Yeah. You heard me. Nursery Rhyme + first applicable Google image adding the words "Halloween costume." Why? WHY NOT!

1. Peter:



A Peck:

Of Pickled:


2. Old


Had A Farm:


3. Mary:

Had A Little:


Its Fleece:

Was White:

As Snow:



There are lots of great podcasts and mixes out there for Halloween music, but there's really only one band that springs to my mind when I think of this spooky holiday: THE CRAMPS. And the weirdest, coolest, spookiest concert ever given was by the Cramps in 1978 at the Napa State Mental Hospital. Yes, it's for real. If you haven't seen it, well...enjoy Muah ha ha!


What I wanted most was to please her. I wanted to have her approval most of all, more than from other friends, more than from my parents. She was two years older than me, Margaret, and the coolest thing going in my little world. A dividing line between childhood and adolescence came late in the summer of my 12th year, standing at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store, staring at the candy and magazines and cigarettes at a checkout stand.

When Margaret first moved to town with her younger brother and sister after her mom’s divorce, I didn’t like her. Like really didn’t like her. I thought she was loud and coarse and a braggart, too big for her britches. She thought I was nerdy and pretentious and weak. Naturally, any new kid in a tiny rural school attracted great attention, and I hated it that she and her big mouth were reigning supreme. We avoided each other, except for casting heavy stinkeyes in the school hallway.

The inevitable showdown occurred one cold afternoon on the playground during recess. Everyone was into merciless games of four-square then, and I was holding my own pretty well, until the one day I dropped my guard and Margaret got me out. She made the most of it, stopping the game to laugh at me. I held on to the big red ball for a moment, feeling the little criss-cross pattern in the rubber, and seethed. Enough of this, I thought. Enough of you, interloper!


I spat the words out, hard and bitter, and with every ounce of directed strength I owned, I whipped the ball straight at her face. I was confident my throw would connect, which is why I did it, for to do it and fail would only make things much worse. It was about the last thing anyone expected out of me; I wasn’t prone to outbursts, ever, and had probably never sworn at school like that before, and certainly no f-bomb. My dual blast of ball and curse was most unexpected by Margaret. As the ball bounced off her face and continued on its way down the asphalt, she bent over and brought her hands to her face. She started crying. Her nose was bleeding. She started swearing back at me, which brought the attention of the teacher on playground duty, who frowned at Margaret and never looked at me as a possible culprit.

Watch your language! What’s going on here??”

To my surprise, no one said a thing. The other kids all just stood frozen, not knowing the “cool” thing to do. I set my mouth in a hard, pouting line. I wasn’t sorry. Margaret had stopped crying, wiped her face with her jacket sleeve and pinched her bleeding, red, swelling nose with her fingers. She answered, but looked me right in the eye.

“I wasn’t looking. It was an accident.”

Every single kid there, which by this time was most of the kids on the playground, turned to look at me. I stared Margaret right back, not trusting her. Her revenge might come later, when school was finished for the day. Whatever happened off-property was never any concern of the school’s. Oblivious to the eye-arrows at me, the teacher put her arm around Margaret’s shoulder and spoke again, more quietly this time, “Well, come on, let’s go to the office and get an ice-pack on it. Dennis, go get the ball. I think it rolled into the ditch.” As Dennis obligingly trotted off towards the ditch, the bell rang, and we all went back inside, some kids whispering furiously, some already tossing the drama aside and yelling back and forth about the usual things.

I was expecting to get my ass kicked. She was bigger and stronger and tougher, and seemed fearless. I was really, really hoping she wouldn’t break my nose, or worse, my glasses. But straight out of a old-time corny buddy film, what happened was that Margaret ended up laughing it off by the end of the day, looking at me with different eyes. I ended up seeing her more fully as well, someone who was actually very funny and smart, whose bravado was really just fluff. We quickly and happily settled into a solid friendship, as kids sometimes improbably do.

After the year had finished, I was hanging out with her, thrilled to be completely unsupervised. We rode our bikes over to the Piggly Wiggly with our meager funds, probably just some change, to get some candy. Waiting in line, Margaret , all of 14, was going on about being out of cigarettes. She had already searched the house for an open pack of her mother’s with no luck. I listened, and looked at the neatly-stacked packs at the checkout, mind starting to click. I looked all around. There was no one behind us, no one else, it seemed, in the store. As the checkout clerk turned towards the brown paper bags at the end of the stand, his customer, a chatty elderly woman, turned with him, probably making sure he was still listening to her. I shot my arm out, and grabbed the one single pack closest to me, palming it until I smoothly wedged it down the front of my shorts. Margaret, seeing this, moved in front of me to cover. We paid for our candy and hightailed it on our banana bikes out of the parking lot, hooting and hollering like we were Bonnie and Clyde.

We went back towards her house and parked the bikes under a big tree broad tree which sat stoutly at the dead-end road she lived on. I took the smokes out from my shorts, and we each climbed up the tree, far enough to be hidden from the neighbors’ view. I handed the pack to Margaret. She wrinkled her nose.

“Ugh! Parliaments! Oh, well…want one?”

I had spent most of my 12 years begging my dad not to smoke, stealing his Salems and flushing them down the toilet, to his fury. I hated smoking.

“Sure,” I said. I didn’t even know how to light it, so Margaret did it for me.

We sat there and smoked; well, I pretended to smoke because I didn’t even know to inhale. It felt dangerous and grown-up and stupid and thrilling. All logic went right out the window. My friend smoked. I was going to smoke. So I did, albeit rather casually, until I was 19 and then never had a cigarette again.

