Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Infect Them!

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the Podcast Audio

Good morning, and welcome to The Signalman Show!

  WOW what a crazy weekend!  Did the speech for the teen leadership conference called HOBY (Hugh O'Brien Youth), and then returned the next day with my brothers to DJ their dance.  It was LIT!  I also was able to confirm about leadership there that, well, I think might be of interest to you.

  But first, a story.  One day a few years ago, I was hosting my Classic Radio Hour, a program of golden oldies that I take around to local nursing homes.  I was a bit sleepy, and the room didn't seem to be diggin' Frank Sinatra the way they usually did.  At first, I thought "well, nothing I can do about it, I'm just pressing buttons."  But I perked up a little bit, and the room seemed to, as well.  Still, I wasn't quite sure.  After all, once a track is dropped, all I can do is experience it, right?  Or is there more? The question was:  would my reaction to it be contagious?  

  Back to this weekend:  We were dropping the latest hits on the kids, and they were loving it.  But, like most audiences, they really only knew what was on the radio.  My brother put on a track that was only slightly off the beaten path (but hardly.)  I think it was Phantogram's "You Don't Get Me High Anymore" The crowd seemed to be open to it, but they weren't sure.  I'm onstage in front of the booth, and I start dancing and waving my hands...and sure enough, the crowd started to mirror it.  It proved to me that yes, my attitude IS contagious. And, so is yours.  Even with something as secondary as DJing (we're not MAKING the music, only presenting it), passion and excitement can provide a clear example that others can follow.  Lead them!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Speck, just a Speck!

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the Podcast Audio

Good morning!  I spend a lot of time working to elevate my profile in the world, and maybe you do, too.  There's always branding, marketing, influence, and the like...we talk about it on this podcast, and walk it in life.  So, sometimes, after an especially busy day, it helps me to look up at the night sky, and get a perspective check.  Last night was cloudy, but found me reading "Death by Black Hole", a bestseller by Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  He explained how humanity first thought the heavens rotated around the earth, but then the heliocentric universe (sun-centered) emerged.  Then we thought the solar system was the center of the universe, but we figured out that was wrong.  THEN we thought our galaxy was all their was, but THAT was wrong.  THEN we thought that the universe was expanding away from us equally, and we were the center of the origin, but THAT was wrong. He says then

"What are the lessons to be learned form this journey of the mind?  That humans are emotionally fragile, prerenialluy gullible, hopelessly ignorant masters of an insignifically small speck in the cosmos.  Have a nice day."

WOW!  That's pretty darn awesome, man.  I put the book down, and wandered over to the record player to flip the vinyl over.  I saw The Beatles albums on the wall, and thought how we're all specks on a speck.  Austin Kleon writes in "Steal like an Artist" to embrace obscurity, and all the benefits it affords...experimentation and trial and error with no judgement of an expectant audience.  I know the speck thing freaks people out.  But, I kind of like to be reminded that I'm a speck in this mad dash of marketing and branding and the wild west of the Internet and modern soceity.  It lets me chill a bit, puts things in perspective, and grounds me. cool we get to be part of the universe, the whirling, rushing, burning, spinning, fierce beauty.  That's the exciting thing, be we specks or supernovae.  So, as Mr. Tyson would say...Have a nice day!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

For Chris

Hey there, and good morning.  Well, it's Friday, but today's show is a bit somber.

  I'm sure you've heard by now of the passing of rock legend and voice of an age Chris Cornell.  He was 52, and after a concert in Detroit on Thursday, he took his own life.  It's a sad, sad thing, and I"d like to talk about it with you.

  The sun shone through the trees this morning as I peered out my door to greet the day.  The world turns, it's another Friday, and I'm here to experience it, the humid mid-atlantic air caressing my groggy and grateful face.  Many people are not.  Some people, like Chris, friends, and a certain family member of mine, are absent for the same reason.

  The Facebook posts with the suicide hotlines are starting, and that's good to see.  Rare is the man who faces no struggle in life, although not all of us are brought to the brink.  Yet I observe with a glad heart that most of us feel a kinship with each other when a sadness like Chris' is brought to the light, and an urge to help each other back from the edge.  Sometimes things are just sad,  and sometimes life is tough.  Society tries to ignore this, deny this, numb this.  But this only makes it worse.  It's OK to be sad.  When we accept this, then we can reach out and let those who care about us know.  And trust me, there's more of us than you'd think.

  I didn't know Chris, although I'm a fan of his work.  His high-profile tragedy is one that I will not understand, not being in his head, and I'd like to let him and his family sort that out in peace.  I have no place to even try to understand.  But his sadness is a reminder of my duties as your fellow man.  Know that you matter, know that I care, and know that you need not suffer in silence.  I'm always around on Twitter @DontJoshMe, and of course, the national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255.  As aggravating and divisive as the world can appear, there's lots and lots of people in your corner.  If you're having a hard time, reach out.  Do it for me.  Do it for Chris.  Do it for you.


