The weekend’s too short

I had a fun-filled, music-filled weekend (the latter often begets the former). Friday night, I went to see Japanese Breakfast at the Taft Theater Ballroom, which is actually the basement below the Taft Theater in downtown Cincinnati. It has that 80s basement rec room vibe to it (the only thing that’s missing is the bumper pool table) but I’ve seen some great shows there, including the one Friday night. Japanese Breakfast is fronted by Michelle Zauner, a Korean-American singer/songwriter/performer from Philly who kicks butt with her band live.

She’s got a great voice, and her lyrical skills are impressive. Japanese Breakfast has two albums out, and both are fantastic slices of dream pop. The first one, Psychopompwas written while her mom was battling cancer, and recorded after her mom passed away. The new one is called Soft Sounds from Another Planet. Here’s one of my favorites from it.

On Saturday, I saw a cover band at a local bar in Mt. Adams. But not just any cover band. Cereal Killers cover songs from my era… not the “hits” either, but the indie/college rock/pub rock/new wave gems from the late 70s and early 80s. The Clash. X. Smithereens. R.E.M. INXS. With some Tom Petty thrown in for good measure.

The lead guitarist is my friend and neighbor, and my wife is good friends with the lead singer’s wife. They were playing outside and it was a gazillion degrees, but I still hit the dance floor. Probably the first time I’ve danced in more than a decade (note: I’m still horrible but now am 29% more arthritic!). I danced mainly because the lead singer’s wife guilted me into it (it was her birthday – how could I refuse?) but also, how many more chances will I get in my lifetime to dance to a Billy Bragg song? (Answer: two at best, with a margin of error of plus or minus two.)

Who needs Father’s Day gifts? All I need is a bunch of live music and a couple days off from work. Actually, I could use a couple more days off from work… I’m still aching.

 

The feedback loop de loop

After my last blog post about poetry, I got a nice note (OK, it was a text, same difference in 2018) from my friend Jacqui. (She’s one of the “unholy trinity”… i.e. the first three people that I trusted enough to send a link to my blog, back when I was young not as old and scared of judgment and worried about being “not good enough.” Now I know that I’m not good enough and don’t care!)

Here’s Jacqui’s three-part text:

Thanks for the kind words and profound thoughts, Jacqui. That’s a great quote you shared. Whether you like our current president or can’t stand him (clearly there’s no middle ground), by any objective measure, the language he uses is the harshest, ugliest stuff we’ve ever seen out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, by a country mile. And that should scare all of us. We can respond in kind, or we can respond by being kinder to our fellow human beings in our words and our actions. The latter path will be more effective in effecting a change.

Moving right along…

A couple of months ago, I posted about Cincinnati artist Mark DeJong and his “Swing House” art project. Now that project (and Cincinnati in general) are getting some national love – check out this New York Times article. Here’s an excerpt:

And here’s the author’s video from her Instagram post:

It’s nice to see Mark getting national recognition for his amazing work. And if you’re keeping score at home, dubbatrubba.com gave you the scoop two months sooner than the New York Times. That’s kind of a big deal…

 

 

 

 

Roses are red, violets are blue…

… I went to a poetry reading, and you should too!

(Don’t worry, the poets I saw were much better than that.)

Yes, I went to a poetry reading last night (along with about 50 other folks!), and heard words from eight talented folks from the Cincinnati area. Just words, nothing more. It was nothing less than transcendent.

The poets included:

  • Bucky Ignatius, a “semi-reformed hippie” who did mostly short poems (he has a book called Fifty Under Fifty featuring poems that are 50 words or fewer) that were typically humorous, but also profound.
  • Pauletta Hansel, former Poet Laureate for Cincinnati, sharing deeply moving poems about her mother’s battle with dementia.
  • Michael Henson, a poet and fiction writer (and Poet Laureate for Mt. Washington, my neighborhood), bringing tales of Appalachia (and numbers) to life.
  • Desirae Hosley from WordPlay Cincy, whose spoken word piece about body image was a show-stopper.
  • Manuel Iris, a school teacher and the current Cincinnati Poet Laureate, sharing deeply moving words about living between two worlds (Mexico and the U.S.) and struggling to define “home.”

The program was called Rhyme & Wine. It was hosted by Water Tower Fine Wines, the local wine shop in my neighborhood.

The Mount Washington Community Council has funded this event for the past four years. Some will consider that a waste of neighborhood funds, frittering away dollars on something so ephemeral. But we need more poetry and less punditry in our lives.

Analog moments in the Digital Age? Very much so! Anachronistic? No way! Words matter. Now more than ever.

Roses are red
Violets are blue.
This poem doesn’t rhyme
Who cares, it’s free verse!

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

Fred Rogers is having a moment, nearly two decades after his show signed off.

Tom Hanks is set to play him in a movie. A documentary about him called Won’t You Be My Neighbor opened in select cities yesterday. Maxwell King has written a book that is due out soon called The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. This article from The Atlantic website pulls from that book, and demonstrates the care that Fred took in scrutinizing every word that he and his fellow cast members ever spoke on the show, to make sure it was right on target for his target audience of preschoolers.

The writers even coined the term “Freddish” to describe the language. Here’s a great example from the article about how a simple line could morph:

Per the pamphlet, there were nine steps for translating into Freddish:

  1. “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: It is dangerous to play in the street. ​​​​​​
  2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in It is good to play where it is safe.
  3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in, “Ask your parents where it is safe to play.”
  4. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” In the example, that’d mean getting rid of “ask”: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.
  5. “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” That’d be “will”: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.
  6. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Not all children know their parents, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play.
  7. “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Perhaps: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them.
  8. “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” “Good” represents a value judgment, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.
  9. “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Maybe: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing.

