Let’s keep it stuck in neutral

On Thursday, the FCC is going to vote to end net neutrality—breaking the fundamental principle of the open Internet—and only an avalanche of calls to Congress can stop it. Net neutrality is the way the internet has always worked… if it’s repealed, giant cable/broadband/phone companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T will be able to call the shots, play favorites, throttle speeds, charge more for internet services, block competing sites and censor content. Isn’t it funny how the current chairperson of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is a former Verizon attorney?

Please call your congressional representatives and let them know where you stand. http://act.freepress.net/call/internet_nn_call_congress/

 

On Dasher, on Dancer, on… Rover?

My wife’s uncle Neil, who passed away very suddenly this summer, was a great guy. He loved people and parties. He loved his job and the people with whom he worked. He loved promoting Mt. Adams, the hillside neighborhood and business district in Cincinnati where his company is based. He loved dogs. And he loved Christmas.

For 30+ years, Neil dressed up as Santa and visited family members and friends on Christmas Eve.

Today, all those things that Neil loved will be on full display. In Mt. Adams, the 28th annual Reindog Parade will be held. Thanks to Neil’s company, Towne Properties, the event has been renamed in his honor.

You’d better believe that we’re throwing some antlers on our pooches and participating.

And I believe that Neil is upstairs grinning from ear to ear.

The original “Just do it”

I recently read this book:

It was extremely interesting to me, as I’m fascinated by how the punk scene came about. Here’s a quote that really stuck in my brain, from Danny Fields, who signed and managed Iggy & The Stooges, signed the MC5, managed the Ramones and worked in various roles with Jim Morrison and The Doors, the Velvet Underground and Modern Lovers. It this passage, he’s talking about how the Ramones, on their 1977 tour of England, encouraged Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, who were just starting the Clash:

The Ramones said “You just gotta play, guys. You know, come out of your basement and play. That’s what we did.”

And it wasn’t just the Clash whom the Ramones inspired. Here’s more from Danny Fields:

Basically the Ramones said to them, which they said to countless other bands, “You don’t have to get better, just get out there, you’re as good as you are. Don’t wait till you’re better, how are you ever gonna know? Just go out there and do it.” 

You don’t have to be in a band for that advice to resonate. It’s the same advice that countless other folks have given, from marketing guru Seth Godin (“ship your product”) to creativity guru Elizabeth Gilbert (“done is better than perfect”) to… yes, shoe peddlers like Nike (“just do it”).

I had a blog for about two years before I shared the URL with anyone. Why? Because I kept waiting to “get better”… waiting for some fairy godmother of writing to sprinkle pixie dust on me. Eventually I realized that the fairytale ending wasn’t going to happen, and what I had to do was face my fears and “just get out there.”

My “art” – using the term very loosely – is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s lowbrow… raw, gritty, rough around the edges… it doesn’t hit all the right notes. That’s alright. Because I’m not really a blogger… I’m a punk rocker.

Danny Fields, who was quoted above, has lived an amazing life… he’s like the Forrest Gump of punk rock. Check out this documentary on him, called Danny Says.

 

I will follow… or will I?

Found these scraps of paper on the ground at my kids’ school:

“I will learn to follow the rules.” – written 25, or 50, 100 times, or however many times the teacher thought the kid needed to write it down to “get his mind right” as they say in Cool Hand Luke.

I have no idea what this kid did to be sentenced to writing this sentence over and over. But I do know that too often, schools push compliance instead of engendering a joy of learning. That’s a shame. I wish I could find the kid who had to write this, and tell him/her, that it’s OK to break some rules… to march to the beat of a different drummer. And I’d share these quotes:

Or, as The Replacements said:

Kids don’t need that
Kids don’t want that
Kids don’t need nothing of the kind
Kids don’t follow
What you’re doin’
In my face out my ear
Kids won’t follow
What you’re sayin
We can’t hear…. 