Friday, May 19, 2017


The Morning Show is a blog companion to yesterday's Podcast Audio

Good morning, and happy #ThrowbackThursday!  It's one of my favorite days of the week, hipster that I am.  Check THIS:  My brothers gave me an old 1970 John Deere riding mower.  It is OLD SCHOOL, BABY, and like many old school things, doesn't exactly work.  I put a new carburetor on it, a new battery, new fuel line, had to grab the rusty blades and get them spinning again, and now I've ordered a new tire to replace the flat.  It runs, smokes like a BBQ, sort of cuts, and my lawn is half-hacked to bits.  The new battery died, so when it stalls out, which is often, I drive my SUV over the lawn to where it's stuck, and give it a jump start.  It's a work in progress, but it's GETTING THERE!

  With all the things I like to tinker on...the 7 antique clocks, the camaro, all of these guitars...I'm working on enjoying the process.  It's so easy to say "I just want it to work!"  I mean, sure, it would be nice if the lawn looked good, but hey, it's getting there!  With machines, people, and careers, things are a process.  If we solve one problem, and get to the end of our to-do list, you know what we do?  Go out, and buy a jigsaw puzzle.  TO SOLVE.  So, note to myself:  enjoy the process!  Gonna go make some friends at the tire shop tomorrow.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Three Friends

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the Podcast Audio

  Good morning!  Man, what a beautiful day.  I was practicing my guitar for a bit out on the back porch today, and I heard a rustling.  I looked over, and there was my buddy the snake.  He lives under the house.  He's pretty intimidating looking, but he's not poisonous, and he's got a special spot that he hangs out to sun himself.  I value friendships with people that are very different than me, and I guess that extends to animals, too.  We tend to agree on two points:  that's his space, and that we limit our dealings to friendly waves in the distance.  Cool with me!  He keeps the mice away, and is darn cool to watch.  As I worked on my Bach, I saw a little lizard sunning himself on the porch.  He seemed to want a similar arrangement as the snake.

  So there we were, three beings living our day, side by side, worlds apart.  And nobody felt the need to throw a snarky Facebook meme at the other one.  And nobody was offended.  I'm gonna be thinking about how this might relate to the rest of my life.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mom!

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the Podcast Audio

(Note - this show aired YESTERDAY - I didn't forget my mom's birthday!)

Good morning, and welcome to The Morning Show!

  I'd like to wish my mom a very happy birthday today!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!  Got my party hat on...seriously!  Check out Instagram @JoshUrban to see a video of this show.
Now, some people know how to party, but my mother has the distinction of knowing how to celebrate.  Her birthday, our birthdays, other people's birthdays, life events, small victories, major accomplishments...And in doing that, in choosing to make a festive big deal out of things we could easily overlook, she consistently chooses to summon the magic of the occasion.

  It's so easy to stop doing that as the years go by.  Life can be gray, and we compound the dreariness with little choices.  Mom's celebration isn't because the lack of hardship, or the ease of the occasion, often quite to the contrary.  Sharing joy doesn't have to wait till the sun comes out - indeed, it often precedes it, and coaxes the rays to break through the clouds.

  Happy Birthday, Mom!  Toasting you today, and looking forward to celebrating with you!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


This is a blog companion to the Podcast Audio

Hey there, and Happy #MusicMonday!  It's been 72 episodes, and it's time for a music Monday one!  So, bringing you a story, and of course, a metaphor.  

  I'd like to introduce you to one of my guitars.  This is an old Harmony acoustic.  My buddy Bernie gave it to me.  It's kind of a junky guitar, and one of my favorites.  One of my students was looking at it today.  "It looks nice."  "It's really not" I replied.  "Look, the strings are all hard to play, you can't adjust the neck, it's warped, it sounds clunky...But if you use it for a gritty slide sound, it's killin'."  

  In most respects, it's not even worthy of a practice guitar.  But for the right application, it's magic.  Take another listen.  

  I've spent so much time and money searching for the "perfect" guitar.  But what is ideal, really?  Out of context, there isn't.  That's one of the things I love about art and music - a "nasty" sound is just the ticket for certain tracks, while other songs require that high-dollar acoustic tone.  But it's application specific.  

  Maybe anything and everything has a beautiful song within, and it's our job to find it.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Morning Show: The Complexities of Mother's Day

The Morning Show is the blog companion to the Podcast Audio

I keep yelling at my students and pointing fiercely, demanding "DO YOU KNOW WHAT SUNDAY IS?"  Why, it's Mother's Day.  Like anything else, it's a complicated day.  I'm incredibly lucky to have a living mother that I'm close to, but many of my friends aren't in the same boat, for a variety of reasons.  With the flood of mom pictures flooding the Facebook news feeds this weekend, comes a complexity of feeling for many people.

  So, be it that you're planning on taking great selfies with your mom like I am, or will be grieving yours like many of my friends, or feeling the lack of a strong female influence in your life like others, I propose a cool idea.

