Searching for light, in the darkness…

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

— opening of “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot

May is the saddest month.

— dubbatrubba

We miss Scott

May has been a bummer since 2018, when Scott Hutchison, lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, took his own life that month, after battling anxiety and depression for years. He was 36.

Scott and yours truly at a music festival photo op, September 24, 2016

“Scott’s voice will always be with us. His words will always be with us. I’m not going to stop shouting from the rooftops or screaming from small stages about how amazing he was. I think it’s important that we remember him through the beautiful things that he put into the world.”

James Graham, lead singer of The Twilight Sad and friend of Scott Hutchison

Looking beyond their grief, Scott’s family established the Tiny Changes charity focused on mental health among young people in his native Scotland.

We miss John

This May has been particularly cruel, and overwhelmingly sad. John Erhardt, a guitar player with two local bands I adore (with names guaranteed to keep them in semi-obscurity: Ass Ponys and Wussy), passed away suddenly on May 4th. He was just 58.

John gave us a beauty that we’ll never see again. A combination of love, friendship, stability and that amazing swirling sound. Truly a wonder. A backdrop to everything that we are, in the band and in life.

Chuck Cleaver, John’s longtime friend and bandmate in both Ass Ponys and Wussy

John also was an outstanding director of photography and cinematographer in the Cincinnati area, well revered by his peers. Most importantly, he was by all accounts a prince of a man – kind, humble, caring, joyful, thoughtful, wonderful.

John also struggled with mental health. His family and friends are channeling their grief in a positive way – here’s the text from the GoFundMe linked below:

The untimely and sudden passing of our friend John Erhardt has us all asking, “What can we do to honor his memory?  How can we continue John’s legacy to have a positive and lasting impact on others?”

As John’s wife, Denise, and his daughter, Elizabeth, experience their grief, they are determined to channel what they are feeling into a way to help those who struggle with mental health, as John did.

To support the cause, a fund is being established to assist organizations whose focus is advocating for and helping individuals and their families who contend with the disease of mental illness. 

But I’ve hidden the real headline, because I’m in denial.

Back in my 97X radio days, we had a student intern named Steve. Great kid. Smart. Funny. Kind. Caring. We’ve managed to stay in touch over the years, as he migrated back to his Chicago home, got married and started a family. He’s one of the few (read “three”) regular readers of this blog.

Steve, center, with his old college roomie Joe (also a good friend and former 97X intern) at left, after a concert in Chicago in September of 2018

Sadly, tragically, Steve’s son Patrick chose to end his life on Monday, May 4th, after a long battle with severe anxiety and depression. He was just 18.

As you can only imagine, Steve, his wife Fronzie, and Patrick’s older brother Ben and younger sister Magdelene are heartbroken, devastated… a sadness beyond words. Inconsolable.

But to their eternal credit, they too are looking beyond their own grief, and hoping to help others. Patrick’s memorial service was online due to coronavirus restrictions. In a way, that’s a blessing, because the video message that Steve and Fronzie recorded, while heartbreakingly sad, is also a profile of courage and a message of love and hope to others who are struggling. Steve has given me permission to share it, and it should be shared. Please spend nine minutes of your day watching Steve and Fronzie’s tribute to their son, whom they love so much.

“It warms our hearts to know that Patrick’s life made an impact on so many.”

Fronzie and Steve Roemer

In light of Patrick’s battle with depression and anxiety and the sadness left in its wake, the Roemer family and their friends are in the process of creating a foundation dedicated to supporting young people who are suffering from mental illness. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to gofundme. com/f/support-the-roemer-family. 100% of all future donations will be directed toward this foundation.

We know there are many people like Patrick who fight the same war against depression and anxiety. Your battles are real.

Steve and Fronzie Roemer

Please send your warm thoughts, your positive energy, your good vibes, your prayers – they give strength to the Hutchisons and the Erhardts and the Roemers. Please donate if you can – it’ll provide hope to other families facing similar challenges with mental health.

While I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to Earth…

Scott Hutchison

Funny Fred

Comedic actor Fred Willard passed away this weekend at the age of 86. I loved his Jerry Hubbard character on Fernwood 2-Night.

He was funny in every part he played, even if it was only a bit part like in This is Spinal Tap.

He was consistently amusing in his many appearances on Letterman.

