For whom the final buzzer sounds

Tonight’s the final home game for the Xavier University men’s basketball team.

I’ve had season tickets for years, and Senior Day is always bittersweet… and not just because it leaves me lacking good excuses for “Dad’s Night Out.”

Most Xavier players stick around for four years. That’s becoming a rarity for top programs, where one-and-done is standard operating procedure. Schools like Kentucky turn over nearly their entire roster every season, as half a dozen blue chippers get drafted by the NBA, and more blue chippers take their place. You can’t even tell the players with a program. (John Calipari, the UK coach, has made this his M.O. and recruiting pitch… and then every year whines about how young his team is. You can’t have it both ways, JC. This is the path you’ve chosen.)

Heck, Duke has a freshman who “reclassified” to start college a year earlier than his high school counterparts, mainly to speed up his journey to NBA riches.

I’m glad Xavier gets the “second tier” kids who don’t bolt. (A few have left early, and two of those are ones that are now on the list of players who might have taken money from agents before or during college… once a shortcutter, always a shortcutter, apparently.) Over the course of four seasons, you get to know the players better – you get to see them grow. You see hard work pay dividends. Sean O’Mara has gone from a benchwarmer, a lumbering ox, to a guy with strong (and smooth) post skills.

J.P. Macura is a classic pest, in the mold of a Danny Ainge, a Dennis Rodman, a Bobby Hurley (or pretty much any Duke player). If he’s on your team, you love him… if he’s on the other side, you absolutely despise him. It’s been fun to see him torture opponents for four seasons.

Trevon Bluiett will graduate as Xavier’s #2 all-time scorer.

He just passed David West, who was lightly recruited in high school… and kept working hard, eventually became college player of the year as a senior and has had a brilliant 15-year career in the NBA.

When it isn’t handed to you on a silver platter, when you haven’t had everyone telling you how great you are since 8th grade, it probably feels sweeter. This year’s seniors have led Xavier to their highest ranking ever (#3), and have a chance to finally wrest the Big East regular season title from Villanova (fingers crossed). They’ve also gotten to enjoy their early adulthood, instead of being yet another piece of meat on an NBA (or D-League) roster. I don’t know about you, but my college years were some of the most memorable and fun times in my life. You can’t put a price tag on that.

 

What goes around comes around

3 musicians + 4 days in the studio = one timely new album. It’s Widdershins from Grant-Lee Phillips, just released on Friday.

The things he’s writing about aren’t hard to figure out. Grant-Lee, who has a Native American heritage, sings “I’d rather go down fighting for the water than start another war for oil” in “Walk in Circles” – a clear reference to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

In “King of Catastrophes” we get the line “from what I hear of fascism, I wouldn’t put it past him”… sounds like he’s referring to our current prez.

Of course, even when he’s throwing shade, he finds a bit of sunshine. In “History Has Their Number” he tells us: “you can’t live in anger, nobody can… it means more to create than to destroy.”

And it’s not all folksinger protest ballads. He still can rock like he did in the early 90s with his band Grant Lee Buffalo. (Their album Fuzzy is one of my all-time favorites.)

Grant-Lee Phillips is probably better known for his role as the town troubadour on “Gilmore Girls” than for his albums.

That’s too bad, because he’s got a great voice, plays a mean guitar and has a lot to say that’s well worth listening to.

Enjoy some meaty links for your Saturday breakfast

Don’t worry, I’m still a tree-hugging vegetarian. The “meaty links” that we’re serving up at the dubbatrubba café are longer reads/listens that are worth chewing on.

I recently posted about South African singer/songwriter/amazing human being Johnny Clegg. Here’s a great 50-minute interview and performance from a recent World Café:

Bill Janovitz is the lead singer of Buffalo Tom. He’s also a father. The latter is more important. He wrote a blog post back in December of 2012, about the Newtown school shooting. Sadly, it remains just as relevant today, in the wake of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (and dozens of other mass killings that have come since Newtown). Please read the entire post here… but if you don’t have time, please ponder these excerpts:

We may not be expected to stop every insane bomb-making McVeigh-like terrorist, nor will we stop every future mass shooting. But no one can deny that we need to start to take logical steps to regulating guns to make it more difficult for the most damaged among us to gain access to machines that slaughter the most innocent among us…

Each day that goes by without substantive corrective measures should bring each and all of us collective shame. As long as we are unwilling to take advantage our self-evident truths of individual liberty, enshrined in our nation’s most sacred documents, to speak out loudly and demand action, days like Friday should make us all feel ashamed to be Americans — ashamed to have done so little with the responsibility that comes with such advantages…

We have already failed these 20 first-grade children, as we have dozens, if not hundreds of others. What are we going to do to stop the next obscenity?

Speaking of gun violence, this article from German Lopez (formerly of Cincinnati’s alt-weekly CityBeat) is a must-read.

