Have you ever looked at old magazines or cookbooks from the 1940s-1970s and thought, oh my god, this is the most unappetizing, weird-looking glop I have ever seen? Like scary fluorescent Jello molds or Spam loaf with marshmallows and pineapple or casseroles that look like some hellish combo of crushed canned tomatoes, creamed corn, macaroni noodles, and beaver meat? Well, it wasn't just food that was bizarre...ever wonder about mid-20th-Century crafting? Wonder no more, for I bring you some of the insane-looking awesomeness that was 1959's "Alcoa's Book Of Decorations." Yes, that's Alcoa aluminum foil, people, in case you have a roll of foil (or hundreds of rolls of foil) and some time to kill. You may click on the photos to view them in larger glory.


Miss Nine and I stopped briefly at Safeway after school, primarily to pick up some soup for Couch Young Adult, who returned from a California vacation with a nasty cold. As we started to walk towards the store exit after checking out with our purchases, I noticed something unusual: people standing in line in front of a tall yellow vending machine. Aha, I thought, as I spotted the words "MEGA MILLIONS" near the top of the machine, that's right! I had read that tonight's Mega Millions lottery drawing had a jackpot that had swelled to 640 million dollars, and folks all over the country were going ape-feces buying tickets -- over a billion dollars' worth! My goodness gracious and such.

On a whim, I stopped just past the machine, stood for a few seconds, smiled to myself, and turned around.

"Mom, what are you doing?" Miss Nine inquired.

As I went to get some cash from the ATM, I told her the story about the big jackpot and she lit up like a little Christmas tree. I had to kindly temper her full expectations of winning with the statement, "We are not going to win."

"Well, why are you buying tickets then?"

I am so very unaccustomed to buying lottery tickets that I had to ask the woman in front of me how to work the vending machine. I fed 20 bucks into the tall yellow dispenser of dreams (and lightener of wallets), pushed the "Quick Pick" button twice, and watched the two sets of numbers on curled sheets of paper appear at the bottom of the beast.

"Just for fun, sweetie. Just for fun."

We walked back to the car, and got on the road home again.

"When will the people call to tell us we if we won?" The Christmas tone was still in her voice.

I laughed. "They won't call. We can check the numbers online after they do the official drawing in a few hours." Remembering that what is fun about playing the lottery once every ten years or so is the time you can spend musing on champagne dreams and caviar wishes, I asked Miss Nine cheerily, "Well, what would you want if we did win?"

She pondered the question soberly, sitting in the back, still in a booster seat.

"Charity. Charity first. And then a new laptop."

I sure she could hear the smile in my voice. "I'm really surprised and happy you mentioned charity first. That's very nice of you and it's so important."

"You're going to think the next thing I want is weird. A year's supply of corn. I love corn."

I giggled.

"Mom, what would you want?"

"The first thing I would do would be to make sure my family would always have enough money to be safe and comfortable after I am gone. Then I would think very, very carefully about how to distribute most of it to charity. Then I would like to travel a lot."

"Ooh, yes! Travel is good!"

"It would be fun to have some cool houses in different places, too."

"Oh, yeah! Like a cabin in Leavenworth, yeah?"

A bigger smile from me. " Leavenworth."

(UPDATE: I won $17!)


Classic rock giants have been just as hard-hit by the music industry's financial downturn as anyone. Songs aren't selling the way they used to and most bands these days make the bulk of their money doing live concerts. But when you are getting up in years, the physical demands of touring get harder and harder, and you might need to think of other ways for your "brand" to make money.

You gotta try to get some more of that Baby Boomer money before nursing home costs kick in! Right??



I said his name with that odd mixture of measured distance and wry familiarity that one might offer to an old friend that had not been a friend in many years. I had waited for the first few groups of starry-eyed admirers to shake his hand, blurt out some glowing, gushing compliments, and then nervously wander over to the backstage food table, still keeping an eye on him, entranced. Everyone loved Charlie, except perhaps for his ex-wives, his kids, and a long line of frustrated and abused accountants.

He matched my careful grin with his own, put a hand on my shoulder, gave me a peck on the cheek, and carefully surveyed me. "Heyyy...Bauer... how are you, darlin'?" He squinted his eyes as he looked at my face, and grinned a little wider. I was momentarily surprised and pleased that he remembered me after 20-odd years and knew my new last name, until I realized that his assistant had whispered it to him right before I approached. I knew him well enough to know that he was wondering if I had ended up marrying a Jewish guy in the industry.

