By remembering that one hour spent sitting in a comfy chair in the sunshine with a balmy breeze softly cooling you, listening to the rhythm of the small waves of the lake breaking on the shore, with no kids to watch over, no phones to answer, no conversation to attend to, and nothing at all to do, is infinitely more restorative than a week spent in Disney hell lines.

That is all.


A short trip to a nearby Marshall's discount store during our Wisconsin vacation once again inspires MissNine to pick out what she considers to be the truly-heinous fashion finds, and her comments follow. No shoppers were injured in the making of this post.

"Did someone shoot this dress with a gun?"


Line One: (MissNine, trying to convince a relative to sit out at the lake dock with her) "Aunt Julie! Come out here! We're enjoying the...beautiful smells of fish!"

Photo One: Me, Undistinguished Graduate Of This High School, Pursuing Tomorrow's Dreams By Photobombing Their Signage In A Polka Shirt.


Got to spend a quick hour visiting the large Goodwill thrift store in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin today -- the town where I attended both junior and senior high school...on occasion. I was bummed out when I couldn't find any records, but then right as I was going to check out, a table with two album racks appeared and now we are all happy. Please to enjoy these oddities!

I have to say, I have never, EVER heard the song "Squid Jiggin Ground" but surely it has to be the best song ever written.. GO ED!


I don't understand
Why the Czech Republic is
Wearing blue Wellies.

Flag bearers! Alert!
Don't block your face with the pole
Or no photo opps.

MissNine wonders aloud,
"How do the women deal with
Burkas? What a drag."

All the athletes smile
As they should, because they are
Fit, and on TV.

"I never heard of
That country," says MissNine, and
I say, "Me neither."

This is twenty-twelve
Why play the Bee Gees' "Stayin' 
Alive?' It seems odd.

The Syrian guys
Are smiling too; glad to be
Out of that mess, eh?

Uh oh! Many blog 
Hits for "Has Paul McCartney
Lost his voice?" Again.

Stop playing U2!
There might be an overload
Of good cheer! AI-EEE!

I am not sure but
I believe I may have heard
Bob Costas farting.


After a marvelous night out at "The First Three Songs," I discovered today that I have completely lost my voice and it doesn't want to return! This is vexing, for the exhibit is open again at Milwaukee's Open MiKE at the Grand Avenue Mall tomorrow, Friday, July 27th and it would be REALLY MUCH MORE POLITE if I could actually speak to the kind people who come to look at rad photos. Cross your fingers, universe (and come by Friday night 5-10PM just to point and laugh at me squeak)!

In the meantime, today was spent low and slow down by the lake. This is what it looked like. Please to enjoy.


I am typing this at 41,000 feet in the air from a sunny Air Tran window seat, but I can’t upload it and send it to you when I am done, for the in-flight wi-fi for this flight is not working today. My reaction to this news was a mild annoyance and dismay, for as fast as technologies are developed, we instantly adopt them and then expect them to be everywhere all the time, serving us with productivity, connectivity, and the ability to watch YouTubesof loud goats. To be disconnected from the hub of world communication, frankly, feels like you are missing a good party that everyone will later tell you was “so awesome!” In reality, you are probably just missing a few spam emails, someone taking a photo of his lunch with Instagram, and poorly-written crowd-sourced news stories on CNN. I shouldn’t be bothered by a few hours downtime off the buzz grid, really, and I am properly annoyed at myself for being annoyed about “no plane wi-fi” in the first place.

Coincidentally, this goes along nicely with a New York Times article I just read about some of the major Silicon Valley tech giants coming together to conference about this exact idea -- that millions and millions of people are wigging out over their devices and spend more time with them than nearly anything else in their lives. Of course, we all may cynically smirk at this – these are the guys that make scads of cash the more we stay online and the more we invest our lives into their products. The extra-strength cynic in me thinks maybe this conference is designed to forge some kind of eventual legal strategy if or when credible lawsuits start to place blame for physical and mental illnesses on our dependence upon their tech stuff. Maybe, yes, but it’s also certain that the tech innovators’ own ranks are affected by the same affliction, and likely much more so, and they have their own problems to contend with.

Ever known anyone in the last ten years or so who has lost their cell phone, or have you yourself lost one? Oh my god, it’s like the universe has completely collapsed upon the hapless sap. She is bereft and alone (“All my contacts!! How will I ever get in touch with anyone ever again!), directionless (because she uses the in-phone GPS to tell her how to get everywhere), emotionally turned inside out for lack of 100 back-and-forth texts sorting out where to go for dinner, where at some point in the meal everyone at the table would have pulled out their phones and checked their emails. I, too, have been this hapless sap, and it’s indeed an icky vulnerable feeling, which is SO STUPID. Should any telephone or computer or i-Anything have the ability to own everything we do to such a degree?

