you imagine anything uniting such disparate groups today? In some ways, it’s depressing to see where we are… it feels like we’re regressing. On the other hand, it’s energizing to know that amazing things can happen on a global scale thanks to the efforts of a tiny team of dedicated folks.

It’s almost Earth Day. It’s time to answer the questions about Mother Earth posed by Dramarama back in 1991:

What are we doing here?
and what are we doing to her?

What are we gonna do?

 

An Apple a day won’t keep the ghost of Steve Jobs away

Help! My 14-year-old daughter and my 12-year-old son have joined a cult. I’ve tried to rescue them, but they’ve been brainwashed. No matter how much I try to reason with them, they won’t budge. I’ll have to resign myself to the fact that they are… (sob)… Apple worshippers.

They’re bowing their heads out of reverence… or maybe they’re just checking their phones.

My son’s hand-me-down iPhone 5 gave up the ghost a few days ago. We made the mistake of taking it to the Apple Store to see if they could fix it… at a mall… on a Saturday… without an appointment. I thought we were going to a store, but clearly we wound up in the 7th circle of hell. Never before have I seen such a mass of humanity transfixed by bright, shiny objects, drawn like moths to a flame.

Consume mass quantities!

You would think they were giving out free ice cream and puppies, instead of charging people $1000 for phones that will crap out in 19 months, and $2000 for laptops will be obsolete before you get home.

Somehow I managed to elude the tablet-toting army of green-shirted minions, trying to trick me into spending a mortgage payment on a phone. (You think you’re pulling one over on me with your lack of cash registers, but I’m onto your devious “seamless transaction” plan!) As a cheapskate parent, I tried to talk my son into using a discarded Android phone from our basement mobile phone graveyard. But no, that simply won’t do.

He wouldn’t be able to FaceTime with his friends… which is the modern-day equivalent of actually talking face-to-face with your friends.

When I started looking at refurb iPhone 6 models online, my daughter hit the roof, because her 6 is also a hand-me-down (thanks Cousin Brian the tech junkie) and SHE deserves an upgrade, not him! (She would make a great scorekeeper.) And even though, according to my kids, the lowly 6 should be relegated to a museum of ancient history, a friggin’ refurb is still nearly $300. I got my brand new Android for half that.

I don’t get it. As a fan of zigging when everyone else is zagging, I’m not on the Steve Jobs bandwagon. And I believe that an open development platform (e.g. Android) will always win out over a closed system (looking at you, iTunes, iPods, iPads, i-whatever). Seth Godin said it best (as usual): Apple has become a fashion brand, a status symbol… nothing more. They can charge a premium not because their products are better, but because the name has cachet.

 

The Oatmeal has a funny take on Apple addiction too. Check it out here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apple

My designer friends (that is, friends who are graphic designers… I’m not buddies with Ralph Lauren) will vehemently disagree, but I will not be swayed by their arguments, even if they create a visually stunning infographic and show it to me on a retina display.

So, in summary, I’m starting a Kickstarter for my kids’ upgraded phones. You can contribute at www.DadIsBrokeAgain.com.

 

 

Hammering away

My college buddy Walter has led a very Forrest Gump-like life. When he was a wee lad, his parents were friends and neighbors with Tom Cruise’s parents, and Walt has a picture of Tom attending one of his childhood birthday parties. As a high school senior, Walter somehow wound up in the opening scene of the movie Stripes, as one of the kids who stiffs Bill Murray on the cab fare (Walt’s the one who gets in first).

Walt went to Trinity High School in Louisville, Kentucky, and one of his classmates was Darryl Isaacs. Later both of them were roommates at University of Kentucky Law School. I met Darryl (a.k.a. “Big D”) back then, when I was visiting Walter for the weekend. Darryl doesn’t go by “Big D” anymore… now he’s known as the “Kentucky Hammer” or “The Hammer” or the “Heavy Hitter” and he’s the prototypical “flood the market with advertising” personal injury lawyer (sometimes referred to as “ambulance chasers.”) I drove our oldest son from Cincinnati to Purdue University yesterday for a campus visit. We were on the interstate in Indiana for roughly 300 miles round trip, and I spotted at least 20 billboards for Darryl. Some were within 100 yards of each other on opposite sides of the road.

