July 27, 2011

Yeah I'm a Great Guitar Player, Huh?

Me playing in a park in Bergamo, Italy:

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July 26, 2011

Some Broken Hearts Never Mend

Nothing brings out the melancholy like Don Williams's low-key presence and nearly affectless delivery. This song never fails to leave me misty-eyed (it did just now) and there are quite a few others that have that effect as well.

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July 23, 2011

It's Only Rock and Roll But I Like It

(via Lexington Green.)

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July 22, 2011

The Thin Blue Line

Someone should autotune-the-news this guy.

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Back in Town


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I don't for one second believe that the incident described here actually happened, but nevertheless, Colbert speaks for me:

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Tips for Teens


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July 21, 2011

This is Nauseating

I'm a broken, Balko-phonic record today, I know, but it's just one of those days.

I remember several instances, back when I was a kid, of children and elderly people being struck by cars when walking across treacherous intersections. The universal reaction was always to blame the city for failing to mark out a crosswalk, neighborhood petitions for stop signs or traffic lights, and that type of thing. And sympathy for the victims, even if they were technically guilty of jaywalking. The idea that you would charge the pedestrians with "vehicular manslaughter" or put them in prison for crossing the street in the wrong place would never have occurred to anyone, and strikes me as completely outrageous.

I'm talking about this case recapped in Balko's latest Huffington Post piece. This woman suffered a horrible tragedy when a drunken, drugged, half-blind hit-and-run driver killed her son. To charge her, a pedestrian, with "vehicular manslaughter" defies logic, and decency. (I mean, what part of "vehicular" do we not understand?) To send her to prison for three years punishes not only her, but her entire family, for a tragic result of a minor offense that arguably shouldn't even be a crime in the first place. But if they're going to throw her in prison, why not the other pedestrians who were crossing the same intersection, and evidently encouraged her son to run out into the road along with them? Why not the city planners and administrators who placed a bus stop half a mile from the nearest crosswalk? They weren't driving the car, but neither was she.

Seriously, why do we try so hard to put ordinary, unfortunate people in prison in the wake of tragedy? From what I gather, the prosecutor, inspired by a newspaper article about jaywalking, saw his opportunity for another scalp and just went for it. It's almost as though we are deliberately trying to imprison people merely for the sake of it, the more the better, on any pretext available, without regard to whether it makes sense and with no thought given to whether it is a good or a bad thing for anyone involved or for society as a whole. It's sick.

ADDED: I've seen internet comments threads at their worst and most depressing, but even so I'm shocked at the callousness of all the HuffPo commenters saying, essentially, "sucks to be her, ha ha" and "she got what she deserved." And these are, presumably, the "liberals." It's a minority, but they're there. I can feel my already substantial misanthropy growing by the minute.

ANOTHER ADDITION: Oops. Just realized the comments thread I was reading was from this blog, not the HuffPo, on which there is so far little action. No appreciable effect on the misanthropy situation, however.

You know, I live in a relatively dangerous area, where walking around can get you mugged, assaulted, killed, set on fire, etc. Yet people walk around with strollers and kids all the time. If Alameda County wanted to double its contribution to the prison population, it could charge every victim of such street crime with contributing to his own assault by being outside, which is in many situations, in fact, every bit as reckless as crossing the road. Not all that different from the logic applied in charging this woman with manslaughter, it seems to me.

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Don't Call the Police after an Unsuccessful Home Invasion


This family would have been far, far, better off if they hadn't. The guy had chased off the invaders before they got anything or hurt anybody. I'm sure the family members were shaken up, but they appeared to have suffered no harm. Then his wife called the police, who arrived and summarily executed their Saint Bernard, shooting him in the head, in front of the children. Nice.

I doubt this proposed lawsuit is going anywhere, but it sure ain't right.

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Don't Be Mentally Disabled and Hispanic in your Own Home

This guy was attacked in his own home by police who thought he was a burglar. According to his lawyer, a language barrier and some sort of mental disability prevented him from understanding the situation and responding appropriately. He locked himself in the bathroom and refused to come out. They used pepper spray and a pepper ball gun and roughed him up, and then charged him with resisting arrest.

I can't believe this prosecution went through. The police were clearly in the wrong. Seems to me, when they realized their error, they should have immediately apologized profusely and braced themselves for a hefty lawsuit. But, no, he's getting jail time and a fine. (There will, of course, be a lawsuit, however, and I hope it is punitive and crippling enough to make this prosecutor think twice over pursuing such victims as criminals in the future.)

