The Long and Short of Giving Thanks

Good friends and bad (dad) jokes.

Happy times and sad songs.

Real science and science fiction.

Tall tales and short stories.

Cool bands and hot concerts.

Important work and trivial pursuits.

Light beer and… heavy beer.

Other blog writers and my blog readers.

Best New Artist

Surely you remember my good friend Dale Doyle? (OK, maybe you don’t… and I should stop calling you “Shirley.”) Dale and I worked together at an design agency for many years, and remain concert buddies. Three years ago, Dale was “downsized” by that agency — the place where he spent 23 years of his career. I wrote about that here, and a year later, I wrote about how Dale was killing the game at Holotype, the agency he co-founded. (He still is killin’ it, btw.)

Yesterday, this happened:

The album, Serpentine Prison, is from another Cincinnati kid, Matt Berninger, who also is the lead singer of The National.

I’m thrilled for Dale, not only because he’s a great guy and an amazing artist, but also because he loves music so much. A Grammy nomination is like a perfect storm of elation.

With Turkey Day just around the corner, I am thankful that I got to work alongside Dale and other super-talented artists like Keith Neltner, Tommy Sheehan and John Ham (to name but a few). A lot of their art is tied to commerce, and sometimes art snobs can look down their noses at that. But their work is as good as anything in the Louvre.

Why yes, I do have the album, signed by the Grammy-nominated artist…

A Fascinating Life

While he was still in high school, he was the lead actor on a radio show that aired in Cincinnati and later nationally on NBC. One of his high school friends was crooner Andy Williams.

In college, he was a drum major who gained renown for twirling lighted torches.

He toured the world with the Harlem Globetrotters, and was roommates with Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens for a few days.

He made and operated puppets on a kids TV show.

He worked in advertising and directed the first TV commercial for the Easy-Bake Oven… and cast his daughter Molly in it.

He borrowed $10,000 from a college fraternity brother to make whiskey-flavored toothpaste, and wound up on “What’s My Line?”

Life magazine sent a photographer to his assembly line, but Poynter didn’t have one. He was mostly a one-man operation. So, he enlisted some friends to play-act in a warehouse with empty boxes in the background because he had nearly sold out of the toothpaste.

Source: this Cincinnati.com article

He invented dozens of novelty toys, including a Little Black Box – when you turned it on, gears would move inside the box and a hand would emerge to turn it off… this same mechanism was later used to make a hand that grabbed coins, marketed as “Thing” from “The Addams Family” TV show.

He dreamt up dry cleaning bags printed with dresses from Disney Characters so kids could use them as costumes. Walt Disney called it “the best promotion I have ever seen.”

He invented this:

And this:

His toys were featured on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman.

“Almost everything I’ve ever done is either making someone laugh or giving them pleasure, and if I didn’t, I’d be out of business.”

Don Poynter, in a 2015 interview.

Don Poynter passed away in August of this year, at the age of 96. He said “I’ve had a fascinating life” and he wasn’t kidding.

You can read more about Poynter and his inventions in this Cincinnati.com article and two Cincinnati Magazine articles, here and here.

Going viral for good

The interwebs can be a cesspool. Facebook has prioritized profits over patrolling perfidy, so news feeds polarize and even radicalize. The dark web offers easier access to a virtual “endless shelf” of vices. And that boring friend of yours expects you to read his lame blog posts (guilty as charged).

But every once in a while, there’s a glimmer of hope in the sea of sewage. Sometimes two glimmers.

Glimmer #1

A 16-year-old girl from North Carolina who was missing for days was rescued from “unlawful imprisonment” in a car driven by a 61-year-old man. The car was pulled over by police in Kentucky because someone in the car behind had recognized the girl’s hand gestures as a signal that she needed help, and called 911. The 16-year-old who used the hand signal and the person in the other car who recognized the gesture had both learned it from… of all places… TikTok.

The hand gestures used by the teen have been popularized on TikTok and “represent violence at home – I need help – domestic violence,” the sheriff’s office said. A witness in a car driving behind Brick’s Toyota called 911 upon recognizing the hand signals and told dispatchers the teen appeared to be in “distress.” 

from this article on Cincinnati.com

You can read more here. And you can learn the “violence at home – send help” hand signal, created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, here:

Glimmer #2

For a glimmer that’s a bit lighter, please welcome The Mountain Goats to the stage.

They too went viral on TikTok, when a short snippet of one of their songs, “No Children” — which was released nearly 20 years ago — was used in dozens of videos on the platform.

