My favorite celebrity Halloween costumes:

Amy Winehouse, Jack-O-Lantern:

Lemmy, The Surface Of The Moon:

Kevin Federline, The Great Pumpkin:

Madonna, Keith Richards:

Phil Spector, Brian Jones:

Mick Jagger, Shar-Pei:

Bjork, Mount Vesuvius:

Lindsay Lohan, Jocelyn Wildenstein:

Keith Richards, Himself:

Aretha Franklin, The Continent of Antarctica:

and finally Iggy Pop, Retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter:


We live in an increasingly uncouth and thoughtless society. I say this not because I am 109 years old with lumbago, gout, and an overwhelming bitterness about my soon-to-be-ending meaningless existence and stubborn crabgrass on my front lawn. No, I say it because in some ways it seems to be true. See, I like good manners. My parents made a point of beating them into me MERCILESSLY WITH A FIERY HOT METAL POKER and I am grateful for it. Only one half of that last sentence is true, by the way. None of the second sentence is true. I like to be truthful, as well as polite. Today, I am going to make it easy to learn things by writing out for you a simple DO and DON’T list (People Like Lists, we know) on one topic: children in restaurants. Listen up or face THE POKER. I carry a collapsible butane one in my purse.


DO bring your children to a public place of food servingage if they are hungry and will pay attention to simple whispered directions from you like, “Honey, sit the F down,” or “Eat that food or you’re wearing it home, Bub.” DON’T make me listen to your strident tone.

DON’T bring your children if they have been eating candy all day, will loudly whine that THEY DON’T LIKE THIS FOOD and DON’T WANT IT and could give a CRAP about what you tell them to do because you say it like 1000 times over and over but never actually do anything, until a cruel-eyed manager comes over to rebuke you and your jerky kids and you go YEAH! WHAT HE SAID! Perhaps starve them for a day or so before you go out. That’ll get ‘em in line.

DO use high-chairs and duct tape to restrain your child whenever possible. Cleverly applied, this can be effective on children up to about age 12, when they start realizing that they can yell “CHILD ABUSE! CHILD ABUSE!” in the restaurant and actually get attention and possibly a balloon from the manager, who doesn’t need this shit, he’s thinking.

DON’T let your child run free in the restaurant. It’s dangerous when there are servers carrying large trays of hot food, and also that I will make a point of tripping your child if he or she runs past me more than once. Down you go, my little ADHD friend.

DO bring something quiet along for your child to do while waiting for their food, like a coloring book, a small puzzle, origami, homework, or have them silently count the bubbles in their Sprite. DON’T sing “99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall,” play peekaboo over and over and OVER until I want to come over and go, “BOO, ASSHOLES! PEEK-A-DAMN-BOO ALREADY!” making the baby cry, or allow older children to play their handheld video games with the sound up, making those children cry as well when I come over and swipe the devices and crush them under a decisive boot heel.

DON’T allow a crying or screaming infant/toddler/preschooler (or anyone at all including you) to remain in the restaurant past a few seconds of outburst. I am very tolerant of the random sounds children can make; however, I did not pay to eat somewhere to spend the entire time listening to the meltdown of your spawn. For that matter, if you think your child’s temperament is such that this is likely to happen, STAY HOME. I didn’t make you breed, don’t make me suffer for your reproductive nightmares. TAKE THE KID OUTSIDE or stuff its mouth full of the complimentary breadsticks.

DO try to see that your children are at least reasonably clean and presentable. I know you think they are adorable no matter what, but even the cutest kid can upset my delicate digestive system if they are covered in dried snot or look like you haven’t bothered to pop them in the tub for a week.

And, most importantly…

DON’T even THINK about changing a baby’s diaper AT THE TABLE. I don’t care if you just gave birth and the baby is 3 lbs. and poops like a hamster. NO. NO NO NO NO NO. Do that, and you are gonna wear that lil’ Pampers home like a hat, courtesy the manager, me, and every other crabgrass-hatin’ fool.

The More You Know.


Law is frustrating, in that anything to do with the complexity and variability of humans is endlessly challenging. We attempt to find fair answers to questions that may be impossible to answer in a broad way. It’s one thing to say, OK, you’ve done something wrong and society expects you to be punished; it is entirely another when you have to look further into the workings of the perpetrator’s mind, to know if that individual had the capability to understand his or her actions, and if there is any hope of redemption or rehabilitation. We try, or try to try, being wise, strong, and compassionate in our judgments, to try to do right by all. But there is no magic nor perfectly-researched conclusion based on good science and hard experience that can let you see conclusively inside the brain and the character and the future of anyone. How do you know what to do?

