As we see out 2010, let us be thankful that we are none of these people or the people who had to deal with them. WOO HOO! Police Blotter Time! Happy 2011, everyone!


Order violation: A Kirkland woman reported that her ex-husband had given their five-year-old son a dead turkey head. The woman said that the turkey head was intended for her and her boyfriend. The woman also reported that the husband had violated several restraining orders. Police attempted to contact the 46-year-old man and could not. The woman said that she is afraid for the safety of her son. The ex-husband was eventually contacted and arrested.


Assault: A 44-year-old Redmond man was arrested for assault after he reached down the pants of a 18-year-old female victim and pulled out her underwear. The suspect was a stranger to the victim.


Mental: A Kirkland woman wanted to report the death of several animals that she had found on her property. The woman then started rambling about the coyote that probably killed the animals. It appeared that the woman might be suffering from other issues. She recently went through a divorce. She was provided with some resources that could help with her situation.

Reckless: Men with beards were seen driving recklessly on Highway 2 East.

Breaking and Entering: A Hungry Horse resident claimed that while her 10-year-old son was home alone, three teenage girls broke in and smoked cigarettes.

Suspicious: A woman made a late night report regarding her date with a “creepy” guy who managed to put down an entire “cold pack” of Mountain Dew that night.

Abuse: A Whitefish resident called in to discuss an incident that occurred 25 years ago where, reportedly, all the boys in a church were put in a kennel during the service.

Mental: A man on Highway 35 called in concerned that his phone had been tapped and that “mechanical dogs” may be watching him.

Nuisance: A resident of an apartment on Highway 35 reported that the untagged, rotting dead deer “sitting up at a table” near the door is starting to stink.

Mental: A man wearing all black and standing in the middle of Highway 35 was pronounced a road hazard.

Animal Control: Someone from Columbia Falls claimed they saw a Shetland pony “chewing” on a llama that was possibly dead. The llama, however, was not dead, but alive and playing with the pony when the animal warden arrived.

Public Urination: A Columbia Falls resident complained that their dad regularly urinates on the property.


Harassment: A Mercer Island man, 28, who plays basketball in a Stroum JCC league was harassed after a game by an angry opponent who made threats to injure, kill and start a fight.


Car prowl: A new pair of boots was stolen out of a car at a residence in the 4400 block of Ferncroft Road sometime overnight. An unknown suspect broke the rear passenger door window of the vehicle, a BMW. The boots were black leather, over-the-knee.


Theft: Items were stolen from Finders on S.E. 27th Street during open business hours on Dec. 4. The shop owner reported the theft at 10:03 a.m. Stolen items included a "Travel in Italy" book, a royal blue knitted beret, a necklace with gold links and pearls, and a large black Baggallini purse. There are no suspects in the case.


Burglary, Vandalism: On Dec. 13, sometime between 3 and 7 p.m. a house on the 8000 block of 45th Ave SW was burglarized. The unknown suspect(s) broke down two south-facing doors to gain entrance and stole $50 in silver dollars and a safety deposit key from the victim’s bedroom. The suspect(s), unable to find more loot, wrote, “You need more (expletive) to steal,” on the wall of a different bedroom.


Theft: Police cited Nathaniel Blake, 50, of Milwaukee, for theft after he stole an aluminum bakery cabinet from behind Sentry, 3255 Golf Road, on Dec. 11.


Vandalism: Someone damaged the door handle at the back of What Comes Around Goes Around, W230 S8725 Clark St., during the evening hours of Oct. 15.


Drunk, Disorderly: A woman on Van Zandt Drive reported that an unidentifiable intoxicated man with a dog was rummaging around her car, banging on her door, cussing and threatening to kill her. When deputies arrived, she realized the man was her boyfriend. Deputies gave the man a ride home.

Drunk: An intoxicated Bigfork man was arrested after abusing household furniture and fighting with his brother.


Assault: A woman near West Glacier claimed that after she yelled at her neighbor to get off her property, he tried to run her over with his snow blower.


Suspicious: A Ridgewood Drive woman reported that her ex-boyfriend called and claimed he would be driving his vehicle through her house in 10 minutes. She also said he has a history of ramming vehicles through the homes of his exes.

And finally…


Burglary: A woman returned home from work to find her living room window open. She entered the house and noticed blood on the floor. The blood trail led her to the kitchen and then to the fridge to discover that the burglar had stolen five pounds of beef. Officers were unable to find usable prints at the scene and there is no suspect in the case.


Going for a rock n’ roll spin on the common virus, I decided to deal with almost-post-illness fatigue today by finishing up Keith Richards’ autobiography that I started yesterday. Read, nap; nap, read; shower, nap, read, eat something, write up what I thought about Life.

