The process of growing up – a process that seems to end only with physical expiration – is nothing if not a lengthy sorting task. Info goes in, filtered, considered, condensed or expanded, then kept or tossed. We are not static; in some way we change how and what we think every conscious day. There isn’t a point where anyone can say, “EeeYUP, that’s it, got it all, thanks,” and relax in certainty. Even if you SAY it and BELIEVE it, it still isn’t true. Your brain will keep working and sorting, despite any walls, fears, or laziness you may throw on it. It is a hungry machine. Information, feelings, values…all. One of the things you must sort out is a belief system, and then how much you believe your beliefs.

I was briefly raised in the Lutheran church. I say “briefly” because I bailed for good at age five. Tender age, I know, to embrace atheism, but that is how it went. I had two good reasons for refusing to attend church anymore. The one I told my appalled parents was that I didn’t believe in God because he wasn’t real. People kept talking about him like he was, but since I never saw any proof of his awesome power or commanding presence, I figured this dude was no more valid than the ghosts or monsters in my storybooks. At least the Tooth Fairy brought me some quarters. The reason I didn’t mention, figuring correctly that it would not hold much weight, was that I hated getting up early on Sundays and would much prefer to sleep in and eat the donuts my dad would bring from the bakery.

Why didn’t my folks’ make me go to church anyway? I can only guess, but it was probably some combination of not wanting to forever battle a surly, pouty, and resolute small mule, their quiet streaks of similar independence, and the fresh donuts. In later years – much, much later – both my conservative  parents would say that they thought organized religion was mostly crap, had some doubts about the whole higher-power thing, but weren’t totally giving up on some kind of…something. Spiro-tual Agnew-stics.

But for a few elementary-school summers, I threw my whole God Schmod attitude to the fresh-grass-and-farm-fertilizer-smelling wind, and eagerly signed up for Daily Vacation Bible School. As much as I desperately waited for summer break to arrive, the reality was that those three months were often incredibly boring. You could only ride your bike, watch TV soaps and game shows, listen to the radio, watch the clouds go by, try to catch fireflies in a jar, read, make up war games with the neighborhood kids so much…damn, that all sounds pretty sweet now. But nonetheless, the solitary organized option for summer fun was Bible School, which my mother thought might sneakily change my mind while stopping me from complaining to her in the kitchen how there was “nothing to dooooooooooooo.”

That first early morning getting ready for Bible School, the sun already brightly shining and making light patterns on the floor of said kitchen, I was in Mule Mode, pissed. My mom sending me to Bible School was just as much a horror as her making me cut my hair short against my Breck Girl wishes. We drove the few blocks over to the church, a disaster of modern architecture in anyone’s opinion, and she dropped me off. I am sure that I glowered so heavily it appeared as if my eyebrows had consumed my eyes.

Ready to be assaulted by religious rhetoric Romper Room, I waited, but the other Ked never dropped. Daily Vacation Bible School was…fun! Run by some high school/college kids, we played games, made crafts, did cool science experiments, ran races and obstacle courses. Jesus, too, seemed to be on vacation. The only time one was reminded that we were doing the Christian thing was at closing time before the moms would come bring us back home again for lunch. We would gather on the side lawn in a big circle and sing pop Christian songs like “Kumbaya” or “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands,” sometimes “Amazing Grace.”

It was then that I first felt in my tiny gut, the uncomfortable rumble of being a hypocrite. I didn’t want to sing those songs, or say those words. It made me feel wrong inside, in my heart and head. It felt like I was lying, as small and meaningless as the action may seem now. It felt huge to me.

But, of course, I sang along. I sang along and clapped and smiled with the rest of the kids and the counselors. Bible School was fun, and I wanted to enjoy all the action. I worried if I said anything or refused to sing and clap and smile that I would be banished from this little Garden, bring shame upon my family, an extra bad thing being that my dad was mayor of the town at the time. Mouthing the words to hymns I hardly knew, I looked at the faces around me. How did they believe in this? Why? Why didn’t I? Why is it so wrong to feel like I did? Why were my beliefs unacceptable?

The cost was only to me, those summer mornings as the moms sat in their long station wagons, waiting for circle to finish up, impossible for anyone else to see.


News regarding the death of Kinks bassist, Pete Quaife.

(Reposted from, June 30, 2010)

A message from Pete's brother Dave Quaife: Many people have asked in what way they can celebrate the life of my brother, Pete Quaife.

Pete's partner Elisabeth will be excluded from any inheritance (not married) so I think it is appropriate to raise money to lessen the burdens she will undergo from losing Pete - her sweetheart and loved one for many years.

Elisabeth has supported Pete through many difficult times, not the least the special care and love she gave Pete with his regular dialysis sessions 3 times a week, and the loving, nursing during the last days of dear Pete's life.

I have set up a PayPal account with donations being used firstly for Pete's funeral costs, wake and gravestone.

We are expecting a considerable amount of mourners. The amount left over will be donated to an appropriate registered Dialysis fund.

Please click on the link above to find Dave Quaife's post containing the Paypal donation button. It honors Pete and his contributions to the Kinks, the strength and kindness of caregivers and family who are also in need of our notice and support, and those people around the world who struggle with kidney disease. The donations are being received in Danish Kroners; you may use this currency converter to calculate exchange rates.

It is an honor to be able to assist Pete's family at this time. I encourage my fellow Kinks fans to give what you can -- any amount is helpful and appreciated. Thank you.


I’m back to watching the Elena Kagan Supreme Court confirmation hearings, this time sipping my morning coffee from a law firm branded mug. It is, thankfully, a much less trying time for me than when Sonia Sotomayor was in her confirmation process last summer, a disastrous accident with a family member foremost in my mind as the hospital televisions were tuned in and I was tuned out. Today, all is quiet, I am home, and I can pay close attention to the proceedings. You should, too, if you can. We are fortunate to be able to have a front-row seat to one of the most important events that ever takes place in our government, unique in that the judicial nominee may remain on the job for 40+ years. We learn much about her questioners in the process, the face of partisanship, the players in a game with the highest of stakes.

It is a fencing match, sabres replaced by verbal foils that are sometimes elegant, sometimes clumsy, crafted to support or disarm, the tempo set by the questioner, matched or re-paced by Kagan. Think about what kind of steely temperament and quickness of mind it takes for anyone to sit in the D.C. hotseat there. Most of us when questioned in this forum, even if we had the finest experience in and deepest understanding of the law, would end up going HUMINAHUMINAHUMINA while exuding copious buckets of flopsweat. It takes a wholly different personality and skill set to play politics at this level. Understand this: all of the people you will see, from Kagan to Hatch to Kerry to Graham, LOVE IT. They live for this kind of ultimate challenge, from the best of the best, as most were taught to strive for in law school. To construct and deliver a win is all. It’s an incredibly powerful high. Seen under this lens, you can understand why the players sometimes lose their ability to keep in mind that those of us outside the game are both awed and horrified by the single-mindedness of it at times.

