A royal pain

As I type this, a B-list actress from the U.S. has just gotten hitched to a British prince… Harry or William, I can never remember which is which. Here’s how many damns I give about the whole spectacle:

Now that the wedding is over, can we please call it a day on the whole monarchy business? You can keep the palaces open as Harry Potter-style theme parks, and keep the silly hats, but treating people like royalty (literally) just because they come from a certain gene pool seems antiquated at best.

You get a sash, and you get a sash, and you get a sash… but not you Kate. 

They only serve ceremonial roles anyway… they’re basically the UK equivalent of Wal-Mart greeters, only with a LOT better pay scale.

Welcome to England!

This is the only Queen that matters.

This is the only Prince we should adore.

Game (of Thrones) over. Exit stage left.

 

 

All That Jazz(ercise)

On Saturday, I attended a Jazzercise class for the first (and perhaps only) time in my life. My wife has been an instructor for nearly two decades, and on Saturday they had a “bring your sweetie” strength training class. So basically it was me and all the other spouses/significant others of the instructors and a few class regulars.

                                                               Team shirt.

My wife has been asking me to attend a class for many years — the answer was always a resounding “no way!”

But some of the other spouses/boyfriends have attended classes occasionally — I call them “curve-wreckers” — and I hear all about it for months. Because it was Mother’s Day Eve, I finally waved the white leg warmers of surrender.

Not me. Not Jazzercise either.

Also, I was promised there would be beer afterward.

Here’s what I learned from my adventure:

1. I am the most uncoordinated human being on the planet.

2. “Jazzercise” may sound like something your grandma does at the senior center, but it will kick your butt. And your pecs. And your abs. And every other muscle area in your body. It’s like P90X, set to music.

3. They really need to update their name… because I didn’t hear a single jazz tune. It was more like a “hot hits” radio station.

4. Beer tastes better after a workout. If I keep going back, maybe I can have both kinds of “six-packs.”

5. Happy wife, happy life!

 

 

 

E.T., don’t phone home

My son’s Algebra teacher is also my new hero. Here’s a note she sent out to parents of her students:

Parents –
I have “preached” from the beginning of the school year, in August, that cell phones are not to be out during class unless I have given permission.  Most students are having no problem with this as I allow them to take the phone out to take a picture of a homework screen on the Daily PowerPoint or to use an app for making note of the homework assignment.  Most students can put their phones away after completing the task.
Apparently my long-term sub was a bit more lenient about cell phone use and some students seem to feel his policies still stand.
Noticing this after my return on Monday, I let students know that my policy still stands.  But, I had to confiscate phones from students today.  My policy is stated in the Policies, Procedures and Rules document all students received from me in August.  It is also posted on Schoology.  It refers you to the Student Handbook for the school’s policy on cell phones.  The pertinent section is on page 12.  The Student Handbook is on the school website – www.walnuthillseagles.com.
I’ve heard all the excuses: it’s my mom letting me know that she’s picking me up after school; it’s my grandma telling me she’ll be coming to get me at a certain time for a dentist appt; it’s my friend letting me know what we’re doing this weekend, and on and on it goes. I even had a student tell me (as their phone was actually ringing), that they needed to take the call.  Did I mind?!
If as a parent, you feel it is more important that your child is always checking their cell phone for a message, please let me know.  I will not repeat instruction, during class or at a Help Time, for students who choose to use their instruction time for cell phone time.  I feel they can last 50 minutes in a class, then check for messages on their way to their next class.  We often finish with a few minutes left in the bell and I haven’t minded that they pull their phones out then.
Emergencies should always come through an office.  I cannot release a student without office notification anyway, so letting them know about something through a cell phone message isn’t the proper or most expedient way to retrieve your student from school.
I hope you can support me in this.  My assumption is that your child is at Walnut for an education.  If that’s not important to you or your child, then I need to know this.
Thanks so much,
Mrs. Burris
 I love it! Her class is the high school equivalent of Luke’s Diner on Gilmore Girls: 

I love the closing lines the most: I hope you can support me in this.  My assumption is that your child is at Walnut for an education.  If that’s not important to you or your child, then I need to know this. 

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.

 

Odds and Sods

In construction, it’s “measure twice, cut once”… the email equivalent is “proofread twice, send once.” My kids’ school had a capital fundraising campaign, the Legacy of Excellence, but they misspelled “Excellence” as “Excellance” in the email subject line:

At least they got it right in the body of the email.

