Not ready for Prime time

Take a gander at all the fabulous things I bought during Amazon Prime Day:

Sorry that I didn’t get sucked (or suckered) into your retail vortex, Mr. Bezos. First of all, “Prime Day” is a contrivance intended merely to get us to open up our wallets, much like the Tooth Fairy, Sweetest Day and Cincinnati Bengals home football games. And secondly, what you’re peddling is all just “stuff”… and “stuff” doesn’t bring long-term happiness. In fact, buying stuff actually brings us down.

All the gadgets, gizmos and geegaws are no substitute for a walk in the park, playing catch with your kids or having lunch with a friend. When you start selling that, let me know.

 

 

Getting to the non-meat of the matter

Over the weekend, my older sister sent me a link to this article in Time. WeWork is taking meat off the menu, and won’t pay for meals that include meat:

The startup has told its 6,000 global staff that they will no longer be able to expense meals including meat, and that it won’t pay for any red meat, poultry or pork at WeWork events. In an email to employees this week outlining the new policy, co-founder Miguel McKelvey said the firm’s upcoming internal “Summer Camp” retreat would offer no meat options for attendees.

“New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact,” said McKelvey in the memo, “even more than switching to a hybrid car.”

This is bad news for Arby’s.

But it’s good news for a planet that desperately needs it. WeWork’s new policy is a bold move – one that’s sure to get some backlash, yet one I applaud with my wimpy vegetarian hands.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go full Morrissey on you.

I gave up meat 27 years ago for health, environmental and economic reasons, and it’s worked for me, but I try to avoid prosthelytizing… usually. To each their own.

But “going veg” doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Perhaps there’s a less-meaty middle ground. Even a “meatless Monday” every week would be a big boon in reducing greenhouse gases, improving health and saving the planet.

Livestock alone account for more than 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and by 2050 the food sector could account for half if cuts are implemented in other sectors along the lines that countries have committed to doing. A vegan or vegetarian diet could cut those emissions by 70% and 63%, respectively.

Changing dietary patterns could save $1 trillion annually by preventing health care costs and lost productivity. That figure balloons to as much as $30 trillion annually when also considering the economic value of lost life. And that doesn’t even include the economic benefits of avoiding devastating extreme weather events that could result from climate change.

(from the Time article… and below are a couple  more fun facts from a CNN article about going vegan)

 

Perhaps it’s time for all of us to give peas (and pea proteins) a chance. Veggie options have come a long way in the past couple of decades.

Take a page from the WeWork workbook and ban the beef, chuck the chicken and pull pork from the menu, at least every once in a while.

C’mon, give it a try. The planet needs you.

 

 

Sunday morning coming down

A trifecta of odds and ends for your morning perusal.

  1. It’s the finals of the World Cup, with… that one team… playing… some other team. (Sorry, I know fútbol is the most popular sport in the world, but I just can’t get into it.)

I’m with Michael Cera

 

2. It’s hard to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor in a backyard garden when your garden looks like an illustration from a Beatrix Potter book:

Sorry for the fuzzy shot… my flip phone is only 3 megapixels, and I didn’t want to bother the bunnies while they were having dinner.

Those little buggers ate all of my cherry tomatoes. But they don’t like basil, apparently. Pesto, anyone?

 

3. I may not be into soccer, but it’s been fun watching the Reds lately. After an abysmal start, they’re actually playing decent ball. And they have the best defensive centerfield in the game:

It’s not the first time Billy’s stolen a homer from Matt Carpenter:

 

Enjoy your Sunday!

 

 

 

 

Odds and ends

A few leftovers on a Monday morning:

Heartbreak for the Hogs

It’s been a couple of weeks since this happened, but I was on vacation at the time (also, still smarting from it). The Arkansas Razorbacks were one strike away from clinching their first national title in baseball at the College World Series. One pop foul away, actually. Then this happened:

Great Bill Buckner’s ghost! You know what happens next… Oregon State ties it, then wins that game and the next one. What a way to lose. But the Razorbacks will be back.

The Great Pretender

I saw The Pretenders in concert on Friday night, and now have firsthand evidence that Chrissie Hynde is the coolest chick in rock and roll. (I’m using the term “chick” because I’m pretty sure Chrissie would use that term also.) While the set list was a bit short on classics (I’d be happy if they played their first album in its entirety), it was still a darn fine show, and Chrissie is still going strong at 66. (Must be that vegan lifestyle.) Props to original drummer Martin Chambers, too, working overtime keeping time on the kit.

