E.T., don’t phone home

My son’s Algebra teacher is also my new hero. Here’s a note she sent out to parents of her students:

Parents –
I have “preached” from the beginning of the school year, in August, that cell phones are not to be out during class unless I have given permission.  Most students are having no problem with this as I allow them to take the phone out to take a picture of a homework screen on the Daily PowerPoint or to use an app for making note of the homework assignment.  Most students can put their phones away after completing the task.
Apparently my long-term sub was a bit more lenient about cell phone use and some students seem to feel his policies still stand.
Noticing this after my return on Monday, I let students know that my policy still stands.  But, I had to confiscate phones from students today.  My policy is stated in the Policies, Procedures and Rules document all students received from me in August.  It is also posted on Schoology.  It refers you to the Student Handbook for the school’s policy on cell phones.  The pertinent section is on page 12.  The Student Handbook is on the school website – www.walnuthillseagles.com.
I’ve heard all the excuses: it’s my mom letting me know that she’s picking me up after school; it’s my grandma telling me she’ll be coming to get me at a certain time for a dentist appt; it’s my friend letting me know what we’re doing this weekend, and on and on it goes. I even had a student tell me (as their phone was actually ringing), that they needed to take the call.  Did I mind?!
If as a parent, you feel it is more important that your child is always checking their cell phone for a message, please let me know.  I will not repeat instruction, during class or at a Help Time, for students who choose to use their instruction time for cell phone time.  I feel they can last 50 minutes in a class, then check for messages on their way to their next class.  We often finish with a few minutes left in the bell and I haven’t minded that they pull their phones out then.
Emergencies should always come through an office.  I cannot release a student without office notification anyway, so letting them know about something through a cell phone message isn’t the proper or most expedient way to retrieve your student from school.
I hope you can support me in this.  My assumption is that your child is at Walnut for an education.  If that’s not important to you or your child, then I need to know this.
Thanks so much,
Mrs. Burris
 I love it! Her class is the high school equivalent of Luke’s Diner on Gilmore Girls: 

I love the closing lines the most: I hope you can support me in this.  My assumption is that your child is at Walnut for an education.  If that’s not important to you or your child, then I need to know this. 

Odds and Sods

In construction, it’s “measure twice, cut once”… the email equivalent is “proofread twice, send once.” My kids’ school had a capital fundraising campaign, the Legacy of Excellence, but they misspelled “Excellence” as “Excellance” in the email subject line:

At least they got it right in the body of the email.

C. Montgomery Burns would NOT approve.

 

Meanwhile on Craigslist, a… well, let’s just call her a “contractor”… found a creative way around the rules against adult services, by placing this ad in the “Cars for Sale” section:

For the record, I am looking for a car for my son, NOT, I repeat NOT, looking for different “trunk.”

And while we’re in the gutter, we may as well as stay there. This was the opening of an article that appeared on WCPO.com a couple of weeks ago:

I’m sure the author of the article must be so proud… perhaps s/he always dreamed of being able to describe twerking in a clinical-yet-picturesque style. All those years of journalism classes have finally paid off! (And in just eight short years, the loans for those classes will be paid off too!)

 

OK, enough of this silliness. Since the title of this post was nicked from a Who album, I need to include a song from that release:

Radio Daze Part 3

I’ve previously posted a couple of audio clips from my 97X radio days. Here’s another gem (and by “gem” we mean “not completely painful to listen to”). It’s a commercial for a Cincinnati record store called Everybody’s Records. They advertised on 97X for the entire duration of the station’s existence, and are still around today, 40 years after they first opened their doors.

This commercial features three 97X legends… and me. Julie Maxwell, Rictile and Dave each spent several years at the station and are still remembered fondly by the small but mighty listener base. They’re all great broadcasters, and even better people. Rictile is still gracing the airwaves, albeit under his real name, at Vermont Public Radio. Julie and Dave work in advertising – as do quite a few other 97X expats.

This particular commercial was about 48 seconds long – at a free-form station like 97X, we didn’t have to adhere to strict timing guidelines. And the few advertisers that we did have gave us a lot of creative leeway in creating the commercials (as witnessed by my lame Grandpa Simpson impersonation in this particular ad).

The art vs. commerce scale tilted heavily toward the art side. We were a bunch of wacky kids, and the production studio was our playpen. We had tons of fun coming up with ideas and creating the spots… despite the fact that the recording equipment was a million miles away from state-of-the-art.

Our equipment was only slightly better than this.

Like Julie and Dave, I too segued from radio to advertising, and our time at 97X was our “10,000 hours” in Malcolm Gladwell parlance.

One of the things I miss most about my radio days is doing wacky character voices. You don’t get many opportunities in the real world to bust into a Bob Dylan, Snoop Dogg or Fabio impersonation. Well, I suppose you can, but your family, friends and co-workers might think you’re crazy. And they may be right.

 

 

 

 

 

Evel. Pure evil.

As a 70s kid, I grew up with Evel Knievel on the brain. Motorcycle stuntman extraordinaire. (But “Skycycle” failure.)

It was the 70s. ‘Nuff said.

A perennial performer on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Jumping fountains, jumping buses, jumping a pool of sharks before Fonzie did.

Before Bodyglove wetsuits existed, people often wore their leather jackets in the ocean.

Evel was all the rage, and so were his toys.

Naturally my brother and I would attempt to emulate Evel. Usually that involved setting up a piece of plywood on a log as a makeshift ramp and attempting to jump over some obstacle on our Schwinn bikes with slick back tires and banana seats.

But once we just decided to try a long jump – sans bicycles – in our living room. We marked out a launch line and would track our landing spots, trying to jump a bit farther with each attempt (and probably making motorcycle “vroom-vroom” sounds with every launch). On my final attempt (and the reason it was final will become perfectly clear by the end of this sentence), I set a new record… but in true homage to my hero Evel, I got a bit wobbly on the landing, stumbled, lost my balance, and tried to stop my fall… by putting my hand through one of the panes in a living room window.

Luckily, my hand came out unscathed. But the window wasn’t as lucky. Because my father wasn’t much of a handyman and our meager household budget didn’t have room for repairs, we just thumbtacked a Hefty garbage bag over the missing windowpane. That damn garbage bag was up for years, a constant reminder of my failed stuntman career. Which is why I force my kids to take out the trash… the Cinch-Sak memories are simply too painful.

Why do you taunt me so?

On a brighter note, a few decades later, I stumbled again… but this time it was stumbling across a true gem of an album.

If you ever see this album at a flea market, buy it! It has excerpts of Evel interviews prior to the ill-fated Snake River Jump, and even a song sung by Evel himself (and I’m using the term “sung” very liberally). The album wraps up with this lovely ballad (and by “lovely” I mean “cheesier than a pound of Swiss”).

He can move a mountain

Leap across a winding river

Once he’s made his mind up, there’s nothing he won’t try

There’s something deep inside him, lusting for the thrills that drive him.

Yet he knows someday he’s gonna have to face that canyon in the sky.

I miss you, Evel. The world needs more risk-takers like you. And stronger windows.

 

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