The smart answer is, “No!” but, as I think the conferencing Silicon Valley extra-big-brains will discover, once you open up Pandora’s iBox, there’s really no shutting it again. We are hooked, and life is now different for it. So now what? Anything? Is there anything to do to convince the masses that a little boredom and disconnection actually is a really good and necessary thing? Can you survive the discomfort of shutting down your crap for a few hours (when you are awake -- sleeping does not count, sorry) without being so self-conscious about it that you are just timing the minutes before you can fire up again?

I might be a poor one to ask. I spend a lot of time on my laptop per day, figuring out what I want to write about 365 days of the year, or processing photos. I currently have over 1800 emails sitting in just one of my accounts. I love taking pictures of my lunch with my phone, too. But I do know how to zone out and like doing it; plop me on a beach and I will sunbathe and swim and go shelling and people-watch and eat a popsicle…OK, so maybe I pull my phone out to take a video of the kids, what of it, huh? Sigh.

Life is now different.

But hey, this particular essay never would have been composed without me getting shut out from wi-fi access, so I will keep that in mind. All of us need time to just be, free from the invisible threads that not only beautifully inform and connect us so well, but tie us down so mercilessly, too.


Off to Wisconsin in just a few minutes, so WHY NOT GOATS? WHY NOT? GOATS!

Let's start with this story from Yahoo News, forwarded by fellow goat appreciator Dena today:

In this Sunday, July 15, 2012 photo, a person is seen in a goat suit in the Wasatch Mountains on Ben Lomond peak outside of Ogden, Utah. Wildlife officials are worried he could be in danger as goat hunting season approaches. Phil Douglass of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said Friday the person is doing nothing illegal, but he worries the so-called "goat man" is unaware of the dangers. "My very first concern is the person doesn't understand the risks," Douglass said. "Who's to say what could happen." (AP Photo/Cody Creighton)

Now, the hills are alive with GOATS! Again!

Loud Goat At Lake Tobias

Loud Fart Frightens Goats

Talking Goat 2012 (THIS IS NOT A GOAT, BTW) (PROBABLY)

Funny Animals Compilation: Best of Goats 2012


I am very totally honored and SUUUPERR STOAAAAKED (that's in my Wisconsin accent, by the way) to be a part of "The First Three Songs!" Here's what you need to know!
Several of Wisconsin’s most-talented photographers’ in-concert images will be featured in a new exhibit opening Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at the Open MiKE space in Milwaukee’s Plankinton Arcade, 161 W. Wisconsin Avenue, from 5PM to 9PM. The show will also be open on Gallery Night, Friday, July 27, from 5PM to 10PM.

Photographers CJ Foelkler, Marianne Spellman, Erik Ljung, Joe Kirschling, Dale Reince, David Bernacci, Bob Cavallo, and Troy Freund will be presenting the best of their collected works, spanning live music images taken from the mid-1970s to the present, featuring artists as diverse as The Flaming Lips, Willie Nelson, The Kinks, Rufus Wainwright, BB King, Girl Talk, Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Tony Bennett and others, taken locally and in venues around the country. Many of the images have been showcased in publications such as Rolling Stone, People, Spin, and the musical artists’ own recordings and biographies.  
“The First Three Songs” offers attendees the rare opportunity to see stunning images of live musical history close-up, and is not to be missed. The photographers will also be in attendance to greet guests and speak about their work.
I'm excited to be included in such a multi-talented group of photographers, and I cannot wait to see their photos on display at Open MiKE (you can read more about the event and photog bios here.) It is particularly meaningful for me to be able to attend this event and share some of my photos in the town where I was born, and where I shot my first concert (the Kinks, of course!) in 1978. My thanks to photographer Troy Freund for going to super-human efforts to get this show arranged to coincide with our annual family trip back to Wisconsin. What a gift!

And speaking of gifts, the first 50 folks in the door on the 25th and 27th can get a copy of this SO COOL poster by Milwaukee artist Matt Chic for FREE!

If you are in the area, I really hope that you can come by this week on Wednesday or Friday night, hang out, look at some sweet music shots, and meet and greet us! I will also be giving out UNLIMITED FREE hugs! Share the news, bring a friend, and we'll see you there!

The Kinks, "You Can't Stop the Music"


I was already supposed to be in Wisconsin for the annual family vacay on July 19th; airline tickets were bought, plans made. And then those brash upstarts the Intelligence had the nerve to book a tour-opening record release show at the Crocodile in Seattle for "Everybody's Got It Easy But Me," one of the best albums of 2012. BURN! OH, THE CRISPY, CARBON-FLECKED BURN OF IT ALL! I got more and more morose when I contemplated that I would miss hearing all these great new songs done live, with an expanded 5-piece line-up, in the friendly confines of the familiar Croc.

What are rules if not for breaking? What are funs if not for having? What are plans if not for talking to an airline representative for an hour, and then the dog-sitter, and then readjusting so that the Crocodile would have one extra patron on the 19th, HMM?