I didn’t take this photo… Chrissie doesn’t allow audience members to take them, and our seats were much farther away.

Good news/Bad news

Good news: Superchunk is finally playing a show within 100 miles of Cincinnati. It’s been eons since that happened.

Bad news: The show sold out in 13 hours… before I could snag a ticket.

  

Ending on a happier note

 

 

Bridging the digital divide

The excerpt above is from the introduction to The Moth, a book of 50 stories from The Moth storytelling organization, which includes a radio hour on 400+ stations around the country.

The book came out in 2013, but those lines are even more relevant (and incriminating) five years later. We’ve all done it, to varying degrees. Sending a text instead of making a call. Trading a birthday lunch for a Facebook “like.” Netflix binging instead of getting together with friends over the weekend.

Often our noses are so buried in our phones that we don’t even look up anymore… at the trees, the sky, or our friend sitting across the table from us.

Do your friends a favor: meet with them, face-to-face, and leave the phones out of sight and out of mind. And just listen.

And now for fans of 80s tunes and/or videos that feature copious amounts of rouge on both male and female performers, here’s Missing Persons with their 1982 semi-hit, “Words”:

 

The weekend’s too short

I had a fun-filled, music-filled weekend (the latter often begets the former). Friday night, I went to see Japanese Breakfast at the Taft Theater Ballroom, which is actually the basement below the Taft Theater in downtown Cincinnati. It has that 80s basement rec room vibe to it (the only thing that’s missing is the bumper pool table) but I’ve seen some great shows there, including the one Friday night. Japanese Breakfast is fronted by Michelle Zauner, a Korean-American singer/songwriter/performer from Philly who kicks butt with her band live.

She’s got a great voice, and her lyrical skills are impressive. Japanese Breakfast has two albums out, and both are fantastic slices of dream pop. The first one, Psychopompwas written while her mom was battling cancer, and recorded after her mom passed away. The new one is called Soft Sounds from Another Planet. Here’s one of my favorites from it.

On Saturday, I saw a cover band at a local bar in Mt. Adams. But not just any cover band. Cereal Killers cover songs from my era… not the “hits” either, but the indie/college rock/pub rock/new wave gems from the late 70s and early 80s. The Clash. X. Smithereens. R.E.M. INXS. With some Tom Petty thrown in for good measure.

The lead guitarist is my friend and neighbor, and my wife is good friends with the lead singer’s wife. They were playing outside and it was a gazillion degrees, but I still hit the dance floor. Probably the first time I’ve danced in more than a decade (note: I’m still horrible but now am 29% more arthritic!). I danced mainly because the lead singer’s wife guilted me into it (it was her birthday – how could I refuse?) but also, how many more chances will I get in my lifetime to dance to a Billy Bragg song? (Answer: two at best, with a margin of error of plus or minus two.)

Who needs Father’s Day gifts? All I need is a bunch of live music and a couple days off from work. Actually, I could use a couple more days off from work… I’m still aching.

 

The feedback loop de loop

After my last blog post about poetry, I got a nice note (OK, it was a text, same difference in 2018) from my friend Jacqui. (She’s one of the “unholy trinity”… i.e. the first three people that I trusted enough to send a link to my blog, back when I was young not as old and scared of judgment and worried about being “not good enough.” Now I know that I’m not good enough and don’t care!)

Here’s Jacqui’s three-part text:

Thanks for the kind words and profound thoughts, Jacqui. That’s a great quote you shared. Whether you like our current president or can’t stand him (clearly there’s no middle ground), by any objective measure, the language he uses is the harshest, ugliest stuff we’ve ever seen out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, by a country mile. And that should scare all of us. We can respond in kind, or we can respond by being kinder to our fellow human beings in our words and our actions. The latter path will be more effective in effecting a change.

Moving right along…

A couple of months ago, I posted about Cincinnati artist Mark DeJong and his “Swing House” art project. Now that project (and Cincinnati in general) are getting some national love – check out this New York Times article. Here’s an excerpt:

And here’s the author’s video from her Instagram post:

It’s nice to see Mark getting national recognition for his amazing work. And if you’re keeping score at home, dubbatrubba.com gave you the scoop two months sooner than the New York Times. That’s kind of a big deal…

 

 

 

 

Roses are red, violets are blue…

… I went to a poetry reading, and you should too!

(Don’t worry, the poets I saw were much better than that.)

