November 30, 2010

A Christmas Miracle

Obviously, they still need to install the baseboard...  but looky here at the most wonderful sight in all the wonderful world: A fully-plumbed toilet and sink!

November 29, 2010

The Triumphs And The Frauds

Time (and the courts, and a boatload of appraisers) will tell what happens in the case of that dubious cache of freshly-unearthed Picasso works.  I doubt I'm the only one who wonders if it is instead a cache of de Horys...

I thought I'd write something rather lengthy and acid along those lines, to be illustrated by an apropos clip from F For Fake, but then I got sucked into this wonderful moment.    

That said...  the Consol Center is very nice.  Also.  

He Would Have Gotten Away, Were It Not For The Kleenex Boxes On His Feet

November 28, 2010

Blue Laws: The SMLTS Sunday Supplement 11/28/10

Blue Laws: The weekly roundup of not-particularly-work-safe things that amuse SMLTS.  Readers who are sensitive to naughty language, double (or indeed single) entendre, and basic bodily functions should not read this post!  There's an affectionate look at copyediting symbols here that will knock your socks, but nothing else, off.  

Everyone else, join Blue Laws in a salute to Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie...  

November 26, 2010

Friday Is The New Black

Thanksgiving went off without a hitch.  I happily split the morning between cooking and assembling the dining set.  Give me a stand mixer and a power drill, and I am a fully actualized human being.

Forget the seven ages of man, you can really tell where you are in life by how much of the Macy's parade you see.  I'm the designated grownup, so all I saw was the godawful cowpoke hip-hop nightmare of an opening routine, Alton Brown dressed as a Pilgrim, and Santa.

We ate around 1:30.  Everything turned out well, if I may immodestly say so.  

I do need to record for posterity that I made the best gravy in the history of gravy.  The Man Of The House was taunting his coworkers today with tales of homemade meat-dripping-rich goodness.  Really, it was amazing.  Flat-out tasty.  Uncomplicated.  Elegant.  It was the Kind Of Blue of gravy.

We passed a pleasantly well-fed afternoon, untroubled by further need for sustenance, having pie around 5 anyway.  Because, hey, pie.

Later in the evening, I went out with some friends to see the light display at Hartwood.  I have a giant soft spot for Christmas lights and terrible Christmas music.  Bliss!  Even better, it was cold and rainy, so there was practically nobody else there.  The light fog actually enhanced the experience; the biplane actually looked airborne.

Also, on the way there, we started singing the theme song to All In The Family for no readily discernible reason.  Two of us were doing Edith's part; only one of us (me) is in fact female.

All of this put me in a great frame of mind for Black Friday.

N.B.: Black Friday is an excellent day to go grocery shopping.  I hit the store at 9:30 or so, and there was nobody in the store except me, maybe three or four retired guys, and an Amish couple.  I took my own sweet time parked in the dairy aisle, finding a carton of uncracked eggs at my leisure.  Doesn't take much to thrill me these days.  

After making my grocery run (mostly breakfast cereal and cat food; yes, the cashier looked at me funny), I spent most of the day unpacking.  I can't believe that we've been in this house for almost a year.  When I think of how completely unsuspecting I was when I packed those boxes...  I never could have imagined what kind of year was ahead of me.  Those boxes were sealed by a different person than the one who opened them.

My inner archaeologist was very amused to observe the differences in boxes packed at different times.  Stuff I had clearly packed early on, perhaps in my G-20 packapalooza, was carefully tucked away in newspaper.  Neatly folded newspaper, or at worst crunched into delicate spheres.  Boxes packed slightly later were a bit more haphazardly assembled, and the padding became more eccentric in nature as newspaper supplies ran low (an old bath towel, pages of the alumni magazine).  Items from the frantic last couple of days before the move were padded only by the dust bunnies I was too hurried to clean off.

Oh, the treasures I've found!  I finally unearthed my favorite bracelets, a scarf I've been looking for, even some sunglasses that are actually back in style.

Most of my photos turned up today.  There are some real goodies from high school (including some of a loyal reader of this blog who needs to own up and admit that MICK IS VASTLY SUPERIOR TO BEAN).  I even found the great big group picture from Washington Workshops, in which I am 14 years old and standing in the second row so my freshly-skinned knees wouldn't be captured for posterity.  There are a few snaps from before my time, of people I never met but love anyway.  There are some from pledge drives in which my coworkers and I all look like Muppet Baby versions of ourselves.  

I put the pictures away, because I knew I'd get sucked in.  There was lots to do.

Glory be, I found my art supplies.  I haven't had time over the last year to unpack that stuff, let alone actually paint.  But I have hopes!  And pigment-delivery devices!  I know where my sketchbook is, and the lovely fresh set of colored pencils which I didn't even get to crack open, and my watercolors.  I feel more grounded just knowing I can go make something.

The celtic knot rubbing I made at the state ren faire close to (gulp) twenty years ago looks pretty good.  I hung it on the bedroom wall between the windows.  It complements the greenman on the adjacent wall.  Much of Castle Secondmost is decorated not in "French Provincial" or "Art Deco," but in "Vaguely Pagan."  The classics never die, I guess.

Shoes!  Woohoo, I found my Keds!  And the sharp-lookin' black sandals which are too fabulous to dispose of despite the fact that they cut my feet almost on contact.

Before I knew it, my day off was winding to a close.  The hallway was full of empty boxes.  It's been a year of metaphorical unpacking; it feels pretty good to take a literal approach for a change.

There's a whole lot of trash on the curb.  Loads of empty boxes to be recycled.  I can say that 2010 has taught me what's worth saving and what should be left.

November 25, 2010

Wishing You A Happy Thanksgiving!

Aside from the WKRP turkey drop (which unfairly threw off the curve for the rest of the class), this is clearly the best Thanksgiving episode of television ever.

November 24, 2010


My experimental phase in college was, characteristically, boring: I dabbled in reporting.  I wrote for The Pitt News, took two journalism classes, and figured out pretty quickly that I don't enjoy talking to people who don't want to be talked to.  (This realization also moved me to stop doing political phone banks.  Of course, the two things couldn't have coexisted for long, so it's just as well that I had the "aw, screw it, let's move on to something else" moment rather than the inevitable THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE moment.)

While they weren't much help careerwise, I really enjoyed my journalism classes.  I don't know if they even teach this anymore--my guess is it has gone the way of shorthand and touch-typing--but there's a whole language of copyediting.  There are different symbols for missed capital letters and wrong punctuation marks and run-on sentences.  In these backspace-happy days, those ancient hieroglyphs practically glow with obsolescence, as warm and as superannuated as linotype.