First off, a standing ovation to James Fox, the writer who had the tenacity and talent to take hours of taped interviews he did for this book with Richards over a period of five years into a very readable and entertaining overview of the Rolling Stone’s life. The style of the writing remains solidly true to Richards’ cadence and personality, not diluted at all by the necessary organization and added clarifying details. It easily could have been a book filled with one “war hero” story after another, focusing too much on the prurient, violent, or vague memory. Instead the timeline of Richards’ life flows well, the stories are pinned down by places and dates and inset commentary from others who were also there. It helps to sort out some of the material that keeps coming up, like all those pesky hotel/home fires and drug busts.

You might find it unexpected that the most interesting parts of the book occur before and after Richards’ very long struggle with hard drugs. I know there are readers out there who will be looking for the dirt and misery that arose from Richards’ legendary addiction years, and there’s plenty of it. But unless you are another junkie, junkie stories get old fast. For years, the real focus of his life was not music, money, friends, family – it was how to score the next fix and the glorious, meticulous routines that go along with any kind of habit. Richards’ still speaks of those days in incredible detail, the passion and longing for the purest, greatest high still there, although he has been off hard drugs for many years now. He repeatedly says he would never, ever recommend heroin to anyone and I believe he is sincere…but the reverent tone he has in discussing the merits of pharmaceutical-grade, top-shelf drugs unfortunately could lead someone to think otherwise. There is quite a list as the story goes along of Richards’ friends who don’t survive, much less end up thriving as he did. They stack up, quietly.

And those aren’t the saddest figures in the book, because in the end junkies off themselves by their poor choices. The ones you feel for are Richards’ three children by model/actress/scenester/fellow addict Anita Pallenberg, subjected to what was a pretty appalling lifestyle. After son Tara died of SIDS at two months of age, daughter Angela was given up to Keith’s mother Doris to raise permanently, but oldest son Marlon was retained, shuttled from decrepit place to decrepit place. It makes the reader cringe to read Richards’ recount of having the 7-year-old boy with him on tour, surrounded by drugs and syringes, handguns, junkies, freaks, gangsters, you name it, responsible for “waking Dad up” to go onstage. Later, the child witnesses the suicide of his mother’s 17-year-old lover by Russian roulette. These are the hardest things to take in the book, and one wishes Richards’ would have been able to own up to it more here. Marlon and Angela Richards seem to have a good adult relationship with their parents, with Marlon contributing to his father’s book. Keith’s two other children with his wife Patti Hansen, Theodora and Alexandra, were brought up with far less drama.

There’s been much press surrounding his many less-than-flattering comments towards Mick Jagger in the book, but for any Stones fan, well, it’s old news, that. They’ve been at each other for a long time now, and the pokes that Richards makes towards his bandmate seem to arise primarily from the hurt that he lost his closest friend to fame-fueled narcissism. I imagine, if asked and answered honestly, Jagger has the same feeling of loss and betrayal about Richards, his trust destroyed over and over by the fallout from Richards’ drug use. But what might be kind of worse? The almost-complete indifference Richards shows towards former Stones bassist Bill Wyman. He is barely mentioned at all.

In the end, what really makes the book isn’t the sad or dramatic or the pissy jabs: it is the unabashed love and enthusiasm Richards’ has for music, for a sound that sets him on fire. It is fascinating to read about his early years in post-War Britain, a poor boy saved by rock n’ roll indeed, an only child with a large and quirky extended family. Once he got his hands on a guitar and Chuck Berry records, he was gone, daddy, gone. You can feel his drive and excitement to learn how a particular guitar sound is made, how that one Everly Brothers lick went, and it remains just as strong in him today, which is terribly endearing. Richards’ is also funny and bright; a reader and observer of the world, interested in so many things. He is tough, but not jaded nor bitter; kind-hearted enough to rescue mangy cats and dogs from Russia and Jamaica and bring them home for good. He’s a pirate, but includes his own recipe for bangers n’ mash in the book. Ya gotta love the guy, really. He’s one-of-a-kind.

Read, nap; nap, read; shower, nap, read, eat something, write up what I thought about Life. “Great book. Read it.” Post. Nap.


Today a double-barreled assault on my immune system -- a stomach bug + the family hacking cough -- caused me to take to my boudoir for most of the day in inelegant repose. Not in the mood for the blare of the television nor for the energy of the radio, in-between snorts and gurgles I recalled that Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones had been hanging out quietly in my bedroom for awhile now, and that I really should attend to him. So we snuggled up all warm and quiet.

I suspect that you suspect that I am full of crap (well, I'm not now, but we won't explore that further). Of course, my Richards is but a read. I had previously started in on his new autobiography, Life, and was enjoying it quite a bit. But my own Life intervened -- there are never enough hours to any day. Today, my confinement made for a good opportunity to get back to the book. The guy is an interesting cat, man.

