Lauren Mayer: Everything Old Is New Again

Retro is in!  The fun of nostalgia is that we can romanticize the aspects we liked (e.g. Downton Abbey’s fabulous costumes and Maggie Smith’s great lines) while ignoring those we wouldn’t really want to resume (servants with no lives of their own, no antibiotics or disposable diapers, etc.).  So it was only fitting that the controversy around Bill O’Reilly’s exaggerations erupted the week before Downton Abbey’s Season 5 finale.   Here’s my tribute to the 1920s/commentary on O’Reilly’s reaction (which was, shall we say, just a tad different from Brian Williams’), and it’s up to you if you want to consider it as also being a commentary on the age of O’Reilly’s target audience.

Lauren Mayer: Celebrating Fox News – No, Really!

Left-leaning satirists have always had an interesting relationship with right-wing media like Fox News.  On the one hand, as liberals we are often dismayed by the partisan tone of their coverage, just as I’m sure conservatives are irked by MSNBC.  On the other hand, as satirists, we are truly grateful for the endless inspiration- face it, Stephen Colbert’s entire persona for his recently ended show was mocking the typical Fox News blowhard anchor, and anytime The Daily Show or Rachel Maddow wants to call out right-wing hypocrisy or inconsistency, there is almost always a clip from one of the Fox hosts to make their point.  And not that I put myself in the same league as those illustrious figures – oh hell, why not?   Writing a weekly song can be difficult enough, but the hardest part is finding a topic – that is, until Fox comes up with yet another colorful turn of phrase or oddball guest “expert.”

However, in all the months I’ve been doing these songs, I never thought I’d see Fox back down from one of their way-out-there-but-easily-debunked claims.  So last week’s apology/retraction of the Muslim ‘no-go-zones’ story deserved a unique musical celebration:

Josh Bowen: Body Image

bowenLast night I had the pleasure of seeing my little brother tie the knot with his beautiful bride. These are moments that you never forget and no matter how “tough” you are, will always bring a smile to your face. These are the times in life you just need to “smell the roses” so to speak to enjoy the moment and live in the moment. A great feeling from yesterday, for sure. Now onto the task at hand..

I was in an airport recently and I went to the magazine stand to look for some reading material. There were dozens of different magazines covering subject’s matters from money to parenting to exercise. However, I started to see a trend that did not set well with me. It seemed like every magazine cover was obsessed with physical characteristics highlighted by “Ripped Abs in 30 days” “Lose 30 LBS without Dieting” or my favorite, “Reduce Your Belly Fat by Eating this Fruit.” If that isn’t bad enough, the covers of these magazines make things worse. On the “Muscle Mags” you have an Incredible Hulk like figure with muscles in places most people don’t have places. On the other side of the coin the magazines aimed at women have relatively thin, almost emaciated cover models. What is going on here? What is the “media” trying to tell our society?

Now, I have no issue with the people on the covers of these magazines, they are in great shape (in most cases) and it’s their job to look like that. I myself have trained; physique athletes, a Miss America contestant and other “body conscious” athletes. I have no issue in competing in something that judges your body in some way. What I do have issue with is the projected image of what is beautiful and in shape. It is unrealistic for the average person that picks up one of these magazines and expects to look like these people. Most of these individuals have been athletes all their life, have put in the hard work to look the way they do and have a great genetic profile. Should that stop them from trying? No! But should it convince them that because they saw this on a magazine cover that they are inadequate if they don’t look this way? Our society’s opinion on what is acceptable, beautiful and realistic is warped.

I am by no means a small man; I am 5’11 and 200 lbs with relatively low body fat. By most standards, I am a bodybuilder (I do not compete). I was blessed with somewhat decent genetics but how can I expect to look like these individuals in these magazines? I cannot. This public opinion has caused people to go on a quest of something unrealistic and causing people to forget about what’s important; overall physical and mental health. Our self-image has become distorted because of what we see and what has been projected as acceptable. This happens to both women and men. Referring to women, it is unhealthy to look like a stick and have no muscle tone. Quite frankly it is more attractive to have muscles and maybe, just maybe a little body fat. This is just my opinion.

The reality of it is its OK to have a little body fat and have a little extra weight to lose. I cannot tell you how many times a client has brought in a picture of a Victoria’s Secret model and said, “I want to look like this.” My reply is, “No you don’t.” The perception of what is attractive and what is beautiful is altered by what we are shown everyday. We have a generation of young girls striving to be “skinny” and an age group of young boys wanting to be the largest my ripped person on earth. This is not healthy.

My conclusion is this; I am not attacking exercise related magazines, model related ads. movies with buffed up actors or actresses or the individuals in them. They work hard for their bodies but to expect to look like them for most people is unrealistic, de-motivating and in some cases doesn’t look good anyway. So from me to you, love who you are, continue to work out hard and use good nutritional tactics. Keep working towards your goals but don’t be discouraged by these “perfect” cover models. Love who you are, continue to challenge yourself and love your body.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The New News Channel — A Proposal

jyb_musingsI am at a point in my life where I want a different kind of news station. One that currently doesn’t exist. One that is neither liberal nor conservative. One that is neither substantive nor opinionated. One that neither reports the real news nor comments on it. One that neither leaves me informed nor angry. One that has anchors and reporters that are neither beautiful nor all that interesting. Nor loud or charming.

I want a new news station that is presented by ordinary looking people who are slightly overweight, middle-aged and have kind yet forgettable facial features. And who don’t read the news but just talk to us the way we talk to each other when we aren’t on the news. Instead of reporting on emergencies or potential military or health crisis, I would prefer the new news channel focuses more on things like recipes and sales at local hardware stores and live coverage of people renovating a room in their house or washing their car (or hair). Maybe something about a couple divorcing in our community and what others are saying about them. Something on calories but not too much emphasis on health and none on beauty beyond stories of how limited cosmetic surgery can sometimes be successful but usually isn’t necessary. A nice regular feature story about some local business or organization that is doing better than expected and doing some good for the community too. Nothing about disease except how cures are progressing–and regular reports about people in our community who are feeling better than they were last week when they thought they were coming down with something. Nothing about war except noting we don’t have any near our neighborhood as of this afternoon. Not much on the weather except noting fair and mild days and maybe a brief comment about how it “could be worse” during a bad weather spell. Not many commercials unless they are really clever and not repeated over and over. You know the ones I am talking about –that are almost like an art form.

Not a lot of culture reporting but enough to be able to keep up in conversations with viewers’ younger bosses to let them know we know about the same cultural current events information that they do and a lot more history. A daily report on trends in meditation practices. Election results can be reported but only after 2am and at least a year after they occurred–and the reports have to have the German Chicken Song theme playing in the background to keep viewers from taking them too seriously and spending hours the next day writing about the elections on Facebook.

I would like for the news to start with someone who reminds us of Walter Cronkite meets Fred Rogers (of Mr Rogers Neighborhood). With about an 80-20 split favoring Rogers. And close with someone reminding us of a likable and sincere version of Martha Stewart (I like her voice) meets Fred Rogers –with a similar 80-20 split favoring Rogers. And in between a long list of nondescript female and male reporters who remind us of Fred Rogers meets Fred Rogers. And maybe opening with a song and partial undressing like in the original Mr Rogers Neighborhood. But nothing racy. Just shoes and a jacket. Just shoes if the guy looks a lot like Cronkite.

As for the close, it doesn’t really matter. The main thing is that it ends with the sense that nothing that happened that day in the news really matters that much—except what each of us did in our own lives. And that that is really the only “news” worth knowing or thinking about today. And pan to a miniature train choo-chooing as the credits roll.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Ebola

jyb_musingsOk. For what it’s worth….and I’m not a doctor or anything ….but I am very intuitive about things like pandemics and mass diseases. And I am starting to get a much better feeling about this whole Ebola thing and how it is going to play out.

I’m predicting in a few days we can all go back outside again.

Probably.

Just a feeling. But it’s a pretty strong one.

The exact same feeling I got with Avian Flu and SARS just before we found out they weren’t going to cause our extinction. So there’s even a track record here for me with these sorts of things.

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My wife and I are on our laptops and I peered over to see what she is reading. It is –again–an article about Ebola.

I have tried to reassure her that she won’t catch it and even if she does to try to look on the bright side: She looks really great in yellow and will rock that Hazmat suit.

Unfortunately, I don’t look good in Hazmat. They make me look bloated and I have really worked hard to slim down. One more reason I hope I don’t get Ebola.

The RP on NPR

The RP joined NPR’s “To the Point” today to talk about the upcoming national elections, with a focus on the Grimes/McConnell battle, and the unusual relationship between the Bluegrass State’s two Senators.

Enjoy.

Lauren Mayer: Summertime Blues

Labor Day has traditionally marked the start of the fall season, when we say goodbye to ‘those lazy hazy crazy days of summer,’ return to school (or work), and put away our white shoes until Memorial Day.  Of course, most of those traditions have evaporated – style expert Tim Gunn says white is appropriate all year round, very few working adults get much time off in the summer, and many schools start mid-August or earlier.   But we still usually think of summer as a more carefree time, when things are a little easier and workplaces are more casual.  (I, for one, thoroughly appreciated the break from waking my son up for 4 years of zero period marching band – getting a sleep-deprived teenager out the door at 6:30 a.m., and living to tell the tale, has earned me at least some good karma!)

However, this past summer has been an endless stream of awful news, from war and conflict to corruption trials to racial unrest and protests, and there never seemed to be a lull.  It made me nostalgic for last summer, when the big stories were outrage over ‘twerking’ (Miley Cyrus’ provocative dancing at an awards show), or the continuing revelations in the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal.  Even the Kardashians were surprisingly low-key – I guess they’re waiting to reveal their next big shocker when the world isn’t so fixated on things that actually matter . . .

With that in mind, here’s a salute to the Summer of 2014 – and to how relieved we are that it’s over!

David Host: Why Baseball’s Pete Rose Question Matters Beyond Sports

David HostI was ten years old when I first became an avid Cincinnati Reds fan. Growing up just over one hour’s drive from Cincinnati, I could not help but notice when the legendary “Big Red Machine” won their second consecutive World Series the year before – but the 1977 season marked the first time that I personally followed almost every game. Staying awake in bed listening to Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall call games from the West Coast remains one of my fondest childhood memories – as do the many trips my dad and I made up I-75 to watch the Reds in person.

Like many kids my age, I mimicked the batting stances of all-time greats like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan. I also tried to teach myself the knee-in-the-dirt pitching motion of Tom Seaver, who joined the Reds at mid-season that year (I tore the cover off several of the baseballs I hurled at the “strike zone” I envisioned on the brick side of our garage). As the years rolled by, it became clear that my athletic skills did not match the profile of a budding big-league ballplayer. Yet, the Reds and their up-and-down fortunes throughout the 1980s remained a central feature of every summer.

I had just started my freshman year in college when Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hits record on September 11, 1985. “Charlie Hustle” had never been one of my favorite players when I was younger. As I matured, I grew to appreciate Rose – his head-first slides; his blue-collar grit; and, most of all, the message he conveyed – that excellence is not always captive to natural ability. Rose looked and played like any of us might if we had the chance to play pro ball, which is why this native son of Cincinnati captured hearts in that city like no one else ever has, or likely will again.

After Rose retired as a player, he managed the Reds to a succession of second-place finishes during the late 1980s. He was an average manager at best, in retrospect; though his prodigious knowledge of the game suggested that Rose possessed tremendous potential in that capacity. Led by stars like like Eric Davis, Chris Sabo, and future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, the Reds were once again a team on the rise – and Rose seemed like the natural link between this brightening future and the dominant teams of the 1970s.

The Reds won the World Series in 1990, the season after Rose received a “lifetime ban” for betting on games involving his own team. There is no evidence that Rose ever bet against the Reds (his ultra-competitive nature strongly suggests that he never entertained the thought). Yet, Rose clearly presided over a series of underachieving teams. Sadly, we will never know what he could have accomplished as a manager without the distraction of his gambling habit.

The scandal which sundered Rose’s connection with the game he personified seemed to erupt out of nowhere. From all accounts, Rose thought that Major League Baseball officials had already convicted and sentenced him, so he opted for a very public fight. This battle consumed the Reds’ 1989 season – and for the first time I could remember, I lost interest as the team limped toward a fifth-place finish. As saddened as I was by Rose’s abrupt fall from grace, I cannot deny that I was relieved to see him go.

Like most Reds fans, I wanted to believe Rose’s denials. Yet, it was hard to ignore Major League Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti’s grim conclusion: “One of the game’s greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game.” Giamatti’s sterling reputation further made it difficult to question the justice and fairness of the outcome.

Major League Baseball never officially concluded that Rose had bet on his own team in exchange for Rose’s acquiescence to the “lifetime ban.” For every other individual in the modern era to whom it has applied, baseball’s “lifetime ban” has, in reality, meant a suspension for a few years. Yet, Giamatti’s death from a heart attack eight days after announcing baseball’s settlement with Rose seems to have fueled a lasting personal vendetta at the game’s highest echelons.

First, the National Baseball Hall of Fame officially decided to exclude banned players from its annual baseball writer’s ballot in 1991, just before Rose became eligible to appear on that ballot. Next came Major League Baseball’s inexplicable and inexcusable refusal to act on Rose’s application for reinstatement, which persists to this day.

To me, the exclusion of baseball’s all-time hits leader transformed the “Hall of Fame” into a farce. Then, when the 1994 players’ strike canceled the World Series and eviscerated a promising Reds season, my attachment to baseball began to fray; particularly when neither the owners nor the players association even bothered to apologize – to the fans who pay their bills, or to the concessionaires, ushers, and other hard-working individuals who truly suffered the effects of the strike.

Baseball gradually recovered after 1994; in large part due to the record-breaking exploits of a bevy of new “superstars,” including Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds. We subsequently learned that these performances may have been the product of steroid use. Meanwhile, no one has ever accused Pete Rose of cheating, and his all-time hits record remains unassailable and, perhaps, unreachable. Yet, McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds remain eligible for the Hall of Fame, while Rose remains the game’s lone outcast.

On its face, this scenario seems outrageous and absurd; particularly when Pete Rose the player remains the exemplar of everything that once mattered about baseball. Yet, I remain initially persuaded by the argument that Rose flagrantly violated a “prime directive,” of sorts – a rule that is prominently displayed in every team’s clubhouse, for which the penalty has always been clear and certain. By contrast, while Major League Baseball appears to have banned steroid use for more than two decades, its enforcement of this policy has not always been consistent.

Gambling is a clinically recognized addiction, just like alcoholism and drug abuse. The late Steve Howe notoriously received suspension after suspension for cocaine use during his 17-year pitching career. Does anyone seriously believe that Howe would have stopped had drug abuse held the same “prime directive” status as the rule against betting on one’s own team? Still, amidst all the judgments pronounced against Pete Rose in the media and elsewhere, I have never heard anyone suggest that an illness might have deprived Rose of complete control over his actions.

Admittedly, Rose has often been his own worst enemy. I cannot help but believe that had he quietly come clean with Bart Giamatti when the gambling allegations first arose early in 1989, Rose might still have enjoyed a long association with baseball after a few years away from the game. Instead, he lied about his actions until 2004, when it became apparent that he might never be reinstated without a full confession. Rose also apparently continues to gamble; though his once-defiant attitude about his circumstances seems to have mellowed somewhat into genuine humility and remorse.

Perhaps Rose’s lack of genuine rehabilitation justifies Major League Baseball’s refusal to consider his reinstatement. After all, no less than Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays spent two years on the “banned list” merely for working for casinos in public relations capacities. But why not make this fact clear? Even at this late date, why not give Rose a very public choice between the game he loves and the habit he seemingly refuses to conquer? Wouldn’t this approach communicate the most productive message to anyone battling addiction: mercy for those who seek help and consequences for those who do not?

