Neil was the real deal

This is devastating news to music nerds and nerdy musicians everywhere. Neil Peart, the drummer for Rush, passed away this week. He redefined rock drumming, but he didn’t let drumming define him. A voracious reader, an author of seven books, an avid cyclist and motorcyclist, a lifelong learner… just an all-around interesting dude. Check out his website for more of his musings.

“The Professor”… photo from NeilPeart.net

The first concert I ever saw was in 1982: Rush at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock, Arkansas. The band I’ve seen in concert more than any other band? Rush! They absolutely crushed it live for 40+ years.

Despite an iconoclastic nature, Peart found musical, and personal, brotherhood with bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson. The trio’s bond came alive during performances, which were immersive musical marathons that doubled as communal, spiritual experiences. Shows — of course — featured an extended Peart drum solo, performed with the precision of a surgeon and the creative freedom of a surrealist. But while highly technical, Peart’s playing was always joyous: As any Rush fan will share, air-drumming to 1981’s “Tom Sawyer” can be one of life’s greatest pleasures.

From this NPR tribute by Annie Zaleski

Neil wasn’t just the best rock drummer ever, he also was Rush’s lyricist. Lots of obituaries for him are latching onto the Ayn Rand/sci-fi angle. That’s not a complete picture. Yes, Neil did dedicate Rush’s 2112 album “to the genius of Ayn Rand” but he later said that he’d outgrown that influence. And yes, many of Rush’s song lyrics read like science fiction. But tunes like “Losing It” and “Red Sector A” were a nod to Neil’s love of literature and history. Songs like “Entre Nous” and “Afterimage” have nothing to do with dystopian societies, and everything to do with personal connections and the human condition.

While his drumming spoke volumes, he rarely gave interviews, preferring to let his work stand on its own. As a shy high schooler, Neil’s lyrics spoke to me. As a bookish old man, they still speak to me.

“He was in many ways like an outsider — the guy who was often different from everyone else,” Halper says. “But that was okay with him. He didn’t want to be like everyone else. He just wanted to be Neil.”

From this NPR tribute by Annie Zaleski

Rush’s final studio album was a concept album (no shock there… they had a few). The lyrics on the final song “The Garden” are Neil’s parting words to us.

R.I.P. Neil. Much love and respect.

6 of one, half dozen of the other

Singer/songwriter Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses) is moving, and her son has an interesting take on labeling the moving boxes:

May your day be filled with both!

Good news in the new year

I stumbled across this list-icle a few weeks ago and figured it was worth sharing as we enter 2020. It’s a quick read — a bunch of factoids with good news for the planet we share. One example is below.

Here’s hoping for more good things this year.

Varmints!

The power briefly went out on our street a week ago. Duke energy suspects squirrels.

I have no doubt it was those darn squirrels… also known as “rats with a better PR agency.”

Because the outage happened so close to Christmas, I suspect they cut the power on purpose, due to jealousy.

They hate hearing that inane Chipmunk Christmas Song almost as much as I do.

While I have no doubt the squirrels hatched this powerless plot (to mix metaphors), they might have hired someone else to do their dirty work.

Really small business Saturday

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s side hustles that make absolute no money at all. In fact, you’re soaking in one right now.

In addition to this blog (time investment: 1-3 hours/week. Net revenue: $0/year), I also send out a weekly “this week in live music” post to a mailing list of 100+ fellow music fans (time investment: 2+ hours/week. Net revenue: $0/year).

But I finally came up with a sure-fire, can’t-miss, 100% guaranteed to make money idea: T-shirts with goofy slogans on them!

Why, what nearly- or newly-licensed young man wouldn’t want to wear this snazzy yet snarky shirt?

And what nearly- or newly-licensed young man OR woman wouldn’t want to have this shirt?

Stunt driver, get it? Oh, so wacky!

The answer to both questions, thus far, is: every darn kid in America.

But that’s just because they can’t find these shirts. Or more likely, because their parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends, in their desperate search for a 16th birthday gift that’s slightly more affordable than a $400 phone and/or $170 headphones, have yet to stumble upon these gems on Amazon.com (starting at the low, low price of $14.99 for the “stud” t-shirt!).

But they’re on Amazon. They’re also on Teepublic. And Redbubble, where in addition to t-shirts, you can get bumper stickers, coffee mugs, phone cases and dozens of other products emblazoned with the professional artwork shown here.

However, in the “long tail” world of online retail, it’s a bit of a Catch-22. You can’t sell merch until people know about your stuff, but they won’t know about your stuff until you sell some merch.

That’s where you come in, my friends. I suck at shameless self-promotion (present blog post excluded). I barely have a Facebook presence. Ditto for Instagram. I don’t do Pinterest. And if I order 10 t-shirts on Amazon and have them all shipped to my address, that won’t help get the ball rolling… Bezos will see right through my sham sales.

But if YOU buy a shirt, that will boost my “best seller rating” and move me up the search ladder, from my current status on the 361st page of search results, to — dare to dream — the first page! If you buy a shirt AND write a review? Jackpot! The tiny sales snowball will turn into an avalanche, and I’ll be laughing all the way to the bank with my $1.37 commission.

Yes, I know, I’m asking you to open your wallet. And I feel a bit like a slimy televangelist for doing it.

