John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Steely Dan

1001703_10153092778035515_2004913240_nThe Dan and their fans do The ‘Ville!

The moment of truth was when Donald Fagen strode onto stage. It was more of a cautious shuffle than a swaggering stride, but it was “him.” Sunglasses and all—and it was a hip-looking cautious shuffle. And it was on!

Steely Dan was and is the smartest smoothest jazz rock pop band of my generation. At first sight Donald Fagen could have been confused for theowner of beachfront condo rental properties in South Florida about to address an audience. And we in the audience could have been confused for an AARP gathering to discuss time-share investment opportunities. We in the audience weren’t dressed to impress each other. But dressed with an understated hipness that included a tacit agreement that “I’ll pretend you look as hip, if you pretend I look hip.” But none of us were there primarily for a social event. We were there for the music.

And the music began. Instantly Donald Fagen seemed to morph from middling condo realtor into a bleached out Caucasian version of Ray Charles. And with whom, like Ray Charles, it is clear from the first note that the audience is in the presence of a musical maestro —who can do things musically (almost as an afterthought) that others would never even imagine attempting.

The concert opened with a middling performance of Green Earing but was followed with the epic Aja—which set the tone for the rest of the evening. The young drummer wasn’t Steve Gadd….but had moments that were Gadd-esque and by the close of Aja the audience had tapped into their inner Steely Dan.

Walter Becker reminisced with the audience during Hey Nineteen about a night involving Cuervo Gold and made us all feel like we had attended the same high school as he reminded us, “You all remember what it is was like. You know what it’s like now. And that is that and will always be that way.” We were peers more than fans.

Donald Fagen introduced “King of the World” from the album Coundown to Ecstasy saying it is a “new song for the band” that they hadn’t played since the 70’s and was “from a different life.” Adding to the audience, “You all can relate to that, right?” Although King of the World started clumsily The Dan found their bearings and finished elegantly. It was an inspired and inspirational moment. In addition to reveling in the music the audience was reminded that sometimes we, too, are still capably of conjuring up our creative energies and elegantly reprising something we did in the 70’s –and doing it almost as well as we did back then.

The audience began to bond with each other as we remembered that one of the things we liked about being Dan fans is that it made us feel a little superior to everyone else. Steely Dan is known for their smarty pants lyrics that take the listener to places other bands have never heard of (or if they have heard of it, wouldn’t know that it’s a chic place to go). We secretly suspect that our Dan audiences have a higher percentage of MENSA members than most other concerts. A few in the audience stood and tried dancing the entire concert, which also reminded us that Steely Dan fans weren’t always the coolest kids in high school—just the ones with the best taste in music. It’s hard to dance to Steely Dan anyway. They were always more about the music than the concert experience. In fact, for yeas they refused to even play concerts preferring instead to create flawless sounds from the studio with some of the best back-up musicians in the industry.

The highlight of the night was Bodhisattva about midway through the concert. They brought down the house with a riveting rendition of the band’s most rockin’ song. Which is fitting. A Bodhisattva, after all, is an Eastern religion enlightened being who compassionately refrains from entering Nirvana in order to save others. I think Steely Dan serves that role musically in their own Western way. And we are the beneficiaries.

As the band played on our reaction as an audience reminded me less of a typical frenzied and interactive rock concert audience and more like an audience that simultaneously followed Timothy Leary’s admonition to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” That’s what Dan fans tend to do. When they turn on their music anyway. We behave well in concerts. Many in the audience may have had a cool buzz but no one passed out. Although nearing the end of the concert a handful of us had nodded off since it was well past our bedtime. More of a personal intermission power nap than falling asleep. We wanted to be alert for the encore.

And we weren’t disappointed when they chose to cue up Kid Charlemagne for the finale. At least that was the last song I heard. We left a little early to beat the crowd. Sure, we Dan fans love our music but we are also practical and a little self-absorbed, too, and hate being stuck in traffic.

As the Palace doors opened into the streets we talked freely to one another like we were in the same high school but just hadn’t spoken before. We all seemed to leave a little happier than we arrived. And feeling a little better about ourselves and the world we live in—and the world we lived in when we first discovered our band.

