Friday Fiction: A First (Somewhat Wooden) Attempt at Brevity


First entry, Friday Fiction …

“He’s the Dummy…”

It’s not what you think, compadre. I know it looks like he’s got nothin’ goin’ on upstairs.

But he has his moments.

Tony’s got jobs in town, when he can. He puts up shingles and paints barns for folks who can’t get their kids to do it.

Then on the weekends, a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon, I take pity on him and let him work with me at the Bijou, right on the square.

He’s not very funny, but he does what I tell him — better than the others before him.

I’m still gonna have to kill him.


(Hat tip to Protein Wisdom’s Darlene Click!)


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