The Supreme Court will be looking this term at two cases, Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida, both regarding the constitutionality of life sentences without parole for juveniles where no homicide was committed. The Court already determined in 2005 that juveniles could not be sentenced to death in Roper v. Simmons. In that decision, the court wrote that
"[t]he reality that juveniles still struggle to define their identity means it is less supportable to conclude that even a heinous crime committed by a juvenile is evidence of irretrievably depraved character."
It is almost universally-accepted that the process of moving from child to adult is not just physical, it is also the maturing of the mind. In particular, the ability to develop abstract thought is regarded as a crucial hallmark of adulthood in that one can think, plan, and make choices based upon what may occur but hasn’t yet. Children are of the moment; they are impulsive, egocentric and ego-driven, and often cannot understand the feelings or experiences of others whatsoever, other than in superficial ways. The law in most cases, all over the world, makes exceptions for this in how young offenders are dealt with. If someone is potentially unable to make reasoned and acceptable choices, but may someday be able to, there is some kind of hope that intervention can help.

If you are following the logic and precedent set by Roper, whether or not there was a capital crime committed is not important; the natural instability and inabilities of the non-adult mind is. If you make exception for that in death-penalty cases, the exception must be extended to all others, as the Court is making it clear it believes that juveniles should not be subject to irreversible punishments, based on, bluntly, their relative mental incompetence. But you can see where this starts to get sticky almost immediately. How does one accurately determine mental maturity in any given individual? It is generally thought that this characteristic is in place by the early- to mid-20s, but sometimes can develop much earlier, much later, and sometimes not at all. Who decides who has true competency when chronological age is only one factor? Who decides exactly when in a life someone can be branded a monster, and should never be exposed to the public again?

There are “monsters” out there, people who are so damaged and sick that they cannot stop hurting others. They will keep committing crimes unless prevented from doing so by the justice system or they happen upon their own “monster” and receive a different kind of justice. Are there “bad seeds” out there -- children who were born to prey upon society, with absolutely no chance of change? Probably. But how do you know? The Supreme Court must now look at Joe Harris Sullivan, who was 13 years old when he raped a woman in her 70s and was sentenced to spend the rest of his days in a Florida prison for it. Anyone could agree that Sullivan’s crime is horrifying and disturbing and incredibly extreme. The worst most 13-year-olds do is swear on XBOX Live, try a cigarette, or maybe get in some short fight on the school playfield. It is unthinkable, what Sullivan did, but it happened, and there is no disagreement that he must be severely punished for it. Yet Roper says he is too young to lock up for good. Joe Sullivan may be a monster, but it is possible that he may not be. What do you do with the likely sociopath?

Common human experience and need for payback collide here. Almost anyone can think back to a younger time in their lives where there was a wrong choice made, sometimes something quite serious with terrible consequences, yet changes were eventually made. That wrong choice was not the defining moment nor the predictor of the life to come. It is human nature to offer the benefit of the doubt to others, knowing that all of us are imperfect and that the transition to adulthood is often very rocky. This empathy can immediately dissipate when faced with something like the Sullivan case. Why should this person receive a less-severe sentence for this heinous act than someone else only five years older would get? Can one also assume that if he had the capability for such an awful thing at 13, he would only get worse and worse? How do you hold the 7th grade kid playing Guitar Hero in one hand and the 7th grade rapist in another? A lot of questions. Roper says the Court should now strike down life without parole for juveniles, regardless of the severity of the crime, that there exists some kind of hope still for any child to change.

If only each case came with a crystal ball.


From a telephone conversation with my elderly mother this morning:

Mom: I was watching the television and that program came on with the doctor and they were talking about those bikini Brazilian waxes and how it's all done and how they say that now MEN are getting them done too, then they showed a man getting the hair waxed off his back because they do that too, you know. It all seemed very painful. Would you ever have one of those Brazilian things?

Me: MOM!! Would you want to know if I DID????

Mom: Oh! Well...NO!


Mom: Ha ha, OK!


(In the car on the way home, Morrissey's "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get" is playing on the radio.)

MissSeven: Who is that?

Me: Morrissey. I have tickets to see him next month, but he collapsed onstage a few days ago during a concert so I don't know if he is going to reschedule the show now or what.

MissSeven: What does "collapse" mean?

Me: Well, in this case it meant that he started feeling very unwell and an ambulance came and took him to the hospital. I think he is feeling better now. He is resting.

MissSeven: What if he exploded?

Me: That wouldn't be good. I don't think people explode too often, though.

MissSeven: Does he have the swine flu?

Me: I don't know.

MissSeven: If he exploded with the swine flu, he'd have bacon flying out of him.

Me: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! HAHAHAHAHAH! Oh, dear, well, he would find that very disturbing. He is a vegetarian.

MissSeven: Like (Couch Teen)?

Me: Yes.

MissSeven: This is a lot to think about.

Me: (smiles) Yes.


The two Northwest Airlines pilots who overshot the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles because they were too busy playing on their laptops had their licenses revoked today.

I believe that Northwest offered each of the 144 passengers of the wayward airplane a $500 flight voucher in compensation for the travel inconvenience and for having to be on a flight piloted by Idiots. However, I am pretty sure, if offered the alternative, at least half of the passengers would trade in their vouchers for the opportunity to give Capt. Timothy B. Cheney and First Officer Richard I. Cole one swift and mighty kick in their respective asses.

I also would like the chance to double-or-nothing bet my voucher that the pilots were not engrossed in looking at a new scheduling system on those laptops, but some kind of porn involving elephants, a magician's assitant, and a teeter-totter.