To the best of my knowledge, Margaret never quit.


The tall, frumpy man in his 50s, in jeans and a navy raincoat, who spent at least four solid minutes staring at a grocery store display of multi-pack Bounty and Viva paper towels. He squeezed each brand, stared some more, then ambled off down another aisle, buying neither.

The stunningly-beautiful raven-haired young woman, with impeccable make-up, jewelry, shoes, and clothes, eating alone in a corner of the fast-food Italian restaurant nearing 2PM. She weighed close to 300 pounds.

The nurse in powder blue scrubs, faded and jaded from fifteen years of service. Her dyed blonde hair was greasy, carelessly pulled back, in need of a touch-up; she wore no make-up. Her demeanor aged her far more than her years. Caring had not ever paid off. She stuffed the bloody paper sheet in a basket.

The wannabe white suburban gangsta, short and thin like a child, poorly put together with odd features and gawky limbs that swung in an uncoordinated manner. He attempted  a swagger outside the grocery store, cheap saggy jeans trending ten years ago hampering his effort. The cigarette he put to his mouth, in staccato bursts, would shorten his life by decades.

The short-haired, very overweight, bespectacled barista at the Starbucks, who took my order for a hot chocolate, calling it out loudly to a co-worker standing two feet away. I cannot definitively commit to knowing the gender of the barista, at all.


The first human ever photographed, from a a daguerreotype taken by, you guessed it, Louis Daguerre. See the the dude getting his shoes shined down there all spiffy-like?

And, only moments later, the first time a giant helium-filled Justin-Bieber-head balloon is caught on film:

The More You Know.


Ya know, I'm not exactly fresh from the farm when it comes to understanding how the entertainment business works. I get how, when you've got a new creative product to plug in an intensely competitive market, any press is good press. I get how stars and their publicists and journalists "creatively embellish" the truth to make for a better story. I know what people universally want to read about the most is gossip and dirt and tragedy, no matter their level of sophistication nor how hard they may deny it. I know that once you have been in the limelight and have received the considerable attention and benefits that stardom can provide, it can be excruciating to feel it slip away, and to know that there is nothing you can do to get back to where you once stood. I understand that business, any business, is made on the backs of many, and power and control is sexier than one million of the hottest bikini models each holding PIN numbers to fat untraceable bank accounts in the Bahamas.


Using your recently-deceased bandmate's "planned memorial concert" to continue your passive-aggressive petty feud with a living bandmate via the press is just vile.

That's all.

Johnny Cash, "God's Gonna Cut You Down"

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God'll cut you down
Sooner or later God'll cut you down

Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down

Well my goodness gracious let me tell you the news
My head's been wet with the midnight dew
I've been down on bended knee talkin' to the man from Galilee
He spoke to me in the voice so sweet
I thought I heard the shuffle of the angel's feet
He called my name and my heart stood still
When he said, "John go do My will!"

Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God'll cut you down
Sooner or later God'll cut you down

Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand
Workin' in the dark against your fellow man
But as sure as God made black and white
What's done in the dark will be brought to the light

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God'll cut you down
Sooner or later God'll cut you down

Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down.


There was no pause button on the armrest of my seat in the movie theater, true. But in the opening scene to “The Social Network,” oddly, I felt a need to find one, just to have a moment to process the blindingly-fast dialogue that was happening onscreen between Harvard computer geek Mark Zuckerberg and his girlfriend Erica Albright. In the scene, the two undergrads are trading quips and barbs sitting in a college watering hole, and Zuckerberg’s inability to slow down and censor himself is not going over too well with his more socially-adept girlfriend. Crap, I thought, if the whole movie sounds like that rapid-fire guy in the old FedEx commercials, my head is going to explode.

It wasn’t until as I was leaving the theater that I recognized why director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin cleverly chose to open with the dizzying acerbic patter (which reportedly took the two actors 99 takes to get right). One of the main ideas in “The Social Network,” which is based on the meteoric rise of Facebook (which Zuckerberg created in 2003 in his dorm room) is that time waits for no one. The pace set at the beginning rockets the audience into a rarified world where everyone is bright, some are brilliant, and all are expected to push greatness to new levels. That first conversation, the outcome, and lessons not learned or simply dismissed resonate throughout the film. But then again, there are all kinds of ways races can be won, and looking back and seeing what you left behind in your wake might just slow you down.

As played by a well-cast and very consistent Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Zuckerberg is one tightly-wound and cold young man, whose lack of empathy towards others and obsessive drive places him somewhere into (kindly) the autism spectrum or (not-so-kindly) sociopathy. Many times throughout the movie, it seems simply unbelievable that he ever could have acquired a single real friend of any kind. Despite his oddness or maybe because of it, the story being told is compelling, and you feel yourself tumbling forward with the characters as Zuckerberg’s prodigious talent combines with bitter immaturity one night and he creates “Facemash” by raiding private student info from Harvard’s servers in an epic hack session. Instead of reviling him, old-money upper-crust twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (played regally by Armie Hammer, someone who knows something about old money) instead admire Zuckerberg’s abilities, and ask him if he’d like to write the code for their idea to make a Harvard-only social networking site. He agrees, but quickly sees how “Harvard Connection” is too limited and begins to build what becomes Facebook. He does not inform the twins of this, thereby setting up the eventual Lawsuit #1.

Lawsuit #2 comes from original Facebook CFO Eduardo Saverin, another Harvard classmate and friend, whose original monetary investments supporting Zuckerberg’s concept were crucial to launching Facebook. The movie is sympathetic to Saverin – not surprising as he was extensively interviewed for the “The Accidental Billionaires,” the book by Ben Mezrich upon which “The Social Network” was based (Zuckerberg declined to be involved with the book or the film.). The movie timeline is expertly cut with deposition scenes from both lawsuits. Often the lawyers, far advanced in age and experience from the bickering plaintiffs and defendant, can do nothing but roll their eyes over their outbursts across the tables.

As unlikable as Zuckerberg is throughout the movie, somehow he really isn’t the devil. That role, arguably, is given to Napster founder Sean Parker, played with Hollywood flair by Justin Timberlake. Parker randomly comes across an early Facebook page, and is instantly drawn to its possibilities. He, Zuckerberg, and Saverin in a defining and decadent Manhattan meeting begin to talk about the idea of making billions rather than millions of dollars. Saverin is repelled by Parker’s manic schmoozing while Zuckerberg hangs on to his every word as gold, and their fates are sealed as Parker convinces Zuckerberg to move to Silicon Valley and leave all non-essentials in the dust. Parker’s fondness for booze and drugs, underage girls, and grandiosity are quietly but pointedly undercut by the introduction of grasping paranoia, and his Epi-Pen and asthma inhaler. Once a bitter nerd, always a bitter nerd, the film seems to snark.

There is a crackle and excitement to the movie – two hours go by quickly. Yet the emotion I most felt while viewing it was one of a kind of sadness in the personal costs extracted by the incredible success of Facebook. Business is business, it seems, and nothing was going to get in the way of Zuckerberg’s ambitions for Facebook. It is no small irony that one so lacking in social skills had the insight to design something that compels people around the globe to connect with it and then to each other, or that the spoils of success – money, fame, power – actually don’t seem to be something Zuckerberg cares much about. Being able to take them because he could, and for the primary purpose of denying them to others? Maybe so. Or maybe business is business, time waits for no one, and anyone would be na├»ve to expect otherwise. “The Social Network” is a very, very good film, and raises interesting and very timely questions about human nature past the details of its story.

A final note, an observance on the only song in the movie, positioned at the closing credits: The Beatles’ “Baby, You’re A Rich Man.” Oh, filmmakers…you are too smart and too snark to have not known that this tune, generally thought to have been written about Beatle manager Brian Epstein, has been long-rumored to contain the words, “Baby, you’re a rich fag Jew” towards the end.


A small police blotter round-up this time, reminding you of the wonderful world out there filled with terrorizing ghosts, bears that might be stealing Marlboros, defiant bowling balls, and processed meat crime. Enjoy!


Vandalism: At 8:12 a.m. a patrol officer found a vandalized white Ford Econoline van parked on the side of the road in the 8700 block of S.E. 44th Street. The van was tagged with swastikas and the phrase, “Sorry about your van,” in silver spray paint.


Theft: At 10:13 a.m. a 52-year-old Mercer Island man reported that his laundry detergent was stolen. The man claimed to have started his first load of laundry in the apartment building laundry room, located in the 2500 block of 81st Avenue S.E. When he returned with his second load, the man’s small bottle of liquid detergent, bottle of Active X cleaner and box of Tide detergent were missing from the laundry room, where he had left them. The only other person whom he had seen wandering around the apartment complex was the manager, according to the report.

Suspicious: Police noticed a man lying on the ground inside a Northland Drive business around 4 p.m., Sept. 18. Officers spoke with the man who said that he was resting until the floors, which he had just mopped, dried.

Loose Property: A caller told Police that there was a random bowling ball resting on the sidewalk in front of a W. Liberty St. restaurant around 2 p.m., Oct. 8. An officer responded and took the unattended bowling ball into property. Apparently, someone got confused and bowled down the wrong type of alley.

Suspicious: Someone thought it was suspicious that a car was parked next to a grocery store in Lakeside.


Vehicle Control Failure: Robert Redford, 21, of the City of Waukesha was cited for failure to have a vehicle under control, after his car struck the concrete median on Highway 16 at about 3:30 p.m. Oct. 3 and then hit a truck, which veered into the concrete median and then flipped over. According to the report, Redford's Lexus hit a Dodge Ram truck driven by Richard Porath, 46, of Milwaukee. Porath suffered a minor injury.


Theft: Donald Flasch of 334 Park Hill Drive reported Sept. 22 that someone removed lawn ornaments, including a black globe, elf and rain gauge, from his patio.


Ghost Attack: A woman on Granger Road ran outside naked from the waist down yelling for a neighbor to call police because she was shot and then passed out. A rescue squad was called to the scene and found the woman unconscious and without any gunshot wounds. When she came to, she was in the emergency room at Medina General Hospital and claimed to have been attacked by ghosts. She refused medical treatment.


Property Damage: A Kenmore dryer, which had been placed for sale on a Cardinal Drive tree lawn, was set on fire by an unknown assailant sometime between midnight and 9 a.m., Oct. 9. Police believe the suspect used a cardboard Medina City Schools levy sign to start a fire in the drum of the dryer. No arrests have been made in the case.


A woman called in from West Valley Acres to say that she lost her ring a year ago. She thinks either her dog ate it or it was stolen.

Two horses were seen standing near a bridge on West Reserve. Someone called shortly after to report that one of the two horses was actually a mule.

Two other horses stood on Columbia Falls Stage Road.

Someone claimed they knew pit bulls were vicious in nature and therefore thought it best to call in and say they saw one.

There may be four adult pit bulls and nine puppies living in a fifth-wheel with their owners in Evergreen. This is not a crime.

A man on Sandy Hill Lane in Columbia Falls said that the rabbits his neighbors let loose a few years ago are now procreating in his yard.

Employees at an Evergeen drive-through restaurant called in complaining of a dog standing at the drive-up window.

Someone reported a black bear running down the Highway near the cigarette depot.


Vandalism: A Columbia Falls resident said someone gouged his truck with something sharp then threw a bunch of bologna all over his truck.

Vandalism: The father of the kid with the bologna all over his truck called in to make sure that the damage had been reported.


Bad Odor: A Helena Flats resident called in to say there was a foul odor in the air and it smelled like "death." He was informed that the odor was the methane gas emitted from the silage across the street.

…and finally…


Trespass: Inspired by the tale of Goldilocks, a young woman was arrested last week after a family found her sleeping in their daughter’s bed. Mama and Papa Bear returned from doing laundry and Papa Bear headed back to one of his daughter’s rooms to drop off her clothes. He opened the door and noticed that someone other than his daughter was lying in the bed. When he asked her what she was doing, she “exhibited confusion.” Police came and transported the intruder to King County Jail. The boyfriend of an older daughter (it was the younger daughter’s room) mentioned that he had seen the suspect at the house earlier, but assumed she was a friend of the family.


I like Keith Richards. I’ve already mentioned that here on Popthomology but it’s worth saying again because the Rolling Stones backbone has written his autobiography, "Life," which will be published on October 26, 2010, and Amazon assures me I shall receive it on my doorstep that very day. I’m not generally keen on celebrity memoirs because the authors often have little to offer outside of name-dropping gossip and not-particularly novel insight into…well, anything. Richards’ book promises plenty of salacious stories, including taking a snarky cut at bandmate Mick Jagger’s “pants pal.” Oh, boys, boys.

Why I think will make it a good read is that Richards is actually a pretty smart guy; honest to a fault and filled with good humor and a surprising amount of introspection. I don’t think the average person and maybe even the average rock fan knows this. To most, Richards remains the wild rock god, the hopeless drug addict, the take-no-prisoners pirate, the improbably-alive pre-aged monument to degeneracy, both loved and mocked for it. True, he is all of those things, but to me that is not the core of who he is. When Keith Richards first came into my young consciousness, he looked like this:

Kinda dorky in retrospect, huh? In that clip, you could still see in Richards some of the uncool misfit, the kid who threw himself into all those early rock n’ roll and R&B records and never had a chance with the girls, the regular guy, the common-sense bloke, someone you wouldn’t know was cool until you got to know him. That guy wasn’t sporting a skull ring…although he did get busted for the decidedly-dorky crime of public urination. For whatever fame and money and the times did to his head – and it surely did a great deal – I feel like Richards has fought hard to keep that kid with him. It may be the most important thing that kept him alive, in fact; something that grounded him just enough so that he never completely stepped over the edge. Look at the video again, and focus on Brian Jones. There is a difference.

However, pretty smart and fairly grounded didn't prevent Richards from going full-on rock star. Along the way, he made many deeply selfish and destructive decisions that were painful for his family, friends, and bandmates. The long chill between Richards and Jagger cannot have been only caused by Jagger’s total suck-up to the jet-set and shallow pursuits; for Jagger to trust a man whose best friend is always going to be some kind of mind-altering substance is a depressing and ill-advised pursuit. I like Keith Richards, and I like Mick Jagger, but I doubt I’d like either of them if I had to deal with them past a few beers and some bar stories. There is little chance of that, so instead I will enjoy Richards’ considerable wit and wisdom in his book, and appreciate that he lived long enough to write it. I’ll skim over some of the debauchery because, really, I’ve heard it before. But Richards’ has a real skill in coming up with some insights that are damn interesting and worthwhile, and those are what I am looking forward to mining in the pages.

The cover photograph that was chosen for the book is both contrived to feed his legend and perhaps reveal something of his character as well: that skull ring, illuminated by the fire of the lighter held like a revolver, the defiant cigarette…black-and-white, out-of-focus, hand hiding half his face, yet he's staring you right in the eye.


I think about writing a lot, but probably not in the ways you might assume. I’m no craftster – I don’t sit here everyday and ponder over elegant word choices or edgy structure or whether or not what I may write each day will please someone or lead to something else. I don’t have the time nor the patience for much honing; if I take too long with a piece, the day will slip by and I will have made nothing. What I do think about with writing is finding things every day that compel me to feel something, something which provokes an emotion or something I want to translate from the visual into the verbal. How the end product settles is often a complete surprise to me, even as I am typing down what is coming out as quickly as I can.

There seem to be a lot of unhappy, unfulfilled, struggling writers in the world, wrestling with their first novels, trying for years to flog screenplays, becoming depressed after learning their books were leading in store returns for the month. There are so, so many writers – why is it so many of them don’t enjoy writing? As a Happy Writer, maybe I can deconstruct this somewhat, as I sit typing on my laptop in my car waiting for my kid to finish a class. Time waits for no one, I’ve heard.

Are You Unhappy Anyway?

This seems to be the lot of a great deal of creative sorts, whether  we are talking about writers, musicians, artists, dancers, etc. Perhaps those drawn to creative pursuits need that particular way to vent emotion, because art can express more of the human spirit than what can be ever be said. However, I absolutely do not buy that one must be a miserable bastard to create art. Strong negative emotions are definite prompts for expression, yes; I sure love a good fiery rant or a thrashing guitar spew myself. The problem with having problems is that you spend too much time with yourself and your worries, and not enough with the outside world and all the things you need to be open to in order to be the best writer you can be. Depression dampens the spirit and the mind; your creative output will likely be very one-sided and very slow until you resolve to work on the issues that are bumming you out.

What Are You Trying To Get From Writing?

I think the answer is usually the same here: a decent living, and attention. Writers want their stories, fact or fiction, technical or flowery, to be heard and acknowledged and to not have to be sidelined doing other paid work that they don’t like as much. Writers often very much want to be great. Not good – great, one of the greatest that ever lived, quoted five hundred years into the future, with college courses devoted to your career. Not to be a downer, but I could haul out the ol’ bell curve chart and remind everyone that greatness + acclaim  + money is way way way way way over to the right, and the chart for writers (or any artists) would be skewed to have a pretty sizable bulge over to the left side. I’m not going to tell anyone not to try for the brass ring (well, OK, that’s not really true, but I digress), but I will tell you that you now writers have never had more competition for fewer resources. There are far more reliable ways of making money and getting someone to look at you, like becoming a hooker. I’m not suggesting that, however.  I think it is always best to be realistic; if you really want to write, please do and do not stop, but it is extremely rare to make a living at it. You might be a whole lot happier coming to terms with that.

Who Are You?

As stated, there are so, so many writers. There are hacks, there are the jaw-droppingly gifted, and most fall somewhere in-between (bell curve, again…love that psych degree). There are a whole lot of very good writers in any genre that you can think of. There are far fewer that have a unique voice. These are the people who have such a way with words that you know their style immediately, and can spot when someone copies them, too. This is the real brass ring. You are not going to develop your own voice in a prestigious and costly writer’s program – those are designed to teach you to write like those who have come before you, and like the particular professor that’s grading you. No one can teach you how to be you, and how to get that to the page. You can never get there unless you are willing to be honest, and to dig deep into the emotions and ideas that will resonate with your readers. You have to know who you are and what you think and believe, and this doesn’t just happen – it takes real reflection and sifting and sorting, and is often not that pleasant a process. You have to have a good range of experience, and an imagination that can take you far past that. Your readers will let you know when you are getting close to the brass ring, and that is something you can be very happy about.

Do You Need To Stop Writing?

It’s possible. If you have been doing battle with a piece of writing work for a long time, you feel guilty that you haven’t done more with it, it doesn’t “feel” right, and when you open it up on your computer, you let out a massive sigh, consider bailing. It may be the wrong thing for you to be working on, or it may be the wrong time. If you don’t love it, work on something you do love. It’s OK to bury that word baby sometimes. Also, staring at a computer screen willing yourself to write is never going to make you a better writer; it just makes you someone who reluctantly typed on command. Shut that thing down and do the things that will make you a better observer, for that is what the best writers are: the reporters of the details that make the mind and heart sing with recognition and connection. Listen to conversations in a coffee shop. Train yourself to see differently by actively doing other kinds of art, like photography or painting. Look at a stranger’s face to find what is interesting about it. Hear all the sounds around you that you normally ignore. Then don’t put them down on paper until your description of them feels just right to you. Stock phrases and canned emotions and tepid detail will make you feel like a phony, even if you get paid a six-figure advance for them. Readers look to you to say the things they can’t. Be that guy.

My time is up. But I’ll be back tomorrow with…well, I have no idea whatsoever.  Man, I love that.

Write on.


People Like Lists, but I think they like Internet Tests even more. "What Kind Of Bear Are You?" or "Find Out If Your A Genious" or "What Would Your Baby's Name Be In Space," if you can think of a topic and slam together some questions, you've got a popular internet test that may or may not have some basis in useful reality. Furthermore, Wasting Precious Time On The Internet is now one of our most-cherished human values. I believe it is now part of a standard benefits packet in almost any workplace.

So I exercised my considerable freedom today, and took "The Political Compass" quiz. From their site:

The old one-dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left', established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape. For example, who are the 'conservatives' in today's Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher ?
On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It's not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can't explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as 'right-wingers', yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.
That's about as much as we should tell you for now. After you've responded to the following propositions during the next 3-5 minutes, all will be explained. In each instance, you're asked to choose the response that best describes your feeling: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree or Strongly Agree. At the end of the test, you'll be given the compass, with your own special position on it.
I generally consider myself a political eclectic. I have strong liberal/progressive tendencies, but since I am not all that into blind trust or being led by a party line, I take the time to consider issues carefully and make up my own damn mind. I'm not a hippie, but I'm not Stalin either. At least I don't think so. Let's see how the test came out for me.

To put this in perspective, some charts of Stalin n' Friends.

I gotta say -- I'm pretty pleased to be hanging out there with my Twitter/Facebook pal The Dalai Lama, and good ol' Gandhi, and relieved that I seem to be separated from Hitler, Thatcher, and Dubya quite a few little chart points away. Those guys are all a bit pushy for my tastes. No, I prefer my neighbors there, because I think that if I were to be at a party with Gandhi and The D.L., we'd probably be all chill, tell some good funny stories, and share a really, really kickass meal. With Hitler, there's always the chance of getting gassed for dessert. F that guy.

So, what does this mean? I think I can break it down to two essential concepts about human nature. Why I think I can do that is because I'm full of coffee and the kids are watching Sponge Bob. Anyway, here we are:


The Liberal Thinks...that all people are generally good. Anne Frank thought this, and experienced both proof and disconfirmation of her theory. I am not sure if this would have made her a political moderate if she had lived. The liberal is a humanist, and believes that the the social good lies in the respect and nurturing of the individual, and that there is no higher priority than the intertwining of government and workers to provide a decent and workable life for all. The liberal gives the individual the benefit of the doubt, even if there are substantial cultural or class differences. "Do the right thing" means the Golden Rule.

The Conservative Thinks...that "MY" people are good. They distrust other groups and individuals who do not hold very similar values; they are the "gated community" as opposed to the "takes a village." The conservative believes that people must be directed by an authority source to remain good. They believe that good people should look only to themselves and their families for assistance when in need, and not the government or social institutions or neighbors; to ask or expect anything from an outside source is shameful. Good people work hard, and suffer in silence.


The Liberal Thinks...when you give businesses too much money and too much power, they will abuse it. The liberal also thinks that the Conservative is hateful, and hateful is bad. They believe that people who do not give enough are bad.

The Conservative Thinks...all the rest of y'all are bad. They believe people are generally going to do bad things unless prevented by a vengeful God and threat of eternal damnation, the National Guard, and shotguns. They think that Liberals are suckers for bad people, and that businesses support communities with trickle-down dollars. They think that people just take, take, take, and that is bad, bad, bad.

Short Takes: The Authoritarian way or the highway; The Libertarian Thinks...When in doubt I whip it out, I got me a rock 'n' roll band, it's a free-for-all!

Me? I think most people are good, but also that most people are corruptible. I think there is no reason to have a poorly-educated, poorly-fed, under-housed, and unhealthy population in one of the richest countries in the world. I think if anything gets too big it goes to shit. I think if you are a serial predator against kids, you cannot be rehabilitated and I would rather see you off the planet than pay for your continued breathing. I think we could all do with a little less to help make things better for everyone. I think there are crappy people and good people and dumb people and smart people and lazy asses and hard workers from every possible political stance, class, race, and culture.

Mostly though, I think that Sponge Bob is now over and it's time to fix dinner.


Can't. Stop. Laughing. Genius video take on the legal profession! Thanks, David; you rule, even if you aren't a judge. Yet.


Well, I definitely can't pick him up anymore. He's taller than me, stronger than me, and way way way more hairy. I can't carry him in a front pack or a backpack or in a baby carseat that bangs heavily against my leg. I can't push smelly pureed green beans into his mouth with a tiny spoon, and if he still wore a diaper, it would be a real nightmare to change now.

Today, nineteen years ago on a similarly sunny and crisp fall day, my body completely exploded and then someone said, "Congratulations! It's a boy!" and I made some kind of gurgling howling sound that I could not possibly replicate now without simultaneously having my legs chopped off and Oprah at my front door. Today, CouchTeen enters his last teen year, heading towards CouchMan status. It is one of those surreal things that I still haven't really quite processed. One day, you are you, and then you have this OTHER HUMAN BEING LIVING IN YOU, and then you DON'T but they hang out with you a long time and look and sound sort of like you but are definitely not you. I'm not even kidding -- in like three days time they go from helpless bald kitten to running preschooler to Pokemon-card wielding grade schooler to a child that starts to look like the adult that you couldn't really even see in that baby's face, but tried to see anyway, and then...holy crap, they are that adult. It's all gone too fast for me. I haven't had enough time just to look at him. Can you ever?

But that would be selfish. My job is to push him out, first literally and then figuratively, from the safe and supported into the unknown. It kind of sucks at times, doing the things you have to do. My role as his Lioness Protector comes to mean different things over the years. No one can really tell you that when you first become a parent. You're just trying to keep them healthy and make them smile by making silly sounds, over and over. Well, to be fair, I still do that and he still seems to like it.

Happy Birthday, CouchTeen! Now get off my lawn, sweetie pie.


  1. Don’t type while eating a peanut butter sandwich. Excuse me a moment.
  2. OK. Where were we?
  3. How To Have a Smart Baby: Be smart yourself, breed with another smart person, and don’t talk to your baby like it’s a neurotic dense Chihuahua in a diaper.
  4. How To Drive Any Kind Of Vehicle: Don’t make any sudden moves, unless you might die if you don’t; pay attention.
  5. How To Have A Beautiful Garden: Hire a gardener.
  6. How To Look Good In A Swimsuit For Women: Buy something that doesn’t make your fat push out around the spandex, or hang so loosely it looks like a sad condom. Look for breast support, containment, and enhancement. Don’t wear a bikini unless perfect.
  7. How To Look Good In A Swimsuit For Men: Not too short and tight because no one needs to know, not too long and baggy because you look like Beach Gangsta. Avoid gut spillage over the waistband and ass-crack looseness.
  8. How To Stop A Case Of The Giggles At A Funeral: Quietly step over to a candle in the church and burn your hand with it until nothing is funny anymore.
  9. How To Stop Squirrels From Stealing All The Food From Your Birdfeeder: Shoot them.
  10. What To Wear To A Party Where You Know No One: An “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt.
  11. How To Buy A Car: Go to a U.S. Mint and look at what $40,000 really looks like. Then go to the dealership with the bottom-line figure you want to pay. Sit in the dealership office and text, file your nails, and fart until the manager essentially pays you to take the car and get out.
  12. How To Put Absolutely Everything In Perspective: Accept that all people, including you, are just a bunch of meatbags with thoughts. When the meatbag is used up, the thoughts stop. More meatbags with thoughts are born, more decay. Try to be a happy meatbag while you are cognizant of being a meatbag.
  13. Keep In Mind: If you own an airhorn or a gun, you are going to be compelled to use them at some point.
  14. The Vast Power Of The Smile: Can make people love you, or chill them to the bone. Or both.
  15. How Not To Clean The House: Sit and write for your blog.


I was thinking today in the shower (a good place for thinking, as long as the hot water holds out) that I must have at least a hunnerd-fitty bucks of hair products sitting in there. It's outrageous, I know. I am such a sucker. What I expect to get out of my $20 bottle of shampoo is clearly more than to rid my hair of accumulating dirt and oils. I think I still want to be a Breck Girl -- she of the legendary lustrous locks in the advertisements from my childhood.

An artist by the curious moniker of Ralph William Williams created all those lovely portraits on the back cover of so many of the magazines of the time. The girls were all so perfectly lovely with perfectly lovely hair, with kind of heavenly pinky-peachy-golden glow that drew you to the advertising. Could a shampoo really deliver such beauty? I was pretty sure the answer was yes. You might recognize a few famous faces here.


Oh, how I wanted that bright blonde flipped hair in the commercial! Shampoo, I concluded, might be MAGIC.

But what was in the shower back then for me? Johnson's BABY Shampoo! This would not do. I told my mother that it was just way too embarrassing at my advanced age of probably around six that I should be using any product that said BABY on it. And honestly, it was kind of a cruddy shampoo -- gentle, yes, but kind of gummy and dulling too. I WANT BRECK! I WANT BRECK! I she got a bottle of Breck. I was sure the lovely amber-hued Breck would, in one washing, turn me into one of those irresistible creatures. Absolutely SURE.

I joyfully washed my hair, making a giant soapy coiffure like I thought I should, then rinsed and finished up my bath. I asked my mom to specially brush and dry it, and I glowed beatifically even through the irritation of tangle-comb-out and the evil heat of the ancient hairdryer. When she was done, I looked in the mirror. My hair was lovely, as children's hair always is, shiny and perfectly-highlighted by the sun. Hmm, I went. It's not really blonde or all that full, sure, but maybe just the Breck essence upon me would be enough to pass. I told no one that I was a Breck Girl; I just held myself like I thought one would be like. I am guessing that I looked like a pompous kitten with blown-out hair and a missing front tooth.

Eventually the bottle of Breck ran out and -- HORROR! -- my mom said it was too expensive to keep buying. NOOOOOOO! Well, maybe some other shampoo would be almost as good, huh? I tried my dad's Prell...once. It was so harsh that I might as well have washed my hair with laundry detergent. It got into my eyes and stung, and I later asked my dad how he could use such a horrible product. He looked at me like I was from Mars. I wasn't crazy -- the company reformulated it a couple years later. SEE? SEE DAD? NOW HER HAIR IS SOFT LIKE A KITTEN!

And thus I went into the '70s, growing my hair quite long, still sure that the right shampoo would make my hair perfect. The advertisers were waiting for me. The original Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo really did smell like fresh cut grass and a smellicious garden, but I didn't really want to be a naked hippie so much.

I tried "Ph-Balanced..."


Anti- "The Greasies..."

...and on and on and on, even including "Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific," which actually did make your hair smell really good for a long time, but wasn't all that great of a product otherwise. The ad is particularly amusing in Spanish.

And now, I think, as I wait patiently for an "intensive hydrating conditioning mask" to soak into my hair as my shower water starts to threaten a chill, I'm still trying to find the Breck Girl in me, all these years later. Logically, I've known for at least 25 years that my hair is simply not Breck Girl standard, and no amount of money nor expensive salon visits can change that. So why do I bother with all this stuff? Why? Why don't I just buy a gallon of Suave and be done with it?

Because every so often the Hair Gods align, and I think "Gee, My Hair Looks Terrific," reinforcing the Breck Girl hopes once more. Perhaps there is a tiny and momentary little piece of that serene feminine confidence that Ralph William Williams captured (or conjured) that comes out. Not seen by anyone else, mind you; just felt by me, which was always the point of the ads to begin with.


HA 37

Unless Ellie has learned to read, the placement of the book there is a punny coincidence.

I love Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I've been giggling all day at the broken string here at 1:50, and the distant " HAAA HA!" at 1:52.

(MissEight has been making Halloween decorations all day.)

MissEight: (randomly) I'M THE QUEEN OF CANDY!

Me: You hardly ever eat candy.

MissEight: Stop ruining my evil ideas.


A recent blog post from a very well-known and very successful Chicago-based rock photographer has caught my attention. Paul Natkin is complaining about people taking photographs at shows. This is a subject where I too have some very definite opinions, and perhaps some valuable perspective to offer as someone who has shot concerts on both sides of the photo pit.

I’ve actually met Paul Natkin. By “met,” I mean that I’ve been in the same photo pit as Paul Natkin a couple times where he gave me the stinkeye for absolutely no reason I could discern other than that I was there. Yet, this was a very long time ago, no hard feelings bro, and what I discuss now has nothing directly to do with that, although the attitude Mr. Natkin sports now seems to be similar to what I felt 30 years ago.  I will take on his “Everybody has a camera!” posted on September 26th, 2010 point-by-point.

“We, professional photographers, are continually restricted in what we can shoot. It seems that if we shoot more than the little bit that we are allowed to, the world will end!”

I understand well what Natkin is saying here. When he began shooting rock shows in the ‘70s, like I did, you could walk into any venue with whatever camera gear you had and shoot to your heart’s content, pro or amateur. The funny thing is, not many people did. Carrying around clunky big SLR cameras with multiple lenses and having to change film rolls throughout a show was a drag, but that’s what you needed to do if you wanted decent shots. Kodak Instamatics and Polaroids wouldn’t cut it at all. So most people came to shows then with a five-dollar ticket, a lighter to hold up for encores, and maybe some pot to make the lighter do double-duty. At the first show I brought a “real” camera to, there was only one other person with a SLR that I saw – the guy working for the Milwaukee Journal.

But all that changed. As rock n’ roll became more and more of a really big business, everything tightened up, and everything that could be controlled and monetized, was. Artists and management and record companies began restricting photography access to only the top established concert photo pros like Natkin and local photojournalists/reviewers. If you, regular Joe or Joette, brought a camera into a show, you were told to take it right back to your car or it would be confiscated, and they meant it. Then after that, the pros were restricted to generally only the first two or three songs of the act’s set, then hustled away from the pit, done for the night. These restrictions are generally still the norm for the pros, and it’s perhaps the main reason I soured on taking concert photos for a long time.

Can you get good shots in the first three songs? Of course you can. It’s a lot of pressure, but with experience and determination and a bit of good luck, photogs do it all the time. However, it is rare that the very best shots of the night will ever be from those first three songs, and that is the bummer part of it. Artist nerves are always high at the start of any show, and often the expressions, the actions, and even the lighting will just not be as good as they will be later on as everyone relaxes and the band and the audience start to interact. It’s a chemistry thing, unique every time, and that is why if I am shooting a show, I want to shoot until Elvis has left the building. I know that photo restrictions will prevent me from doing the best job I can do of capturing the artist and the event.  I wish more artists would take a minute to understand that POV. Some do, and do not limit photography. I show my gratitude there by not being an ass when taking pictures. It’s not my right or intent to ever inconvenience anyone else who also paid to see the show, so I am always hyper-aware of containing what I do to my personal space. If I could be invisible, I would be.

“Meanwhile, everyone that pays to get in to the show has a camera! And they seem to use them throughout the show. It seems that the main byproduct of buying a ticket and going to the show is to have a picture of the band on one’s cell phone camera to take to work the next day and show to the world.”

Welcome to the new digital reality, Mr. Natkin! You are absolutely right: everyone does have a camera, whether it’s a crappy cell phone or a 14-megapixel prosumer point n’ shoot with full manual control. And yes, because they have them, they want to use them. Whether or not the images they capture are any “good” in anyone’s estimation is not the point.

“Recently, I photographed Iggy Pop. Halfway through the show, he invited audience members to jump on stage with him and dance. That should have been enough- except for one guy, who had to take a self portrait with Iggy!”

Now that’s a bold move, but I bet it made a lot of people laugh. Moreover, it was spontaneous and stupid and fun and bold, much like Mr. Pop and his wonderful music. I’m sure it took no more than a few seconds of anyone’s time, hmm? If Iggy were pissed off, I think he would’ve had no particular problem booting Mr. Self-Portrait right off the stage and back into the crowd. Why did it bother you so much? There’s ruder drunk folks without a camera in any rock concert audience.

“At a recent Dave Matthews concert, I turned around during the show and saw this scene…” (ed. Natkin’s photo of many DMB fans with cell phones and point n’ shoot cameras up in the air is shown…which I’m not going to embed here but you can look at it on his site, and please do.) “Does anyone just go to a show to see and hear the band? Does everyone in America have a camera? And finally, why is it OK for 5000 people to take bad photos at a show, and not OK for 10 people to take good pictures?”

The blue-white glow from a hundred little digital screens held up from the crowd is now part of modern-day concertgoing. I don’t earn my living as a photographer and don’t have to worry about the little digital screens and changing trends in media and the music business cutting into my ability to earn a living, so I don’t have any bitter feelings towards this at all, but I wouldn’t anyway. Should only approved, reliable, slick musicians be allowed onstage? If that were the case, maybe Iggy Pop wouldn’t be around, eh?

Don’t you see it? Look at the faces of the fans taking their “bad” pictures! They are seeing, they are hearing…and they are HAPPY. So here’s where I am going to stand up for every idiot waving his iPhone in the air, yelling and singing along, taking a band photo that will be nothing but a blurry mess, and here is the point: it may be a lousy photograph, but it’s HIS photograph. It’s HIS moment in time, from his perspective and not yours, and not mine. What it means to HIM to have that photograph in his possession isn’t up to you or me to assess, but it’s pretty likely that whether it’s technically lousy or pretty damn good, he’ll like it more than a full set of perfect pictures from the pro taking shots 10 feet away from him. It is his way of interacting with the musicians past lighting his lighter and going, “WOOO! WOOOO! ALRIGHT!”

And you never know…maybe…if that shot was pretty damn good, that person might think, heyyyyyyy, maybe I can, like, really DO this and he takes the time and makes the effort to buy better equipment and learn about photography, and concert photography becomes a great source of pleasure for him and maybe a lot of other people might enjoy his work, too. I’m glad to imagine that possibility, and I hope that the Journal photographer who looked back at me that night when I was 16 years old, when I was all fumbly and fresh-faced and so excited to be there with my rented SLR, was generous enough to imagine the same.

Ray Davies, Uihlein Hall, Performing Arts Center, Milwaukee, WI., June 12, 1978