 

Welcome to adulthood. Be careful!

Our oldest kid, Gabriel, isn’t a kid anymore. He turns 18 today. It’s a Monday. It’s a school day. He has to work at the pizza parlor tonight. Yep, sounds like most adult birthdays – booorrrrrrinnnng!

Now that he’s officially an adult in the eyes of the law, there are a lot of risky things he can do, like bungee jumping or skydiving or buying lottery tickets. (Actually, that last one isn’t risky at all – the house always wins.)

He can buy cigarettes but I hope and pray he never does.

He can get a tattoo but I hope he realizes that everyone has a tattoo these days, and the rebellious thing to do is to NOT get one.

He can buy fireworks and go to jail… somehow those two are related in my head, in an if/then sort of way. If you are stupid enough to buy fireworks, you are probably going to wind up in jail.

He can vote, and I hope he does… can we fast-forward to 2020 please?

But most importantly of all, he can get his own credit card… but I don’t see that happening anytime soon, not when his old man’s credit card works just fine at the gas pump and fast food restaurants.

And here’s his song of the day, a dedication to his parents:

 

 

Don’t call it a comeback… unless you want to make us feel worse

I was checking out at the grocery store yesterday (“bloggers – they’re just like us!”) and saw this on the cover of Us Magazine:

TAYLOR SWIFT: MY AMAZING COMEBACK!

Comeback? Excuse me… did I miss something here? Because the last time I checked, Taylor Swift had released five studio albums prior to her latest release, each one coming roughly two years after the previous one (and perfected timed for the late-October/early-November holiday shopping season, might I add)… and the crappiest selling one of them is quadruple platinum.

Am I the new Rip Van Winkle? Have I been asleep for the 20 years when Taylor Swift fell out of the public eye?

            

Have I entered a Twilight Zone where her every dalliance isn’t documented on a daily basis?

Are we now living in an alternate reality where T-Swizzle lost her entire $250 million fortune on orange juice futures?

What exactly is Taylor Swift’s “amazing comeback”? Coming back from her own private island, perhaps. Her newest release just sold 1.2 million copies in a week… in a day and age when people don’t buy music anymore.

Can’t wait for next week’s issue of Us, maybe they’ll have another great feature like:

Scrooge McDuck: My Amazing Rags to Riches Story!

 

Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy

On Friday morning I saw a very life-affirming presentation… from an expert on dying. Cole Imperi is a designer, but she’s also a thanatologist… an expert in death, dying and bereavement. And she has a great hairstyle.

She spoke at the Creative Mornings monthly breakfast lecture, about Big Death vs. Little Death (the former is when someone passes away, but the latter can be any significant change in life – a divorce, losing a job, etc. – and we need to mourn those too) and Big Voice (your ego) vs. Little Voice (your passion/purpose). She has spent countless hours with folks who are dying, and she said you can see the regret on their face, and 99% of the time it’s about things they didn’t do but wished they had.

Cole also had us all write a quick obituary, following the standard form (name, age, city of residence, job, hobbies, etc.). Then she asked if any of us felt like our obituary was perfect – we had accomplished everything we wanted to in our lives. Of course no one in the audience felt that way. So the good news is, we’re not dead yet.

We still have time to do what truly drives us. After all, as Dylan said, “he not busy being born is busy dying.”

Cole believes that better living comes from knowing dying. Jason Isbell covers that territory beautifully in a song from his new album, “If We Were Vampires.” Watch the interview after the song when they talk about the line “maybe time running out is a gift.” As Jason says, “maybe the best thing of all is death, because that’s the only reason any of us get up in the morning. It’s the only reason any of us fall in love. It’s the only reason any of us care about anything…. is because one day we’re gonna be dead.”

Happy Life Day! But not this Life Day:

 

 

 

Johnny B. Good. Very good.

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”

“Hello, I’m Johnny Clegg.”