My favorite of these marks was "stet."  "Stet" is what you write when you mark up someone's copy and then realize they were right in the first place.  "Stet" is a wonderfully brief admission of a human weakness, that of nitpicking.  "Stet" is an apology of sorts; an owning-up-to of one's own excessive harshness.  "Stet" kind of makes you look like an idiot, but an introspective and honest idiot. 

All that having been said, if you're throwing out someone else's edit...  well, then you have the satisfaction of getting the last word.  "Stet" is magical.

The end of the year always inspires me do a lot of soul-searching.  There are those who find no significance in the change of seasons, the anniversary of a death, the rollover of an odometer.  All measurements of time are arbitrary, they say.  (Not all people who believe this are contractors.) 

But we mark our time on this earth in ways that make sense to us as individuals.  We only get so many calendar pages to turn, whether or not we choose to find significance in Months writ large.

We spend our lives in a constant editing process.  There is no shame in "stet."  It's the mark of having thought, and thought again.

Bus. Stop.

Here's PAT's doomsday scenario for public transportation service cutbacks.

Fellow Lawrencevilleans: We don't have it too bad.  Everyone else...  my sympathies....

November 23, 2010

The Absolutely Final Last-Ditch Effort

As promised, if just a touch late, George and Mark returned this morning; as promised, they took away some of the equipment and all of the leftover shingles. 

It was a bit of Old Home Week.  You have to remember, the last time I saw these guys, I was working in a building that doesn't exist anymore.  Evidently, there has been drama in Georgeland, but he's looking less stressed than he did over the summer.  He even seemed pleasantly surprised by how little there is left to wrap up in my place, not to mention how many of his tools he rediscovered. 

So, in the morning, they'll return.  This time tomorrow, I should have finished molding, a coat closet with a door, and TWO working toilets.  For the first time since early Februrary, the interior of my house will be fully intact.  (The metalwork on the roof is supposed to be finished next week, but let's not press our luck, shall we?) 

Assuming it all pans out as planned, I will be really thankful this Thanksgiving.

November 22, 2010

Dancing About Architecture

"Writing about music," the variously-attributed quote goes, "is like dancing about architecture."  And it's true--music expresses ideas and feelings in a very distinct way, and trying to express that powerful effect in words never quite lives up to the experience itself.  It feels like a cop-out to quote lyrics and essentially say hey, this is cool, listen to this!  It's an open door to that popular failure of prose, telling rather than showing.

And yet, I keep trying.  I write.  That's what I do.  And I'm completely entrenched in music--personally, spiritually, and (indirectly) professionally.  It's what I truly love, when all is said and done.  As imperfect as my efforts are, I can't not write about the art form that moves me above everything else in the world.

Now that the apologia is out of the way...

Having had a few days to absorb some of the Darkness On The Edge Of Town box, I'm still overwhelmed.  Lots of boxed sets are chockablock with unreleased tracks, snazzy liners, and even pretty good documentaries.  What makes this box so special is that the material actually gives serious insight into the creative process. 

(And I still can't believe that it's this album.  Really, the odds of vast amounts of archival material becoming readily available about my single favorite album of all time...)

So, in something approaching an orderly fashion, here are a few of my thoughts so far...

The Magic of Editing
It's such a pleasure to dig through all of the unformed beginnings of lyrics in the notebook.  I suspect all writers have those oh God I'm secretly an idiot moments, when the scribbled notes that seemed so promising seem to taunt their creator with their intense vapidity.  

It's not often that anything worthwhile comes out fully-formed--creativity is often about letting the ideas tumble out, having the bravery to face your misfires, and then separating the bloody brilliant from the mildly embarrassing.

Furthermore, I'm bowled over by the courage it took to leave some of the fabulous pop songs now available on The Promise off of Darkness.  There are songs that any number of artists would have killed to have written which would have been absolutely wrong for that album.  (Although I would be OK with a parallel universe in which "Ain't Good Enough For You" took the place of "Crush On You" on The River.)

From a sound standpoint... While Darkness in its remastered form is clear and bright, it was made by human beings and sounds like it.  It's clean but not sterile.  It's the product of intense production, but not in the sense of conjuring performances that never were.

What strikes me so often when I listen to what I consider truly great records is that they are triumphs of passion over technical perfection.  The early jump-in in "Louie, Louie."  The sound of the microphone's diaphragm quavering helplessly in the wake of Aretha's vocal prowess on "I Never Loved A Man."  The sloppy handclaps in "Let's Spend The Night Together."  Today, all of those things would be anathema on a commercial record.  You can edit out every flaw, autotune every note, and end up with a glossy, flawless, airless artifact that will sell but not move many souls, that will sell but be forgotten in six months, that will sell but not have purchase.

Darkness doesn't have any real technical flaws, not like the audible piano pedals on The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, but it has a grit to it.  It's the closest thing to seeing these guys live that ever took album form.

The Value Of Obsession
(Or: "Stick.  Stick.  Stick.")
All that having been said, if you don't chase that sound in your head, you never even get close. 

The trick of it is knowing when to let go, perhaps the most important form of discipline.  Right around the time you've moved the drum kit to an elevator?  That's when you need to accept that your dream drum sound exists only in your fevered imagination, much like Sonny and the Dynamo and Abrams' Bridge.

Battle For The Soul
If not exactly an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other, there was clear battle between the singles guy (Steven, even today a proselytizer of the three-minutes-and-out philosophy) and the album guy (Landau).  (Kind of ironic, isn't it, that Landau would be the one pushing for a sure-fire single for BITUSA, thus badgering Bruce into writing "Dancing In The Dark"?) 

Darkness is the Springsteen album which most successfully walks the line between the two approaches.  There's absolutely no doubt that it's a cohesive statement taken as a whole work; equally, the songs are so strong on their own and so reflective of the central ideas of the album that each, like a starfish, able to regenerate independently. 

Existential angst was never so damn catchy.

Don't Block Up The Hall

I probably shouldn't even risk jinxing this...  but if everything goes as planned, George will come by tomorrow morning to move out a bunch of the stuff that's in my house (including the giant pile of shingles in the hallway), and will finish the interior on Wednesday.  I might have my kitchen back for Thanksgiving!  <snoopy dance>  

This, naturally, will happen days after I built a pantry cabinet, placed it in front of some trim that needs to be painted, and then filled it with canned goods. </snoopy dance>

November 21, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill!

I finally broke down and bought some furniture for the kitchen and dining room.  I'd been holding off until George The Contractor comes back to finish the interior (and not to worry, he's left enough tools here that I'm sure he's coming back).  But now Thanksgiving rears its festive head, and I will not serve another lovingly-prepared holiday meal in front of the television.