I made the show, and I made some photographics. I had planned on seeing Thee Oh Sees play at All Saints right before, but the 520 bridge and other complications conspired against me. But they did all show up to the Croc to watch their pals play! What a great night! All four bands -- the Intelligence (Lars Finberg "SUPER Genius," Susanna Welbourne, Dave Hernandez, Leslie Ishino, and Jed Mayhue); Unnatural Helpers, Dream Salon, and Wimps -- were a blast, and a solid night of sweaty garage punk joy was had by one and all. I'm so glad I was there.

I insist that you buy the recorded output of all of these bands immediately and go see the Intelligence as they make their way through Californee and (hopefully) other locales soon!

(Click on the photos to enlarge, and click on the Flickr links for more!)

The Intelligence Seattle 7/19/12 (Flickr set)


Wow, I'm  on fire and I am not even DWIGHT TWILLEY. Apparently, I could not afford my Rock n' Roll Lifestyle of recent days and currently am frying up but good with a fever. I'm gonna gulp some Advil and try to stop shaking. You should not gulp some Advil unless medically indicated, but should start shaking to this Death Metal Donkey!

Yours in Hell, Marianne

Death Metal Donkey



As I was arriving home early today from a local Seattle rock cub last night, I sat down to my computer to begin working on photos and horrible news began to tumble forth on my Twitter stream -- Reuters, AP, New York Times, then everyone, everywhere. A mass shooting had occurred at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, with a lone gunman opening fire, killing 12 and wounding 59 more. The panic and the horror those people in the theater experienced is just sickening to contemplate, the ease of which the gunman was able to mow them down an abomination. I lived in the Denver area for 15 years of my life and it is where all three of my children were born; my roots are deep there, adding to the sorrow and anger I feel now.

My friend Donald G. Carder wrote an essay that speaks for me as well, and he has kindly allowed me to republish it here. I am grateful for his eloquence now, because if I read one more tired, slow-witted comment from another tough-talking, gun-hoarding ignoramus saying, "guns don't kill people, people kill people," or "if everyone there had a gun, this never would have happened," I will literally throw up.

"The Darkest Night," Donald G. Carder

Words. How do you come up with words to describe the horror of what happened at the midnight screen of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado?
To a cinephile, a darkened theater is special place; equal parts cathedral, magic show, and time machine. We go to the movies to escape from the harsh realities of every day life; the politics, the bigotry, and the partisanship that are making America less a beacon of light and more a cautionary tale.  We go to the cinema because we believe that somehow spending a few hours alone in the dark can restore our belief in the better part of our humanity; that by exploring the stories of lives vastly different from our own we can discover bridges between past and present, insights into culture and ideology, touchstones between people seking to live a life as best they know how.  We seek cinema as an expression of not only who we are but who we can be.
I grieve today on so many levels. Foremost for the loss of life; for the wounded hearts of the men and women who watched as friends and family were pierced by angry bullets from a dispassionate gun. I grieve that the memory of the lost will be put to political purpose. That the NRA will declare that this is a perfect example of why  more guns are needed in America — all the while overlooking the same murderous logic, the same lust for death, they seek to condemn.
But above all, I grieve for the loss of innocence of an entire generation of cinephiles who have just had their entire world invaded and destroyed by the very monsters they were hoping to keep at bay.
In 1982′s The Tempest, there is a scene where John Cassavetes’ character Phillip Dimitrius stands in the face of the approaching storm and whispers, “Come on, show me the magic.” For years after, each time I went to the cinema, as the lights dimmed and I wriggled myself deeper into a comfortable seat, I would whisper these same words in anticipation of the gift I was about to receive. At that moment I was a child again, my heart filled with hope and an expectation of glory. As the first flickering rays of light pierced the darkness to trace their wonders on a wall of purest white, I was transported, captivated, enraptured in the most divine sense of the word. This was my church, my school, my reason for being. The cinema taught me to feel, to embrace, to love, to experience the beauty of life, rather than judge, condemn, or hold it in contempt.
Things are different now.
The following quote is reported to be from the Twitter timeline of Alex Sullivan, one of the victims of the Aurora shooting. It was posted at 10:00 PM on July 19th:
“Oh man, one hour till the movie and its going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever.”
Things are most definitely different now.


This is the Boy Scouts of America's mission statement, from their website:
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation's largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.
For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.
This is the news they've made a couple days ago, legally supported by a 2000 Supreme Court ruling (via Huffington Post/David Crary):
After a confidential two-year review, the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday emphatically reaffirmed its policy of excluding gays, angering critics who hoped that relentless protest campaigns might lead to change.
And this is a response I came across today from writer/author Martin Cizmar, a 1998 Eagle Scout:

How many of you could do what Martin has done here? Could you give up the symbol of something that took you years to achieve and that was close to your heart? It takes courage and sacrifice, especially when you aren't sure that anyone will care about your action, or if it will matter in the end. Martin did this because he understands the real lessons of character, strength, staying true to your values, and "the responsibilities of participating citizenship."

