What have you done for everyone else lately?

In America, we’re obsessed with being #1.

“The best ever! Believe me!”

And we care deeply – waaay too deeply – about rankings and ratings. The top song on the charts.

Music was better back then… 

The Fortune 500. The highest-grossing movie. The most-watched TV show. The most views or “likes” or “shares” on social media. The highest-ranked football team. The five-star basketball recruits.

We do comparisons all the time, trying to determine who is better…. and who is the best.

But Seth Godin is trying to help us reframe that obsession. (I know I write/rave about Seth a lot, but the man’s a genius.) Here’s a post from his blog earlier this week:

Community rank

You’re probably familiar with class rank. Among all the kids in this high school, compared to everyone else’s GPA, where do you stand?

And you’ve heard about sports rank, #1 in the world at tennis or golf or chess.

But somehow, we don’t bother with community rank.

Of all the contributions that have been made to this community, all the selfless acts, events organized, people connected–where do you stand?

Maybe we don’t have to measure it. But it might be nice if we acted as if we did.

 

What a fabulous concept! Let’s measure what really matters… how good you are to your fellow human beings.

That’s a #1 ranking worth attaining.

 

 

Art for art’s sake, not for Martin’s sake.

Band of Horses was in town last night, playing a sold out show at Bogart’s. Having seen them seven times already, in seven different venues, in four different cities (including an amazing acoustic set/electric set show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville), I decided to sit this one out. So did my friend Dale Doyle (the original d2), who has joined me at five of those gigs. But Dale’s an artist, a graphic designer by trade, so he made an oversized gig poster just for grins.

Simply brilliant!

I had the pleasure of working with Dale for five years at Landor (where I also worked with other amazing artists like Keith Neltner and Tommy Sheehan). Dale was at Landor for 23 years, working his way up from entry-level designer to Executive Creative Director, thanks to his skills and his dedication to the craft. His reward for all those years of service? He was unceremoniously dumped earlier this summer. Call it layoffs or budget cuts, or a “reduction in force” or a “restructuring”… to paraphrase Shakespeare, bullsh*t by any other name would still smell as stinky. (Sorry Big Willie!)

Yes, Landor’s Cincinnati office was struggling to make their numbers, and that’s part of the equation. But the other part is why their “numbers” were probably unattainable in the first place. Landor is merely a cog in the universe of WPP, a publicly-traded company that’s the world’s largest advertising conglomerate. It owns scads of well-known ad agencies, brand consultancies, PR firms, media buying companies and digital agencies. For 33 years, WPP was run by Martin Sorrell, a man whose ambition was outstripped only by his ego. A shark who swallowed up other ad agencies whole, usually via hostile takeovers. A man whom advertising legend David Ogilvy called “an odious little sh*t.” A person who could squeeze blood out of a turnip, and was never satisfied with the revenue numbers and profit margins of the dozens of companies and hundreds of offices under his thumb. Last year, “Sir Martin” (he was knighted in his native England) earned 70 million pounds. His net worth is listed as 495 million pounds.

Artist’s representation of Sir Martin

Creative artists like Dale are a dime a dozen to him, and if it came down to keeping a Dale or earning an extra nickel, he’d take the latter every time.

Dale did get a severance, so he has a few months to figure out his next move. He also has a freedom he hasn’t enjoyed in two decades. The freedom to create art whenever the muse strikes. To use his talents for self-expression rather than marketing campaigns. To make a band poster just because. You can’t put a price tag on that.

Oh, and what of our friend Sir Martin? He was sacked by the WPP board earlier this summer over allegations of “personal misconduct.”

 

 

 

Skip. School.

11 years and two days ago, the world lost a great teacher. He also happened to be a heck of a college basketball coach. No doubt he would want them listed in that order: teacher first, coach second.

His name was George Edward Prosser, but everyone called him Skip. He joined Xavier as an assistant coach under Pete Gillen way back when I was in school there, and later went on to become head coach at Loyola of Maryland, Xavier, and Wake Forest. He took all three teams to the NCAA tournament, and had a top five recruiting class coming in when he died of a heart attack on July 26, 2007, after jogging around the Wake Forest campus.

An avid reader and lifelong student, Skip was just as likely to wax rhapsodic about Thoreau or James Joyce as he was to talk about a full-court press. He was always humble, but he did pride himself on passing along life lessons to his student-athletes. His favorite quote was from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Our chief want in life is someone who shall make us do what we can.”

As Skip said, “I thought that was a powerful statement that we need to be around people who challenge us to be as good as we can be.”

On the day Skip returned to Cincinnati to take over as head coach at Xavier, I was dropping off a friend at the airport and saw Skip in the terminal. I went up to him, introduced myself as a Xavier alum, and said “welcome back to Cincinnati.” He replied, “thanks, it’s good to be back.”

