What’s past is prologue

Just a few nuggets from the news and the history archive. I’ll let you connect the dots. First from the news:

And then there’s this fact:

First, according to an analysis by the Cato Institute, between 1975 and 2015, foreign nationals from the seven banned countries killed exactly zero Americans on U.S. soil. Yet none of the four countries from which the 9/11 terrorists originated – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Lebanon – are subjected to travel ban.

And now from the history folder:  Today’ is the birth date of Fred Korematsu (he’s today’s “Google Doodle”… never would’ve heard of him otherwise).

Fred Korematsu died of respiratory failure at his daughter’s home in Marin County, California, on March 30, 2005. One of the last things Korematsu said was, “I’ll never forget my government treating me like this. And I really hope that this will never happen to anybody else because of the way they look, if they look like the enemy of our country.” He also urged others to “protest, but not with violence, and don’t be afraid to speak up. One person can make a difference, even if it takes forty years.”

 

 

 

Where there’s smoke, there’s suspicion

I don’t normally read Rolling Stone, but when I’m waiting at the dentist’s office with my kids and my choices are limited to:

A. a two-month old “Hot List” issue of Rolling Stone OR

B. a Highlights magazine where some dirty rat has already circled all the hidden objects in the picture puzzle (damn you to hell!)

I’ll go with the former. Their November issue featured Bruno Mars on the cover. Notice he’s holding a cigarette.

And in the photo spread for the Bruno Mars article, again he has a cig.

OK, so Bruno Mars is a smoker. Sad, but true. But turn a few more pages and you find a glossy photo of someone named Tinashe. (I’m so out of the pop music loop I don’t even know how to pronounce her name… Tina-SHAY? Tuh-NOSH-ay? TIN-ash?) And the pop princess is seductively sporting a smoking cigarette (say that 3 times fast).

But wait, there’s more. Turn a few more pages and you’ll find “Hot Actress” Haley Bennett, and yes, you guessed it, she’s smoking a cigarette also.

So the four largest, most prominent photos in the entire magazine feature people holding or smoking a cigarette. If I were the cynical type, I might strongly suspect that one or more cigarette companies (a.k.a. Merchants of Death) might’ve arranged an off-the-books, under the table sort of product placement deal. We all know that print is dying, so Rolling Stone certainly might be tempted to take some cash in a quid pro quo deal… or maybe Bruno, Tinashe and Haley got a wad of cash for holding a wad of tobacco. Certainly it would be a way to circumvent the tight restrictions on tobacco advertising in print… and make it seem “cool” to kids because all the “hot list” folks are doing it.

But no, Big Tobacco would never do something as insidious as that, right?

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/tobacco-companies-resist-corrective-statement-harms-smoking/

http://www.drugfree.org/news-service/tobacco-company-tactics-lie-for-years-then-blame-victims-for-being-deceived/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/01/tobacco-industry-e-cigarettes_n_3453821.html

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/20/big-tobacco-s-biggest-lies.html

http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/tobacco/reports-resources/sotc/by-the-numbers/10-really-bad-things-the.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0114.pdf

What this country needs is a dream… and a matching t-shirt

Love the latest t-shirt from Neil deGrasse Tyson. Get yours here: https://represent.com/ndt/neil-degrasse-tyson-lets-make-america-smart-again-the-cosmic-perspective?store=startalkIn

 

L.A. back in the day

I recently finished reading the book Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk by John Doe (of the band X) and Tom DeSavia. 

The book features several chapters written by John Doe, interspersed with single-chapter reminiscences from many other luminaries from the L.A. punk rock scene of the late 70s, including his bandmate and ex-wife Exene Cervenka, Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey of the Go-Gos, Henry Rollins of Black Flag, Mike Watt of the Minutemen and Dave Alvin of the Blasters. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire book, but the penultimate chapter from writer Kristine McKenna (one of the first mainstream journalists to chronicle the early L.A. scene) really sums things up nicely:

By the time the Sex Pistols released their first single, “God Save the Queen,” in May of 1977, the LA scene was already percolating, so we found our way to the mountain without a map. We weren’t copying anybody else, and from the start there were things that distinguished LA’s punk scene from the scenes in other cities. The first generation of LA punk was literate and really smart, for starters, and each band had its own sources of inspiration. Much of the punk that came in its wake wasn’t very smart at all, nor was it particularly original. A tremendous amount of diversity coexisted under the rubric of early LA punk too, and there was a surprising degree of parity between men and women—it was not a sexist scene, and women were treated as equals. Latinos and gays were welcome too, as were old people: your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? It was that way for a brief spot in time.