The Boy Scouts of America must accept the fact that their organization has a moral responsibility to instruct all young men to reject bigotry and discrimination in all its reprehensible forms, or it is nothing but a hypocritical haven for ignorance.

Thank you, Martin Cizmar.


Where do I begin to tell you about my long weekend spent seeing and photographing the perennially-awesome Ray Davies at the start of his 2012 West Coast tour? Well, right here, I guess:


Like many other teenagers with Photoshop, I've made a fake Coachella poster too.


Today I'm back home, processing Ray Davies and The 88 photos like a red-headed Tasmanian Devil, and Miss Nine walks up to me with this in hand.

"Mom? I'm so sad I didn't get this finished sooner! I wanted to take my time making the front part. Can you please get it to him for me?"

Guys, I don't even know what to say, other than my own very heartfelt thank yous.

I asked her if I could share this here and she said, "OK, Mom. Jeez!"


This is The Dena, posting on Popthomology for the last of three nights. Marianne returns tomorrow, and I'm sure we are all very excited about that. As always, I am entirely grateful for this opportunity and for your kind attention. Marianne was not the only one who traveled this weekend, although I did not go quite as far. In the spirit of travel, adventure, and superfluous self-analysis, I leave you with "Tipperary."

It’s a long way to Tipperary and it’s also a long way from Evergreen Park to Andersonville, but I won’t let that stop me. Public transportation is no picnic, but I’ve hardly left my neighborhood since the heat wave struck a few weeks ago and I’m getting a bad case of cabin fever. Besides, there’s a block party about to happen, complete with egg toss, and raw egg does not go with black.

Clutching my One Day Fun Pass, I hightail it past my neighbors and the barricades at the end of my block and head for 87th Street. The Fun Pass is aptly named and possibly the best bargain in all of Chicagoland, seeing as it endows the buyer with unlimited travel on all CTA routes for a mere five clams per day. That’s more fun than most of us can handle, and it’s more than enough for me.

The intoxicating scent of freedom mingles with much less intoxicating scents as I board the crowded bus on 87th Street and squeeze my non-priority butt into a side-facing seat in the front. I would like to use my phone or write, but the bus is heading East through some slightly dodgy neighborhoods and I opt to remain at attention and observe my surroundings. We are all together in this enterprise, just trying to get where we are going, but you never know who might be boarding or when squabbles might erupt. When I see grey heads and hear screaming babes waiting to board at one stop I hastily move towards the rear and wedge my non-priority butt into another side-facing seat near the back door, between two much larger women. Looking up, I observe the three younger and more able-bodied people who were sitting across from me have not budged from their privileged perches, for which I silently judge them.

My new seat-mate is Young Mr. Pants On the Ground. He sports lipstick red clamdiggers, a spotless white wifebeater, and horizontally striped briefs. This is actually more information than I need about him, but my real concern disdain for this fashion faux pas is strictly about comfort. I still have traumatic memories of the time I had to rush to Macy’s and replace tights that were falling off of me, running late to meet up with friends for an Eddie Izzard show. I can’t fathom why anyone would find it cool or tough or fashionable to be constantly hiking up his clothing, especially while navigating the exigencies of urban public transportation. I once had to exit a train and gingerly walk to safety on a board in the tunnel between stops, so I know of what I speak.

Exiting the bus at the Red Line, I squeeze my sticky body into the inevitable human bottleneck that happens when a major bus line intersects with a train line. I board a near empty train without incident, settle into a window seat, and take out my pen and Moleskine, gambling that my car will remain quiet enough for me to rub two thoughts together. Ha! What are the odds of that? Every CTA ride has its own distinct auditory footprint, and this one is no different. As we chug alongside the Dan Ryan, past White Sox Park and into Chinatown, a female voice repeatedly floats over the usual train noise and rider babble on the loudspeaker: “Someone needs assistance?” The crowd response would seem to indicate that “someone” is either pranking or clueless and not in need at all, so we collectively accept the Lynchian disembodied voice as one of those shared experiences that make riding public transportation memorable and distracting.

We speed through the tunnel and emerge into the light at Fullerton, making our way North. I am stunned when the sunburned guy in the Cubs hat and Buttweiser t-shirt fails to exit the train at Addison, perhaps as a mere act of spite to prove me wrong. With some dismay I note there is a Cubs game, which gives me pause because my second thrift stop is in Wrigleyville. There is a street fair happening at Broadway and Lawrence, but then you can’t go two blocks in summertime without running into one of those things. The last time I went thrifting, I got off the bus and walked right smack into a street fair, protesting to the gate people, “I’m not trying to attend a street fair, I just want to get where I’m going.”

We pass Argyle, where I spot a Pho joint and wish I could have some. I hop off the train at Berwyn, grateful to be moving under my own power. Oh noes, the train is now running express to Howard! More people getting off behind me, squeezing down the stairs. I need to break free!

