John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Friends

jyb_musingsComforting thoughts…

Friends are great.

A few years ago I began griping about aging causing my memory to fade. But when I was sharing this concern with a good friend who has known me for many years, he wasn’t terribly sympathetic.

Finally, after about the third time I was whining to him about my memory loss, he chimed in abruptly –but constructively–“You know, John, you were never all that smart to begin with. I think part of the problem is you are imagining that you had a much better memory than you really did. I can’t tell any difference in you at all.”

But I am smarter than he gives me credit for. I don’t ever complain to him anymore about memory problems. I only complain to other people who haven’t known me for very long.


Lauren Mayer: Boys, Sophomoric Humor and Politics

here are a variety of theories attempting to explain the relative minority status of women in comedy, ranging from socialization (women are raised to laugh at others, not to tell the jokes) to courtship (men want to be the ones to make others laugh) to good old-fashioned sexism (club owners tend to be men and think men are funnier).  At any rate, women tend to be less comfortable with, or at least less proficient at, off-color humor – which is why it’s so startling when they do get down & dirty (part of Sarah Silverman’s huge appeal is that she looks like a fresh-faced girl-next-door and talks like Lenny Bruce).

I don’t know if it’s my gender (female, duh), my age (not telling, duh, which tells you I’m old enough not to want to tell), my upbringing (raised by a feminist mother who forbade Barbie dolls because they fostered an unrealistic body image, and an intellectual father whose idea of a joke was offering to do his Millard Fillmore impression . . . . but I digress), or my Ivy League education, but I’d always believed cerebral wordplay was infinitely superior to potty humor.  My one near-break as a comedy performer was an invitation to audition night at The Comic Strip in LA, after I’d won some cabaret awards in San Francisco.  I did a couple of my witty, Noel Coward-esque songs about current events, to polite applause, but then the man after me impersonated the male sex organ having its first orgasm, complete with sound effects.   Needless to say, he totally killed and got invited back.  (To be fair, this was almost 30 years ago.  Don’t bother doing the math, let’s just say I was old enough to rent a car – but barely!)

I never had to wrestle with whether or not to adjust my highbrow ideals, because shortly after that I started a family.  Turns out, the biggest influence on my sense of humor has been having two sons, particularly once they hit puberty (and especially once Husband 2.0 came on the scene, whose brilliant plan to cure the boys of using foul language was to have ‘swearing night’ at dinner so they’d ‘get it out of their system.’  Instead, they both just enlarged their vocabularies!)  Between language, rating each other’s burps, and Family Guy, I’ve pretty much surrendered to a frat house environment.

I still try to keep my weekly songs witty and informative – which means usually my sons ignore my videos (apart from my 17-year-old reassuring me that ‘over 100 views is viral for old people’ – cue rimshot).  But this week, I’ve succumbed to a sophomoric tone, at least in part – which means my sons think this week’s song is actually cool.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Homophobia

jyb_musingsC’mon people. Enough already with these outdated homophobic attitudes.

If one man compliments another man on his physical appearance (e.g. “You look really trim. Have you lost weight?” or “That suit looks fabulous on you and really makes your eyes pop”), it doesn’t mean he is gay. 

It simply means that if he were gay, he would probably be really into the guy he is complementing.

Erica and Matt Chua: In Search of a White Tail

It’s hard to avoid expectations, they are just a given in life.  For example When you go to dinner you expect to have a menu with multiple items to choose from, when you book a taxi you expect them to take you to your destination and when you pay a high fee for something your expectations go up.  While traveling has taught me to temper my expectations, I couldn’t help but have high expectations when I paid $145 NZ dollars ($120 USD) for a whale watching tour.  In fact if you don’t see a whale you get your money back. How could I go wrong?
I saw my whale and the tour was a success, with a perfect whale tail photo to show for it.  However, the tour is one that I would have a hard time recommending.  I was giddy about the prospects of seeing one of the world’s largest mammals in it’s natural habitat, but a little hesitant about the large price tag. So, I headed to the whale watch headquarters in hopes of encountering an over-zeoulous salesperson to give me the pitch about how nothing can compare to seeing a sperm whale in Kaikoura.
Instead when I walked in no one greeted me and upon enquiring about their whale watch tours I was simply given the times they had available the next day.  Thinking maybe I had to show a little enthusiasm to get them pumped up I asked which tour was the best to spot a whale on.  The woman behind the counter answered flatly, it’s really about luck.  Okay, I said, clearly hoping for more from her to which she responded you can book now without putting any money down.
I booked a spot on their first available tour in the morning and left with lowered expectations.  Lucky for me we were couchsurfing with an expert on sperm whales.  Our host, Manuel was getting his PhD in sperm whale behavior and offered all the encouragement I needed to get pumped up about my whale watch tour in the morning.  Not only was this one of the best places to spot the huge mammals he told me, but from my pictures he would be able to tell me which whale I saw since he had been studying them for years.