His approach must be working. His firm now has offices in Indiana and Ohio in addition to Kentucky. Also, the production values on his commercials have really gone up. Here’s one from 2008 – note the blur of the NBA on the basketballs:

And here’s his much-more-polished regional ad from this year’s Super Bowl:

I know our society is too litigious as it is, and “The Hammer” probably isn’t helping matters. Attorneys like him are often the basis for jokes like this:

But I also know that Darryl has proven the effectiveness of advertising, and the Texas Law Hawk had better up his game, because he got served by “The Hammer.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing

Art doesn’t always hang on walls. Sometimes it IS the walls. Or the lack thereof. An acquaintance of mine, Mark deJong, has an exhibit opening this Friday at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

The exhibit at the CAC is called Swing House, because Mark didn’t just renovate a nearly-condemned 1880s house in a downtrodden neighborhood near downtown… he reimagined it. He took out all the interior walls and middle floors in the narrow three-story building, and installed a 30-foot swing from the ceiling.

At first blush, it may sound like a gimmick. But read this article from CityBeat and you’ll discover the artistic intent behind every decision – the walls, the furniture, the fixtures, you name it. As the CAC’s show description says, “deJong turns renovation, restoration and residential revitalization into a transformative art.”

I know Mark via my friend Phil. Phil organizes a late night bike ride every month on the night of the full moon… it’s called the “Fool Moon Ride” because a bunch of foolish middle-aged men ride 10 miles to an undisclosed location along the banks of the Little Miami River, build a fire, enjoy some adult beverages and tasty food, then ride back. Mark and I have been on several of those rides together. There are definitely some very interesting conversations that happen in the wee hours, and Mark has always been one of the more intriguing dudes there, as well as being one of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. Swing House isn’t his first “houses as art” project. Several years ago, he bought an 1895 house for $5,000 and restored it, calling it Circle House. He’s also done a Square House. He uses old houses the way other artists use canvas.

Exterior of Swing House.

This may be Mark’s first full-fledged exhibit, but he’s been making artful work for years now. It doesn’t have to be watercolors or clay – it can be plaster and saws, hammer and nails. Too often, we regard the term “artist” as something reserved for an elite and “gifted” group. But if you work with your hands and create something, you’re an artist. We all are, each in our own way. Don’t let other people’s judgments or societal norms get in the way of your vision. Do what you do… share your gifts… and swing, baby, swing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday. Cry day.

We send our kids to school in the morning, and they come home in the afternoon. That’s how it works. Until it doesn’t. Kyle Plush went to school on Tuesday morning. He never came home.

Image result for judy zehren cincinnati

He was supposed to play his first tennis match that afternoon, and as he was reaching over the third row bench seat of his 2004 Honda Odyssey to get his tennis gear, the seat flipped and he got trapped.

The emergency system let him down. Even though he wasn’t able to reach his phone, he used Siri to call 911. Twice.

“Help, help, help,” Plush said in a call he made at 3:16 p.m. “I’m in desperate need of help.”

Plush said several times he was “at Seven Hills,” though the operator apparently did not hear clearly or understand what he meant. “Where are you?” she said, over and over. “What is the address?”

Two officers arrived on scene at 3:26 p.m. They were there for 11 minutes, patrolling the area to look for anyone in distress. 

While they were in the parking lot, Kyle was making his second 911 call. In that second call, Kyle gave more details of the van he was trapped in, including its color, make and model. That information was never relayed to officers on the scene.

“I probably don’t have much time left, so tell my mom that I love her if I die,” he said. “I’m trapped inside my gold Honda Odyssey van. In the (inaudible) parking lot of Seven Hills Hillsdale.

“Send officers immediately. I’m almost dead.”

At 3:37 p.m., the officers closed the incident and went back into service. 

A short while later, a Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputy who was at the school to direct traffic said he wanted to look again. 

“Your guys couldn’t find any van with anybody stuck in it,” he told an operator in a four-and-a-half minute phone call, “but I just wanted to go around and double-check one more time.”

The deputy said he had only seen one van in the lot during his check but didn’t find anybody in it. Chief Isaac said later that that was probably the van Plush was in. 

The deputy and the operator continued talking about Plush’s 911 calls and what might have been happening.  

“(He) was unable to hear me and just kept repeating, ‘Help, help, I’m stuck. I’m in the Seven Hills Parking lot,’” the operator said. “It was really hard to hear (him). It sounded like (he) was kind of far away from the phone.”

“That’s weird,” the deputy responded.

“Yeah, it was really a strange call,” the operator said

They also talked about whether the whole thing might be a prank. Around the same time Plush was calling 911, the deputy had run into a woman at the school who was getting in his way. He wondered if that woman was up to something – especially since the first officers who looked for the van didn’t find anything awry.