Advance. Parry. Advance-lunge. Reprise. Advance. Parry. Retreat. Break for lunch and photo ops. Face off again.

Those who come in disrespecting Ms. Kagan often interrupt her, chuckle derisively, crowbar in smug and often stunningly-bigoted comments, stridency heard in tensed throats, Southern-accented speech. Those who come in supporting her throw her glittery softballs, praise her accomplishments, ask nothing they don’t already know the answer for, smug in their way as well. I have yet to see a Senator arrive with an undecided mind, therefore they are only really listening to Kagan’s answers in how they relate to their own personal wins. Anything else is dismissed. It is their game, their match. You and I cannot play.

Kagan has a noticeably plain-spoken way about her; a compliment, as it makes her more accessible to the Americans she may serve. It calms the Harvard-Jewish-woman-lawyer tags that some will tar as “elite,” a new slur leveled against intelligent and educated progressives these days. She tires closer to the end of the day, and perhaps rambles slightly once or twice, buying time to think, but at least her speech isn’t littered with pomposity and legalese. She seems genuinely interested in and passionate about the law. If confirmed and on the bench, one is quite sure Kagan won’t sit silent and allow others to do her questioning and thinking for her, like another Justice I can think of.

Pay attention to the questions asked, how they are framed, and who is doing the asking. The Tournament of Poses.


What’s going on in my house, 1PM, June 28, 2010.

I’m drinking my second cup of coffee of the day out of a huge black mug with the official seal of the Supreme Court of the United States engraved on it, while watching a live stream on the internet of Elena Kagan’s SCOTUS nomination hearings. I have on an MTV t-shirt and black pajama pants, no socks. I’m reading multiple opinions on multiple SCOTUS opinions delivered today and my Twitter feed as it rolls along, with a video of a woman falling at a Metallica cover band concert queued up on a Firefox tab, ready to play later.

In the living room, CouchTeen blows his nose, suffering from a mighty head cold. This sound perfectly matches the constant nasal drone of the vuvuzela horns heard on the World Cup match he is watching on TV.

In the front room, MissSeven quietly plays a girly game on her Nintendo DS, sitting with her legs under her on an overstuffed red couch. She is staying home from summer camp today, having vomited out an expensive sushi meal most of last night. She yawns, I yawn, Couch Teen and The Vuvuzela Experience honk in unity.

The dog sleeps on the cool dirt outside in the tiny garden, twitching and semi-barking as she dreams, the gentle breeze ruffling her long black fur in waves. A crow balancing on a slim branch in the red Japanese maple tree regards her impassively, too clever for her.

The sun plays hide-and-seek with the cottony clouds outside my window. An expensive silver car crawls by, unsure of an address, heading down the hill towards the lake. I stare at the sky for a moment, searching.


Ray Davies, at the time I write this, has not yet come out with an official statement on the passing of Pete Quaife, the original bassist and founding member of the Kinks. Today, as scheduled, he performed at England's massive Glastonbury Festival as the sun shone, tens of thousands of concertgoers off to watch England in the World Cup. Thousands stayed to watch him.

In the first minute of "Days," he struggles in the first verse, visibly and audibly, acutely aware of the meaning of the song, and that it was one of the last Kinks songs Pete played on. From Ray's 1994 autobiography, X-Ray:
(Days) predicted the end of the group. Before we recorded the song I was convinced that Quaife had decided to leave the band forever. We had made the back track, I had recorded the vocals and Nicky Hopkins was putting on a keyboard part. Quaife walked over to me with the box that would contain the master tape and substituted the word "Days" with the word "Daze." I think the anger that I felt for him was really anger at myself. It was conceit on my part; my work had become too precious to me. The truth was that as proud as I was of the song, I was literally in an emotional daze about where I was, who I was and who I wanted to be with. Maybe Quaife was as well.
The professional in Ray gathers himself to finish the song, as expected, and also as expected he will write something soon about Pete that will be thoughtful, heartfelt, and intelligent. But after seeing this,'s all I need to know about how he feels.


A random question from whowhatwear, via music journalist/DJ  Jenny Eliscu on Twitter got me thinking today: “Why aren't there more female music journalists/writers?” Hmm, I went, as a female who writes about music a lot here. HMM. I hadn’t really mulled that over for quite some time, the last time probably when I was in my early 20s and fully-immersed in everything rock n’ roll. Apparently things haven’t changed all that much over the last 25 years or so. If you look at the music field as a whole, females are underrepresented – there are fewer performers, writers, photographers, producers, engineers, executives, etc. Why? Women are no less imaginative than men, no less gifted as writers, no less moved by music. Time to dig.

The first level is obvious and universal: women make less money than men, are less likely to get hired in the first place, and are less likely to advance to prominence in almost any field, especially those with some kind of glamour, prestige, or big money attached. Women may be out there in music, their desire to be there the same, their talent as sharp, but we can’t see them.

Also obvious and universal is the fact that rock n’ roll is usually not best-suited for the reserved/polite, no no no, and perhaps there are basic differences to the typical female personality that make it much harder to have women’s voices heard. The music business has always been, and remains, run by men. Rock n’ roll is bold, mas macho (yes, even in his way, Jónsi is mas macho), and girls in rock are muses, groupies, subjects in lyrics to pine or whine or shine over, put on a pedestal for everything they represent, knocked off, replaced again…not exactly partners, right? Forget critical analysis, honey – show us your boobs! Yes, that is a gross overgeneralization, I know that. But it is always there a little, even in the nervously-beating heart of the nerdiest, most-liberal indie ‘zine editor, the nicest guy.

To be heard, women have to speak up, be assertive, be persistent, match that rock n’ roll energy, and be able to deal with the people who will call them bitches and pushy for doing what guys do normally every day at work. We’re not stuck in the June Cleaver model that was offered as pretty much the only option when I was little, but there are still penalties for women who stand outside the cultural norm, unseen and subtle as they may sometimes be now, and not just from some men. Other women can be just as brutal, and there is no guarantee that more women music industry leaders will advance other women. And of course, there is no benefit to hiring anyone, woman or man, just because of gender. Quality must rule, always.

Sigh. I don’t mean to rant and rail and blame. I feel my own old frustrations poked here, things regretted. I can remember as a young concert photographer being in the photo pit and time after time letting the more-established male photogs block me for shots. I can remember sitting in the office of Island Records as a musician, looking back at the nice A&R guy talking with me, knowing he knew I was not pretty or wild enough to “sell,” with only modest talent that could not overcome that. I can remember writing good pieces about the musicians I loved, and literally tossing them away, not believing anyone would ever publish them and therefore they had no worth. I’m a lousy self-promoter, my vuvuzela tooting horn more of a soggy paper birthday blowout. My complete and deep love of everything about rock n’ roll wasn’t enough to be able to overcome the idea that I should “be a nice girl, don’t be too forward, don’t bother anyone.” But inside me lies the power of the opening chords to “You Really Got Me,” “Black Dog,” “The Train Kept A-Rollin’,” “God Save The Queen,” “Back In Black,” Seven Nation Army.” Oh, yes indeed.