The comments of the judge are infuriating:

[Judge Derek] Flournoy told Sauceda because he did not take the stand in his own defense it was difficult for him to sympathize with his situation. “I haven’t heard from you and I have no idea why you didn’t speak. That causes me some trouble. I don’t agree with the notion you are a victim in this case,” Flournoy said. “I think your actions put you and the officers in harm’s way. This could have been easily avoided.”

Had it not been for the jury’s note asking for leniency, Flournoy said he would have likely sentenced Sauceda to six months in jail.


(via The Agitator.)

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Sometimes the tweets are weedgie


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July 20, 2011



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I only meant to listen to (and exhibit) the first song, "Breakfast," but there are a few others from Lindisfarne frontman Alan Hull's mindblowing first solo album in that clip. That song just knocks me out.

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July 19, 2011


Prosecutorial malfeasance, apparently, in the Casey Anthony case.

Presumably then, as Althouse says, if there had been a guilty verdict, she'd be getting a new trial now. But what about the prosecutors, who broke the law by knowingly suppressing evidence and, it appears, presenting what they knew to be false information to the court and jury?

As things currently stand, prosecutors who abuse their authority, suppress or manufacture evidence, knowingly prosecute innocent people, and engage in other sorts of ought-to-be-outrageous-though-nobody-cares skullduggery rarely face any consequences whatsoever for their actions. I'm sure that will be the case here. They will go on to have long, satisfying careers of presenting false evidence and suppressing exculpatory evidence when targeting other citizens.

Here's an idea: a prosecutor who can be shown to have suppressed or manufactured evidence, or to have knowingly prosecuted an innocent person, or engaged in other serious, outrageous misconduct that has the effect of perverting the course of justice should be subject to: (a) summary dismissal and disbarment; (b) civil liability; (c) mandatory sentencing to the same sentence sought in the case, up to and including the death penalty.

I'd vote for that. It would cut down, way down, on prosecutorial misconduct, and I know I'd feel a whole lot better about the judicial system if there were a built-in disincentive for abuse.

I realize you wouldn't necessarily need (a) if you get (c) but at a bare minimum we should get (a), even if they manage to wiggle out of (b) and (c). Of course, we won't even get (a).

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July 18, 2011

Open Season

Having succeeded in reducing the the Fourth Amendment to little more than a rote ceremonial pantomime, the Land of the Free gets to work on the Fifth.

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July 16, 2011

California Shake

From this album, but I think I prefer the version on this great album of demos.

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Just hope they never notice you, because once they do, they will figure out something to charge you with eventually

So, you know that Oak Park, MI lady who faced three months in prison for growing vegetables in her front yard?

A judge has dismissed those charges. But now she faces three months in prison for unlicensed dogs (now licensed, in response to the citation.) Apparently, they want to put this lady in jail for around three months, whatever it takes. I doubt the dog license gambit will work any better than the vegetable-growing one did, but if she keeps it up with the blogging, I'm sure they'll figure out some way to shut her up, short of actually calling off the harassment.

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July 14, 2011

That's Some Monkey

I've got no opinion on the copyright issue raised here, but I love this self-portrait allegedly snapped by a macaque with a camera left unattended by nature photographer David Slater:


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"If Brown wants to live with five women and call them his girlfriends, his shorties, his harem, the Seattle Storm, or the 101st Airborne, it is of no earthly concern to the rest of us…

"And if he wants to call them his wives, the state of Utah should say, 'Knock yourself out, dude.' That, or nothing."

Steve Chapman weighs in on that bizarro polygamy prosecution and lawsuit I noted here.

I have to say, unless the published reports about this Utah law are leaving something out that somehow makes it all make sense, I find it utterly astonishing that anyone would defend the proposition that the state has the power to regulate mere vocabulary and to punish people for choosing to use the "wrong" words to refer to household members engaging in what is, apart from the vocabulary itself, perfectly legal conduct. And it's a felony! You don't even have to touch the issue of marriage rights or freedom of religion or alternative lifestyles or Lawrence vs. Texas or anything like that. It's a 1st Amendment/free speech violation on its face, it seems to me and it should be thrown out on that basis alone. It's not even a remotely close call.

Are there any other situations where the state criminalizes the vocabulary used in reference to activities that are acknowledged to be otherwise legal? And if so, are there any sensible ones? I can't think of any, but I'm curious.

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Child Star

The references to the characters in the sitcom Family Affair are now obscure and most likely, and increasingly, incomprehensible to listeners past a certain age, but this song more than perhaps any other determined the route my own songwriting traversed, for better or worse. The Buffy in the song is the little girl played by Anissa Jones who died of a drug overdose at the age of eighteen; Uncle Bill and Mr. French were other characters in the show. It's essentially a song about lost innocence, suffused in irony. There would have been no "Danny Partridge" without it, that's for sure.

The whole album (their self-titled debut) is great, though out of print, but all of the songs, plus a few extras, are on this compilation

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Just admit it. You haven't gotten any cooler since high school...

Google also alerted me to this.

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Bad Religion and Me

Google has alerted me to this guide to nerd-rock.

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July 13, 2011

Rock'n'Roll Junkie

From this album, but this box set is in print and seems like a better deal.

Great stuff. I'm particularly fond of this lyric:

Rock and roll addiction is a festering habit
you know you got to keep on playing like a paranoid rabbit

Don't I know it.

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Bad Lion


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July 12, 2011

Love is a Drum

Anyone know what happened to this kid? Great single.

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Grey Havens

Few artists, even quite hifalutin ones, have had as much influence on my life and on our cultural world as Sherwood Schwartz.

People used to think I was extracting the Michael when I used to go around saying he was a genius, but I meant every word.

RIP, Mr. Schwartz.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:35 PM | TrackBack

Big Love

Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

And it is hard to disagree with Ann Althouse's point that decriminalizing polygamy would be a far more modest application of the Lawrence decision than applying it with regard to same-sex marriage. It should be less contentious, then, logically, but I doubt it will be.

The logic of prosecuting such polygamists is screwy anyway. It's not a matter of people being "really" married under any civil law, as I understand it. It's a matter of people going around saying "we're married." Well, you can say anything you want, can't you? I'm a tree. I'm a pineapple. My cat Matilda is from the planet X-188 and her front paws are the two true gods. I assume anyone trying to prosecute me for saying that stuff would find the First Amendment to be a substantial stumbling block. So how is that different from saying "hey, guess what, we're all married?"

If it is different, somehow, that is, if it's more than just the free speech issue that it seems to me to be, what about secular, non-Mormon alternative lifestyle polyamorous group living situations? Obviously, we don't interfere with them. Is it simply because they don't say "married"? And what if they say it and you don't hear them say it? Banning and prosecuting polygamists seems to violate a large handful of Constitutional principles as well as common sense.

I hope they win.

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Finally got around to picking up this recent biography of Austin Osman Spare by Phil Baker, and so far it's a corker, meticulously researched, well-written, not to mention beautifully designed and bound. I'm learning some stuff, too.

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July 10, 2011

Captain of Your Ship

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July 09, 2011

Don't try to cash any checks at Chase

A guy tries to cash a check at his own bank. Bank incorrectly suspects forgery and calls the police. Guy spends five days in jail, loses his job, has his car (still parked at the bank while he's in jail) impounded and auctioned off, and doesn't get his money till months later. And, it was the bank's OWN CHECK!

They have since apologized but it seems to me that they owe this guy way, way, way, way more than that. And is a bank teller's mere suspicion really enough to send you to jail? I'm seriously considering keeping my money, if I ever get any, in my mattress from now on.

(via The Agitator.)

ADDED: this comment was left over at Balko's place and I second the emotion:

One of the biggest things I’m continually learning from this blog is the large amount of punishment that is exacted on anyone who is even momentarily suspected of some crime. This is an extreme case, but even someone who just gets arrested, has to go to jail, deal with intake, put in a cell, deal with bail bondsmen (who have a pretty good racket of their own set up with the punishment system), deal with getting their stuff back if they ever can, is put through a pretty tough ringer.

Of course, there are far more extreme cases. He wasn't killed, or beaten, his dogs weren't shot, and his daughter wasn't set on fire with an incendiary device. But it's still a horrible thing that shouldn't happen in America. Unfortunately, this stuff is just routine, and no one really notices or cares. But as the commenter implies, it seems like this guy has a case against the police and the city as well as the bank. It would be cool if he sues them both into bankruptcy, but of course it will most likely be only a modest settlement and have no discernible effect on the status quo. Stupid status quo.

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July 08, 2011

MacKeeper and All My Favorite Blogs

It is quite disturbing to see all those great big ads for MacKeeper on all my favorite blogs. I know the individual bloggers don't have much to do with it, per se: they just subscribe to a service, like intermarkets.net that accepts and administers ads for anyone who signs up. The ads pop up on blogs and other sites without any necessary interaction with the blogger or webmaster. (Do I have that right?) But I believe it is possible to block ads even so, and when it comes to MacKeeper, I wish they would get to it and start blocking. And I wish the ad services would do a better job of screening them out, because these ads are everywhere.

In case you don't know: MacKeeper is malware. (It has gone by other names in the past, MacDefender, and a couple of others -- I believe the one that hit me was called MacProtector.) It is designed to trick the victim into downloading it, installing it as an application, and then use a credit card to pay for a phony "cleaning" -- in the process, the victim's credit card is STOLEN, personal information is compromised, and the victim's computer is crippled.

The really evil thing about it, and the reason why the ads are so disturbing, is that it can sometimes manage to download itself in the background, without the user clicking on anything at all. There's apparently some java script that does this when the ad is displayed. You still have to click "okay" on the fake installer, but that too can happen accidentally. Once installed, it is nearly impossible to get rid of. Even when you delete it and all of the files you can find, it still manages to run in the background, consuming CPU resources and slowing your computer to a crawl. (I don't know if that's a byproduct or a malicious "feature.") Anyway, it happened to me, and it's a nightmare.

MacKeeper isn't something anyone would want to advertise on his or her site. It is a criminal enterprise.

If you see it advertised, it goes without saying, don't click on it. And even having not clicked on it, check your system log to make sure it didn't download itself. And bloggers and ad companies: please do what you can to block it. It's pure evil.

UPDATE: I actually sent a note (via feedback form) to intermarkets.net and received this reply:

Thank you for your feedback. This is a legitimate product. The MacDefender is the virus that hit the web a few weeks ago.
So now I guess I'm confused. There's no obvious consensus on the apple discussion boards as to whether MacKeeper is, or is not, a variant of MacDefender: some say yes, some say no. And if you google around, you'll find lots of folks in agreement that MacKeeper is a legitimate product. There is some indication that there's a "fake MacKeeper" out there that mimics the legitimate one. If so, they all must have mimicked the real one, because they all have the same interface, the same (to me) sinister robot icon/mascot, and, honestly, the same kind of behavior. And if the real one is indeed legitimate, considering all this confusion and publicity that included articles in the New York Times and everywhere, you'd think there'd be some reference to it on their website, some FAQ or something explaining the difference between the legitimate one and the malware variants. I looked and couldn't find anything like that. That adds to the general impression that the whole thing is an elaborate fake, but that could be a mistaken impression. I'm not going to link to their website because I'm not convinced it's safe. You can google it at your own risk.

Regardless, I have to say that, legitimate or not, it still behaves like malware. It will try to download itself without your knowledge and against your will; it will try to install itself without your knowledge and against your will; it runs mysterious processes in the background even when you don't install it, and throws up pop ups in the Finder and in browsers demanding that you install, sign up for things, etc. It resists attempts to uninstall it.

Anyway, it may or may not be legitimate, I guess, but I sure wouldn't risk it.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:26 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Elder Thing


Scott Purdy does some tremendous Lovecraftian art. The Elder Thing is here. Lots more where that came from. Fhtagn!

(via Michael Scott.)

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Hey guys, what does "suitable" mean?

This lady in Oak Park, MI faces three months in jail for growing vegetables in her own yard.

That's bad.

But almost as bad is the fact the city official in charge of citizen harassment appears to have attempted, and ultimately failed, to look up the word "suitable" in the dictionary.

Didn't they used to have to take some kind of test to get those citizen-harassment jobs? They're slipping.

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You Can't Put Your Arm Around a Memory


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July 07, 2011

What is Lit?

Lauren Myracle apologizes to Meghan Cox Gurdon on NPR for characterizing her notorious Wall Street Journal YA essay as "idiocy."

And here Meghan Cox Gurdon spars with Maureen Johnson.

I agree that "idiocy" isn't precisely the right word here. Gurdon is cordial and intelligent, and she makes her points clearly. I still think she's wrong, and she makes it pretty clear why we disagree: in the end, she doesn't see "children's literature" as literature, but rather as a mere element of pedagogy. I think that's a spectacularly wrong-headed, narrow view -- of children's lit, and of literature as a whole -- but if you accept it, her case against "objectionable" currents in YA publishing makes perfect sense. Just as we agree that reducing the fat and sugar content in school lunches, say, is a wise policy that will increase health and well being, why can't we agree to reduce the darkness and squalor in the reading materials we feed them as well? If you don't believe there is value for readers under the age of eighteen in the experience of seriously engaging with a text, or even if you believe that this value is secondary to the far more important goal of molding their minds into the proper, most beneficial, most desirable shape, literary questions and criteria simply crumble away. All that matters is the end result, the practical goal of producing a contented, well-adjusted person. Now, I'd love for more people to be content and worry-free and filled with joy and light, I suppose, but that's not what art, even when "consumed" by young people, is or should be. The very notion that that is what it should be I find vaguely unsettling. But the realization that smart, articulate people who are in charge of things in the world take that view without serious reservations? I find that actually a bit terrifying.