In most of the viral videos made with the song as soundtrack, users do a brief bit of choreography that illustrates the divorcing couple in the song drowning. Or, in many cases, they use their cats to simulate the narrator sinking into the ocean. Something about the sheer, extreme bitterness of the sentiments therein has grabbed younger generations who are clinging to its only partially tongue-in-cheek anger and despair as if it were their own.

from this article in Variety

This Variety interview with Mountain Goats lead singer John Darnielle is great, because he appreciates the serendipity of it all.

“No Children” had just been sitting there since 2002. When I say it’s just been sitting there… it’s been one of our most popular songs in our catalog. But the Mountain Goats are, I always say, sort of a boutique concern. We’re not for everybody. My voice can be a deal breaker. We’re never reaching for the brass ring. We made literary rock. [Laughs.] But when people do find it, it affirms for those of us who make indie music that when the broader public is exposed to it, there’s more people who would like it if they get a chance to hear it. The consolidation of radio and the diffuse nature of the media landscape means that there’s lots of good stuff that people don’t generally hear unless it gets a viral moment.

Mountain Goats lead singer/songwriter John Darnielle in the Variety interview linked above.

I love the Mountain Goats (so does Stephen Colbert…check out the clip at the end of this post). I also love it when the interwebs goes viral in a good way.

That’s what’s fun about this: nobody on my side tried to do this at all. Because the internet could be fun. We know it’s kind of a train wreck because of algorithmic recommendations and a number of other things that have made it pretty problematic, but the fun of something like this is really when listeners show you that they’re engaged, that they have another way of listening, and will tell you what your song did for them, even if it’s a 15-second piece of the song. That’s fun and cool. 

John Darnielle, in the Variety interview

What happens in Vegas… is tragic

The Las Vegas Raiders lost a road game yesterday, falling to the NY Giants, 23-16.

A 23-year-old woman lost her life this past Tuesday in Las Vegas. All because Henry Ruggs III, a 22-year-old man who used to play for the Las Vegas Raiders, rear-ended her car on a suburban street.

Ruggs was driving at 156 mph with a blood-alcohol content twice Nevada’s legal limit before his sports car slammed into the rear of a vehicle that burned, killing Las Vegas resident Tina O. Tintor, 23, and her dog, prosecutors said Wednesday.

from NFL.com

Speed is what got Henry Ruggs III to the NFL. He was drafted in the first round in 2020 after running a 4.27-second 40-yard dash in that year’s combine. But now speed (and a woeful lack of judgement) will take him to jail.

“Life is about choices. Mr. Ruggs made a choice,” district attorney Steve Wolfson told reporters after the court appearance. “And the difficulty I have is there’s so many alternatives. There’s ride-sharing. There’s a designated driver. There’s a taxi. There’s so many alternatives. But Mr. Ruggs made a choice. And he’s going to have to live with the consequences.”

From this article in The Athletic

Henry Ruggs made a horrible decision when he got behind the wheel after drinking. It cost a young woman her life. Tina Tintor was only 23. After Henry Ruggs spends years in jail, living with consequence of his actions, here’s hoping and praying that he somehow finds a way to make the next chapter of his life less tragic…

Voting is boring

It’s an “off year” for voting. No big names at the top of the ticket. No president to elect. Ho-hum.

In Cincinnati, today’s election will only determine the new mayor. And the new members of City Council. And the school board. Oh, and there are a couple of proposed tax levies, and one charter amendment. NBD.

Actually, it’s a very big deal. The new mayor and City Council members will help determine the direction of our city. The school board will have a huge influence on the education of our children. The tax levies will come out of our pockets. The amendment proposal would make eight (count ’em) major changes to the city charter.

Voting may not be as exciting this year, but it’s just as important.

Pigs in Space

I’m really torn about the recent spate of billionaire rocket rides.

I do think there’s a need for space exploration.

But it feels like it’s turned into a “willie waving contest” as a Brit former co-worker put it. It’s about ego, and conquest… and commerce. (Get your tickets now!)

Our space icons are now the powerful owners of private companies, who have infused space travel with their own personal narratives and idiosyncratic ambitions. During the Apollo era, the most visible participants in the moon effort were the astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins—men who were certainly venerated but who approached their task with the duty of soldiers. At this moment, the most visible participants are eccentric billionaires having rocket-measuring contests in public.

Marina Koren, in this article in The Atlantic

They’ve certainly got the cash to burn. Perversely, the pandemic was like a booster rocket for their personal fortunes:

But it seems like such a waste of resources. I know some will counter that we have to look at the bigger picture, and that the know-how needed to put those flights into space will benefit all of us down the line.

But I don’t know how willing these titans of industry will be to share the secrets of their interstellar success. They’re more likely to try to corner the Milky Way market.

I’m actually aligned with another rich guy:

We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live.

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge

Can’t Musk, Bezos and Branson focus their billions on the 8 billion people on the single planet we all share, instead of taking Captain Kirk on a joy ride?

