Barbie Summer is Over and I’m sad.

Barbie: role model for girls, fun to play with, brought joy to many.

I’m not talking about the Mattel toy, or the Hollywood blockbuster. I’m talking about Barb O’Brien. A couple of years ago, I didn’t even know who she was. But thanks to the esprit de corps that pickleball engenders among “the regulars” at any particular set of courts, I got to know Barb (a.k.a. “Barbie”). And to know Barb was to love her. How could you not admire someone who was battling cancer but still kicking butt on the courts… and doing it all with a positivity that was absolutely infectious.

Age and ailments slowed her down, but they never kept her away from the courts for too long until recently. To say Barb “lost” her battle to cancer would be wrong – she left the courts (and this world) with her head held high and a smile on her face.

I knew Barb was a tennis star in her youth, but it wasn’t until I read her obit that I realized what a trailblazer she was:

Barb was a fierce competitor, earning a spot on the Withrow High School Boys Varsity Tennis team in 1972, prior to Title IX and dedicated womens teams. Barb went on to attend the University of Cincinnati where she played tennis, achieving a ranking of #2 in the state of Ohio. 

My pickleball pal Mitch Dunn wrote a great tribute to Barb on Medium. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Barb was a greeter, a welcomer, an ambassador, and a connector. She was a grinder, a laugher, and a lover of the game. She made an indelible impact on me and many others. She not only helped create other lovers of the game, but other ambassadors, connectors, and welcomers. They are all Barb’s legacy, and they are all longing for the old days.

Mitch Dunn in his Medium post linked above

Barb’s friend Sue posted the news of Barb’s passing on the group chat for the Clear Creek pickleball crew. Dozens of people posted notes like these:

Barb’s daughter Marci joined the chat via Barb’s account:

Barbie Summer is over. But Barb’s influence will go on for years.

The Beths. The Best.

A week ago, I saw the best concert of the year. And Taylor Swift was nowhere to be found.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Taylor hater. Far from it. I have a ton of respect for anyone who writes their own songs.

But I saw a terrific band from New Zealand called The Beths at a small club in Cincinnati, and they hit all the right notes, literally and figuratively.

During the show, I just savored the sights and sounds. But after the fact, I tried to analyze why I liked the gig so much. And I came up with a few items on my concert checklist:

  1. Great songs – it’s about the music, first and foremost. Lead singer/songwriter Elizabeth Stokes writes songs with hooks that are catchy and lyrics that are profound.
  2. Live, not Memorex – The Beths are a four-piece band, and they play their own instruments, live, without backing tracks. I know a lot of bands are using pre-recorded tracks these days… but I don’t go to a show to hear studio recordings. Elizabeth Stokes has a great voice, and plays guitar as well. Guitarist Jonathan Pearce, bassist Benjamin Sinclair, and drummer Tristan Deck also sang backing vocals, which added greatly to the overall sound of the songs.
  3. Setlist – The songs matter, but so does the sequencing, and the mix of “classics” to new songs. The Beths have released three great albums, without a bad song in the bunch, so they were working from strength, but their set featured really strong songs from each of the albums, with a nice mix of singalong anthems and quiet ballads. (You can listen to the songs from the set at
  4. Sound system – All three of the above can be ruined by a bad sound mix. The Beths played The Woodward Theater and the sound was stellar, and the sound engineer kept the volume at a reasonable level. (If I had a nickel for every band I’ve seen where the sound engineer had the mix WAAAY TOO LOUD, I’d be able to afford better earplugs.)
  5. Energetic band – The Beths were having fun on stage, and that can be contagious. A running gag was them shouting “O-H” and waiting for the crowd to reply “I-O!” (It’s an Ohio State thing – The Beths made no bones about the fact that they had no idea what the cheer was about, but someone had told them to do it at Ohio concerts.)
  6. Enthusiastic audience – the folks at the show weren’t casual fans. That’s the beauty of being an up-and-coming band – the people who like you are dedicated, and are there because they like your music, not because your lead singer is on a Disney show or TikTok.
  7. Intimate venue – all other things being equal, being able to get close to the stage at a club is so much better than an arena show with giant barriers between you and the performers.

