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)

 

 

Save a forest without chaining yourself to a tree

This was dumped on my driveway recently:

So I’m dredging up a post from 2015 that’s still relevant today.

Every year, someone would drop a two-ton Yellow Pages book on our front porch… and they’d drop one on the porch of every other house on our street. And on every street in the neighborhood, the city, and the world for all I know. Seriously? Who uses the Yellow Pages print edition anymore? Marty McFly? Are they looking up “Betamax Repair Shop” in it?

BetaMax

Are they trying to hire a private investigator?

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Our gargantuan edition went directly from our front porch to the recycle bin, just like it has for the past  decade. But the prime directive of the green living trifecta is “reduce” (then reuse, with recycle as the last, least efficient option). So I found out that we can opt out of Yellow Pages print delivery. You can too. “Let your fingers do the walking” (archaic video reference is below) on your computer keyboard, and sign up here: https://www.yellowpagesoptout.com/.

Tell your neighbors about the opt-out option too – based on the heft of the YP tome, we can save a tree or two per house, easily.

treehugger-love

 

 

 

Department of Questionable Decisions… how may I help you?

Look, I get it, your first name is tailor-made for this nickname. And your hair is a perfect fit too. But perhaps, in 2018, it’s time to just go with Dwight… especially in any public profile:

“Have you learned nothing?”

 

Monday morning breakfast Patti

The punk rock poet high priestess Patti Smith is 71 years young, and she has a lot of wisdom to share about the power of positivity, even in times of despair. Please read this Yahoo! article and this one from the LA Times. Ostensibly they’re about fighting climate change (a cause Patti’s daughter Jesse is championing), but no matter where you stand on that issue, you can find some pearls from Patti in the articles. A few excerpts are below.

From the Yahoo! article:

And in terms of everything else, I would just say that each of us, we each have one life, and we cherish the lives around us. We cherish our family. We cherish our children. We cherish life itself, and I think in these times that are so dark and seem so overwhelming, partially because also the social media and the media in general, we’re being bombarded, and also by our own government, bombarded, bombarded with so much conflict, so much negativity, so many fear-inducing statements or news, that we just have to find some way every day to be grateful to be alive, to be grateful for what we have, and try to just take a beat every day.

I know that sounds so simple, and it’s not a religious or philosophic thing. It’s just a human thing. It’s really hard starting the day quick looking to see what bad thing has happened [on the news]. So start the day, drink a glass of water, think about what you want to do today, think about what makes you happy. Any small thing to start the day feeling some energy for and enthusiasm for life, because it’s so easy to get beaten down as soon as you wake up. And that’s what I do, because I felt myself getting caught in that loop, starting with the election process. I admit that, and I’m not usually a person that can be brought down or made anxious. And we have to fight that, because it becomes its own addiction. We have to fight that inclination and try to enter the day just glad to be alive, because no matter what is the stuff is going on around us, it’s beautiful to be alive.

We only have [one life]. This is what we have. Despite our belief system, if one believes in afterlife, resurrection, or all these things, right now on Earth, this is the life that we have. And there’s so much beauty and so much wondrous things. We have to find a way to save a little for ourselves every day. And remind ourselves why it’s beautiful to be alive. Go to the botanical gardens and look and think, “This is what we want to preserve.” Go to the river and say, “This is what we want to be clean.”

And from the LA Times piece:

Well, I think, like anyone else, it can be debilitating. It can be depleting, humiliating, every single day. It’s amazing that there’s not a single day that goes by that something is said — our so-called president carries things out in such a way that he can’t make one gesture without trying to magnify himself.

Truthfully, I have found it so difficult. But my philosophy has been in the last several months just to do my work. I keep attentive to what is going on — I know exactly what’s going on on the news. But I have to put it in a certain place, because I’m 71 years old. I have a lot of work to do — a lot of positive work to do. And I think that if I can’t change the things that are happening right now, what I can do is just resonate positivity, strength, unity, individuality.

You know, when others articulate things in a strong and dignified manner, we have to magnify that type of response. In the end, no matter how bad things get I always believe that good will prevail. So I just try and do as much good work as I possibly can from the smallest gesture on, and that’s why I am supporting my daughter’s work.

All I can say is, focus on the good that you can do. We want a pandemic of good. We want a pandemic of positive change. I think that we all just have to find each other, step through the mire, find each other, support each other and do good work.

 

 

Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!

I attended a taping of the Jerry Springer Show yesterday. Don’t worry, it wasn’t that bottom-feeding TV show of his… there were no midgets married to horses, no clown strippers, no trailer park homewreckers (at least as far as I could tell – it’s not something that you ask in polite conversation).

This was the Jerry Springer Podcast.

If you’re not from Cincinnati (and old like I am) you may not know that Jerry was once a city councilman for our fair burgh… albeit a councilman who got caught in a scandal because he wrote a personal check to a call girl. His political career survived that incident and he later became mayor of Cincinnati, then a local TV news anchor. And his syndicated TV show wasn’t always the hot mess that it is now.