I'm about halfway through it now, and will go back to it after this post. Three small observations I wanted to share from it follow.

1. A quote from Keith, page 172, regarding the first Jagger/Richards-penned Stones hit, "The Last Time": "The song has the first recognizable Stones riff or guitar figure on it; the chorus is from the Staple Singers' version, "This May Be The Last Time." BINGO! Thanks, mate.

2. The book is written in a very straightforward, honest, and conversational way -- like you were hearing Richards' tales across a bar, sharing a few beers. It's very accessible and enjoyable. He changes that up only once, to give an Impressionist feeling to a fading memory from 1963. As the Rolling Stones were very rapidly rising in popularity in England, Richards can't quite believe that their serious and recently-destitute blues-purist band now has all these crazy female teenybopper fans. There is something poetic and charming about this little vignette between the young guitar player inside and three soaked fans outside:
"The sky is sullen. It's a day OFF! Suddenly the storm breaks viciously! Outside I see three die-hard fans. Their bouffants are succumbing to nature's forces. But they stay! What can a poor boy do? 'Get in here, dopes.' My tiny cubicle is filled with three drowned brats. They steam, trembling. They drench my room. The hairdos are done. They are trembling from the storm and from suddenly being in their (or one of their) idol's room. Confusion reigns. They don't know whether to squat or go blind. I'm equally confused. It's one thing to play on stage to them, it's another to be face-to-face. Towels become an important issue, as does the john. They make a poor attempt to resurrect themselves. It's all nerves and tension. I get them some coffee laced with a little bourbon, but sex is not even in the air. We sit and talk and laugh until the sky clears. I get them a cab. We part as friends."
3. A phrase that Richards repeats frequently in regards to the early days of the band and how everything changed is, "It all happened so fast." Good epitaph, really.


I’m having a bit of a crisis of conscience. Maybe if I write about it I can sort it out. Maybe you can help me sort it out. All I know is that it keeps nagging at me, which means I have to deal with it.

I have something I very much want to write about. It would not be a simple thing to do, just by the nature of the topic and time constraints. I feel like I could do a good job with it, and that it would be a unique piece and perhaps of some critical worth to read. To make the writing as good as it can be, I have to be honest. And if I am honest, some of the content might offend, hurt, or anger some people who read it, some my friends, people who have been kind to me. And therein lies my crisis.

Normally, I don’t worry too much about troubling others with my blog spew – it’s ain’t the New York Times, after all. I have opinions, so do you and you and you, and we are all entitled to have them. It’s good to have an opinion, good to take a stance, good to be passionate about things. (And really, I would be honored to trouble Phil Spector or Jan Brewer or Dina Lohan.) But this is more complicated. What I want to write about has endless shades of grey, as well as blackest black and purest white. I have a personal connection to the material, and perspective from both close up and far, far back. And when I have this sort of fire to write about something, it usually turns out to be a good thing, and at the very least, settles something in my mind. It is absolutely not my intent or interest to upset anyone with this particular piece.

Nothing I write will change anything – that isn’t the point. So what is the point? Is it worth doing?

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

I have lots of nice things to say, and I would say them. But nothing that is truly intriguing is just sweetness and light, or at least not to me. I like the complications and the strangeness, the dark and the light, the successes and failures. It makes for a story that is compelling and real. And I haven’t seen that yet, and I want to try to tell it as best I can, in some small way.

Yet, I don’t seem to be able to do it. There’s a wall stopping me. I just don’t know if that’s an obstacle to be overcome, or a sign that I should take a different path. Bah.




A long-running battle, apparently. It began with the Beatles' mockery of Hitler and Hitlermania.

The Beatles, "We Build TANKS!"

Then a German adolescent with a cracking voice made a bad Beatles cover version in spite.

A German Kid, "Let It Be (Untuned)"

Then the Beatles played poorly at a concert in Germany:

Then some more German kids did a kind-of scary German-language cover of "Help!"

Some More German Kids, "Halt!"

Then the Beatles totally ridiculed the German language with "Geh Raus":

Then Hitler reveals that he is a major Beatles fan, and the feud was ended.


This is a story that leaves me just about speechless. 

One of the greatest street photographers of our time was a French-born woman named Vivian Maier; this I feel is true even just having seen a small sample of her work. Most of her life she was a nanny in the Chicago area, a very private individual, didn't seem to have family or friends. But she always wore a camera and always was taking pictures, it's said, although Vivian never shared her work with anyone.

If young real estate agent John Maloof had not found a box of about 30,000 of her old negatives at a storage locker foreclosure auction and purchased them, no one may ever have seen her remarkable photographs. Vivian Maier died in 2009, unaware of her discovery and worldwide appreciation. You can see more of the story in this WTTW video piece.