This is what he said about returning to Xavier in 1994 to replace Gillen after serving as head coach for one year at Loyola (Md.): “I felt like I was coming home. Xavier wasn’t just a job for me. It was my first opportunity to coach at a collegiate level. I loved the city. Bellarmine was my parish. It was my church, my school. It was a town I considered my home. The minute I left Loyola, I felt great about being back at X.”  (Source: this Cincinnati Enquirer article)

A year later, I started working at the ad agency that handled the Xavier b-ball account, and went to a kickoff meeting with Xavier’s associate AD and Skip. He was kind, gracious, humble, funny, totally unassuming and completely engaged. His AD at Loyola, Joe Boylan, said Prosser was “a renaissance man coaching basketball” and that’s a great description.

Skip left this world too soon, but his lessons are still with us.

From this 2017 article:

On July 26, 2007, George Edward “Skip” Prosser, head basketball coach of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, passed away. Only 56 years old, Prosser’s death shook college basketball and the sports world in general. Widely revered in coaching circles, he was one of those individuals about whom you never heard a bad word spoken.

Fully living up to the reputation of a teacher on and away from the court, Prosser was beloved by the players he coached. During an interview with The Seth Davis Show, Chris Paul, who played for Prosser from 2003-05, discussed the immense impact his college coach had on his daily life.

“For me, it’s funny. You think about some people that you’ve known your whole life and they don’t necessarily make an imprint on your life,” Paul told Davis. “I knew coach for all of four years, and I think about the imprint that he had on my life.”

Diving deeper, Paul offered up a couple maxims that he learned from his late coach.

“The words that he said. He used to say, ‘Never delay gratitude.’ That was one of his favorite sayings. ‘If you can’t be on time, be early.’ Aside from what he taught me about the game of basketball, he taught me about life and about being a man.”

“Someone asked me as I was leaving, what do I want people to remember?” Prosser said. “It would make me happy if they thought I stood for what Xavier stands for. That was my challenge and my charge all the time, to stand for what Xavier stands for.”

“Coaching isn’t wins and losses,” Prosser said. “It’s teaching. That’s the reason I got into coaching and the reason I’ve stayed in coaching. I hope that I remain in the business of education.”

Not ready for Prime time

Take a gander at all the fabulous things I bought during Amazon Prime Day:

Sorry that I didn’t get sucked (or suckered) into your retail vortex, Mr. Bezos. First of all, “Prime Day” is a contrivance intended merely to get us to open up our wallets, much like the Tooth Fairy, Sweetest Day and Cincinnati Bengals home football games. And secondly, what you’re peddling is all just “stuff”… and “stuff” doesn’t bring long-term happiness. In fact, buying stuff actually brings us down.

All the gadgets, gizmos and geegaws are no substitute for a walk in the park, playing catch with your kids or having lunch with a friend. When you start selling that, let me know.

 

 

Getting to the non-meat of the matter

Over the weekend, my older sister sent me a link to this article in Time. WeWork is taking meat off the menu, and won’t pay for meals that include meat:

The startup has told its 6,000 global staff that they will no longer be able to expense meals including meat, and that it won’t pay for any red meat, poultry or pork at WeWork events. In an email to employees this week outlining the new policy, co-founder Miguel McKelvey said the firm’s upcoming internal “Summer Camp” retreat would offer no meat options for attendees.

“New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact,” said McKelvey in the memo, “even more than switching to a hybrid car.”

This is bad news for Arby’s.

But it’s good news for a planet that desperately needs it. WeWork’s new policy is a bold move – one that’s sure to get some backlash, yet one I applaud with my wimpy vegetarian hands.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go full Morrissey on you.

I gave up meat 27 years ago for health, environmental and economic reasons, and it’s worked for me, but I try to avoid prosthelytizing… usually. To each their own.

But “going veg” doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Perhaps there’s a less-meaty middle ground. Even a “meatless Monday” every week would be a big boon in reducing greenhouse gases, improving health and saving the planet.

Livestock alone account for more than 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and by 2050 the food sector could account for half if cuts are implemented in other sectors along the lines that countries have committed to doing. A vegan or vegetarian diet could cut those emissions by 70% and 63%, respectively.

Changing dietary patterns could save $1 trillion annually by preventing health care costs and lost productivity. That figure balloons to as much as $30 trillion annually when also considering the economic value of lost life. And that doesn’t even include the economic benefits of avoiding devastating extreme weather events that could result from climate change.

(from the Time article… and below are a couple  more fun facts from a CNN article about going vegan)

 

Perhaps it’s time for all of us to give peas (and pea proteins) a chance. Veggie options have come a long way in the past couple of decades.

Take a page from the WeWork workbook and ban the beef, chuck the chicken and pull pork from the menu, at least every once in a while.

C’mon, give it a try. The planet needs you.

 

 

Learning to fly… or not

Last Thursday evening, when I walked down my street from the bus stop (I’m such a tree-hugger), I spied a foreign object in our driveway. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, so from afar I thought it was a sweater. (Why I might think a sweater would be in our driveway on a 95-degree day is a topic for another day. Don’t question my logic!) But upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a baby hawk… deceased. It damn near broke my heart.

