Rumpelstiltskin is my (horoscope) name

My name’s dubbatrubba, and I’m a Capricorn, just like all the cool kids (Baby Jesus, Donna Summer, John Denver). Check out this recent horoscope:

Oh yeah, that’s me, baby! “Spinning small-talk fodder into golden threads that draw people together.” They know me so well! Actually, they don’t know me at all. I’m better at turning small-talk fodder into long-winded, pointless, egocentric stories.

But I’ll take the horoscope at face value it I can use it to my advantage. If you’d like to rent me (a modern day Rumpelstiltskin… or “Rump” for short) for your next gathering to liven things up a bit, just contact my agent, Artie Fufkin. (Warning, clip NSFW.)

Don’t waste your time with all those other Zodiac zeroes; go for the Zodiac hero. After all, it’s written in the stars: with ME on the guest list, your party is sure to be swingin’…

 

 

 

Reading is fundamental

Reading truly is fundamental. Don’t just take my word for it – take it from two members of the “Hill Street Blues” cast:

 

Here are three articles I’ve stumbled across recently that are worth reading.

  1. The supremely talented singer/songwriter Iris DeMent has an interesting take on her career in general, and performing in particular. Read the entire Boston Globe article here. As someone who loves live music, I love this quote from the interview:

“I feel really close to the world. Close to the people in the room. Unobstructed. I feel like everything’s going to be OK in a way I don’t really understand. I feel part of something that’s timeless and ancient. I feel a lot of love. That’s probably what I’m describing — love. I feel love.” 

2. Staying in the music vein, but on a sadder note, this article on Uproxx uses the Conan show decision to axe musical acts from their new half-hour format as the lead-in to a larger lamentation about the lack of exposure for up-and-coming artists. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Regularly putting on musical acts that are virtually unknown to a mainstream audience, making a late night show an avenue for actual discovery — not to mention spontaneity, surprise, and plain old genuine excitement — who is doing that now?….

Things are far too staid in late night, musically and otherwise — which is the opposite of how it should be, and yet reflective of how culture generally feels right now. We live in a time where there are more media outlets serving a wider range of people than ever in the history of human civilization. And yet, those outlets feel more homogenized, sanitized, centralized, and corporatized than ever. Whether the driver is ratings, web traffic, or algorithms, the pull of culture now is always toward the familiar, fatuous middle of franchise reboots, comic book adaptations, and pop music “perfection.” This inevitably influences how we see that world — the middle assumes outsized importance, and the margins are further, well, marginalized.

3. And it isn’t just late night musical experimentation that’s dying… it’s also your refrigerator. This great Washington Post article about the tradeoffs of technology is equal parts entertaining and enlightening.

That’s the irony of modern life in so many ways, multiplying all our choices while taking away the most fundamental one: the ability to choose something simpler and more likely to endure.

Happy reading!

Image result for burgess meredith twilight zone

Going, going… gone

A couple of days ago, I helped our oldest child move into his freshman dorm room (and it was on the 11th floor, and the elevator line was too long, so we hauled his stuff up 11 flights of stairs… and it was snowing… wait, now I’m mixing up my hardship stories).

He’s not going far from home. He’s enrolled at the University of Cincinnati, which is about 8 miles from our house. But if home is where you hang your hat, he’s now living “away.” It’s been a long goodbye. He started checking out when he moved into his own room a few years ago. (It’s the one above the garage, the former guest room, a.k.a. “The Fonzarelli Suite.”) Then he got a job at a swimming pool one summer and was away even more. He added another job at Ramundo’s Pizzeria, and started driving, and hanging out with his friends more, and spending the night at their house quite a bit on the weekends… but that slow fade from our house doesn’t make his departure any easier. He doesn’t have to check in anymore, doesn’t have to text when he arrives at a friend’s house. He’s on his own… at least until laundry day (which for an 18 year old boy could be months).

As an alum of crosstown rival Xavier, I can’t help but feel that I’ve failed in my parenting. Then again, Xavier doesn’t have an engineering program.

His room at home has been empty most of the time for the past few months. But now it’s a different kind of empty.

It feels more hollow… in a way it mirrors the hole in our hearts, the void in our lives. I’m so happy for him as he starts his next adventure, and I’m trying to focus on that part of the equation. But it’s tough.

 

Thrift store score!

Sunday is “Senior Discount Day” at the St. Vincent DePaul thrift store near our house. My daughter always wants to go thrifting for vintage clothes (what’s “vintage” to her is “practically new” to me), so she drags her 50+ year-old pops along in order to save 25%. (It’s nice to be needed!)

However, I was the one who scored big time on a recent Sunday, at the record bin. Normally the St. VdP selection is heavy on the Ray Coniff singers and Andy Williams Christmas albums, and little else.