I felt awkward, too aware of time, past and present incarnations both. I rushed to speak about the business we had; a good choice, for it calmed and focused me and relieved him of trying to remember anything about me, for he knew that he should. Charlie hated expectations, and was an unparalleled master at delivering a blank stare that would instantly end any such intrusions. I didn't want to take any chance of seeing it directed towards me.

The conversation went very well, and people would contact people, we said. It was both satisfying and strange to speak to him for the first time as something of a colleague. I had grown up, he had grown older; I had married and went to college and had children and started a business, and he was still...Charlie.  At one point in my life,  I blamed myself for our lapsed friendship. And then one day, I got it. There was only one Charlie, but countless girls like Julie Murphy Bauer. Over all the years, he needed the Julies more than he needed almost anything else -- their energy, their sparkle, their silliness, their youthful prettiness, their devotion, their admiration, their perfect unconditional love. The Julies never asked anything of Charlie. But all of them, one by one, grew up, changed and didn't see Charlie with such rosy glasses anymore. Another Julie would step in. Endless, forever fueling fire.

It was never personal with Charlie, a large reason why there were ex-wives and sad children, and would be more. It was the cost of doing business, of any kind, with him.

Others were pressing in around us both or order to get their chance to speak with him. I excused myself and walked over to a mini-fridge stocked with beer. As I looked around for the bottle opener, Charlie's assistant, a nice woman in her early 30s named Emily, tapped me on the back, and handed it to me.

"I'm so glad you were able to come! We were really happy when we saw your name on the list. Were you able to talk about the project?" Emily bubbled and schmoozed at me.

"Oh! Well, yes, we had a good talk about it and we agree it should move forward. Thank you so much for your help."

"No problem! Let me know if you need anything else, Julie. There's some sandwiches at the end of the bar, yourself!"

I nodded, ambled over to the sandwiches, stared at them, and decided to forgo. I chatted with some fans, two radio station dudes, and a woman closing in on 60 named Gloria who wore a pink feather boa and a miniskirt. There were always Glorias, too...although they seemed to be getting on in years. I smiled.

The room started thinning out a bit, and I felt like it was time for me to leave as well. Charlie was standing by himself over by a folding table, staring at a sandwich on his paper plate, not eating it. I walked over to him.

"Charlie, eat!" I grinned. He was always too skinny.

"Ah, it's shite, I don't want it. You don't want it. Even if I autographed it, no one would want it!"

I laughed. Skinny Charlie was also a funny guy. I did miss him sometimes, and sometimes I missed him a lot. I didn't know if I'd ever see him again, which caused me to speak without thinking.

"Charlie...I just wanted to say thank you. You were always kind to me and you made a real difference in my life. I never would have had a lot of the opportunities in life that I did if not for you. I've missed you."

He looked at my face, didn't smile, and didn't respond. In fact, he looked a little irritated, and I mentally kicked myself. It was too much. Fortunately, a trio of giddy boys in their early 20s barged in right then.

"Charlie! Oh my freakin' GOD! It's Charlie! Man, you fuckin' ROCK, man!"

I slid away again, drank one more beer, said my goodbyes to a few people, and headed towards the door.

Right before I got there, someone grabbed my arm from behind, a bit roughly. I turned, confused. It was Charlie, still not smiling. Uh oh, I thought. Stupid mouth. Expectations!

"You are Julie Murphy."

Charlie stared at me and I stared back, and everyone else stared at us.


A slow, curving, sad smile came to his mouth, and he cupped my face with both of his hands, kissed me quickly on the lips, and then pressed his forehead to mine, and rested it there for a few moments.

When he let go, I had tears in my eyes. He bent down and hugged me tightly, with a short laugh, and I laughed as well.

I let go before Charlie did, turned and walked through the doorway, throwing a hand in the air to wave goodbye, not wanting to look back.


While we waited for Mr14 to finish martial arts class this evening, MissNine and I took a little stroll through our local Petco store. We watched a nice volunteer lady play with the shelter cats up for adoption, marveled at a ferret house that was shaped like a pink pig, and I took some Hipstamatic photos of the little creatures who spend their days and nights living in a suburban retail store that smells like dry dog food and bulk cat litter. Please to enjoy.


I credit both my mother and Mick Jagger for my lifelong aversion to pharmaceuticals.

I'll explain.

