Monday, March 2, 2015

Rest in Peace, Oren Miller

The Dadosphere was hit with kind of a body blow a couple of days ago when we heard that Oren Miller, founder of the Dad Bloggers Group on Facebook and author of the blog Blogger Father, lost his battle with cancer this past weekend.

It was expected-- his wife had announced a few days before that the medication was no longer working, and that they were just going to make Oren comfortable, but it's a body blow none the less.  It shakes you to the core.  At least it's shaken me.

People die everyday, and you expect that-- after all, it's part of the agreement with life, that it ends, but Oren was a father of two young kids, a great guy, and far too young.   I kept on expecting some kind of miracle, because if there are miracles where people overcome impossible odds, manage to beat Old Man Cancer, it happens to guys like Oren.  Guys who deserve them.

Not this time.

I met Oren a couple of times I think-- at a couple of Dad 2.0 Summits, and we corresponded a little bit when we were doing Digital Family Summit in Baltimore.  His kids were too young to attend, but he was supportive of the event, and gave me a few ideas of people to call in the area.  We had a great dinner in Houston together, talking about all kinds of cool stuff. And our kids.  And dick jokes.  You know, Dad stuff.

A friend just posted a question on line if I feel guilty about Oren passing-- why him, not me?

I feel bad that he went, but I don't think I feel guilt-- I feel fear. Fear that I am next.  Not to be depressing or anything, but we are all going to die someday- you, me, your beautiful children, that mean lady from the DMV.  On this train, everybody gets their ticket punched.  The question is, how are you going to handle it?

Oren handled it like a Zen master-- he took it in stride, he wrote about it, he made his peace.  I am afraid that when I go, I will be kicking and screaming and groveling in the corner.

I had a health issue a couple of weeks ago (Just before the Dad 2.0 summit)that required me to go to the emergency room, and I really had some thoughts about what would happen when I wasn't around, the "legacy" such as it that I would leave. It wasn't pretty.  I passed through that okay, but I've got a whiff of my mortality, and it scared the hell out of me.

I've been operating as if I had unlimited time.   And I don't.  No one does.  I'm 9 years older than Oren was.  I'm 3 years older than when my dad was killed in a car accident.  And I've had two or three friends in their 40's/50's just die in their sleep.  Nothing seemed wrong, they just didn't wake up.  Horrible.  And although my grandmother died at 104 and my grandfather died at 89 (a cigar salesman, he died of throat cancer), that's still not unlimited time.  30 years if I'm lucky.  Puts my new 30 year mortgage in perspective.

Oren Miller- 1974-2015.  Rest In Peace.
Oren: when my ticket gets punched, I only hope that I can handle it with the kind of grace and elegance that you handled it.  READ HIS WORDS.

I don't think I will.  You set a very high standard.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Baltimore Sun Obit

Article & Video about Oren- Baltimore Sun "Finding Heaven On Earth"

Pinterest Group-- Oren Miller RIP

Oren's Blog - Blogger

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lego Star Wars- Droid Tales Announced

When I was at Dad 2.0 last week, one of the cool events was an outing to the LucasFilm Studios in the Presidio.  There, we were introduced to some Embargo'd material, including about 44 minutes worth of never before seen video.

One of the videos we watched was from the upcoming Droid Tales, which is an amusing set of episodes intended to retell what happened in the 6 movies, and as a way of getting the younger generation caught up to speed on what happened in those movies (if you've been in a coma for the last 6 months, there's a new Star Wars Film coming out this year!  And kids/potential toy buyers need to know what's going on!)

I'm happy to say that the stories that we saw looked very clever and funny, and had lots of in-jokes and irreverent humor to keep parents happy (but not too irreverent!)  There are some very funny meta-jokes that comment on the plot, and happen at just the right moments.  I would say more, but I think the shows we saw are still embargo'd.

We plan on watching these (and the original Star Wars movies-- we've seen the first two, and I suppose I will have to lift my ban on the second three.  I don't want my son to be a cultural dolt!

And I want him to share in my disdain of JarJar Binks.

The show will air on Disney XD.  At this point airdate is not announced, but it will be plenty of time before the December 18 of The Force Awakens, the 7nth Star Wars movie.

And for those of you just coming out of that coma, here's the trailer for The Force Awakens.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

San Francisco: Contemporary Jewish Museum

On my extra day in San Francisco after Dad 2.0, I went to visit a couple of museums that were near the hotel, and that seemed like they'd be right up my alley.  And since I had some friends from Argentina that are living in San Francisco, it seemed like a great idea to hook up with them, see some museums and have some fun.

