Art don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing

Art doesn’t always hang on walls. Sometimes it IS the walls. Or the lack thereof. An acquaintance of mine, Mark deJong, has an exhibit opening this Friday at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

The exhibit at the CAC is called Swing House, because Mark didn’t just renovate a nearly-condemned 1880s house in a downtrodden neighborhood near downtown… he reimagined it. He took out all the interior walls and middle floors in the narrow three-story building, and installed a 30-foot swing from the ceiling.

At first blush, it may sound like a gimmick. But read this article from CityBeat and you’ll discover the artistic intent behind every decision – the walls, the furniture, the fixtures, you name it. As the CAC’s show description says, “deJong turns renovation, restoration and residential revitalization into a transformative art.”

I know Mark via my friend Phil. Phil organizes a late night bike ride every month on the night of the full moon… it’s called the “Fool Moon Ride” because a bunch of foolish middle-aged men ride 10 miles to an undisclosed location along the banks of the Little Miami River, build a fire, enjoy some adult beverages and tasty food, then ride back. Mark and I have been on several of those rides together. There are definitely some very interesting conversations that happen in the wee hours, and Mark has always been one of the more intriguing dudes there, as well as being one of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. Swing House isn’t his first “houses as art” project. Several years ago, he bought an 1895 house for $5,000 and restored it, calling it Circle House. He’s also done a Square House. He uses old houses the way other artists use canvas.

Exterior of Swing House.

This may be Mark’s first full-fledged exhibit, but he’s been making artful work for years now. It doesn’t have to be watercolors or clay – it can be plaster and saws, hammer and nails. Too often, we regard the term “artist” as something reserved for an elite and “gifted” group. But if you work with your hands and create something, you’re an artist. We all are, each in our own way. Don’t let other people’s judgments or societal norms get in the way of your vision. Do what you do… share your gifts… and swing, baby, swing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday. Cry day.

We send our kids to school in the morning, and they come home in the afternoon. That’s how it works. Until it doesn’t. Kyle Plush went to school on Tuesday morning. He never came home.

Image result for judy zehren cincinnati

He was supposed to play his first tennis match that afternoon, and as he was reaching over the third row bench seat of his 2004 Honda Odyssey to get his tennis gear, the seat flipped and he got trapped.

The emergency system let him down. Even though he wasn’t able to reach his phone, he used Siri to call 911. Twice.

“Help, help, help,” Plush said in a call he made at 3:16 p.m. “I’m in desperate need of help.”

Plush said several times he was “at Seven Hills,” though the operator apparently did not hear clearly or understand what he meant. “Where are you?” she said, over and over. “What is the address?”

Two officers arrived on scene at 3:26 p.m. They were there for 11 minutes, patrolling the area to look for anyone in distress. 

While they were in the parking lot, Kyle was making his second 911 call. In that second call, Kyle gave more details of the van he was trapped in, including its color, make and model. That information was never relayed to officers on the scene.

“I probably don’t have much time left, so tell my mom that I love her if I die,” he said. “I’m trapped inside my gold Honda Odyssey van. In the (inaudible) parking lot of Seven Hills Hillsdale.

“Send officers immediately. I’m almost dead.”

At 3:37 p.m., the officers closed the incident and went back into service. 

A short while later, a Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputy who was at the school to direct traffic said he wanted to look again. 

“Your guys couldn’t find any van with anybody stuck in it,” he told an operator in a four-and-a-half minute phone call, “but I just wanted to go around and double-check one more time.”

The deputy said he had only seen one van in the lot during his check but didn’t find anybody in it. Chief Isaac said later that that was probably the van Plush was in. 

The deputy and the operator continued talking about Plush’s 911 calls and what might have been happening.  

“(He) was unable to hear me and just kept repeating, ‘Help, help, I’m stuck. I’m in the Seven Hills Parking lot,’” the operator said. “It was really hard to hear (him). It sounded like (he) was kind of far away from the phone.”

“That’s weird,” the deputy responded.

“Yeah, it was really a strange call,” the operator said

They also talked about whether the whole thing might be a prank. Around the same time Plush was calling 911, the deputy had run into a woman at the school who was getting in his way. He wondered if that woman was up to something – especially since the first officers who looked for the van didn’t find anything awry.

His dad found him at 9 p.m. that night, trapped in the van. Lifeless. So senseless.

In the classroom, teachers saw a bright future for Kyle, a strong and independent student with a tender heart and a love for those around him.

“Kyle’s gentle spirit made it a joy for others to be around him. We lovingly remember Kyle as creative, vibrant, and kind,” said Patty Normile.

