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.

 

 

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