No doubt you’ve heard of (and heard the music of) the former. Chances are, you’re not familiar with the latter. But Johnny Cash is to country music as Johnny Clegg is to South African music. A pioneer, a trailblazer, a true icon. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call him the Nelson Mandela of music. Back in the Apartheid era, teenage Johnny crossed color lines to learn music and dancing from Zulu men in Johannesburg, and eventually brought it to the world.

“They knew something about being a man, which they could communicate physically in the way that they danced and carried themselves. And I wanted to be able to do the same thing. Basically, I wanted to become a Zulu warrior. And in a very deep sense, it offered me an African identity. It was like a homecoming for me; I don’t know why, but I felt that.”

When he formed an integrated band – Juluka – with Sipho Mchunu, they couldn’t even play in public at first.  Eventually they landed a record deal and toured the world.

When Sipho got homesick and left for his Zululand home, Johnny formed a new band called Savuka, which means “We Have Risen” in Zulu. His songs were at the forefront of the fight for equality in South Africa.

“You could not ignore what was going on. The entire Savuka project was based in the South African experience and the fight for a better quality of life and freedom for all.”

One of the best concerts I’ve ever seen was Johnny Clegg & Savuka at a club in Cincinnati, circa 1993. For some strange, mystical reason, I too wanted to become a Zulu warrior that night. And I can’t dance worth a damn. The passion, the energy, the “goodness” emanating from Johnny and his band was palpable, and the tsunami of positive vibes swept up the whole crowd. “I don’t know why, but I felt that.”

Johnny Cash is gone. Johnny Clegg will be gone soon – he’s battling pancreatic cancer. He just wrapped up a brief U.S. tour and has headed home to South Africa, with one more gig in Cape Town lined up for this year.

NPR has a nice profile of Johnny’s career. (The quotes in this post are from that piece.) Please check it out.

Thank you Johnny, for sharing your music and your love with the world. Don’t stop dancing.

 

Baller status

My oldest son wrapped up his football career this past weekend, on Senior Day at his high school.

He had never played organized football before his sophomore year. His school is small to begin with, and the number of players trying out for football keeps shrinking (the specter of CTE looms large, plus lacrosse and club soccer are gaining in popularity), so during his sophomore year they couldn’t field a JV team. That meant he spent his entire first season busting his butt in practice with zero chance of ever being on the field. In his junior year, he played for the JV squad. It would be easy to get discouraged when you’re older than most of your teammates, but he kept working. Off-season lifting. Two-a-days. Practice virtually the entire year… in addition to holding down two jobs this summer.

This past season, he started at right tackle for the varsity, played every offensive snap, and wound up making 2nd team all-conference. I’ve always been a bit anti-football as a parent… I DO worry about concussions and other injuries. But I have to admit that his football experience will serve him well in the game of life… you have to be patient, you have put in the hard work before you can reap the rewards, and there will be setbacks along the way… the ol’ “nothing good comes easy” adage. And I’m sure some of the friendships he formed on the gridiron will last a lifetime.

I’m super-duper proud of him (but not proud of the fact that I just used “super-duper” in a sentence). And I look forward to seeing what the future holds for the kid who was #76 in the program, but #1 in our hearts.

Goodbye Gord

Gordon “Gord” Downie passed away this week. It’s OK if you’ve never heard of him. Most folks in the U.S. haven’t. He was the lead singer of a Canadian band called The Tragically Hip… they were beloved in Canada but never really made much of a dent on U.S. radio or sales charts.

Gord was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2016. He could have wallowed in self-pity and shut things down. Instead, his response was to tour… to keep doing what he did best – sharing his art with his fans, his friends. And to continue to support reconciliation with Indigenous people in his home country.

 

Canada is in mourning over the loss… watch this heartfelt speech from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and you start to get a feel for the impact he had.

Here’s to you, Gord. Not just in the Great White North but across the world, there are millions of folks that appreciate your music and admire your courage.