Another factor that can dissuade women in any rock-oriented field is if they are mothers. It takes sheer will, lots of support, and gallons of coffee to be able to go out to live shows a few times a week and then get up at 6AM to breastfeed or make school lunches for sleepy spawn. Kids don’t care whatsoever if you were up until 3AM talking amps with Keith Richards or giddily processing concert photos after a gig. They don’t get that you need some uninterrupted time to think and write and create. Those lovely little beings want their cereal, and you, naturally. It’s a tough blend.

Maybe some of my personal examples partially answer the question posed, and I know things are getting more equitable. Maybe – probably – there will never be a 50/50 gender balance in rock n’ roll. In the meantime, my train will keep a rollin’, gathering up steam after years of rusty derailment. The Little Bitchen Engine That Could, with regularly-scheduled stops at the grocery store, PTA meetings, and the beer-soaked floor of a rock dive.

Rock on, girls. Do good work. Toot toot.


There’s no reason at all to get in a rut, people. Sometimes you just have to shake things up. My suggestion for today is that you set your Public Persona Filter to “wut?” and let some unexpected comments fly. The important thing in this small experiment is to deliver the lines with the same expression and comportment that you would normally maintain towards folks. If you are young, you can blame it on drugs or stupidity. If you are old, blame it on creeping dementia. Here are a few examples...


Bagger: Paper or plastic?

You: Silk.

Checker: Debit or credit?

You: You have the loveliest eyes.

Deli Counter Server:  It’s a little over a pound, is that OK?

You: No.

Person Behind You In Check Out Line: Is this the check out line?

You: No, it’s the line for the pool.


Retail clerk: Can I take those and start a fitting room for you?

You: Yes. I require mood lighting and a fruit basket as well.

Perfume Sample Girl: Would you like to try some Night Romance by Shakira?

You: Oh, no thank you, I have cancer.

Shoe salesman: What size do you wear?

You: I’m not sure. Let’s ask a bear.


Nurse: Do you know how to do a urine clean catch?

You: My grandpa showed me once.

Doctor: How have you been?

You: I brought my diary for the year along with me. I’d like to read it aloud to you now.

Receptionist: I’ll just need to scan your insurance card again.

You: Did you know that someday I’ll be standing here talking to a robot?


Barista: What you would like today?

You: Split-shot, no whip, deer tongue, spaghetti tonsils, extra hot, got that?

Person Waiting For Coffee With You: How’s it going?

You: Great! I’m reading this fabulous new novel and my anus stopped leaking!

Customer: Is this chair taken?

You:  My grandma died on that chair. But take it. Go ahead! Just…take it! :sob:

Have fun!


Oh, dear. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is once again brewing up controversy. It seems like every time she opens her trap, her "tough talk" comes back to her like vomit out a speeding car window. This doesn't seem to deter the tiny leathery leader, though, even though anyone with a basic understanding of speech psychology knows she's a bluffing blowhard. I will explain.

As reported by CNN today, Gov. Brewer stated her opinion, twice, that the majority of illegal immigrants coming into Arizona from Mexico are "drug mules." Now, common sense and an understanding of the history of U.S. immigration would prove that quickly wrong. There are drug traffickers, absolutely, but most people making the risky and difficult crossing are people who simply want some sort of regular work. Even the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing thousands of border patrol agents, is coming out against Brewer's claim, and those are the folks who should know. Instead of making some kind of token effort while the world spotlight is on Arizona to TRY to not appear completely ignorant and racist, Brewer takes it up a notch. Here are some of the giveaways in her words that tell you she is trying very hard to get support for her demonizing-the-Mexicans agenda, highlighted:

"Well, we all know that the majority of the people that are coming to Arizona and trespassing are now becoming drug mules."

"The simple truth is that the majority of human smuggling in our state is under the direction of the drug cartels, which are by definition smuggling drugs." 

"It is common knowledge that Mexican drug cartels have merged human smuggling with drug trafficking."

No, Jan. We don't all know. It's not the simple truth. It's not common knowledge.

You are lying.

And lay off the sun a little. Looks awful, and you wouldn't want to get mistaken for one of those drug mules.

(photo courtesy CNN)


My mother kindly sends me large packages of family memorabilia every so often, long-forgotten items from my childhood, including my old school pictures from Wisconsin.

These two class photos, which I apparently felt the burning need to alter at the time, made me laugh. See if you can spot the Boy I Didn't Like here:

Now, spot the Girl I Just Really HATED and My Best Friend That I Was Momentarily Slightly Mad At:



The day was going to come.

It could have been Ray, when he was shot by a mugger in New Orleans. It could have been Dave, when he had his stroke. It could have been Mick, but Mick’s a golfer so he’ll probably outlast them all.

The day came, today. Peter Quaife, original bassist of the Kinks, died of kidney failure in a Denmark hospital. He was 66.

The phone call came in this afternoon from a dear friend who understands and mourns, too. The day was going to come, the call was going to be made, and I am glad I heard it from him. The Kinks have been so important to both of us. It was the unique combination of talents and personalities – Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Mick Avory, and Pete Quaife – that made rock n’ roll greatness, from driving proto-punk to the loveliest, most thoughtful ballads. Take one away and you can still make good music, but it isn’t that.

That” changed my life. I have no adequate way to express my gratitude. All I can say is thank you.

I had to leave the phone call to take my son to a class, not at all in the mood to drive. Parked at a red light for a moment, waiting to turn on to the busy four-lane road up to school, “All Day and All of the Night” comes on the radio. That was the first Kinks record I ever bought, on a 45 with pocket change that my grandpa gave me, too little to even see over the store counter. I had to have it. That sound!

It takes a whole lot for me not to just lose it sitting there in the driver’s seat. Tears fill my eyes. That song, today, now. I shake my head, my arms, wipe my eyes, pull it together. The green arrow comes on. The song ends, as always, with raw power, kicking sand back in the bully’s face, coolest song ever.

I drop off my oldest, then drive miles north to get the younger ones from summer day camp. It’s a beautiful sunny day.

Mr12: Mom?

Me: Yes?

Mr12: You are sad.

Me: Yes. I got some bad news today, that Pete from the Kinks died. He had been sick a long time and was in the hospital. I do feel sad.

Mr12: It’s OK, Mom. He had people taking good care of him. He probably didn’t even know when he died. He wasn’t upset, I bet. Please don’t be too sad.

MissSeven: The easiest way to die would be to fall on a soft pillow.