So I ordered a cheap dining set (it's a long story, but we're supposed to get a good one when an unfortunate cat dies, which leaves me a tad conflicted emotionally), a kitchen island, and a pantry cupboard.

All of these are flat-pack furniture.  I love flat-pack furniture.  You get the satisfaction of having built something, plus you feel like one of those top-shelf translators at the U.N. once you've hacked through the dreadful instruction manual.

The pantry was first up.  I plowed through the terrible schematics and dove in.  The thing about flat-pack--at least the ubercheap chipboard crap, which this pantry very much is--is that you have to accept going in that it will be imperfect, you almost certainly will make a mistake, that you will likely dispose of this piece of furniture within a few years, and that this is all OK.  Putting that stuff together is an act of meditation.  It's kind of like those sand mandalas Buddhist monks make.  Except the monks almost certainly don't suggest to the sand, as you will to the chipboard, that it has had unnatural relations with its mother.

I've put together a lot of furniture over the years, and let me tell you now: Walk, do not run (really, it's not worth anyone getting hurt) to your home improvement store of choice and purchase a power drill/screwdriver thingy.  I found a refurb Black & Decker at a going-out-of-business sale last week, and (with a box of bits!) spent about $20.  You will pay more because my bargain-fu is strong.  Sorry.

Anyway, through the magic of power tools, I have seen a whole new world, like Dorothy opening the farmhouse door to reveal Oz in its colorful glory.  The thing just zipped together.  Okay, zipped with major pauses in between to figure out the terrible directions.

At one point, I realized that the holes for the hinges weren't where I wanted them to be.  (Either they were drilled wrong at the factory or the designers actually wanted the finished edge to face the wall and the raw chipboard edge to be exposed at the front.  Like I said, this one's a very cheap piece of merch.)  I realized, with great satisfaction, that I can drill a hole anywhere I please.  So I did.  I am the great and powerful Oz!

My canned goods and cereal boxes are now sitting in their tidy little new home.

The kitchen cart is currently taunting me, because while it's a better-quality piece, it's primarily held together with cam locks and those little wooden dowels.  And by "held together," I mean "staying together long enough to point at me and giggle before collapsing."

It will submit, though.  I have a power drill, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Blue Laws: The SMLTS Sunday Supplement 11/21/10

Blue Laws: The weekly roundup of not-particularly-work-safe things that amuse SMLTS.  Readers who are sensitive to naughty language, double (or indeed single) entendre, and basic bodily functions should not read this post!  Readers searching for clean family fun should go look at the pile of kittens in the previous post.  Actually, EVERYONE should go look at the kittens.  We'll wait.  
Hey, you're back!  I know, right?  KITTIES, awwwwwww!  

Now, where were we? 

There are certain undeniable proofs, like beer and shirtless Jon Hamm, that God* loves us and wants us to be happy.  This Thanksgiving week, Blue Laws count its blessings.

*Or The Flying Spaghetti Monster, Ceiling Cat, The Universe, Gaia, Clapton, etc.  Blue Laws isn't picky.  Assuming we're talking early Clapton, natch.

November 20, 2010

Your Weekend Kitteh Post

I think I may rip this to my iPod for emergency mood-boosting purposes...

November 19, 2010

Friday Linkdump: Light-Up Night Edition

  • If you happen to pass the Best Buy in St. Petersburg, FL, you may be concerned about the couple camping out front.  Not to worry, they haven't fallen on hard times.  They're just camping out in anticipation of Black Friday.  Let me repeat: they are camping in front of Best Buy for Black Friday, which is next week for the love of the sweet Flying Spaghetti Monster.  For what life-changingly awesome deal?  Well, they haven't actually picked out an item yet.  Can we hire John C. McGinley to go lay a Dr. Cox rant on them?  I bet the SMLTS Nation can pull together and make it happen!  C'mon, gang!

  • I know the concept is ripe for easy laughs, but this fax app for the iPhone actually would have been really handy to have when I was hacking through the homebuying process.  (Or it would have been if I had owned an iPhone at the time.) 

  • When I was going through my junk before last year's move, I found a whole lot of research material that I'd kept from high school and college that I wouldn't even dream of hanging onto now.  But, at the time, it was precious stuff--there were so many resources that could only be accessed in reference books and by spinning through reels of microfilm, and it was real work combing through all that information.  The digital age is opening up some pretty nifty possibilities for the Humanities writ large...  and not just by helping us nerds cut back on our clutter.

There Goes The Five-Diamond Rating...

The thing about news aggregators is that when you see something like this, you assume it's the result of a flawed algorithm:

But, no, this story does actually fall under the Corey Haim category.  Apparently, parts of a horror film starring Mr. Haim were filmed in the hotel room in question, and the room was never cleaned "because the hotel's proprietor was unsure whether the film company would have to return for reshoots".

Two things spring to mind:  First, it can't be good for your mental health to realize that you have come to a point in your career at which you are shooting a horror movie in a Washington, PA hotel room.

Second: That room really should have been cleaned by now.  Not only has it been two years since the scene was filmed, I'm given to understand that Mr. Haim is unavailable.

Dissecting The Frog

SPECIAL PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE HUMOR-IMPAIRED: While the misattribution of the origin of "fracking" was an actual error, my referring to Battlestar Galactica as "Bab Five" was a joke. A fracking obvious one, I thought.

November 18, 2010

Until May

The Farmers' Market gets a bit surreal in its last couple of weeks.  Night falls earlier and earlier, until finally daylight savings time ends and you find yourself peering at cauliflower by streetlight.  Only the hardiest of vendors make it through that last month of huddling against the cold for three hours on cold asphalt.

The Citiparks markets only run until Thanksgiving, so tonight's Bloomfield market was the last for the season.  I'll sorely miss the fresh local veggies, of course.  I'll miss the vendors, especially the biscotti lady, who has always so very kindly commiserated with me through the continuing drama of my kitchen renovations.  (And, you know, sold me tasty biscotti.)  Most of all, I'll miss the guys from Paul's Orchard.  Once my cache of local apples runs out, it's back to depressingly bland supermarket apples until next year.

Pesky life cycle, getting in the way of my grocery shopping.  Feh!

Fly The Excessively Friendly Skies

A confession: I usually don't hear Morning Edition.  This is because I avoid morning to the greatest extent possible.  In the space of about an hour, I pry myself out of bed, make coffee, brush my teeth, drink coffee, get dressed, and hurl myself on the nearest bus, all before becoming fully conscious.