John Maloof has been working nearly non-stop to scan and process Maier's negatives and undeveloped rolls of film. It's a massive, overwhelming task -- one I'm sure he never expected to come across in his life. I am just stunned by the quality and tremendous talent shown in Maier's photography. All of it could very well have been tossed in a dumpster, and gone forever. Amazing.

John Maloof has a blog about Vivian's photographs and the progress being made on bringing her work to the public. A book and a documentary film are in the works, and you may help fund the efforts by contributing here at Kickstarter. I did.


My Christmas present to you today is this: a little video I made up for The Magnetic Fields' "Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree." The song, from this year's "Realism" album, has been hanging out in my head for almost a full year. It's jaunty, funny, and creepy, and I love it. I could picture a complete video for it, every shot, and I even tried to think of some possible way I could DO it. I am often overambitious.

As best I could do in a few hours of YouTube footage combing, slicing, and dicing this evening, this one at least gives a little idea of what I was thinking about, with special thanks to Sid Davis and his very amusing early '50s anti-drug film "The Terrible Truth."

Oh, Sandy. Heh.

The Magnetic Fields, "Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree"

Everything is one big Christmas tree
All got up with lights and candy
All the world is turning prettily
Everyone's awaiting Sandy
Stop mumbling and cheer up
Put down the book, pick beer up

Why sit in your dark and lonely room?
Must your every word be sincere?
Here's a vial of laughing gas perfume
See that people smile when you're near
If they don't like you screw them
Don't leave your fortune to them

Nein, vielleicht ist Allest nicht ein Traum
Ist Alles ein Albtraum? Nicht, nicht!
Alles ist ein großer Tannenbaum
Rotierend im Weltraumgeschichte
La la la la la la
La la la la la la

Everything is one big Christmas tree
All got up with lights and candy
All the world is turning prettily
Everyone's awaiting Sandy
Where can that Sandy be?...


It is my pleasure to share with you today this lovely story, beautifully produced by the New York Times. Merry Christmas.


CouchTeen brought this music video to my attention yesterday.

"Go to YouTube," he said.

"OK," I said.

He typed the title of this song into the YouTube search, then sat down next to me and we watched it together:

I looked at the screen like this:

Then I looked at CouchTeen like this:

Then CouchTeen looked at me like this:

Then I looked back at the video like this:

Then CouchTeen looked at the screen like this:

Then I looked at CouchTeen like this:

Then we both agreed to look like this:

That pretty much covers it.


My goodness. My computer tells me that I took over 10,000 images in 2010, not including the zillions I trashed. Apparently I like photography. I decided to go through my year's photos to bring you a few that I, without justification or hesitation, loved.

Some fun facts!:

-- Only two of them were taken with a DSLR, most with a couple of Canon point-n-shoots, and one with an iPhone.

-- They were taken in 4 different states.

-- None of them used flash.

-- My two front teeth have been broken off in accidents two times, although not at Christmastime and not repaired by Santa.

OK, that last one had nothing at all to do with photography, but it's seasonal.

Of course, I limited the amount of photos for this post pretty severely, because you have better things to do other than spend all day scrolling. In looking broadly at themes I seem to choose, I picked 4 categories -- Nature, Family, Other People, and Rock Stars -- and then picked my 4 favorite in each visual topic. Again, I just sort of went with my gut; some have technical merit, some are flawed, but they all made me smile. Please to enjoy.


We get some really big spiders here in Washington State. Fortunately, I don't have a spider phobia or anything. This elegant one was hanging from a massive web just outside my home office window, bustin' a move from tree to tree. When I processed the photo with an "expired film" look, he became epic.

Alexandria, Virginia is a very cool historic town just outside of Washington, D.C. This was taken at the end of a very hot day at the end of the main drag, close to the Potomac River. I like the shiny streetlamps and cars and tourist buses, the silhouetted big tree, the long perspective line, and the blue-to-orange progression of the sunset. It also was taken on my birthday. Happy birthday to me.

Speaking of's one from summer in Wisconsin. I take zero credit for this one. It just looked like that and I pushed a button on my camera. This is currently my screensaver -- another fun fact for you there.

Doesn't Mr. Santa Monica Pier Pelican look just delighted to have his picture taken? I know he must be used to tourists and their annoying ways, but I also think he was thinking about taking my head off.  Go to Malibu and chill with Goldie Hawn or something, man.


At this circus-themed deli in Madison, Wisconsin, MissEight (then Seven) was bored waiting for her food to arrive. I was, too, so I took her picture. The reflection makes it, and the post-processing with the expired film filter and then saturating the color improved it. 

At the incredible Getty Center in Los Angeles, a complete visual feast inside and out. The wind lifting my daughter's hair as she goes outside to explore the grounds made for some unexpected movement in the picture.