We send our kids to school in the morning, and they come home in the afternoon. My wife and I send our 18-year-old son to school every morning in his 2003 Honda Odyssey minivan. The epitome of a “safe family car.”

Visitation will be 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at T.P. White & Sons Funeral Home, 2050 Beechmont Ave., Mt. Washington.

Kyle’s funeral will be 9:30 a.m. Monday at St. Rose Church, 2501 Riverside Dr., East End.

The family is asking for memorial donations to go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati, 350 Erkenbrecher Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229.

“Tell my mom that I love her”… a phrase that breaks the heart of every parent.

We send our kids to school in the morning…

 

A dream deferred for a decade

Perhaps you’ve already heard about Andre Ingram. Maybe you’re a big fan of the Utah Flash, or the Los Angeles D-Fenders, or the South Bay Lakers.

Those are the NBA G-league teams for which Mr. Ingram has been toiling for the past 10 years. A decade of cheap hotels, bus rides and mostly empty bleachers. 10 years of working side jobs just to make ends meet. Chasing that dream.

On Monday, he got the call-up to the NBA… the one that he’s always hoped for. Not just hoped for, but worked for. Check out this excerpt from an article on ESPN.com.

Ingram makes it clear he is not bitter or filled with regrets after waiting this long to make it to the NBA. He says he remembers it all.

“Just staying with it,” Ingram says of what has been toughest about his journey here. “I mean, you get commended for kind of hanging in there and sticking with it like there wasn’t any doubt at any point. There was doubt. There were hard times. There was uncertainty.”

“They were fond memories. They’re not like, you know, angry memories: Man, I should be here. No it’s not any of that,” Ingram added. “… It’s a handsome reward for time put in. I’m thankful I have the opportunity, but there’s a lot of people that work hard. I’m grateful man. That’s all it is. I’m grateful.”

Last night, Andre Ingram made his NBA debut, in a playing-out-the-string game for the Lakers. He scored 19 points, going 6-for-8 from the field, including 4-for-5 on 3-pointers. By the end of the game, the home crowd at the Staples Center was serenading him with chants of “MVP!”

In that game, in that moment, the hard times are forgotten, the thousands of yesterdays don’t matter anymore.

How old is “too old” to chase your dreams? When is it time to give up? Never.

 

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.

 

 

It’s your third birthday – have a beer!

Don’t call Children’s Protective Services on me… I’m talking about a brewery. Braxton Brewing to be exact. Today is their third anniversary celebration (it was supposed to be last week but it got snowed out – thanks March!).

Braxton started with four guys and a dream. A father, his two sons, and a Yoda-like brewmaster.

L to R: Jake Rouse, Richard Dubé, Greg Rouse, Evan Rouse

Now they have two taproom locations, their beers are distributed in three states and their staff has grown exponentially. It’s a true American small business success story, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

My friend Keith Neltner created the killer logo

I worked with Greg Rouse, one of the founders, for 12 years. He left his full-time gig as a print production manager at our company a couple of months ago to take over as COO at Braxton. That was always the plan, but he was such a superstar at our company that our leadership had to hire two folks with 20+ years experience in print production to attempt to replace him. He was a great guy and a genius at what he did – we miss him dearly. But I’m thrilled that he’s able to work with his sons and wife every day now.

Nice job title!

I plan to drop by the celebration this afternoon, and if I do, I raise a glass to Greg, Tina, Jake and Evan, and to dreams coming true. #LiftOneToLife

 

We humans put the stink in extinction

A week and a half ago, Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino, died.

The New York Times article is here. Below are a few quotes to ponder as a fellow resident of Planet Earth:

“This is a creature that didn’t fail in evolution,” said Thomas Hildebrandt, head of reproduction management at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin and one of the project’s leaders. “It’s in this situation because of us.”

“Sudan is an extreme symbol of human disregard for nature,” said Jan Stejskal, director of international projects at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, where Sudan spent most of his life.

Every rhino species is under threat, said Cathy Dean, chief executive of Save the Rhino, an advocacy group, while the technical advances researchers are discussing may take 15 years to bear fruit.

“It may be too late for the northern white rhinos, but we still have time to save all the other species,” Ms. Dean said.

It’s on us. There’s still time, but the clock is ticking. Guitar god Adrian Belew tried to warn us way back in 1982, when he wrote this beautiful, bittersweet tune about the rhinos’ plight:

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.]

 

Hawk(ing) eyes

World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking passed away last week. He left us with several gems worth pondering:

This seems like a fitting song for Professor Hawking…

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.

 

 

 

 

I gave up whine for Lent

Thank you for reading.