I grew up in the Swinging '60s, a big-eyed, pop-crazy moppet who absorbed every last little drop of the Mod Mod Mod World like a sponge. Information was coming at me from every direction, and I greedily absorbed it, from newspaper columns to teen mags to fast-talking DJs to Walter Cronkite to "Peanuts" comics to pop music lyrics, to, of course my family, friends, teachers, and others in my small-town world. One of my earlier and stronger impressions, even prior to the hippie days, was that "drugs are bad, mmmkay?" I didn't really have anyone preaching at me; no one ever would have thought to instruct a preschooler about such a subject other than not to mess with anything in the medicine cabinet, and that chewable children's vitamins were not candy. But, fueled by an exploding Big Pharma industry, huge advancements in drug research, increased leisure time and cash, feminist discontent, and new fascination with the psychological, the formation and rise of the white, middle-class Mom drug addict was beginning to become a thing. If you poked around in any average woman's medicine cabinet in the '60s, you were likely to find some pretty powerful stuff.

Curing what ails a stressed-out mother with some kind of agent had plenty of precedent. Look at some of these old ads!

My mom,  as sweet as she truly is, is also a die-hard skeptic and a global thinker. When early reports began to come in about the dangers of smoking, strange birth defects in groups of newborns whose mothers had taken an anti-nauseant during pregnancy, early deaths of women who were the first users of The Pill, she paid complete attention and decided that it was always better to not take anything. This idea she shared with neighbors and her sisters and whomever else...and I would be there, listening, and thinking, dang, drugs are baaaad.

But she seemed to be in the minority. Doctors were handing out Mommy-Fixers like candy. Tired, depressed, lethargic, packing a few too many pounds, Lady? Here! Some methamphetamine will get you back up to speed!

What if Lady was overly-anxious, couldn't sleep, was irritable and hyper? Ask Unstable Mabel here -- go for the narcotics!

At the same time my mother was wagging a finger at, well, everything, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones was noticing the very same pharma-phenom. Many of the Stones' early hits were on the topic of middle- and upper-class waste and decadence, no doubt because of the instant celebrity status they gained upon musical success and the social circles they were now welcomed into. "Mother's Little Helper," released in 1966, now seems especially curious in hindsight -- a tiny tale of a suburban housewife hooked on pills coming from a band that become infamous for out-of-control drug use.

The Rolling Stones, "Mother's Little Helper"

Oh, did I ever listen to every word on this! Besides the attention-grabbing sitar-ish guitar line, and the pub-style singalong rollick of the melody, the story hooked me in, every time I heard it. I pictured every line in my mind, frozen steak and all, and decided forever that I was never going to be this woman. NEVER, EVER, EVER.

It was a one-two knockout punch from Mom and Mick to my little developing psyche, and it stuck. My vices now 40+ years later are an occasional Advil, a cold beer or two a week, and a music habit. My meth is coffee and my barbs, petting my dog or lying in the sunshine.

And these days, Unstable Mabel would just get a divorce, a facelift, or both.


Unless you are as massively wealthy and as lacking in empathy and balanced economic vision as Romney or as shockingly, cruelly, irrationally extremist as Santorum, you should be voting for Barack Obama in 2012 for president. I'm not giving you the option not to vote at all, America, or you can just high-tail it over to a country like Saudi Arabia where you can get your fill of super-wealthy mega-extremists and no human rights. I understand and agree that Obama's political record is imperfect (he's too moderate and calm for me), but he personally stands SO far above the other options we will be provided at the voting booth that there's no question of what is the right choice to make. If you'd like to argue this with me, you can take me out to a super-expensive dinner in Bora Bora (because you'll be that massively wealthy) or bring your repressive, hater god along with you to make your points (because you are that delusional). No, it can't be a big cardboard cut-out.

With that all settled now, I say let's have some fun supporting the Obama-Biden campaign, because they actually have a sense of humor, too, and MY GOODNESS, could we all use a little of that! These are my favorite items from the Obama-Biden 2012 shop. I'll be picking up a few things, and you should too.

This shirt is going in my cart TODAY! I love it.

Joe Biden's BFD moment

President Obama's BFD joke

And continuing with about a Joe-pack?

And finally, put those nutty "birther" freaks like Donald Trump and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in their places with your own Obama "Made in the USA" mug and shirt!


(I love my spambots so much.)

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I am delighted to bring you some Hipstamatic photos taken today by my daughter, MissNine, including her own self-portrait. All the filter choices and compositions were her own -- she just took my phone, said, "I'm taking your phone for a minute," walked off, came back, and handed me the phone again.

I think they are lovely. Please to enjoy!


Into a brilliantly sunny, blue-skied spring afternoon he was born, a day like today, although the daylight was filtered through the grimy window of an urban hospital and uncomplementary yellow glare of the fluorescent tubes above. One thousand miles away from here, he began to make his way, in his way, only and always. Golden curls changed to dark brown waves, brilliant blue eyes now are sea glass green, a finicky, hesitant baby now a confident young man who likes to play paintball, meet new people, and eat sushi.

On his 14th birthday, today, after for the thousandth time in the last few weeks he has heard me cough hard, turning away from him, hoping no one else here gets this stupid cold, he puts his arm around my shoulders and says, "How can I help you?"

For all the substantial challenges I know he will face in his life, for all the worries any parent would have in looking towards the future and imagining that someday you won't be there to ease the way for your child, it is this boy I worry least about.


Here's a sad national fact, as I sit here in the Spring of 2012: if you are reading this, it is overwhelmingly likely that someone you know is under-employed or unemployed, has been so for awhile, and that someone may even be you. Our resources become more and more depleted, while our politicians are getting nowhere with bringing quality jobs to needy Americans. While the Dems rally to try to hold on to the White House this year, the G.O.P. are busy being hyper-focused on the morally-proper usage of vaginas and wombs -- a cruel and destructive distraction tactic that forces opponents to try to put out those fires rather than point out that the Republicans have absolutely no workable economic gameplan. While clowns and saints and cynics blue-suit up and play their tugs-of-war, every day more of our citizens go into bankruptcy, lose their homes, and lose their hope that things will ever get better for them. It's overwhelming to think about.

But I'd like to make a modest proposal to you, and if you like the idea, I want you to join me and spread the idea around. Let the Big Boys and Girls duke out budgets and taxes in a corrupted system -- I think you and I can do something to help, now. I propose this:

I'm excited by this concept, so let me explain it a bit. It is my belief that people are at their best when in honest and selfless service to others. You know what I mean -- it's often so much easier to look at someone's else's set of problems or challenges and see immediately all the things to do to solve them, right? I've seen this over and over when I work with people on their job résumés -- talented, experienced, bright people often cannot identify their skills to save their lives, or how to analyze the things they've done that would be valued by others. We can see so much potential in others; it's harder to recognize and celebrate our own worth, and we often will work harder for others than for ourselves. So, with this in mind, what if each one of us took the first Saturday in May to try to help someone else find a job? How, you ask? There are so many ways! Here are a few:

1. You -- yes, YOU -- are a Networking God or Goddess. You know folks, and those folks know folks, and there are jobs just waiting to be filled by the right person, if only the right person and the employer could find each other. That's a fact. So on May 5th, start talking it up -- make the effort to talk to your friends and family members that you know are looking for work and find out what they do and what they want to do. I bet in one of those conversations, a bell will go off in your head: "You're an electrician? My friend Joan's cousin is looking for someone to start work on some condos next month..." or "My sister-in-law the preschool teacher just found out she's pregnant and she's planning to stay home with her baby, so her job will be open in August..." or "Dave mentioned there's going to be a restructuring of his department, so five more software development positions will be coming up within a few months." Put people and jobs together, put in a good word, and I bet you yourself can put at least one person back to work.

2. Give someone a job. If you are an employer with a 3000-person workforce or a mom that could use some more help around the house or anyone else in-between, look at your needs and budget. You might be able to make room enough to provide a full- or part-time income to someone who could really use it.

3. Help someone else get the skills they need for a job. You know how to do something, I know you do, and there's something you probably know how to do pretty well. What if you could take a day and help someone to begin to develop a new skill set and get them well on the road to employment? Are you proficient at Office or Photoshop? I cannot tell you the amount of times I have worked with job seekers who fret that their computer skills are poor or outdated, and their confidence to apply for jobs because of this suffers. Working one-on-one with a senior or teen or job changer to pump up their proficiency there is powerful. Are you a talented gardener/landscaper? Did you work as a whipsmart waitress all through college? Fluent enough in Spanish to teach someone the basic phrases to communicate with phone or retail customers? Even a day can help someone get on the right path. Mentor!

What if, on May 5th (and in honor of International Workers' Day May 1st) we took a day and it changed someone's life? It can happen, because all of us can do this. I'd be thrilled to hear what you think.

And, after putting in a good day's service? Hey, it's Cinco de Mayo, too!


It's a curious thing sometimes, how two people who love the very same thing can love it for very different reasons, or even define what it is in very different ways. This isn't the first time I've been poked to action after reading or viewing something musician/actor/radio auteur/record label owner Little Steven Van Zandt has said, which does surprise me. After all, he started "Underground Garage," bringing some slammin' garage rock back to the airwaves, for which I am eternally grateful. But after watching this video on Van Zandt's picks for top garage bands of the, I gotta weigh in here. Watch it first.