  

But check out this haul:

Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Carole King’s Tapestry, greatest hits albums from Simon & Garfunkel, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt and Chicago. The Stranger from Billy Joel. Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty. Aja from Steely Dan. Brothers in Arms from Dire Straits, the self-titled debut from Men at Work and Joe Jackson’s debut album Look Sharp. Plus a Southside Johnny album, a “South’s Greatest Hits” album from Capricorn Records (Allman Bros, Marshall Tucker Band, Outlaws, Dr. John, et al.), a live album from the Jackson 5, a disco single of Lakeside’s “Fantastic Voyage” and an album from Cincinnati jazz great Cal Collins. It’s the soundtrack to my formative music years, a cross section of the top-selling artists of the 70s and 80s (with a few chestnuts thrown in)…. all for the princely sum of $9.37.

I work from home on Tuesdays and have been trying to use the Pomodoro Technique to be more productive:

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished.
  2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
  3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
  5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break.

The beauty of listening to these albums is that each side is roughly 25 minutes long, so they line up perfectly with a Pomodoro work unit, and my short break allows me to flip the album over for Side 2. That means these precious vinyl platters are both a time machine and a timer… win-win.

I doubt I’ll ever stumble across another mother lode like those albums at a thrift shop again, but I won’t need to for a while.

What have you done for everyone else lately?

In America, we’re obsessed with being #1.

“The best ever! Believe me!”

And we care deeply – waaay too deeply – about rankings and ratings. The top song on the charts.

Music was better back then… 

The Fortune 500. The highest-grossing movie. The most-watched TV show. The most views or “likes” or “shares” on social media. The highest-ranked football team. The five-star basketball recruits.

We do comparisons all the time, trying to determine who is better…. and who is the best.

But Seth Godin is trying to help us reframe that obsession. (I know I write/rave about Seth a lot, but the man’s a genius.) Here’s a post from his blog earlier this week:

Community rank

You’re probably familiar with class rank. Among all the kids in this high school, compared to everyone else’s GPA, where do you stand?

And you’ve heard about sports rank, #1 in the world at tennis or golf or chess.

But somehow, we don’t bother with community rank.

Of all the contributions that have been made to this community, all the selfless acts, events organized, people connected–where do you stand?

Maybe we don’t have to measure it. But it might be nice if we acted as if we did.

 

What a fabulous concept! Let’s measure what really matters… how good you are to your fellow human beings.

That’s a #1 ranking worth attaining.

 

 

A rude awakening. Repeat daily.

Well, my summer vacation was fun while it lasted… but today was back-to-school Day #1 in our house, so my leisurely mornings came to a screeching halt around 5:28 a.m. E.D.T.

Three teenagers (and one or two adults) trying to get ready every weekday and catch a bus.

Compounded by the fact that we have only one functioning shower at the moment. Packing lunches (my wife does most of that), signing permission slips, finding lost sneakers… every morning is an adventure.

This too shall pass. Our oldest will be heading to the dorms in a week, with the others soon to follow. Five years from now, I’ll be wistful about our early morning reveille.

But right now I’m just a wee bit tired. One down, 179 to go…

 

And now, in honor of my morning alarm, a new song from The Alarm

If music be the food of love, play on… and on… and on…

Wellsir (and madam), that was quite the music marathon that my ears just ran this weekend.

Friday night, I went to see Reverend Horton Heat doing a free show in the heart of downtown Cincinnati, at Fountain Square (as seen in the opening credits of WKRP in Cincinnati). I’ve seen the Reverend many times before, doing his souped-up version of rockabilly (he calls it “psychobilly”), but it had been quite a few years. My friend Todd convinced me to go (actually more like “cajoled”), and I’m so glad he did. Rev and his band sounded great, and he had Wayne “The Train” Hancock (an old school country yodeler ala Hank Williams Sr.) join him for part of the set, which was a lot of fun.

Saturday I drove an hour north of Cincy to Waynesville, Ohio (home of the annual Sauerkraut Festival!) to the debut Bellwether Festival. Saturday’s lineup included a nice mix of new and classic bands (and by “classic” I mean “bands that I used to play on 97X back in the 90s”).

Erika Wennerstrom of the Heartless Bastards:

Allah-Las:

My latest obsession, Japanese Breakfast:

The Psychedelic Furs:

Echo & The Bunnymen:

And the headliners were The Flaming Lips, who seem to headline 50% of all outdoor music festivals in the country. Probably because they are so darn fun, and have a larger-than-life stage show (balloons! confetti! giant pink robot inflatable!) that’s perfect for an audience that may only be casual fans. It’s truly a spectacle.

After that long day (and 8 hours on my feet), you’d think I’d rest up on Sunday. But no, I could not rest. Mr. David Byrne was in town, at the PNC Pavilion. The former frontman for the Talking Heads is an artist in the true sense of the word, a renaissance man, a man of letters. How many other folks in rock would start a website about positive civic engagements called Reasons To Be Cheerful? His stage show is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, and his band was amazing. I’ve seen hundreds of shows over the past 30+ years, but this one was easily one of the best, and certainly one of the most memorable.

Yes, it was a lot to pack into one weekend for an old man like me. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat. As David Byrne says:

Every day is a miracle
Every day is an unpaid bill
You’ve got to sing for your supper
Love one another

 

Art for art’s sake, not for Martin’s sake.

