Ignorance (of breaking news) is bliss

I’m cleaning out the ol’ dubbatrubba junk drawer, and found this in my “drafts” folder – an article from The Guardian that is ancient, yet timeless, because it talks about avoiding the 24/7 news cycle that can become addicting. It reminds me of the time I went to see author Ray Bradbury speak at Johns Hopkins University way back in 1990. He recommended that we avoid watching the local news because it was “a bunch of murders and robberies that we didn’t commit” and only served to depress us and stifle our creativity. I suppose it’s the corollary to the “no news is good news” adage: “all news is bad news.”

T-Rex is correct.

 

The Guardian article is well worth reading. A few key excerpts are below:

News leads us to walk around with the completely wrong risk map in our heads. So terrorism is over-rated. Chronic stress is under-rated. The collapse of Lehman Brothers is overrated. Fiscal irresponsibility is under-rated. Astronauts are over-rated. Nurses are under-rated.

Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business.

News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitization.

News feeds the mother of all cognitive errors: confirmation bias. In the words of Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” News exacerbates this flaw.

News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers.

News makes us passive. News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can’t act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitized, sarcastic and fatalistic. The scientific term is “learned helplessness”.

I don’t know a single truly creative mind who is a news junkie – not a writer, not a composer, mathematician, physician, scientist, musician, designer, architect or painter. On the other hand, I know a bunch of viciously uncreative minds who consume news like drugs. If you want to come up with old solutions, read news. If you are looking for new solutions, don’t.

Turn off the power button when the news comes on, and restore the power of creativity to your mind.

 

 

Here today, gone yesterday

The January issue of Cincinnati Magazine features a positive review of a German café across the river in Covington, Kentucky, called Katharina’s Café-Konditorei.

Unfortunately, the place never had a chance to enjoy extra business that a nice review would generate:

 

It’s always tough in the restaurant business. It’s especially tough if you’re bringing something unique to the table.

You know that local restaurant that you really like but haven’t been to in a few months? Or the mom and pop hardware shop that’s a bit more expensive than Home Depot or Lowe’s but the folks who work there really know their stuff, and you can get everything you need a lot quicker? Or the bookstore where the staff can make recommendations based on knowing you, not a machine learning algorithm? Better go today. Tomorrow may be too late.

 

 

Back to the Future… of Rock and Roll

A long time ago (early 90s), in a galaxy far, far, away (Oxford, Ohio), I worked at a tiny radio station known as 97X.

It was one of the few indie rock/alternative/modern rock/college rock stations in the country. It was also, in my not-so-humble and completely biased opinion, the best. Because the DJs had a ton of leeway in what they played. Because everyone who worked there loved the music, and had as much fun off the air as on. And mainly because the listeners felt like friends, and were just as passionate about the music as we were. It was the least amount of money I ever made, and the most fun I ever had at a job.

Rain Man dug the station too…

(This scene was filmed in Cincinnati, on the road that my bus travels every weekday when I go to work .)

Several months ago, KEXP-FM in Seattle (the modern day equivalent of 97X) paid tribute, playing songs and even commercials that were on the 97X airwaves back in the day, and interviewing folks who worked there for a long time, including faithful dubbatrubba reader Dave “The Reuben Kincaid of Modern Rock” Tellmann. Here’s the intro to the 97X tribute – it’ll give you a good background on the station:

And here’s KEXP’s edited version of the terrestrial sign-off from station manager Steve Baker (also one of the best radio play-by-play sports announcers ever). It truly captures the passion and community feel of 97X:

It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since I worked there, but 97X truly will always be a part of who I am. It’s the reason I like “weirdo” bands to this day, much to my kids’ consternation and dismay (“Car Seat Headrest?”). It’s also the reason I always root for the underdogs, and relate to the rebels and outcasts. Those are my people; that’s my tribe.

(You can’t even view the entire song because Lorne Michaels and the corporate bigwigs don’t want you to. Typical!)

If you’d like to go way back in the time machine, you can stream 97X from 1985 here. My old pal John Fox also wrote a nice essay about the station back in 2004.

