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.

 

Thanks (is worth) a million!

Marketing doesn’t have to be all algorithms, browser cookies and geo-tracking. The human touch will always be more memorable.

A few weeks ago, we needed a new faucet installed in our kitchen, and the shutoff valves below needed to be replaced as well. (I can do the former, but the latter is well beyond my DIY skills.) I found a local plumbing company that came highly recommended on NextDoor (like a Facebook for neighborhoods). Everyone I talked to, from the office manager who fielded my initial call to the plumber who came to our house, was friendly. About a week after the service call, I received a thank you card from them via “snail mail.”

I’ve used plenty of different plumbing companies over the years, and this is the first one to send me an honest-to-goodness thank you. On paper! In the mail! Who does that anymore? You’d better believe they’re on speed dial for all future repairs. And while robots may take over many jobs in the coming years, I don’t think I’ll ever trust a Roomba lookalike to replace two water shutoff valves under my kitchen sink. So the plumber’s investment in a single, solitary thank you card will earn them hundreds of dollars. (But not anytime soon, I hope!)

Yesterday I got the new Wussy album What Heaven is Like in the mail from the band’s record label, Shake It. Included with the CD that I ordered were a hand-written thank-you note and a postcard.

It probably took about 30 seconds to scribble out the thank you note, and another 10 to grab the promo postcard (clearly an homage to Springsteen’s debut album) and package it up with the album. Extra time in the era of efficiency – would Jeff Bezos approve? Doubtful.

But those 40 seconds will pay off for years to come, in the goodwill they generate, in the warm fuzzy feeling you get from “hey, they took the time to thank me by name… that’s cool!” Shake It started as a local label, releasing albums by artists that they were passionate about, before branching out to set up a bricks and mortar record store too.  A record label and a record store… talk about tilting at millennial windmills! They know they can’t go toe-to-toe with Amazon on pricing, or compete with Spotify on music delivery. But by providing a personal touch, by caring about the music, engaging true fans, helping them dig deeper into their passions and exposing them to new artists, they can carve out a nice niche for themselves:

We carry some mainstream releases, but we specialize in independent labels from the obvious to the obscure – Chicago post-punk art-rock to Ethiopian boog-a-loo and all stops in between – rockabilly, vintage soul, r&b & blues, punk/hardcore, classic country & the best of the new breed, 60’s garage & psych, reggae/dub/rocksteady & vintage ska, krautrock, creative hip-hop & electronica, tons of straight ahead rock n’ roll & “alternative”, plus vintage bop, cool & avant garde jazz, cult soundtracks, Afrobeat/funk, “difficult listening” and much more. We’re introducing new releases and back catalog items every day, so there’s always something new in the bins.

You can keep your algorithms. I’ll stick with the handshakes.

Reviews of the new album are here and here(this one from my friend Gil Kaufman, who writes for Billboard). You can order it from Shake It here.

 

When pigs fly

On Friday, I posted about Mean Girls. Today, it’s about a single mean girl, whose comment spurred a runner to victory more than a decade later. 25-year-old Caitlin Keen won the female division of the 2018 Flying Pig Marathon yesterday.

When she was 12 and living in Cincinnati, she watched that year’s Flying Pig and said “I’m going to win that one day”…. another girl said “no you won’t.”

Caitlin got pretty emotional talking about breaking the tape for the first time, and her overall running journey.

“I was an OK high school runner. I never won a state championship. I walked on to a Division I school. I went to Southern Methodist University,” Keen said. “I ended up getting a full ride by my senior year but I never was a winner ever. Never was an all-American … I’m so happy. It means everything.” 

Watch this interview video – it’s hard not to be moved by it:

A record number of people (43,000 plus) took part in this year’s Flying Pig events.

Participants included Mrs. Dubbatrubba and her friends, who finished the half-marathon.

The races (plural now – marathon, half marathon, 10K, kids run, etc.) raise more than a million dollars for local charities each year. Not bad for a race that started with a small group of local runners scribbling notes on a cocktail napkin.

Sometimes all it takes is a dream, and then following through, step by step.

(Old) people have the power

Check out this fantastic tune, “People Have The Power,” from Patti Smith’s mini-concert at the Beacon Theater after the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of the documentary film Horses: Patti Smith and Her Band. Patti and company are joined on stage by a gentleman from Jersey named Bruce, and young man from Decatur, Georgia named Michael Stipe.