If Meghan Cox Gurdon were the Wall Street Journal's Parenting or Cultural Conditioning Critic, there would be little more to say. But she's not. She's ostensibly the Children's Literature Critic. Thus, a kind of sleight of hand occurs, where parenting advice and pedagogical philosophy masquerade as a literary critique. If you want to have a discussion about the challenges of parenting, that is well and good. Maybe certain books, video games, movies, or music really do have an undesirable influence on developing minds; maybe, as Meghan Cox Gurdon seems to suggest, depicting dangerous or objectionable activities in books "normalizes" them and makes it more likely that readers will emulate them. I think that's hooey, mostly, and again it reflects a lack of respect for teens as readers, but Meghan Cox Gurdon is certainly entitled to discuss it, and has a point when she says that such criticism is legitimate and that her opponents are over-reacting when they characterize the discussion as tantamount to censorship.

It's not literary criticism, though. It's not even in the same universe as literary criticism. Saying that a reader, young or otherwise, would be better off not having read a particular book has more to do with politics and social conditioning than art. That's a terrible criterion for evaluating literature (and I'd say it's also a pretty poor basis for pedagogy as well, as it happens.) At any rate, the teen readers whose interests she is so concerned about, and the rest of us, too, deserve better.

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Johnny Thunders played these strings, man.

One day I may type out the whole, strange, extremely unlikely story of how my little band wound up jamming, sort of, with Johnny Thunders in a New York cafe on one weird night in 1989.

Till then, though, I came across, and will now share, this artifact:


He had played my guitar (an old, junky SG) while I played Jon von's. Afterwards, I removed the strings, coiled them, and put them in a string packet. Then I labelled the packet so I wouldn't accidentally re-use the strings. (Yes, I used to re-use old strings back then.) Then I put the packet in my guitar case. And there it stayed till just a few minutes ago when I opened that case looking for something else.

So yeah, Johnny Thunders played my guitar. And his sweat, and who knows what other "gear," in trace elements, are probably in the strings.

So how's that for some rock memorabilia? It's quite possible that someone else had the same experience and did the same thing, but it's also possible that I'm the only one.

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The Dark Worlds of HP Lovecraft


I've been working through these audio recordings of H. P. Lovecraft stories read by Wayne June, and it's by far the best audio Lovecraft production I've heard.

There are six volumes, and you have to hunt around for them individually on Amazon, but I'd say it's worth it. I mean, I've been listening to them as I fall asleep, and getting lots of nightmares. Great stuff.

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July 06, 2011

The World's Gone Crazy, Part Gazillion and Four

In the Brady Bunch episode known as Getting Greg's Goat, Greg steals Coolidge High's mascot, a goat named Roxanne. When he is finally discovered, and the goat runs wild through a concerned parents' meeting on the mascot-stealing situation, his punishment is to write a 5,000 word essay on the evils of mascot-stealing.

Mr. Brady turns to Mr Binkley, the principal, and says, "Boy, times sure have changed. I did the same thing when I was a kid and I was suspended for a week."

Mr. Binkley looks around to make sure no one is listening and replies: "I was suspended for an entire month." And they all laugh.

The message is that everyone, even those who grow up to be responsible adults in positions of respect and authority may well have indulged in foolish pranks when they were young; and also, perhaps, that their experience has led them to take a more balanced, sensible attitude towards those in their charge who make the same mistakes. Mr. Binkley and Mr. Brady were suspended; all Greg has to do is write an essay.

Well, things have changed yet again since Greg Brady's mascot-stealing days. If this story is any indication, an updated version would have Greg's own son replying: "I was sentenced to eight years in a state prison."

Sheer madness. How did this country become such a perilous place to grow up?

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July 05, 2011

Hideous book glimpsed in ancient shop—never seen again.

HP Lovecraft's writing workbook.

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July 02, 2011

This is it, the one I'm going to be remembered for

The SF Bay Guardian recaps, with photos, the Air Guitar competition I wrote about here.

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