His characters in the Christopher Guest improv movies (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) were outstanding.

And he kept us laughing later in his career, with roles on Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family, as well as appearances on The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live. He really elevated the laugh factor on every project he did.

“He was absolutely, unconditionally original. He worked so spontaneously. He had such a closet that he could go to. It was just remarkable. You never where he was going to go. He didn’t tip it.”

Fred’s longtime acting pal Martin Mull in this Variety article

By all accounts, he was a very nice person as well.

“He was as kind and as gentle and as warm and generous a person as you could ever want to meet.”

Martin Mull

R.I.P. Fred… here’s your somber exit song

And here’s your will:

Classroom of the future

Here’s a great New York magazine interview with Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at NYU Stern School of Business… and the man who accurately predicted Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and WeWork’s valuation bubble. It covers something that a lot of parents of college-age kids have been pondering during coronavirus lockdown: if my kid can’t be on campus, why am I paying the big bucks for School A vs. the much more economical School B?

There’s a recognition that education — the value, the price, the product — has fundamentally shifted. The value of education has been substantially degraded. There’s the education certification and then there’s the experience part of college. The experience part of it is down to zero, and the education part has been dramatically reduced. You get a degree that, over time, will be reduced in value as we realize it’s not the same to be a graduate of a liberal-arts college if you never went to campus. You can see already how students and their parents are responding.

It’s like, “Wait, my kid’s going to be home most of the year? Staring at a computer screen?” There’s this horrific awakening being delivered via Zoom of just how substandard and overpriced education is at every level.

excerpts from the article linked above.

Lots of interesting food for thought. Galloway predicts that the tech titans (Amazon, Apple, Google) will get into the higher ed game. Well worth a read.

And from the student side, Seth Godin has long advocated for changes in our factory model educational system. This coronavirus crisis also provides us with an opportunity to rethink… nay, reimagine, how schools are set up. His manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams, is quite thought-provoking. You can download a PDF version here.

In the post-industrial model, though, the lectures are handled by best-in-class videos delivered online. Anything that can be digitized, will be digitized, and isolated on the long tail and delivered with focus. What’s needed from the teacher is no longer high-throughput lectures or test scoring or classroom management. No, what’s needed is individual craftsmanship, emotional labor, and the ability to motivate.

Seth Godin in Stop Stealing Dreams

The world has changed. Colleges, and all schools, need to change as well.

The (other) revolution will not be televised

For better or for worse (and it’s mostly for worse), most of our news is delivered visually. And the old axiom of “if it bleeds, it leads” is more apt than ever before. People with their faces pressed against the statehouse doors? That’s a great photo op. White guys with assault weapons holding up signs? That makes for a clickbait-ready 30-second video loop. A crowded bar in Wisconsin is a novelty in novel coronavirus times, a car wreck that our eyes are drawn to.

George Romero’s next zombie film “Day of the Soon-to-be-Dead of COVID-19”

But while these fringe folks are dominating the latest news cycle (along with the Oompa Loompa in Chief), let’s not forget that the vast majority of Americans are acting in ways that are healthy, courteous, civil. Staying home. Limiting their contact with non-family members. Social distancing. Wearing masks in public. Respecting the rules that are set up to save lives. But there’s not a “hot story” in millions of Americans working together (albeit apart) for the common good.

Last time I checked, “Life” came before “liberty” in the Declaration of Independence. If we have to sacrifice a bit of the latter over a short period of time, to preserve the former, that makes sense to me. Especially when someone’s idea of “liberty” means overburdening the health care system and causing tens of thousands of needless deaths.

Rickey Dobbs explains it much more eloquently and entertainingly than I ever could, in this brilliant and hilarious post from his always-brilliant-and-hilarious blog Hitting the Trifecta. The post compares the “transmission rate” of motorcycle accidents to the transmission rate of coronavirus. Here’s an excerpt:

Here’s the thing: no one gives a White House Rose Garden rat’s ass about your “freedom” if exercising it results in a chain reaction that kills untold thousands upon thousands of people. Your freedom must be restrained, for the survival of all of us.

My personal preference, with regard to freedoms and such, is living. Further, I value keeping my grandma and mom and dad alive. I enjoy keeping my nephews and niece alive, too.