His dad found him at 9 p.m. that night, trapped in the van. Lifeless. So senseless.

In the classroom, teachers saw a bright future for Kyle, a strong and independent student with a tender heart and a love for those around him.

“Kyle’s gentle spirit made it a joy for others to be around him. We lovingly remember Kyle as creative, vibrant, and kind,” said Patty Normile.

We send our kids to school in the morning, and they come home in the afternoon. My wife and I send our 18-year-old son to school every morning in his 2003 Honda Odyssey minivan. The epitome of a “safe family car.”

Visitation will be 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at T.P. White & Sons Funeral Home, 2050 Beechmont Ave., Mt. Washington.

Kyle’s funeral will be 9:30 a.m. Monday at St. Rose Church, 2501 Riverside Dr., East End.

The family is asking for memorial donations to go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati, 350 Erkenbrecher Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229.

“Tell my mom that I love her”… a phrase that breaks the heart of every parent.

We send our kids to school in the morning…

 

Prine, always in his prime

John Prine has a new album out tomorrow.

Friday the 13th is our lucky day, because the new album is fantastic. Which is par for the course for Mr. Prine, a living legend who ranks right up there with Dylan and Townes Van Zandt in the songwriting pantheon. If the old adage about the Velvet Underground is true — they only sold 1,000 copies of their albums, but every person who bought one started a band — then for John Prine, every person who bought one of his albums became a songwriter. His music can best be described as “Americana” but really HE is Americana. A boy from the ‘burbs of Chicago, an Army vet, a former mailman, a cancer survivor, a folkie whose music is both timely and timeless.

You can stream the entire album on NPR.

You should stream the entire album on NPR.

You must stream the entire album on NPR.

It’s good for your heart and good for your soul.

(Or if you’re a lazy bum, you can just check out this song from the new release, featuring background vocals from Brandi Carlile.)

God bless John Prine.

A dream deferred for a decade

Perhaps you’ve already heard about Andre Ingram. Maybe you’re a big fan of the Utah Flash, or the Los Angeles D-Fenders, or the South Bay Lakers.

Those are the NBA G-league teams for which Mr. Ingram has been toiling for the past 10 years. A decade of cheap hotels, bus rides and mostly empty bleachers. 10 years of working side jobs just to make ends meet. Chasing that dream.

On Monday, he got the call-up to the NBA… the one that he’s always hoped for. Not just hoped for, but worked for. Check out this excerpt from an article on ESPN.com.

Ingram makes it clear he is not bitter or filled with regrets after waiting this long to make it to the NBA. He says he remembers it all.

“Just staying with it,” Ingram says of what has been toughest about his journey here. “I mean, you get commended for kind of hanging in there and sticking with it like there wasn’t any doubt at any point. There was doubt. There were hard times. There was uncertainty.”

“They were fond memories. They’re not like, you know, angry memories: Man, I should be here. No it’s not any of that,” Ingram added. “… It’s a handsome reward for time put in. I’m thankful I have the opportunity, but there’s a lot of people that work hard. I’m grateful man. That’s all it is. I’m grateful.”

Last night, Andre Ingram made his NBA debut, in a playing-out-the-string game for the Lakers. He scored 19 points, going 6-for-8 from the field, including 4-for-5 on 3-pointers. By the end of the game, the home crowd at the Staples Center was serenading him with chants of “MVP!”

In that game, in that moment, the hard times are forgotten, the thousands of yesterdays don’t matter anymore.

How old is “too old” to chase your dreams? When is it time to give up? Never.

 

Snowy synchronicity

I hate Winter. Especially when it happens in the Spring. Woke up this morning to find a dusting of snow on the ground. Enough, Jack Frost! Game over… I surrender, you win. But there was some good that came of it. I got to wear my Buffalo Tom knit cap while waiting for the bus.

My kids need to teach me how to take selfies.

And that reminded me of the Buffalo Tom song “The Bus”…

Obviously, it doesn’t take much to take my feeble mind off the weather.

I love those little moments of synchronicity, or at least of loose ends all tying up neatly in ways you’d never think of ahead of time. On Friday, I stopped by the offices of Cincinnati Magazine to pick up a copy of the April issue. Seems my subscription had lapsed in March, and I was never notified. But my old friend John Fox is the editor, so I hounded him for a copy – after all, it was the music issue, which is right in my wheelhouse. The cover photo is of the Cincinnati-bred band The National.