The composition in setting the kids off to the right gives you a prettier view of Lake Washington and the city of Seattle behind them, but they still remain the focal point. Post-processing with the expired film filter plus pushing the highlights to the max gives it the unusual color and the glow effect around them.

One of the difficulties in taking family portraits is keeping your subjects relaxed and comfortable. People generally look artificial and stiff unless drunk or something. When CouchTeen spontaneously decided to pick up his sister after our Mother's Day brunch in Bellevue, WA., all the kids' real personalities came out for a split second. That's them, and that's the best you can hope to get.


These leggy studies both came from the same event, the canceled Vampire Weekend show at Marymoor Park in Redmond, WA. As I was just sitting there waiting for the other bands to come on, the hipsters kindly provided me with two nifty compositions, one a mirror effect from a young couple and the other a pop of color in a blue (jeans) sea.

At Sully's bar in Seattle, a CU Buff fan watches the game on TV with other ex-Coloradans. Beer, football, friends...good day.

I'm pretty sure this woman walks the beach like this every day in Venice, CA. The backstory to go with this would be really something, I think...oh wait, that's a pun.


Whenever I see Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, I always end up taking pictures of Peter Hayes' hands. Catching him adjusting one of the pots on his guitar at their Seattle show was some excellent rock n' roll luck, unthinkably so with a point-n-shoot camera. Thanks, Pete! Stop biting your nails.

A Pop-Art process is perfect for a pic of Blondie's Debbie Harry, taken at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, WA. 

I cannot think of a finer treat for any photographer than a Flaming Lips concert, and I am so not kidding. Their shows are filled with such fabulous imagery; you can shoot every second and get something cool. I had so many that I liked from this Seattle show at the Paramount. This one shows bit bit of the color and craziness, even from the balcony.

This photo of Brent DeBoer from the Dandy Warhols' Showbox at the Market gig is probably my favorite picture that I took from the entire year. Good camera, good access, and very good luck, as a  strobe fired and momentarily side-lit an almost completely dark stage. The colors, action, and composition are just right.

So remember, folks: carry a camera with you in 2011! It doesn't matter so much what kind it is; you just want to be ready. Photography lets other people see through your eyes. Share that.


This is a true story, in case you might think that it was not.

I received an odd request from my 84-year-old mother the other day. She lives in a very small town, doesn’t own a computer nor wants to, but occasionally asks me to assist her by doing internet searches on some topic of interest or purchase something for her that she couldn’t. After some chit-chat, she asked me if I could find a specific book for her. Of course, I said; I had done this many times for her. What was odd this time was the book itself: a new biography on a famous alternative/funk/punk rock band. As you would guess, she doesn’t listen to the band's music nor really knows much about them. Why, I sputtered, why on earth do you want me to send you this book? She didn’t answer me right away.

“How much is it?” she asked.

I told her the price, not outrageous but not inexpensive either.

“OK. Please send it to me. Thank you.”

“But why??” I persisted. I had somewhat of an idea.

A close friend of hers, a man even older than she is and who now resides in an assisted-living facility, had phoned her to chat and wish her a Merry Christmas. My mother has known him for what must be 60 years now, and has always held him in the very highest regard: kind, sincere, intelligent, creative, a loyal friend. I knew him myself, and although it has been many years since I have seen him I have always agreed with my mom’s assessment. I have always been happy that she has had the good fortune to enjoy such a good person in her life for so long. So many are gone now; so many were never good at all.

This man was married to a fine woman for many years until her passing from Lou Gerhrig’s disease several years ago. As close friends do, my mother and her friend shared stories of their lives, their children, and then grandchildren. The man and his wife had a daughter who had a rough time of it, and ended up a destitute single mother of several children, one devastatingly handicapped. They helped her out as best they could. For many reasons, it was not easy to do so.

When his grandchildren were little, for many years my mother would send them cards with a little cash around the holidays and on their birthdays, knowing it would help. This is the kind of thing she does, and never seeks any attention or response for it. I didn’t even know that she had done it until years later after the children were grown. My mother told me the story when I brought home a copy of Vogue Magazine. One of the grandchildren, a tall, stunning young woman, was the cover model. She had done very well for herself, very far from her difficult upbringing, and there is no doubt you have seen her face many times. My mom’s friend was incredibly proud of her, and saved all her covers and ads when he could find them. The grandfather missed her terribly; she had not been in contact with him since she left home.

A few years later, he told my mom that he had heard that his granddaughter had began a romantic relationship with a member of the aforementioned rock band, sort of known as a crazy guy onstage, but also as intelligent man and an excellent musician. A short time later, the model and the musician had a baby girl with a funny name, who is now getting close to school-age. In his recent conversation with my mom, the man mentioned the new book about his maybe-grandson-in-law’s band (he doesn’t know if he and his granddaughter were ever married).

“So,” I said to my mother over the phone, “you are buying the book to send to him.”

“Yes.” My mom paused a long time, and then sighed heavily. “He was so hoping there might be a picture of his great-granddaughter in it.”

I was silent for a short time. “You know, it’s very unlikely. You still want me to get it?”

“It doesn’t matter. If there’s a chance, it’s worth it.”

My mother’s dear friend, in his 90s and who also doesn’t own a computer, has never seen a photograph of his great-granddaughter. But in the two seconds it took to Google the baby’s name, I or anyone else with a computer, can.


Here's a small mental exercise with big insight: take a moment in your mind to gather the people in your family who have died around a dinner table. You are allowed to ask or tell them one last thing. Spend no time thinking about it -- write down the first thing that pops into your head.

I'll go:

Grandma Lizzie: Your cinnamon rolls were really, really delicious.

Grandpa Guy: Did you really balance a push lawn mower on your chin, or am I crazy?

Grandma L: Did you ever think about me?

Dad: Your grandchildren are beautiful.


I played "Sister Mary Elephant" by Cheech & Chong for MissEight today. She can't stop playing it.


For those students like me who spent all of their school years waiting for the minute hand on the big round black clock on the wall to click over to the right and make it 3PM and OUT, it’s sometimes odd how school follows you around anyway. The consequences of the choices you make in your educational career, whether good, bad or solidly indifferent, are life-long. For many people, their years spent in school may total more than any single job, hobby, or marriage – it can be the one thing you’ve worked at the most. In that light, you should make the most out of such a substantial investment of your time. Doing your best at school is obviously a wise choice. But what about where you go to school?

I’ve thought about this a lot as both a student and parent of students, certainly with more intensity and worry with the latter. You want the best for your children and wish for them to have the confidence and opportunities that go along with being well-educated. I guess what I have come to understand is “the best” is much more complicated than I realized. The desired outcome, though, is a simple and universal wish: to be able to perform work that you are skilled at and enjoy and then be paid enough for that to support yourself and a family if you wish to have one. In a rough economy and rapidly-changing employment outlook, you need to be smart about educational choices more than ever.

Jacques Steinberg in this New York Times article reviews some of the recent opinions and studies regarding the value of attending an elite college. Do read it, but I will give you the frustrating mini-mini-version: it depends. Sorry. You have to look hard at individual motivation, personality, financial resources, and desired career choice to determine if trying to get into a highly-ranked/Ivy League institution is the right thing to do. Too many fuel the assumption that this is some Holy Grail, and that is not necessarily the case.

Part of the problem is the race to get to the top these days seems to begin at birth. Getting into the “best” private preschool leads to the “best” private elementary/magnet/choice schools, then secondary, blah blah blah. Does that work? It can, yes. But you can also spend an incredible amount of effort and money to hook into this idea of “best” when your child’s real “best” may be to do something other than attend a prestigious school straight out of high school. You just can’t know. Is it worth it to put children into the “be the best, get the best” pressure-cooker for their own good? Again, so much depends on the kid. Some will thrive, some will cave, and some will get the wrong message: that everything is all about prestige and money and connections. And sometimes the wrong message is the right message. Argh.

I think about my own public school education, largely a complete botch because of neglect, including my own incredible laziness. I checked out almost immediately. I didn’t know how to ask for the help I did need, and didn’t understand how important it was to make the best of what you have – these lessons came decades later. A little later on, I won a scholarship to one of the very few good private schools in the area. My dad then decided he didn’t want to drive me that far every day. I barely made it through high school, didn’t bother taking the SAT, didn’t go to college at 18, didn’t really know what had happened to me or what I was going to do with my life.

When I got very, very, very tired of feeling underpaid and dismissed, I went back to school at age 27 at a community college for a year, then transferred to a solid state school, the University of Colorado, obtaining a very nice GPA and degree that I liked, but would never end up using as a career. I didn’t even know then how to take advantage of the opportunities I had at school. Hindsight is cruel.

So…how would my life have been different had I been to elite schools as a child? There’s no way to know with certainty, of course; all I can do is make a reasoned guess based on the experiential smarts I gained over a lifetime rather than the paper smarts I was born with. Having more interesting and challenging work early on with more support would have been a much better foundation to build on. It’s not so much private vs. public– for small children, all they need are wonderful teachers who can engage them and encourage them and have the resources to be able to do so. Find them, wherever they are. But what about my personality? I think I still would have been lazy, so all that could have been kind of a waste, too. And socially at that point we were the “have nots,” so being at a pricey private school might have been awkward and inhibiting. I suspect that was the real reason my dad didn't allow me to go to the private school on scholarship money, although that problem was far more his than mine.