The downside is, I miss out on driveway moments such as hearing Robert Siegel use the word "junk" in a manner not meaning "garbage," which frankly would have made my week. 

Anyway, here's Dave Barry being interviewed about his TSA screening.     

November 17, 2010

You're Looking Too Thin. Eat Some Of This.

OK, I know Paula Deen is everywhere and uses butter like a comma and is possibly playing up the accent.  But I bet Thanksgiving's a lot more fun over at her place than at Martha's.

I heartily recommend this yummy cake--it was a big hit at Castle Secondmost!  The texture is almost like a thick lemon bar or a chess pie.  Needless to say, it's very rich--serve small pieces.

There is no earthly reason you couldn't halve all quantities and bake in a 8" square pan.

Caramel Apple Cake
(adapted from Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics)

2-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1-1/2 cups canola oil
3 cups flour
about 1 tsp each vanilla and almond extracts (adjust to taste)
3 cups cubed apples (about half-inch dice)

3 sticks butter (yeah, I said three sticks!)
2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9"x13" pan.
2) Peel and cube the apples.
3) Mix eggs, sugar, oil and extracts thoroughly.  Incorporate flour.  Fold in apples.
4) Spread batter in pan; bake approximately 1 hour (check at 45 minutes).
5) While the cake is baking, melt butter, brown sugar, cream.  Boil about two minutes.  Make sure all sugar is dissolved.  Pour sauce into another bowl while waiting for the cake to bake; do not scrape the saucepan.  (This way, you should avoid any nasty crystallization.)
6) When the cake tests done (toothpick comes out clean), go at it with a knife like it's Janet Leigh taking a shower.
7) Pour the caramel evenly as possible over the hot cake.  (I used a silicone basting brush to coax a few stubborn pools into receptive areas.)

Serve warm.  Make sure there's fresh coffee ready.

A Small Gift For The Whedon Fans Geeks

UPDATE:  The Geek American community (represented by The Man Of The House) informs me that I'm mixing up shows that everyone assures me I should watch but haven't.  This is a Battlestar Galactica (or "Bab Five"), not a Firefly, reference.  

I'll just go back to quoting The West Wing like a good nerd.

(It is still funny, though.  Marcellus Shale drilling humor never gets old!)

Dreading That Thanksgiving Crowd?

Send your would-be guests a note like this.  Watch the guest list shrink as if by magic as your invitees are seized with a new and profound desire to celebrate at small holiday gatherings limited to immediate family.

All The News That's Fit To Snark About

So, as previously reported--and by "reported" I mean "linked to some article I saw online"--in this space...  the Beatles catalog is on iTunes.  What you might not know is that you can also enjoy the complete Beatles catalog as performed by Roger Greenawalt (who is NOT a Utahan) on ukulele.  You're welcome.

Looks like Tariq Aziz is probably not going to be executed after all.  Much more importantly, as far as I can tell, Baghdad Bob is still alive and well and making up amusingly obvious lies on a freelance basis.

More reasons I avoid flying at almost all costs...  obviously, the new (More invasive! With Retsyn!) patdowns aren't a draw.  The prospect of being among the nekkid pictures on some US Marshall's hard drive isn't much of an improvement.  Being on a diverted RyanAir flight with a bunch of people who would rather stage a sit-in than wait for a bus?  Why not just throw my faith in humanity under said bus should it ever arrive?  Even Qantas, already having a bad month, isn't safe from bird strikes (and they don't have Sully!).  On the other hand, back in the U.S., the cookies can be pretty good.

Prince Charles totally has a standing invitation to have tea and organic biscuits at Castle Secondmost.  We dig/are snarky people who talk to plants and have a strong interest in urban planning.

Related:  "Here is my dead mother's engagement ring from her spectacularly disatrous marriage" doesn't strike me as the most romantic way to pop the question.  It is purty, though.

Jeff Reed, until recently known as my honorary little brother owing to Mom's affection for his goofball ways, should have listened to Mom last summer when she told him to straighten up.  (No, she did, really!  Mom did not, however, try to clean his face with spit.)  (As far as I know.)  Of course, being a professional athlete and all, he probably shouldn't have been buying cigars at the time.

November 16, 2010

And Don't Even Get Me Started On The Lyrics Notebook, Which Is SO FREAKING COOL!!!!

Suffice it to say I've been having a fun day since the UPS guy showed up around 2:30.  (Yes, I took the day off.  Priorities.)

So...  three DVDs (the documentary, a '78 Darkness show from Houston, a recent performance of the whole album recorded in Asbury.)  Three CDs (the remastered album, plus the 2-disc  "The Promise").  Plus the aforementioned full-size reproduction of Bruce's notebook.

I'm at very serious risk of actually exploding from sheer glee.

The remastered Darkness does in fact sound every bit as wonderful as I dared hope.  There's some hiss at the start of "Something In The Night"...  but that's the absolute worst thing I can say about the album.  It sounds like a great band, playing their hearts out, not in a men's room.

Right now I'm in sponge mode rather than pontificating mode...  expect more comments later (she promises/threatens).

For now, if this doesn't make you smile, you are reading the wrong blog:

Live It Every Day

So, let's say you've sunk your heart and soul and skill and time into a magnificent project.  You and your friends have worked hard, and have come from relatively humble origins into a measure of success.   Critical acclaim is yours.  You have a supportive and incredibly loyal audience--a community, even.  What you do serves a real need, and it is the thing that you love.

And then, the whole thing is threatened.  There's a very real danger that you will lose the chance to follow your life's work.  But damn if you're going down without a fight.

Perhaps I identify a wee bit too much with Darkness On The Edge Of Town, not just as an album but also with the backstory.  I will ask you, Dear Reader, to pardon my self-indulgence in finding significance in this whiz-bang reissue coming out this year of all years.

Like so many Bruce fans, I have that busting-out-of-town-blasting-Born-To-Run-in-the-UHaul story.   I'm pulling out of here to win.  Well, sure enough, that's a start.  And I'm hardly the first person to note that the profundity of Darkness lies in the challenge of figuring out what the hell you do after you get out.  Maybe there's magic in the night, but there's plenty of reality come sunrise.

I didn't really get into Bruce until I was in college, and then boy did I make up for lost time.  I used to take a few bucks out of my student loan check each semester to buy used cassettes at Dave's Music Mine.  In the haphazard order of whatever came up for sale, I absorbed each album.  There was a life-changing road trip which was set to Greetings.  (The stick-in-the-mud I was visiting in D.C. wouldn't jump in the Reflecting Pool on the 4th of July.  I would regret that lost opportunity, except it was a valuable red flag about that relationship.)  The River's despair alternated with desperate partying was a spot-on portrait of the world I had just left.  Human Touch...  only ran me three bucks.

