Young and… let’s just call it restless, shall we?

As far as I know, there’s only one official “Olan Mills” portrait style photography image of my siblings and me.

Wait, that’s not the right photo. That’s one from the Awkward Family Photos website. I’ll wait right here while you spend the next 20 minutes looking through all those awesome shots….

Aaand, we’re back. As I was saying, there’s only one official family portrait photo of my siblings and me. And the only remaining print of said shot is in the possession of my older sister. (Don’t start looking for any birth order subtext or issues… I’m fine with this arrangement.)

I recently asked my older sister to text me a photo of the photo, if that makes any sense. Here it is in all its late 60s black and white glory:

That’s me in the lower right.

They say “every picture tells a story” (and by “they” I mean “Rod Stewart”), but you have to be careful with that today, because anyone and everyone can be a photo editor. You may look at that shot and say “what a lovely bunch of kids.” (You’d better, because it’s true!)

However, you’re not getting the full picture with the picture above. Why? Well, because when we four wee tykes posed for this photo, one of them clearly had to go wee-wee. Please note the placement of my hands in the full shot:

Nature was calling, but I couldn’t answer because the photographer charged by the hour.

I could be sad about the fact that in the one and only official siblings photo we have, I’m a bit too “hands on.” But I’m an optimist, and I’m going to look at the bladder as half-full instead of half-empty. Because this is really a photo of a trendsetter. Yes, it’s true, decades before Michael Jackson made the crotch grab part of our visual vernacular, I was doing it.

MJ was the King of Pop, but I was the King of Having to Pee. Long may I rain.

 

Batteries not included

Before you go out and buy that electronic doorbuster special for the wee ones on your holiday shopping list, you might want to consider these two posts:

First, there’s this old article from an ex-Googler, about how websites and apps are hijacking our minds:

…this is exactly what product designers do to your mind. They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you in the race to grab your attention.

But here’s the unfortunate truth — several billion people have a slot machine their pocket:

  • When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got.
  • When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got.
  • When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next.
  • When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match.
  • When we tap the # of red notifications, we’re playing a slot machine to what’s underneath.

Second, there’s this recent post from the always-brilliant Seth Godin:

If a parent uses a tablet or a smartphone as a babysitter, it’s a lot easier to get a kid to sit still. As a result, parents who are busy, distracted or can’t afford to spend as much 1:1 time as they’d like are unknowingly encouraging their kids to become digital zombies, with a constant need for stimulation, who are being manipulated by digital overlords to click and click some more.

If a kid can’t read, it’s not clear he should be surfing the web, watching TV or playing a video game for hours a day.

Boredom, daydreaming, a good book, building in three dimensions, interactivity with other humans–these are precious skills, skills that are being denied kids that are simply given a plate of chicken fingers and a tablet instead.

Tell the tablet and phone makers to take a hike. And take your kids on a hike instead!

What’s in a (wrong) name?

 

Did you know “misspelled” is one of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language? (People usually leave out the 2nd “s”.) Another commonly misspelled word is my first name. It’s Damian. But folks mess it up all the time. Not just strangers, mind you, but people who have known me for years. Granted, there’s also a name that’s similar, spelled Damien. But it should be easy to keep those separate in your head – I (DamiAn) am an Angel, and DamiEn is pure Evil.

I’m in the mentoring program at my alma mater, Xavier University, and they recently published a promotional video featuring my mentee and me. (I know why they did it… so other alums would say “geez, if that loser can do it, I can too!”) And of course they spelled my name incorrectly. (Warning: this video contains scenes of middle aged mediocrity.)

Poor Maddy. Not only did she get stuck with me as a mentor, but they also misspelled her first name.

It turns out that this misspelling has been going on for half a century. While going through the archives of the Jersey City Journal (I really need to find a new hobby), I found the obituary for my mom… and you guessed it, they messed up my name.

My co-workers… even folks I’ve worked with for more than a decade… often get it wrong.

Well, the joke’s on them now, because we just hired a DamiEn and I’m gonna forward all the emails with my name misspelled to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caught in the college basketball net

Another college hoops season has begun, bringing joy to millions of fans (myself included).

But there’s a seamy underbelly to sport, and the kids that play are merely pawns in a high stakes game that reaps billions for the NCAA. Yes, they get a scholarship, but that’s chump change compared to the money in play. Check out this New York Times article from a few months ago to read about one kid’s sad saga.