Read the rest of…
Erica and Matt Chua: In Search of a White Tail

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Thoughts for the Day

jyb_musingsThought for the day

The more often I say, “I don’t know,” the more likely I will learn something new.

And the more likely I will be right.


I have observed that people who cherish their opinions over their friendships tend to have many more of the former than the latter. 

And I have observed that the reverse seems to be true for those who cherish friendships over their opinions.


I’ve just been informed that my smartphone has “data leakage.”


And I was complaining because I thought it was my credit card that had “AT&T leakage.”

Saul Kaplan: Education Rant

photo-saul“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire” W.B. Yeats

Excuse the rant but I am outraged by the state of the U.S. education system.  We have let the pilot light go out and we are failing our youth. It is time to move beyond public policy debates and institutional rugby scrums to try new solutions. What we are doing now isn’t working and far too much of the federal stimulus investment is being spent to sustain the current system.

A report last year from the nonprofit network America’s Promise Alliance showed that 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year. Only about half of the students served by school systems in the nation’s 50 largest cities graduate from high school. The U.S. public education system, especially in the country’s urban centers, must be transformed.

Only about 40% of the U.S. adult population earns a college degree. That may have been fine in the 20th century when an industrial economy supplied good jobs to those without post-secondary education. It is not fine today when a post-secondary credential is a necessity for a good job.

Our education system was built for the 20th century.

Everyone loves to point fingers at the other players in the system as the cause of the problem.  Observing our education system today is like watching an intense rugby scrum that is moving in slow motion hoping the ball will pop out.  Finger pointing and incessant public policy debates galore.  We love to admire the problems: It’s the unions that are getting in the way.  Teachers are resisting change in the classroom.  Administrators don’t understand what is going on in the classroom.  Parents are not engaged.  Public policy makers can’t make up their minds.  If only private sector companies were more engaged.  Students are unruly, undisciplined, and disrespectful.  Everyone is blamed and nothing changes.

The simple idea of “lighting a fire” expressed in Yeat’s quote says it all for me. Teaching is an important means to an end. Creating passionate life long learners is the objective of education. Content, subjects, jobs and requirements, will all change over time. The pace of change is accelerating and the half-life for assumptions and usable knowledge is decreasing. It has become a life long challenge to stay relevant. The only thing that is sustainable is a fire inside to keep learning

The objective of education is to light a fire for learning in every single youth. When the pilot light is on, everything else is possible. For starters, lets recognize that individuals have different learning styles. One-size industrial education models are not working and must be transformed. We have the enabling technology available to us today to create and scale an education system that provides access to killer content and experiential learning opportunities tailored to individual learning styles for every student. It is time to demonstrate that we can and will change our education system. Our country’s youth is waiting.

I am excited to be part of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) community focused on real world experimentation for new education systems and solutions. In BIF’s Student Experience Lab we are bringing the voice of the student into the education innovation conversation and creating a network of innovators motivated to explore new system solutions.  Join the conversation.  The water is fine.

Lets reignite the pilot light and demonstrate that there is a better way to light a fire for learning in every youth.


John Y. Brown, III: Fashionista




Rebecca and I were honored to be participating last night in the Kosair Charities Fashion Show.

Great cause.

Great people.

Great fun.


Some highlights:

Two things about me: 1) I have never modeled before. 2) Love the movie Little Miss Sunshine. So when the pressure was on to "work it," well.....let's just say I remembered the grand finale scene from Little Miss Sunshine and knew exactly what to do

Two things about me:
1) I have never modeled before.
2) Love the movie Little Miss Sunshine.
So when the pressure was on to “work it,” well…..let’s just say I remembered the grand finale scene from Little Miss Sunshine and knew exactly what to do

And, yes, as you can see at this moment I was really feeling it and went for the "Double finger gun" model move.

And, yes, as you can see at this moment I was really feeling it and went for the “Double finger gun” model move.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Dirt Devils and Magic Dusters

10421184_10154303462260515_6780446856741738233_nThe upside of Dirt Devil shopping.

It shouldn’t be this hard to buy a Dirt Devil to vacuum out blueberry muffin crumbs in my car floorboard.

I have tried Office Depot, Stienmart, Best Buy, Staples, and a couple of others and empty handed.

It was very frustrating.