And then there was Darkness.

The apartment we moved into when I was in college was the first floor of one of those big old Victorians in Friendship.  It boasted beautiful original woodwork and even some stained glass.  The landlady was OK with cats.  The location was convenient.  It was kind of a dump anyway, but a genteel enough dump to serve for a while.

My bedroom was in what had been the foyer.  And people--especially tipsy people visiting their friends at 3AM--didn't understand that the entrance was at the side of the building.  Sometimes, lying alone in my bed with the streetlight shining in my face, wondering if I'd ever manage to hack it as an adult in the big city, staying very still so the drunk shaking the immobile doorknob would eventually give up and go away...  sometimes, I felt like hiding under the blankets and never coming out.

The first time I heard "Streets of Fire", it was on headphones, lying in that room.
When the night's quiet
And you don't care anymore
And your eyes are tired
There's someone at your door
And you realize you want to let go...

I had a eureka moment, like when I was in high school and heard "Night In Tunisia" for the first time (on a little radio station that I understand has done pretty well in the intervening years).  This was immediately assumed into the fibers of my soul.  This was about brotherhood.  This was music that said you are not alone, and you will not be defeated.

And even given the copious car metaphors--yes, this non-driver loves Springsteen, he who gave us the largest body of car songs this side of The Beach Boys--Darkness always seems to be my own private tarot card, the album that anticipates my challenges.  It's about struggle and compromise and negotiating exactly which side of the tracks one belongs on.  It's about finding succor in life's small victories; it's about getting so wrapped up in the small victories that you lose sight of the big picture.  It's about seizing the moment, knowing full well that sometimes the moment kicks your ass.

I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost.

November 15, 2010

Almost, But Not Quite, Entirely Unlike Tea

As vending machines from Japan go, this falls more on the "eccentric" rather than "disturbing" end of the spectrum...  this one recommends beverages based on facial recognition scans.

(Or that's the story...  I somehow have my doubts that this is based on any more scientifically valid technology than those personality meters at the mall.)

Fixing A Hole

I'll believe it when I see it...  but, supposedly, the Beatles catalog really is coming to iTunes.

Similarly, Zuckerberg, This Is Not A Smack Upside The Head.

The new Facebook email is not email, despite clearly being email.

In Which I Do Not Try To Contain My Squeeing

In my lifetime, explorers located the Titanic, Deep Throat's identity was revealed, Al Capone's empty gin bottles were unearthed.  (OK, there have been moments of anticlimax.)

And there is actual film footage of the creative process which birthed my favorite album of all time. 

Oh, and a CD version that my peeps at Backstreets approve of.  (I'll say it again, the existing disc sounds like it was taped in a men's room.)

On the CD itself, the sound is also restored to what it should have been. There was always something a bit thin about the sound of the previous Darkness CDs, and what you hear right out of the gate with "Badlands" is something tightly wound, with aural highlights coming at the points where the tension is released and retaken....  The big winners here are Mssrs. Tallent and Weinberg, as the new CD brings welcome shape and distinction to the low end. Take the start of "Adam Raised a Cain"—what strikes you is not the opening electric guitar salvo but the depth of the plodding "dum, dum, DUM" of the bass and drums. Garry's notes at the beginning of "Something in the Night" spread thick and deep and when Max's drum roll comes in it has genuine body. Yes, like a pint of Guinness. And for whatever this word choices suggests, the drums on a song like "The Promised Land" finally sound round, and when the Mighty One hits the floor tom, it gives that big resonant hit that we all know from the live shows but never felt on the CD.

Oh, and a clean and legal boot.  (Because I have nothing from the Darkness tour.  I certainly don't have multiple versions of the 8/9/78 Agora show.)  (If there was a legal version of that show, I could actually implode from sheer unprocessible joy.) Oh, and two CDs of previously-unreleased Darkness-era music. 
For all the craziness...  this may be the best year ever.

An Immersive Experience

"Bitches' Brew"...  brew.

Eat Food. Too Much. Possibly Even A Plant.

Like pretty much everyone else in my neck of the woods, I started to lay in stuff for Thanksgiving over the weekend.  It's a funny holiday, because so many of the traditional foods are, let's say it diplomatically, not my usual way of cooking.  Almost every damn thing comes out of a box.  When it comes down to it, we all want the cranberry sauce with the ridges around the middle and the green bean casserole with the French's onions on top.  That is the food of our people, the way of our culture, the essence of the ritual.

As I rolled my way home from the grocery store yesterday (I kick it like a senior high-rise granny with my little trolley), I kept thinking how I was steering a basketful of Michael Pollan's nightmares.  Boxed stuffing.  Giant boxes of Corn Chex for the ceremonial and eponymous Chex Mix.  Jarred gravy.  I hasten to add that's emergency backup gravy in case the real thing fails or runs out.  (That's right, Thanksgiving requires emergency gravy.)

Well, the pies will be made from scratch.  That's right, pieS.  Our national days of excess will be honored in flaky, delicious style!

November 14, 2010

Sing It, Sister!

I'm honestly not particularly comfortable with gender politics (so often it seems to boil down to "I want total equality but also expect my date to pay for dinner consistently").  So I'm not exactly a habituĂ© of Bitch Magazine.  Nevertheless, the following article is filling me with a sudden appreciation of Sisterhood.

Why Feminists* Love Bruce Springsteen
*By feminists I mean me.

SERVICEY NOTE: While the article itself is completely SFW, your friendly neighborhood sysadmin may have issues with the URL.  And the banner ads are... well, did you see Blue Laws this week?  Yeah.  Read it at home.

Blue Laws: The SMLTS Sunday Supplement 11/14/10

Blue Laws: The weekly roundup of not-particularly-work-safe things that amuse SMLTS.  Readers who are sensitive to naughty language, double (or indeed single) entendre, and basic bodily functions should not read this post!  Those who fear an attack of The Vapors should go enjoy this funny story about how, sometimes, someone you know doesn't recognize you as you pass them on the sidewalk.  

This week: Who knew that the wellspring of America's moral turpitude is also its ironic retro t-shirt connection?  Is the love of money the root of all evil, or does it merely provide enough motivation to overcome mild social embarrassment?  Would you, when all is said and done, like fries with that?  Blue Laws wasn't going for a theme...  but this week, it somehow ended up being all about retail.

November 13, 2010

Your Weekend Kitteh Post

I do NOT recommend this, but then again I'll never get the key to the cool kids' washroom...

