Belonging to a Place and Why it’s Important

Image via

CC Image via

A few days ago, I felt like I just had to get away from my apartment for a while. It just so happens that the one year anniversary of my move to The Valley of the Sun falls on this week. And we’re suffering an early foreshadowing of mid-summer, with almost 10 days in a row of 100 degree-plus heat.

So I went out to the restaurant in my neighborhood that’s quickly become my favorite. It’s called Hula’s Modern Tiki. And it’s a place that’s hard to describe, like a lot of Phoenix restaurants. Rarely does a place stick to just one thing, especially if they want to, well, stick around.

Hula’s has a melange of Mexican and seafood dishes, mainly tiny tacos and sandwiches, but everything has pineapple or something that makes you think of Polynesia. Even the brownie and ice cream dessert (which I tried for the first time on that night) came with an umbrella like you’d expect to find in a coconut drink on a tropical beach.

Anyway, when the waitress came to take my order, somehow she’d remembered me from the crowd of people who eat there every week. She specifically knew that unlike that night, I normally ate lunch (or as I reminded her, and she agreed, weekend brunch). It’s probably something every waitress knows how to do, but it touched me. For someone to remember when I visit, it meant something. It, in a very small -and yeah, maybe superficial- way, meant that I belong. That it was like a home away from home. And that’s not something I take lightly.

When someone takes the time to notice, and takes the time to care about what’s happening around them and with those around them, it really does make a difference. Even if it seems like a small gesture to you, it can mean the world for one other person.


When SNL’s Most Accurate Facsimile of David Letterman was Played by Norm MacDonald

My dad passed away in March, and his favorite talk show host was David Letterman. Now that Letterman’s time on late night tv is drawing to a close (he has just 3 more episodes next week), it seems only right to memorialize his work in some way.

An old repeat of Saturday Night Live aired tonight before the show’s season finale. In that show was a sketch with an impression I somehow missed seeing before: comic genius Norm MacDonald as the 90s era Letterman. This was the Letterman who still had a reddish-brown mop of hair, who stayed out of politics and showed a certain level of energy which has been missing from the show for several years now.

So, in honor of the goofy, and sometimes controversial Letterman (remember when a CBS producer tried to blackmail him over an affair with an intern?), here’s that sketch:

Decider blog’s take on MacDonald’s stint as the SNL resident impersonator of Letterman is worth a read. (Two other cast members also played the host.) Also, a hat tip to them for the clip.

EDIT: Norm MacDonald did 8 minutes of stand up on his final appearance on Letterman’s show Friday. But around 2 minutes before the end, there’s an uncharacteristically torn-up Norm talking about how Dave affected his life as a comedian.


Why It’s Important to Be Prepared for RightOnline

Right Online is the first week of May this year, and it’s again back in Washington, D.C. You’ve probably heard about some of the panels and their panelists.

It’s not a conference I’ve had a chance to attend, but a friend of mine would like to attend it this time. Jason Dibler co-hosts Susie Moore’s “Q with a View” on FTR Radio, and is looking to develop a radio project known as The Roaring Void about just folks and their stories.

The brand-new GoFundMe page for both the RoL trip and the potential show reads like this:

TRV is all about real life and real American culture. That’s a lot of stuff. And it’s (mostly) not politics.

Jason could use your help to make sure he’s prepared to take full advantage of everything Right Online has to offer. Check his pitch out, and pitch in whatever you can! Prayers count as help, too.

Don’t leave Jason hanging, like the guy in the video.


Why I love Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet and frequent classic covers partner, Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles. Image via NBC.

Matthew Sweet and frequent classic covers partner, Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles. Image via NBC.

Along with the Smiths, one of the musical artists who helped me survive my teenage years was Matthew Sweet. I don’t what most drew me in: the fact that he didn’t seem to care about being trendy or even popular, or that he had someone like Lloyd Cole playing backing guitar on his records.

Over time, it was the lyrics he wrote that turned Sweet into a kind of musical cousin. It was an odd sensation, as a teen, to not see a male musician as a sex symbol like Duran Duran or Wham! (I’ve always seen R.E.M. the same way as Sweet.) Matthew Sweet’s music was to be taken seriously and examined from different angles over years’ time, like the pieces in a private art collection. I think that’s what indelibly sets his music apart for me.

I happened to read this interview with Sweet, from 2013. It struck me that he and his wife are avid collectors of the “Big Eyes” paintings, and consulted on the movie of the same name, starring Amy Adams. (*I’ve excerpted his full explanation of his involvement with the movie below.) Coincidentally, Sweet played on Lloyd Cole’s new album, ‘Standards’, which was released in 2013.

In the interview with DC Metro Theatre Arts, one of many he likely did over the phone as he toured the country that year, Sweet continued to explode the idea of what is expected of a musician and an artist. And he does it just like he writes a song. With deep emotion.

He was asked a few typical questions. His answers on:

What he loves about writing songs.

“I love having human feelings, certain feelings with strong emotions. I need to be alone when I write. I write about feelings about being alive. It’s hard to describe my writing.”

Advice he would give young musicians:

“Do it because you love music and not for fame. It is very hard to make music a career and everyone is a human being with feelings and a career in music can wear you down. You should want to have a music career because all you want to do is music. It can be a Garden of Eden.”

Then Sweet was asked what the nicest thing a fan ever did for him was:

“That’s hard to answer too. The nicest thing a fan can do is care about my music and the nice things they say about it. I’m awkward on praise. I’m divorced from the praise and focus on the enjoyment I get from playing and the audience gets from my playing.”

What can you say to that, you know?


*via DC Metro Theatre Arts:

My wife and I collected art from 1960s, mainly by Margaret Keane, which is known as the “Big Eye” paintings. At the time we started to collect them they were so weird.

Margaret Keane worked alongside her husband Walter, but Margaret did all the work.  Walter, the husband didn’t paint, but claimed he was more famous. His wife breaks free, divorces him, and takes him to court for her rights. She wins.

We’ve worked with screenwriters and movie director Tim Burton on a movie about these paintings, starring Amy Adams. We’ve been involved as consultants the last couple of months in Toronto. It’s a fantastical story. It is a low budget movie, funded by the Weinsteins. I’m a huge fan of Tim Burton’s Ed Wood movie.

Enjoy a part of this “Best-of” album, Time Capsule. The first song is my favorite from Sweet.


A Troubling Vignette About Ted Cruz

On a piece at Ricochet about Ted Cruz’s new presidential campaign and his chances in 2016, a commenter named Del Mar Dave appended this brief, but troubling, vignette. I wonder if this took place during CPAC.

After having met Cruz in a small gathering several weeks ago, I agree that he isn’t likely to win – either the nomination or the Presidency.

In that meeting, he failed to give good eye contact with the dozen people there. And when asked penetrating questions, he replied with answers to the questions he preferred to be asked.

In addition, he has no executive experience, something we need to bring back to the office of the President, along with a philosophical change. The last thing we want is a right-thinking Prez who fumbles as badly as BHO has.

No question Cruz is bright, articulate and well educated. And I like his sharp elbows, but he’s not our guy for President.

I, too, question Cruz’s appeal – after seeing him at CPAC this year. Since I can count the number of political conferences I’ve attended on one hand, it was the first chance I had to see the Texas Senator speak in person.

There were three problems with the speech: nothing in it was memorable, he appeared to need three opening lines before striking on the one the crowd would respond to and I didn’t come away from it thinking, “I need to tell people that Ted Cruz is set to run for president.” That just wasn’t the vibe. There was no clamor for that. It made me think: if he’s not appealing to me, then who is he appealing to?

This vignette from Ricochet contrasts with what Texas conservatives told me to explain Cruz’s winning his current seat. Cruz was given no chance at all, as you might remember. I wanted to know how he did it. I was told that he criss-crossed the state, meeting with Tea party groups and rallying their support in intimate gatherings.

One might ask: Why is this man telling a different story? What’s changed?


This is What Happens When You Attend CPAC 2015, in Pictorial Form (Part I)

Sunset at National Harbor,  MD., 2/28/15.

Sunset at National Harbor, MD., 2/28/15.

I’ve seen many posts about bloggers’ CPAC experiences, with photo after photo. Now, it’s my turn. This is the first of two (or three) posts. Let me know what you think!

Former Alaska Governor and GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin greets CPAC 2015 attendees after her speech, 2/26/15.

Former Alaska Governor and GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin greets CPAC 2015 attendees after her speech, 2/26/15.

Sarah Palin speaking at CPAC 2015, 2/26/15.

Sarah Palin speaking at CPAC 2015, 2/26/15.

Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal addressed CPAC 2015, 2/26/15.

Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal addresses CPAC 2015, 2/26/15.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz addresses CPAC 2015, 2/26/15.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz addresses CPAC 2015, 2/26/15.

Hm, look who's at CPAC... MSNBC's Joe Scarborough.

Hm, look who’s at CPAC… MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough.

Even MSNBC and other mainstream media showed up to cover CPAC, including “Morning Joe.” Chris Moody of did a video segment on CPAC parties, including the IJ Review/National Review/Facebook #CocktailCaucus (more on that in a later installment!)

And new media stars were there, too:

Chris Loesch

Chris Loesch on CPAC 2015 Media/Radio Row, 2/27/15.

…and if you look REAL closely, you’ll see Dana in the picture.

Dan Bongino, 2/27/15.

Dan Bongino, 2/27/15.

Former Secret Service agent, author and Congressional candidate from Maryland, conservative Dan Bongino, was kind enough to stop along Media Row to take a pic with me.