Count on my daughter for the black humor comic relief, something Pete would have liked. He was a very very funny guy.

My radio, determined to completely own me again, now plays the Kinks “Beautiful Delilah,” on a different channel. I pull over to the coffee house, and leave it on to finish.

MissSeven: Was that Pete singing?

Me: No, that’s Dave.

MissSeven: Oh, good. It sounds like he’s choking on something.

I can’t help but laugh.

Goodbye, Pete. Goodbye.


It’s summer and some of you lucky and lovely American women may be taking some precious vacation time to travel out of our country. I will not be joining you; my passport intentionally expired years ago when I had kids, because I am courteous to very-long-distance airplane travelers. Maybe I will renew it when the airlines make a Kids-Only Club in cargo. 

But for those of you ladies who are planning your trips and packing your bags, you may be wondering what you should wear to your foreign destinations. American fashion style is often not very well appreciated in other countries, you may be shocked to learn. I came across a very informative article from Condé Nast Traveler  (via on this subject called “Etiquette 101: Dress Codes.” What I have done is pared down their piece (in case you have Internet-Caused ADHD, a hot topic these days) to quote their basic street style recommendations for several Other Countries, and then give you my BOTTOM LINE. I am courteous, I save you time, and I mess up someone else’s article with snark. You are welcome. Here you go.


Avoid bright colors and take care to shun the plethora of other offenses: pleated chinos, walking shorts, sport sandals, baseball caps, golf attire, loud logos, sneakers, T-shirts, and sexy clothes.

BOTTOM LINE: Anything that’s not identifiably American. 


Germans run the gamut from wildly fashionable to definitively frumpy—with an intellectual in-between group that pairs their sack dresses with edgy haircuts and bold jewelry. Although nothing's verboten, the perpetual cold dictates sensible coats, which, for the stylish, are asymmetrically zippered or bat-sleeved and made of wool.

BOTTOM LINE: “Sprockets”


Jackie O's legacy lives on in the legions of Greek women wearing linen trousers, nice tees, sweaters tied around the shoulders, and oversized shades. No baseball caps, no Birkenstocks, no billowy fake-hippie skirts. Ever.

BOTTOM LINE: Like the Ivy-League girlfriend of one of the guys from Vampire Weekend.


Young people pair tight Dolce & Gabbana tops with Diesel jeans. Think brands, brands, brands—and preferably Italian: Versace, Gucci, Cavalli, or Armani.

BOTTOM LINE: New Jersey new money.


Scanty outfits require tights and fur coats during frigid Russian winters. Sneakers draw incredulous stares. Super Euro cologne—and especially anything Armani—is the height of hip; the more the better.

BOTTOM LINE: Chilly prostitute.


"I once heard that a woman had trouble getting a tea-man to serve her because she dressed like a frumpy housewife."So dressing down is not an option. Women cultivate a studied casual look in designer jeans, Tod's loafers, and ironed high-end T-shirts (like James Perse)—never shorts.

BOTTOM LINE: Country club member that demurely flirts with the staff.


Quirky Kate Moss inspired London girls throw on a high-low mix of Top Shop and Temperley; they're freer and less polished than other city style–setters.  Don't opt for chinos and polos—the preppy look won't fly in London. At a party: Skinny jeans take a girl from meetings to a cutesy mews (switch from heels to Chuck Taylors) to a Shoreditch pub crawl (back to heels).

BOTTOM LINE: Dress slightly better than normal; avoid smiling as to not offend others with your superior teeth.


Arms, chest, and back should be covered. Although Chinese women wear conservative cuts, shirts are sometimes transparent, leaving the bra in full view. Chinese women would be loath to wear any footwear without straps, because it shows too much of the foot.

BOTTOM LINE: Maidenform good; feet bad.


On the street: Unless you're here to visit a Bollywood star, designer clothes aren't right for Indian city streets. A sari won't work, either: "Western women look silly because they can't wrap or tie it right," says Barbara Crossette, author of India: Old Civilization in a New World. Instead, wear drawstring pants, leather toe sandals, and a nice cotton tee. 

BOTTOM LINE: Boulder, Colorado.


Pair heel-covering sandals (like gladiators), sneakers, or ballet flats with Levi's or Lee jeans—American denim is revered in Jakarta and its surrounds. Wear some kind of collar (a polo shirt, perhaps) as a sign of respect.

BOTTOM LINE: Like the girl who wishes she were the Ivy-League girlfriend of one of the guys from Vampire Weekend, but only got into a state college.


For Tokyo youth, nothing's too studied or over-the-top, so the laissez-faire American norm is seen as slovenly. Women should wear heels, makeup, and a dose of frills.

BOTTOM LINE: Lady Gaga for 30-and-under; 30-and-up, attractive enough to invite packed-train frottage. Avoid being fat in any way.


Loose jeans and a tunic-like top (shirts should reach the upper thigh) make for perfect daywear when layered with a bright embroidered scarf. In the south, women wear vibrant colors and breezy cotton layers. The country's northern half is cooler and requires heavier, darker duds. No shorts, tank tops, or above-the-knee skirts. Makeup's vital for girls; heavy kohl is worn around the eyes.

BOTTOM LINE:  Osama’s Mama.


Those in their 20s and 30s strut in tank tops, hot pants and flip-flops. A polo shirt by Fred Perry or Ralph Lauren is a popular option, as well as anything from casual mass-market stores. Hems are worn high at every age—get your gams ready.

BOTTOM LINE: Laid-back Cali-style, covering paralyzing fear of capital punishment for forgetting to flush a toilet.


The mall, not the street, is the social arena. Here, girls in T-shirts (their shoulders covered out of respect and as a remedy against the freezing AC blasts) tote the latest Louis Vuittons. Carry a pashmina to cover up in case you find yourself in a traditional souk—although you'll see miniskirts and shorts, they're for people who know the city well enough to avoid ultra-conservative quarters.

BOTTOM LINE: Pretend slightly that you aren’t of less worth than a dog.


Shorts are a faux pas unless you're hitting the greens or playing squash at a sports club, and even then they're wrong for women, who are better off in pants or long skirts (ankle-length jeans and khaki cargo styles are popular). About 90 percent of Egyptian women cover their heads, but tourists aren't expected to.

BOTTOM LINE: Pretend slightly that you aren’t of less worth than a dog with three legs and mange.


Special police enforce the Islamic dress code, which requires women (non-Muslims included) to be covered from head to toe. The working classes wear full-length black chadors, but a manteau over jeans is an acceptable alternative. Hijabs are often patterned or pinned with pretty brooches. Makeup should be minimal, and while bright lipstick isn't allowed, flawless eyebrows are an absolute must. They're credited with creating the first perfume, so it's no surprise that the Iranians are scent savvy: Although women might be cloaked, they're often doused in glam, sexy fragrances like Azzaro's vetiver and pimento tonics.

