The musical fountain of youth

If you’re keeping score at home, this is my 328th post about the band Buffalo Tom. Sorry, but I fell in love with them in ’92 and just can’t quit them.

Buffalo Tom’s new album Quiet and Peace comes out on March 2nd. They released it early to their Pledge Music backers, so I’ve been listening to it non-stop for a couple of weeks. Granted, I’m biased, but I think it’s fantastic. As my friend Joe said, “it’s timeless in the best possible way.” Or as the press release from their website says:

Quiet and Peace is a compelling 11-song set that finds the trio—singer-guitarist Bill Janovitz, bassist-vocalist Chris Colbourn and drummer Tom Maginnis—simultaneously mining their best-known sonic elements while breaking new ground on emotionally resonant new tunes such as “All Be Gone,” “Overtime,” “Freckles” and “CatVMouse.” Full of nostalgic and dusky imagery, much of Quiet And Peace emerges from New England’s less visited darker corners, offering a sort-of poetic travelogue of faded colors and woods illuminated in the light of the seaside. 

KEXP is premiering the video for a song from the album called “Roman Cars.” It features lead vocals from bassist Chris Colbourn, who wrote and sings lead on more songs on this new album than on any other Buffalo Tom release. And he has a fantastic voice. Many of the songs on the new release are about getting older, and this one references age as well.

About the video, Colbourn tells KEXP:

“In this song Buffalo Tom take a rollercoaster ride from grumpy middle age back to the halcyon days of youth. For the video, we decided to utilize the great cover art we have for the album and think it came out great.”

I do too, Chris. I do too. Put your ears and eyes on it right now:

 

Simply Gorge-ous

My wife and I spent the weekend at Red River Gorge in Kentucky.

The Red River Gorge is a uniquely scenic area in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The area is known for its abundant natural stone arches, unusual rock formations, and spectacular sandstone cliffs. The Red River Gorge is designated as a national geological area by the U.S. Forest Service.

Natural Bridge. It rocks!

We went with our neighbor/friends (nends? friebors?) Whit and Barb, who have gone to Red River Gorge in January with a group of their friends for the past several years. This year, there were 10 couples (and one dog). We stayed in cabins in Natural Bridge State Park on Friday and Saturday night, and hiked the trails on Saturday and Sunday. I’m ashamed to say that this was my first trip to “The Gorge” as it’s known around here. As a self-proclaimed Nature Boy (move over, Ric Flair) who loves the great outdoors, I really have no legit excuse for not visiting sooner, as it’s only two hours away and the scenery is drop-dead gorgeous.

Mrs. Dubbatrubba is gorgeous too!

There’s a lot to be said for exploring new places. And there’s no virtual reality that can compare with the actual reality of the great outdoors. When you’re hiking up ridge (and then back down), the physical benefits are obvious. But check out this article that extols the mental benefits of exploring someplace new. Here’s my favorite quote:

But I believe that it’s possible to achieve similar growth by traveling closer to home — to new states, cities, and even households, from urban to rural, north to south, east to west. As long as you’re spending time in an unfamiliar environment, with people whose backgrounds and belief systems don’t entirely match yours, you’re succeeding at stretching yourself.

Sunday morning at Lookout Point.

Get outside. Get outside your comfort zone. And get a big boost in energy, empathy and creativity.

 

 

 

Just another band from East L.A.

Last night I saw Los Lobos at Memorial Hall, a gorgeous, recently refurbished, century-old, 550-seat performance theater in Cincinnati.

My view from the nosebleeds. Not too shabby.

Technically I saw 3/5th of Los Lobos. Bassist Conrad Lozano and saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Steve Berlin didn’t make the trip, which was a letdown. But Cesar Rosas, Louie Perez and David Hidalgo were present and accounted for, along with a rhythm section.

L to R up front: Cesar Rosas, Louie Perez and David Hidalgo

I’ve seen Los Lobos many times, and always love the show they put on. Was last night’s the best ever? No. They weren’t at full strength and they are starting to show their age (aren’t we all?). But it was better by far than most bands half their age could do. They’ve been doing their thing – their unique, like-nobody-else-can-do-it thing – for more than 40 years now. And they still bring it strong every time. It’s Tex-Mex, it’s traditional Spanish, it’s bluesy, it’s soulful, it’s country, it’s rock and roll, it’s… everything but the kitchen sink. And it all sounds great.

David Hidalgo is easily one of the most underappreciated lead guitarists of this or any generation. I’d stack him up against Page, Clapton, Van Halen, Slash, you name it. Dude can shred. Yet when you look at some listicle of “the top 20 guitarists of all time” he’s never on there. And he has a gorgeous voice to boot.