UPDATE 1/19 – Faithful dubbatrubba.com reader Matt Sledge, who spent a decade at 97X, commented on my original post and added a few interesting links:

Comment:
Of course I have to leave my two, three, or four cents on this topic… since that’s how much we got paid back then working at 97X.

As Bake said about 97X on the final broadcast: “It changed my life.” Truer words were never spoken.

As I sit here back in Oxford in the year 2018, if you had told me when I started as an intern at 97X back in 1994 that 24 years later I’d be commenting on a former coworkers blog about that station and how it changed my life as well, I would have asked you how drunk you were.

Alas, here we are.

Some YouTube links to pass along:

The last 30 “laps” of the 2003 Modern Rock 500, with songs edited out and some commercials intact. This would be the last 500 on the terrestrial airwaves: https://youtu.be/vv3-DWSeqF0

97X recorded from 1999 by a fan, with songs omitted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeCY-WfZalY

And of course, the final break from Bake on the final night of broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvCyiNXTLuA

It’s almost 14 years after the last broadcast, and the memory of the station remains strong from all who worked there and the listeners.

We did some good work, didn’t we?

 

An attitude… of gratitude

Since January 1st, I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal. I know, it sounds very Sedona/Oprah. But it works:

2003 study by Emmons and McCullough found that keeping a daily Gratitude Journal leads to an increased sense of well-being and, something we all crave, better sleep. A willingness to accept change will become the norm. Giving thanks in this manner can also help lower symptoms of physical pain. That is powerful.

(Source: https://www.intelligentchange.com/blogs/news/the-ultimate-guide-to-keeping-a-gratitude-journal. See below for more stats from the studies.)

And for the past few months, I’ve been receiving a daily email from The Network for Grateful Living (https://gratefulness.org/)  HT to my buddy Phil for putting it on my radar. On their home page, you can subscribe to their “Word For The Day” email. “Word For The Day” is a misnomer, it’s more like “Quote For The Day” but either way you get just a few words to ponder. Like this one:

 

Or this one:

I know that email inbox overload is real, but this one is always well worth the 10 seconds it takes to read it. Sign up, and get grateful. And here’s your soundtrack while you’re writing your gratitude journal:

 

 

 

Play that Superchunky music…

Superchunk. Not just a type of peanut butter.

Also an amazing band.

Superchunk (the band) has a new album, What A Time To Be Alive, coming out on February 16th. A couple of tracks have already been posted, and they flat out rock. Superchunk started in 1989 as punk kids… they’re no longer kids, but they’re still punk. Here’s what lead singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan said about the new release:

“The album is about a lot of things of course, but mainly dealing with anxiety and worse in the face in incipient authoritarianism. It would be strange to be in a band, at least our band, and make a record that completely ignored the surrounding circumstances that we live in and that our kids are going to grow up in.” 

 

That anxiety (and anger) come across loud and clear on the title tune:

Here’s another Mac quote from an Onion A/V Club interview with him and bassist Laura Ballance:

I’m really wary of calling this record “political” because it implies that you are offering some solutions or that you’re writing a white paper, like, “Here’s what we should do about this.” Where it’s really more about how do you be a person in the world when all this is going on and still have a life, and I think a lot of people are learning that.

This song features Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield and the Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt:

I can’t wait for the entire album to come out. You can pre-order it here. If you’d rather have the peanut butter, try Aisle 2.

 

All things considered, he had a pretty good run.

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans” is a phrase that comes to mind when I think about Robert Siegel’s recent retirement from NPR. He spent a whopping 41 years at NPR, the last 30 of them hosting All Things Considered. He did it with eloquence, with intelligence, with style, with a twinkle in his voice. And his long and illustrious NPR career was never part of his plan:

“No one is more surprised by my tenure than I am. I came to NPR on what I thought was an unfortunate but necessary detour that — I hoped and figured — would last a couple of years. I’m a native New Yorker and the New York FM radio station where I worked was sold in 1976 and — to put it mildly — I didn’t figure in the new owner’s plans.”

But to merely reprint his words doesn’t do justice to the man who spent decades as trusted voice in the lives of millions, a faithful co-pilot on the daily commute. Listen to his sign-off below.