Earlier in the evening Walter Becker spoke to us not as a faceless audience but as casual peers as if we were at the house of a mutual friend and we were all just standing around downstairs listening to him and his friend Donald Fagen play the party. He reminded us that back in the day we were good. And hadn’t changed all that much. We liked hearing that and even applauded. But more importantly, as we walked back into our individual worlds after this brief escape, the performance had put us back in touch with a part of our best selves. The music helped us remember our better selves—perhaps even remembering ourselves better than we really were.

And we felt for the first time in a long time like maybe we really were that good after all— and, like Steely Dan, could still be again.

Jonathan Miller Goes “One to One” with Bill Goodman

The RP himself, Jonathan Miller, appeared this week on “One to One” with Kentucky Educational Television’s Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Bill Goodman.  They discussed The RP’s new book, The Recovering Politician’s Twelve-Step Program to Survive Crisis, as well as a number of other topics relating to today’s politics.


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Saul Kaplan: Stories Can Change the World

“Facts are facts, but stories are who we are, how we learn, and what it all means.” My friend Alan Webber, Co-founder of Fast Company and author of Rules of Thumb, has it exactly right. Storytelling is the most important tool for any innovator. It is the best way to create emotional connections to your ideas and innovations. Sharing stories is the way to create a network of passionate supporters that can help spread ideas and make them a reality. We remember stories. We relate to stories and they compel us to action.

Storytelling is a core value at the Business Innovation Factory (BIF). We believe that advancing our mission to enable system change in health care, education, energy, and entrepreneurship is critically dependant on our ability to create, package, and share stories from our work. Everything we do is about storytelling and our Innovation Story Studio is one of BIF’s most important capabilities. By openly sharing stories about the process and output of BIF’s work we are strengthening our community of innovators and becoming more purposeful with every new story.

It is no surprise that BIF’s upcoming annual Collaborative Innovation Summit, BIF-6 on September 15-16, is all about storytelling. I will never forget meeting with my friend and mentor Richard Saul Wurman (RSW) to get his advice prior to our first summit six years ago. As an innovation junkie it doesn’t get any better than having RSW as a mentor. He founded TED for heaven’s sake. I went to the meeting prepared with an approach that I had worked on for weeks. As an MBA, of course I had a matrix, with speakers organized by theme. RSW heard me out and could only shake his head saying, Saul you have a lot to learn about how to create an emotional connection with an audience. He patiently told me to throw away the matrix. He said it was as simple as inviting people to a dinner party. Ask speakers that you want to have dinner with to share a personal story that you are selfishly interested in and invite others to listen in. RSW has been a storyteller at every summit we have hosted and I can’t wait for his story at BIF-6.

Saul KaplanI love RSW for that advice. That is exactly what we do. No PowerPoint presentations, no matrix, just stories. One glorious story after another in no particular order, from storytellers (not speakers) sharing personal and raw insights about what innovation means to them. After about four to five stories back to back with no boring Q&A to break the rhythm we take a long break where all of the storytellers and participants can interact, connect, and share their own innovation stories and experiences. No breakouts, flip charts, or prescriptive assignments. It is up to the 300 participants to decide what is compelling and which connections are most interesting and valuable. We trust our audience. The most interesting collaborations every year come from connecting unusual suspects that find value in the gray area between their interests and disciplines.

Every year one of my favorite things to do is connect with each of the storytellers to discuss the upcoming summit and their stories. I just completed these calls for BIF-6. Talk about a kid in a candy store. To talk with each of these innovators is inspiring and a great joy. Check out the storyteller profiles on the BIF-6 portal and you will see what I mean. These innovators are asked to give speeches all of the time. Many of them have written books and do speaking tours. They all have PowerPoint presentations in the drawer and a stock speech they can give in their sleep, which they are not allowed to use at a BIF summit. I always find our storyteller’s reactions interesting when they discuss preparations for sharing a story versus giving a speech. They all say that it is far more interesting and challenging to tell a story than to give a speech. Regardless of their fame on the speaking circuit there is always trepidation in their voices when we discuss their stories. Every storyteller over six years has said that they are excited to hear the stories from the other storytellers and will be glad when they are done sharing their own. That is why they take the gig. It is a refreshing break from the grind of the speaking circuit. Storytelling is harder but more personally rewarding.