BOTTOM LINE: Hefty bag, something to cover up the sweaty despair, and a tweezers.


It's South Beach style in resorty Eilat and Tel Aviv, where cotton shorts and tank tops are de rigueur during the hot summer months. Everywhere in Israel is fairly casual, but Jerusalem, Galilee, and Tiberias get colder winters and call for more conservative dress. In these places, long skirts are ideal for women, and everyone covers up at Jewish and Christian religious sites, with high necks and long sleeves.

BOTTOM LINE: Piss off the Muslims.


Rich red embroidery is popular, so Western women can don detailed tunics over loose trousers (many local women wear pants) or black cotton dresses embellished with traditional needlework.  The veil's a release of sorts for trendy young women, who can show a little more skin as long as the head is covered.

BOTTOM LINE: Look like an Amish sampler with a bag over your head.


Beirut is fashion-forward, but the city's poor Shiite majority dictates a conservative look. Since the stylish set don't do much walking, women shuttle around in Audis wearing light dresses or caftans. Be warned that such liberal style won't fly outside the capital city. Women express themselves through their accessories, which are often over-the-top: bright scarves, gold bangles, glittery clutches, and neon satchels.

BOTTOM LINE: Bodyguard.


Although tight jeans and bare midriffs aren't unusual in hip Damascene hoods like Salahiya, you'll have to search hard to find a Syrian woman over 40 wearing pants. Older women wrap the head in a hijab—or an Hermès scarf—when shopping in marketplaces downtown, although this isn't required of tourists. Do remain respectful by covering arms and legs before going out.

BOTTOM LINE: Young hotties can show belly buttons but not limbs; old bags, cover up.

Have fun, ladies! Send me a postcard if you don’t get jailed or suffer too badly from Severe French Disdain Syndrome. USA USA USA!


I can’t believe it’s been over six months since I updated here on our elder-fabulous coffeehouse pair, Mr. And Mrs. Hollywood. I’m always quietly thrilled to see them at the Other Other Good Coffee Place; they are regulars, like I am. I think they must travel on occasion, for weeks will go by, sometimes months, when I don’t see them. But they’ve been around more the last month or so, drinking large mugs of hot tea rather than coffee, sitting in two of the rounded modern leather chairs, saying little, a bit less chatty than when I first noticed them.

Mrs. Hollywood is simply not giving into mild-mannered Grannyland. No way. Not never. I may be revising my age estimate on her…I think she’s closer to 80 than 70. A few days ago she was wearing a black Ed Hardy long-sleeved t-shirt, and I swear, I almost swear, she may have attempted to cut it shorter to belly-shirt length. You’ve never seen any woman of any age strut like Mrs. Hollywood does. She OWNS the ground she walks on, and her gaze is pure “I Don’t Give A SHIT What You Think Or Who You Are Because I RULE.” Or perhaps it’s cataracts,  I don’t know. Her ashy flippy wig of indeterminate age and style – think “Charlie’s Angels + long-haired spoiled-rotten terrier” -- is looking a little more dubious, like it needs to be dry cleaned or re-woven or spray painted or something. It’s clumpy and dirty and sexy. Today, she was a bit more reserved,  in white dress pants and a long pale yellow cardigan sweater. I smiled as I glanced down at her feet. 5" white stiletto heels.

Mr. Hollywood is no longer using a cane, I am pleased to note.  He is always dressed well; today it’s the navy-and-white striped dress shirt, white cable sweater, and navy dress pants today with shiny black loafers. He always holds the heavy coffeeshop door open for Mrs. Hollywood; often when he walks next to her, he assists her by cradling her elbow, or placing a hand lightly on her back. She usually drives their pale blue sedan, pulled in at all angles into the parking space. I wouldn’t argue with Mrs. Hollywood in traffic. No way. Not never. She’d run a bitch down, I bet.

MissSeven, on her way back the other day from the café bathroom, passed by the Hollywoods, and Mr. Hollywood called her over. She was self-dressed in multi-colored striped leggings and a tie-dye t-shirt.

“Well, look at all your colors! Don’t you look wonderful!” She smiled her second-grade missing-teeth grin at him as he continued. “Which color is your favorite?”

She pulled on her shirt and glanced down to consider the question, and then back up at him. “Pink! Today it’s pink, but tomorrow I might like something better.”

He chuckled. “That’s a lady’s choice, to change her mind!” She smiled again at him and sort of made a curtsy-ish dip, and came back to me for her brownie on the white stonewear plate with the funny shape. She thinks nothing of the exchange; for her, it is normal for all adults to be kind to her. I look at her face, pale and pure with the overcast light though the window as we sit on our stools. She lives far away from her grandparents, and sees them only once a year. Perhaps the Hollywoods have far-away grandchildren, or wanted grandkids but never got them, or maybe they are grown now but they like to remember the days. Maybe Mr. Hollywood just likes the mish-mashed anti-style of a Cletus-mouthed seven-year-old in skate shoes.

I don’t know. But I like to imagine.



Happy One-Day-Belated Birthday to lovely and talented gap-toothed British musician, Ray Davies. On January 31, 2011, he will be 66.6 years old*.

*Sentence brought to you by "Younger Brothers Anonymous"


I see only the colors of my reflection as I speed by the shop windows: a blur of stark white, hot pink, and turquoise, my hair pulled into a ponytail high on the back of my head. My skates clack-clack as they go over the cracks in the sidewalk; the pedestrians carefully share the concrete with me and the skateboarders and the bicyclists. There are so few cars now, the roads silent save for a few delivery trucks and government vehicles and the few buses that still run, the only things allowed on them. I don’t want to be late to work, I worry, as I skim past the deli and the coffee shop and the used bookstore. It’s all downhill in the morning. I’ll walk back up at the end of the day, my skates in my backpack, the dirt in the air and the sunset and the streetlights making colors you can only see in a city, horrible and beautiful.

The store is in a small bungalow, whitewashed, low to the ground. The woman who runs it, my boss Cora, is older; grandmotherly, smart, fair. Every Wednesday, like today, I open the store so Cora can go to the flea markets on Rosedale Avenue. We sell home décor stuff -- some vintage linens, antique knick-knacks, some pieces from the design students at the college a few miles away. We don’t get a lot of customers, but enough; usually hip mom-types or the people who run boutiques in the Chase Borough who can resell our stuff at a profit to the folks who won’t venture over here. I have plenty of time to read and sketch during the day, after organizing and cleaning and checking on inventory and the cash box and helping with customers. I suspect Cora keeps me around more for the company. She doesn’t really need the help.

I arrive and turn off the alarm and get everything set for the day. When Cora is not here, I turn the radio on to the college station, and a little louder than she thinks the customers prefer. I pull my book from my backpack and begin to read. I’m on page 234 of Henry Miller’s “Tropic Of Cancer.” I should be able to finish it this morning.