There’s a hawk nest in one of our neighbor’s trees, and we’ve been hearing hawks screeching non-stop over the past few weeks, and watching them go from tree to tree. Once I even spotted the baby’s head peeking out from the nest, which was so cool. I’m guessing this little lad (or lass) was from that nest.

I called Raptor, Inc., a local non-profit dedicated to the preservation of birds of prey through rehabilitation, education and preservation, because I wanted to know two things:

  1. What should I do with the body? Answer: dispose of it via the trash or burial… the only thing you can’t do is keep it/taxidermy.
  2. Why did this happen? Answer: Fledglings are still “getting their wings” – they tend to be rather unsteady fliers, so they’re prone to running into things. Also, there’s “failure to thrive” – if the parents aren’t still helping them get food once they leave the nest, they could be malnourished. And our current heat wave certainly doesn’t help matters. The woman from Raptor Inc. said they’ve been getting a lot of reports of dead baby hawks during this fledging season.

fledge  v. Old English *-flycge (Kentish -flecge),an adjective meaning “having the feathers, fit to fly,” 

I don’t know about you, but whenever I see a hawk soaring majestically over the highest trees, I’m jealous. “You lucky son of a gun, you get to fly! And you don’t even have to flap your wings much… you just float on the air!” This was a not-so-subtle reminder that life can be a struggle, even for the most majestic creatures.

On Saturday, I saw two adult hawks on the same branch of a neighbor’s tree. I felt like they were trying to tell me that things will be OK. One hawk may be gone, but the species will survive.

 

Bridging the digital divide

The excerpt above is from the introduction to The Moth, a book of 50 stories from The Moth storytelling organization, which includes a radio hour on 400+ stations around the country.

The book came out in 2013, but those lines are even more relevant (and incriminating) five years later. We’ve all done it, to varying degrees. Sending a text instead of making a call. Trading a birthday lunch for a Facebook “like.” Netflix binging instead of getting together with friends over the weekend.

Often our noses are so buried in our phones that we don’t even look up anymore… at the trees, the sky, or our friend sitting across the table from us.

Do your friends a favor: meet with them, face-to-face, and leave the phones out of sight and out of mind. And just listen.

And now for fans of 80s tunes and/or videos that feature copious amounts of rouge on both male and female performers, here’s Missing Persons with their 1982 semi-hit, “Words”:

 

The Mother and Child Separation

Normally, I don’t like to mix posting and politics, but the latest immigration tactics (nay, antics) of our Demander-in-Chief have taken this beyond a political issue. It’s a human rights issue.

“Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

— Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement.

I’m equal parts angered and saddened. I have “zero tolerance” for this b.s.

As per usual, the fantastic Hitting The Trifecta blog has found the perfect way to express (in a much more eloquent way than I could) exactly what I’m feeling. Author Rickey Dobbs has a way of breaking down complex issues in an engaging, typically satirical way. This most recent blog post absolutely nails it on separating kids from their parents. Please read the entire thing. But if you can’t, this wrap up should bring it home nicely:

If WE are going to do this (yes, “we” are doing this, my co-owners of this representative democratic republic), we’ll need to gather the niños into places where we can keep track of thousands of them all at once. To that end, we’ll be concentrating all of them into some outpost, or maybe a camp.

Gosh, no, it’s not a concentration camp or anything like that! How offensive! *clutches pearls, then realizes I accidentally wore my pearls to work.

But understand: those kids just hoofed it across the harsh Mexican terrain, risking their very lives seeking freedom from unimaginable violence. So, it’s safe to say they’re a scrappy bunch! Because of that reality, we’ll have uniformed men with guns to make sure the kids don’t scale the ten-foot fences that surround their cages.

Word will – and already has – spread to the next incoming “waves” of immigrants that there’s a really shitty patch of territory between the Rio Grande and the Canadian border. If you’re a “got-damn furrner” and you get caught in that 1800-mile expanse, abandon all hope all ye who enter. Oh, and abandon your dreams…especially those “American” ones.

But oddly enough, fully knowing the inhospitable environs that await, they keep coming. They risk losing their children for a tiny chance at giving the kids a better life than is possible at home.

You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” And no one tries to cross the border, via asylum or otherwise, knowing they’ll likely lose their children, unless the alternative is uniformly worse.

 Of course, our government doesn’t have to take your kids if they catch you. We don’t have to make your arduous, desperate life worse than it already is. We do it because we’re America in 2018. There’s a rabid, deplorable electoral base that needs red meat, and you’re wearing red meat underoos. We’re a nation of uneducated playground bullies who elect even bigger uneducated playground bullies, and we always punch down.

And sorry, José. You are both geographically and socioeconomically down.

All of this is to make it clear as day, brought to you by white resentment, economic insecurity, and rich guys who profit from both:

The America of which you’re dreaming is just lighting and camera tricks. It’s not available for you, scapegoats. It’s barely available for us. We are simply making the age-old American reality abundantly clear: you and your family are, perpetually, one generation too late.

 Lo siento, amigos.

So true, so sadly true. The link above in the Hitting the Trifecta blog post is to a wonderful poem that you simply must read. Now! Here are the final lines:

i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

 

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!