Read the rest of…
Saul Kaplan: Stories Can Change the World

Extraordinary Commerical From Alison Grimes

If want to know first all of the day’s developments about the hottest 2014 campaign in the country, and you haven’t yet subscribed to The RP’s KY Political Brief – now prepared every weekday morning by longtime Kentucky journalist Kakie Urch, with links to all of the day’s Kentucky political news — WHAT’S A MATTA WIT YOU?!?! Click here to subscribe FOR FREE!

As I’ve written, one of the key strengths of Alison Lundergan Grimes’ insurgent campaign to defeat U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell is her extraordinary DC consulting team, that includes her media adviser, Mark Putnam.

Putnam has now produced the “sequel” to his and Alison’s incredible “Grandmothers” ad from her 2011 Secretary of State campaign, called “The Campaign Begins.”  It’s funny, touching and elegantly produced, and Alison knocks her delivery out of the ballpark.

With the Matthew Bevin Tea Party primary entry and more commercials like this, Grimes will be giving Mitch a real run for his (substantial) money:

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Browsing Fee

Browsing FeeI waste so much time browsing in technology stores –and then not buying anything–that I am considering charging Office Depot, Staples, and Best Buy a “browsing fee” of $4.50 every half-hour I browse.

I am valuable to them even though I rarely purchase anything because I make them look busy with an extra customer.

jyb_musingsAnd I bring the added benefit of occassionally seeing someone who I know and tbey may think, “I know John is a busy guy and if he is browsing today at Office Depot maybe I should find the time too.”

That is until this friend remembers seeing me last week browsing at Staples and the week before that seeing me browsing at Best Buy.

The New Yorker Out Does Itself

Julie Rath: Heat Wave Style

 Men's Personal Shopper: Summer Style

Scorching hot temps got you down?

When it’s 90+ degrees out, you are definitely going to do some sweating.

But there are ways you can prepare so that you minimize the damage to your wardrobe and appearance.

Below are 11 tips for keeping cool and confident this summer.

1) Take your morning shower with the coldest water you can stand, and use a cooling soap with mint.

2) When you get out of the shower, powder your feet, armpits and groin to help keep you dry. Menscience body powder uses cornstarch and zinc oxide instead of talc (which has shown to have negative health effects) and was formulated for all-over use.

3) Use deodorant with antiperspirant, which slows the production of underarm sweat.


Men's Personal Shopper: Summer Style

4) Apply a cooling product like Korres’s Greek Yogurt Cooling Gel as needed, post-shower. It’s designed for sunburns, but does a great job relieving all sensations of heat from your body.

5) Face wipes also make you feel and look cool by absorbing grease and oil.

6) Get your hair cut shorter and more frequently during warm months (including cleanups for the hair on the back of your neck and around your ears).

7) My guiding principle is that clothing should always fit impeccably, but in the summer months, I am OK with slightly looser fits to facilitate airflow, especially for items like linen shirts and pants.

8) Dark colors absorb sunlight and therefore heat, so opt for light colors like white, off-white, light grey, beige, and pastels, all of which present as more seasonally appropriate as well.


Men's Personal Shopper Lightweight Summer Clothes

9) Choose natural fibers that breathe and are good at absorbing moisture. These include tropical weight wools, seersucker (not just for suits), linen (try in a tie if you wear one every day), hopsack, light cottons (opt for cotton broadcloth vs. a heavier oxford), cashmere, and silk. I like Bonobos’ lightweight chinos and the summer weight casual top above left and right. When shopping, be sure to read labels and avoid anything with nylon or polyester in it.

10) A quarter-lined or unlined suit jacket or sport coat will be lighter on your body than one with a full lining. (Note: this type of unconstructed jacket is inherently more casual than those with full linings, so be wise about where you wear them). If you go quarter lining, make sure the lining is made from Bemberg, which does a better job than silk of wicking moisture from your body.