But just a few minutes ago I took a Dirt Devil shopping break at Heine Bros and got a Rooibee Red Tea and am listening to the Black Crowes.

And now I really don’t mind at all that finding a Dirt Devil is so difficult. In fact, as I am listening to the live version of Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, I’m actually glad it is so difficult because it led me here.

So if you have been shopping all afternoon for a Dirt Devil and are frustrated, hang in there. It does get better when you eventually end up at Heine Bros. You won’t find a Dirt Devil, but you do get to enjoy a Rooibee Red Tea and get to listen to the Black Crowes.

And as you head home, you’ll probably decide it’s easier to just stop eating blueberry muffins. At least in your car.

And think to yourself, “It’s all good.”


Dirt Devils have apparently been replaced by Magic Dusters. 

The name “Magic Duster” sounds better and is slightly less occultish sounding for a household clearning device than “Dirt Devil.” 

But they really aren’t all that magical, if you ask me. Of course, your threshold for defining “magical” may be lower than mine–but I’m not seeing it.

jyb_musingsPut it this way, it’s not as magical as something that is battery operated. Or more to the point, the Magic Duster is less magical, powerwise, than blueberry muffin crumbs.

Julie Rath: The Six Shoes Every Guy Should Own

In a perfect world, you would have something in your closet to wear for every occasion. Part of that is having the right footwear. After all, having the WRONG shoes can completely throw off an otherwise great outfit (we’ve all seen that guy looking smooth in his well-fitting suit but massacring the look with his 90′s square-toed dress shoes). If you only focus on how you look ankle up, you miss the mark. Below is my list of the 6 essential shoes every guy should have in his closet.

Men's Personal Shopper: Crockett and Jones Finsbury Oxford

1. Brown Laceups — A lot of new styling clients resist this one thinking there’s no need for it, but truly it’s the most versatile shoe in your wardrobe — you can wear it with everything from jeans to a suit. Go for a medium shade of brown that can be worn with the widest variety of pant shades.


Men's Personal Shopper: Crockett and Jones Alex Laceups2. Black Laceups — This is your dressiest shoe, to be worn with suits and on formal occasions. Choose one with a clean toe, i.e., no seaming or broguing, so you can wear it with a tuxedo (after polishing it up).


Men's Personal Shopper: John Varvatos Loafer3. Loafer — There are lots of variations on loafers, so you should go with what appeals to you visually. And avoid the pitfall of buying a “hybrid” shoe (anything with a very sporty sole). As I’ve said before, the place where the sneaker meets any other kind of shoe is like a dark alley late at night — nowhere you’d want to be.


Men's Personal Shopper: Common Projects Sneakers4. Social Sneaks — This is my term for a clean and classic non-athletic sneaker (i.e., one you wouldn’t work out in). It’s for casual walking around.


Men's Personal Shopper: Chelsea Boot5. Dress Boot — A dress boot adds wonderful versatility to your wardrobe. It’s the perfect answer to the question of what to wear out on weekends. And with a dressy enough boot and in the right environment, you can also wear it with dress clothes like a suit or pants and sportcoat. For more on the different types of boots to choose from, go here.


Men's Personal Shopper: Rain/Snow Boots
6. Rain/Snow Boot — Depending on what type of inclement weather you get, this is either a rain or snow boot (or both). It should have a rubber sole for gripping and be waterproof or water resistant.


Once you have these essentials, you can build from there, getting variations within each category. Think variations on toe detail and broguing for the black/brown laceup, and different varieties of boots.

Do you have everything on this list? If not, what are you missing?

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: 51 and rhyming

jyb_musingsI may be 51
But I’m nowhere near done
Just kickin’ it Old School
Revving up for my next run
I got nothing to lose
And I got nothing to prove
Done paid up all of my dues
And rock these comfortable shoes
Fighting gravity and time
As I’m bustin’ my rhymes
Got no awareness of shame
And still got slow motion game
Don’t write me off yet
‘Cause I’m just turning it on
Even crankin’ up the volume
Since my hearing’s half gone
Don’t push me out
‘Cause I’m still “all in”
And still got it going on
If I’m in bed by ten
So remember these words
And take them to heart
Young Guns and Young Turks
Show respect for us Old Farts
As you reflect on my rhymes
You’ll find no hate in my rap
Just tryin’ to hang on
Between power naps
This game’s nowhere near over
Young pups stay out of our way
Old dogs may not know new tricks
But we still call the plays
Young haters can hate
And plan to take up our space
Just know you’ll be leasing from us
And we still set the rates

The Recovering Politician Bookstore


The RP on The Daily Show