Dave Whamond | Copyright 2021 Cagle Cartoons

The “moon shot” we all need is a bit more down-to-earth.

Writing about walking

Geez, it’s mid-October already? I can’t believe more than a month has passed and I’ve yet to encourage you to feast your eyeballs upon the glorious wonderment of my stellar writing in the September issue of Cincinnati Magazine. (Ouch! I just broke my arm trying to pat myself on the back.)

OK, I know I need to pump the brakes on the “glorious” and the “stellar” and any other sort of superlatives. But as a wannabe writer, it’s pretty darn cool to get a byline.

The assignment (courtesy of my old friend John Fox, the editor of Cincinnati Magazine) was a fun one: walk a new hike/bike path and share some observations and pointers.

My piece was part of their September issue cover package on “Walking” (a timely topic during yet another pandemic wave).

The full article is online here. If you like it, let me know. If you don’t like it… take a hike!

WFT or WTF?

The NFL team based in the Washington, D.C. area shed their old (and pejorative/racist) nickname prior to last season.

But they’ve yet to come up with a new moniker. They’ve been known as the “Washington Football Team” for nearly a season and a half.

Quite a few teams in the NFL have names that are linked to their city, whether by geography or history. Baltimore, where Edgar Allan Poe launched his literary career, chose the name “Ravens” as a nod to Poe’s most famous poem. Miami has dolphins, so they also have the Dolphins. The Saints go marching in down in New Orleans, and Cowboys live in Dallas.

So, here are some name suggestions that seem fitting for a team based in the seat of our federal government:

  • The Washington Gridlocks – instead of playing other NFL teams, they’ll just battle to a standstill against their own teammates.
  • The D.C. Lobbyists – each player will be funded by a large corporation, and will rewrite the game’s rules to benefit themselves.
  • The Filibusters – if you think NFL games take too long now, just you wait…
  • The Beltway Bubbles – they’ll only play home games, and won’t care what happens outside their stadium.
  • The Checks ‘n Balances – scores will only count if approved by a 2/3 majority of the team and signed into law by the coach.
  • The Pork Barrels – the field will feature two four-lane highways, situated just beyond each end zone. Each highway, built at a cost of $329 billion, will only be 53 yards long, and will be named after the head of the House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Budget Committee, respectively.
  • The WTFs – self-explanatory.

A heartwarming story

Meet Kevin Carrico.

Actually that’s Doctor Kevin Carrico to you and me.

I work with Kevin’s older brother, Michael (a.k.a. “Rico”… but he’s not suave) and Kevin’s sister-in-law Ashley. And although I’ve never met Dr. Kevin, I know he’s a good dude. How so? Well, when Kevin was a teenager, he overcame Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and was so inspired by the healthcare professionals who helped him beat cancer that he made it his life’s goal to help other kids who had cancer. He went to med school at the University of Louisville, with the goal of becoming a pediatric oncologist. His peers celebrated his persistent positive attitude by choosing him to receive an award which recognizes a senior student who reflects the characteristics of a good physician: competence, ethical behavior, leadership, compassion, and humor. Kevin was awarded his M.D. in 2020. How friggin’ kind, caring and cool is that?

The real ending isn’t quite that neat and tidy. You see, while he was in med school, Kevin was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. Yep, more cancer, but this time a more aggressive and fatal form. Life gave Kevin lemons when he was a teenager, and he made lemonade. But then life gave Kevin a truckload of rotten lemons. It’s both cruel and unusual… and no one was less deserving of such punishment.

Kevin fought bravely, but eventually succumbed and passed away in June of 2019. He was awarded his M.D. posthumously, leaving behind a grieving family and fiancée.

I know I promised you a heartwarming story, and this one is heartbreaking instead. Worst bait-and-switch ever!

Well, the story’s not over yet. Kevin’s family has somehow been able to look beyond their own inconceivable grief at Kevin’s incomprehensible fate, and they’ve started a memorial scholarship fund in Kevin’s name through the National Collegiate Cancer Foundation (NCCF).

NCCF is committed to providing need-based financial support to young adult survivors who are pursuing higher education throughout their treatment and beyond. Furthermore, the Foundation promotes awareness and prevention of cancer within the young adult community.

From the NCCF website

Basically the NCCF supports hundreds of other young adults just like Kevin. Fighters. Brave souls. Kids with courageous hearts. And maybe one of them will become a pediatric oncologist, and will help your kid or grandkid beat cancer. That’d be pretty heartwarming, wouldn’t it?

YOU can help write a happy ending. And all you have to do is donate right here.

How friggin’ kind, caring and cool is that?

(Thanks for reading. Thanks for donating.)

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