When the brass bells tied on the door jangle, I look up. Two young guys come in, one in a black t-shirt and dirty jeans, messy brown hair, the other in a white t-shirt with short red hair, baggy shorts. The red-haired one is smoking a cigarette.

“I’m sorry, you can’t smoke in here,” I say, still holding my book, sitting on a stool.

“Yeah, OK,” the red-haired guy says, yet he doesn’t put it out. He looks sweaty, distracted.

I’ve seen these guys around town before. Skateboarders. Hang around Fenter Park, drinking, hang around everywhere they aren’t really wanted, sometimes in a pack, sometimes just the two of them.

The guy in the black shirt starts messing with the glass stuff on a display rack. I get up, put my book down on a counter, and walk over to him.

“Can I help you?” My tone isn’t friendly.

“Uh…yeah. I wanna get something for my nana.” He begins to laugh; a piece of crystal teeters on the edge of the shelf.

I feel a warmth on my left arm, then sharp pain. I whip my head around. Red-hair is burning my arm with his cigarette. I yell, pull my arm away, stunned, staring at it as a blister forms almost instantly.

Black Shirt moves to the door, locks it, stands looking out the window, looking back at me, then the window, then at me, smiling. I twist my head around to see Red-hair. He isn’t smiling. He steps closer.

It's Wednesday. They know I am here alone.


I’m always excited before heading out to a concert. Sometimes I have a pretty good idea of what I am going to see, sometimes not, but I always expect that I am going to get something cool out of the experience and enjoy my evening. I can’t see all the shows I’d like to that come through Seattle, so I pick the ones I really just don’t want to miss. I bought my tickets to see Brian Jonestown Massacre at Neumos many months ago, when summer seemed a long way off. I had never been able to see them play live before. I’m a big fan of their poppy-psycho-psychedelia-drone.

About an hour or so into BJM’s set, I ended up bailing, which is something that is an extreme rarity for me. Crowd problems? No, everyone was pretty mellow. Venue problems? No, I was right where I wanted to be, leaning on the balcony overlooking the side of the stage. Tired? Hot? Sweaty? Yes to all three, but that’s never enough to get me to leave a gig.

I left because I was bored. That bored. It just wasn’t worth staying to the end, because after so wanting to be engaged into the music, I just was not. I don’t know that I have ever had to write a non-positive review of a headline act here, because I LIKE the bands I go to see! But I was bored, a chunk of the crowd seemed bored or just mildly into it, and worst of all, Brian Jonestown Massacre seemed profoundly bored themselves. For me, that’s rock n’ roll cyanide. I would have rather seen a trainwreck than lackluster, and of course a great performance rather than a trainwreck. But song after song after song after song was indistinguishable from the last. I kept hoping the next one would be better, and it wasn’t. It didn’t help that the instrumentation, with EIGHT musicians onstage, was almost identical on each song, with FOUR guitars playing the SAME three or four chords IDENTICALLY. Why??? Instead of getting into a groove, the band dug a rut.

This time, the bright spot to the night was the opening act. Federale is one of the most unique bands I’ve seen. BJM bassist/guitarist Collin Hegna and a cast of other multi-instrumentalists deliver a witty and faithful tribute to the great Spaghetti Western movie soundtracks of the 1960s – think Ennio Morricone come to life, amplified. The crowd seemed a little puzzled at first, and then I started spotting these big grins coming to their faces as Federale brought out wooden Indian flutes, a melodica, trumpet, pounding doubled drums, melodies whistled coolly instead of sung. A surprise was opera-trained Maria Karlin, whose soaring voice perfectly complimented the eerie twang and desert dryness of the music. Impressive, fun, and well-executed. Here’s a short vid I shot – find out more about Federale on their MySpace site.

Clearing the small stage from one big bunch of musicians to the next big bunch of musicians took awhile, but Brian Jonestown Massacre eventually came on to big cheers and applause. Here’s one of their better-known songs, “Servo.” The blip in the middle is because someone handed me a bottle of water. Bad timing.

It probably didn’t help my experience that I had leader/founder/singer/songwriter/guitarist/etc. Anton Newcombe’s back to me all night, and that the girl standing next to me stunk of stale body odor and onion rings. Props to drummer Dan Allaire, who was hitting hard all night long; it was just too bad that no one else seemed to be matching his effort. The most I will say about tambourinist Joel Gion is that he is the Linda McCartney of Brian Jonestown Massacre. I’m thinking about joining Black Rebel Motorcycle Club for the next 20 years as a triangle player. Ding. Ding. Ding.

Sigh. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a terrible show. At times I was moving along with the others, nodding my head and such (and not in that pesky heroin way), glad to hear several of my favorite songs. But for me, Brian Jonestown Massacre shines far more in their recorded work than in live performance, and that is where my appreciation of them will remain.


I had so much fun compiling the "Hit The Road, Jack" video post the other day, I thought I'd do another World Cover Version Overview with another classic song: Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock." Now, let's take a look at the iconic original, for both the song and the sparse, witty, and coolest-cat choreography (by Alex Romero) from the 1957 film of the same name.

I think it's reasonable to state that no one could do it better. But how I love the efforts.

I don't know what country this guy is from, but I am fairly sure that he's never heard the song before, because there are no words or chords particularly common to the actual song in his version. That doesn't stop him.

This guy does better on guitar, but once again the words seem to be...mushy. He also sounds like something is lodged in his throat and/or nose.

German singer Katy Karrenbauer is scaring me. On so many levels.

OH MY GOD, I had forgotten about Eilert Pilarm, "The Swedish Elvis!" Eilert, well, he loves the King so very much that he's released several homemade cassettes and a CD of his Elvis covers and performed over 600 concerts, retiring in 2002. This is a shame. I would lose my mind to see Eilert in action. I may remind you that Elvis is sacred to Eilert, and he's serious. Oh, Eilert.

Last one goes to this AWESOME Japanese traditional + Western orchestra...domo arigato, you wild mofos! HAHAHA!


Stupid Tooth Fairy.

It’s that twinkly bitch’s fault that I don’t have any decent photos or video from last night’s Cage The Elephant concert at the Showbox at the Market. If not for me having to pretend to be HER, I would not have been up at 2:30AM desperately rummaging around for money to leave MissSeven for her lost front tooth, having sat bolt upright in bed remembering that I had forgotten to take care of it earlier. No money, no money, no money anywhere other than a few pennies and a quarter, which doesn’t fly with the kiddies these days. By 3:15AM, I had located an acceptable substitute: some damn Polly Pocket set that I was saving to give to some other plastic-loving child. I scrawled a note of explanation in appropriately-fancy Tooth Fairy cursive, and went back to sleep around 4AM.

I got up at 7AM.

As I grabbed my leetle camera to leave for the show around 6PM, my fatigue was such that I didn’t remember to TAKE THE BATTERY.