But surely you know someone who is just getting their driver’s license. Hook ’em up with a crappy t-shirt AND help out your old pal dubbatrubba at the same time. Win-win. (Except for your wallet.)

Even if you don’t spring for a shirt, please share an image of the shirt(s) and the Amazon link within your social networks. Post it, Pin it, Gram it… make a TikTok… whatever. (Right click on the t-shirt image above, then choose “save image as” to save it.) And if you know anything at all about Facebook ads or Amazon sponsored ads, let’s talk.

When I make my first million, we’ll have a giant party on my yacht and you’ll be invited. Pinky promise!

Thanks for helping promote the smallest small business in America!

We’re #1… and we’ve got the beer belly to prove it!

Cincinnati’s pro football team is abysmal. Our baseball team is dismal. But in spite of that — or perhaps because of it — we’re #1 in another cherished sport: beer drinking!

Smartasset (great name, btw) used 5 factors to rank the cities:

  1. Total number of breweries
  2. Breweries per 100,000 residents
  3. Average number of beers per brewery
  4. Bars per 100,000 residents and
  5. Average price for a pint of domestic beer in each city

Relative affordability and variety make the city a savory option for even the choosiest of beer lovers.

Smartasset.com article

We truly are #blessed when it comes to #beer. I’ll drink to that!

They’re not pooches, they’re mooches.

Our household has four pets. The two low-maintenance, no-muss, no-fuss cats? Those would be mine.

The “wake up” and “be awesome” parts are optional.

The two giant, stinky, dirty-pawed, have-to-let-them-out-no-matter-the-weather beasts? Those belong to my wife.

However, I usually get up before my wife, and as soon as the dogs hear signs of life, they are rarin’ to go. So I have to let them out each morning, and feed them breakfast. But dogs being the tricky creatures that they are, with no self-regulating stomachs, would bust out the “puppy dog eyes” when my wife got up, and act like they hadn’t just been fed.

Exhibit A: Hope, as in “I hope she falls for it.”
Exhibit B: Bibo, the poor widdle pupper-wupper who is STARVING!

But their days (and nights) of doggie double dipping are OVER, thanks to a state-of-the-art solution called an “index card.”

“Breakfast” on one side, “dinner” on the other. Once we fill the bowl, we flip the script.

Don’t call PETA on me, these dogs are in no danger of starving anytime soon. They still use those puppy dog eyes to get a spoonful of peanut butter every day… and they occasionally help themselves to whatever food is within snout’s reach on the counter.

Be sure to tune in next time for Episode 2: Dogs taking up the entire bed.

Saturday morning cartoons

I stumbled across this gem on Twitter yesterday… I’m sure every dog owner can relate.

That Twitter user, Dick King-Smith (@DickKingSmith) is the author of the book that was adapted into the movie Babe, and he has a bunch of fun animal videos. Good for a chuckle. Not that any of us need to waste any more time on the Interwebs on cat, dog, squirrel, emu, rabbit and seal videos.

Thankful all year long

Seth Godin just plain gets it. First of all, the dude writes a blog post every day. Yes, that’s right. Every. Single. Day. Neither rain, nor snow, nor authoring books nor hosting workshops nor speaking at conferences, will keep Mr. Godin from his appointed rounds — sharing pearls of wisdom with folks like you… and fanboys like me.

Here’s Seth’s post from earlier this week:

If every day were Thanksgiving

It’s my favorite holiday for a good reason: It doesn’t matter what country, what culture or what background you come from…

Gratitude works.

Gratitude scales.

Gratitude creates a positive cycle of more gratitude.

When in doubt, default to gratitude.

Brief and brilliant. Words to live by. Not just today. Every. Single. Day!

[I’m extremely grateful for Seth’s “write a blog post a day for a week” challenge a few years ago — it kickstarted my blogging habit. I’m also grateful for you — thanks for reading!]

What’s wrong with this picture?

Photo: Patrick Semansky

That’s Dwayne Haskins, the rookie quarterback for the Washington Redskins. The dude with the $14 million contract. He’s celebrating his first win as a starter by taking a selfie with fans. Actually, in the photo above, he’s celebrating his first presumed win. There were still two ticks left on the clock. The Redskins had just intercepted the ball. All they had to do was take a knee… but Haskins was too busy taking a selfie to trot out onto the field for the final play.

The Redskins interim coach (yes, it’s been a bad season) couldn’t track down Haskins. (Maybe he should’ve checked Instagram.) So he had to scramble and send the backup QB onto the field to seal the victory.

After the game, Haskins admitted that he thought the clock ran out on the interception. So maybe we should just chalk it up to the exuberance of youth. But seriously, it was only a three-point game at the time. Keep your head in the game until the game is officially over.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Maybe I’m overthinking it. After all, with just a few seconds left, what could possibly go wrong?

To me, Haskins sideline antics are a symptom of a larger problem in the selfish/selfie world. Instead of being on the field with his teammates to celebrate his first ever win as an NFL starter, Haskins was hamming it up for the camera… “pics or it didn’t happen.”

I see it all the time at concerts too – people (of all ages, this isn’t an “OK Boomer” rant) whipping out their cell phones to capture video of a band’s biggest hit. Here’s an idea: keep your damn phone in your pants and experience that moment with your own eyeballs! Those memories will be much better than some shaky video footage with distorted audio.

But don’t just take it from me, take it from an expert on living life to the fullest:

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