Hipster Kitty: Lo-Fi
see more Memebase


Fellow crazy cat people: Admit it, you'd forgive the kitty, too.  You'd probably even give the little guy extra treats to calm his nerves.

November 12, 2010

It's A Small World

I'm actually pretty sure that this is my usual ATM.  (The guy who wrote this post lives in Pittsburgh.)

And yes, the UI is HORRIBLE...  but I can use it for free <3.

Friday Linkdump

A week after announcing the closure of its SouthSide Works location, Joseph-Beth Booksellers is filing for bankruptcy.

Just when you thought he couldn't get more annoying, Kanye West has started a beef with America's Sweetheart, Matt Lauer.

Facebook email is coming.  Watch this space for self-righteous bloviating upon the inevitable breaches of private user data.  Eggs, baskets, also.

You'd think it would be cheaper, being a refurb and all...  the original Apple I is coming up on the auction block, and is expected to bring in more than $150 K.

Airplane food has always sucked.  Savvy travelers like me take the precaution of being far too motion sick to hold anything down on a plane.

Worst. Vacation. Ever.  A woman who was on that miserable Carnival cruise was arrested when the ship finally came into port Thursday.  Important lessons: Maybe you don't go on an international cruise if you're wanted on felony grand theft, because they really do do background checks..  And the whole "it stays in Vegas" thing is just a marketing slogan.  Do not attempt to: taste the rainbow, put a tiger in your tank, unleash a jaguar.

Preparing For Thanksgiving At Castle Secondmost: Part 1

This recipe sounds absolutely delicious, if you omit the brussels sprouts and the chestnuts.

Marilyn Monroe was evidently kind of obsessive over stuffing.  I like Stove-Top.

I will not be making Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish, but, much like the Rockettes, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without knowing it's out there somewhere.

November 10, 2010

Fun Facts Courtesy Of My Interestingly-Bearded Friend Mike

1). There is a plush toy called My First Bacon.

2). It has an accompanying ringtone.

There Was No Way This Wasn't Going To Exist

...yes, it's Hitler reacting to the Cooks Source scandal.  And displaying disturbingly good taste in pop culture.  Enjoy!  

Tag, You're It!

The G-20 Summit convenes today in the absolute best place to hold it, namely not here in Pittsburgh.

Hard to believe it's been more than a year since we were so...  um...  honored?

I had planned ahead for the craziness--I laid in plenty of food and emergency water, I ordered plenty of packing materials so we could spend the time getting ready to move (and at the time, I thought that move would be to The House of the Narrow Escape), and I had no intention of going anywhere.

It was surreal, seeing all of my daily haunts on TV, populated by people who were intent on making their point.  That point?  We will be heard!  They were, beyond that consensus, a tad rhetorically unfocused. 

When the protestors got out of hand on Liberty--breaking windows and setting off smoke bombs and generally being spoiled little brats--I don't think the out-of-town kids understood how profoundly they picked the wrong neighborhood in which to diss the cops.   

At one point, there was a march on one end of my street and a minor riot at the other.  (Clearly, the visitors were also unaware that many of those old lady waitresses at Ritter's pack heat.)  Helicopters everywhere.  I kept thinking about that Monty Python sketch... This week I'm going to tell you what to do if there is an armed communist uprising near your home when you're having a party.

I remember feeling like a woodland creature coming out of my burrow when the tsuris was over and I went up to Bloomfield that weekend.  It was Little Italy Days.  It was raining.  The crush of humanity and the cheerful noise was just exactly what I needed to shake those Friendship bunker blues*. 

Good luck, Seoul.  Not a shred of envy here!

*I fumbled awkwardly with my umbrella and had real problems getting my debit card to seat properly at the ATM.  The next day, a friend of mine made an offhand joke about someone stealing my debit card number...  and it hit me like a ton of bricks that there had been a skimmer on the ATM.  Let's just say that it was a week of unpleasant surprises. 

I Remember You

Since we left DesPlaces Hall, I've run into one of the Modern Languages professors who also worked in the building probably half a dozen times.  And I always wave warmly and say "Hi," and she always displays absolutely no sign of ever having met me in her life.

Which is funny because she was in my office all the time.  Back in the old building, we kept shipping boxes we could reuse on a table out in the hallway.  It was very informal, a help-yourself packing materials buffet if you will.  And this professor, no matter how many times we explained that really, it's OK, take as many empty boxes as you want, always came back to ask permission before she took a box.

So, I've passed this kind (if not wildly observant) woman on the sidewalk time after time since moving.  Not a glimmer of recognition at all.

This morning, I was walking a box of assorted stuff over to our business office.  And there was my old friend.  She caught sight of me, smiled and waved warmly.  I of course smiled and waved back.

The cardboard box, apparently, tripped the ol' memory circuits.

November 9, 2010

Technology News Courtesy Of A Poli Sci Major

If you use Outlook,
1) Really?
2) You'll want to install a patch all prompt-like.


Google is launching Google Instant Preview, which shows thumbnail images of the websites found in your search results so you can quickly evaluate their relative usefulness.  They're also working on giving Chrome the ability to preload pages.  Plus, they're ticked off at Facebook (which--I know this is hard to believe--did something crappy with users' private data). 


iPhone users, rejoice!  Or look forward to the possibility of having your phone bricked.  Potato, potahto, life's rich pageant, etc.  Tomorrow, iOS 4.2 is coming out.  In less roulettelike news, also expect iTunes 10.1 and OS 10.6.5.


And anyone who uses an iPhone (or has ever received a text from an iPhone user) will thoroughly enjoy

November 8, 2010

Sugar, Spice, And A Single-Minded Devotion To Pursuit Of Same

The God of Cake.  You must go read this right now.  Then we shall all gather at a predetermined time and place to bow before Allie Brosh's magnificence, possibly in cake-effigy form.

These Modern Times

"Oh, so that's why Downtown was so nuts this morning!"
--me, to one of my office roomies this morning, upon hearing that the County Courthouse and Municipal Courts Building were swept and partially evacuated in response to a bomb threat.

--me, silently, to myself, as I ponder the fact that I'm unfazed by a bomb threat but genuinely concerned about crowded sidewalks outside the BNY building.

Another Time, In Life

The 1960 election was fifty years ago today.  (Obviously before my time in any case...  but it didn't used to be so very long ago, did it?  As a friend of mine used to say, tempus friggin' fugit!)

Go look at this nifty slideshow of previously-unpublished photos of JFK from Life

A Cat May Look At A King

...but Facebook users may not poke the Queen.  She probably won't water your crops, either.  (Prince Charles might oblige and have a good chat with them.)