Ah yes, no one else this side of Corporal Max Klinger on M*A*S*H could work in a reference to the Toledo Mud Hens and have it feel so natural! Thanks a million, Robert Siegel. While you may have started your NPR career with other plans, you wound up exactly where you belonged: in our homes, in our cars, and in our hearts.

  

 

Meet the new boss… same as the old boss

In the Antebellum South, in states such as Alabama, a white plantation owner a would make a fortune based on the back-breaking, involuntary labor of African American slaves, who got nothing.

In 2018, Nick Saban earned $11.13 million for leading the University of Alabama to the national championship in football. His players, the vast majority of whom are African American, did the back-breaking labor, risking injury on every snap, and got nothing.

Some will argue that the players are “paid” via their scholarships. But ‘Bama played 14 games (their opponent, Georgia, played 15) from September through January, and if you throw in off-season conditioning, Spring practice, summer two-a-days and fall practice, it’s virtually a year-round sport.

Under current NCAA rules, during a playing season and while school is in session, athletes are supposed to spend no more than 20 hours a week on required athletic activities… However, NCAA surveys of athletes have shown – and school and conference officials readily acknowledge – that athletes spend much more time than that on their sports. (Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/college/2016/11/02/ncaa-rules-student-athletes-time-academics/93164832/)

So essentially college athletes are holding down a demanding full-time job while also constantly traveling, and they’re still expected to keep up with their classwork. Would you want to trade places with them? Did we mention you’ll get tackled by 320-pound linemen? Oh, and if your grades slip, your “guaranteed” four-year scholarship can be revoked.

Alabama freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (#13 on the roster) entered the game at halftime and rallied his team to victory.

 

No doubt the University of Alabama bookstore has been doing a brisk business in #13 jerseys this week.

Who gets that cash… and the cash from the billion dollar TV contracts and ticket sales? The NCAA, the schools, the coaches… everyone except the players. Read more here.

For 2011-12, the most recent year for which audited numbers are available. NCAA revenue was $871.6 million, most of which came from the rights agreement with Turner/CBS Sports. (source: http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/finances/revenue

Back in 1982, legendary Marquette basketball coach and TV color commentator Al McGuire spoke at Xavier University. I remember him saying that college athletes should get some sort of stipend, a bit of cash so they could buy a slice of pizza when they were out with their friends. Here we are nearly 40 years later —  or 160 years later if you count from the plantation era— and nothing much has changed.

 

 

Secrets, revealed!

In true “new year, fresh start” fashion, I was cleaning the basement last night. But I didn’t make much progress because I stumbled across this:

I have no idea what Donald Junior was doing in our laundry room, but Robert Mueller, call me. I’ve got the goods.

 

 

The Resolution will not be televised

Happy 2018! May it be filled with peace, love and understanding. (HT to Nick Lowe.)

Most folks who make (and break) New Year’s resolutions usually focus on breaking bad habits or some form of self-flagellation.

This year, why not focus on adding more pleasure to your life instead… via the written word. “Read more” is a nice positive resolution, and one you can keep with these great tips from Austin Kleon:

Austin’s Steal Like An Artist book is highly recommended for your reading list. And if you want to double-down on resolutions, another good one would be “subscribe to Austin Kleon’s weekly newsletter” – there’s always plenty of wonderful food for thought in each issue, so your brain can gorge itself while your body stays on its New Year’s diet.

Other reading recommendations:

Happy reading, and Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

The bestest albums of 2017

Yes, even Dubbatrubba is not immune to the year-end list frenzy that sweeps the media this time of year (“Top News Stories”… “Best Movies”… “Favorite Cat Memes”… )

But it’s worth noting that while most hacks stick to a Top 10, in true Spinal Tap fashion, this goes to 11.

 

Not that you asked, not that you care, but here are my favorite albums of 2017, in no particular order, with a video of one of the tracks included for your listening/viewing pleasure.

The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

Alvvays – Antisocialites

Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher

Ron Gallo – Heavy Meta

Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator

The National – Sleep Well Beast 

Aimee Mann – Mental Illness 

Chuck Prophet – Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins

Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm