The Demise of The Question Song

kuvo-pledgeTo help stick my cred as a “cool” dad, I’ve decided to share the car radio with my daughter. I am AOK with dedicating a couple pre-sets for the “hit mix” and “party” stations, as long as I still get my Jazz, NPR and alternative tracks.

But having to listen to what Big Music is now releasing to the teen market, I have become painfully aware that the hallowed “Question Song” of yore has undergone a disturbing – and perhaps fatal – decline. Let me explain.

In my salad days, I loved Question Songs. The lyrics made you actually stop and think about what the songwriter was trying to say. The question indicated a genuine narrative, one that stuck too long in your mind, like peanut butter does to the roof of your mouth. The question might challenge authority (“What’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”), celebrate life (“Isn’t she lovely? isn’t she wonderful?”) or ponder death (“Where have all the flowers gone?”). Deep stuff.

A few more choice examples*:

  • Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
  • How can you mend a broken heart?
  • Does anybody really know what time it is? (Does anybody really care…about time?)
  • Why do fools fall in love?
  • How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man?
  • Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?
  • If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?
  • Where does that highway go to?

*Please notice that “Where are the clowns?” didn’t make the list. While I’ve never loved Judy Collins, even that mawkish ballad hews to a grander theme of unrequited love.

Now compare those questions to what currently rules the airwaves:

  • What do you mean? (Justin Bieber)
  • What’s wrong with being confident? (Demi Lovato)
  • Is there somebody else on your mind? (One Direction)
  • Tell me, is it true that these men are from Mars? (Britney Spears, Iggy Azalea)

Insipid, paltry fare as dissatisfying as eating a rice cake for lunch. Or celery. I rest my case.

Fare thee well, pop music Question Song. Your death has not gone unnoticed. RIP.

I’m Alive, with Pictures to Prove It

Given that my last post was published in April (sorry!), I should first report that I am indeed happy, healthy, and getting about everything done in my life with the exception of regular blogging. So no, not trapped under a boulder, languishing in a minimum security prison, or holding a “bed-in” ala John and Yoko (which sounds rather fun, actually).

But it’s not that I haven’t been not thinking about blogging (catch the triple negative?). The proof: I’ve been using my handy camera – which doubles as a phone – to document all the various ideas and sights that trigger my “That Would make a Good Blog Subject” impulse. The best way to catch up with you, and clear the boards for new blog posts, is to present what I call…

“The 2015 Blog Posts That Should Have Been”


#1 – Why I Hate Spring Snow

IDEA: Though I normally love a peaceful springtime snowfall, the one on May 10 killed all my fruit tree blossoms and a couple of the trees as well. I rage at the skies.


#2 – Domo Japanese Garden

IDEA: You’d never believe you were in Denver. Ignoring Yelp altogether and taking a chance on a restaurant can lead to an unforgettable dining experience.


#3 – Hall’s Pep Talk Marketing Campaign

IDEA: I love this campaign. Each wrapper proffers cheerful phrases to make you feel better. Unexpectedly turns your state of mind – “I feel lousy” – on its head, so both throat and soul earn minty relief.


#4 – Tidal Pooling Is My favorite Sport

IDEA: I loved this picture from our trip to Monterrey. Looks like an abstract. 7:30 AM, the smell of the ocean, new discoveries on every beach, and nothing but time. The ingredients for a memorable holiday.


#5 – Denver Can Be Beautiful, Too

IDEA: Photographer John Fielder wants us to believe that all the natural beauty in our state exists outside of the cities, but this shot in City Park proves otherwise – to me.


#6 – ink! Wins Me Over Again

IDEA: No clue what happened here, but I am hard pressed to show you a better example of how to shrug off a launch fail with humor and honesty.


#7 – Harnessing Technology for Your NPR Fund Drive

IDEA: I just loved that KUVO used the music information feed to tell me what to do and how to pledge during the fall fund drive. Exceedingly clever way to visually nudge those of us listening in the car.


#8 – 25 Years Later

IDEA: We were all wearing black and looking natty at a friend’s 50th birthday party. We three college friends have known each other for half of her life. Makes you think.




Why Doesn’t Denver Get the Cool Technologies?

It’s a running joke here in Colorado that Denver was, is and always will be a pokey, fly-over “Cow Town.” While the annual stock show does nothing to dispel that perception, it’s quite fun to attend. Far more harmful to our reputation as a progressive city is when entrenched markets unfairly use their influence to obstruct the introduction of innovative technologies like Uber, the new limo-ordering service. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly love my adopted city of Denver, flaws, cows and all. Yet I submit that we’re not really as edgy and progressive as we’d like to think. Even Boulder. Often it’s fear of change that makes the rules and ultimately rules the day.

Sure, we have the successful B-Cycle program and our glacially expanding Light Rail project. But I think we’re trailing truly progressive cities like Seattle because they openly encourage an experimental spirit. Here are three examples I saw of businesses in that region that are applying technology in new ways to improve customer satisfaction.

Amazon Locker in Seattle1. Amazon Lockers

I noticed the first of these fairly nondescript golden monoliths while pumping gas in Phinney Ridge. “Willa,” pictured on the left, is an Amazon Locker, a delivery system that offers quick, secure, 24-hour access to decent-sized orders. All you need to open your locker is a code sent to your email or smart phone.

What a discovery! Who knew Amazon would deliver directly to your neighborhood? I certainly didn’t, because Denver was not one of the seven cities chosen to test this service. I’d like to know why we were skipped over.

And I’m still trying to work out why Amazon feels the need to imbue their lockers with personality and a human name. I can sense the confusion already:

Sally (tentative): “Honey, you came home so late last night. Be honest: are you seeing someone else?”
Brad (defensively): “No! Okay, I guess I did visit with Willa, but it’s just business. You know that.”
Sally (beginning to sob loudly): “Oh, God, I hate her. Every time she texts, you run right away to see her. Can’t you see she’s just a cold, heartless machine, incapable of real love?”
Brad: “Huh?”

2. Shopping Cart Escalators

Fred Meyers escalatorNext, I had a George H.W. Bush scanner moment in a Fred Meyers, the Northwest Pacific’s version of Target. Descending to the basement in search of water shoes, I gawked in wonder at the sight next to me: a second escalator adapted to transport your shopping cart between floors.

Like an unsophisticated hick from The Sticks, I took a picture. Of an escalator. Or maybe we should call it a cartalator.

But it was so sensible. So simple. So elegant. So Lean: zero time wasted waiting for an elevator! Sigh. Yet another service innovation we don’t have in Denver. Not even at the new IKEA.

3. Sushi, Delivered to Your Table via Conveyor Belt

sushi conveyor This was Blue C Sushi: “Where Japanese tradition and technique intersect with American inventiveness and genuine hospitality.” What’s not to love?

  • No wait for food: simply select what you want as the conveyor moved by your table.
  • Clearly labeled products in transparent containers.
  • Only six product prices, each visually defined by a system of six distinct plate colors.
  • A snap for the wait staff to count the plates by color and calculate the final bill.
  • Fun for the kids!

Seattle may be wet and remote, and I-5 traffic sucks, but I admire how the businesses there are willing to try out new technologies to improve their customer service. And as a result, no none will ever confuse them with a Cow Town.

Bike to Work Day – A Great Denver Tradition

I love Bike to Work Day. I’m sure other cities may have a similar ritual, but Denver’s the first one where I have ever actually participated.

Full Disclosure: Yes, I do work in a home office, but I justify my “ride to work” by making an enormous loop from Congress Park to Cherry Creek to downtown and back home. So I am technically riding to work, it’s just far longer that my usual descent down the stairs to my desk!

This was my third year riding (I missed last year due to vacation), and it’s so impressive and refreshing to see the variety of riders who make their way downtown. Business professionals in suits, casual people on their cruiser bikes, the Apparent homeless, and ready-to-go, full-on spandex-clad racers. I couldn’t help but smile at the bravado of the woman in high-platform shoes. You go, girl.

The Mayor showed – as always – at the big gathering at Civic Center park to take advantage of the assembled voters with a few brief platitudes on the benefits of biking to work and riding in general. Nice to see the top local brass put their weight behind environmental issues. And so I rode home, my bag full of power bars and biking schwag. A fine way to start the regular slog. Ride on, everyone!