Finally heading west on Berwyn, I stretch my legs and it feels glorious. I wait at Broadway to cross the light and see the canopy of trees on Berwyn, beckoning me. This is one of my favorite walks in the city, through shaded streets with varied gardens of hydrangeas and hostas and front porches that sport foo dogs, among other enhancements. It’s overcast and I think for a moment that I should have checked the weather forecast, but I was so happy to get out of the house after all these days that I just didn’t think it could possibly rain on my parade.

I reach my thrift stop, where I immerse myself in scouting for books and try to shut out the rest of the world to the best of my ability. I make an exception when I hear another customer sing along with the music, which I’m pretty sure has a chorus that repeats the words, “I need a freak tonight.” We all smile, because, after all, who doesn’t?

It’s raining when I finish my business and carry my heavy bags out onto Clark Street, so I trudge two stops down to Starbucks where there is a canopy I can wait under. I stand there for an endless half an hour, during which time several buses go the other way and I rack up more than my monthly quota of people watching. I feel utterly at home in this neighborhood, which seems to mostly consist of gay people and families with children. No one who ever stands at this corner for some time could ever fear for the continued existence of the human race. I see kids on foot, babies in strollers, infants in carriers and slings, and at least two in utero. I see several couples strolling hand in hand that I’m sure must be on their way home to procreate, as well as other couples strolling hand in hand that I’m pretty sure are not on their way home to procreate. Many tattooed personae pass by, as does a woman carrying the largest smiley face balloon I’ve ever seen. She squeezes her way down the cramped sidewalk, obliviously bopping people in the face.

When the bus finally arrives, it is two buses. This is one more than I need but it means one of them is not too crowded, so I lug my bags up the steps and park myself near the exit. I am betting that the game is over, but I still decide to squeeze in a second thrift stop. I am apprehensive about getting off at Waveland, but I still enjoy the ride down Clark Street, past cemeteries, shops, and restaurants. I’m still having fun.

I get off the bus and power my way through the drunk zone on Waveland, keeping my head down. The game has indeed let out, but the crowds are all massed in the bars and give me no problem. My second thrift stop is briefer, as the books are less interesting and I’m getting tired. I know I have another long trip ahead of me with more drunk people at the other end, and I wish, momentarily, that I still lived in Wrigleyville. Since I don’t, I resolve to hop on the Halsted bus instead of walking to the Red Line and braving the drunk zone. It’s a longer trip, but I’ve inhaled more than enough beer sweat for one day.

I board the Halsted bus at Addison and ride all the way to the Orange Line, exhausted enough to be less attuned to my surroundings than on the trip north. My attention wanders back and forth between the twenty-somethings on the bus on their way to dinners and parties and the meanderings of my brain. Mostly I am thinking about Breaking Bad and how to make more money, which are probably the two things I think most about these days. My mind keeps going back to the hipster try-hard I saw in the downtown tunnel whose shirt said “Heisenberg” and showed the iconic black and white sketch of the character. His girlfriend wore a shirt that said “I Hate This Shirt” and they just irked me, but I wasn’t sure why. After chewing on it long enough, I finally decided there is a difference between watching a character like Heisenberg in rapt fascination and sporting his face on your chest like he’s a superhero. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between trying to understand the psychological underpinnings that drive some human beings to do evil versus celebrating that evil, which is why it matters.

My seatmates come and go as we make our way through neighborhood after neighborhood. Boystown, Lincoln Park, Greektown, and PIlsen, on and on we go. Aside from the fact that there is now a Powell’s Bookstore in University Village where Barbara’s used to be, I see two things that jump out at me enough to draw my attention from the bus. The second is a sign in Pilsen next to Express Grill that says "Boycott Express Grill: Nothing Good Can Come of It.” The first happens when I look out the window at Roosevelt and set eyes on Young Mr. Pants On the Ground #2. He has just debarked and is trying to run across Roosevelt to make his connection, yanking his pants up as he goes. Well, I could have told him.

Soon enough we are at the Orange Line, where I will get the train to Kedzie and then, finally, a 30-minute bus ride home. Starting out a bit after noon, I will have traveled nearly seven hours and many miles—I’ve never counted them and I’m not sure I want to--ending up back where I started. I will avoid the block party by sneaking into my own house through the back yard, and I will try to write a blog post through howling laughter and repeated poundings on my front door, finally giving up in utter frustration and making my annual token appearance at the block party, but avoiding jello shots. I will ponder how I might somehow alchemize all this experience and all these notes of my ride, made in three separate notebooks as I remembered bits and pieces of my day, into something lasting.

