Grounded at last

A recent blog post from The Current, an indie radio station in Minneapolis, made me smile.

I’ve always loved that song, it has great lyrics…

Sanitation expert and a maintenance engineer

Garbage man, a janitor and you my dear

A real union flight attendant, my oh my

You ain’t nothing but a waitress in the sky

But as the blog post explains, Replacements leader Paul Westerberg wasn’t channeling his own inner rude passenger when he wrote it:

In Bob Mehr’s Trouble Boys, he explains that the song was actually inspired by stories songwriter Paul Westerberg heard from his sister Julie, a flight attendant. “I was playing the character of the creep who demands to be treated like a king,” Westerberg told Mehr. “I’d heard all the stories from my sister about how [passengers] would yell at the flight attendants and then how they’d ‘accidentally’ spill something on them.”

Now Paul’s sister has retired after four decades of putting up with all manner of passenger problems. I’m sure the stories would be even worse if Paul wrote the song today.

Congrats Julie… and thanks for sharing your stories with Paul, so he could share them with us.

Second place = first loser

Imagine you are a pretty smart dude or dudette. (I can’t even imagine that so you’ll have to do it for me.) If so, you’ve probably dreamed (or at least daydreamed) about getting onto the TV game show Jeopardy. You play along at home and do pretty well with the answers… yeah, you could totally be on the show and show that pompous Alex Trebek a few things.

Now imagine you do take the Jeopardy online test, and do well enough that you make it through to the live auditions. And then you beat the odds once again and survive the live auditions. You’ve made it – it’s a dream come true… you’re finally going to have your moment in the sun on Jeopardy!

Then, when you finally get on the show, you have to go up against James Holzhauer. Dude is a total beast. As announcer Johnny Gilbert would say it, “…and our returning champion, a professional gambler from Las Vegas, Nevada whose 17-day cash winnings total $1,275,587…”

James isn’t just winning, he’s winning in spectacular, runaway, big money fashion. Because he’s so smart and quick, he typically has control of the board most of the game, which means he usually finds all the daily doubles. Then, because he’s a gambler, he’s not risk-averse, so he goes all-in on the daily doubles, gets those right nearly every time… and for all intents and purposes the game is a rout before the second round even begins.

The other contestants aren’t stiffs. Sometimes they’ll go into Final Jeopardy with eight or nine grand, which is no small feat. But in nearly every game so far, James has an insurmountable lead.

The other players have the brainpower. If they were on the show at a different time of year, they might wind up as multi-day champs. But if you’re on during James’ roll, you have the unfortunate luck of bad timing. The only thing to do is to go out with a bang:


Don’t sleep on these teams… or do.

Virginia beat Texas Tech in overtime to claim the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship last night. Or so I heard. The game tipped off at 9:26 PM EDT. I had to wake my kids at 6 AM this morning. by the time the clock struck zero, I was fast asleep.

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I’m sure it was “one for the ages” or some other nugget of hyperbole from Jim Nantz (who seems to think every word that comes from his mouth is pure gold). But at my age, my beauty rest is more important. (To be clear, I’m not gaining any ground in the beauty department, just trying to keep the ugly at bay.)

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But even if I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn today, why bother with live feed? It’s a Netflix/YouTube world now. This morning, on my bus ride to work, I was able to watch a 12-minute recap that showed all the field goals from the game. So what did I really miss by not staying up an extra two hours, other than a gazillion Spike-Samuel-Barkley commercials, a bunch of free throw attempts, the always-scintillating “refs going to the monitor for five minutes” and maybe a few Bill Raftery “with the kiss” lines? I’m good.

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There’s no need to watch what happens live anymore. I’ll wait for the recap movie.

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There are no second acts in American lives

I spent some time crate-digging over the weekend, looking through the albums at the thrift shops near my house. (Yes, thrift shops – plural – we live in a classy neighborhood!) Two albums from 70s pop idols caught my eye.

Donny Osmond and David Cassidy… it doesn’t get any more 70s than that. No, I did NOT purchase them! Mainly because I don’t care for bubblegum pop… and also because the Donny album cover seems a bit too, shall we say, pedophile?

But those album covers gave me a chance to contemplate a few things:

  1. Why am I spending weekends in thrift shops?
  2. Why is Donny’s album twice the price of David’s?
  3. What’s the price of fame?

Donny and David had a lot in common. Hit songs, hit TV shows, multiple TigerBeat covers, huge fan clubs… and amazing hairstyles. But they wound up on different paths. Donny fell off the pop culture radar for most of the 80s, but has had top 10 songs since then, done musical theater, hosted TV game shows and syndicated radio shows, won a season of Dancing with the Stars, and has been appearing in Vegas (where else?) with his sister Marie since 2008.

David Cassidy‘s post-teen-idol path was a bit rockier. He had modest Top 40 success after the Partridge Family, dabbled in musical theater and acting… and had the requisite reality TV appearance (Celebrity Apprentice, 2011). He also had multiple drunk driving charges from 2010 on, filed for bankruptcy in 2015, and died of liver failure (due to alcoholism) in 2017.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “there are no second acts in American lives.” In Donny’s case, he was wrong. In David’s, he was correct. Fame is fleeting, and it can extract a heavy toll from your life. Gaining fame is great fun… but losing it isn’t.

Some are born to move the world
To live their fantasies
But most of us just dream about
The things we’d like to be

Sadder still to watch it die
Than never to have known it
For you, the blind who once could see
The bell tolls for thee….