C. Montgomery Burns would NOT approve.

 

Meanwhile on Craigslist, a… well, let’s just call her a “contractor”… found a creative way around the rules against adult services, by placing this ad in the “Cars for Sale” section:

For the record, I am looking for a car for my son, NOT, I repeat NOT, looking for different “trunk.”

And while we’re in the gutter, we may as well as stay there. This was the opening of an article that appeared on WCPO.com a couple of weeks ago:

I’m sure the author of the article must be so proud… perhaps s/he always dreamed of being able to describe twerking in a clinical-yet-picturesque style. All those years of journalism classes have finally paid off! (And in just eight short years, the loans for those classes will be paid off too!)

 

OK, enough of this silliness. Since the title of this post was nicked from a Who album, I need to include a song from that release:

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.

Not-so-humble brag

Child #2, Peter, turned 17 yesterday. All he wanted for his birthday was protein powder, t-shirts and some sneakers. He’s a man of simple means. Always has been. He’s been working at the local pizza parlor for nearly a year, and he never spends any of his paychecks – they just go right into the bank.

I wish he’d give lessons to my daughter… she’s more like this:

Peter also had been taking all of his tip money and throwing it in a box in his room. A few weeks ago, we counted the cash, and it was more than $800. Of course, once he gets his license and starts driving and dating, that surplus will dwindle quickly.

This past Saturday, his “Caring for our Watersheds” project finished 9th in a countywide high school competition.

Peter is at the far right. He won’t spend any of his oversized check.

He and his project partner, Fiona, worked with school officials and their science teacher to get two water bottle refilling stations installed in high traffic areas at school, and put announcements about it on the school P.A. system. (He’s a chip off the old tree-hugger stump!) Fiona couldn’t make the final presentation to the judges, so Peter had give a five-minute presentation on stage, solo, then field questions from the judges. Waayyy out of his comfort zone, but that’s part of the process, right? Now it’s in his muscle memory.

Speaking of taking the stage, my first cousin once removed performed on the Today Show yesterday. She plays Cady in Mean Girls, which just received 12 Tony nominations. NBD.

I’d feel inferior if I weren’t a world-renowned blogger. (Hey, I have readers in France and Slovenia! Actually, make that “reader” – singular. )

(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.

 

Evel. Pure evil.

As a 70s kid, I grew up with Evel Knievel on the brain. Motorcycle stuntman extraordinaire. (But “Skycycle” failure.)

It was the 70s. ‘Nuff said.

A perennial performer on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Jumping fountains, jumping buses, jumping a pool of sharks before Fonzie did.

Before Bodyglove wetsuits existed, people often wore their leather jackets in the ocean.

Evel was all the rage, and so were his toys.

Naturally my brother and I would attempt to emulate Evel. Usually that involved setting up a piece of plywood on a log as a makeshift ramp and attempting to jump over some obstacle on our Schwinn bikes with slick back tires and banana seats.

But once we just decided to try a long jump – sans bicycles – in our living room. We marked out a launch line and would track our landing spots, trying to jump a bit farther with each attempt (and probably making motorcycle “vroom-vroom” sounds with every launch). On my final attempt (and the reason it was final will become perfectly clear by the end of this sentence), I set a new record… but in true homage to my hero Evel, I got a bit wobbly on the landing, stumbled, lost my balance, and tried to stop my fall… by putting my hand through one of the panes in a living room window.

Luckily, my hand came out unscathed. But the window wasn’t as lucky. Because my father wasn’t much of a handyman and our meager household budget didn’t have room for repairs, we just thumbtacked a Hefty garbage bag over the missing windowpane. That damn garbage bag was up for years, a constant reminder of my failed stuntman career. Which is why I force my kids to take out the trash… the Cinch-Sak memories are simply too painful.

Why do you taunt me so?

On a brighter note, a few decades later, I stumbled again… but this time it was stumbling across a true gem of an album.

If you ever see this album at a flea market, buy it! It has excerpts of Evel interviews prior to the ill-fated Snake River Jump, and even a song sung by Evel himself (and I’m using the term “sung” very liberally). The album wraps up with this lovely ballad (and by “lovely” I mean “cheesier than a pound of Swiss”).

He can move a mountain

Leap across a winding river

Once he’s made his mind up, there’s nothing he won’t try

There’s something deep inside him, lusting for the thrills that drive him.

Yet he knows someday he’s gonna have to face that canyon in the sky.

I miss you, Evel. The world needs more risk-takers like you. And stronger windows.