Lead singer Matt Berninger has a side project called EL VY. Their song “Return to the Moon” name-checks Cincinnati landmarks Eden Park and the Serpentine Wall. I heard that song yesterday afternoon… in friggin’ Big Lots! (Don’t judge me – it was their 20% off storewide sale, and I’m a cheapskate. Also, props to whoever programs the Big Lots Muzak channel.)

The magazine features a profile of Bootsy Collins, written by Gil Kaufman. Gil’s wife Stephanie was the teacher’s assistant for our son Andrew in grade school, and our daughters have played on the same soccer teams. Saturday night I went to the FC Cincinnati soccer game with my friend Phil, who had gotten the tickets from — you guessed it, Gil and Stephanie.

The April issue also features an article about Chuck Cleaver from the band Wussy. Before Wussy, Chuck was in a band called Ass Ponys (Chuck’s not big on having a band name that has broad appeal, clearly). I love both bands, but Ass Ponys will always have a special place in my heart because they were big when I was at 97X. Back then, John Fox (hmm, where have we heard that name before?) was the editor of Everybody’s News, and he and his staff would come in once a week to do on-air segments about local events.

Yesterday, our son Andrew had a soccer game. He’s one of two Andrews on the team. The other one? Well, he’s the son of Dave Morrison… drummer for the Ass Ponys! But wait, there’s more… they have a song called “Last Night It Snowed”!!!

All roads lead to music. Just be careful, those roads may be icy in spots.

Radio Daze Part 2: I’ll have what he’s having!

Sure, Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to “scrape” the private data of 87 million users, and then use that data to help elect a self-aggrandizing, womanizing, bigoted man who is rapidly hurtling the country toward World War III. But let’s look at the bigger picture: Facebook also helped me track down some audio clips from my time at 97X in the early 90s. In the grand scheme of things, isn’t that more important?

Here’s a clip I had totally forgotten about until it popped up on the 97X alumni FB page. My friend and fellow DJ Dave and I had some fun with choosing the winner of a contest, by making it sound like it was ripped from the pages of a Harlequin Romance.

Eat your heart out, Fabio. We are the real champions!

I have a six-pack too. It’s in my fridge.

And now, since we’re already on the topic of criminally-underappreciated artistry that you could find only on a station like 97X, let’s enjoy these two chestnuts:

 

 

 

 

Serenity prayer in the social media age, from Saint Seth

Seth Godin has quite a bit to say about social media on his daily blog, and his words are worth repeating here:

Never smooth enough–a modern addiction

Once our needs our met, our instinct is to invent new ones, to find a fuel to continually move things forward, to bring that propulsive energy back.

Social media makes it easy to be both dissatisfied and to have a mission at the same time: Make everyone happy.

Every single critic silenced. Every customer delighted. Every prospect interested.

Sort of like your footprint in social media. It’s imperfectible. There is someone, right now, who’s miffed at you. Someone who misunderstands you. Someone who used to work with you who doesn’t any more, or someone who has the wrong impression of you and won’t even give you a chance. Not to mention the trolls, the ones who merely seek oppositional positions.

It’s imperfectible.

For every person who wants you to have bigger portions, there is someone who says the portions are too big. For every person who says your writing is too personal, there’s someone who wants it to be more personal…

Seeking a perfect sphere might be a hobby, but if it’s not giving you joy, it’s a lousy way to live. It’s an addiction, not a useful tool.

People have been talking about you behind your back ever since fifth grade. Now, of course, you can eavesdrop whenever you choose. Don’t.

Turn it off. Walk away. Accept the lack of perfect.

Better to make something important instead.

Or this one:

Your kitchen table

You open the door and the vacuum cleaner salesperson comes in, and dumps a bag of trash in your living room.

Or a neighbor sneaks in the back door and uses a knife to put gouges on the kitchen table.

Or, through the window, someone starts spraying acid all over your bookshelf…

Why are you letting these folks into your house?

Your laptop and your phone work the same way. The reviews and the comments and the breaking news and the texts that you read are all coming directly into the place you live. If they’re not making things better, why let them in?

No need to do it to yourself, no need to let others do it either.

And this one:  

Quick or smart?

Your smartphone makes you quick, not smart.

Every time you pick up your quickphone, you stop inventing and begin transacting instead.

The flow of information and style of interaction rewards your quickness. It helps you make decisions in this moment. Which route to drive? Which restaurant to go to? Which email to respond to?

Transactions are important, no doubt. But when you spend your entire day doing them, what disappears?

We can’t day trade our way to the future we seek.