There you have it, my Sonic Seven ingredients for a tasty gig. Not that you asked.

This KEXP live in-studio performance gives you a taste of what The Beths are like in a live setting.

This stripped-down set highlights the brilliant songwriting.

And here’s the title track from their brilliant new album:

Mic Drop

Yesterday, my friend Dave and I recorded a podcast episode. Just like we’ve done nearly 100 times over the past five years.

Never heard of our podcast? You’re not alone. 99.99% of the world has never heard of it, much less heard it. But for the few, the proud, the folks who remember a tiny “modern rock” station in Oxford, Ohio, the podcast was pretty darn cool. It helped them reconnect with the station, the music, and the people that meant a lot to them.

“I am not sure you guys realize just what impact having this modern rock format has had on my life… your podcast has brought about all of these thoughts, feelings, and memories of the soundtrack of 21 years on my life. I thank you for playing your part in it back then and I thank you for creating this podcast to help me process just what those 21 years have meant to me.”

“Thanks for the pod. It is like finally being able to talk with someone about the treasure that was WOXY.” 

We found a niche — actually, it’s more like the niche found us, because we were horrible at promoting the podcast. But somehow, some way, the people who wanted to listen found us. And we had a ton of fun in the process.

But now we’ve exhausted the list of potential guests and topics. It’s been great, but it’s time to pull the plug on “Rumblings.”

I’m really proud of the work we did. Step 1 was figuring out how in the heck to do a podcast. Then came setting up the website, finding a hosting platform (Podbean has been great), scheduling the interviews, figuring out how to record them when we’re in different locations, doing the editing, and finally posting them. We put out a new episode nearly every two weeks for close to five years. It was a labor of love, but the accent was on “labor.”

I’ll miss it. It wasn’t just a chance for listeners to reconnect with a station they loved, it was also a chance for me to reconnect with my radio days. Guess I’ll have to find another outlet for my podcasting prowess (using that term extremely loosely). I have no idea what that’ll be. So you and I both will have to stay tuned…

But for now, it’s mic drop time.

The World’s Still Burning, But The Tide Is Turning

More heat emergencies. More wildfires. The hottest ocean temps in recorded history. It can be easy to despair about the state of the world that we all share. Or give up hope completely.

But a recent New York Times article gave cause — causes actually — for optimism, and I’ll take all the good news I can get.

Sorry about the paywall thing… FWIW, cheapskates like me avoid it by using a free day pass from the public library. The Cincinnati Library one is here.

Here are a few choice excerpts:

Coal: it’s only for bad kids’ Christmas stockings.

Bob Dylan was right – the answer is blowin’ in the wind!

Without a doubt, we’re still in a crisis. The planet is in peril. But the winds of change are blowing, and we might be seeing the dawn of a new day (and capturing those solar rays in the process). Go Team Earth!

Pedaling to Kick Cancer’s Butt

I’ve signed up to ride my bike 24 miles (in a row… crazy, I know) in the Ride Cincinnati event on September 17th to raise funds for the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center and the Barrett Cancer Center. If you could see it in your heart (and find it in your wallet) to support me, I’d greatly appreciate your tax-deductible donation. 100% of your contribution will go directly to life-saving cancer research and care in the Greater Cincinnati area.

Me on a “training ride”:

Me during the actual Ride Cincinnati event:

The University of Cincinnati Cancer Center is trying to achieve National Cancer Hospital (NCH) designation, which would make them eligible for more funding, and enable them to provide more treatment options to patients.

Cancer is a cruel disease. Just a few months ago, my mother-in-law succumbed to renal cancer. She went from active, independent grandma to bedridden, pain-ravaged patient in less than a year. I hope and pray for a day when cases like hers have a better outcome. With my pedaling and your support, we can help kick cancer’s butt.

I’m not going to set any land speed records on my ride, but I’m really close to my stretch goal of $1,000. With your help, I can get there. Thanks!

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