Behold the Colossus

1. Marcia and I had a nice trip to Las Vegas last weekend to see Katelin and John. For entertainment, we visited The Neon Museum, The Punk Rock Museum, did a hike up the north side of Mount Charleston (getting turned back by snow and freezing rain just below 10,000 feet), and had a pool party with friends. We also had a great dinner at a restaurant called Black Sheep; I don’t watch reality television, but their owner/chef was apparently a big hit on Top Chef, if that’s meaningful to you. Either way, the food was outstanding and interesting, and I commend it to you should you be seeking a non-Strip culinary experience while in Vegas. As always, I took pictures, and there’s an album awaiting if you click on the image below. It’s from the collection at The Punk Rock Museum: the saxophone played by Fear’s Derf Scratch (RIP) on “New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones,” both on record, and during their infamous appearance on Saturday Night Live. Pretty darn cool, along with loads of other goodies there for gawking, especially great if you know what you’re looking for and at going in, since interpretation is pretty minimal in the exhibit spaces.

2. When we got back from The Punk Rock Museum, Katelin put on one of the many curated punk rock playlists on Spotify as background music for our obligatory Settlers of Catan session. After an hour or so of listening to the usual suspects (e.g. the more accessible songs by the likes of the Sex Pistols, Ramones, Clash, various precursors of the Iggy variety, and adjacent post-punk faves like XTC), it occurred to me that this really did not sound at all like what my own key punk and post-punk listening years sounded like, in large part because the more brutal and less melodic hardcore artists were largely ignored. So for our pool party, I rectified that situation by making my own Punk and Hardcore Mix, focusing on North American artists, not English ones, largely from the period between 1980 and 1995. Genre Police Bores might quibble that some of my selected artists would not be judged as punk, nor as hardcore, when viewed from 2023’s lens, but having lived and experienced it in real time, these sorts of songs were all part and parcel with the musical extremism of the era which my posse embraced. I honed the playlist a bit after getting home, limited to some extent because a lot of my favorite artists from the ’80s were obscure to the point that they don’t exist on Spotify in 2023, but still and all, I’m quite enjoying headbanging to the collection of 100 songs. Want to join me? Here’s the playlist:

3. A friend asked me recently why I wasn’t posting photos of my Sedona hikes on my website anymore, as I did for the first couple of years here via my 10,000 Words series. The easy answer is that I’m doing it in real time, most every day that I hike, on Facebook now instead, having rejoined that social media time-suck to promote various writing projects, despite my better judgment. But if you’re on Facebook, and we’re not connected, and you want to see the hiking photos, you can follow me here. I will take no responsibility for the time you waste there, just be forewarned.

4. Speaking of writing project promotions: I posted recently about the pre-order window being open for my forthcoming book, Ubulembu and Other Stories, and then later shared my gratitude for the robust pre-sales that the story collection has already accrued. So thanks again to those of you who pre-ordered, that helps a lot! And if you’ve been meaning to get around to it, well, there’s still time to build buzz and convince the brick and mortar bookstores to stock the work right from its release date on August 1st. You can click the book cover below for a link back to the page with all of the ordering site information, and (once again) I will be deeply grateful to any and all of you who choose to reserve your copy now. They’ll make great gifts, too, so go ahead and load up and save yourself some time when the holidays roll around!

Heirloom 13 (On Books)

1. It’s Memorial Day today, which is always a notable commemorative holiday in my family, given the many generations worth of veterans (me and Marcia included) shaping both branches of our family tree. Thankfully, none of said family members died in service to their Nation during our lifetimes, but any and all of us could have, as an integral part of taking our respective oaths of office, and I deeply respect and honor the families who mark the day more meaningfully. I’m having a bit of a supplemental reaction to Memorial Day this year, too, having spent much of the past three years researching and writing about fallen military figures with my writing partner, Rear Admiral Jim McNeal, and then promoting the fruits of our labor: Side by Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves. An over-arching theme throughout the book is a study of the ways in which survivors have honored (or occasionally dishonored) their fallen colleagues, from the American Civil War to the present, complemented by an assessment of the emergence and evolution of the National Cemetery system, within which so many of our fallen veterans lie. If your own reflections on the day include open questions about the ways in which families and society at large respond to the deaths of military and military-adjacent individuals, the book might help answer some of them, in what we believe to be an informative and engaging fashion. You can click on the cover image below for links to order your own copy, if you’re so moved:

