Visit Cincinnati

Got shirts for the boys at @homage #payhomage #legendsneverdie

A photo posted by J T. Ramsay (@jtramsay) on


What a spectacular town! Since we moved to Detroit, I’ve been looking forward to exploring more of the Midwest. We got a bit of a preview of what to expect this summer when we followed the Erie canal on our trip to Cape Cod, stopping in Buffalo and Rochester, NY. These once proud cities still have a lot to crow about: because they were built around shipping, they’re all on the water and what’s left of the original housing stock and downtown architecture is typically stunning.

Cincinnati is no exception. While I was in town for the USTA Midwest Semi-Annual meeting, I got a chance to explore a bit. There’s a beautiful waterfront park beneath the iconic Roebling Bridge. The downtown is bustling and walkable. I took the advice of a friend who grew up here and walked over to the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, which feels quite a bit like Old City in Philadelphia, with lots of cute shops and restaurants. It’s where I picked up the shirts for the boys and tried this delicious ice cream cone from Graeter’s.

Peanut butter chocolate chip.

A photo posted by J T. Ramsay (@jtramsay) on


I even walked to Kentucky! Check the box on another state I never thought I’d visit!

Walked to Kentucky!

A photo posted by J T. Ramsay (@jtramsay) on


LVL UP – Hidden Driver

Heard Sub Pop’s LVL UP on All Songs Considered as I drove to Cincinnati last night. Not only are the perfect for the person who’s still obsessed with Neutral Milk Hotel, but this song, “Hidden Driver,” is about a website co-founded by one of my very talented grad school classmates, Astra Taylor! I’m excited to hear LVL UP’s Return to Love at the end of next month.


In Praise of Dinosaur Jr.

Have I really not written anything about Dinosaur Jr. since this post? Seems so, apart from a passing reference in 2011 to J Mascis’ excellent Several Shades of Why back in 2011. It’s crazy, because when I really think about it, Dinosaur Jr. may be that band that somehow survives every critical hangup I ought to have about them.

I mean, I found things wrong with my favorites that makes it hard to understand how I ever loved them so much in the first place. R.E.M., neatly summed up in a 2-part podcast over at Shallow Rewards, is one example. Pavement, Spoon and Sonic Youth? Love them barely ever listen to them these days. Even bands I fell in love with as an adult, like Fiery Furnaces, Liars and TV on the Radio feel dated.

Somehow, I don’t feel the same way about Dinosaur Jr. Maybe it’s the unmistakable crunchy riffing or the timelessness of J Mascis’ voice, but there’s something deeply satisfying about them. I find myself returning to these records and Mascis’ recent solo work more often than I realize.

As summer fades and fall draws near, I know I’ll be spending more time with their latest record, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, like a favorite sweater.


Stereogum’s Tom Breihan on the Pitchfork Music Festival:

I find something quizzical and honorable in this: A whole festival built around music that is not, in any way, designed for partying. In a way, isn’t that the logical endpoint of a decade-plus of internet music consumption? We’ve all spent all this time finding music on our computers and piping that music directly into our ears, rarely if ever having real-life conversations about some of the artists who mean the most to us. Why shouldn’t we be dedicating entire festivals to that same antisocial experience?

Need a #latepass here, but I’m not altogether sure what this is about. I attended the show Saturday with a friend, courtesy of Pitchfork, and found myself chatting with present and former Pitchfork critics, as well as the Super Furry Animals in the VIP.

There was also a massive crowd in Union Park singing “Barbara Ann” as I left. It sounded about the same as when I first experienced the Beach Boys 30 years ago at the Great Allentown Fair.


The Runner Returns

I last wrote about running on this blog in November 2013. Looking back at earlier posts, it’s hard to believe how challenging it was to run after Charlie arrived. I’m reminded that my running buddy for my first Philly Distance Run, Mark Gatti, promised his wife that he’d take a break from running until his son turned five, a story he told Jen A. Miller for the Inquirer back in ’08.