I used to live in San Francisco for a bit in 1992 and visit quite a bit throughout the 90's.  I worked in a theatre in the Tenderloin. The downtown has changed dramatically since then, but the smell of Market St (the smell of stale urine) has not changed, nor has the homeless problem.  I saw hundreds of homeless people in my time there, living on the streets.  I'm not sure how to solve the problem, but it's not good for tourism, it's not good for the city itself, and it's certainly not good for the men and women that are homeless.

I met my friends from Argentina (and their 16 month old son) at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, a former Power plant.  The architecture of the building is beautiful, (Read an article) and it seemed very inviting.  We walked in, and discovered that it was Family Fun day, which meant it was free for families!  Lucky for us we brought a kid!

Mr. Lunch Takes a Plane Ride book
MR. LUNCH available on Amazon!
An exhibit that looked super interesting was an exhibit about the work of J. Otto Siebold and Mr. Lunch. Siebold was a bay area resident, and a pretty well known children's book artist/illustrator.  The exhibit was colorful, it had a room full of oversized props that the young child could crawl on and around.  It had a little information about the artist, and a spot where you could read books to your kids. Over all, a promising opening to the museum.  This closes March 8, so see it while you can!

The main exhibit (Letters To Afar , which was created in collaboration with awesome Klezmer band The Klezmatics (listen to Klezmatics on Amazon) was sadly just about to open.  So we didn't see that.  I'm a big fan of the Klezmatics- their songs are wonderful and witty and a little caustic, as the titles of two of their albums will attest: (You can click the albums to see them on Amazon)

On the second floor was an ongoing exhibit about a donor to the museum who died in 2011 and liked to play the banjo-- while it was interesting, it was a little disappointing.  It had a costume on display, a single wall explanation and a video of his work.  It looked like a program room.

There was also another exhibit which seemed very blah-- In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art. It's an interesting idea of pairing up artists and scholars to work together, but in reality the  art produced seemed banal and obvious to me-- in this art they put together recipes which included such tidbits as (Chop the onions.  As you chop, think of all the atrocities committed against the Jews and the Indians.  Keep crying when you finish.  Or something like that.)  Just not profound enough to rate the museum, in my opinion (and artists, if you are reading this, I'm sorry, your work didn't read or speak to me.  I wish it was the opposite. It's not personal.)  And it's in a case in the hallway, so it's not very large either.

Another exhibit (which my friends didn't realize was an exhibit) was a twitter feed of 6 word memoirs about Jewish life.  It manifested in a scrolling sign which didn't scroll often enough.  It looked like it was just an advertisement for admission.

There was a playspace for kids that we didn't go to, even though they had real live puppy dogs for kids to pet.  There's also a Jewish deli attached to the museum, but it's not kosher.  My friends had salads and a Reuben with cheese.  I had an old fashioned egg cream (which had neither egg nor cream--- it was more like Chocolate Milk with Seltzer.  pretty tasty!)

In general, I'm hoping we caught the Jewish Contemporary Museum on a bad day.  It looked fabulous from the outside, but was disappointing on the inside.  Part of that was despite the giant building, it seemed like a small tiny percentage of it was used for exhibits, and most was used for... offices, I guess.   They also seem to have a lot of programming happening.  They seem to have more exhibits coming up, and we missed the main exhibit, so I'd probably go back, especially if it were free.

But if that's the state of Contemporary Jewish art right now, it looks like we Jews have another thing to pray for!

We also went to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which I'll write about at another time.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dad 2.0.15-- the Takeaways

Just finishing 2 huge days in my community of dads, hanging out with, being inspired by, and getting a little drunk with some of the best dad bloggers in the world.

It's become one of my favorite events of the year

Here's a couple of my favorite moments/takeaways from this year's event.


Dove Men+Care has been a sponsor for all 4 years of the Dad 2.0 Summit, and a title sponsor for the last 3 years.  I am continually impressed by their commitment to the Dad 2.0 community.  In that time period, I don't think they've talked to me once about the merits of their product, or asked me to shill for them/help them sell product.   They have not been about sales at all.  They have asked me to engage about creating a world of better fathers, of celebrating excellent examples of evolved masculinity, and in general help create a better world.  And I do that happily.  They have proved through their actions that they are on the side of the angels, and that they have a long view of their marketing strategy/world, and I appreciate them for that.  (And I actually won a contest/doorprize-- first one ever!  So there is that.)