2. And while I’m pimping books: last week, I posted a piece about the importance of pre-orders in the bookselling world, and respectfully asked you, dear readers, to help support the pre-launch campaign of my next book, Ubulembu and Other Stories, which comes out on August 1. I was really very pleased to see how many of you did so, with some moderately attention-getting numbers being posted in the days that followed. Thank you for that, most deeply and sincerely. The more copies of Ubulembu that are pre-ordered, the higher the probability that brick and mortar bookshops will stock the book right from its release date, and the higher the likelihood that critical outlets will notice and engage with it. I’m eager to keep pushing pre-sales through June and July, so if you’ve been considering acquiring your own advance copy, I’d remain most grateful if you ordered the book from the outlet of your choosing. You can click on the book cover below for information on where to order it, once again with my thanks.

3. And how about some chit-chat about a book I didn’t write, to cleanse the mental palate a bit? Marcia got me a great book for my birthday, called Quantum Criminals: Ramblers, Wild Gamblers, and Other Sole Survivors from the Songs of Steely Dan. Written by Alex Pappademus and illustrated by Joan LeMay, the book is one of more entertaining, informative, and opinionated rock biographies I’ve read in recent memory, crafted through an original lens: each chapter is anchored around one or more of the (usually sketchy) characters found in the lyrics composed by the Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. That type of oddly-angled rock analysis often produces overly precious product, but Pappademus’ prose is as perfectly sardonic as it could possibly be when examining the lives and works of the grimly cynical Messrs Becker and Fagen, and his deep research and insights into the Steely Dan canon gave me a surprisingly large amount of fresh perspective, given how long and how deeply I’ve been immersed in and obsessed by their work.

I covered my history with the Dan in fairly lurid detail during my Favorite Songs by Favorite Bands series, and you can read that report here. But I think what made Quantum Criminals resonate so deeply with me was the fact that I’ve obsessed over Steely Dan’s quizzical lyrics in similar ways to Pappademus and LeMay, often in partnership with my equally obsessive, nerdy, and cynical friend Wilson Smith (RIP). Way back when (in Internet terms), Wilson and I created two deep digs into the Steely Dan lexicon and shared them online, and I re-share them with you today, even as I encourage you to score and read Quantum Criminals, whether you’re a Dan Fan or not. It’s that good of a book.

The first Dan-related lyrical project Wilson and I posted was anchored in the fact that Becker and Fagen extensively used imperative or directive forms in their lyrics, regularly and aggressively. A sample: “You better tell me everything you did, baby,” from the The Royal Scam (1976) track “Everything You Did.” Not “would you tell me?” or “could you tell me?” or “won’t someone tell me?” They used straight up command forms, directed your way, no doubts about it: “You better tell me.” Donald and Walter didn’t ask you for your advice or ideas or thoughts or suggestions; if they wanted them, they gave them to you, as orders, or commands, or statements that this was the way it was going to be. You there: “Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening,” over and over and over again. It’s a key part part of their menacing lyrical charm, I think.

So Wilson and I created an interactive page called “What Would Don and Walt Do? (WWDWD)” The core concept was that Becker and Fagen were the coolest, wisest people in the world, and they’d laid out brilliant rules for living in their lyrics. You could type in a burning life question at your desktop, hit a button, and receive a message from the Dan, as a sort of Magic Eight-Ball or Oblique Strategies approach to changing your thinking or actions, with every one of the commands given having been culled from their lyrics. And there were a lot of them. The original WWDWD website crashed ages and ages ago, but I was able to preserve its text, include the complete list of Dan Commands, and I posted the whole thing in my obituary for Walter Becker after he flew away in 2017. You can read the complete WWDWD text here.

The second Dan Fan project that Wilson and I created stemmed from our observation that the world(s) that Becker and Fagen created are deeply rooted in very precise places, a huge number of which are specifically named over the course of their nine studio albums. Steely Dan’s realities aren’t generic ones, but are rather set in their own places, precisely, which always makes them seem more real, more lived in, and more meaningful than less observational fare might have been. They are universal in their precision, and precise in the universality of their messages because of that. So we created a map of The Geography of Steely Dan, also long obliterated by the entropy of the Internet, though once again, I was able to preserve the text, which I also re-posted shortly after Walter Becker’s passing. We titled it “Show Me Where You Are,” from a lyrical line in 1973’s “King of the World.” And, of course, true to form, it’s in directive, command form. You can read the whole thing here.