Senior Managing Editor of, Kyle N. Becker. 2/27/15.

Senior Managing Editor of, Kyle N. Becker. 2/27/15.

Later that night, after a party, I found this odd fellow loitering in the lobby of the Gaylord Hotel. I hear he writes stuff. Maybe he’ll get noticed someday.

Look for a second installment about CPAC 2015 later Sunday afternoon. Thanks!


#FridayMusic: Troy Tate: A ‘Lost’ Smiths Treasure?

The Smiths (L to R: bassist Andy Rourke, guitarist Johnny Marr, singer [Stephen] Morrissey, drummer Mike Joyce)

The Smiths (L to R: bassist Andy Rourke, guitarist Johnny Marr, singer [Stephen] Morrissey, drummer Mike Joyce)

I consider myself a Smiths fan. Their music was the soundtrack for part of my high school years (until they broke up during my sophomore year).

But I must not be a truly die-hard fan, because I’d never heard of the Troy Tate sessions until today. I’m going to share the information directly from the YouTube page. It’s kinda fun hearing the earliest iteration of what this magnificent band became. Enjoy, and stay tuned for more #FridayMusic posts! (P.S. If anyone owns this music and would like me to take it down from my site, please let me know.)


In the hot summer of 1983, Rough Trade Records matched producer Troy Tate with the fledgling Smiths to record 14 songs & form an eagerly awaited debut album.
This prospective LP was provisionally titled ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’. These tracks are now commonly known as ‘The Troy Tate Sessions’.
Rough Trade decided that the recordings were ‘Rough & demo sounding’ & effectively wrote them off.
A different producer (John Porter) was rushed in to record new versions & the result was the eponymous debut album we all know.”


“The Complete Recordings, Awash with growing pains
Audio courtesy of Courtesy of Soundsville Paul, Analog Loyalist, batnaMMV & SweetFA C/o
## (Early Mixes) ##
01 Reel Around The Fountain
02 You’ve Got Everything Now 05:57
03 Miserable Lie 10:13
04 Pretty Girls Make Graves 14:52
05 Accept Yourself 18:31
06 Hand in Glove 22:35
07 What Difference Does It Make 25:56
08 I Don’t Owe You Anything 29:58
09 Suffer Little Children 34:24
10 Wonderful Woman 40:04
11 These Things Take Time 43:23
12 Handsome Devil 46:02
## (Alternative / Finished Mixes) ##
13 Reel Around the Fountain 48:55
14 You’ve Got Everything Now 55:02
15 Miserable Lie 59:38
16 Accept Yourself 1:04:21
17 The Hand that Rocks the Cradle 1:08:27
18 Hand in Glove 1:13:44
19 What Difference Does It Make 1:17:08
20 I Don’t Owe You Anything 1:21:08
21 Suffer Little Children 1:25:38
22 Jeane 1:30:42
23 Wonderful Woman 1:33:49
24 Handsome Devil 1:37:10
## Extra tracks ##
25 Jeane (DEMO) 1:40:04
26 What Difference Does It Make (DEMO) 1:42:56


A Word about Not Getting What You Wish For, ‘Birdman’ and the Oscars


Michael Keaton and Zach Galifinakis, in ‘Birdman’.

I need to see ‘American Sniper’, just getting that out of the way up top.

Many of the people reading this haven’t seen ‘Birdman’. That’s not faulting you: It was a small film, playing on a few hundred screens across the country. It wasn’t accessible or easy to market to the demographic that watches Jimmy Fallon or <insert trendy TV show>. It wasn’t built to win out over a colossal marketing juggernaut like ‘American Sniper’, nor a critical lovefest darling like’The Imitation Game’ (which I have heard good stuff about from people I respect — I promise to see it).

But it overcame those things. Here’s why.

When Hollywood looks itself in the mirror, as it was forced to do by the casting of Michael Keaton in the starring role, it recognized something true. It wasn’t a pretty image, just like in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ (yes, the movie). Yet, it was an image that was truthful and fully-realized. It was a reflection of what the movie-going audience sees when it looks at Hollywood and its bloated and self-referential excesses, its vanity, its detachment from real emotion and real art.

The great triumph of Alejandro Inarritu’s ‘Birdman’ is that it won the Best Picture Oscar, the night when the throng of hypocritical do-gooders pats itself on the back for “feeling” for others, spouting slogans at the podium. And gives most of the awards to people it likes and “owes” something. There’s an echo of that in ‘Birdman’, for sure, in the person of a crusty, old, white Broadway critic who feels she’s above everyone else.

What an honest and rewarding film ‘Birdman’ is! It’s nothing if not an ensemble film. (Though I might have wished for Michael Keaton to win Best Actor, but he got recognized at Saturday’s Independent Spirit Awards for that.)