I’m willing to accept some risk in daily life. That’s why I drive a car, walk on the sidewalk, and use elevators. There’s a chance I could die from any of these endeavors, but it’s a tiny chance that is mitigated by safety measures. The risks to myself, but more importantly, to you and your kids, are tiny compared to the efficiency brought about by doing those activities.

But if it’s an actuarial certainty that your “freedom” will kill lots of nieces and nephews and grandmas, it becomes society’s obligation to make your exercise of your freedom conform to our collective, legitimate preference to remain members of CHOTSOD. (Club for Humans on This Side of the Dirt.)

So true. We have an obligation to play by the rules, for the greater good of society.

I get it, after 9 weeks in lockdown, everyone is a bit “shack wacky” as my friend Howard calls it. And I know small businesses are hurting, but they’ll suffer even more unless we stick with the plan. The health experts are saying we’re in the second inning of a nine-inning contest. We did a great job with #flattenthecurve but it’s way too soon to bail out now. Thank you for doing your part to #Stopthespike.

I’ve got a math problem

I can’t figure out how our youngest is 15 years old today.

Quarantine cake… and quarantine haircut courtesy of his older brother and an electric razor’s beard trimmer

Let’s see, 3 older siblings times one baby boy… carry the pumpkin seat… minus all those nights he toddled into our bedroom… divided by a million soccer games… yep, that adds up to 15.

He’s not much of a kid anymore but he’s still a great kid.

Creativity: it’s all about attitude

Creative individuals, by their nature, tend to defy the crowd. They resist merely thinking or doing what others are thinking or doing. Rather, they tend to go off in their own direction, seeking to propose ideas that are both novel and useful in some way. The greatest obstacle to creativity, therefore, often is not exactly strictures from others, but rather the limitations one places on one’s own thinking.

That’s an excerpt from this article (a research summary, really) from Robert J. Sternberg, a Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. It’s part of his Investment Theory of Creativity. Here’s more:

People are not born creative or uncreative. Rather, they develop a set of attitudes toward life that characterize those who are willing to go their own way… Such attitudes are teachable and can be ingrained in students through instruction that encourages students to think for themselves.

It is thus crucially important, especially in schools, to provide an environment that allows creativity to flourish—not just in word, but also in deed.

The entire summary is super-short, and well worth a read. It’s also well worth providing our kids with an environment that supports creativity. We’re all home-schooling right now, so there’s never been a better time.

I’m down. 89 down to be exact.

The weekly community newspaper in our area is thin on hard news and heavy with press releases from the volunteer PR people for the local schools and Rotary Clubs.

But I still subscribe, because each week they reprint the New York Times Sunday Crossword puzzle. As a hardcore cruciverbalist, I love trying to crack the code each week. There’s something very satisfying about filling in all those blanks.

And a few weeks ago, I finally was recognized for my dedication:

OK, sure, the clue is bogus. But a guy can dream, can’t he? Here’s the unedited version:

Hey, at least Damian Marley got top billing over his brothers Ziggy and Stephen!

And it’s still a thrill to see my name in the NYT crossword. When I was a kid, I didn’t really like my name that much because it was so unusual, and difficult for others to spell. But after meeting a million Johns and Bobs and Mikes, I started to warm up to it. It was different and weird… just like me!

Now here’s “that other Damian” with some tunes for you.

Love in the Time of Cholera. Art in the Time of COVID.

(My work) is not an answer, it’s a question. I think the world is coming to a place that raises a lot of questions: technology that can dehumanize us, the constant stimulation of information, of news, of everything. We have never been exposed to so much. That brings us to a place where the pace of things is so fast we don’t have time to step back and slow down and see what’s happening. I try to make it a very personalized experience. It has a meaning for me and it’s the reason I do it. But for you or someone who sees it, it’s what the art is saying to you. That’s the real meaning of the artwork, which I don’t own. The viewer owns it.

Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, known as Vhils, in this Cincinnati Business Courier article.

Vhils first large-scale solo exhibition in the U.S. was supposed to be happening right now at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, but the center is closed due to the pandemic.

“You have to work on it every day or else you start to lose it pretty quickly.”

18-year-old Cincinnati artist Owen Gunderman, known as Tenzing.