Before all of this happens, while I still wait for the Orange Line, I pull out my camera and take a picture of downtown. I am overcome with the usual ambivalence that strikes me at this moment, in which I simultaneously ache to return to the city where I lived for so many years and feel relief to be going home to my near suburb, where I can turn around without bumping into someone. I may live in this tension for the rest of my life, as I desire all the seductions of the urban lifestyle, but I like my space. As I get my shot and surreptitiously put my camera back in my bag before somebody grabs it, a scruffy guy drop-kicks a plastic bottle all the way to the other side of the tracks and laughs like he’s just accomplished something pretty big.


This is The Dena again, filling in for Marianne while she is out in the world, having adventures with her orange fingernails. There's a block party going on outside my door, with much hooting, hollering, and hilarity. I can't hear myself think, but perhaps the problem is just that I haven't had enough jello shots. At any rate, I thought I would make the best of these unfortunate circumstances by using tonight as an opportunity to share a poem my daughter wrote for a school research project, prodded by her father.

By Stella Tarlin, 12

A shimmering cloud of reflective dust
The place where stars are born
Can also represent a stellar death
Beautiful and foreign

Full of hydrogen and helium gas
But otherwise unknown
Their original cause remains unseen
And through them the stellar wind blows

Some are thin and mostly dust
Others are filled with gas
A beautiful lightshow in outer space
Shining and vast


Hey ho, this is Marianne’s pal Dena, filling in for Mari while she zips around the great Pacific Northwest this weekend, being camera of rockstar. Marianne returns on Monday, hopefully with lots of photos and tales of crabwalks. Until then, you are at my mercy.

Since Marianne is off seeing and photographing Ray Davies, this weekend, I thought I would launch my blogidency with a story of my special place. I’m speaking of the O’Hare Hilton, mind you, so get your mind out of the gutter.

I’m sure you must have your own special places, locations that are inherently mundane, but that are imbued with some deep personal significance because they are permanently attached to a memorable experience. The emotions aroused by these experiences may run the gamut, which is why I’ll never eat another meal at Bally’s in Las Vegas. On the other end of the pleasure spectrum, every time I get dropped off at O’Hare airport and spot the imposing curve of the O'Hare Hilton, I find myself floating on air as I did the night I met Ray Davies in the lobby.

It was June 11, 1978 by my reckoning, but I’m sure someone will correct me if I have the date wrong. I had just seen my second Kinks show with my ex and we had a tip that they were at the Hilton, so we drove out to O’Hare. Still high on the show, I would have been delighted with a mere sighting. I had discovered the Kinks while I was still living in Peoria and spent the previous few years listening to their music intensively, even starting a fanzine, “Autumn Almanac,” with my ex. I was all of eighteen years old at the time and utterly infatuated with Ray Davies, whose lilting voice and flamboyant stage presence had drawn me to the Kinks in the first place. Never in my life had I come face to face with someone who was that important to me, nor had I imagined such a portentous encounter would happen in the lobby of a generically furnished chain hotel.

My memories of that night are not as sharp as they used to be, but I do remember I was wearing a man’s hat and a black t-shirt with white printed letters that said “Ramona.” I had originally had the shirt printed up for a Ramones show that I wound up missing because the club arbitrarily raised the minimum age for one night, but it was also an obscure Kinks reference having to do with a glove. I can’t even remember if I walked up to Ray or he walked up to me, but of course it must have been the former. I can’t remember what Ray was wearing, if he was talking to someone else, or even what I said when I started talking to him. It seems likely that I babbled something about the show I had just seen, or perhaps I was speaking in tongues, but I’m not sure Ray even heard my words. I think he simply took one look at me and could see I was starstruck, baby, completely overwhelmed to be in his presence. He must have found it endearing, because he abruptly bent down and kissed me on the cheek.

I met Ray quite a few times after that and he was always gracious, sometimes astoundingly so. But he never made my heart stop again the way he did that night, simply because his gesture was so completely unexpected and so completely kind. Ray didn’t owe me a thing, but he went out of his way to acknowledge me because he could see the stars in my eyes. It felt like he was thanking me for being there, but I’m the grateful one. I may not be the rabid Kinks fan I once was, but Ray and I will always have Village Green Preservation Society and the O’Hare Hilton. And if I repeat this story a few more times before I kiss this increasingly scorched earth goodbye, it’s only because it means that much to me.



Off to the nail shoppe today in prep for CRAZY TIMES travel for shows, photos, and fun, a mostly-relaxing hour spent staring at the pale pink walls of the salon listening to meandering adultpop on the radio. My nail person today is "Becky," whom I am quite sure was not called Rebecca at birth in Vietnam about 40 years ago. Her English was very limited; a few small words and phrases and lots of gestures and smiles. But I keep in mind, for all I know back in Vietnam Becky may have once been a nuclear physicist. It's entirely possible.

Anyway, the nail technicians were all tickled today by my choice of nail polish, a mega-sparkle orange. "Hair orange! Purse orange! Nails orange!" Becky exclaimed, nodding her approval vigorously, or perhaps in amused wonderment. I live in the suburbs; most of the clients at this shop would never be this orange-centric, other than with a spray tan.

