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.)

 

 

The fickle finger of fame (a.k.a. A Tale of Two Artists)

On Thursday, I went to see a 25-year-old singer/songwriter in concert. On Saturday, my wife and my daughter went to see a 28-year-old singer/songwriter in concert.

The person I went to see has released four albums. His first releases featured a blend of country, blues and gospel, but his new album skews more toward pop while retaining those other influences. The person my wife and daughter went to see has released six albums. Her early releases were mainstream country, but her most recent releases are decidedly pop.

The guy I went to see played at the Southgate House Revival in Newport, Kentucky to an enthusiastic audience of about 400. The woman my wife and daughter went to see played in a field in Chicago… to an adoring audience of 61,500.

There isn’t much difference in talent between Parker Millsap and Taylor Swift.

One just has a stronger reputation.

You can keep your arena shows… I’m happier with other arrangements.

Because sometimes (but not always!) selling out stadiums requires a different form of selling out. And for the price of a single nosebleed seat to see T-Swizzle, I can get up close and personal at a dozen smaller shows.

It’s such a fine line between relative obscurity and worldwide fame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Wear Orange weekend

There’s an old joke about folks in Tennessee wearing orange over the weekend because it’s a triple threat: they can wear it for hunting on Friday, to the Vols football game on Saturday, and for their prison work-release duties on Sunday.

But I’m not in Tennessee, I’m not a hunter, I’m not a Vols fan (Go Hogs!) and I’m not subject to court-ordered work (yet!). However, I’m still wearing orange today. Here’s why:

Learn more here: https://wearorange.org/

Good grief, Charlie Brown knows how to rock!

I’m a huge Rush fan (read: nerd) and because I’m in charge of employee communications at work, I manage to slip a Rush reference into all-company emails every once in a while (read: nearly every week).

So all of my co-workers are aware of my undying devotion to Canada’s premier power rock trio (suck it, Triumph!). One colleague sent me a link to an article posted yesterday on the Onion AV club. A dude named Garren Lazar has been setting Peanuts footage to rock songs for a while, and he recently posted a clip that syncs up the Peanuts gang with the entire twenty-plus-minute “2112” song suite.

Naturally, I love it. Having Linus as the protagonist is pure genius… the same goes for Pigpen playing the drums like Neil Peart. Check out this three-minute excerpt:

The entire clip is here if you have 21 minutes and 12 seconds to spare. (Yes, 21:12! We see what you did there Garren!)

Have a Rushtastic weekend!

Sweet summer freedom

Today’s the last day of exams for my “rising senior, rising sophomore and rising 8th grader”… which means they won’t be rising at the crack of dawn for a few months. I’m sure they’ll celebrate in typical movie scene/music montage fashion this afternoon.

Well, they’re not the only ones who are celebrating. Daddy is delighted too! Summer vacation also means freedom for me:

  • Freedom from having to wake up 20 minutes early to squeeze in a quick workout (kettlebell swings in the basement – sun’s not out, guns not out)
  • Freedom from trying to wake three teenagers at 6 a.m. (there’s not enough blasting powder in the entire world)
  • Freedom from the headaches caused by the four kids/two bathrooms challenge (it requires a greater degree of planning and precision timing than the D-Day invasion)
  • Freedom from making Peter’s chicken and brown rice lunch (and freedom from our dog staring at me with those puppy dog eyes while I cut up the chicken).
  • Freedom from 26 “hurry up or you’ll miss the bus” warnings per morning (plus or minus 10).
  • Freedom from driving my daughter to school when she ignores the 26 warnings and misses the bus. Which means I have to miss my relaxing reading-filled bus ride to work, and instead I have to park 15 minutes away from my office. (Actually I could park closer but I’m too cheap to pay.)

I know it’ll end all too quickly, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

 

 

 

Yanny or Laurel? Who cares! Let’s drink!

The whole “Yanny or Laurel” audio clip was a viral sensation last week. (I know, I’m behind the times… I’m used to it.)

This New York Times slider will let you hear both.

But if you were born prior to the internet age, you’ve seen contentious debates like this before.

It divided the country. Even bowling teams nearly came to blows over it.

And then there was the great “Chocolate in my peanut butter/peanut butter on my chocolate” feud:

(I wonder if the kids were listening to Yanny/Laurel on their Walkmans.)

We’ll figure it out.