Plan Ahead

11) Keep your office stocked with a backup shirt (especially good if you have a big meeting at the end of the day or dinner/drinks after work), face wipes mentioned above, and a bottle of deodorant. That way you’re set if things get sticky.

How do you stay cool and comfortable in the summer months and still look like you mean business?

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Me and Matthew Perry

1477_10153012924290515_1489630493_nSeeing the first sign or symptom of moving into a new phase in life can take our breath away, fill us with fear and anxiety, and send us into the dark abyss of internet searches to diagnose ourselves.

Sometimes the first sign is barely noticeable but other times it can be painfully and even shockingly apparent to everyone around the person going through a life transition. Except, of course, the person himself.

jyb_musingsTonight I ran out to Walmart to pick up some household items and while waiting in the checkout line saw this magazine with a feature story about Matthew Perry tossed into my pile of purchases.

Shocked, I looked around to see who was the culprit.

It was me.

This is scary and good mean a range of possible life transitions. Some of them socially fatal.

Josh Bowen: Fitness Boot Camp

fitness boot campClick here to join us.

Come join us Saturday July 27th at 9am for Fitness for a Cure, hosted by Fitness Plus 2.

174 Bellerive Boulevard next to Kroger’s.

We will be running a charity bootcamp for the American Diabetes Association.

Cost is $10 with 100% of the proceeds going to the ADA.

The fitness coaches from Fitness Plus 2 will take everyone through a 30 minute, tabata style workout with a nutrition Q and A to follow. The entire community is invited for this special event.

We will meet in the parking lot of Fitness Plus 2, next to Kroger’s. We will have a landing page for people to go and donate to the ADA for the bootcamp and for any other reason.

Please come out with us for Fitness for a Cure!

Click here to join us.

John Y. Brown, III: Happy Birthday, Jonathan!

jmjyb-289x300I’d like to wish a very happy 46th birthday to my dear friend Jonathan Miller.

Our paths first crossed over 18 years ago when I was a mere 31 years old and running for secretary of state. I was in need of a campaign manager willing to work for cheap. Preferably nothing. And no one seemed interested until our mutual friend David Hale introduced Jonathan and me.

Jonathan was a Lexingtonian who was a super high achiever who had graduated from Harvard and Harvard law and was working at a top DC law firm but pining to move back to his home state of Kentucky to settle down. He had also caught the political bug and just finished working in a congressional campaign in TN and was looking for something to do next in politics. Helping my campaign seemed like a good excuse to get back to Kentucky and satisfy his political itch.

David introduced us by phone and Jonathan and I talked for 45 minutes. I hoped I had impressed him. A few days later Jonathan sent me transcripts for two TV commercials and then helped make them and served as my campaign manager. He never charged me a penny. And I will never forget that life changing gesture.

Here are the two ads he created that helped me win.

And the picture on top of this post is of us on election night. Much younger than 50 and 46. I’m guessing if my math is correct, 31 and 27.

IMG_20130724_122709We served in statewide office together over the next decade and now are having fun trying our hand at writing with Jonathan’s blog The Recovering Politician. Here’s his recent book and mine.

We aren’t as competitive as we once were but I’d like to point out that my book (at 366 pages) is bigger than his book (at 206) pages. And that when it comes to book length, I believe size still matters.

He’s a good man and friend and I hope he has 46 more of these, at least. And hope I am around to wish him happy birthday for each. And Lord knows what new idea he’ll be pitching for me to work on him with next decade. Although I can already see him creating a national shuffleboard league during our 80s in which Jonathan creates an international shuffleboard tournament in Boca Raton and gives half the proceeds to develop new houses powered by solar energy on planet Jupiter and transforms the first Jupiter house into a satellite office he dedicates to No and promotes both announcements on his Recovering Politician blog.

Because although that will be 35 years from now, Jonathan will never completely recover from politics and the political bug. And I’m grateful for that.

Happy birthday, youngster.

The Recovering Politician Bookstore


The RP on The Daily Show