Not only is Keaton spot-on as the aging, former big superhero star, trying to resuscitate a career on the Broadway boards. But Edward Norton lights up (literally) on screen as the seasoned, Broadway talent who’s brought in to bring gravitas to what might otherwise be written off as a the former star’s vanity project.

Emma Stone gives a bravura performance as Keaton’s daughter, a young woman trying to come to terms with growing up with divorce and her own bundle of life issues. There’s one scene between Stone and Norton, involving a game, that you must see. And the surprise of surprises here — Zach Galifinakis kills in a straight man role as the agent for Keaton’s character. He’s the calm center that the craziness of this whirlwind of a film flies around.

If you’ve heard anything about this movie, it’s the editing. The first 20 (might be 30-seconds) of the movie look like one continuous shot, and it’s performed while looping down winnowed hallways, around stairwells. Your brain knows it can’t be one take, but it’s just superbly done. If for no other reason than to marvel at the cinematography (the first of three Oscars ‘Birdman’ took home Sunday), go see it for the way it starts.

Just see it.

This Editor’s note: On a personal note, please pray or send good thoughts for myself and my family over the next hours and days. God knows the details. Thanks.


Characters and Space and Chuck Johnson

dark twitterIt’s difficult to know where to start. Do I start with the story, the pinpoint in time from which the drama unfolded? Do I start with the tweet, the reaction, the verbal beatdown? Or do I start with some other, unknown point, the feeling that somehow allies are being asked to make dizzying and untenable choices, over something that will blow over in time?

Sometimes, I feel that, by having less experience in politics, less education in journalism or history or some other subject, less fiery passion when speaking on the subjects that others do — that these are signs I’ve taken the wrong turn. That I don’t belong here in this space, in the conservative blogosphere. Maybe that’s true.

But even someone who doesn’t have the background many others do knows something about people and their actions. One can learn about honesty and deception, about motives and desires, without spending a lifetime around politicians. And from that study, it’s clear that it isn’t always the words and actions which people in power say and do that discourage their fellow Americans to fall out of love with activism and with staying active in politics. Or political writing.

Often, it happens because of the words and actions of those who write about and engage with those same politicians and activists and their world. They poison the waters and make it unhealthy for many others to thrive and desire to remain a part of it.

What I experienced on January 20th on Twitter, surrounding Chuck Johnson’s story about Holly Fisher, made me want to leave politics entirely. Not just the GOP, or conservatism, or whatever term you like. I’m not exaggerating. It was that bad.

I used to think that the way Twitter shortens the English language was largely responsible for the communication problems that happen there. But I started thinking differently, after that day. The problem isn’t how many characters people have to talk with one another on Twitter. It’s how they choose to use that space.

But it does seem that, in teaching ourselves to communicate in smaller and smaller quarters, in tweets and Facebook messages and smart takes on our blogs so that the attention deficit crowd will bother to read it, we’ve stunted our ability to relate to one another as human beings. We’ve made it more difficult to intuit what someone really means, and why they say what they say.

Essentially, we’ve become distrustful and questioning of the motives of those who think differently from ourselves – even by the most minute of degrees. We make tribes and teams, and no amount of common sense will bear understanding among them.

Enough people have written intelligently about the controversy – the story at the center of Johnson’s expose. You can find a few options in the Related section below, if you’re interested enough to sift through them.

But that leaves me with the unknown, and with feelings — mostly, those I’ve expressed. As I said in a short rant on Twitter on the 20th, we make a mistake to think we can read the hearts of those we don’t truly know. We err when we think we are the authority on how someone else ought to live his life – someone whom we assume to know all about, but we do not know the first thing about them.

I fear that this trend will only get worse, the less we depend on long-form and in depth forms of communication. Face to face conversations, phone calls, letters and emails, books. More misunderstandings, more recriminations, more division and distrust will mount. And our culture and our lives will be diminished as a result.

It’s important, while we still have time, to look at ourselves. We’re better than this. At least, I think we are. When I was invited to write about this political world, only a handful of years ago, by R. Stacy McCain and Jimmie Bise and many others, I was excited that there was space for my voice.

Isn’t that why many of us started writing, blogging, podcasting? The right side of the sphere has more space for more, and different, voices. They aren’t always voices we recognize or even agree with all the time. But we at least respect them, while the left doesn’t.

It would be amazing if we could remember to expect that –sometimes — voices that are coming out of the unknown will bring something wondrous instead of something to shun out of fear. You might just be surprised.

Note: This post was written before Johnson published his article on Dana & Chris Loesch.


IJReview/ Woman Known For Making ‘Liberals’ Heads Explode,’ Was Discovered Having an Affair Last Year
American Power/ Holly Fisher, Army Wife and Conservative Hottie, Busted for Infidelity

The Other McCain/ Well, This Happened
With Bias/ Sex, Lies And A Real Problem