Please buy this for me!

Car was parked this way via a sweet, high-speed 180° backturn.

Lot #1352 – This was one of three Firebird Formulas provided by Pontiac Motor Division to the TV show “The Rockford Files,” and was used from 1978 until the series ended in 1980. With a special Sierra Gold exterior and tan interior, the factory Formula 400 model was modified to look like an Esprit for the show. This car was the sound car, used for close-ups while driving, and still has the original mic box, holes drilled to run recording wiring, and a skid plate to protect the engine and transmission from damage during stunts.

Please, please, please buy this for me. I’ll gladly pay you back from my new earnings ($200 a day, plus expenses) as a private investigator.

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If you ever want to drive it, you can, just stop by my trailer near the beach, the address is 29 Cove Road in Malibu, California. But remember, I like to sleep in.

We’ll pick up Angel, my fellow ex-con, maybe print out a fake business card from the machine in the back seat, stop by the L.A.P.D. to see my pal Dennis Becker and get him to run some license plate numbers for me… and hope we don’t run into that jerk Lt. Chapman!

But don’t worry too much about him, my attorney Beth Davenport will put him in his place.

Fair warning though: if you hang around me, you’re probably gonna get beaten up… it happens to me once an episode… er, I mean day.

Call me up to let me know when you’re dropping this Firebird off. If you get my answering machine, at the tone leave your name and message… I’ll get back to you.

Also, the car might have $30,000 in the left front door panel.

Second verse, same as the first. 4th verse, same as the first three.

Thank goodness the powers that be in college football have created a playoff system. Now, instead of the same ol’ same ol’, we get to enjoy a wide variety of teams vying for the national championship. Let’s see, there’s Alabama, and Clemson, and… welp, that pretty much sums it up.

Since the College Football Playoff started in 2014, the “Final 4” has consisted of: Alabama (every stinkin’ year), Clemson (every year but one), Oklahoma (3 years), Ohio State (twice), and a cameo by five other randos. The past three championship games have been ‘Bama vs. Clemson. This year, in a shocking turn of events, the final game tomorrow night is… wait for it… ‘Bama vs. Clemson.

ESPN tries their best to hype the living daylights out of it, but fatigue has set in. Someone wake me when it’s over. Actually, strike that… don’t wake me when it’s over, because I’ll be fast asleep long before the game ends, and I don’t really care who wins.

Batteries not included

Before you go out and buy that electronic doorbuster special for the wee ones on your holiday shopping list, you might want to consider these two posts:

First, there’s this old article from an ex-Googler, about how websites and apps are hijacking our minds:

…this is exactly what product designers do to your mind. They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you in the race to grab your attention.

But here’s the unfortunate truth — several billion people have a slot machine their pocket:

  • When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got.
  • When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got.
  • When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next.
  • When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match.
  • When we tap the # of red notifications, we’re playing a slot machine to what’s underneath.

Second, there’s this recent post from the always-brilliant Seth Godin:

If a parent uses a tablet or a smartphone as a babysitter, it’s a lot easier to get a kid to sit still. As a result, parents who are busy, distracted or can’t afford to spend as much 1:1 time as they’d like are unknowingly encouraging their kids to become digital zombies, with a constant need for stimulation, who are being manipulated by digital overlords to click and click some more.

If a kid can’t read, it’s not clear he should be surfing the web, watching TV or playing a video game for hours a day.

Boredom, daydreaming, a good book, building in three dimensions, interactivity with other humans–these are precious skills, skills that are being denied kids that are simply given a plate of chicken fingers and a tablet instead.

Tell the tablet and phone makers to take a hike. And take your kids on a hike instead!

Corny jokes and cornfields

Roy Clark is a-grinnin’ in heaven.

Seems like nearly everyone had a love/hate relationship with Hee Haw, the cornpone version of Laugh-In. As a New Jersey native transplanted to Arkansas in the summer of ’72, I could certainly understand both parts of the equation (i.e. “ha-ha, what rubes!” and “ha-ha, that’s my life!”). It was super-hick instead of super-chic, yet somehow it worked, and lasted a quarter of a century.

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Roy’s instrumental mastery (his “a-pickin'”) was often overshadowed by the part he played on Hee Haw (“a-grinnin'”). But the man had major skills. And because Hee Haw only taped for three-week stretches twice a year, he could still tour. Good work if you can get it. Plus, the show gave a lot of country artists their first national exposure, something Roy was proud of:

With all of its twists and turns, the program gave me an incredible education in the business of show business—the importance of ratings, questionable executive decisions, syndication, money, problematic artistic decisions, demographics, image, coincidence and luck. But first and foremost, I am most proud of how Hee Haw did its part to help pave the way for country music to burst from its regional roots to remarkable worldwide popularity.  (Source: this Huffington Post article written by Roy in 2015)

Tony Orlando, Johnny Cash and Roy Clark – quite a trio.

The show itself, and Roy and Buck, served as both punching bag and punchline for many critics over the years. But as usual, Roy got it… and got the last laugh.

You know, like my dad told me, listening to different types of music and the way that people live, he said, don’t put it down until your heart hears it.

Now, you’ll hear it with your ears, but don’t write off, say I don’t like that. Listen. Listen for a while. There’ll be something in there that will appeal to you. And it – it’s made me, you know, a successful life that I wouldn’t change one note. (Source: Roy Clark’s NPR interview with Scott Simon in 2016 – full audio is below)