Sunday, July 22, 2018

So, a Guy Walks into an Episcopal Church...

I wish this were a laborious joke, or a satire.  Alas, it is all too real and another example of how The Episcopal Church continues to expect the transient and superficial to provide a foundation for the future.  Or the present.
“Are you here for the service?” she asked me.

“Um, sure.”

Every Wednesday in the summer, Trinity hosts midday “Catch Your Breath” services, catering to Financial District workers on their lunch breaks. The signs outside—beneath the Episcopal flag and next to the rejuvenation posters—advertise the services in this way:

Take a break from the workday rush. Participate in a breathing exercise, enjoy some quiet time, and listen to a short teaching before tackling the rest of your day. Bring your lunch for a supportive midday interaction... 
I became conscious that the woman across the room was staring at me. I’ve never been athletic, and neither my blazer nor my tie really lent to these stretching exercises—but then neither did her pantsuit. Maybe I was conspicuous for being the only person in the room under forty, and the only man. 
Ellen addressed my singularity when she sat down on one of the flower cushions. 
“Since we have a gentleman among us, I’ll be a little more modest,” she said as she draped the scarf over her legs. “Okay, now let’s just focus on our breath. As you breathe, focus on that breath and when your mind wanders—as it will do—get back to the breath. We’ll do this for about three minutes. Notice your breath. Notice your nose, your lungs.” 

Please read the whole thing.  It sounds like it may have been a chance to contemplate the eternal in the middle of a very secular setting [Wall Street], perhaps even to receive the sacrament and know reconciliation as a balm to one's spirit.

You'd be wrong, of course.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Jane Scott

This profile was originally posted on August 24th in 2012, shortly after Ms. Scott's death. When reading her obituary I was reminded of those halcyon days when many of the great stars of 20th century music were still performing or were just becoming established. As I lived equidistant from Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland, and as all of the great acts came through those cities, and as I had either a newspaper or radio station paying for my tickets, I saw as many as I could and was able to witness portions of pop history.  Jane Scott was always there, it seemed, and I always want to look for her shadow whenever I catch a current performer.  She's there, somewhere, I think.

Everything I knew about rock music I learned from this woman, who looked like the world's best grandmother.  Seriously, whenever I would see her I would expect to smell mothballs and homemade apple sauce.  Based on her appearance, it may be hard to believe that Jane Scott was the definitive rock music critic of the Midwest.  It was rather "rock and roll" of her not to look like a popular music critic.

I met Ms. Scott back in the 70's when I was working at an AOR*-formatted radio station, although I'd been reading her column in Cleveland's daily newspaper, The Plain Dealer, since I was 13.  The same year we met I had interviewed Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Denny Laine of Paul McCartney's band, Wings, and jazz legend Larry Coryell, but she was the one for whom I was in stuttering awe, as she had literally seen and interviewed every single major performer and musician of the apex of the American sound, from Sinatra to Elvis, from Lennon to Rotten.  Jane Scott was a true lady and an old-fashioned reporter, and very patient with what I'm sure were some tedious interview questions from a 20-year-old.

What made her special was an instinct that cannot be learned, as illustrated in this quotation from her obit: "She found her lifework on Sept. 15, 1964, the day four lads from Liverpool came to Cleveland. No one at the paper was interested in covering the Beatles, and Ms. Scott volunteered."  See what I mean?  She knew something special was about to happen and, being a good reporter, she wanted to be there to experience it.  This is not taught in journalism schools and we may see its absence in contemporary media on any given day.

The evening I met Ms. Scott, we were in attendance at a concert in a 200-seat venue in Cleveland's Playhouse Square.  “He looked like a cross between a dockhand and a pirate,” she wrote of the performer in The Plain Dealer in 1975, reviewing the young musician we had both come to see. “He stood on the darkened Allen Theater stage last night in a black greaser jacket, blue jeans, a gray wool cap pulled over an eye and a gold earring in his left ear. ... His name is Bruce Springsteen. He will be the next superstar.” She made this prediction at the age of 56, and was the first to do so, about a musician who had yet to release more than two, mildly received, record albums.  She was right, of course.

When she died last year, her obituary ran in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Times, and, of course, the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  Even before her death, she had become legend.

* AOR = Album-oriented Rock

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Pungent Response

I appreciate that there is a large number of people very, very upset [still] that their candidate of choice did not win the last presidential election, and that the person who did is too boorish to be a member of their social class.

However, this latest "controversy" is absurd for reasons that even those with a loose hold on historical knowledge should understand:

Trump breaks protocol during Royal visit as he fails to bow

American citizens don't bow to English royalty.  Ever.  Our nation was founded on the premise that we would never bow to the English crown.

I attended the equivalent of high school in the U.K.  I roomed with the only other "foreign" students, Bob from Australia and Ian from the Republic of Ireland.  When two members of the royal family toured the campus, (we'll call them Philip and Andrew), Bob, Ian, and I were placed behind the rest of the student body as it was expected that Ian and I would not be bowing.  We didn't, and Bob joined with us in solidarity, and no one thought it inappropriate.

Dystopia Made Real

The Tech Industry’s War on Kids: How psychology is being used as a weapon against children

Please read the whole thing as I'm hearing stories like this at work more often.

Here's a sample:
These parents have no idea that lurking behind their kids’ screens and phones are a multitude of psychologists, neuroscientists, and social science experts who use their knowledge of psychological vulnerabilities to devise products that capture kids’ attention for the sake of industry profit. What these parents and most of the world have yet to grasp is that psychology — a discipline that we associate with healing — is now being used as a weapon against children.