Band of Horses was in town last night, playing a sold out show at Bogart’s. Having seen them seven times already, in seven different venues, in four different cities (including an amazing acoustic set/electric set show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville), I decided to sit this one out. So did my friend Dale Doyle (the original d2), who has joined me at five of those gigs. But Dale’s an artist, a graphic designer by trade, so he made an oversized gig poster just for grins.

Simply brilliant!

I had the pleasure of working with Dale for five years at Landor (where I also worked with other amazing artists like Keith Neltner and Tommy Sheehan). Dale was at Landor for 23 years, working his way up from entry-level designer to Executive Creative Director, thanks to his skills and his dedication to the craft. His reward for all those years of service? He was unceremoniously dumped earlier this summer. Call it layoffs or budget cuts, or a “reduction in force” or a “restructuring”… to paraphrase Shakespeare, bullsh*t by any other name would still smell as stinky. (Sorry Big Willie!)

Yes, Landor’s Cincinnati office was struggling to make their numbers, and that’s part of the equation. But the other part is why their “numbers” were probably unattainable in the first place. Landor is merely a cog in the universe of WPP, a publicly-traded company that’s the world’s largest advertising conglomerate. It owns scads of well-known ad agencies, brand consultancies, PR firms, media buying companies and digital agencies. For 33 years, WPP was run by Martin Sorrell, a man whose ambition was outstripped only by his ego. A shark who swallowed up other ad agencies whole, usually via hostile takeovers. A man whom advertising legend David Ogilvy called “an odious little sh*t.” A person who could squeeze blood out of a turnip, and was never satisfied with the revenue numbers and profit margins of the dozens of companies and hundreds of offices under his thumb. Last year, “Sir Martin” (he was knighted in his native England) earned 70 million pounds. His net worth is listed as 495 million pounds.

Artist’s representation of Sir Martin

Creative artists like Dale are a dime a dozen to him, and if it came down to keeping a Dale or earning an extra nickel, he’d take the latter every time.

Dale did get a severance, so he has a few months to figure out his next move. He also has a freedom he hasn’t enjoyed in two decades. The freedom to create art whenever the muse strikes. To use his talents for self-expression rather than marketing campaigns. To make a band poster just because. You can’t put a price tag on that.

Oh, and what of our friend Sir Martin? He was sacked by the WPP board earlier this summer over allegations of “personal misconduct.”

 

 

 

Carping about the diem… and other random thoughts

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

— Wu Men

Great poem, wonderful sentiment. But it mentions nothing at all about 110% humidity. Therefore, I reserve my right to carp about the diem rather than carpe diem.

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My friend Robin had a birthday not too long ago. She’s an Elvis fanatic, so I sent her this text:

Here was her reply:

Yes, that’s Robin’s face superimposed on the woman.

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On a recent trip to an antiques mall, I found a cheesy 70s rock album by a band called Starz. Check out the great hairstyles on the back cover of their 1976 debut:

If you look more closely, it seems some smart aleck has “tagged” the dude at the top right:

“I’m Wm. Shakespeare’s Reincarnation”

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Here’s hoping your Monday isn’t crappy… but if it is, play to win!

 

In a festive mood

Cincinnati loves its festivals. Every weekend during the summer, a Catholic church in the area has a fundraising festival. They all follow the same script: raffles galore, a silent auction, games of chance (lollipop pull and fish pond for the younger set, poker and blackjack for the adults), food and beverages (including alcohol). Some of the larger parishes will also throw in some carnival rides and local bands as the evening entertainment.

With the proliferation of casinos, bingo isn’t the fundraising juggernaut it used to be, but the summer festivals still draw a decent crowd.

I made it to two festivals in Cincinnati this weekend, but they were quite different in style. On Friday night my wife and I went to a church festival to see Cereal Killers, a local band featuring two friends of ours. They were stellar as always (see this blog post for more about them), which is especially noteworthy when you consider the fact that they really only play gigs a handful of times each year. But they do practice quite a bit. The lead guitarist Matt and his wife Amy are neighbors of ours, and in Amy’s eyes, “band practice” is just a convenient cover story for a guy’s night out every week. (If that’s the case, I may have to join Cereal Killers as their lead cowbell player.)

Saturday morning, I got up bright and early and rolled down to the Ohio River to participate in Paddlefest. Don’t worry, it’s not nearly as dirty as it sounds… it’s just 2000+ folks in canoes and kayaks (and on paddleboards) taking a leisurely paddle down the mighty Ohio.

I’ve posted about Paddlefest before, so I won’t wax rhapsodic here. But suffice it to say it’s always a great time.

The only festival in Cincinnati that I didn’t attend this weekend was Goettafest. Yes, we have an entire weekend festival dedicated to a pork-and-oatmeal food that was popular with Cincinnati’s horde of German immigrants back in the late 1800s, and remains a Cincinnati staple to this day.

They even have a vending machine where you can purchase rolls of goetta.

Nein, danke.