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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music matters

This is old news (not “fake news”) but well worth covering here. Back in April, KEXP-FM in Seattle received a bequest from an anonymous donor… to the tune of $10 million.

I couldn’t think of a more deserving station. KEXP is, per their website, “a listener-powered, non-profit arts organization.” Their slogan is “Where the music matters” and they are true to their words. They play great music (emerging artists, indie bands… you know, all that “weird” music that I love) and have knowledgeable, personable DJs. Actual human beings selecting songs… what a novel concept in a world of robot radio! They host a ton of live in-studio performances too – you can watch the videos on their website or their YouTube channel.

The anonymous donor, known only as “Suzanne,” didn’t even live in the Seattle area, but she had family there. When she mentioned to her uncle that her favorite local radio station had gone off the air, he turned her on to KEXP (you can listen online) and she became an avid listener and donor.

“When I told my uncle that my favorite radio station had just gone off the air, he turned me on to KEXP,” she said. “Music is one of the best ways to unite people globally, and I love an organization which spreads that goodness.”  (Source: New York Times article)

She passed away in 2016, at a relatively young age, and KEXP was informed of the gift in early 2017.

Not many folks have $10 million to leave to a radio station. (I double-checked my couch cushions… no such luck.) But we can all support music. This quote from KEXP Executive Director Tom Mara really resonated with me:

“I think this is a good time for anybody to reflect on the role that music has in their lives, in that music makes lives better, and each of us, including myself, we need to support artists to a greater extent. We need to see their shows, we need to buy their music and we need to discover artists that need to be heard,” Mara said. “Music often plays a background role in our lives, and it does very well there…Let’s take this moment as a way to bring music into the forefront of our lives, too.”  (source: Seattle PI article.)

 

 

It’s Wear Orange weekend

There’s an old joke about folks in Tennessee wearing orange over the weekend because it’s a triple threat: they can wear it for hunting on Friday, to the Vols football game on Saturday, and for their prison work-release duties on Sunday.

But I’m not in Tennessee, I’m not a hunter, I’m not a Vols fan (Go Hogs!) and I’m not subject to court-ordered work (yet!). However, I’m still wearing orange today. Here’s why:

Learn more here: https://wearorange.org/

The other Memorial Day

Today would’ve been my dad’s 87th birthday. Hard to believe it’s been more than eight years since he passed away. He’s still with us in spirit.

Herb (yep, that’s his name) served in the military during the Korean War… and pretty much hated every minute of it. The “command and control” structure fit him like a hairshirt. (Gee, wonder where I get my rebel streak from…) Besides, his biggest battles were yet to come. Watching your wife succumb to leukemia. Moving your four kids to Arkansas. Struggling to get by. Fighting depression.

Not all heroes wear suits. Or fatigues. Sometimes they wear horn-rimmed glasses and polyester pants and thrift shop shirts. And they love their kids, and raise them the best that they can.

Happy Birthday, Pops.

23rd verse, same as the first

Another week, another school shooting. Yesterday it was Noblesville, Indiana, where a middle-schooler asked to leave the classroom and came back armed with two handguns and started shooting. Let’s read that sentence again, shall we? A middle-schoolerarmed with two handguns.

It’s the 23rd shooting on school grounds (including colleges/universities) in the 21st week of 2018.

26 children and 5 adults have died as a result, with dozens more injured, and hundreds more psychologically scarred. 31 lives lost in buildings set up for education, while during this same time period 13 members of the military have died in active combat zones. So in 2018, schools have been more dangerous than combat zones.

Don’t give me your “arm the teachers” argument. They have enough on their plates as it is.

Don’t give me your “cars kill more people than guns so we should ban cars” argument. Because we both know that getting a car involves:

  • Minimum age requirements
  • Mandatory training hours, written exam and road test prior to receiving a license
  • License subject to renewal on a regular basis
  • Mandatory registration
  • Mandatory insurance

Whereas getting a gun requires:

  • forking over some cash at a gun show.

If you want to institute the same requirements for gun ownership and operation as for car ownership and operation, I’m fully on board. And then we can discuss safety enhancements for the guns themselves, similar to the way the auto industry has added seat belts, anti-lock brakes, air bags and dozens of other features.  Heck, my daughter’s phone has a fingerprint lock… yet we can’t put that same technology in guns?