November 7, 2010

Gullifty's 1, Thanatos 0

The boys and I went to Gullifty's last night.  Definitely overdue.  Our little gang used to go there pretty regularly before our number started being reduced by marriage, flight to the suburbs, parenthood, and all of the other lifestyle choices that I studiously avoid while sending sincere good wishes and tasteful gifts to those who choose them.

I was thinking along those lines when we walked in.  "I'm Still Standing" was on the sound system.  I smiled, thought of explaining why, thought better of the impulse.

Considering the way the day started, I don't think I could have been happier to be tucking in to a piece of key lime pie while admitting to the horrible truth that I still know most of the words to "Hangin' Tough."  (It was sketchy '80s music night at Gullifty's, evidently.)

Partway through the customary Saturday morning shopping, my phone went off.  It was Mom.  Our senior statesman kitty, Ian, was not well.  In a matter of half an hour or so, my magnificent friend Rob was driving me, my mother, and a really pissed-off cat to the veterinary emergency room.  It was, to say the least, not the way I expected to spend the morning; doubly so for Rob, I'm sure.

So, we checked Ian in, which is a fancy way of saying we answered a few questions and went back to the waiting room.  We waited.  I noticed the "FREE WIFI" sign and suddenly, deeply, regretted not having bought an iPhone.  We waited.  The cat actually started to nap contentedly.  Rob went out on a gas run.  We waited.

Before Ian got into triage, a small boy came over to the carrier.  Ian's a friendly guy; even so, he was surprisingly mellow about the little fingers pushing into his cage.
"Does he like people?" asked the boy.
"Yes, he does," my mother said.
He considered this a moment.  "I bet he doesn't like monsters."
Mom agreed this was probably the case.

$130 and a couple of hours later, I'm very pleased to tell you that the kitty was fine.  In the meantime, I had learned the following lessons in the waiting room:

  • Those Keurig machines make incredibly foul coffee.  Keep in mind I am intimately familiar with radio station coffee and political campaign coffee.  I KNOW BAD COFFEE.  I love bad coffee.  The consumption of real bad coffee is a sort of sacred rite, a communion.  It says, I have been here for twelve hours and I do not care that this coffee has been in this pot for fourteen.  This stuff was just foul from the get-go, and did not have the delicious flavor that accompanies self-sacrifice in a good cause.  
  • There is a children's channel called Qubo, which features computer-animated programs involving hippie fairies and dogs who drive racecars.  I swear I have never used hallucinogens in my entire life.  
  • Qubo carries advertisements for all the toys that I enjoy ridiculing when they appear on QVC's Christmas in [Inappropriately Early Month].
  • The actual children in the waiting room could not have cared less about the TV.
  • I would have killed for some riveting grownup programming, such as The Weather Channel.

It was all worth it, though, because right now there's a very happy, healthy, bossy black cat under the wing chair.  Long may he wave.

Blue Laws: The SMLTS Sunday Supplement 11/07/10

Blue Laws: The weekly roundup of not-particularly-work-safe things that amuse SMLTS.  Readers who are sensitive to naughty language, double (or indeed single) entendre, and basic bodily functions should not read this post!  The easily offended should opt for the rather good Aaron Sorkin parody downstream a post or two--it's totally G rated, and includes healthy cardio!

This week's Blue Laws asks and answers important questions about Internet commerce, proper use of the iPod, and the importance of neat penmanship.  If you're rough and ready for love, Blue Laws is tougher than the rest, if still really bitter about missing Bruce.  

November 5, 2010

The Folks At Boing Boing Play "Mad Libs"

From Boing Boing.  In fact, this might be the boingiest boing that ever boinged.

Spoiler Alert: MJ Would Be Written As A Thinly-Veiled Kristin Chenowith

Martin Sheen is likely to play Uncle Ben in the new Spider-Man movie.  No matter what else he does, the man will always be Jed Bartlett to me.  (This applies retroactively, so every time I see Gettysburg, I giggle like an idiot whenever Robert E. Lee shows up.) 

I think a real reboot of Spider-Man deserves a completely diferent perspective.  This is a good start, and it could inspire a proper approach to the script.  A new slant.  Punchy sentences.  Lots of walking.  In short, Spider-Man needs Aaron Sorkin.


UNCLE BEN and PETER PARKER are walking down the hallway and talking. 
BEN: Now, I'm not your father, Peter.
PETER: Not so much.
BEN: I'm your Uncle Ben.  And don't make the rice joke, I've heard every version of it already.
PETER: Right.
BEN: I'm perfect every time.
PETER: Each grain salutes you.
BEN: When I married your Aunt May, I even converted.
PETER: You're a renaissance man, Ben.
BEN: But not your father.  Your uncle.
PETER: I've taken the liberty of keeping a running score.
BEN: Good man.  What's next?
PETER: You were telling me that you're not my father.
BEN: Right.  I'm not.
PETER: I think we're clear on that point now.
BEN: I'm not pretending to be your father, either.
PETER: How long is this hall, anyway?

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served A La Mode

I'm not generally a torches-and-pitchforks kinda girl...  but oh, I AM enjoying the richly-deserved smackdown that Cooks Source [sic] is being served courtesy of the Internet. 

A few updates on the situation, via Salon, Gawker, The Washington Post...  and many more. 

Friday Linkdump: Fifth Avenue Freeze-Out Edition

  • I can't say enough about how wonderful professional movers are.  And I say that as a humble Pittsburgher who has never had to carry stuff above the third floor.  This heartwarming (or at least interesting) story of a New York City woman and her mover is well worth a read.

  • Amy Sedaris is out of her gourd and also awesome.  I want to believe that A Jerri Blank Christmas will 1)happen and 2) be infinitely better than the Strangers With Candy movie.

Jawdroppers included a world premiere (an out-of-left-field, expertly played “Save My Love” from the upcoming The Promise), and a spotlight on Darkness, with rousing, inspired versions of “Adam Raised a Cain,” “The Promised Land” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” A solo-acoustic Bruce portion was something to savor as its own entity, what with a second-time-ever performance of “A Good Man is Hard to Find (Pittsburgh),” in addition to “For You,” “This Hard Land” and a finale of “Thunder Road” that had the rambunctious crowd humming the guitar/sax coda over Bruce’s acoustic.  (

November 4, 2010

Have A Good Time (But Get Out Alive)

Yeah, my TicketBastard-fu ran out, and I got shut out of both Bruce/Grushecky shows.  Until tonight, I hadn't missed a Pittsburgh Bruce show in my adult life.  I even voluntarily went to Cleveland alone, by bus, because I wasn't going to hang around until December to take in The Rising tour.