So while politicians often lean on mass shootings to call for gun control, the problem goes far beyond those incidents. Though it’s hard to fault them for trying; mass shootings, after all, force Americans to confront the toll of our gun laws and gun culture.

OK, let’s try to brighten things up a bit. Or not. Check out a Wired article about how social media is eroding our love/pursuit of knowledge. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Social networks, though, have since colonized the web for television’s values. From Facebook to Instagram, the medium refocuses our attention on videos and images, rewarding emotional appeals—‘like’ buttons—over rational ones. Instead of a quest for knowledge, it engages us in an endless zest for instant approval from an audience, for which we are constantly but unconsciously performing. (It’s telling that, while Google began life as a PhD thesis, Facebook started as a tool to judge classmates’ appearances.) It reduces our curiosity by showing us exactly what we already want and think, based on our profiles and preferences. Enlightenment’s motto of ‘Dare to know’ has become ‘Dare not to care to know.’

Along those same lines, here’s a long, cleverly illustrated, irreverent article well worth checking out, about how our Social Survival Mammoth can block our Authentic Voice… and how we can overcome that.

Anyone who disapproves of who you’re being or what you’re doing isn’t even in the same room with you 99.7% of the time. It’s a classic mammoth mistake to fabricate a vision of future social consequences that is way worse than what actually ends up happening—which is usually nothing at all.

Let’s end on a brighter, sunnier note, shall we? Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes, one of the greatest comic strips ever) gave a fantastic commencement speech at Kenyon College back in 1990. It’s well worth reading nearly 30 years later.

I tell you all this because it’s worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. It’s a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you’ll probably take a few…

…having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another.

 

Second generation famous

I’m not a doctor, and I never even played one on TV. But at least some relatives of mine are getting their star turns.

My cousin Tom’s daughter Jamie just wrapped up her second season as a New England Patriots cheerleader.

(Pro tip for Jamie: stand next to Tom Brady on the sidelines and you’ll be on TV roughly 10,000 times during a game.)

My niece Julia just moved up the TV food chain from Myrtle Beach, SC (#101 in market size) to Greenville, SC (#38) where she is the weekend sports anchor for the NBC affiliate, WYFF.

Last but certainly not least, my cousin’s daughter Erika will be playing the role of Cady Heron in the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of the iconic movie Mean Girls. She’s getting all sorts of kudos for her performance (they had a short sneak preview/tune-up run in D.C., and Broadway previews begin March 12th). You can read more here. And here. And here. Or you can check out the article in the latest issue of Vogue, along with a photo by Annie Freakin’ Leibovitz! NBD.

HT to my sister Jeanne for letting me know about the Vogue article… she’s the fashionista in the family.

I remember going to visit my cousin and her family in Northern California back when Erika was about 6 years old, and she was already performing plays for her family, friends — and house guests like us –on their back patio. (So basically, “I knew her when…”)

One of the characters in Mean Girls is named Damian…

Here’s hoping Erika thinks of me, her old pal and early theater patron, whenever she hears that name.

“You know I couldn’t invite you. I had to pretend to be plastic.”

 

 

 

 

The once and future Kings

Certain songs from my youth are forever etched in my brain. One of them is a one-hit wonder from 1980 from a Canadian band called The Kings. Actually, it’s a one-and-a-half-hit wonder, as the song was a bit of a medley/segue called “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide.”

I remember hearing it on WLS-AM, the rock and roll powerhouse (back then… now it’s news/talk) out of Chicago. (Yes, children, gather round and Grandpa Dubbatrubba will tell you of a day when folks actually listened to something called “the radio” and there was this thing called “AM” and you could pick up stations from all over the country if their signal was strong enough… now get off my lawn!)

The song peaked at #43 on the U.S. charts, but it’s a Top 10 memory for me. Every time I hear it (which is once in a blue moon), I’m immediately transported back to Hagarville, Arkansas (population: 100 if you count cows), and am listening to that song in a camper parked next to our house (why my never-been-camping father purchased a camper is a story for another day), with an extension cord running from the house to the camper to power my radio, and the TV so I could watch “Saturday Night Live” and the turntable so I could listen to Rush’s Permanent Waves and REO Speedwagon’s A Decade of Rock and Roll.

Extension cord sold separately. Also, our driveway was rocks.

Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…

 

The Kings are still around… gotta love a band with a lead singer named David Diamond and a lead guitarist named Mister Zero! They even have a documentary about the making of their hit song, if you have 43 minutes to spare:

They were just a blip on the pop radar, but in my head, my heart and my ears, this beat goes on…

 

 

Killing us softly with their tweets

Please spend a few minutes reading this story about how Russian trolls and bots are sowing seeds of discord in the U.S.

Data collected by the site over the past few months suggests that Russian social media accounts are now regularly seizing on divisive or tragic news to rile up segments of American society.