Brian Bowen Jr.  (Photo: Gregory Payan/Associated Press) 

A few excerpts below highlight the hypocrisy… bold emphasis is mine:

Playing in a gilded arena — the KFC Yum! Center — with luxury boxes and bars in the concourses that serve bourbon and other hard liquors, Louisville basketball has generated more than $45 million in annual revenue in recent seasons.

According to the government’s case, $100,000 is what it took to lure Bowen to Louisville and its Hall of Fame coach, Rick Pitino. Only $19,500 was actually paid to anyone — an amount equal to one-quarter of 1 percent of Pitino’s annual salary, $7.8 million.

Brian Bowen Jr. is not a defendant; he appears to have been a bystander.

After Louisville said he would not be allowed to play there, he transferred to the University of South Carolina — only to be told later by the N.C.A.A. that he could not play there, either. In that organization’s view, he seems to be irredeemably tainted. At 19 years old, he was a hoops pariah.

In court documents, prosecutors quoted the N.C.A.A. rule book extensively, and in doing so, called attention to stated principles that sounded antiquated, if not outright absurd. “Among the N.C.A.A.’s core principles for the conduct of intercollegiate athletics is a directive that ‘student-athletes shall be amateurs in an intercollegiate sport,’” the criminal complaint says, and that “‘student-athletes should be protected from exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises.’”

It was a curious claim, given that the N.C.A.A. — the Indianapolis-based nonprofit that governs college sports — is not just an enormous commercial enterprise but arguably an exploitive one. In the fiscal year that ended in 2017, the organization surpassed $1 billion in revenue for the first time. A majority of its income, $761 million, came from television rights to the season-ending basketball tournament popularly known as March Madness, an annual payment that increased to $869 million in 2018. The contract with CBS and Turner Sports stretches to 2032 and has an overall value of almost $19.6 billion.

That money, though, is just a fraction of what college athletes generate in football and men’s basketball. (The major college football programs essentially seceded from the N.C.A.A. when they formed the highly lucrative Bowl Championship Series in 1998, but their players still compete under the N.C.A.A.’s amateurism rubric.) Their labor is responsible for revenue that flows directly to their universities from a range of sources, including ticket sales, donations from wealthy boosters, in‑stadium advertising, conference broadcast rights and so-called shoe deals in which Nike, Adidas and Under Armour pay for the right to outfit teams — thereby turning ostensibly amateur athletes into human billboards.

Until the kids that are the “product” peddled by the NCAA get a bigger slice of the pie, they are playing a losing game.

 

 

 

Corny jokes and cornfields

Roy Clark is a-grinnin’ in heaven.

Seems like nearly everyone had a love/hate relationship with Hee Haw, the cornpone version of Laugh-In. As a New Jersey native transplanted to Arkansas in the summer of ’72, I could certainly understand both parts of the equation (i.e. “ha-ha, what rubes!” and “ha-ha, that’s my life!”). It was super-hick instead of super-chic, yet somehow it worked, and lasted a quarter of a century.

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Roy’s instrumental mastery (his “a-pickin'”) was often overshadowed by the part he played on Hee Haw (“a-grinnin'”). But the man had major skills. And because Hee Haw only taped for three-week stretches twice a year, he could still tour. Good work if you can get it. Plus, the show gave a lot of country artists their first national exposure, something Roy was proud of:

With all of its twists and turns, the program gave me an incredible education in the business of show business—the importance of ratings, questionable executive decisions, syndication, money, problematic artistic decisions, demographics, image, coincidence and luck. But first and foremost, I am most proud of how Hee Haw did its part to help pave the way for country music to burst from its regional roots to remarkable worldwide popularity.  (Source: this Huffington Post article written by Roy in 2015)

Tony Orlando, Johnny Cash and Roy Clark – quite a trio.

The show itself, and Roy and Buck, served as both punching bag and punchline for many critics over the years. But as usual, Roy got it… and got the last laugh.

You know, like my dad told me, listening to different types of music and the way that people live, he said, don’t put it down until your heart hears it.

Now, you’ll hear it with your ears, but don’t write off, say I don’t like that. Listen. Listen for a while. There’ll be something in there that will appeal to you. And it – it’s made me, you know, a successful life that I wouldn’t change one note. (Source: Roy Clark’s NPR interview with Scott Simon in 2016 – full audio is below)

 

 

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