To Be a Winner, Be You

Jon Batiste took home a fistful of Grammys a couple of weeks ago, including the highly coveted Album of the Year award for We Are.

In that moment, it would’ve been very easy for him to thump his chest. Instead he opened his heart.

So classy, so gracious, so humble… and he spoke the truth. We don’t find music so much as music finds us… when we need it the most.

I loved his parting words: “Be you!”

We each have our own path, our own craft. Work at it every day. You may not make the Grammy stage, but you come out a winner in the game of life.

I listened to Jon Batiste on the Broken Record podcast a few weeks ago and was really blown away by his heart, and his wisdom, and his love. Check it out at the bottom of this post- it’s mandatory listening.

In the interview, Jon Batiste makes it clear that he didn’t get to where he is on his own. He talked about his mentors. Their role is crucial.

One of Jon Batiste’s mentors was his father, who urged him to “tell the truth.”

Another was his cousin Alvin Batiste, a legendary New Orleans jazz musician. Alvin pushed Jon out of his comfort zone, and it made him better at his craft:

Your ability, your talent, the innate thing that you have within you… can be applied to anything. It doesn’t just have to fit the thing that you know you’re capable of doing today…. that’s why I don’t believe in limitations of genre or limitations of creativity in any way.

Jon Batiste

Sometimes the highest hurdles are the limits we impose on ourselves. Congrats to Jon Batiste on his Grammy success. And congrats to YOU on your continued success in whatever path you choose.

Here’s Jon Batiste’s full interview on the Broken Record podcast:

Print’s not dead. It’s just dead to me.

Neil Sedaka said “Breaking up is hard to do” but I found it quite easy to break up with my newspaper. (Yes, I still read a newspaper… wasn’t the Neil Sedaka reference a huge clue?)

I enjoy cracking open a Sunday newspaper. There’s something very soothing about it. It’s a comfortable routine. (Step one: throw all the sales circulars in the recycling bin. Step two: read the comics.) I stare at a computer screen pretty much all day at my job, so it’s nice to go “old school” on the weekends. It’s tangible, tactile, decidedly not “meta.” Besides, you can “scroll” through a printed paper a lot faster than you can scroll through the articles online (thanks for nothing, slow-loading Metamucil pop-up ads targeted to my life stage).

The Cincinnati Enquirer, like most daily newspapers, has been slowly circling the drain for several years now. They’ve laid off most of their journalists. They shifted the printing to Columbus a few years ago, so any news that happens after noon won’t be in the next day’s edition. But there was still enough meat on the bones to keep me as a subscriber. Until they introduced their “special editions.” It’s an extra section in the Sunday paper for “special occasions” – recent ones have covered MLK Day and the Bengals Super Bowl appearance.

Each “special edition” means I’m charged about 50% more for that month’s subscription. And they’ve been trotting out “special editions” at a record pace… I wouldn’t be surprised if they put one out for Administrative Assistants Day.

There’s no way to opt out of these special editions. So they’re really no more than a flimsy excuse to try to extract a bit more cash out of their ever-dwindling subscriber base.

So I finally decided to send the Cincinnati Enquirer a special edition of my own – it’s called a “subscription cancellation.” Unlike their special editions, this one’s free!

[I’m keeping my print subscriptions to Cincinnati Magazine (best deal in town) and The Atlantic… for the tangible, tactile reasons mentioned above. And of course I’ll still be receiving AARP Magazine based on my life stage.. no pop-up ads in that one.]

Run Baby Run. But don’t leave.

Sorry for the extra helping of sports posts, but I can’t help myself. The scrappy, tough kids from St. Peter’s University in Jersey-freakin-City just knocked off Purdue last night to make their way to the NCAA Elite Eight. The Peacocks (yes, that’s the mascot) are the first #15 seed to make it this far.

From this great article by Steve Politi on NJ.com

The team’s tiny home gymnasium, on their puny campus, is called “Run Baby Run Arena.” And yesterday was “National Peacock Day.” You can’t make stuff like that up.

Guard Doug Edert has become the toast of the tourney due to his stellar play AND his cheesy mustache.

The Peacocks coach, Shaheen Holloway, has impressed everyone with his strategic savvy and his cool demeanor.

It’s thrilling. It’s magical. It’s Madness!

That’s the heartwarming part of the story. But here’s a bucket of cold water: Shaheen Holloway will be gone shortly after the “Run Baby Run” run is over.

Holloway was a point guard for Seton Hall back in the late 90s. Seton Hall’s coach, Kevin Willard, just left the Garden State for the greener pasture$ of the University of Maryland. And, in a move that was ill-advised, poorly-timed and downright stupid, Willard practically anointed Holloway as his successor even though St. Peter’s was still in the tourney:

So if Kevin Willard’s happiness is high on your wish list, congrats! But for the rest of America (i.e. those not named “Kevin Willard”)… and especially for the kids who are playing their hearts out for St. Peter’s University right now, and the entire school and all of its alums, it stinks. They’re having the time of their lives… but they know it’ll be over soon.

Kevin Willard’s base salary at Seton Hall was $2.5 million. Shaheen Holloway made $266,344 in 2019. You certainly can’t fault a guy for leaving for a job at his alma mater, in a much better conference, on a much bigger stage, for 10X what he makes now. We’re happy for Holloway, but it gives this Cinderella story an unhappy ending for the Peacocks.

For the Love of the Game(s)

Not all heroes wear capes, and not all sports Trailblazers live in Portland.

WYFF News 4’s Julia Morris has been named South Carolina Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association (NSMA). She is the first woman to win the award in the state of South Carolina.

Julia’s my niece. I’m so proud of her for winning this award. After she graduated from Boston College (following in the footsteps of her mom), she worked in the corporate world for a bit. But it wasn’t her cup of tea. So she decided to attend grad school at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University to launch her communications career. (Communications? That was the degree of her favorite uncle!)

It wasn’t easy starting over, and being older than most of her classmates. But Julia worked hard, stuck with it, graduated, and landed a weekend sports anchor gig in Myrtle Beach before moving to WYFF, the NBC affiliate in the much larger Greenville/Spartanburg/Anderson/Asheville market.

Julia’s glamorous (like her mom), but the gig isn’t. She spends her weekends hauling camera gear to high school and college football games. She has to set her work schedule around the schedule of some guy named “Dabo.”

A Yankee to the core (and a Yankees fan… perhaps her only flaw), she’s had to learn the lingo of NASCAR. But for her, the racetrack beats the corporate track any day of the week.

“Whether it’s high school sports coverage, traveling to college national championship games for both Georgia and Clemson, or covering the Carolina Panthers, Julia is up to any challenge. She’s a true asset to our newsroom and to sports fans throughout our area.”

Akili Franklin, WYFF 4 News Director.

It’s easy for the self-help gurus to say “do what you love” or “follow your passion”… but it’s a lot easier said than done. Julia didn’t win the South Carolina Sportscaster of the Year award… she earned it. And now she’s got the Palmetto State in the palm of her hand.

“I am so honored to be the first woman to be named NSMA SC Sportscaster of the Year,” said Morris. “Being in South Carolina for six years now, I have met so many amazing and talented people while covering sports. It’s a true blessing to live here and do what I love!”

You can read more here and here.

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…

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
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