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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Egging you on

[I’m doing a rerun today – this post originally ran back in 2015, when only three people knew of this blog’s existence. Now there are at least 10 – count ’em – 10 folks who check out this blog on occasion, which counts as “going viral” in my book…]

Happy Easter! Here’s hoping your kids feel like these kids today:

Parents, just a few Easter Egg Hunt reminders…

1. Don’t hide hard-boiled eggs unless:

A. you really really would like egg salad for lunch for the next 3 weeks

B. you keep a map with the location of every egg. If not, it’s guaranteed that at least one egg will go undiscovered… and your house will stink to high heaven in a couple of weeks.

2. Be prepared to find that fake plastic Easter basket “grass” around your house until at least the 4th of July.

3. Using leftover Halloween candy in Easter baskets is unacceptable.

4. Coconut may help your cake look more like a bunny, but most kids won’t eat it.

5. Get the hollow chocolate bunnies unless you want to make an emergency visit to the dentist for a cracked tooth.

choco_bunnies

 

Radio Daze: an interview with Lou Reed

At the Cincinnati airport recently, I saw this sign:

I first spied the sign from afar, and my 53-year-old eyesight isn’t what it used to be, so I originally thought it read “Toni Basil.” Probably just wishful thinking on my part… after all, who wouldn’t want to see an airport food court restaurant named after the famed one-hit wonder singer of the global 1982 sensation “Mickey”?

Actually, before she found fame as a faux cheerleader, Toni was a founding member of the groundbreaking “pop and lock” dance crew known as The Lockers (along with Fred ‘Rerun’ Berry).

She also choreographed David Bowie’s tours in 1974 and 1987, and a couple of Talking Heads videos, including Once In A Lifetime:

So she’s NOT a one-hit wonder. But I digress. Seeing the Toni Basil sign…er, the Torn Basil sign, reminded me of an afternoon long ago when I was working at 97X, and my friend and fellow DJ Dave and I did an on-air bit where I impersonated Lou Reed.

Dave was kind enough to send a recording of that bit my way:

(In hindsight, my impersonation sounds vaguely like Lou Reed… mixed with Steven Wright…  but good enough for radio’s “theater of the mind.”) True story: one 97X listener, a rabid Lou Reed fan, heard the beginning of that bogus interview while he was driving in Cincinnati and immediately changed course and started speeding up to Oxford, Ohio (where 97X was) in hopes of meeting his idol. As soon as he heard “Lou” mention Toni Basil, he knew that he’d been had. It’s the closest I’ll ever come to an Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” moment.

Speaking of Orson Welles, you simply must watch (and rewatch) this video of a drunken Orson trying to record a wine commercial.

If you’re keeping score at home, we went from an airport food court sign to Citizen Kane. Sorry, that’s just how my feeble brain works. And finally, the real Lou:

 

 

 

 

Odds and ends

Some photo phun (and one deep thought) to start your week:

Only in California can there be such a thing as an “organic” blow dry. It’s just air, right?

 

G is for ground, and S is for… Second Floor? Maybe it’s the Willy Wonka elevator and it stands for Space…

If it’s truly a hand-picked team, why are they looking for folks to apply? They must not be very good at hand-picking. 

 

Love the “diversity” shot, but the kid on the lower left looks like he is being held hostage.

 

Clearly the language has changed since this album was released.

 

I wish another small, Jesuit university had made the Final Four, but this is a nice consolation prize. Ramble on!

But seriously…

[No need for a caption on this one.]

 

Back in my day…

The whole “we had to walk ten miles to school, barefoot, in the snow, and it was uphill… both ways” trope is played out; it’s useful only for comedians and great-grandparents. But, believe it or not, my siblings and I have a similar story… and it’s totally true!

I was reminded of it recently when I saw a sweet Ford Ranchero in L.A.

Ford Ranchero. Accept no substitutes (looking your way, Chevy El Camino). 

My wife wondered why I was taking pictures of an old car… but then again, she wonders about a lot of the stuff I do (e.g. saving dryer lint… it’s great for starting fires in our fire pit!) But seeing that car reminded me of the white Ford Ranchero we had back in my grade school days.

Not our actual car… but you probably already knew that.

On cold mornings, it wouldn’t start. So my three siblings and I had to push it down our driveway (a short stretch, but with a decent downhill slope) so my dad could pop the clutch and start it. Usually that brief launch would work, but if not, we’d have to give it another push, down past the Church of Christ and onto the dirt road, where there was another downhill run. So before we even got into the car (OK, truck, but barely) to go to grade school at Holy Redeemer (which was, you guessed it, 10 miles away), we were winded and tired. It’s a handy story to use on my kids when they want me to drive them to the bus stop (~200 yards from our house) on winter mornings.

Also, you might be wondering why my dad thought a mini pickup with only a bench seat would be a good vehicle for a family of five. You’re not alone – I wonder the same thing. The most likely reason is because that was only car on the used car lot that fit our meager budget when our previous clunker bit the dust.

I can’t quite recall how we all fit into the cab… memories are hazy nearly 50 years down the line. I think there was enough room behind the seat for one or two of the kids to stand up and ride. I’m sure we looked like a clown car when we were unloading at school… or one of those overloaded bicycles or mopeds from a third world country.

I never gave it much thought back then… it was just how we rolled (and sometimes pushed). But now it’s great leverage to use on my kids. And it allows me to state equivocally that Subaru Brats, with their fancy-pants extra seats, were for mollycoddled whippersnappers.

Back in my day, we didn’t need extra seats. We didn’t have a seat at all… and we liked it!  Now get off my lawn!

 

 

 

 

 

Get Smart about what you pay attention to

  1. Good news: we have unfettered access to all sorts of knowledge via the Interwebs.
  2. Bad news: we have unfettered access to all sorts of bile via the Interwebs.

Seth Godin knows that the best way to deal with the latter is to not deal with it at all. Here’s a recent blog post of his:

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.

 

Be Smart.

Don’t give in to the chaos (or the KAOS).

Take Control!

Create your own Cone of Silence.