Sandra Bernhard, an entertainer I've enjoyed in years past (especially her books), likes to sing. She likes to sing a whole lot and likes to record music and has a new album out, even. Now this is very nice for her, and good going and pip pip and such to her, sincerely. I am always glad when people can do the things they love to do.

But I'll say it. The first time I heard her sing, I thought it was surely part of her comedy act. At best, she has an average pleasant high-school girl voice; at worst, a tremulous, thin, often off-key American Idol-reject warble that makes me wonder if Andy Kaufman is lurking somewhere. Chrissie Hynde sings on one song on Sandra's new album; this for me is a akin to both the sound of screeching car tires and the sound of a car desperately trying to start on a winter's morning, together.

And that's all I have to say about that.


There are some things that you acquire during the course of a lifetime that you hold onto, long after you have discarded other things that seemed meaningful at the time. This could be anything, really – books, décor, people – but this time I am talking about music, and specifically the Kinks’ 1968 album, “The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society.”

I got this record not long after it came out, a British copy of the LP, a gift from my dad after another of his long business trips to England. Forty years later, I can still feel the excitement of going to the airport in the middle of the night to meet his flight, seeing him, familiar and unfamiliar to me after months away, and the incredible anticipation of seeing what he brought back for me from The Coolest Place In The Known World. As soon as we got home and I got the nod, I would zip open his huge grey Samsonite suitcase, plowing through his dirty clothes and man shoes and leather bag full of man stuff like shaving cream and a little black comb and such, to find the goods.

My dad was almost 50 years old then and no pop fan, but he knew there was nothing that would please me more than more records, especially from my beloved Brit bands. I had written him specifically while he was there in my new shaky cursive handwriting to please please please find me some Kinks records. There were none to be found at the Treasure Island store or the little town record shop or anywhere I went. It was like they had disappeared completely, and really they had, at least in the U.S. No live appearances for four years, no TV, no hits, no mentions in my teenybopper mags, nothing. But just like I thought records I liked would always stay on the Top 40 radio playlist, I didn’t comprehend then that bands could possibly break up, so I just didn’t think the Kinks weren’t out there somewhere; I just had to keep asking for them, and they would appear, somehow.

So this is how VGPS, as we lazy Kinks fans acronymize the lengthy album title, came to me, and came to stay. I wish I had the words to be able to explain the feeling of lifting that record out of that suitcase that night, seeing the fuzzy, somewhat psychedelic photo of the band on the front cover, and reading the words, “The Kinks.” I think I must have screamed in joy, or perhaps I didn’t, too happy to do anything but smile and stare at the LP in my hands. The gift of being such a fan of music at that age was that everything was so pure; I had no context to filter the experience through. The music and the lyrics came in straight as they were, as someone still fresh to the world could hear them. I would miss, of course, some of the nuance and reference to other work, which would come later. But that night, my dad was back home for awhile, and I had a brand-new Kinks record, and no other two things could have made my world more perfect.

An awful lot has been written about VGPS over the years. It is a special album, not quite like anything else that I can think of. It has a very particular feel to it, both a delicacy and an underlying darkness that charms and worries the listener at the same time. Fifteen little songs -- "The Village Green Preservation Society," "Do You Remember Walter?" "Picture Book," "Johnny Thunder," "Last of the Steam-powered Trains," "Big Sky," "Sitting by the Riverside," "Animal Farm," "Village Green," "Starstruck," "Phenomenal Cat," "All of My Friends Were There," "Wicked Annabella," "Monica," "People Take Pictures of Each Other" – each one a tiny children's book in itself, filled with rich characters, strong wistful visuals drawn of a green and pleasant land that to Ray Davies seemed to be slipping away, fast. It was so simply literary that it felt like an extension of “Alice In Wonderland” or “The Story Of Ferdinand” or one of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales – that sadness and confusion about the world wrapped in some kind of hopefulness. No drama, no grandness, no apologies, no pretense, every single song compelling and sweet and strange. You don’t forget them.

VGPS now stands as one of the most-admired albums in rock music history, years after it sold nothing and seemingly made little impact on late ‘60s fans. When all of their musical peers were shouting about revolution and fighting in the street, the Kinks understood the value of the small, singular voice, and had the nerve and stubbornness to be themselves in an arena which encouraged copying ideas and styles and trends from others to keep your profile high and bank account full. “The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society” is The Kinks. That is quite an accomplishment, and goes far far past pop music into something so much more valuable, which is why people connect so strongly with it. You can feel the people behind the songs and in the songs, walking around this half-real, half-fantasy world that Ray Davies constructed. You get the feeling those people are quite, quite fragile and lovely and lost, but have the strength that can only come from knowing who they are and the courage to be who they are, despite everything that whirls around them, and despite themselves as well.

That is what I took from it as I listened for the first time as a child, then over the years as a teen, and young adult, and now into middle age: be yourself -- your funny, awkward, sad, mad, wondering self always -- and tell your own story, your own way, all this from fifteen little two minute pop songs. What a gift.