Owen Gunderman (a.k.a. Tenzing) was supposed to have his first solo exhibition this weekend at a Cincinnati gallery. His upcoming high school graduation won’t be as festive either. And his dad (a friend of mine) has been working countless hours during the pandemic, as a senior director of emergency services (and interventional cardiac and radiologic services too!) at an area hospital.

Please check out the Cincinnati Magazine profile of Owen and his vlog below.

Greetings fellow Earthlings

Hat tip to Phil Roberto for the link to this wonderful message:

Let’s reframe our priorities, Citizen Scientists!

Optimism. Hope. Courage. Kindness. They never go out of style.

Have a Happy Earth Day… and the day after, and the day after…

Thousands die of “liberal hoax”

Thousands die of “liberal hoax”

Religion and politics… two topics one should never discuss in polite company. And I consider you, dear reader, to be quite polite company. But I’m gonna break the rule today. I can’t hold my tongue any longer (it’s part of the “don’t touch your face” rule). Feel free to bail out now if you’d like. I’ll be back to my usual Chuckles the Clown routine on this blog in 24 hours.

If you’re still with me, please spend 82 seconds watching this lil’ video:

Let’s review, shall we? It’s no longer one person, or 15. It didn’t “disappear, like a miracle” in April. it isn’t “totally under control.” We don’t have a vaccine.

Want more?

As of this morning, there are 713,503 confirmed cases, with 59,672 deaths. Think about that!

I could go on citing chapter and verse about the many ways our country’s president has failed the American people in a time of crisis. We needed a leader. We’re stuck with a liar.

Trump was warned about the looming pandemic in mid-January, if not sooner. On January 31st, he imposed a travel ban on foreign nationals who had been in China, because that move was right in his xenophobic wheelhouse. Then, for six crucial weeks, he did nothing other than to parrot lies.

This article from The Atlantic sums things up nicely:

The utter unpreparedness of the United States for a pandemic is Trump’s fault. The loss of stockpiled respirators to breakage because the federal government let maintenance contracts lapse in 2018 is Trump’s fault. The failure to store sufficient protective medical gear in the national arsenal is Trump’s fault. That states are bidding against other states for equipment, paying many multiples of the precrisis price for ventilators, is Trump’s fault. Air travelers summoned home and forced to stand for hours in dense airport crowds alongside infected people? That was Trump’s fault too. Ten weeks of insisting that the coronavirus is a harmless flu that would miraculously go away on its own? Trump’s fault again. The refusal of red-state governors to act promptly, the failure to close Florida and Gulf Coast beaches until late March? That fault is more widely shared, but again, responsibility rests with Trump: He could have stopped it, and he did not.

The lying about the coronavirus by hosts on Fox News and conservative talk radio is Trump’s fault: They did it to protect him. The false hope of instant cures and nonexistent vaccines is Trump’s fault, because he told those lies to cover up his failure to act in time. The severity of the economic crisis is Trump’s fault; things would have been less bad if he had acted faster instead of sending out his chief economic adviser and his son Eric to assure Americans that the first stock-market dips were buying opportunities. The firing of a Navy captain for speaking truthfully about the virus’s threat to his crew? Trump’s fault. The fact that so many key government jobs were either empty or filled by mediocrities? Trump’s fault. The insertion of Trump’s arrogant and incompetent son-in-law as commander in chief of the national medical supply chain? Trump’s fault.

For three years, Trump has blathered and bluffed and bullied his way through an office for which he is utterly inadequate. But sooner or later, every president must face a supreme test, a test that cannot be evaded by blather and bluff and bullying. That test has overwhelmed Trump. Trump failed. He is failing. He will continue to fail. And Americans are paying for his failures.

all text in Italics above from this article in The Atlantic by David Frum

Want more? I’ve got more. Here’s an excerpt from another piece in The Atlantic, written by a lifelong Republican, Peter Wehner, who worked in the three previous GOP administrations.

And when a reporter tries to call him out on the do-nothing gap, he resorts to his usual ad hominem attacks.

Peter Wehner actually wrote something very prescient in January of 2016… he recounts it in the article above. Here’s the passage:

I hope and pray that this crisis will be “totally under control.” That can start on November 3rd of this year, and maybe by January 20th of 2021, it’ll “disappear, like a miracle.”

In case you need it, here’s a video that shows you how to unsubscribe from a WordPress blog.

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