Yes, I went to a poetry reading last night (along with about 50 other folks!), and heard words from eight talented folks from the Cincinnati area. Just words, nothing more. It was nothing less than transcendent.

The poets included:

  • Bucky Ignatius, a “semi-reformed hippie” who did mostly short poems (he has a book called Fifty Under Fifty featuring poems that are 50 words or fewer) that were typically humorous, but also profound.
  • Pauletta Hansel, former Poet Laureate for Cincinnati, sharing deeply moving poems about her mother’s battle with dementia.
  • Michael Henson, a poet and fiction writer (and Poet Laureate for Mt. Washington, my neighborhood), bringing tales of Appalachia (and numbers) to life.
  • Desirae Hosley from WordPlay Cincy, whose spoken word piece about body image was a show-stopper.
  • Manuel Iris, a school teacher and the current Cincinnati Poet Laureate, sharing deeply moving words about living between two worlds (Mexico and the U.S.) and struggling to define “home.”

The program was called Rhyme & Wine. It was hosted by Water Tower Fine Wines, the local wine shop in my neighborhood.

The Mount Washington Community Council has funded this event for the past four years. Some will consider that a waste of neighborhood funds, frittering away dollars on something so ephemeral. But we need more poetry and less punditry in our lives.

Analog moments in the Digital Age? Very much so! Anachronistic? No way! Words matter. Now more than ever.

Roses are red
Violets are blue.
This poem doesn’t rhyme
Who cares, it’s free verse!

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

Fred Rogers is having a moment, nearly two decades after his show signed off.

Tom Hanks is set to play him in a movie. A documentary about him called Won’t You Be My Neighbor opened in select cities yesterday. Maxwell King has written a book that is due out soon called The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. This article from The Atlantic website pulls from that book, and demonstrates the care that Fred took in scrutinizing every word that he and his fellow cast members ever spoke on the show, to make sure it was right on target for his target audience of preschoolers.

The writers even coined the term “Freddish” to describe the language. Here’s a great example from the article about how a simple line could morph:

Per the pamphlet, there were nine steps for translating into Freddish:

  1. “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: It is dangerous to play in the street. ​​​​​​
  2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in It is good to play where it is safe.
  3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in, “Ask your parents where it is safe to play.”
  4. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” In the example, that’d mean getting rid of “ask”: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.
  5. “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” That’d be “will”: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.
  6. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Not all children know their parents, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play.
  7. “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Perhaps: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them.
  8. “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” “Good” represents a value judgment, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.
  9. “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Maybe: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing.

Tons of folks have parodied Fred Rogers, most famously Christopher Guest (with Bill Murray as the bass player) and Eddie Murphy (see below for videos). But the original Fred was a wonderful, caring teacher to generations of kids… and adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music matters

This is old news (not “fake news”) but well worth covering here. Back in April, KEXP-FM in Seattle received a bequest from an anonymous donor… to the tune of $10 million.

I couldn’t think of a more deserving station. KEXP is, per their website, “a listener-powered, non-profit arts organization.” Their slogan is “Where the music matters” and they are true to their words. They play great music (emerging artists, indie bands… you know, all that “weird” music that I love) and have knowledgeable, personable DJs. Actual human beings selecting songs… what a novel concept in a world of robot radio! They host a ton of live in-studio performances too – you can watch the videos on their website or their YouTube channel.

The anonymous donor, known only as “Suzanne,” didn’t even live in the Seattle area, but she had family there. When she mentioned to her uncle that her favorite local radio station had gone off the air, he turned her on to KEXP (you can listen online) and she became an avid listener and donor.

“When I told my uncle that my favorite radio station had just gone off the air, he turned me on to KEXP,” she said. “Music is one of the best ways to unite people globally, and I love an organization which spreads that goodness.”  (Source: New York Times article)

She passed away in 2016, at a relatively young age, and KEXP was informed of the gift in early 2017.

Not many folks have $10 million to leave to a radio station. (I double-checked my couch cushions… no such luck.) But we can all support music. This quote from KEXP Executive Director Tom Mara really resonated with me:

“I think this is a good time for anybody to reflect on the role that music has in their lives, in that music makes lives better, and each of us, including myself, we need to support artists to a greater extent. We need to see their shows, we need to buy their music and we need to discover artists that need to be heard,” Mara said. “Music often plays a background role in our lives, and it does very well there…Let’s take this moment as a way to bring music into the forefront of our lives, too.”  (source: Seattle PI article.)