I posted this for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s a great song, with fantastic lyrics from the punk rock poet priestess Patti (say that 3 times fast), and it offers an inspiring message in troubled times.

2. As I watched the 71-year-old Smith, the 68-year-old Springsteen and the 58-year-old Stipe on stage, I found myself hoping to be as spry as they are in my next two decades… yet I also realized that there’s a generation gap when it comes to combining social commentary and music. What stars of the past decade or two are as popular and profound? Who is going to pick up the mantle of activism? Who speaks for (and to) the downtrodden, the working stiffs, the misfits and the outsiders? Where’s the next “Lost in the Flood” or “Johnny 99”? Who will do songs like “Orange Crush” or “World Leader Pretend”? Nickelback? Didn’t think so.

I believe everything we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth’s revolution

People have the power
People have the power

The power to dream, to rule
To wrestle the world from fools
It’s decreed: the people rule

We have the power
We have the power
The people have the power
We have the power

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ripple effect

Part 1

Allow me to introduce you to “Hippie Bob.” He was a gig buddy of mine back in the day. I’ve gone to hundreds of concerts in my lifetime (I know, hard to believe from someone who blogs about music every other day). Because I like “weirdo” bands, the crowds are usually smaller, and you wind up seeing the same familiar faces, concert after concert. That’s how I met “Hippie Bob.” After seeing each other at several shows, we finally introduced ourselves to each other. At that time (circa late 90s), Bob was nearing retirement from his 30-year career as a photography teacher at a local high school. I called him “Hippie Bob” because he was clearly a product of that era, with his long ponytail, tie-dyed shirts and his turquoise jewelry. But he was also a great guy, soft-spoken, kindhearted, funny. A good dude to hang out with at shows. We never hung out socially outside of concerts. I never even knew Bob’s last name. But if you drew a Venn diagram of my musical tastes and Bob’s, there would be a 90% overlap.

A = punk banks like Superchunk. C = old school folkies like Peter Rowan. B = millions of great bands.

There we were, show after show, year after year, following the same bands, and comparing notes on upcoming shows and new releases. “Are you going to Son Volt at Top Cat’s?” “Yes, I’ll be at that one!” “What do you think about the new Patty Griffin album?” “It’s great!”

Once kids came along, I got to less concerts, but invariably Hippie Bob would be at most of them. The last time I saw him at a concert was probably a decade ago, and his health wasn’t the best. I don’t even know if he’s still with us.

Part 2

Allow me to introduce you to Lauren Fisher. She’s a creative, specializing in motion graphics and animation.

She lives in L.A. now, but she grew up in Cincinnati. Yesterday morning, she gave a talk at a Creative Mornings Cincinnati event, and talked about her artistic journey. Outside of her parents, the person who influenced her career choice the most was a high school photography teacher named Mr. Gregory. She was drawn to him because he was wired differently. When she put up a slide with an old yearbook photo of Mr. Gregory and described him saying “he had a ponytail, wore turquoise jewelry, listened to NPR and loved the band Wilco” I did a double-take and nearly blurted out “Hippie Bob!”

Yes, I only knew Hippie Bob as an super-cool older dude who liked good music. But over his 30-year career, Bob influenced so many kids, imbuing them with a love of photography in particular, and the arts in general. They say teachers change lives, and I’ve always believed that to be true. But it really hit home in a tangible, visceral way yesterday.

Today I’m going to an all-day music festival. I’m going tomorrow too. It’s a bunch of weirdo bands, of course.

I doubt I’ll run into Hippie Bob, but I have no doubt that dozens of his proteges will be there. So I know he’s still with us.

 

Pick a day, any day

For the stoner set, today’s an “earth day” of sorts.

4/20 dude!

The official date is this Sunday, April 22nd. It’s been that way since 1970. I really didn’t know that much about the origin of Earth Day, but this page on the EarthDay.org website sheds a lot of light on it. Here are my favorite excerpts:

The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. “It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”

Wow, that’s powerful stuff! Can you imagine anything uniting such disparate groups today? In some ways, it’s depressing to see where we are… it feels like we’re regressing. On the other hand, it’s energizing to know that amazing things can happen on a global scale thanks to the efforts of a tiny team of dedicated folks.

It’s almost Earth Day. It’s time to answer the questions about Mother Earth posed by Dramarama back in 1991:

What are we doing here?
and what are we doing to her?

What are we gonna do?