All four members of the Kinks who made VGPS are still on the planet, I am happy to say, and Ray and Dave Davies have separate small tours booked for this year and the next. I am not a believer in nor booster of a Kinks reunion in particular, mainly because I am disappointed in how after all these years the brothers cannot seem to forge even a short-term working nor personal relationship. There’s no forcing things, is there, no logic that can make a whole lot of difference at this point. But as I thought about VGPS, the wonderful songs on it and how so few fans ever got to hear any of them performed live, and the ticking clock, I think I thought of something that everyone could agree to and enjoy. There is a current trend for bands to tour and play one of their classic albums live, each cut in succession. Couldn't Ray, Dave, Mick, and Pete do this with VGPS, even just once? No other songs in the Kinks catalogue, no solo material, no cover songs – just this record, played just as it was made. My god, people would go apeshit. It would be a wonderful and very cool and classy way to end up the Kinks story, to be able to give this to the fans before the option no longer exists.

I tell you what: I would do whatever I had to do to be there, and I would cry and clap and smile along with everyone else. You have a chance to put that kind of happiness into the air…man! Some thought, huh?


Sunday. GOATS. Yes.


I must say I am generally not a fan of putting clothes on animals. Animals are not children, and even if you put them in adorable sweaters and carry them around like infants, they still are NOT HUMAN. They don’t want to be human, either; they want to sniff poop and run free and do all the things that species with little or no shame like to do. They are very well aware that they are not supposed to be wearing clothes, and don’t you think for a minute that they do just because you ooh and aah over them and tell them they are SOOOO CUUUUUTE. In fact, I would be willing to run a study with the hypothesis that animals that are more often forced to wear human clothing and unbearably precious accessories turn to snappishness and violence more than other animals who are left to their fur. If you furthermore ask them to jump through hoops or walk on their hind legs or ice skate, you may be asking for trouble. R.I.P. Smokeynov.

But today I decided to put stuff on my dog Ellie and take her out to the OOGCP’s Dog Halloween Costume Contest. Why not, I said to myself, the kids will enjoy it and score a couple of free hot cocoas, I will enjoy it and will score another delicious coffee, and the dog might not hate it too much. I didn’t have any idea at 11AM what on earth I was going to use for a costume for her, and the contest started at 2PM. MissSeven, Mr11, and I made a last-minute dash out to PETCO and the party/Halloween shop to see what we could find for her, but it was a no-go. She is a big girl – 110 lbs. – and almost all commercial dog costumes are made for tiny dogs. Perhaps this says something about owners of larger dogs. HMM.

So we came back and decided to root through the two big family Halloween storage containers to see if anything out of there would work. We have these lovely realistic vultures with actual feathers and everything from Martha Stewart, but I couldn’t think of a practical way to attach them to the dog’s shoulders, and I am pretty sure Ellie would have eaten them if I looked away for a fraction of a second. Mr11 pulled out his old martial arts gi and belt – too small. Wigs? Too cruel. MissSeven then pulled out a very big, very long red cape which looked quite lovely against Ellie’s lush black fur and we all agreed: Ellie was going to be The Devil. A fuzzy black scarf of mine served to gather and tie up the excess cape fabric and a set of devil horns and a dollar-sign necklace finished it off. Ellie, as patient an animal as exists, stood quietly as I tied the cape around her neck, put the bling over her head, arranged her new horns, and tied the scarf around her midsection in a big soft bow. She looked wonderful and ridiculous, so off we went, the kids bubbling with excitement in the back of the car while Ellie drooled on the seat.

We got there and parked and I adjusted the poor beast’s horns again as we walked over to the OOGCP patio. The kids were really delighted to see all the other dogs, and the dogs were pretty damn interested in each other too, although surely confused as to exactly what the hell was going on here. There were lots of smiles from the people watching and the occasional bursts of barking from those dogs who wanted to announce their status and opinion to the assembled. Ellie sniffed some dog noses and then resigned herself to possibly forever being The Devil and sat down, until it was time to parade in front of the judges. Mr11 took that picture, and you can see my awesome new boots, or one of them anyway.

Here are more photos of the dogs, pictures taken by me and Mr11:

The Grand Winner was the lovely Hula Dog, who was very excited about it.

Everyone clapped, and all the dogs got some delicious dog cookies for participating. MissSeven and Mr11 had fun talking about Ellie to people who stopped by to pet her. Pets can be such a nice way to connect with other people, and I am glad the kids can experience that.

A dog costume contest at a coffeehouse in a nice suburb is a long way from the campground in Central Washington where Ellie was finally rescued by some kind people who saw her living off garbage and handouts and her wits for months. They got her into the proper rescue situation where she was given good food and care, put her up on Petfinder.com, where I saw her picture and HAD to meet her. I don’t know how we got so lucky as to have her but we do, and I promise not to make her wear clothes more than once a year, I swear.

The Devil came home after downing 4 cookies, went out to the backyard to pee, and promptly fell asleep.