In 1990, his TV station’s owner (which also produced Donahue and Sally Jesse Raphael) recruited him to host a new daytime talk show. “There was no expectation that it would last at all,” Springer recalls. “My first contract was six weeks.” At the beginning, The Jerry Springer Show emulated Donahue and tackled serious subjects. But the success of Ricki Lake in 1993 convinced Springer and his producers to target a younger audience and go full tabloid. “Young people are much more open in their lifestyles, so every once in a while the show would go crazy,” Springer says. By the late 1990s, Universal had bought the show—and dictated that Springer up the crazy. (Source: https://www.tvinsider.com/47933/jerry-springer-picks-10-of-his-best-of-the-worse-episodes/)

But Jerry’s podcast is something completely different. My friend Jene Galvin is Jerry’s sidekick, and they tackle political topics, along with some amusing banter among Jerry, Jene and co-host Megan Hils, plus a live performance from a roots/Americana band. (Last night’s musical guest was Wild Carrot.)

Jerry’s a lifelong liberal, so the show doesn’t just lean left, it’s a full 90-degrees left of center. But the man’s no dummy – he earned his law degree from Northwestern, spent more than a decade in local politics and won mutiple local Emmys for his TV commentaries. So he has an interesting take on the current political shenanigans (which often make the antics on his TV show look tame in comparison).

The podcast is certainly worth a listen. And if you’re in the area, I highly recommend that you attend the show, which takes place every other Tuesday at a neat little place called Folk School Coffee Parlor in the quaint Kentucky town of Ludlow, along the Ohio River. There’s also a local brewery/taproom next door called Bircus Brewing… but go after the show, not before… we don’t want any fights breaking out (save that for the TV show).

 

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Matt Damon…

This clip is about as Bahston as it gets…

“How do we have this?”

“We need to negotiate heah…”

“We got connections…”

The banner went missing for 48 hours but is now back with the Red Sox. And apparently there were no negotiations. But in tribute to the city where the banner was “found”, here are the Pernice Brothers with an underappreciated gem of a song called Somerville.

 

Rumpelstiltskin is my (horoscope) name

My name’s dubbatrubba, and I’m a Capricorn, just like all the cool kids (Baby Jesus, Donna Summer, John Denver). Check out this recent horoscope:

Oh yeah, that’s me, baby! “Spinning small-talk fodder into golden threads that draw people together.” They know me so well! Actually, they don’t know me at all. I’m better at turning small-talk fodder into long-winded, pointless, egocentric stories.

But I’ll take the horoscope at face value it I can use it to my advantage. If you’d like to rent me (a modern day Rumpelstiltskin… or “Rump” for short) for your next gathering to liven things up a bit, just contact my agent, Artie Fufkin. (Warning, clip NSFW.)

Don’t waste your time with all those other Zodiac zeroes; go for the Zodiac hero. After all, it’s written in the stars: with ME on the guest list, your party is sure to be swingin’…

 

 

 

Reading is fundamental

Reading truly is fundamental. Don’t just take my word for it – take it from two members of the “Hill Street Blues” cast:

 

Here are three articles I’ve stumbled across recently that are worth reading.

  1. The supremely talented singer/songwriter Iris DeMent has an interesting take on her career in general, and performing in particular. Read the entire Boston Globe article here. As someone who loves live music, I love this quote from the interview:

“I feel really close to the world. Close to the people in the room. Unobstructed. I feel like everything’s going to be OK in a way I don’t really understand. I feel part of something that’s timeless and ancient. I feel a lot of love. That’s probably what I’m describing — love. I feel love.” 

2. Staying in the music vein, but on a sadder note, this article on Uproxx uses the Conan show decision to axe musical acts from their new half-hour format as the lead-in to a larger lamentation about the lack of exposure for up-and-coming artists. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Regularly putting on musical acts that are virtually unknown to a mainstream audience, making a late night show an avenue for actual discovery — not to mention spontaneity, surprise, and plain old genuine excitement — who is doing that now?….

Things are far too staid in late night, musically and otherwise — which is the opposite of how it should be, and yet reflective of how culture generally feels right now. We live in a time where there are more media outlets serving a wider range of people than ever in the history of human civilization. And yet, those outlets feel more homogenized, sanitized, centralized, and corporatized than ever. Whether the driver is ratings, web traffic, or algorithms, the pull of culture now is always toward the familiar, fatuous middle of franchise reboots, comic book adaptations, and pop music “perfection.” This inevitably influences how we see that world — the middle assumes outsized importance, and the margins are further, well, marginalized.

3. And it isn’t just late night musical experimentation that’s dying… it’s also your refrigerator. This great Washington Post article about the tradeoffs of technology is equal parts entertaining and enlightening.

That’s the irony of modern life in so many ways, multiplying all our choices while taking away the most fundamental one: the ability to choose something simpler and more likely to endure.

Happy reading!

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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.

 

 

Location, location, location… or just plain loco!

The first house that my wife and I ever owned is up for sale.