Considering how many sleepless nights and impossibly early mornings I had with Charlie from ’09 to ’11, I couldn’t find the energy to get out and run and when I did, I overdid it and injured myself repeatedly, culminating in a pretty serious adductor strain in 2012.

I’ve periodically gotten out for runs since rehabbing, but those were very short stints. I imagined moving to Jersey would translate into fantastic runs along the Cooper River, but I still couldn’t find the time.

Now that we’re in Michigan and have settled in our new home, I’ve started getting back after it. I started out in late March with the idea that I’d ease back into shape and not make the sort of commitments that have ended in injury and inactivity. Welp. I don’t think it was May before I signed up for the Freep Marathon in October.

Unlike what happened in 2012, I’ve managed to baby myself just enough to get into decent shape. My goal is to qualify for Boston, just as it was 8 years ago. I’ve set an ambitious goal to get as close to that 3 hour threshold, but if I come in under 3:10, I’ll be thrilled. Hopefully this will be my last couch-to-marathon training!



Here’s a little secret to kickstart your personal blog: publish a draft. Surely, you’ve been agonizing over some post for ages. It’s right there in Drafts. Pick one, clean it up a bit and publish.

In fact, I published one last week. It was there the whole time!

 Stop being such a perfectionist. Let Twitter be your channel for #hottakes. Let the world know you can be thoughtful again and #PublishADraft. If you do, you’ll feel amazing. Promise. 

Use the hashtag #PublishADraft and let’s see if we can’t reboot a personal blog or two.


Fixing a Hole in the Social Web

Last summer, my friend Karl Martino shared this post from Scott Rosenberg on Facebook some time ago and I got a little excited. Could blogging really be back? I’ve written about the death of music blogs and Jeremiah declared the golden age of tech blogging dead back in 2011. What Rosenberg hit on in his follow up — the migratory patterns of the “hive mind” — made me think less about platforms and more about the singular tool that enabled blogs to really become popular: RSS.

Google Reader rode off into the sunset back in 2013. Nothing really replaced it, despite a race to rebuild it. Before anyone declares blogging’s back, let’s be honest with ourselves: RSS made the bloggy core of the web possible. Right now, I have a bunch of tabs open and I’m clicking through to additional posts and forming thoughts and responses. This was only possible using “read it later” tools.  In the bloggy heyday, I would subscribe to countless blogs and refresh Google Reader endlessly to keep up as they collected throughout the day. You’d think I was describing Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook, but these leaky networks are sieves compared to the net RSS provided.

Two reflections:

  1. the social web created the sense of FOMO that keeps us refreshing feeds ceaselessly so we make sure we don’t miss a thing. It’s impossible to be a part of the dialogue if you miss it completely.
  2. The notion that “if news is important, it’ll find me” is true only if you hope to cement your solipsism.

In many respects. the social web has evolved into the online equivalent of Jacques Lacan and Judith Butler corresponding in public via academic journals. We can all read the articles, but they’re not really talking to “us.” Sure, the social web enables us to participate, but that participation too often feels like tweeting at celebrities, in the hopes of the odd fave or retweet.

I’m not sure anything can be done about that last bit. Part of the problem of saying “blogging is back” in any meaningful way ignores how the scope and velocity of information online without new ways to capture a daily digest of what happened. Remember when you’d check Google Reader and it would be loaded with updates from every blog you followed that reflected the latest press release hitting the wire? Now the social web is the same echo chamber that reverberates to reach every time zone online. What’s missing from the social web today — and what made blogging in the early days so great — was that period where it felt like you “knew” “everyone” online. To borrow from Benedict Anderson, we can’t recapture those “imagined communities” that created a sense of intimacy and shared understanding on the web.

The closest I’ve seen anyone come to acknowledging this gap is ThinkUp, which takes stock of your activity in the social web. But quantifying activity isn’t the same as changing behavior. Benedict Evans tweetstormed about “discovery” and I think it sums things up nicely as it relates to how conversation has evolved online. I’ll end here.