Archive for Around the Web

The Writing Life: A True Story!

It happens.

Things People Hate: A Happy Recap


I’m going to cross some kind of line with this post, like Voyager pushing past our solar system, beyond the heliopause, into interstellar dark. That’s right, I’m about to do the unforgivable: discuss a recent thread on my Facebook feed.

Is that a sign my world has gotten too small? That I need to get out more?

Oh yes, I need to get out more.

I am active on Facebook. Usually a post a day, a movie I loved, a book I recommend, some kind of pass-along, something. I try not to complain too much about American politics, though that’s hard. The other day I stumbled upon an update that got a huge response (in my corner of the interwebs, anyway).

I innocently wrote:

Complete the sentence in comments. Things I absolutely abhor that other people seem to like . . .

Last I looked, I had received 240+ responses.

People couldn’t wait to fill in the blankety-blank.

So much hate!

Name any movie or a celebrity or a band, and there’s somebody out there who loathes it/them. No one seems immune, not Will Farrell or Harry Potter or even Alexa.

People have very specific food dislikes. And all I can say is: Poor coconut! And somebody, please, give peas a chance! True fact: Name a food you hate, mint ice cream for example, and six people will instantly nod and say, “Hell to the Yes!”

For pure entertainment value, and creativity, and good old-fashioned weirdness, I most enjoyed when friends named very specific things they hated. (Some of these people have issues.)

A few of my favorites culled from the list:

  • Crocs
  • TVs in public spaces
  • Phones during meals
  • Alexa
  • Auto-tune
  • The internet
  • Crowds
  • Duvet covers
  • Costume parties
  • Rustic reclaimed signs
  • Supermarkets
  • Families
  • Comments
  • Up talk
  • Thoughts and prayers
  • Very muscular builds
  • Speed boats
  • Pugs
  • Umbrellas
  • California wine culture
  • People who bring their dogs everywhere
  • Alternate facts
  • Wire hangers
  • Birds
  • Gender Reveal Events
  • Leaf blowers
  • Plastic blow-up lawn decorations


The obvious lesson is that if you get enough people to respond, we can carpet the entire world with hate. Fruit salad and green vegetables and chocolate? I know people who hate ’em all!

Oh, you think it might be nice to put on some music? Really? That’s dangerous turf. Because somebody here is going to hate it. And hate it passionately — even Jimmy Buffett.

Or maybe especially Jimmy Buffett.

The most frequently recurring winners, er, losers, were: Donald Trump, Coconut, U2, the NFL, the Kardashians, Disney, and Gender Reveal Events.

And lastly, from a curmudgeonly pal across the pond . . . “just *@#%& everything OK!!???”

HOWEVER, to be fair, no one mentioned Tom Petty, because everyone likes Tom Petty.

And fuzzy little baby bunnies.

We’ll tolerate them, too.

What do you hate?


2019 in Music: Year of the Full-Album Project, My Top 20 & Honorable Mentions

Okay, I’m going to move beyond the fact that most of my usual readers couldn’t care less about this, and just write what I want anyway.

It’s my blog after all. 

It occurs, typing this, that speaks to all my writing. If I worried too much about people reading it, or “liking” it, I wouldn’t have the heart to continue. You have to move forward regardless of approval. Like life, I guess.

Back to music: I listened to a lot this year. Always have, but this was the first year I kept track. My sons, Nick (26) and Gavin (20), came up with a “full album” project; I tagged along for the ride. We each approached it somewhat differently, but the basic agreement was to listen to at least a full album a day. I got to 778 full albums, in addition to all the other random-scattered listening I do.

It was Nick’s idea, motivated by the realization that the album is an underappreciated art form. For most listeners, and quite a few musicians it seems, music has increasingly become a singles and playlist experience. Nick’s rule was to never repeat artists, to listen to 365 albums by 365 different artists, because he wanted to expand his palette. I didn’t limit myself in that way. (Yes, I see now that I listened to 43 different Bob Dylan albums this year — hey, I was trying something — along with every album by Kanye West, including “Watch the Throne” and “Kids See Ghosts.” Overall, I’d say that my discovery of the year was Bill Callahan/Smog: I went deep there.)

I listened to 125 new albums that came out in 2019. I liked most of them, and loved a lot. There’s so much outstanding new music that comes out every single week. My success rate was high because if I didn’t like an album, I usually either 1) knew to stay away in the first place; or 2) didn’t bother to sit through to the bitter end. So when I listened all the way, it was because I enjoyed it or felt compelled to finish for some reason.

Personally, I enjoy reading lists like this. They help me find music I missed, or prod me to listen again, more closely, to albums I may have dismissed too quickly. I’ll paraphrase something Jeff Tweedy once said. When he doesn’t like an album — especially one that others might be enjoying — he doesn’t begin with, “This music sucks!” Instead, he asks of himself, “What am I missing here? What am I not hearing?”

That is, the problem might not be with “it,” but with the attitude of the listener. For me, that’s an interesting and a humbling notion.

ONE LAST THING ABOUT MY LISTENING HABITS/TASTES: Because I’ve now got this large file on my desktop, I noted the artists I listened to most widely (by the measure of at least 3 different full albums). Those included in 2019: Aimee Mann, Arcade Fire, Avishai Cohen, Beach House, The Beatles, Beth Orton, Big Star, Big Thief, Bill Callahan, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, The Byrds, Cass McCombs, Charles Mingus, The Clash, Courtney Barnett, David Bowie, Death Cab for Cutie, Don Cherry, Drive-By Truckers, Elliott Smith, Elvis Costello, Elvis Presley, Florist, Frank Zappa, Genesis, Gillian Welch, Grateful Dead, Hayes Carl, Hot Tuna, James Blake, Jason Isbell, Jeff Tweedy, Joe Henry, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, John Prine, Joni Mitchell, Kanye West, The Kinks, Laura Cannell, Laura Marling, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Magnolia Electric Company, Miles Davis, Mitski, Mountain Goats, Neil Young, Nick Cave, Nick Drake, Nick Lowe, Paul Simon, Pavement, Penguin Cafe, Radiohead, R.E.M., Rolling Stones, Ryan Adams, Sam Amidon, Silver Jews, Smog, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Sufjan Stevens, Sun Kil Moon, Teenage Fanclub, Thelonious Monk, Tom Petty, Tom Waits, War on Drugs, Waylon Jennings, The Who, Wilco, William Tyler, Van Morrison, and Yo La Tengo. Safe to say that I love them all, and more.


TOP 20

Purple Mountains: s/t

Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising

Big Thief: U.F.O.F

Lana Del Ray: Norman fucking Rockwell

Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep

Aldous Harding: Designer

Julia Jacklin: Crushing

Faye Webster: Atlanta Millionaires Club

Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka

Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow

Brittany Howard: Jaime

(Sandy) Alex G: House of Sugar

Solange: When I Get Home @ 2019

Joe Henry: The Gospel According to Water

Better Oblivion Community Center: s/t

Sudan Archives: Athena

Tinariwen: Amadjar

Lankum: The Livelong Day

Nick Cave: Ghosteen

Rhiannon Giddens: there is no Other






Brighe Chaimbeul: The Reeling

Ye Vagabonds: The Hare’s Lament

The Gloaming: The Gloaming 3

Mdou Moctar: Ilana



GoldLink: Diaspora

Summer Walker: Over It

YBN Cordae: The Lost Boy

Freddie Gibbs, Madlib: Bandana

Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy!

Tyler, the Creator: Igor

Little Simz: GREY Area @ 2019



Avishai Cohen: Playing the Room

Penguin Café: Handfuls of Night

Jamie Branch: Fly or DIE II

The Comet Is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce

Caleb Burhans: Past Lives

Nivhek: After its own death … spiral

1000 gecs: s/t



Kacy & Clayton: Carrying On

Bill Callahan: Shephard in the Sheepskin Vest

Jake Xerxes Fussell: Out of Sight

Florist: Just Emily

William Tyler: Goes West

Jessica Pratt: Quiet Signs



Mannequin Pussy: Patience

Jay Som: Anak Ko

Fontaines D.C.: Dogrel

A.A. Bondy: Enderness.

Helado Negro: This Is How You Smile

James Blake: Assume Form

Big Thief: Two Hands

Wilco: Ode to Joy


Country/ Americana/Songwriter

Tyler Childers: Country Squire

Caroline Spence: Mint Condition

Hayes Carl: What It Is


CONCLUSION: Forget what I like or dislike, whether I have “good taste” or bad. The interesting thing for me was keeping track. So, come 2020, for the first time I’m going to do it with BOOKS. Yeah, it scares me a little. 

Genius Idea: Library Receipts Calculate Savings

The site Boing Boing recently linked to this 2018 post from the Wichita Public Library . . . 

Receipts highlight the financial benefits enjoyed by customers

A receipt shows a patron saved more than $200 during that visit and more than $25,000 for the year

Every time materials are borrowed from the Wichita Public Library (WPL) customers receive a receipt showing how much they have saved in that visit, the year to date, and their lifetime savings. The information is displayed on the receipt similar to the ways that retail stores show savings to club members or coupon users.

“While libraries offer tremendous benefits to their communities, sometimes the benefits are more abstract or require long term studies to show the value of their programs,” said Jennifer Lane, communication manager, Wichita Public Library. “Including this information is a way to easily quantify one of the ways the Library is a value to its users.”

This feature is made available through the WPL by the Polaris Integrated Library System (ILS). This system is used by the Library to manage customer accounts as well as the inventory of our library collection, including the materials catalog. In 2016, the “You Saved” feature was implemented as a free add-on to the system during an upgrade. The “You Saved” feature calculates the amount saved based on the original price of the material when it was purchased by the Library.

The “You Saved” feature has proven to be popular among the public and has generated a lot of interest. Some customers use the information on their receipts to encourage their friends to use the Library, and when photos of receipts are shared on social media it gains a lot of attention. As a result, the Library has received calls from numerous libraries asking how they can share this type of information with their customers.

So far this year, the highest dollar amount saved by a customer’s account is $64,734.12. And the highest dollar amount saved by a customer’s account since this feature was implemented is $196,076.21.

“One customer was impressed that she had saved $2,500,” said Kristi Dowell, library manager, Wichita Public Library. “Another customer commented that she already knew what a good deal the Library was.”

RE-POST: Scared of Santa, Revisited

NOTE: A post from some years back, brought back for the seasonal joy of it. 



No, I don’t know why good, sane, well-intentioned people do this to their children.

This guy terrifies even me — I keep thinking he should have a lit Chesterfield and a glass of bourbon in his hands, not an innocent lamb.

I remember that my parents once gave me the “opportunity” to meet Santa at a shopping mall somewhere on Long Island. I sized up the situation from a distance, planted my feet, and said, “Nuh-ugh.” A Christmas Story is surely my favorite holiday movie (absolutely love it), and they handled this particular life passage — the visit with Santa — to perfection. But then again, I think that whole movie is genius.

Here’s the book, and here’s my original post (with different photos) about the book from last holiday season.