Otherwise, it is naïve to suggest that by potentially making Rose the only modern player against whom it has literally enforced a “lifetime ban,” Major League Baseball has protected itself one iota from the influences of gambling. Indeed, the exact opposite may have occurred. Instead of encouraging players, coaches, and managers who suffer from a gambling addiction to obtain the treatment they need, Major League Baseball has sent an unmistakable message of “no quarter;” one which seems destined to drive these individuals further underground. Unbending rules often produce inflexible results – which means that one had better guess correctly regarding the outcome.

During his recent appearance in Cincinnati, outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig addressed baseball’s “Pete Rose question” by reiterating his obligation “to do what I think is in the best interest of this sport” and then reminding his audience that he “was particularly close to Bart Giamatti.” As understandable as these personal sentiments might be, confusing them with an appropriate resolution does no favors for Selig’s legacy or baseball’s future.

Selig’s comments strongly suggest that Rose’s continued punishment has little to do with the rule he broke. Instead, personal animus seems to be driving Selig’s approach to this matter – and that fact says a lot more about our culture than we would like to think it does. Particularly in politics, everything seems to revolve around individual personalities. We cannot have mere disagreements without judging one another’s motives and character – then we wonder why our legislative bodies have become utterly dysfunctional. Instead of debating the practical merits of specific programs and proposals, we back our opponents into a corner and force them to defend their personal honor. Under such conditions, how can they ever give an inch toward compromise?

In short, the debate about Pete Rose’s fate continues to be about Pete Rose, when it ought to focus on what promotes the long-term health of baseball and the general welfare of our society. Whether a “lifetime ban” remains an appropriate penalty given what we know today about gambling and addiction is a much more relevant question than whether Rose has earned “forgiveness.”

My first visit to Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park with my teenage son two years ago lifted my spirits and took me back to a time before player strikes, steroids, and “lifetime bans.” I still follow baseball – but for far too long, baseball’s off-the-field errors have interfered with my genuine enjoyment of the game. By making peace with Pete Rose, Major League Baseball might offer the rest of our society with a desperately needed and realistic model of justice, compassion, and practicality. And it might finally win back fans like me.

The RP: Fancy Farm 2014 — A Twitter Recap

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John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The mind of a child vs the mind of an adult

jyb_musingsThe mind of a child vs the mind of an adult. (Or how Sirius radio works)

A child’s view of the world is very different from how we view the world as an adult. When we are young we are naive and innocent. But as adults we are experienced and wise.

When I was 7 and 8 years old and being driven to Wilder Elementary School we would listen to WAKY radio. I had become a music fan and –though I loved the music—was mostly amazed by how I imagined, logistically, radio pop stations made it all work.

I believed that bands would come from all over the country to go into the WAKY studio and play one song and then leave and make room for the next band. Sometimes twice in one day if they had a popular song.

I figured commercials allowed the next band time to set up but suspected even with that extra time if must really be tough moving in and out the musical equipment for different bands all day every day just so each could play a single song.

Today I am an adult and am experimenting with Sirius radio. On Sirius, I can listen to whatever kind of musical bands I am in the mood for on the radio. And no commercials.

My adult mind is mature enough to figure out that since there are no commercials there is no way each band’s equipment gets moved in and out of the radio studio. My mature and experienced mind knows that the Sirius radio stations must already have all the possible instruments on hand for each band to use. And that’s how they manage to play music all day without commercials.

But as wise and knowing as I am today at 51, I don’t understand why AM and FM stations competing with Sirius haven’t figured this out and are doing it too.

Of course, some radio stations gave up altogether and just hire people to talk all day long about news. All these stations have to do is buy a whole bunch of musical instruments and they could have great bands in the studio playing top 40 hits all day everyday instead. Why this isn’t happening–even with my adult mind– is totally baffling me.

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