“AH FU*#&%*(%((#&!!!K!!”

No one at the Showbox noticed my frustration. They were ready to rock.

Last year, I had been sorry to miss the band when they came to Seattle, so I made sure to get my tickets quickly when they went on sale. Good thing, because it was a sold-out show. The line to get in was at least two blocks long. My Showbox Green Room/Cheeseburger/Early Entry routine was invoked yet again, the perks of being 21+ (OK, +++++). I had a feeling, without having read one single thing about the band or their performances, that it would maybe be in my best interest to NOT be up front this time. This feeling was reconfirmed when I saw a fence/barrier set up in front of the stage, many, many pumped up dudes in baseball hats, and security constantly cruising the venue like hungry sharks. Hmm, I said, hmm. So for the first time I watched from the back of the room at the Showbox sitting on a CHAIR at a luxurious metal table with a great sightline. STARING AT MY CAMERA WITHOUT A BATTERY.

Ah, well.

Nashville’s Autovaughn started out the evening with a alt/southern sound and look that reminded me bit of Kings Of Leon. Pros: good energy, good triple vocals, good busy but precise drummer. Cons: Lead singer Darren Edwards merch table hawking every time he addressed the crowd, and dropping the word “shit” like it was a dude-bonding thing. Not a bad band at all; not distinctive enough for me to dig. Here's a recent live performance from them.

Second on the bill were the 22-20s, all the way from Limeyville, UK. Despite them never addressing the crowd once during their set, which I find sort of unfriendly, I did really like their set, a nicely varied bunch of songs with smart construction and lots of cool hooks. I will investigate to see what their recorded sound is like. Interestingly, the crowd seemed to noticeably prefer Autovaughn to the 22-20s. Maybe they were just impatient for Cage The Elephant to come on. Maaaaaybe not. USA USA USA! Here's "Devil In Me" live from YouTubeLand.

Finally, a little after 11PM, CTE took the stage. My finely-honed concert instincts were correct. If I had been anywhere on the Showbox floor during their set, the Tooth Fairy would be bringing me a hundred bucks for my missing teeth and a Get Out Of Jail Free card for what I would have done about it. Mosh Central! The entire floor at times looked like a fleshy sea, rolling in a testosterone hurricane. It would have been a nightmare to be in (I’m a girl, short, with glasses, and likely to break a hip or some shit at this age) but it was a blast to watch. Cage is GREAT. The “it” factor is right there. Super-high-energy performance from all, especially lead singer Matt Schultz who dove straight into the man-ocean at least five times with absolutely no heads up, just LEAP! The other crowd surfers seemed so…non-pro in comparison. I tried taking a photo with my iPhone. It's so sad.

I tried taking a video too with the phone, but we don't need another concert clip with audio that sounds like cutlery rolling around in a metal garbage can put through a stack of blown-out Marshalls. This is better.

There were a couple of things that hooked me into CTE when I first heard them on the radio about 18 months ago. They have a very curious mix of influences in their sound; you are not exactly sure what box to put them in, and that to me is nothing but good. If you were viewing the show last night with no sound, you’d think this was some cross between classic Cali-punk and Rage Against the Machine. Listening to their album, you hear that and more: a very solid blues foundation, a touch of indie, and just about everything else that has been good since rock’s beginnings – the clever wordplay of Chuck Berry, the tidy song arrangements of the Who and the Beatles, the hammer-heavy beat and thunder of Zeppelin and AC/DC with a little southern rock thrown in to further confuse or delight. The production of the album is flawless, and a major factor for their success. It’s a BIG CLEAN sound, with enough little surprises and fresh touches to appeal to a lot of people. So that’s why at the Showbox there’s the mosh dudes and the tat girls and the old guy with the gray beard in a ponytail, the newly-drunk tech nerd dancing all spazzy, and me.

Their set was short – under an hour with an encore – but I don’t know that more was needed. It was fun and sweaty and powerful and the audience loved it. Schultz thanked the crowd often and mentioned that when they played Seattle last they only drew about 300 people, and were grateful for the fans who sold out the Showbox this time around. Next time, they need to be booked in a bigger place. And I need for no one to lose any teeth the night before.


I'm not angry about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I'm not frustrated or agitated or indignant.

All I am is sad.

We can point the finger at BP and Big Oil and Big Business and Apathetic Government endlessly. We can make predictions of the cost, the outcome, the impact, and demand restitution. There is no restitution that is going to mean a goddamn thing for this one. The loss cannot be comprehended now.

I am generally a positive and hopeful person. I believe that we find ways to pull together to solve problems, and that nothing is bad forever. I know there have been other major environmental disasters that good people have tried their best to make better, and they have done so.

I don't see an answer here. I see a dead, toxic space, its impact creeping onto land, making huge and once-beautiful and richly diverse areas spaces only for ghosts.

Blame Halliburton, blame the politician's lined pockets, blame them all for their greed and recklessness if it makes you feel better.

Every single one of us is to blame. Our consumption of energy is outrageous, our denial of the consequences foolish, irresponsible, and criminal, our weakness in not standing together and DEMANDING we find a replacement for oil pathetic. Look at the cost! Terrorism, corruption, a mangled planet, ruined and lost human, animal, and environmental lives. Things gone that can never be replaced.

It was bound to happen. Don't feign surprise -- you helped write the final act of the play. You...and me.


I got a stunning compliment this past weekend.

“Your skin looks just amazing! What are you doing?”

Why was this stunning? I have TERRIBLE skin. I do, and have had crappy skin since age 14 when acne, large pores, and ghost-pale combined to torture my mirror and the world at large, and continues to this day, with 30+ years adding sun damage and wrinkles into the mess. So this is quite a big deal to me, this compliment, because it means that after all these years I am at least finding a good combination to make/fake good skin. Soon enough my aging face will look like an elephant’s ass, so I am glad for this last moment of relative semi-glory.

My interest in good skin is past the vain and eventually-useless. Good skin is not just a reflection of good genes and/or having lived on the ocean floor your entire life – it’s a indication of good internal health. And, too, my photographer’s eye is drawn to faces that have that “glow.” I can remember reading a quote from a photographer who worked with Marilyn Monroe saying that her skin seemed to be “illuminated from within.” When I went back and critically looked at her pictures, I thought, wow, he’s right. What a powerful quality.

With the advent of HDTV, we see more about people’s skin issues than ever before – close-up and personal, sharper than the human eye, it seems. Does everyone need expensive airbrush makeup and gear before going in front of a camera or just walking around? No, says Ryder Makeup Labs, a training lab for professional makeup artists working in film, TV, and print. Airbrush makeup and spray tans aren’t the fix. I totally agree with their quote here: “To be compatible with the new mediums, makeup artists need to use less makeup with more realistic coloring and greater attention to detail. As a general rule: if it looks like make-up to the eye, it will look like makeup on your print.

So, for what it’s worth, I am going to take my experiences as a woman who has wrestled with my own skin and as a steely-eyed loupe-totin’ photographer and make some suggestions for you about what you can do to get a HD-proof face. You don’t have to be a film star to want to glow. I will recommend only items/practices I have used personally, and god knows I ain’t getting paid to do this, so you can trust me and stuff. Let’s go, my pretties.

1. Begin on the inside. I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s all true. Your skin tells your story to the world. If you smoke, you will have crepe-y fine wrinkles 20-30 years before you should. If you drink too much alcohol, you dehydrate yourself and you get that charming ruddy/bloated look. Drugs? See “Faces Of Meth.” If you aren't getting enough sleep, your face will be sallow, baggy, and raccoon-eyed. If you eat a lot of poor quality foods, your skin will have a tougher time getting rid of excess waste and your cell turnover will be slower, which all equals dull, problem-prone skin. So my boring, common-sense answer is eat good fresh food, don’t smoke or drug/drink to excess, get plenty of sleep, and drink lots of refreshing cool water.

2. Move to the outside: If you don’t believe it now, you will: #1 preventable cause of prematurely aging skin = SUN DAMAGE. Sadly, the minute you are born (if you were born in a field during the day or something), you are getting sun damage, but you do also need the sun to obtain good Vitamin D and not go all Kurt Cobain. Make sunscreen a daily habit, year-round, even if you don’t particularly plan on being outside much. If you are too lazy to put on facial sunscreen every day, at least make sure it is in a product that you DO use every day, like moisturizer or foundation.

3. Clean it up. Wash your face twice a day, more if you are a mud wrestler or swine wrangler. I love the Clarisonic skincare brush. You can use it in the shower, recharge it every few days, and it really cleans the skin like nothing else. Your skin feels better and looks better. Everyone I know who owns one is a fan for life. It's expensive (from around $130-up) but this is one high-tech beauty gadget that does what it claims.

4. Fix the past. I totally admit it -- I didn't always follow my own advice. I didn't use sunscreen, smoked when I was a teenager, didn't eat well, and had the audacity to get older. When I got past 40, my skin started tattling on me, and I didn't like it. What was that mottle-y brown stuff under my eyes and by my jawline? Oh...right...THE SUN did it. I didn't like it, but didn't really want to have to go as far as the whole serious acid peel/laser options, worried about the cost and the healing process. I don't really have time to walk around looking like a movie monster for a few weeks. My local skincare place told me to give the Obaji Nu-Derm system a try. Oof, I said, this is really expensive too. Try it, my esthetician said, because if you follow all the steps and do it every day -- cleanser, toner, two different hydroquinone lotions, an exfoliator, sunscreen, and tretinoin -- it is going to work.

The results were amazing. After just a few weeks and some annoying flaking and peeling, this is what I can tell you: I HAVE NEW SKIN. All those years of sun damage? Almost completely GONE. GONE GONE GONE. My face feels as soft as MissSeven's. It is far more even and looks far healthier. I still can't believe it. Do I look 21 or like Marilyn Monroe? Well, no, because it isn't MAGIC PIXIE DUST, but damn. I'm very pleased. Note: the Obaji products that you purchase online are NOT the same strength as the ones purchased from a physician or a "medspa" like I go to that is overseen by a physician and nurse.

5. Prep for makeup: Besides sunscreen, always use some kind of light day moisturizer. If you have crappy breaking-out or sensitive skin, pay close attention to labels and get one tailored to your issues. I like this from the Olay Regenerist line, and includes SPF 15. Something you probably haven't even heard of are the silicone-based makeup prep products. They are clear, slick and very light, and do much to even out pores and lines and texture. They provide a better base for makeup to adhere to and also keep down the shine factor. I've liked all the ones I have tried: Smashbox Photo Finish, Philosophy The Present, and Bare Vitamins Prime Time. If you really want to look your best, this is a step not to skip...worthwhile even without using makeup after.

6. Makeup, not break up. Your makeup, as stated earlier on, should not overly look like makeup. Its job is to enhance, not to overwhelm, as we can see here from The Simpsons, via this terrible-quality clip that FOX won't bother to remove for copyright.

A great color match is essential. If you are lucky, your skin matches one of the better drugstore options out there and you can save some money. I like Revlon's new PhotoReady for liquid foundation, and for mineral powder makeup (my preference)Neutrogena Mineral Sheers (pressed or loose formulas) or Maybelline Mineral Power. If you are unlucky like me, your better color match comes at a slightly higher price. I use Smashbox High Definition Healthy FX liquid foundation or Bare Minerals Original. I dig the whole Bare Minerals line, matter of fact, which includes in a nice lil' starter kit the Prime Time primer, the foundation, a bronzer (use LIGHTLY), their Mineral Veil finishing powder, and a decent brush. Go light on the blush too, but don't skip it. I use Maybelline's Mineral Power in Gentle Pink, which I think would be just about right for almost any skin tone.

7. Spot work. For blemishes, undereye circles, scars, here is where I save you some time and money: use your foundation as concealer! The secret to making that work is to how you apply it, which is with a tiny brush like this or your ring finger. Not your pointer or pinkie or middle and definitely not your thumb...RING finger only. I don't know why the ring finger works so well for spot work; it just does. Try it and see. Pat pat pat, dab dab dab is your movement here.

If you require heavier coverage, I recommend Dermablend products, which can conceal everything except your inner torment or Mexican lunch gas.

8. Kiss me. Think balance here. A little gloss and color is just about universally-liked; a gloppy garish mess like what poor Marge had from Homer's makeup gun is yuck. I like Smashbox Photo Finish again for their lipsticks -- smooth, long-wearing, and pretty colors, or any of LipFusion's products -- a little plumper never hurt any mouth.

9. Eye see you. I am pretty much burnt on the whole dealing with makeup process by the time I get to my eyes, I admit. I apply eyeshadow like an ape with a crayon box most days -- imprecise and impatient -- and don't care if my mascara is a bit clumpy. That said, I know a few things here. DON'T ring your eyes in dark color. Instead of making you look like a sultry rock vixen, it makes your eyes look smaller and like you may live in a single-wide, and not one of those nice single-wides. But if you bother to use mascara, just use black. Brown is useless. DON'T match your eyeshadow to your clothes; always compliment your eye color. I've done well, for an ape, with drugstore eye makeup over the years. I've never found better than Maybelline Define A Lash for mascara.

10. Spritz and GO. Take two seconds to set your hard work with Cosmedicine Medi-Matte or one of the Skindinavia sprays. It feels nice, too. Ahhhh.

I promise, when I get to the Elephant-Ass stage of skin life, I will come back and write about how best to enjoy the hell out that, too. In the meantime, have fun trying out some of these products, with only one more piece of advice: there's no product in the world better than your smile, contentment, and confidence. Best glow ever.