Anyway...  slightly bummed.  Consoling myself with the imminent release of The Promise.  And fun memories.

Hey, you can totally hear me singing along!

Lest We Forget

What with the electoral carnage and the Slurpee Summit and Karl Rove suddenly being everywhere again, it's almost easy to forget the real horror of this week.

You know Sandra Lee, that crazy woman on Food Network with the  "tablescapes" and the horrifying cocktails and the infamous Kwanzaa Cake?  Inventor of that Kurtain Kraft thing?  Imbiber of much vodka?    Creator of "semi homemade" "meals" made of, like, Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix, Aquavit, a jar of Clamato and a box of cherry Jell-O? ("It's supersupersimple!")

Yeah, she's basically First Lady of New York now.

Elmo Have Dark Side! HAHAHAHHAA!

The HELL, Elmo?

While we're passing by Mr. Hooper's store (bless his eternal avuncularness)...  I have this sudden, overwhelming desire to buy a pogo stick...

Unsurprising, Unfortunate

The Southside Works location of Joseph-Beth is closing this month.

(On the upside...  maybe the clearance sales will be finally make their stuff cheap enough that I can justify buying something there other than Mojo.)

Copyright Infringement? Easy As Pie!

If you're going to steal someone's work for your obscure cooking magazine...  your best approach would probably be to feign innocent shock when you're busted.  Agree readily to the author's incredibly reasonable proposal that you apologize and kick $130 to the Columbia Journalism School.  Learn from the experience, and stop heisting stuff you didn't pay for.

Or...  you could be a generally nasty person and also tell the author that she should thank you for burnishing her portfolio.  Because you do not understand teh interwebs, you will then proceed to be surprised that this ends badly for you.

It's the skeeze sensation that's sweeping the nation...  read all about it on Gawker, Consumerist, the author's own blog, her friend Nick's blog... probably not in Cook's Source, though.  They have Paula Deen's lawyers to tangle with now, y'all.  (Eeew, I just linked to something on Facebook.  I feel so... unclean.  And it's not even Blue Laws day!)

November 3, 2010

Happiness Of The Geeks

Things That Made Technology Writers Happy Today:
1) Real-time holographic video is becoming a reality.
2) This gave practically everyone writing on the subject the opportunity to reference Princess Leia.
(Every word in that sentence links to a different article.  Really.)

In Which I Explore My Previously Unsuspected Masochistic Streak

DesPlaces today....  it was a really lovely morning to go for a walk, all crisp and bright and autumnal...  plus the maintenance guys vacuumed my office this morning and I figured I might as well make myself scarce.

That said, I'm painfully aware that the lighting was pretty much exactly wrong for taking pictures.  Sorry, kids.
Going, going... about halfway gone.

Technically speaking, it's more of a DEconstruction area.

Yep, that's the last bit of the front office wall...

November 2, 2010

Et Cetera

Over the weekend, I finally caught Pirate Radio on cable.  It's based very, very loosely on the saga of Radio Caroline...  I mean, REAL loose like.  And frankly, as a narrative work, it's kind of a mess.  Especially toward the end.  But it's a highly entertaining mess, propelled by undeniable '60s rock, populated by the sort of eccentric characters who find work at radio stations and--this is vital--featuring Bill Nighy.

Speaking of messes propelled by sheer manic glee...  the Pirate Radio soundtrack makes use of one of my favorite ludicrous songs of all time*...  the Turtles' "Elenore."

If you know this tune, you are aware that it contains the most epically ridiculous line in the entire history of recorded song:

Elenore, gee I think you're swell
And you really do me well
You're [WAIT FOR IT] my pride and joy, et cetera. 

I was slightly disappointed in researching this post to find out that the silly factor was entirely intentional...  seems the record label was pretty obnoxiously insisting on another "Happy Together*," so the band set out to write an over-the-top pastiche.

Never underestimate the magic a good producer can unleash...  the result is catchy as all get-out.  Still has the dumbest lyrics evah, but just try singing "you're my pride and joy, et cetera" without smiling.  Not possible.

*Because I am an Old, I favor ludicrous songs over Ludacris songs; I congratulate myself heartily on being hep enough to make that joke.  HEP, I say!
**It's stuck in your head already, isn't it?  BAAA  Bahbahbah BAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!  I'm sorry/you're welcome.

Music To Brood By... Not That My People Will Have Any Reason To Weep For The Future This Evening Or Anything

Usual disclaimers apply: I'm not shilling on anyone's behalf and I'm not getting kickbacks of any sort...

A couple of goodies to grab this very day at Amazon... the new Elvis Costello album is $3.99.  (That's the download--a CD will run you $12.99.)  Haven't heard it yet, so if he's in one of those annoying Juliet Letters moods.... well, we'll only be out $3.99.

Also, the free song of the day is Elliott Smith's "Between The Bars." 

Grab 'em while they're cheap/free!      

November 1, 2010

Vote Tuesday

(...and if anyone tells you that your party votes Wednesday, call these guys.)

Allegheny County voters can use this nifty online polling place locator.

Delicious fact-free ads failing to provide you with civic nourishment?  Non-partisan reality checks are out there, courtesy of

And if you haven't registered to vote...  too late, pallie.  But not too late for next time!  You can get the ball rolling through the PA Department of State.

Democracy In America: Hard Times, Not End Times

A refreshing moment of historical perspective (via Advertising Age and Reason)...

Christmas Creep

When the fake cobwebs are in the kitchen trash and the jack o'lantern is still grinning from the entryway...  it's obviously CHRISTMASTIME!!!

Nobody loves Christmas more than I do.  I love the decorations and the baking and the extremely sentimental movies featuring Barbara Stanwyck as a mystery shopper who saves a retired General's Vermont inn so that some adorable Muppet otters can harmonize in the hotel bar.

But as all right-thinking people know, Christmas starts when Santa appears at the Macy's parade.  At that exact moment, the basket of decorative gourds is assumed into the Heavens and a dish of ribbon candy materializes, unbidden, to replace it.  That is simply an immutable law of physics; we toy with it at our peril.

As we're all very aware, the nation's marketing firms are ready to tempt fate and rev up the holiday cheer even as the kinder are nursing their post-Trick-or-Treat tummyaches.  This morning, my inbox was flooded with candy-cane colored email assuring me that every Monday is Cyber Monday and every Friday is Black Friday and I had better get on the stick if I wanted to make the drop-dead standard shipping deadline of December 17th.

It's hard to pick the most obnoxious message...  but this was my favorite (?) of the bunch:

Isn't this sort of note supposed to be composed of letters torn from magazines?

It's going to be a long haul between now and Thanksgiving...