It’s nefarious, yet ingenious. Who needs tanks when you can just use tweets? Why develop nuclear weapons when all you need is a keyboard?

“Frankly, the United States is under attack,” Coats told the Senate intelligence committee. Adversaries “seek to sow division in the United States and weaken U.S. leadership.”

The intelligence community’s annual threat assessment, also out Tuesday, warns that Russia in particular will use social media “to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.” The report predicts those attacks are likely to target the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

Now do me a favor. Start a Lenten “fast” and avoid counting on Twitter and Facebook for your news.

Because you’re being played, comrade.

The pot calling the kettle black…

In my most recent blog post, I made fun of the garish sport coat and bow tie sported by Mr. Clyde McCoy:

Then I realized that I too was guilty of the same sort of sartorial selections:

“It was the 60s… things were different then!”

In fact, on the Severinsen/Sager/Tarlek Scale of wacky outfits, from 1 to Oh-My-Goodness-What-Is-THAT!, Clyde is only about a 5… whereas I’m easily an 8.

Former Tonight Show bandleader. Suit NOT furnished by Botany 500.

Former NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager. Always understated.

Would you buy radio ads from this man?

I’m willing to do one of those “recreate the childhood photo” things that are all the rage on social media these days.

But I don’t know if we can replicate the crazy pattern of my suit, which seems better suited for a great aunt’s couch than a suit.

Werther’s candies sold separately.

Sorry for making fun of your outfit, Clyde. I now realize you were a fashion trendsetter, just like me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to do a bit of shopping.

It has a good beat and you can dance to it

I love crate digging at the thrift store, you always find some classic albums. And by “classic” I mean “weird.” Check out these “mounds of sounds and stacks of wax, all designed with you in mind…”

Clyde doesn’t look the part of a blues man, but you have to admire his fashion sense. Plaid jacket, polka dot bowtie, boater hat at a jaunty angle… play that trumpet, Clyde, let’s get this party started!

(Quick Google search reveals Clyde was more of a Jazz guy, and co-founded Downbeat magazine. I’m learning while I’m dancing.)

Next up on Bandstand is a man who really needs no introduction. He also needs no more beads and rhinestones on his outfit.

Looking good, Wayne. But let’s pick up the tempo a bit… grab your batons everyone:

And now for the grand finale. Gents, break out your tube socks and tight shorts. Ladies, it’s leotard time. All together now…

Exercising to the top hits is the best. Although song choices like “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” may scar kids for life. Aw, what the heck, it had a good beat and you can dance to it, I gave it an 86.

 

 

 

I will dare

The other day, I was talking to my buddy Jason, a co-worker of mine. He’s a fellow Xavier grad and we both have season tickets for men’s basketball, so usually our conversations are about rankings and seeds and opponents. But he got deep on me, and mentioned a conversation he had just had with his wife Charlene, where he said “you’re really only yourself up until about age 4, and then again at age 74.” Meaning kids are too young to know better, and seniors are too old to care, about what others think. But in the decades between, we give up our true selves, and worry too much about fitting in and playing by the rules. We let the weight of other’s expectations and societal cues bring us down. We let fear, judgement and shame take over.

Meanwhile, in a moment of true synchronicity, I happened to be reading the book  Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

This book covers the same territory. Here’s a great quote from it:

“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make,” says Brown. “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”

Brown also talks a lot about “scarcity” in American society. We’re conditioned to crave more… a better job, a nicer house, a cooler car, a fatter bank account, more “likes” on social media… in a zero-sum game where we’re constantly comparing/competing with others. She mentions that the opposite of scarcity isn’t abundance, it’s “enough”… as in “I have enough. I AM enough.”

“Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when you’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability), we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.”

Man, does that quote ring true in 2018! The solution, which seems counterintuitive at first blush, is to be more vulnerable.

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.”

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

Vulnerability is the best way to connect with others.

“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.”

The title of the book comes from a Teddy Roosevelt speech in 1910:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Here’s Brené Brown’s TED talk about vulnerability.

The book is well worth checking out. Dare to make it a great weekend!

Bowlers are cool

My son Peter and daughter Leah are on the bowling teams for Walnut Hills High School. For several decades, it seemed like bowling was a relic from the Stone Age.

But now bowling appears to be catching on again. It has cachet.

The sport (or “activity” depending on where you stand on the “anything you can do while holding a drink is not a sport” spectrum) has been great for our kids.

The bowlers are a wonderful group of kids, and they definitely have a lot of fun together. I suppose it’s because you have a lot of time to chat with each other while you’re waiting for your next turn.

Here’s a video that recently appeared on Cincinnati.com, about a high schooler who bowled a perfect game (and then some). But don’t watch the interviewees, watch the bowler’s teammates in the background. They are blissfully unaware that the camera is rolling, and they’re just hanging out, goofing off and having fun.

Ultimately, that’s what matters more than your score… making friends, having fun, enjoying life, frame by frame.