It may seem hopeless, especially when the NRA has hundreds of politicians in their deep back pockets. But don’t give up, because progress is being made, slowly, but surely. This series of tweets from the founder of Moms Demand Action proves that.

Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need more action.

 

 

Stay classy!

It’s Graduation Day for our oldest child.

Seems like just yesterday he was a toddler, and we were signing him up for preschool at the church down the street.

He’ll be leaving the nest in a couple of months, but he won’t be venturing too far from home. He’s attending the University of Cincinnati (dreaded basketball rival of my alma mater… kids are such rebels) to study engineering. I’ve talked to several folks who have either been through the program themselves or have kids who’ve gone through it, and it gets rave reviews. And as my friend Art (who was my college roommate) says, “college can be as far away as you want it to be” – meaning just because you’re going to a school that’s 10 miles from your house doesn’t mean you have to come home every weekend… or any weekend for that matter.

He’s a great kid. He’s smart, kind and a hard worker. He’ll do just fine.

 

 

Save the planet. It’s the only one we have so far.

I’m on the ‘Green Team’ at work – we try to encourage our colleagues to reduce waste and increase recycling throughout our building. Recently, a group of Green Team members visited a local recycling center.

Hard hats, ear protection and safety goggles… we’re ready for the catwalk!

As a tree-hugger, it’s heartening to see the amount of materials they receive each day… and it’s also a bit daunting. First the recycling items are dumped onto the “tipping floor”:

Then bulldozers and the world’s largest “claw game” move it onto conveyor belts.

From there, it gets sifted and sorted into the various types of recycling materials (cardboard, glass, paper, plastic) with human intervention to pull out non-recyclables.

While it’s great that this much stuff is being recycled, it’d be even better if we created less waste in the first place. After all, recycling is the final and least desirable of the ‘reduce/reuse/recycle’ trilogy. The low-hanging fruit is plastic water bottles – switch to reusable bottles. Then, put a stop to the junk mail you receive by unsubscribing, and sign up for e-delivery of other mail items. Buy in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging. Buy fresh instead of packaged. You know the drill.

 

OK, I’ll get off my (eco-friendly) soapbox now. Nobody wants to listen to a reject anyway.

 

First there’s happy, then there’s sad.

This was supposed to be a post about my youngest kid, Andrew, who turns 13 today. I drove him to school, as a birthday treat (how thoughtful of me!), and he brought along a couple dozen donuts to share with his friends. I love the fact that he’s able to think of others on a day that’s normally “all about me.” That’s probably fairly rare in the teen years. But he’s a sweet kid all around, so I’m not surprised by his gesture.

I made him take a selfie on my phone this morning.

 

If you’re keeping score at home, we now have four – count ’em – four teenagers in our household. 13, nearly 15, 17 and 18. Heaven help us… especially if our wi-fi ever goes out.

So it’s a happy day, and a happy birthday… and then when I got to work, a fellow music fan mentioned that the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, Scott Hutchison, had been found dead, of an apparent suicide. Devastating. Soul-crushing. Looking back at the messages from both Scott and his family makes me so sad I can’t even describe it.

 

 

Then came the pleas from his family:

And finally, late last night, the news we feared the most:

I saw Frightened Rabbit in concert several times, most recently a year and a half ago when my buddy Dale and I squeezed up to the front of the stage for their set at an outdoor festival.

Several years ago, I was lucky enough to see them in an acoustic setting as part of a radio interview/performance at WNKU.

I even got to say a quick hello to Scott a couple of times.

He was always friendly, and seemed rather happy. But we never know the personal demons that live inside other people’s heads and torment them so.

“Thinking about songs like Floating in the Forth – I didn’t kill myself. I took that forward into other records. There’s got to be a sense that, as f****d as life can get, we’re still alive and we’re still doing this and we’re going to attempt to carry on.” 

Scott wasn’t able to climb out of the abyss. We all know someone like him. Please, give them a call today.

Some of the footage in this video is from the Southgate House in Newport, KY. I was at that show too.