Tons of folks have parodied Fred Rogers, most famously Christopher Guest (with Bill Murray as the bass player) and Eddie Murphy (see below for videos). But the original Fred was a wonderful, caring teacher to generations of kids… and adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special delivery

My 18-year-old son is retired.

He just gave up his paper route, after six long years. It was a weekly neighborhood paper, covering community council meetings and the local high school sports teams, mainly. The job wasn’t a very lucrative gig, when you consider the time spent bagging the papers, delivering, and then collecting payments once a month. But it provided him with some folding money once his Tooth Fairy days were over.

Nice panel van, Mister!

Other than our summer vacations, he delivered every Wednesday for six years. If “80% of success is just showing up” then his route was great career training.

As you might guess, his subscriber base (average age: 72) was dwindling. Sometimes quite literally dying off. In the internet era, no one reads the paper anymore. Heck, half the population doesn’t even know what a newspaper is.

They don’t even get the gossip rags anymore.

Don’t worry that our son will get lazy. He’s still working. In fact, he’s still in the delivery business. But instead of papers, which very few people care for anymore, he’s delivering something everyone likes to consume:

 

 

Good grief, Charlie Brown knows how to rock!

I’m a huge Rush fan (read: nerd) and because I’m in charge of employee communications at work, I manage to slip a Rush reference into all-company emails every once in a while (read: nearly every week).

So all of my co-workers are aware of my undying devotion to Canada’s premier power rock trio (suck it, Triumph!). One colleague sent me a link to an article posted yesterday on the Onion AV club. A dude named Garren Lazar has been setting Peanuts footage to rock songs for a while, and he recently posted a clip that syncs up the Peanuts gang with the entire twenty-plus-minute “2112” song suite.

Naturally, I love it. Having Linus as the protagonist is pure genius… the same goes for Pigpen playing the drums like Neil Peart. Check out this three-minute excerpt:

The entire clip is here if you have 21 minutes and 12 seconds to spare. (Yes, 21:12! We see what you did there Garren!)

Have a Rushtastic weekend!

Sweet summer freedom

Today’s the last day of exams for my “rising senior, rising sophomore and rising 8th grader”… which means they won’t be rising at the crack of dawn for a few months. I’m sure they’ll celebrate in typical movie scene/music montage fashion this afternoon.

Well, they’re not the only ones who are celebrating. Daddy is delighted too! Summer vacation also means freedom for me:

  • Freedom from having to wake up 20 minutes early to squeeze in a quick workout (kettlebell swings in the basement – sun’s not out, guns not out)
  • Freedom from trying to wake three teenagers at 6 a.m. (there’s not enough blasting powder in the entire world)
  • Freedom from the headaches caused by the four kids/two bathrooms challenge (it requires a greater degree of planning and precision timing than the D-Day invasion)
  • Freedom from making Peter’s chicken and brown rice lunch (and freedom from our dog staring at me with those puppy dog eyes while I cut up the chicken).
  • Freedom from 26 “hurry up or you’ll miss the bus” warnings per morning (plus or minus 10).
  • Freedom from driving my daughter to school when she ignores the 26 warnings and misses the bus. Which means I have to miss my relaxing reading-filled bus ride to work, and instead I have to park 15 minutes away from my office. (Actually I could park closer but I’m too cheap to pay.)

I know it’ll end all too quickly, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

 

 

 

Yanny or Laurel? Who cares! Let’s drink!

The whole “Yanny or Laurel” audio clip was a viral sensation last week. (I know, I’m behind the times… I’m used to it.)

This New York Times slider will let you hear both.

But if you were born prior to the internet age, you’ve seen contentious debates like this before.

It divided the country. Even bowling teams nearly came to blows over it.

And then there was the great “Chocolate in my peanut butter/peanut butter on my chocolate” feud:

(I wonder if the kids were listening to Yanny/Laurel on their Walkmans.)

We’ll figure it out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A royal pain

As I type this, a B-list actress from the U.S. has just gotten hitched to a British prince… Harry or William, I can never remember which is which. Here’s how many damns I give about the whole spectacle:

Now that the wedding is over, can we please call it a day on the whole monarchy business? You can keep the palaces open as Harry Potter-style theme parks, and keep the silly hats, but treating people like royalty (literally) just because they come from a certain gene pool seems antiquated at best.

You get a sash, and you get a sash, and you get a sash… but not you Kate. 

They only serve ceremonial roles anyway… they’re basically the UK equivalent of Wal-Mart greeters, only with a LOT better pay scale.

Welcome to England!

This is the only Queen that matters.

This is the only Prince we should adore.

Game (of Thrones) over. Exit stage left.

 

 

All That Jazz(ercise)

On Saturday, I attended a Jazzercise class for the first (and perhaps only) time in my life. My wife has been an instructor for nearly two decades, and on Saturday they had a “bring your sweetie” strength training class. So basically it was me and all the other spouses/significant others of the instructors and a few class regulars.

                                                               Team shirt.

My wife has been asking me to attend a class for many years — the answer was always a resounding “no way!”

But some of the other spouses/boyfriends have attended classes occasionally — I call them “curve-wreckers” — and I hear all about it for months. Because it was Mother’s Day Eve, I finally waved the white leg warmers of surrender.

Not me. Not Jazzercise either.

Also, I was promised there would be beer afterward.

Here’s what I learned from my adventure:

1. I am the most uncoordinated human being on the planet.

2. “Jazzercise” may sound like something your grandma does at the senior center, but it will kick your butt. And your pecs. And your abs. And every other muscle area in your body. It’s like P90X, set to music.

3. They really need to update their name… because I didn’t hear a single jazz tune. It was more like a “hot hits” radio station.

4. Beer tastes better after a workout. If I keep going back, maybe I can have both kinds of “six-packs.”

5. Happy wife, happy life!