It was just saw awesome to visit the LucasFilms Studio, see so many of the collectible Star Wars items, and posters, and memorabilia, and get to kind of see where all the magic happens.  It was especially exciting that we got on the inside and saw some embargoed material from the upcoming Lego Star Wars TV episodes (my lips and computer are sealed!)  Although I'm not a huge Star Wars-o-phile, I do love the world, it appealed to my geeky nature, and I felt like a Boss!


Evolution of the modern man .#choreplay
Being a blogger/entrepreneur/involved dad is not easy, and being in a community of great guys who are going through a lot of the things I'm going there, have already gone through it and lived to tell the tale, or are about to go through it just like I just did is a boon to me. The group is a great group of guys, with a lot of wisdom, and a lot of bonhommie.  And it helps. It's easy to feel isolated when you work by yourself, or when your primary company during the day is your child.

At the end of the conference (The Esquire Network beer party), everybody seemed to be having a great time, and for whatever reason, I caught myself feeling a little sad and a lot alone. Not sure why-- although I think part of it was missing my family a little.  At any rate, I
was looking at the rest of the guys having fun, and wondering "Have I missed it? Am I not part of the group? How come I'm not having the same kind of fun as everyone else?"  I went back to my room, and had the thought that maybe I should just stay in, and wallow.  Long story short, I pushed myself to not do that, I went down to the lobby, found a group that was going out to dinner, invited myself in a little, and ended up having a great time.  I also heard one of the funniest true life stories I've heard in a LONG time!

And afterwards, hanging around with a bunch of the "in" guys at the bar, I found myself in the thick of it, and having the good time I was afraid I wasn't having previously.  And I really connected with a couple of guys who I hadn't really talked to all conference.

"These are not the dads you are looking for"
A couple of the sessions were about being proactive working with brands, and about negotiating to get what you want.  Time and time again, guys told the same story-- I wasn't sure if I was going to get the gig, the tickets, the work, but I asked anyway.  And I got it.  I know that I often don't go after opportunities thinking that I'm not exactly right for it, and I need to expand my wheelhouse, and get my number of asks up.  I am guessing I'll be surprised by how many yeses I get.  Somebody said this in one of the sessions:  "If you aren't getting a lot of No's, you aren't asking enough."  I think sometimes I tell myself No before I ask.  And this doesn't apply just to blogging.

I always leave Dad 2.0 with a great deal of hope and inspiration.  Somehow I haven't done much differently by the time the next Dad 2.0 rolls around.  I am going to formulate an action plan and follow through on it this time.  (I may have told myself that last time too, so who knows)

I could probably list another 5 things, but I've got some sightseeing to do today before I head off to the frigid MidWest.

What were your takeaways?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thank you for sponsoring the #Dad2Summit!

Just an appreciation of the sponsors of the Dad 2.0 summit, who are making it possible for me to attend the conference this year (they haven't paid me to attend, but the price is low primarily because these brands realize that dad bloggers and the dad blogging community is important to be a part of) 

That's not a small realization.   

Over the weekend (and perhaps further) I want to give these guys props and some social media love for being in the right place at the right time, and putting their money in the right place.

Looking forward to meeting you all, perhaps working with you in the future.  Most importantly, thanks for being a forward thinking (and dad-thinking) business!  

Dad 2.0 Summit#dad2summit@dad2summit
Dove Men+Care#RealStrength@dovemencare
Arctic Cove#coolestDad@ArcticCove
Best Buy#BESTDAD@BestBuy
Embassy Suites#ESDadHacks@EmbassySuites
Hasbro#TransformersRID #Nerf@HasbroNews
Hot Wheels#HotWheelsDads@Hot_Wheels
Kia Motors#KiaDad@kia
Kidde Fire Safety#RemoteLyncDad@kiddesafety
KIND Healthy Snacks#GrabHungerByTheNuts@KINDSnacks
Lee® Jeans#LeeModernDad@LeeJeans
RYOBI Power Tools#DadsRockRYOBI@RYOBIPowerTools
SmartyPants Vitamins#SmartyDad@SmartyHealth
STŌK Grills#STOKRevolution@STOKGrills
Esquire magazine#Esquiremag@Esquiremag
Esquire Network#ESQTV@ESQTV

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dad 2.0.4-- San Francisco, Here I come!

I'll be taking my show on the road (alright, not my actual show, just myself) to San Francisco this week to attend the Dad 2.0 Summit.  I've been attending Dad 2.0 since it started (Austin/Houston/New Orleans/San Francisco) .  In case you don't know, it's a great gathering of some of the best bloggers who are dads and some of the best dads who are bloggers that come together, along with brands that are interested in this niche, to talk about the business of blogging, the art of fathering, and the unholy mess that comes from mixing business and art.  My cup of tea.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS CONFERENCE:  It's a really great chance to meet the community of dad bloggers, guys who I read and know a lot about from their blogs and social media, but don't really get that much chance to hang out with in person except at conferences like this.

It's also a great chance to meet up with brands who are interested in the Dad community, and may be interested in sponsoring my writing, my brand, and striking up a mutually beneficial partnership.

And they always have inspiring speakers, and great events.  (One year I learned swordfighting.  Another year I met up with the guy who did Friday Night Lights. This year, we're going to LucasFilms for a party in the Presidio, courtesy of +LEGO )  I am very much looking forward to that.

I've done a little bit of business from this conference (not as much as I'd like, and I haven't pursued "Blog as business" as much as I could anyway) As you know, you loyal tens of readers, I'm not in the blogging for the money.  If I was, I'd be blogging 7 times a week, giving away oodles of stuff I don't care about, and you might not be quite as loyal as you are. (if you are!)    It's something I do because I like to write down my thoughts about culture, about parenting, about my life, and about being a dad. (in no particular order)  I started sharing my stories online in 1990, and it's something I still like to do.

What I really like about this conference is seeing a bunch of guys just like me, my community, from all around the country (and a few other countries as well, Australia, Canada, and Portugal) who love to write about their ideas and their families and their experiences, and figuring out how I can share my stories in a better way.  I always leave inspired.

ALSO, San Francisco! It's been a long time since I've been to San Francisco.  I performed there a bunch of times in the early 90's, including a 3 month stint with George Coates Performance Works, and came through a few times more in the late 1990's, early 2000's, but I haven't been there since around 2005 or 2006.  My first big flea circus fringe success was there.  I'm sure it's changed somewhat.  I won't have much of a chance to see that, as I'll mostly be at the conference, although I have half a day to hang out before the conference, and the day after the conference (also get to see two of my cousins, who have moved to San Francisco, and I haven't seen in a few years.)  San Francisco has always been one of my favorite cities, so I'll be happy to be back.  I'm also hoping to see some old San Francisco friends, as well as lots of my dad blogger friends.

It won't be particularly hard to leave the Chicago weather, although leaving my family behind is always a little sad (and being honest, a little nice.  Not having to answer to anyone for a few days will be good, but I will miss wife and child, and be a little worried for them, especially if it snows.  Hopefully the upstairs neighbor will shovel!)

Dad 2.0 is sold out for this year, so if you are interested, you should get on the radar, and buy a ticket for next year when they come around.  It will be worth your effort and money and time.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Take 5- Jazz For Young People With Wynton Marsalis! Feb 14 at 1pm

Photo by Frank Stewart.  Courtesy CSO
The winter is cold, but jazz is hot.  This Valentine's day, you have an amazing opportunity to introduce your kids to some classic hot jazz at the symphony when Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra breeze into town for the weekend.

The concert will be held at the Chicago Symphony Center on Saturday, February 14 at 1pm.  It's a short form program, designed especially for younger audiences. And after the concert, there will be a Q & A session with the audience and the artists!

Photo by Frank Stewart.
courtesy CSO
Wynton Marsalis is a true modern jazz legend,  He is the Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, an organization he co-founded in 1989. Marsalis was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1961. At age 17, he entered The Juilliard School and joined Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Marsalis made his recording debut as a leader in 1982. Since then, he  has recorded more than 70 jazz and classical albums, which have garnered him nine  GRAMMY® Awards. Marsalis became the first jazz artist to be awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in music for his oratorio “Blood on the Fields,” which was commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center.

.Photo by Todd Rosenberg, courtesy CSO
Wynton and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra are in town for a multi-day residency at the Chicago Symphony Center.  They are performing 3 programs at Symphony Center, including the Saturday matinee performance for kids.  That program, titled Who Is Dave Brubeck,  will feature the music of the legendary jazz pianist and composer.

Other parts of the residency include a master class by Mr. Marsalis at DePaul, school visits by orchestra members, and two adult concerts on February 13 at 8 pm and February 14 at 8 pm.

To find out more about Jazz For Young People and to purchase your tickets, visit the CSO event website.

Here's a video of Wynton Marsalis and the JALC Orchestra performing Dave Brubeck's Take Five in 2014 at the Newport Jazz Festival.