Actually it isn’t just David who is underappreciated, it’s the entire band. Note to our friendly rival city at the northern end of my state: you can go ahead and shut the doors to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, because if Los Lobos isn’t in it, it isn’t worth a tinker’s damn. In 2015, the L.A. Times wrote a nice article that makes a strong case for Los Lobos, please check it out. Below are three of the videos from the article, I think they showcase the depth and breadth of their brilliance. They really aren’t “Just Another Band From East L.A.” as they self-deprecatingly called a 1993 compilation album. They are an American institution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Creative Process, as explained by a penguin

I love comic strips. Wait, let me qualify that: I love good comic strips. Not the lame, one-tired-joke ones like Marmaduke and Beetle Bailey.

He’s a giant dog who acts human… hilarity rarely ensues.

One of my favorites is This Modern World – it’s a weekly strip that appears in Cincinnati’s weekly alternative paper, CityBeat (as well as 80 other papers, and online at The NationDaily Kos and The Nib).

Author Tom Tomorrow (a.k.a. Dan Perkins) typically deals with political satire, and those strips are brilliant – hence such honors as being a 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist, 2013 Herblock Prize winner and winning the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Cartooning in 1998 and 2003. But one of his recent ones was about the creative process, and I loved it.

This pretty much sums up how my blog posts are created. And it shows.

 

Ignorance (of breaking news) is bliss

I’m cleaning out the ol’ dubbatrubba junk drawer, and found this in my “drafts” folder – an article from The Guardian that is ancient, yet timeless, because it talks about avoiding the 24/7 news cycle that can become addicting. It reminds me of the time I went to see author Ray Bradbury speak at Johns Hopkins University way back in 1990. He recommended that we avoid watching the local news because it was “a bunch of murders and robberies that we didn’t commit” and only served to depress us and stifle our creativity. I suppose it’s the corollary to the “no news is good news” adage: “all news is bad news.”

T-Rex is correct.

 

The Guardian article is well worth reading. A few key excerpts are below:

News leads us to walk around with the completely wrong risk map in our heads. So terrorism is over-rated. Chronic stress is under-rated. The collapse of Lehman Brothers is overrated. Fiscal irresponsibility is under-rated. Astronauts are over-rated. Nurses are under-rated.

Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business.

News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitization.

News feeds the mother of all cognitive errors: confirmation bias. In the words of Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” News exacerbates this flaw.

News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers.

News makes us passive. News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can’t act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitized, sarcastic and fatalistic. The scientific term is “learned helplessness”.

I don’t know a single truly creative mind who is a news junkie – not a writer, not a composer, mathematician, physician, scientist, musician, designer, architect or painter. On the other hand, I know a bunch of viciously uncreative minds who consume news like drugs. If you want to come up with old solutions, read news. If you are looking for new solutions, don’t.

Turn off the power button when the news comes on, and restore the power of creativity to your mind.

 

 

Here today, gone yesterday

The January issue of Cincinnati Magazine features a positive review of a German café across the river in Covington, Kentucky, called Katharina’s Café-Konditorei.

Unfortunately, the place never had a chance to enjoy extra business that a nice review would generate:

 

It’s always tough in the restaurant business. It’s especially tough if you’re bringing something unique to the table.

You know that local restaurant that you really like but haven’t been to in a few months? Or the mom and pop hardware shop that’s a bit more expensive than Home Depot or Lowe’s but the folks who work there really know their stuff, and you can get everything you need a lot quicker? Or the bookstore where the staff can make recommendations based on knowing you, not a machine learning algorithm? Better go today. Tomorrow may be too late.

 

 

Back to the Future… of Rock and Roll

A long time ago (early 90s), in a galaxy far, far, away (Oxford, Ohio), I worked at a tiny radio station known as 97X.

It was one of the few indie rock/alternative/modern rock/college rock stations in the country. It was also, in my not-so-humble and completely biased opinion, the best. Because the DJs had a ton of leeway in what they played. Because everyone who worked there loved the music, and had as much fun off the air as on. And mainly because the listeners felt like friends, and were just as passionate about the music as we were. It was the least amount of money I ever made, and the most fun I ever had at a job.

Rain Man dug the station too…

(This scene was filmed in Cincinnati, on the road that my bus travels every weekday when I go to work .)