It was never my dream to open a restaurant, but I know it is a very common entrepreneurial jones for lots and lots of people. Perhaps it is because I enjoy my food so very much more when someone else has prepared it, unless they have prepared it without love and instead with e.coli. I can see why people like this business vision, though – building a space where people gather to eat your (hopefully) delicious food is very nurturing and rewarding, kind of like being an endless Mom. It can be very creative and social as well. But there are a whole lot of restaurants out there competing for only so many hungry tummies with $$. I guess restaurants fold more than any other business type, and I kind of hate to see that because you know that it probably felt more personal to the owner than, say, a dry cleaning place going bust. You put something of yourself into food; again, trying to avoid the whole contamination thing, of course.

So I like to try out new restaurants because I have an adventurous palate and like to toss those entrepreneurs trying to bring cool new stuff to the ‘burbs a few bones too. Today for lunch I went back to Boom Noodle, an interesting new Japanese place in Bellevue I first went to earlier this year. As I walked past the windows I saw many hipsters slurping up noodles from big white bowls and thought HEY HIPSTERS! WHY AREN’T YOU IN SEATTLE? and then I realized I was dressed like a hipster too so I went in. It’s an impressive space, with high ceilings and lots of sleek warm wood. The black-clad wait staff is even more hip than the customers; perhaps they are imported for their shifts from their other Cap Hill location or something. But even if you are not a hipster or dressed like a hipster, you can still go. No one sneers, I promise.

I wasn’t super-hungry today, so I ordered a green tea which smelled like a barn full of hay but was warm and comforting, and I felt all Buddha-calm, smart, and antioxidanted drinking it.

I also got one of the big noodle bowls, the Coconut Curry soup. This is how it looked when I finished. It was a lot of food.

I looked like a lame trying to eat the noodles with my chopsticks because they were very slippery and kept plopping back into the bowl and splashing soup on me. A really good hipster would never mess up her noodles like that. It was yummy, with lime and cilantro and strips of chicken in a mildly-spicy creamy curry broth. Last time I was there, I let the waiter pick out a selection of appetizers to serve as the meal, and those were really good. Teeny little ahi tuna sushi tacos, mmmmmmm. That would be my recommendation if you go there as well, unless you have some kind of secret to eating noodles competently that you want to share with me.

Boom is a good addition to the downtown Bellevue scene and a very nice alternative to the generic restaurants in the surrounding malls. Take a hipster out to lunch today! Yes, you can take me, too.


When I woke up this morning in the pitch dark, I found this on my chair:


So You Think You Can Dance judge and professional pretentious prat Mia Michaels is leaving the show, she announced this month.

Awww. Now what judge will make me swear and get a headache every time I watch the show, huh?

Oh. Right.

That braying blob of Botox, Mary Murphy...

...or Tyce Diorio, whose "talk to the hand" mannerisms cause him to pull so many over-the-top facial expressions I want to wrap a super-heated Ace bandage around his entire head...

...or Lil C, who is dumb as a bag of suet with a hat on, yet keeps talking in circles saying NOTHING AT ALL until he says something is "buck," which is supposed to be his cool word for "good," yet it fails every time.

I have to STOP watching this show. I'm gonna have a fricken stroke.


There is a dividing line for me when it comes to pop music of the 1960s, and it is clean and sharp. The Beatles and the rest of those shaggy Brits are what grabbed my tiny ears and heart, not the Beach Boys, or the single-nomenclatured squeaky-clean boy singers, or rodent bands like the Chipmunks or the Four Seasons. I also did not care for the Girl Groups or anything “Wall Of Sound.” This got me to thinking about legendary producer and convicted life-failure Phil Spector, and why what he did is of such note, and why all those songs he produced leave me cold. Not as cold as Lana Clarkson, thankfully.

Phil Spector’s production techniques – vehemently monaural, drenched in echo, densely layered with doubled and tripled and quadrupled instrumentation – seemed more an opportunity for him to direct an army, rather than deliver the best possible sound to the listener, or support the message of the lyrics. I completely disagree that the “Wall Of Sound” added depth – to my ears, all that instrumentation is drowned by the echo, compacted so tightly as to lose most of its definition, and ends up sounding like the orchestra is being dragged down a far-distant street by a garbage truck. There is no warmth, and no feel, and for me this is a dealbreaker for a rock n’ roll record. I want immediacy and heart, no matter the genre. I never hear it from anything Phil did.

There is the argument that these productions were composed for the 2” AM radio speaker, and there is some validity in that. But I have heard other songs succeed far better in the same goal. I have those AM-radio ears; I understand that completely. But even back then, Phil’s records made me strain to hear what was in them, and the vocals always seemed muffled and remote as well. For me, it was old and dated sounding, more like the records my parents listened to or Steve & Eydie, a last-gasp remnant of the big band era.

Phil was handed hit song after hit song, from the top writers of the day, primarily odes to young – really young – love, with lots of bad bad boys and lovestruck young ladies who ended up talking marriage and baby carriage and forever. They were perfect for the big new teen market and a world that was not yet quite jaded by war and drugs and the inevitable sad discoveries you make as you enter your 20s. Would these songs have been hits without Phil Spector’s production? Yes, I think so. A good song is a good song, and those particular ones had stories that were compelling for their young listeners. I would go so far as to spectorulate that a different producer could have given the songs a longer shelf-life. Even though they are still beloved today, I think they are so mainly by the people who are old enough to have bought them when they came out. I don’t see new generation after new generation taking the girl groups to heart as I see them do with the Beatles.

Spector’s last grand effort in the genre came in 1966, with Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep – Mountain High.” It is a great, grand song – hell, even little me bought it on 45 then. But it was not at all the smash hit Spector needed so badly, and he withdrew from the record business for awhile over it. Why didn’t it succeed as he wished? Perhaps for a few reasons. Again, the massive orchestra sound was getting old; this was mid-66 and stereo was coming in strong, as was the psychedelic era, and more personal kinds of pop. This record was a throwback to 1963, and no one was feeling nostalgic in those days. The production also sounds weak in comparison to the power and immediacy of Tina Turner’s huge soulful voice, and gives the feeling of her standing on top of the song, rather than being in it.

I also don’t care for Spector’s work with the Beatles on “Let It Be” or later work on John Lennon’s records in particular. Lennon didn’t like the sound of his own voice, sadly enough, and Spector slammed enough echo on songs like “Instant Karma!” “Power To The People,” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over) to please John. Again, the listener really would rather hear someone with Lennon’s talent than be subjected to a cacophony that masks him and the song. I wonder if the combination of industry hype, Spector’s bizarre and forceful personality, and a longing for a simpler time wasn’t behind Lennon’s attraction here. Ah, well. The Spector/Lennon partnership ended rather abruptly, it is said, when during the recording of Lennon’s “Rock n’ Roll Music” album, Spector brandished a gun and took the master tapes. Lennon, no saint of behavior in 1973 either, eventually got the tapes back, but Spector obviously continued on with his questionable firearm usage. Some kind of thing, huh – Lennon is long-dead from a gunshot wound from a “fan,” and Spector rots in jail for the rest of his life after shooting a “fan.”

Well, however and whatever you think about Phil Spector, he certainly holds a big spot in rock n’ roll history. The records he helped make defined a time between the rough R&B pop of the pioneers like Elvis and Chuck and Eddie and Little Richard and the explosion of the DIY movement from the Brits and folkies and just about everyone else to follow. The dictator-producer type remains, mainly relegated to Top Ten teen acts who don’t write their own music, or do, and I would then sarcastically go, “write” their own music. The rebel boys and girls in those girl group songs are now senior citizens, having lived their lives for better or worse, staying together or splitting apart, some already dead, and some who might as well be.


That one light, Jeff thought, that one damn light again. The fluorescent bulb was flickering again in the conference room where he and Mal were working, sputtering annoying shadows all over the long dark table covered with papers. He looked over at Mal, who was also looking up at the light with frustration. Her hair seemed to get wavier as the day would progress into night, Jeff observed, and she would push it out of her face more often. It was cute, and he smiled when she looked down at the table again, taking two fingers to hook some of the rogue strands behind her ear.

“Is there any coffee left?” Mal asked him, while glancing over to the corner where the obviously empty pot was sitting.

“Um, nope, doesn’t look like it, Mal. Have a nice mug of air instead.” Jeff let a grin slowly slide across his face.

“Mmmm…air…” she replied, channeling Homer Simpson. She rose from the table and walked over to the pot and lifted it to her mouth, pretending to drink before setting it down. “I don’t know that we’re going to get much more done tonight anyway. I need the data from Precision, and I need to get out of here every 16 hours or so.” She leaned against the counter and let her head loll backwards for a second.

“What, it isn’t your dream to spend all your time with me in a big stuffy room with a broken light working on plans that will just have to be revised six more times? I’m heartbroken.” They smiled at each other, and Mal returned to the table, flopping in her chair, comfortable with him. They had known each other for a few years now, and had worked as a team at the agency for awhile. They did good stuff, Jeff thought. She was really talented, and he was lucky to work with someone like that, someone who was smart, and funny, and totally reliable.

And so incredibly, amazingly beautiful, he thought, as he looked at her there. She really, really is, and she doesn’t even know it and that is a goddamn shame. Mal looked up at him again, and this time neither one of them looked away, or cracked a joke. It was silent in the room, save for the buzzing of the light overhead.

“So…Mal…what’s your story?” Jeff’s voice was quiet, and he tried not to look as nervous as he suddenly felt.

She looked taken aback, and then made the saddest little smile Jeff thought he had ever seen. “Oh, well, you know, ha ha…damage, ha,” she tossed off, letting the corners of her eyes crinkle, then drop.

"Is that an invitation to ask about it, or a warning to stop?" Jeff blurted, regretting it immediately.

For a fraction of a second, he felt she was open, going to say something to him. But almost as fast the curtains closed again, and she got up from the table, rustling around for her purse and coat. “Gotta feed the cat. I’m sure she’s completely ripped up the couch in fury by now, heh.”

“OK. Well, yeah, it’s late. I’ll clean this up, go ahead.” Jeff sat there as she walked to the door. She was going to go home again, alone like every single night, home to a cat, a woman like that who deserved the world. And every night, he thought, he would let her, and nothing would ever change.

“Goodnight, Jeff. Don’t forget to wash the air out of your mug.”

“’Night, Mal. I won’t forget.”

She closed the door and he sat for awhile, as the light buzzed and the city outside still hummed with life, and he could still feel her there.


Unimaginably, the day has arrived.

I am now the parent of a man.

Well, OK, kind of a man. Mannish boy. But still. Today, Couch Teen turns 18. I have another couple of years before I can call him Couch Man, and I fervently hope that by then he will no longer be Couch Man or Basement Man or Hey Mom Can I Have 20 Bucks To Go To The Movies Man.

I took Birthday Man out to lunch today with his girlfriend, College Teen, to the very nice Purple Café. We all ordered the lunch special with fancy salads and sandwiches, and each ordered a different bizarre soda to drink: rhubarb, kumquat, and lavender. Mine tasted like soap, the gf’s like shampoo – only B-Man got anything resembling sweet and drinkable. We had a very nice conversation, jovial and peppered with quietly-uttered vulgarisms and salient stories of college life, and I watched my son’s face as he laughed and raised his eyebrows and pulled skeptical faces, like I do. His gf, an intelligent and patient tiny thing with an amazing haircut and fabulous clothes, really really likes him. She got him an MF DOOM vinyl that he was most impressed by, and handwrote him a 2-page letter in neat, even print, that I did not read and don’t really wish to. That is between them,
heartbreakingly sweet in a way.

I remember feeling not very happy about turning 18 myself. I was a few months from finishing high school, and the weight of adulthood overwhelmed me. But for that day, I didn’t think about what kind of adult I was going to be, or what the world expected from me. A few friends came by with a homemade chocolate cake, a paper bunny hat, and a 6-pack of Heineken for me, and I ended up with the cake all over my face and mildly buzzed. My parents bought me the lovely tobacco-brown Ovation deep-bowl acoustic guitar I wanted (and still own), and after my friends left, I marveled at how nice it felt to play, so much better than the crappy Yamaha I had started out with four years before.

Like I did then, like I still do in many ways, my son waits for an answer to come to him to tell him what direction to take next. He and I are so similar in so many ways, heartbreakingly sweet in a way, heartbreakingly sad in another. I tried in these 18 years to tell him, hey buddy hey hey do this do that listen to me because I know stuff, but…well, you know. That was my job, sure, but it is his job to take it and decide what to do about it, something or nothing. It is my job to navigate these new waters in our relationship, not always easy when I am still a parent of two much-younger children. I feel like I have a lot to learn, and also a lot to gain.

In a few minutes, I will head back home. The family plus gf will once again have the taco dinner Couch Teen has requested for his birthday for many years running now, all the fixin’s put in little colorful bowls on the counter. His grandma FedEx’d him his favorite Key Lime Cheesecake for dessert, and I bet she popped a Franklin into the card she sent him, too. He will get some clothes, a little book on photography, and a new iPod touch. He will be happy, and I will watch his face and try not to cry at how fast the time has gone. Eighteen years ago tonight, I held an 8-lb. baby in my arms in a Denver hospital; tonight I serve him gringo tacos in Seattle-ish and bought him size 32/32 pants.

Heartbreaking. And sweet.

Last word goes to MissSeven:

MissSeven: (clutching a handful of Double Bubble gum) I love (birthday brother).

Me: Well, that is very nice.

MissSeven: I’m going to give him my gums. (pauses) Not the ones in my mouth, I need those to hold my teeth in.

Me: (huge smile)


I feel for Taylor Hanson, former teen sensation, cutie pie, talented musician, nice chap, and lead singer for Tinted Windows, a band which also features James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins, Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, and Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick. Coincidentally enough, when I first heard their song "Nothing To Me," now receiving heavy airplay on SIRIUS XM's Underground Garage, I did think it was a new Cheap Trick song. The 70s/80s radio sound, pop construction, even Taylor's vocals sound remarkably like our old pals from Rockford, Illinois, and I would have put a ten buck bet on it too. Anyway, I feel for the kid (anyone in their 20s is totally a kid to me) because he has this great catchy song here, and he CAN'T SING IT LIVE. Aww, man. This is pretty representative, from this year's SXSW:

Awwwwwwwww. The song sits cruelly at the top of his range, right where he either has to push with all his might to hit the notes, go into falsetto, or struggle horribly until the merciful end. I have heard enough live versions of him attempting it to offer this idea: CHANGE THE KEY, GUYS. It's a nice song, and he sounds like a dying cat. It points out that the studio and live performance can be two verrrrry different places to work, and you may want to remember that the song you may have had 20 takes to get right in the studio may get popular, and you will be doomed to crack and warble it live for 10 or 20 years, with people cringing at you in the audience.

Liz Phair also has a serious problem here, writing songs too low in her range to perform live:

Hey! Just switch vocalists here and PROBLEM SOLVED!! Damn, I'm smart.


I don’t get it. I don’t get it at all, and I guess I never really did. I just have no idea, at all, how so many people regardless of their personal economic health spend SO much on weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, quinceaneras, birthday parties, whatever. I mean, I am not just talking about the Bridezillas or the gluttonous wastes of space on the MTV “My Super Sweet 16” series; I am talking about regular people with regular lives. How important is any party, and your ability to throw money at it? How did these celebrations end up mutating into over-orchestrated events mainly designed to impress and out-do your friends and family? I get really irritated about this, like if you just walked up to me and poured some kind of cold liquid in my ear. That’s the kind of face I make thinking about these stupid-ass parties.

Don’t you call me a party-pooper or curmudgeon either. I understand that people have a strong need to bring others together to celebrate these life events , and that – maybe – for most of them, it begins as wanting to provide their guests with a memorable, good time. But it gets out of hand almost immediately. You start with engraved napkins, and it just spirals out of control from there. Party clothes, party food, party place, party entertainment, party help, party flowers, party transportation, party favors, until you are looking at $500 for a kid’s 4th birthday party at the jumpy place or $25,000 for the average American wedding (not including rings or the honeymoon). Holy shit.

Think about that latter one for a second. If someone just came up to you and said, “Hey, give me $5000 an hour so you can drink and eat and do the Macarena with your Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Jimmy,” you’d go WUT and NO. You’d think, man, I’ve already got credit card debt and school loans and a car loan, I’d like to be able to buy a house someday, and my job isn’t all that secure, right? Maybe you’d even be so kind as to think, well, yes my parents have offered to pay for all this too, but I know this is going to mess up their retirement fund and delay that European Golden Years trip they’ve always wanted to take, that ain’t cool. So where does logic go out the window here? It takes a nosedive out the 30th floor because YOU WANT TO FEEL IMPORTANT for a few hours. Your fantasyland celebration of your special, special love (that has a 60% chance of ending in divorce we should note) will likely leave you crying in a Hyatt hotel bathroom in your elaborate gown after Uncle Jimmy drank too much at the open bar and threw up on you, your screeching fight with the caterer over the undercooked Beef Wellington, and the groom’s flirting with the maid of honor. You wanna play dress up, you can do it for a whole lot less at Halloween. You want attention, try actually doing something worth the admiration of others past an up-do and a 6’ cake and a Godiva chocolate fountain and Billy F-ing Joel playing the piano in a corner for another 25G’s an hour.

Sigh. OK, I will settle down now.

Birthdays and weddings are going to keep coming, I know, and no matter what folks are going to keep trying to make them into overblown Disney spectaculars until people just tire of it and see it for what it is: a waste. You don’t need to spend more than you have to have a good time and be happy about the changes in your life. You don’t need to invite every last dimly-remembered acquaintance, family friend from 10 years ago, every kid in the 1st grade, or LinkedIn contact. You don’t need to buy your 15 minutes of fame with 15 years of debt. Even if you have piles of cash, PILES AND PILES OF GOLD AND CASH AND GEMS AND STABLE INVESTMENTS, spend a more modest amount on a party with people you actually know and like and toss a few bones to a charity in the name of your fabulous life milestone.

If I am ever at a big wedding and Uncle Jimmy trips and his Jack and Coke goes into my ear, I may really lose it.


Oh boy. Morehouse College, an all-male historically black institute of learning in Atlanta, home to alumni Martin Luther King Jr., Julian Bond, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Louis W. Sullivan and others, has decided NO ONE GETS TO CROSS-DRESS ANYMORE. NO NO NO. NONE OF THAT. STOP THAT.

Dr. William Bynum, vice president for Student Services at Morehouse:

"We are talking about five students who are living a gay lifestyle that is leading them to dress a way we do not expect in Morehouse men.”

Uh oh. Dr. Bynum, expect a lawsuit. You might as well have said, “Hey, you! Stop being so obviously GAY! GOD!” I understand Morehouse is a private college, but this is just buying trouble. Covering up the college’s discomfort with seeing a black man walk around in a dress and heels to class, which does just generally scream, “I ENJOY SEX WITH MEN!", Morehouse also added other things to the new dress code including no hats to class, no do-rags, no PJ’s, and no saggy-ass pants. So, no obvious gay men and no obvious wannabe-gangstas. NONE OF THAT. STOP THAT. All of these men were admitted to Morehouse, I assume, on their outstanding academic and personal merits, which seems quite a bit more important that some possibly questionable taste in clothing. Perhaps the admissions form should contain a few other questions: Do you own a pair of Size 13 spike heels or any gold teeth grilles? Have you ever belted your pants at the knee? Have you spent more than $20 on blush this year? Do you “tuck?” Do you frequent Chippendale’s and/or have been shot?

There’s some fun to be had here. I suggest celebrities RuPaul and Flavor Flav make donations of one million dollars each to Morehouse, with the caveat that the money is to be used for “The RuPaul Center For Historically-Black Tolerance & Understanding” and “Yeah Boieeee! STD Drive-By Clinic.”