"What is job?" Becky inquired of me, surely curious to find out what kind of place would employ such a colored person.

"I write, and I take pictures of musicians at concerts," I replied.

"Oh!" Becky exclaimed, with a brightening smile. "You are camera of rockstar?"

I grinned. "Well...yes, I guess so! Yes, sometimes."

"This is very nice!"

It really is.


You know this song, because it is awesome -- one of the greatest psychedelic hard rock songs ever recorded, and a game-changing masterpiece. It's one of my very favorites. I bought it in 1968 on 45 when it came out (the radio edit length, of course), still have it, and still turn this WAY UP LOUD when it comes on the radio.

The Chambers Brothers, "Time Has Come Today"

Now, I want you to read this.

That gold record is being held by Lester Chambers, the vocalist on the Chambers Brothers' "Time Has Come Today," and those are his own handwritten, heartbreaking words. His story is sadly all-too-common in the music business world, and especially so with minority artists.

I could go on a rant about corporate greed and the utterly shameful way so many artists have been treated throughout their careers, but instead let's just cut to the chase and make something good happen. Sweet Relief is a well-regarded charity that helps professional musicians in dire need of assistance -- please take a moment to read about what they do and how they do it here. And then for the love of all that is RELENTLESS COWBELL and MASSIVE ROCK, go HERE and donate a little dinero directly to Lester himself via the organization. I did.

Thank you, Lester. Peace.


Summer has finally come to life here in the Pacific Northwest. Along with the pleasant warm temperatures and sunny blue skies we see scads of people compelled to ditch work and head for a local beach, terrified into sunaction knowing that within a few weeks it will be cold, rainy, and reek of sidewalk death worms. Unfortunately, a perfect day at the beach can also be spoiled by the presence of those who are lacking in proper Beach Etiquette. Here are the five kinds beachgoers that I'd like to throw into a massive vat of swirling, bottomless Coppertone while playing "Surfin' USA" in a grotesque, overly-loud loop.

1. The Parent Who Makes You Parent Their Kid Around Water: Ask any semi-lucid, non-felonious adult -- part or all of your trip made to any body of water where families gather will be spent nervously keeping an eye on Someone's Else Kid Who Cannot Swim. It's quite stunning how many times I've seen unattended toddlers and preschoolers with a flattened ducky floaty fling themselves into the ocean while Mommy is busy smoking and sexting the neighbor. Worse is when you actually run and save the kid from drowning and Mommy gives you the evil eye because she doesn't like to be judged like that.

2. The Loud-Mouthed Swearing Drunken Partiers: There's nothing like spending some sweet family time trying to build a beach sandcastle with your child and there's 15 obnoxious PBR-riddled boors next to you grilling hot dogs and screaming out slimy profanities every other word. These are the people who should fling themselves into the ocean, I humbly suggest.

3. The Unskilled JetSki-er: Often a guy who has rented or borrowed one of these loud and powerful machines, and ends up terrorizing swimmers because he can't pilot the thing worth a damn. The only thing good about him is that he falls off it a lot, too, and you can laugh at that.

4. The Sour-Faced Preening Bikini Babe: This is the girl who is a Professional Beach Hottie. She seemingly spends all day, every day, at HER spot on the beach, already has a dark orange spray tan, and is wearing a $300 string bikini that is never to be worn into the water. She often removes her top whilst tanning on her tummy, has one of those water-spray personal fans, and only allows other PBH's to sit near her. If YOU get too close, she will glare at you like you are a freshly-made dog turd. OK, honey, OK, don't worry, we'll try not to spill any of our unattractiveness on you, chill out.

5. The Seagull: Seagulls are assholes who aggressively flap around you and steal any food you might bring to the beach. Sorry, bird...try to take MY sandwich and I'll punch you in the damn BEAK. TRY ME, AVIAN.

Angry Birds Steal A Sandwich


Another way way cool garage band has come to my attention! Paris, France is home to Crash Normal who offer us a MASSIVE reverb-soaked, head-banging, body sweating, metal clanging low-fi sound, reminiscent of the Intelligence, Ty Segall, and the inside of a running dishwasher filled with flying knives. In other words, I LOVE IT and when I LOVE IT, I MAKE VIDEOS! So here is their song "Ice Forest" from their latest album release "Your Body Got a Land," which you can and should own by going here...




(Band website)

or go buy it on iTunes.

GO AHEAD, BUY IT! SHOO! Well, after you watch these old North Carolina circus acts and some precision Italian motorcycle cops.

Crash Normal, "Ice Forest"


When I was little, one Christmas we got a big Bozo the Clown inflatable punching bag for Christmas. I was pretty excited because all the kids I knew had a bop bag and they looked really fun. I walked up to Bozo and punched him hard, square on his shiny squeaky red nose. Immediately, I was filled with overwhelming guilt and remorse and started crying, inconsolable despite the grown-ups and other kids there trying to convince me that the Bozo bop bag had no feelings. This made me cry even harder. I never again hit Bozo and he was removed to my brother's room for the duration of his inflation.