Several months ago, KEXP-FM in Seattle (the modern day equivalent of 97X) paid tribute, playing songs and even commercials that were on the 97X airwaves back in the day, and interviewing folks who worked there for a long time, including faithful dubbatrubba reader Dave “The Reuben Kincaid of Modern Rock” Tellmann. Here’s the intro to the 97X tribute – it’ll give you a good background on the station:

And here’s KEXP’s edited version of the terrestrial sign-off from station manager Steve Baker (also one of the best radio play-by-play sports announcers ever). It truly captures the passion and community feel of 97X:

It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since I worked there, but 97X truly will always be a part of who I am. It’s the reason I like “weirdo” bands to this day, much to my kids’ consternation and dismay (“Car Seat Headrest?”). It’s also the reason I always root for the underdogs, and relate to the rebels and outcasts. Those are my people; that’s my tribe.

(You can’t even view the entire song because Lorne Michaels and the corporate bigwigs don’t want you to. Typical!)

If you’d like to go way back in the time machine, you can stream 97X from 1985 here. My old pal John Fox also wrote a nice essay about the station back in 2004.

UPDATE 1/19 – Faithful dubbatrubba.com reader Matt Sledge, who spent a decade at 97X, commented on my original post and added a few interesting links:

Comment:
Of course I have to leave my two, three, or four cents on this topic… since that’s how much we got paid back then working at 97X.

As Bake said about 97X on the final broadcast: “It changed my life.” Truer words were never spoken.

As I sit here back in Oxford in the year 2018, if you had told me when I started as an intern at 97X back in 1994 that 24 years later I’d be commenting on a former coworkers blog about that station and how it changed my life as well, I would have asked you how drunk you were.

Alas, here we are.

Some YouTube links to pass along:

The last 30 “laps” of the 2003 Modern Rock 500, with songs edited out and some commercials intact. This would be the last 500 on the terrestrial airwaves: https://youtu.be/vv3-DWSeqF0

97X recorded from 1999 by a fan, with songs omitted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeCY-WfZalY

And of course, the final break from Bake on the final night of broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvCyiNXTLuA

It’s almost 14 years after the last broadcast, and the memory of the station remains strong from all who worked there and the listeners.

We did some good work, didn’t we?

 

An attitude… of gratitude

Since January 1st, I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal. I know, it sounds very Sedona/Oprah. But it works:

2003 study by Emmons and McCullough found that keeping a daily Gratitude Journal leads to an increased sense of well-being and, something we all crave, better sleep. A willingness to accept change will become the norm. Giving thanks in this manner can also help lower symptoms of physical pain. That is powerful.

(Source: https://www.intelligentchange.com/blogs/news/the-ultimate-guide-to-keeping-a-gratitude-journal. See below for more stats from the studies.)

And for the past few months, I’ve been receiving a daily email from The Network for Grateful Living (https://gratefulness.org/)  HT to my buddy Phil for putting it on my radar. On their home page, you can subscribe to their “Word For The Day” email. “Word For The Day” is a misnomer, it’s more like “Quote For The Day” but either way you get just a few words to ponder. Like this one:

 

Or this one:

I know that email inbox overload is real, but this one is always well worth the 10 seconds it takes to read it. Sign up, and get grateful. And here’s your soundtrack while you’re writing your gratitude journal:

 

 

 

Life was so much easier back then

My ongoing quest to clean up the basement continues unabated… other than the weeks when I don’t do anything. A couple of days ago, I found this school project from our youngest son, Andrew, from a few years ago. It’s a timeline of his life:

Walk. Sit on a chair. Go on vacation. That sounds really good. Sign me up.

 

Play that Superchunky music…

Superchunk. Not just a type of peanut butter.

Also an amazing band.

Superchunk (the band) has a new album, What A Time To Be Alive, coming out on February 16th. A couple of tracks have already been posted, and they flat out rock. Superchunk started in 1989 as punk kids… they’re no longer kids, but they’re still punk. Here’s what lead singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan said about the new release:

“The album is about a lot of things of course, but mainly dealing with anxiety and worse in the face in incipient authoritarianism. It would be strange to be in a band, at least our band, and make a record that completely ignored the surrounding circumstances that we live in and that our kids are going to grow up in.” 

 

That anxiety (and anger) come across loud and clear on the title tune:

Here’s another Mac quote from an Onion A/V Club interview with him and bassist Laura Ballance:

I’m really wary of calling this record “political” because it implies that you are offering some solutions or that you’re writing a white paper, like, “Here’s what we should do about this.” Where it’s really more about how do you be a person in the world when all this is going on and still have a life, and I think a lot of people are learning that.

This song features Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield and the Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt:

I can’t wait for the entire album to come out. You can pre-order it here. If you’d rather have the peanut butter, try Aisle 2.