And looking down the road, what if I had attended Haaaavaaad or the like? Would I have been able to make something of it, or bailed at the competitiveness of it all and the daunting financial obligations? I am not sure of this, but I think I would have ended up recoiling from the heavy expectations. The best college for me would have been a more flexible and creative place, interactive and cooperative, where I would have had to pull what was uniquely best from me, rather than competently synthesize information and spit back stuff from a textbook. If this place exists without being covered in annoying hippies or smug hipsters, let me know.

To stop my rambling and summarize now:

-- There is no substitute for a truly excellent teacher. They can be found anywhere, but are rare. Worship them when you find them, because these are the people who will change your life.

-- Don’t bankrupt your future with educational debt you might have to take a lifetime to repay. Unless you have a pretty good idea that your career will be such that you will be able to take on Ivy-cost and not have to live in a shelter after, a less-expensive option might be better for you in the long-run.

-- Your internal drive, dedication, and persistence has more to do with success than any other factor, but…

-- “It’s who you know” and your perceived value having gained entrance to elite programs often provide you with the top jobs. Connections, baby…it’s a very real thing. This is most glaringly true in the legal and entertainment/arts professions. You will be judged on where you went to school forever in law, and who you know is pretty much everything in getting creative work seen and heard or working with creatives.

Being honest about who you are and what you want your life to be down the line is crucial to making the best decision regarding education, but even with that, you don’t really know until you are immersed in that school and when you are working in that career. Talk to others who now are where you’d like to be. How did they get there? What would they have done differently? What was their best decision? Look at both the well-worn paths and those less taken, clean off your mirror, take a deep breath, and go forth. The big black school clock keeps ticking away.


Oh, lookee here, fans of fine music and coffee, look what I GIFTED MYSELF, because I haven't KILLED ANYONE YET this holiday season!:

Marianne?, you say, Marianne...your coffee has "WILCO" on it.

Why yes it does, I reply.

Marianne?, you say, I thought Wilco is an American alternative country rock band based in Chicago, Illinois.

Well, yes, OK, yes, I reply, that is true, although I think that's an incomplete and possibly misleading internet description.

Mari?, you say, may we call you Mari?

No, I reply, no you may not.

I bought this fine limited-edition set because I love Wilco, I love coffee, and because I could. They are so nice that they even sent me TWO COOL FREE WILCO ITEMS too, HOO HAH!:

You may buy those cute Wilco mugs here, and you then may visit Intelligensia Coffee and cry in those mugs that you didn't get Wilcoffee like Marianne did, and that she won't let you call her Mari.


I am still, of course, in hunter-gatherer mode for Christmas. I made the tactical decision to visit TJ Maxx and Cost Plus Warehouse this Friday afternoon, knowing that both stores would be crowded and traffic jammed. I also know that the misery of this will be exponentially raised on the weekend, so I took the lesser evil. Yet still -- STILL -- my experience was somehow made EVEN WORSE by a few suburban TURDS. I will immortalize them here on the internet, which is a vent for me and an opportunity for you to relate and/or go HA HA! at me for going into a store in December at all.

The Cruelty-In-Sound A-Hole Award goes to...

TJ MAXX CORPORATE for forcing me to listen to the most godawful Christmas music there must be on the planet. Too many oboes, too many completely-unmemorable "holiday" songs just slathered in autotune and pushed through the Blandinator, and a Dean Martin Christmas song that sounded so blasé that I nearly lost consciousness while by the jeans rack.

The Family Values A-Hole Award goes to...

THE MIDDLE-AGED DAUGHTER OF A VERY OLD TINY WOMAN USING A WALKER, who stood BEHIND ME and DID NOTHING as I assisted HER MOTHER who begged for help after she knocked over a display on herself and couldn't pick it up or move her walker. Of course I helped, picked up the mess, told her it was OK, and the woman was very grateful and even reached down to pat my back gently. I had no idea the daughter was RIGHT THERE until I had finished, got up, and heard her say to her mother, flatly, "Oh. You knocked something down again?" GRRRRRR.



THE INCREDIBLY RUDE MIDDLE-AGED RICH BITCH ON HER CELLPHONE who thought that having a very intense and profanity-laden fight with someone on her Blackberry was OK to share with all the rest of us shoppers at TJ Maxx, as she strode around the store for a good 15 minutes, past grannies looking for gifts for their teen granddaughters, preschoolers in shopping carts, the cute girl in the Santa hat, and actual decent people who would at the very least take their dirty laundry to their cars in the parking lot.

When she pushed past me for like the third time, and loudly spat into her phone, "You're FUCKING with my HEAD!!" I did this:

which made several surrounding people laugh and nod their heads and feel better.

There will be no afterparty for these awards, unless you want to call Not Being In A Store At December a party, which it is, really.