So, when I was shopping the other day and came across a mini Bozo bop bag, I had to buy it. Mainly so I could make this video.

That Christmas was a long time ago. Heh.

The Story of Bozo the Clown Mini Bop Bag



Ferried back today to pick up MissNine from her week at summer camp in the beautiful Pacific Northwest woods, after the sunshine arrived right on time this first week of July, as it does every summer here. She was happy to see me, sad to leave the beautiful camp and fun new pals, and more than ready to get a bath. For today's post, I will share with you her little camp journal, which perhaps will remind you of some summer days of your own at camp with mosquitos, nature projects, hikes, campfires, group games, team challenges, animal sightings, mildly ribald songs, giggles in bunkbeds, and time to just sit and think and draw, too.


There's no doubt that you have heard this incredibly insane "novelty" song from the early 1960s by inexplicably-located (MN.) surf band the Trashmen. It was a mental mash-up of the Rivingtons' already-crazy "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" and "The Bird Is the Word." Here are the originals.

The Rivingtons, "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow"

The Rivingtons, "The Bird Is The Word"

The Trashmen added just the right amount of white guy geekdom and a frenetic, over-the-top strangeness, making "Surfin' Bird" one of the all-time great garage rock songs, covered by the Ramones and the Cramps and countless other bands. All these years later, it still makes me want to thrash around like the devil's marionette, which is a fine calorie-burning activity, by the way.

In case you have never seen it AND YOU REALLY MUST if you haven't, here is a combo clip of how "Surfin' Bird" was performed on TV back in the day by drummer/vocalist Steve Warher, who, OBVIOUSLY, completely RULED.

 The Trashmen, "Surfin' Bird"


Today as we here in the Yoo Ess of Ayy celebrate our independence from upper-crusty funny-accented monarchs, I thought I would take a little time away from the sun n' fun to bring you some really crappy songs about America. Writing a song about your nation is definitely one way to go about trying to get a hit, because there will always be guys in huge trucks with those naked girl mudflaps ready to buy anything that screams "blind, jingoistic nationalism" or "Waah! America is bad!" set to a snappy tune. Now, don't get me wrong here...despite all our serious issues and failures, I'm glad I was born here and understand the value of being an American. But I also enjoy my right of free speech, and these songs suck. Please to enjoy!

This turgid, MOR-metal piece of crap by Night Ranger could have, and may indeed have, been written by a tree stump. The whole lowering of the giant flag and making of the point that not only can you STILL rock in America, but you can still rock in America OH YEAH, ALL NIGHT makes me feel like my IQ is lowering by the second. If you like this, or ever liked this, we cannot hang out. Ever. Sorry.

OK, I'm not sorry.

Night Ranger, "(You Can Still) Rock In America"

Fun Fact: Styx is my most-hated band of the ever, even over Rush and Journey, and that says a LOT. For me, Styx represents everything that has ever been wrong about music since the dawn of time. If you can make it through the hideously-laughable guitar solo at the beginning to this awful, awful song, you are a true warrior.

Styx, "Miss America"

Surprise, surprise...a grandiose concept title from U2 that falls completely flat with a dull performance, utter lack of melody, shitty vocals, and lyrics that could come straight from the diary of a self-absorbed emo-ish 14-year-old girl. HOWEVER, the best reason to bring you this is for the video: a dude with an AMAZING mullet sitting in a chair very badly miming to a recording of the song. WOW! I smell viral!

U2, "Elvis Presley and America"

Oh, brother, this really, really, really BLOWS. An autotuned alt-metal pseudo-tough stunningly-simpleminded song featuring zombies, lots of gratuitous swearing, and lyrics about flipping off the world. This could only appeal to a disaffected 11-year-old boy, older men with traumatic brain injury, or people who attend Phoenix ComicCon. I hereby re-name this band "Douche."

Deuce, "America"

The lyrical dunderheaded puffery in this song is a shining example of why the rest of the world just hates us. Not to mention lamely re-writing his own "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" in his icky country-jazz fusion way is gross.

Charlie Daniels Band, "In America"

AAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! Oh, what the hell?? OK, I have to stop here because this cannot be topped. I have never heard nor seen a cheesier thing in my life. Musically, Dennis Madalone is the spawn of Billy Squire and a nanny goat. The credits for the video take up half the time. Knee bandana? USA USA USA!

Dennis Madalone, "America We Stand As One"




Today MissNine left for sleep-away camp for five days here in Washington, but before she left I made sure to procure her comments on the garments she herself hand-picked as the worst in the Miami-area thrift stores we visited on our recent trip. I can't say I disagree with her choices, although I bet I could get $50 for that owl shirt in Portland.

"Look at this! Doesn't it make your stomach hurt?"