It was built in 1919, yet when we bought it in 1997, we were only the second owners. (More on that below.) The price tag was $80,000, but we took out a loan for an extra $25K to make some long overdue upgrades (HVAC, roof, windows, upgrading the wiring, remediating termite damage… the unsexy stuff you never see on HGTV).

In 2001, with Baby #1 being quite ambulatory and Baby #2 on the way, we knew we needed more space on a street with less traffic. We sold our house for $115,000 and felt lucky to do so, seeing as was right off a busy four-lane throughfare, right across the street from a used car lot and right next door to a 24-hour chili restaurant that didn’t attract the most desirable clientele, especially in the wee hours of the night.

The current owners (the folks to whom we sold) have made some cosmetic upgrades, but nothing elaborate. The layout is still choppy, two of the three bedrooms are small by today’s standards, the kitchen is still tiny (and still features the tile floor that my college roommate Art helped me install… and by “helped me install” I mean he did the work while I watched.)

Nice job, Art!

I’ll grant you that the neighborhood has improved dramatically since we departed. In fact, my wife and I always joke that the powers-that-be waited until we moved out and then said “OK, now that they’re gone, we can finally turn this area into a hipster hotbed.” The 24-hour restaurant is now a fitness studio. The Hardees a block away has transformed into an Indian restaurant. The old Red Wing shoe store site has become one of the hottest brunch spots in town. The big-box home improvement store a block east (R.I.P, HQ) is now a megachurch where 30,000 attend services each weekend. The old cardboard factory across the main drag from the church is a local brewery’s gleaming new HQ, complete with a ginormous taproom that’s constantly packed. (You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting five bearded millennials.)

But the view from the master bedroom windows is still a used car lot.

And the house is still on a lot the size of a postage stamp (remember postage stamps?).

Here’s the new price tag:

$309,000? Are you crazy? This isn’t San Francisco or Seattle.

The Cincinnati housing market is hot, but it ain’t that hot.

More power to them if they can get that much for our old house. I just hope they take a page from the book of the original owner and manage their money wisely, as explained in this column that appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer shortly after we moved into the house:

Thursday, December 11, 1997 
Miss Koehl’s million-dollar
finance lesson


BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Ruth Koehl left almost $4 million to strangers. No strings. Except that the money must be used to help people in Cincinnati. What a nice string.

And what an exceptional woman. Described by a friend as ”an astute businesswoman who could dominate a corporation, well before it was fashionable to do so,” she walked to her neighborhood hardware store to use the copying machine for her Wall Street Journal clippings.

It cost her only a nickel there. Copies are 10 cents most everywhere else.

Miss Ruth Caroline Koehl (pronounced Kale) was born in 1903 in the family home on Reading Road near Florence Avenue in Walnut Hills. When she was 16, her father, Harry, built a house on Appleton Street in Oakley for his wife, Emma, and Ruth and her sister, Elmira.

Miss Koehl lived in that house until June 1996, when she died at age 93 of a stroke. A nice brick house, small with some pretty stained glass, it sold recently for $80,000. She drove a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass sedan, immaculately maintained, just like her little house.

This money, $3.8 million in an unrestricted endowment to the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, belonged to her. She earned it as a business executive and tended it as a shrewd investor. A 1921 graduate of Hughes High School, she attended the University of Cincinnati Evening College while working during the day.

Her last job, her favorite, was as comptroller of a Bellevue, Ky., company that made hardware, medicine cabinets and light fixtures. She retired while only in her 80s, so she had a lot of energy left to complain about, for instance, zoning.

”We had our differences,” says Jack Staudt. Miss Koehl opposed the zoning change that let his restaurant move next door to her. ”She was very well spoken and very professional. But she could be a pain.”

I feel confident that Miss Koehl would revel in that last bit of information.

She was not a helpless, lonely little old lady. She was a strong and confident woman who lived a long time. Long enough to outlive most of her family, except for a few second cousins. Elmira died in 1987. But she had people. People who chose her.

She spent holidays with Bonnie Powell and her family. ”She was terribly intelligent, could think rings around almost anybody else,” says Mrs. Powell, who knew Miss Koehl for 50 years. ”She was brilliant. And fun.”

Jane Greene, daughter of the family that owned the Delta Queen, remembers her as a frequent passenger, ”very popular and a great dancer.” Jane’s brother, Tom, says she looked like Fay Wray, King Kong’s beautiful blond co-star.

”She liked the idea of educating women in business,” Mrs. Powell says. ”I always thought maybe she’d fund some kind of scholarship. She never got to it.”

Well, let’s see. What has Miss Koehl taught us?

You can do a lot worse in life than live in a nice house in a real neighborhood, where you could pick the occasional fight and still get the polite respect of your opponents. And you can’t buy or rent the friendship of somebody like Bonnie Powell. Or the admiration of a boy who thinks you look like a movie star.

Her money will go to whatever we need around here. The arts, health, human services, the environment and education. No strings. Whatever we need.

Or she could have built a mansion with a gazillion bedrooms and hot and cold running servants. And she could have driven a car that cost more than the house on Appleton.

She could have.

But, of course, Ruth Caroline Koehl knew the value of a dollar.