THE LIST: Steven Van Zandt's Top Five Garage Bands

What???? In NO way do I consider the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, the Yardbirds, and THE F-IN' BAND to be "garage bands," not even from the first day they played a note together. Even under Van Zandt's own definition, all of these bands fail to meet the test: "white kids trying to play black music, and failing gloriously." Let's just cut right to the chase: yes, the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, and the Yardbirds were all pasty-white skinny English kids that sounded funny singing Howlin' Wolf; HOWEVER, each band integrated far more into their music than just mimicked American R&B. Think of the Beatles propensity for Everly Brothers-style harmonies, Sun Records cool cat scratch, and (yes) classic Broadway show tunes, The Who's Beach Boys-influenced multi-part harmonies as well as Keith Moon's Gene-Krupa-on-meth drumming, and the Eastern flavor to the Yardbirds' melodies and Jeff Beck's sinewy sitar-y guitar work. The Stones come closest to Little Steven's criteria, with sometimes-laughable early blues covers and Jagger's Parkinsonian take on James Brown dance moves, but moved so quickly into broader sounds and songs that it's still a "no." Most importantly, all of these bands were just too competent to be considered "garage" in any way -- too much musical talent there, with some really gifted vocalists, instrumentalists, and of course, songwriters. And THE BAND?? THE BAND???? What this turgid, plodding, hick-tone borefest of a group is doing on anyone's "garage band" list is a complete mystery to me. I know people love 'em, but I just don't get it. AT ALL.

It seems to me that Van Zandt wasn't really defining "garage rock" here. Most influential big DIY bands of the 60s? Arguably so. But still..."garage rock" to me is, briefly, this: a desperately passionate, wholeheartedly eager, monstrously stupid, joyously fun, snot-nosed punk, three-chord, three-minute, anyone-in-the-world-can-do-it bash, unhampered by competency, practice, or giving a rat's ass what anyone thinks. With that in place, here are MY Top Five Garage Bands, a tough, tough pick to say the least.

The Cramps: The creepiest garage band ever, in the best possible way -- sparse, dark, silly, aggressive, reverent, crazy, wild. The Cramps took the weirdest from '50s rockabilly, stuffed it into a poisoned Halloween candy apple, and fed it to us. Delicious.

The Cramps, "Garbage Man"

The Sonics: It's probably reasonable to state that the Pacific Northwest bred the first batch of garage rockers, post-Elvis yet pre-Beatles, with a trademark "Animal House" slop that reeked of testosterone, spilled beer, and too many days cooped up in the rain. The Sonics had such a filthy dirty sound that it nearly popped the needle off the records.

The Sonics, "Psycho"

The Gories: Detroit's post-punk Gories embody the finest of the spirit of the garage: a black dude, a white dude, and a woman, none of whom knew how to play their instruments at the start, grinding through strange, thumping primal tunes. Fearlessly messy, and so much fun. I shot this one when they played in Seattle. When Mick Collins broke a string on his guitar, throwing it out of tune, it DIDN'T EVEN MATTER!

The Gories, "Charm Bag"

Gonn: The very definition of what '60s garage rock was all about, Gonn was a bunch of Iowa teenagers who farted around in different bands, recorded two singles with pressings of around 500 copies each, played Battles of the Bands, got the reputation of "the loudest band in town," and broke up within two years. Years later with exposure from the "Pebbles" series of garage rock reissues, their "Blackout of Gretely" became a cult hit, complete with tremendous screams, trashcan drums, and mistakes aplenty. Gonn was not afraid to be bad, which made them great. They are now in the Iowa Rock n' Roll Hall Of Fame.

Gonn, "Blackout of Gretely"

Green Fuz: And who out-does them all to win the Most Garage-y Garage Rock Band Of All Time? A Texas band that had one -- count it, one -- single, a theme song named after the band, which was named after a member's green guitar fuzz box, recorded at an empty cafe with a single mic, completely out-of-tune, and nearly as stupid as a box of rocks at the bottom of the sea. And the cherry on top of the sundae? The Cramps covered "Green Fuz" in 1981. Gentlemen, the medal is yours!

Green Fuz, "Green Fuz"

Now, see, Van Zandt? This is how we do it, son. THE BAND??? Git oudda heeeer!



Ya tell me what you think here...

Don't you think this very staid games, toys, and puzzles catalog could have chosen a FAR FAR FAR LESS PHALLIC COVER?