Everyone and their grandma and their miniature horse and their work-related urine sample makes a year-end “best in music” list…I know, I know. Making one for myself isn’t me trying to convince you what is “best” because that is a silly conceit anyway. It’s more just having an opportunity to re-enjoy and re-think some of the albums I listened to this year. You are completely welcome to listen along. I enjoy your company, especially when you bring seasonal treats. Yum.

In looking over my 11 musical picks, I feel rather happy to note that this year I have seen nine of the bands play live this year, four of them more than once! It’s been another spectacular year for concerts, from Washington State to Washington, D.C., and seeing a lot of these songs performed in person definitely has influenced my feelings in selecting what I liked the most in new music this year. I will include videos from some of the shows I have seen if you’d like to see what I saw. Or you can just browse through all 472 posts I made so far on this site this year. Or you can clean out your coffeemaker and watch Glee. I don’t mind.

I will rank the albums in ascending favoritenessnessness, then LIKES and DISLIKES. If you ask me tomorrow, the rank might be different. But I don’t really think that’s going to happen, your asking, and I have not scheduled it anyway. Let us begin.

LIKES: Crispy low-fi jangle pop that channeled the few things I do like about the girl group era into something new; a dash of creepy kept it from being too Hello Kitty Goes Punk.

DISLIKES: Couldn’t find the fresh live – inexperienced musicianship and sour-ish attitudes buried the cool wink of the songs. Not sure if the band will have a solid second album in them.

LIKES: HUGE sound: incredibly distorted, grinding, sonic blasts of hip-hop tinged fun.

DISLIKES: Thin female vocals just so lost in the live sound. Can they write another album without it sounding like “That Hot Indie Sound of 2010?” I dunno.

LIKES: Oh, Magnetic Fields…you so strange and lovely and funny and sad. Stephin Merritt never fails to deliver the most devastatingly-intelligent lyrics around…the David Sedaris of pop.

DISLIKES: You have to be in a particular mood to listen to Realism. It’s not really for the beach, let’s say.

LIKES: Definitely for the beach. Silly, but clever songwriting going on underneath tons of low-fi reverb. I’d like to see these songs in a Monkees-style kids show. Without the pot.

DISLIKES: The strong mid-range distortion wears on my ears after awhile. Listening through an old AM-transistor radio might solve the problem.

LIKES: Large diverse group of sincere Canadians make the grand musical statement people from more hip countries wouldn’t dare to. Heart-on-sleeve, but no fools. Success is theirs without compromise.

DISLIKES: A bit grand.

LIKES: Are you kidding me? THIS IS MAVIS STAPLES! Hearing one of the truly great voices of soul as produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco is a moving experience.

DISLIKES: Are you kidding me? THIS IS MAVIS STAPLES! Like there would be anything to dislike. Get out of here.

LIKES: Strong effort from BRMC following the sublime “Baby 81.” The songs came fully alive for me in concert, with the title track and “Aya” as standouts. This trio doesn’t phone in anything, and they do “bluesgaze” better than their many imitators.

DISLIKES: Nothing on BTDT that hit me as hard as some of their previous work. It’s possible that my feelings here may be influenced by my frustration with Peter Hayes not fixing his missing tooth.

LIKES: There were just too many good songs on this album to keep it off this list. These two guys sure know how to tear up the blues without ever sounding clichéd or dusty. Very deserving of their rapidly-rising success.

DISLIKES: I sometimes long to hear the vocals with a kickass gritty female harmony paired in and playing off. HMM.

LIKES: Song after song of energetic,  engaging preps-meet-worldbeat with solid musicianship behind them. Hints of range and depth to come. Adorable, not as light as you think, but damn fun.

DISLIKES: The autotune schtick on “California English.”

LIKES: A “wow” record. Layers of atmospheric overdriven sound are made somehow delicate and sweet via bright acoustic guitar, high pure vocals, nostalgic retro pop nods. Obscure, random, weird, funny, sad lyrics play with your head. An incredibly cool combo.

DISLIKES: Sometimes a little self-conscious and unfocused.

LIKES: There wasn’t another album I went to more often this year than this debut effort from producer Danger Mouse and The Shins’ James Mercer. At first a little underwhelming, the sheer quality of the songs hooked me in big time: melodic, layered, masterfully arranged. Add Mercer’s peerless clean vocals on top, and I couldn’t get enough. His lyrics pop back in your consciousness at odd times, in odd ways, making you think. Smart smart smart smart.

DISLIKES: Disappointingly cold live, with a lack of connection between the many musicians assembled. They sounded just like the record, which is great because I love the record, but I expected even more onstage. If the record itself suffered from anything, it was a similar lack of edge-pushing. These dudes could use with a good ol’ physical brawl and a few beers or something.

So that’s that. 2010 rocked. Put that on your list.

And you know why I picked 11, right?