Later, she points out a key difference between a “scene” back then and now:

All kinds of people materialized, and anybody who’d gone to the trouble of showing up had a right to be there. It took a while for all this to start cooking, though, which brings me to the scourge known as social media. LA’s first punk community took a while to get up to speed because things didn’t “go viral” then. The jungle drum of word-of-mouth was how information got around, and measured against the lightning speed information travels today, LA’s first punk community coalesced at a glacial pace. People had to physically be in rooms together and talk to one another to learn about things then, and that world was intimate and tactile and visceral in a way texting can never be.

And I loved the way she described the innocence and optimism of youth:

We’re all like trees, and the leaves that are the people we love flutter to the ground one by one. Time is a brutal, devouring force, and until it’s begun to do its handiwork, it’s impossible to comprehend how very beautiful it is to be young, how privileged and innocent it is. You may think you know the score when you’re twenty-four years old, but you never do, for the simple reason that you can’t: life lobs curveballs that are unimaginable at twenty-four. We believed we were dangerous and subversive back in the day, but in fact, we were babies, yet to rub the fairy dust from our eyes. Time takes a heavy toll on ideals, and looking back, it all seems unbearably idealistic and sweet.

She does end on a redemptive note:

So the scene is gone, and many of the people who created it are gone too, and I suppose that’s how it’s meant to be. Great art is immutable and eternal, though. I recently attended an X show where I watched young people—yes, they were young—crowding the lip of the stage, mouthing the words to “White Girl” and “Year One.” The music continues to mean something to those who need it, and those who need it will continue to find it.

If you’re an oldster like me who enjoyed (and still enjoys) bands like X, The Blasters and The Minutemen, this book is definitely worth a read.

 

 

Japandroids new album

Japandroids have a new album coming out in a week, and NPR is streaming it now.

David Prowse (drums/vocals) and Brian King (guitar/vocals) of Japandroids

I love this guitar-and-drums duo from British Columbia, and thought their last album, Celebration Rock, was a pure, unadulterated burst of brilliance and the best album of 2012. (If you disagree, you’re wrong.)

The new album showcases a more expansive sonic palette, but it still rocks. Put your ears on it now, and pick up Near To The Wild Heart Of Life when it comes out on January 27th.

 

Walk-a-thon

Here’s the definition of traveling from the NBA Rule Book:

Section XIV-Traveling
a. A player who receives the ball while standing still may pivot, using either foot as the pivot foot.
b. A player who receives the ball while he is progressing or upon completion of a dribble, may use a two-count rhythm in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball.

But NBA officials rarely call traveling, especially on superstar players. Watch this clip below where Russell Westbrook takes about 5 steps before dribbling. What’s funny to me is how long it takes the ref to call it… seems like he only does it because the opposing team (and coach) are screaming for it… and how Westbrook gives the ref some side-eye after the call, like it was a bad call, when clearly he walked halfway across California.

 

 

More Living, Less Room

It’s hard to type the words “Craig Finn played my living room last night” without feeling like I’m writing a work of fiction. Craig Finn… the Craig Finn. Lead singer of The Hold Steady.  He was in my living room last night, playing an acoustic set, taking questions from the 60+ people who were crammed into the living room, craning their necks from the dining room, peering around the corner from the front hallway, angling for a better view from the stairs.

I could gush for hours, nay, days, about how amazing it was, and what a brilliant singer/songwriter/poet Craig is. But mostly what I’m feeling today (besides a bit tired) is grateful.

Grateful for Craig Finn… for sharing his words and music with us. For opening up his heart and baring his soul.

Grateful for Liz Felix from WNKU-FM, who did a fantastic job as the evening’s MC.

Grateful for Undertow Music, the company that organizes these living room tours… they made it incredibly easy to play host.

Grateful for Craig’s faithful fans, who came not just from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, but from hundreds of miles away… from Louisville and Lexington and Indianapolis and all points in between. To a person, they were fun, kind and gracious.

Grateful for my wife, who didn’t bat an eye when I told her merely a week ago that we’d be hosting Craig’s gig, and that more than 40 strangers would be coming into our humble abode. We’ve been married long enough that she’s used to my off-the-beaten-path, indie rock music tastes, my trips to way more concerts than a 52-year-old father of four should be attending… but hosting a living room concert takes it to a whole new level.

Grateful that many of my music-loving friends  were able to attend. We come from all walks of life, but music is our common bond, and it’s always more fun to share a show with other aficionados.