Needless to say, reading Quantum Criminals has put me on deep Dan listening jag this week. Damn, damn, damn, were they good. I’d most strongly suggest that you nab yourself a copy of the book, and then pile up a good Steely Dan playlist, and embrace your inner Jerome Aniton (if you have to ask, you’ll never know) because one thing I can tell ya, Brother, he is here tonight, Mister Magnificent One is here, the Beautiful One is here, you little old pretty one, you here too. You know . . . whatever . . .

My copy. You cannot has.

We Strive for Excellence

1. In my prior post, I celebrated the best new music of 2023’s First Quarter, including a special nod for Buggy Jive‘s outstanding new single, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job.” Buggy had written the song about the thought processes behind submitting a song to NPR’s acclaimed Tiny Desk Concerts series, then he submitted same song to said contest, because of course he did. And, no surprise here, given how wildly crazy I’ve been about his work over the years, NPR has warmly embraced it through the ongoing review process of over 6,000 submissions, featuring it prominently in a pair of promotional videos. Here’s the most recent one of those, its first third scored to those sweet and mellifluous Buggy stylings:

The winner of this year’s contest will be announced on May 11. Which happens to be this brilliant soul-rock singer-songwriter’s birthday. I hope and think everything’s coming up Buggy in 2023. Wishing him all best in the weeks ahead (and beyond), and am thrilled to pieces to see his fine work getting this level of attention. He deserves it, for sure.

2. I’ve been communicating closely with, and remain most impressed by, the team at Unleash Creatives as we work to bring my forthcoming collection Ubulembu and Other Stories to market in late summer/early autumn 2023. Jen Knox, Chris Shanahan, and their Unleash Press colleagues are a vibrant and creative and fun bunch, right up my alley, and they place a high value on building community among the writers they represent and publish, which also does my heart good, as a networking fiend. As we move toward the final proof stage of the process, Ubulembu has begun appearing as a pre-order on the various and myriad online bookselling platforms, which is exciting. Even more exciting: Seeing the cover concept coming together, wow! The aesthetic is right up my alley, as those of you who used to receive my black Christmas cards every year may well imagine, and the imagery is deeply meaningful to the title story, even if you don’t know what you’re looking at before reading. Behold!

I’ll obviously provide additional information on ordering as we get closer to publication date, with thanks in advance to any and all of you who choose to acquire it. It is a thrill to know that these stories will be finally set before a wide audience this year, in some cases after they’ve been sitting on my computers for decades. Slow and steady and such, yeah?

3. Also on the writing front, Side by Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves is trucking along nicely in its post-publication life cycle. I have a few signed copies left here at the homestead, so if you’re interested in one of those, hit me up, sooner rather than later. For my Naval Academy peeps: I’ll be doing a signing with my co-author, Jim McNeal, in Annapolis on May 17, the day of the annual Herndon Climb. Hope to see some of you there! There will also be a local event in Sedona in September, and we are exploring some other options to discuss and present our work in other in-person or online settings. We’re both happy to present the project if you’ve got any virtual or meat-space opportunities to suggest. If you’ve read Side by Side in Eternity and posted thoughts about it anywhere, do share those with us, please and thanks, as we are working to acquire and assemble blurbs and reviews. We are still hard at work on our next book, Crucibles: History’s Most Formidable Rites of Passage, for Agate Publishing, and it’s been a fascinating and enjoyable process thus far. We’ve already written about our 1982-83 Plebe Year experiences together at the Naval Academy, and also about the French Foreign Legion, the Dahomey Amazons, the Koa (warriors) of Hawai’i, and the Shaolin Monks. We have another 14 chapters coming in the year ahead, plus our analytical synthesis of centuries’ worth of elite society trials, ostensibly to frame what works, what doesn’t, what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s just mystifying and fantastic and fun. It’s a great project, if I say so myself, and Jim and I are very appreciative for Doug Siebold at Agate and Mark Gottlieb at Trident Media Group, who saw its potential and share our enthusiasm for the work. Thanks, guys!

4. I’ve mentioned before that I’m back on Facebook, ennhhh, as a necessary evil for various promotional activities in 2023 and beyond. Since I spend much of my free time these days hiking, I’ve been doing little “photo essay” reports of various routes there, which people seem to be enjoying. One thing that I’ve noticed with all of the photography I do hereabouts is that it’s really, really difficult to communicate a sense of the scale of the rock formations within which we live and play. I’m a reasonably strong and accomplished hiker, and there are a lot of places I go which are struggles, up close and personal, but which in pictures look, well, too easy, I guess. If pressed to name my favorite hike in this area, it’s a loop that I do up to a summit that I can see from our back porch. It’s a tough one, but totally worth it. I decided to do something of a step-by-step documentation of it the last time I was up there, and posted it as its own Flickr album to see if it did a better job of communicating the scale we experience here. If you click on the first picture and then scroll through the rest, I’ve captioned each one to explain what you’re looking at in each case. I’m not sure that it does a better job of showing the bigness and majesty that I feel being in it in real time, but you can click the summit photo below if you’re interested in seeing it and deciding yourself. If you come visit me, I’ll likely propose we do it together. So be prepared.

5. And finally, speaking of hiking: Marcia and I have just booked a 14-day trek through the Alps for August-September, leaving from Munich, crossing Austria, and ending up in Venice. Want to join us? You can do it here. It would be a blast to experience it with friends!

Crucial Velocity

1. Marcia and I returned yesterday from a quick trip to New Orleans. I went on behalf of TREE Fund to help conduct finalist interviews for the President/CEO position, my former job until 2019, and the one I’ve been filling again on an interim basis since last December. Marcia came with me because we’ve both been to New Orleans on our own for work over the years, but we’ve never visited it together. It was a good and fun and productive trip. On the work side, we hope to be announcing the new TREE Fund President/CEO within the next couple of weeks. On the personal side, we got a lot of good walks in, and ate some truly amazing meals, all of them involving various types of crustaceans, which pleased my belly immensely. Of particular culinary note, if you find yourself looking for a meal in New Orleans, were Luke, Toast (for brunch), and Seafood Sally’s. We also visited the New Orleans Jazz Museum and the National World War II Museum, both worth the time and attention. I snapped some pics along the way, as I do, and if you’d like to see our photo album, you can click on the mid-meal scene from our first night’s dinner at Seafood Sally’s. Messy good deliciousness, just so.

When the dinner table features a roll of paper towels, a plastic pitcher, and a bucket, then I know I am where I am meant to be. Mmm mmm good!!!

2. On the writing-related front, things are trucking along very nicely with Unleash Press toward an October 2023 release of Ubulembu and Other Stories. I’ve seen the cover art mock-up and I love it, so will be most excited to have it out for your delectation this autumn. The roll-out for Side by Side in Eternity continues to go well. As I’ve noted before, if you’ve acquired it, thank you! If you’ve read it, even bigger thanks! And if you enjoyed it and would be able and willing to leave a review on the book-buying or personal platform of your choice, Jim (my co-author) and I would be most tickled, indeed. I do still have 11 copies of the book here that are signed by Jim and I. If you’d like to have one of those autographed copies for your personal library, hit me up by email and I’ll be happy to get it off to you, pronto.

3. I’ve typically done a “Best Music of the Year (Half-Way)” type post each summer, highlighting the first six months of each year’s offerings as an interim step toward my annual Albums of the Year report. 2023 has started on a super-strong front to my ears, so I think I’m going to mix it up a bit with a quarterly interim report instead. For January to March, here’s what’s been rocking my world the hardest:


  • Gina Birch, I Play My Bass Loud
  • David Brewis, The Soft Struggles
  • John Cale, Mercy
  • Fever Ray, Radical Romantics
  • Steve Mason, Brothers & Sisters
  • Caroline Polachek, Desire, I Want to Turn Into You
  • Iggy Pop, Every Loser
  • Yves Tumor, Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)
  • Uriah Heep, Chaos & Colour
  • Young Fathers, Heavy Heavy
  • Andy White and Tim Finn, AT


  • Buggy Jive, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”
  • David J, “Quelle Tristesse” / “Vienna Song”
  • Mammoth WVH, “Another Celebration at the End of the World”
  • Public Image Ltd., “Hawaii”
  • Sparks, “The Girl is Crying in Her Latte”
  • Bartees Strange, “Tisched Off” / “Keekee’in”

Since I’m still caving to streaming (grumble), I’ve created a playlist if you’d like to sample one cut from each of these releases, below. Enjoy them, and let me know what else I might have missed over the past three months!


4. I must point out a sad note and a glad note related to songs in that prior playlist. The sad news first: Public Image Ltd’s (PiL) “Hawaii” single was released as a love song for Nora Forster, the wife since 1979 of PiL front-man John Lydon. Nora has been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for several years, and this beautiful song was crafted as an ode to a memorable vacation that John and Nora spent in Hawai’i, even as Nora’s memories of it, and many other things, were fading. Lydon has been Nora’s primary caregiver throughout her devastating illness, and this song (among other activities) were John’s way of preserving Nora’s dignity, celebrating her life, and heightening awareness of Alzheimer’s impact on those living with the disease, and those caring for them. I was sad to read yesterday that Nora has finally succumbed to her disease at the age of 80. “Hawaii” is a beautiful ode to the long power of their partnership, a mature love song written in the waning days of a life-long romance, not in the passionate throes of its early moments. I can’t think of a lot of other songs crafted from that perspective, with Kurt Weill’s “September Song” (best performed by Willie Nelson, to these ears) as perhaps the exemplar of the idiom. Until “Hawaii.” RIP to Nora Forster, and all affection to John Lydon in the dark and lonelier days ahead of him. His dedication to his wife, though better and worse, in sickness and in health, moves me. Here’s the video for this most sad and special song:

On a happier front, Buggy Jive’s “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” was created for and entered into NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, and yesterday, the judges highlighted nine favorites (out of over 6,000 entries) from their rating and screening process. Guess what? Buggy Jive is one of them. This year’s winner will be announced in May, and I would be tickled pink to have Buggy earn that most well-deserved honor. I’ve counted him as a genius since first being exposed to his work in Albany in the ’90s, and it is thrilling to see him getting this level of acknowledgment and recognition. Go Buggy Jive! I’m cheering and rooting for you, with all that I’ve got! Here’s the video of the song, which is typically fantastic, discussing the whole Tiny Desk concept while participating in the same, meta upon meta upon meta. Plus, Buggy gets his very best band together again for this special performance, worth seeing them work their formidable chops. Oh, and The LORD makes a special appearance, which is always a good thing. Love it!

Green Buckets

1. This has been our third winter/spring cycle in Northern Arizona, and it’s been something of a doozy: colder, wetter, snowier, and longer than the chilly season normally lasts, by a long-shot. One of the consequences of all the rain we’ve had here, and all the snow they’ve had a few thousand feet up and a dozen miles north of here, is that our nearby rivers and streams have been in full flood for weeks now. There are two perennial streams (Oak Creek and Wet Beaver Creek) and one intermittent stream (Dry Beaver Creek) near our house, plus boodles of normally-dry unnamed washes. We’ve seen them flood explosively during monsoon season (including the two that immediately abut our property), but those flows are short-lived. The current inundation is likely to keep running for a long time yet. It makes hiking difficult (both in terms of not being able to get across things one normally can, and in terms of how five pounds of mud caked on each boot makes your legs feel), but I do keep having to remind myself how good this is for the region in macro, after years of mega-drought. Marcia and I have rambled down to the three local creeks, and the views have been impressive. Click the photo of Oak Creek taken yesterday (where that whitewater is, there is supposed to be a trail) to see some of the other wet and wild images hereabouts these days:

2. As a follow-up to my announcement upon the release of my new book with Rear Admiral Jim McNeal, Side by Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves, I’m happy to report that it seems to be fully and widely available now in both print and eBook versions from all of the major online retailers. Thanks very much to any and all of you who have purchased a copy. That means a lot. If you’ve actually managed to read it, and if you enjoyed it, Jim and I would also be deeply appreciative if you’d be inclined to rate/review it Amazon or any other online retailer, or on your own websites, or in print, for our working journalist friends. I guess if you read it and hated it, you could review it too, but, gosh, who are we to ask to continue to wallow in something that you didn’t enjoy? Maybe just let it go and move on instead, yeah?

3. As another follow-up to my other announcement about winning the Unleash Creatives Book Prize for Ubumembu and Other Stories, I am pleased to report that I have, in fact, signed a contract with Unleash Press to publish the book, and we are targeting an October 1, 2023 release date. So you’ve got one item for your 2023 holiday shopping set and sorted, easy peasy. I’ll be sure to pester you further about it in the months ahead, you bet. I’ve still got a full-length poetry collection and a full-length essays collection out for consideration in various locations, and our literary agent is working to negotiate placement for the next collaborative book that Jim McNeal and I are pitching, provisionally titled Crucibles: History’s Most Formidable Rites of Passage. So there may yet be more good writing news here in the weeks and months ahead, building on what’s already been a great year for me on that front, with thanks to so many who have helped make that possible.

4. And I end today’s omnibus post with a brief memorial note on the occasion of the passing of an artist I admire: Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins (1941-2023). Fuzzy was one of the five core members of a doo-wop barbershop quintet called The Parliaments, founded in Plainfield, New Jersey, in 1956, with the group’s classic line-up cohering by 1960. The group scored their first and only hit single under their original name with 1967’s “(I Wanna) Testify,” though in keeping with industry practice at the time, the recorded version of the song only featured lead vocalist George Clinton, while session aces rounded out the rest of the sound.

Due to a series of financial and legal disputes and disasters following the success of “Testify,” Clinton and Company rebranded themselves around their core supporting musicians as Funkadelic, then some years later signed the same group of singers and musicians to a second record label under the name Parliament. The collective released albums under both names in parallel throughout the ’70s, eventually cohering into “P-Funk,” with Parliament’s records leaning toward the soul/R&B/disco side of the cultural equation, and Funkadelic’s leaning toward the psychedelic/rock side.

Fuzzy was visually and vocally front-and-center throughout P-Funk’s most seminal recording and performing era, credited with “Werewolf Vocals” and “Berserker Octave Vocals,” among other things. He was the primary featured vocalist alongside Clinton for most of the group’s early years, occasionally adding guitar and drums to various recordings and live performances. And he looked like this . . .

Fuzzy’s great run with the group finally ended in 1977, when he and fellow 1960 members of The Parliaments, Calvin Simon and Grady Thomas, bailed together, aggrieved by and tired beyond recovery over various shady behind-the-scenes financial dealings that devalued their historic and then-current contributions to the group’s recorded and live work. The founding trio made an attempt to reclaim the original Funkadelic brand as Clinton’s core Mothership was crashing into a fog-shrouded mountain of cocaine and legal acrimony, but their moment had passed, and the effort was to no commercial or critical avail. In that same transitional period, Fuzzy released two solo albums featuring a variety of P-Funk alums: A Whole ‘Nother Thang (1976) and Radio Active (1978), before moving on to a career focused on his gospel ministry. Those solo records are both highly enjoyable and funky and soulful, if woefully underappreciated, then and now. (I was glad to see this week that they seem to be available on many contemporary streaming services, if you want to check them out).

Fuzzy also contributed as a collaborating songwriter during his P-Funk days, and in a prolific group with very, very few single-name songwriting credits (most of them George Clinton’s), Fuzzy landed three wrote-it-alone songs: “Back in Our Minds,”  “I Miss My Baby,” and “I Got a Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody’s Got a Thing.” All of them are fantastic, and all of them are conceptually and creatively important in the group’s chronology and discography. I include a link to “I Got A Thing” below to wrap this post. If you’ve never heard it, you need to, along with all of the other early Funkadelic and Parliament albums in their entirety. On a historic note, “I Got A Thing” marked the P-Funk recording debut of Bernie Worrell (also RIP), who became one of the cornerstones of the collective’s sound and spirit through the ’70s, then emerged as one of the great go-to session keyboardists from the ’80s on through to his death in 2016.

RIP Fuzzy. I appreciated you.

Far Country

1. Marcia and I are home from a wonderful birthday visit to Las Vegas, where she and Katelin celebrated their natal date at the same moment when huge swaths of the world were marking International Women’s Day. My mother joined us, on her first ever visit to Las Vegas. We kept telling her we were going to buy her a carton of Pall Mall’s, give her twenty dollars, and leave her at one of the convenience store casinos for three days, to giver her a true, old school, hardcore Vegas experience. But that didn’t quite work out, as we opted for some tourism time on the Strip and at Fremont Street instead. As is typical for our visits to see Katelin and John in their home city, we also had some superb meals, with two new-to-us destinations being particularly pleasing: Edo Gastro Tapas and Wines, and Panevino. The former offered an exceptional ten-course tasting menu, where everything was superb and interesting, the latter was a high-quality traditional Italian restaurant in a lovely space with a great view out over the airport and Strip. Both recommended if you find yourself needing some substantial sustenance between bouts of gambling and partying. I took some snaps during the week, as I usually do, which you can see by clicking the photo below of the posse waiting for the Bellagio Fountains to do their thing:

John rented a mobility scooter for my Mom. It was easy to do, affordable, and greatly enhanced her ability to get up and down the strip and around various casinos. Recommended if you’ve got a family member or friend whose Vegas experience could benefit from having some wheels.

2. Right before we headed to Las Vegas, I was tickled to receive word that my full-length collection Ubulembu and Other Stories had won the Unleash Creatives Book Prize. I posted a screen cap of the announcement at that prior link, but then when I went to look at it again a couple of days ago, I noted that they had since added a review quote from the Final Judge of the competition. The review makes me blush on one hand, but it also deeply pleases me that someone clearly gets what I do, writing-wise, which is always a wonderful affirmation to receive. Here’s the quote, with deep thanks to Dick McPherson and all at Unleash Creatives/Lit:

3. As I wrote at length in this post, I somehow missed the great Buggy Jive‘s late 2022 album, The Ghost of Alexander, which coulda woulda shoulda been a contender for my Album of the Year last year, had I been paying better attention in real time. One of the nice things about being back on social media for book marketing purposes  is that I can now keep better tabs on current events involving the artists who move me, like Buggy Jive. And so I was very pleased to see yesterday, in real time, that Buggy has already got a new single out, called “Don’t Quit Your Day Job,” which is typically great, and which features yet another awesome video. Here ’tis, hooray!

Muchas Veces

1. My disdain for modern social media has been widely shared here in recent years, after I bailed completely on the idiom and shut down my various accounts around 2016. (I actually gave up on Facebook all the way back in 2012, though I have had to re-open accounts every so often for various professional reasons). But now, as related to the creative news posted recently here and here, I do find myself needing to have a promotional outlet on at least one of the major social media platforms in the months ahead, so I have once again recreated my Facebook account, because needs must. I’m here, if you’re interested in connecting in that fashion. I can’t swear that I will be a good correspondent within that idiom, as my focus will be on promotional activities and on avoiding seeing things that I really don’t want to see, and on making sure that I don’t fall into the platform’s time-suck potentialities. But I always try to be polite, and I always reply when spoken to (not so much when spoken at), so there’s that. I will note that I often see significant traffic being driven to this website from Facebook, and without an account, I’ve not been able to figure out where and why such interest is originating. So it’s a nice and helpful side effect to now be able to thank people there who are supporting my various projects, without me having known about it for the past six years or so.

2. In my Best Albums of 2022 report, I noted that I would do a supplemental post if something slipped in under my radar after I had published my list. As we get deep into February 2023, only one new-to-me 2022 album deserves such a supplemental post: The Ghost of Alexander by Buggy Jive. I’d lauded Buggy’s EP I Don’t Understand How the World Works, and Alexander‘s lead single “Make Me Water (Extended Schenectady Vasectomy Mix),” but somehow the full album slipped out without me noticing in real time. Shame on me. Guess I should have been on social media. But in any case, better late than never, and Alexander stands as yet another incredibly fine entry in Buggy’s soul-rock catalog. He’s always been great, for as long as I’ve known of him (and known him), but when I look at the incredible volume of incredible music that he’s released over the past five years of so, the mind boggles and the jaw drops at his ability to compose great songs, write great words, sing stellar harmonies, and drop super sublime instrumental arrangements and performances, song after song after song, all by his lonesome. And as if that wasn’t enough, he’s also one of the finest video producers working that idiom in recent years. I mean, check this one from Alexander out:

How and why is that thing not destroying the internets and commercial broadcast outlets? It’s got everything going for it, and then some. No accounting for popular cultural tastes, I guess. One of my favorite things about Buggy is his ability to craft deeply personal first-person narratives that explore monumental themes with perfect little details that make them feel real, lived-in, organic, and whole. The coda section to “Make Me Water” is especially awesome in this regard, especially for those of us with deep familiarity with the 518. It made me smile big from Sedona to know exactly why we need to raise our capes when we ponder the City that Lights the World.  Tee hee hee! Had I been on my game at year’s end, or had this album come out earlier in 2022, it could have been a contender in my mind for Album of the Year. Sorry I missed it in real time, Buggy. It won’t happen again.

3. I also picked up a couple of late 2022 reads that I missed in my Best Books of 2022 report that I’d like to laud and celebrate at this point. First, on the fiction front, Expect Me Tomorrow by Christopher Priest, one of my very favorite currently-working authors. Key to his canon are his Dream Archipelago books, one of which (The Islanders) I would count among my dozen favorite novels ever. (Though I have to use the term “novel” in its loosest possible meaning in this particular case). Expect Me Tomorrow is not a Dream Archipelago story, but it taps another of Priest’s cornerstone concerns, where obscure but true historic events and characters are deployed in service to the creative world-making in which Priest excels. This one explores a 19th Century true crime story, tying it to the 20th and 21st Century concerns that might have followed the skein of the historic story. Priest’s depiction of a post-climate change England in 2050 is heartbreaking and harrowing in equal measure, and he manages to make that component of his narrative fit flawlessly with the past tense elements of his story. It’s fine writing from a fine writer, highly commended to your attention.