  This Sunday is a perfect opportunity to honor those feminine role models in our lives - those who nurture, those who listen, those who guide, those who love.  Let's take a moment out to honor them, and to let them know how much they mean to us.  And if you're one of these women, take a moment to appreciate yourself.  Children come in many forms, not just offspring. I challenge you to drop a note, send a card, or pick up the phone to tell an important woman in your life other than your mom that she makes a difference.  (And, of course, if you're close to your mom, let her know, too!)  And I say, to all you ladies out there...Happy Mother's Day!  Thanks for doing what you do!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Attacking the Corners

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio

Hey there, and yay for Thursday!  It's the Morning Show!  I have this cool book called Zen Guitar, and there's a great quote in it.  "The Samurai say:  Attack the Corners."  I've been doing this with a Bach piece.  There's a delightful flute spotlight in the Orchestral Suite #2 in B minor, and while I've learned half of it years ago, I never tackled the rest.  For the past week, I've been chipping away at it for 15 minutes a day, attacking the corners.  It's not perfect, but it's GETTING THERE!

  We were talking about impossibilities yesterday, traits of our lives that we consider intractable.  For example, I'm a clumsy guy who's terrible at sight reading musical pieces.  With 15 minutes a day of attacking the corners of a Bach piece, I'm changing the sight reading impossibility.  And what about the clumsy part?  Did I mention the Latin Dance practice?  It's even sillier than you'd, a clumsy white boy, trying to move to a beat.  But hey man, with a little bit of consistency, it's getting there.  Not only is it fun, but transformational to think "Hey, one day I might be able to consider myself...graceful."  That day is a long way off, but the fact that the journey has even been started is a fact that has changed my perception of myself.  So, what will you do today to attack the corners of an impossibility?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sneaky identities

The Morning Show is the blog companion to the podcast audio 

Hey there, and welcome to the Morning Show!

  Speaking at schools, I see how early we start to develop identities, and how blinding they can be.  We start with such a limited range, but if we're a little better or slightly worse than our buddy at say, throwing a ball, or solving a math problem, we start to build reasons why.  "Oh, I'm better at writing", or more dangerous still, after one or two failures of athletics, "I'm better at writing than playing basketball."  (This was me.)  One or two failures!  And we build a life identity around this, our prophecy self-fulfilling, because yeah, if you don't practice a skill, you will be bad at it.

  Looking at the kids doing this, I can trace it all the way to present-day me.  Part of my identity is a clumsy, goofy guy, but that's changing.  I'll get into how I'm doing that in tomorrow's episode, and hopefully you can join me in this process of reinvention.  For today, see if you can spot any of these "Impossibilities" that you've told yourself.  See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Morning Show - Creativity and Limits

The Morning Show is an blog companion to the podcast audio

Hey there, and welcome to the morning show!  Wanted to share an idea about creativity that will hopefully help you, regardless of your field of expertise.  As you may know, I'm a musician, and musicians like to buy gear.  We often make the mistake of thinking that we need more gear to create new things.  I was searching for a good keyboard sound the other day.  My first thought was "MORE SOFTWARE!"  I almost dropped $350 on an upgrade.  I wisely decided to think about it.  Sometimes having a limited budget is the best thing for creativity.  Rummaging around in my studio, I hooked up a weird guitar effect that sounds like a keyboard, and recorded that onto an old reel-to-reel tape recorder a friend had given men.  I sampled THAT into my software, and boom, had the coolest old school sound you'd ever want to hear.  Not only did I have it already, and not only did I save myself $350, but I created a custom sound that nobody else has, and learned more about sampling and recording in the process.  Bottom line:  I was able to use limitations to create something unique. PLEASE remind me of this next time I start whining that I need more gear.  And let me know what you cook up!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Free Market Entertaining

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio

Good morning, and welcome to the Signalman show!  MAN what a blast at career day last week!  I had the honor of speaking with three 4th grade classes at Berry Elementary in Waldorf, MD.  We had FUN!  As a matter of fact, I'd like to dedicate this week's podcast series to some of the themes illustrated from this event.

  We've heard of Free Market Economics, but when it comes to speakers and entertainers, most of us are communists.  We demand attention, and make the "government" (the teachers in this case) corral the market (the students) into giving it to us.  I heard guys saying sternly to 9 year olds "Hey, voices off."  Dude, you're lucky they didn't throw things at you.  Here's the thing about that:  sure, they'll be quiet, but man, they'll hate you.  As a musician, I see this happen when artists bemoan the fact that people "just don't appreciate good music anymore" or "the room is too noisy."  Man, we've gotta EARN this!  I went up to some poor kid, got right up in his face, and started yelling drill-sergeant style "WHO'S THE BOSS HERE?  WHO'S THE BOSS HERE?"  Startled, he kept saying back "YOU ARE!  YOU ARE"  "No" I said in a normal voice.  "you are!  Tricked ya!"