Grateful for a chance to see an amazing musician in a one-of-a-kind setting.

“Even if you don’t get converted tonite you must admit that the band’s pretty tight.” 

 

Here’s a great quote from Craig about why he chose to do a living room tour, from an interview in Columbus Alive:

What made you want to do a living room tour?

“There’s all kinds of reasons people go to a rock club. It’s not always to listen to the music. To do a living room show with new material where it’s just me and a guitar, people are there to hear it. And they haven’t heard the songs before, so it’s nice that the lyrics are able to cut through. They’re able to understand it in a way they wouldn’t be able to with a loud rock band in a different environment.

On a more political level, the way we communicate through the internet, and the fake news that’s come up in the past year, getting people together in a room is more and more important. I think that’s how things move forward – getting together in real time.”

My friends and I, just hanging out with Craig from Edina on a Wednesday night.

Craig Finn’s third solo release, We All Want The Same Things, comes out March 24th, and is available for pre-order now (with bonus content also available) via PledgeMusic.

 

Good luck charmer

This past Monday, Clemson won the college football championship, thanks in no small part to a former walk-on receiver, Hunter Renfrow, who had 10 catches for 92 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game winner with a second to go.

One day prior to the game, the sports crew at WBTW-TV, the CBS affiliate in Myrtle Beach, SC, did a national championship preview special, and one segment featured WBTW’s Julia Morris interviewing the hometown kid, Renfrow. In an eerie bit of foreshadowing, Morris says “He has a knack for clutch plays, we’ll see if he can make a couple more tomorrow night.”

I should probably mention that Julia Morris is my niece, the eldest child of my older sister Jeanne and her husband Michael. And since Julia has been doing sports for WBTW, an underdog Coastal Carolina baseball team won the College World Series, and the underdog Clemson Tigers toppled the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide in the college football championship.

Clearly Julia not only is a fantastic sports anchor/reporter (as you can see from her interview with Hunter Renfrow and other clips like this one and the highlight reel below), but she also has the Midas touch. If any major market teams would like to win a title, they don’t need to worry about recruiting 5-star athletes, they just need to recruit Julia to do TV sports in their town.

 

How a resurrection really feels

Long-time blog readers (all three of them – Hi Dave, Jacqui and TC!) might recall that a few weeks ago I threw my hat into the ring as a potential host for a Living Room Tour show by Craig Finn. (Original post is here.) Craig is the lead singer of The Hold Steady, one of my faves, and his solo stuff is pretty tasty too.

His third solo album, We All Want The Same Things is due out March 24th (and now available for pre-order with bonus goodies here). Here’s the first track off the new album:

About a week after I volunteered our home as a concert venue (without telling my wife – “better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission” right?), I got a rejection email from the company organizing the tour. No harm, no foul. I still bought a ticket to the show, which was supposed to be at an art gallery about five minutes from my house.

This afternoon, I got this email:

Yes, he misspelled my name… but wait, there’s more, he sent a follow-up email two minutes later:

Do you even have to ask what my reply to their request was?

So, one week from today, Craig Finn (and 40 or so of my new best friends) will be filling Casa de Dubbatrubba with music and merriment. I can’t wait. Join us if you’re a fan and you can make it.

 

 

 

 

We are the championzzz

Clemson beat Alabama last night to capture the NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship. (The Tide got rolled.) Actually, it was this morning before the game ended. Apparently  it was “a game for the ages,” but one of those ages isn’t 52, because I was fast asleep well before the fourth quarter, which featured four lead changes, and three touchdowns in the final five minutes of play. The winning score came with a single tick left on the game clock… at about 12:25 a.m. In other words, the most exciting parts of the title game happened when most sane people who live east of the Rockies were snoozing.

The game kicked off at 8:19 Eastern time. And college football games used to take about three hours. But now, pretty much any and every play is subject to video review, which is nearly as much fun as watching paint dry. Throw in the requisite injury time-outs, a long halftime and a few extra commercial breaks (broadcast rights ain’t cheap) and you’ve got yourself a sixty-minute game that took more than four hours to conclude.

In their never-ending quest for better ratings, TV networks will pick game times that suit their needs, not the desires of the fans. But in the DVR/internet age, I think more and more fans will skip all the hoopla, catch up on their beauty sleep and catch the five-minute highlights the next day.

Shaving four hours off your total viewing time? Now that’s the stuff that dreams are made of.

This isn’t a picture of me… my skin mask has more of a lavender hue to it.