4. The other great 2022 book I read recently goes into the nonfiction bucket: Some New Kind of Kick: A Memoir by Kid Congo Powers and Chris Campion. Kid Congo (botn Brian Tristan) was a member of three hugely influential bands who I adore: The Gun Club, The Cramps, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. His book is delightful in exploring how he came to serve in each of those camps, and how the perhaps better known members of those groups interacted with him and with others. But even more enjoyable was getting to know Kid Congo as a person, as his story is a fascinating one that made me really root for him in a most supportive and affectionate fashion. Also fascinating: he was Johnny on the Spot for an incredible number of highly significant events in highly significant places with highly significant people during the first eruptions of the punk and post-punk eras. His first-hand accounts of things that I’ve generally only seen reported in third-hand voice is eye-opening, educational, and fun. A great read from a great artist and human being. Win, win, win.

2022: Year In Review

Marcia and I will be heading to Spain (our first international trip since COVID) a couple of days after Christmas, so today seems like a good point to sit and settle up the scores for 2022 here at my website, as I normally do at this time each year, plus or minus a few days. Unless I get ambitious, or someone I care about deeply passes away soon, this will likely be the final post of the year, for better and/or for worse.


In 2020, I surprised myself by publishing 147 posts, the most I’d done since the Poem-A-Day Project in 2004. Retiring from full-time work certainly gave me more time to write, as did COVID-driven cancellations of planned travel, and the need to fill socially isolated time in some satisfying and/or productive fashions. I followed that high-water mark with another 120 posts in 2021. Even with that smaller number of entries, the overall site readership trend remained positive, as I think the coronablogus effect was still in full play throughout that year. But I did seem to hit a wall at the end of 2021, tiring of some of my then-ongoing features, and noting in January of this year that I might be w(h)ithering a bit hereabouts. That did indeed prove to be the case, as this post is number 54 for the year, more than a 50% reduction in my recent annual output. But, thankfully, readership numbers didn’t decline anywhere near that level, so my per-post hits were actually higher than ever, per the chart below. I’ve operated this site and domain since 1995, but prior to 2015, I split my writing between a variety of sites with a variety of hosts, so there’s no easily meaningful visual comparison to make from those times. (Actual numbers are  edited out, as it’s tacky to share them, and the trend line is what matters to me; the light-blue pipes are total unique page visits, the dark-blue pipes are total unique visitors):

As I report each year, here are the baker’s dozen most-read articles among the new posts here over the past twelve months. So if you’re new-ish to my site, or just finding it via this post, then these are the things that readers thought were the best in the vote-by-numbers, and therefore might be the best things to explore further. There’s a bit of everything in the mix, tone-wise, which I suppose is just fine and dandy:

And then here are the baker’s dozen posts written in prior years that received the most reads in 2022, shared to the same recommended pointing reason. It always fascinates me which of the 1,200+ articles on my website interest people (or search engines) the most, all these years on since the first 1995 post on the earliest version of this website. (Note that I exclude things like the “About Me” page or the generic front page from the list, even though they generate a lot of my traffic). “The Worst Rock Band Ever” tops the leader board, as it does most every year. And once again, here’s hoping that people realize that the perennially-popular “Iowa Pick-Up Lines” post is a joke, and also, once again, it continues to befuddle me why my 1999 interview with relatively-obscure guitarist Dave Boquist appears on this “most-read” chart almost every year, receiving far more hits, continually, than my many other interviews with many other far more famous artists. Go figger . . .


See this earlier post: Best of My Web 2022


We will see 2022 off, God willing and the creek don’t rise, in the Puerto del Sol, Madrid, Spain. We leave on Tuesday, but I’ve gone ahead and penned that trip onto my annual travel map, below. While this isn’t as heavy a travel load as we once did, it’s certainly nice to see it being populated with more red lines than were possible during peak COVID years:


See these two earlier posts:


See this earlier post: Best Books of 2022


See these three earlier posts:

AND  THEN . . . .

. . . onward into 2023, with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. I don’t know whether I’ll continue to churn out the piffle and tripe at recent levels, or do more, or so less, or what direction your collective engagement with this site will take. (One of the nice things about doing this as a labor of love, and not a labor of commerce, is that the thought of less content and/or less traffic in the year ahead does not cause me any agita). But regardless of how all of those things turn out, I will forever be grateful to those of you who care enough to continue supporting my creative endeavors, right here and right now, and I wish all of you and all of yours the very best over the days and months and years to come!

P.S. As a final tease on the final post of the year, here’s one thing that I know 2023 will be bringing, if you’d like to stake your claim to a copy:

Side By Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves