Common “Cents”

“A penny for your thoughts.”

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

“Pinching pennies.”

“Take care of the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves.”

“Cost a pretty penny.”

“Don’t have a penny to my name”

“Turn up like a bad penny”

“Worth every penny”

Pennies are funny. We despise them and often cast them off when given as change, but the proverbs above call attention to the fact that pennies are an enduring, unchanging (maybe I should say “unchangeable” …it is the lowest denomination) part of America. I think the same thing can be said of the citizens of this great country. Enduring in that democracy lives on, unchanging in that it should continue. Like pennies, some citizens are coarse and gritty, while others are shiny. Just remember one thing – monetarily, they are both worth $0.01. One cent. One one-hundredth of a dollar. One-ten thousandth of a c-note*.

Think about that.

Ten thousand sounds like a lot, but how many pennies have you seen in your life? Held in your hand? Thrown in a change jar? Thrown in the trash?

Point is, they start to add up. I put it to you, fellow citizen, that we the people are those pennies. By ourselves, we have minuscule value, but a small community of voters becomes $1. Several communities together become $5. That conglomerate of communities becomes an area worth $10. The conglomerates conglomerate to form a conglomerated conglomerate of smaller conglomerates worth say, $16.83. The orgy of conglomeration continues, encompassing cities at values from a few hundred bucks to roughly $155,171.23 if you’re New York City.

If you’re not yet convinced of your value, think about this – if you’re jonesing for a chocolate fix, but are forced scrounge for change and can only find pennies, that is still legal tender – that will get you the chocolate. Just think, there was a penny in some lonely, dark place, but now it’s the joy joy deliciousness of chocolate. So I ask you, do you want to experience joy joy deliciousness or stay lonely in the dark?

Here is the penny origin story in a talk with the Democrat running for Texas House in district 62, Valerie Hefner –

*Fun fact – It takes between 145 and 181 pennies to make a pound. Let’s average that and say 163 pennies come out to one pound. Thus, a $100 bill saves you the trouble of hauling around nearly 62lbs of pennies.

Social Dysfunction and Mass Shooting

For the content below, I reference THIS post.

I’m not sure why I thought that data collection for this project would be a walk in the park, but the more information I gather, the more I realize that I have even more to gather. Let’s say I start researching how a shooter got his guns (of the 10 or so shootings I’ve researched on that parameter, 100% of the firearms were obtained legally, with a majority doing so despite a record that should have prevented the sale).


Big digression, sorry. I’ll start looking for how they got guns and see something about exposure to domestic violence. Then I’ll remember a blurb about so and so watching his mom get beat up, so I’ll add that variable.


All told, this dataset contains 20 (as I count them) variables, including –

three demographic measures (it’s been a while since grad school – some of these might not belong to “demographics”). These are the “invariable variables” – the shooter was stuck with these upon being born –

  • Location (state)
  • Date of birth
  • Race


Six components that the shooter had some control of –

  • Specific location of shooting
  • Date of shooting/age
  • Graduation date
  • Death toll
  • Injured toll
  • Status of shooter (suicide, KIA, or captured)


Three variables of what I will call “life experience”

  • Military status
  • Relationship with the father
  • Exposure to domestic violence


Seven dealing with guns

  • Shooter use of AR-15
  • Shooter use of an automatic weapon
  • Shooter use of handguns
  • Shooter use of other semi-automatic
  • Any other weapons
  • Total number of weapons
  • Legality of gun acquisition.

Diagnosed and/or suspected mental and social disorders.

I’m jumping the gun here when I report that, of seven of the more recent shootings, at least four had either been diagnosed or been suspected of having some disorder on the autism spectrum (including Asperger’s). Compare that to one out of every 68 kids in the US are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. My methods and results are far from conclusive, but warrant a closer look, in my opinion. Let me be clear – I’m not suggesting that individuals with autism are inherently violent; merely that, as a social disorder, higher functioning individuals on the spectrum may lack the social coping mechanisms of the typical person, yet they are exposed to the same reality of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other perversions of social norms that the rest of us must face. More than the disorder itself is the treatment, or rather lack thereof. A study released in 2016 by the CDC “shows that, overall, less than half the children identified with autism (43 percent) had received comprehensive developmental evaluations by age 3.” In effect, it’s the lack of intervention that is to blame, not the disorder itself.


Ok, that was a big digression, please forgive me.


Another common factor that became apparent was military status – of the nine of the more recent shootings, four of the shooters were either active, discharged or interested in joining a branch of the military. Again, this figure is far above the national average of 0.4% or roughly 1 out of 250 people…


I have to stop myself now. I’m drawing conclusions from an incomplete dataset of a handful of cases. In the statistical world, that’s a sin.

In any case, I think there is evidence that this issue is far more complex than simply restricting access to guns.

This should not suggest that we should abandon the effort to better control guns. Access to guns gives the crazy inside these individuals form and direction.

I hope to have a more complete dataset soon and will report back with more conclusive observations. Stay tuned…

One more thing – You may not have heard about it, but on Tuesday 3/20 a Maryland student tried to shoot up his high school. He was thwarted by the School’s resource officer – I feel he should be mentioned by name and marked as a hero – Blaine Gaskill was reportedly facing the shooter within seconds of the first shot. Thanks to his prompt response, the shooter only fired on two individuals – Desmond Barnes was shot in the thigh and has been released from the hospital. Jaelyn Willey was shot in the head, rendering her brain dead. She was pulled off life support and died Thursday 3/22. My condolences to her family and friends…


I was initially incensed by the lack of media coverage, thinking there just weren’t enough dead school children to make headlines. Then I decided that it was a good thing. No doubt the shooter in Maryland was inspired by the Florida shooter, who was inspired by another school shooting and so on. By not sensationalizing it, perhaps we’ll get a reprieve from the bloodshed. There’s an idea media, don’t have a “breaking news” orgasm and ejaculate sensational information every time there’s a shooting. Just a thought…






The Second Amendment and the Freedom from Fear

Peep this here, internet. A nice gentleman at the Stonehenge Corner responded to my post about snowflake syndrome and the second amendment.

His opinion, notably on gun control, runs counter to my own.
Instead of resulting in strife and foul language, we’ve approached one another amicably, with a genuine desire to find out what’s behind all this violence.
I think that we’ve arrived at a satisfactory alternative to guns as the root cause – a cause that I will be delving into in greater detail on my next post. The issue I speak of is fatherlessness. To find out how we arrived at this middle ground, you’ll want to read my original post linked above, his response – which I’ve reblogged here and our commentary on his blog.
Please feel free, nay compelled, to comment with constructive suggestions and opinions – agree or disagree. Be part of a solution. You are but one voice, but together we are an ear-splitting din.

Happy reading!

The Stonehenge Corner


The attack on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkville, Florida, by former student, Nikolas Cruz, has generated much anger, bitterness and arguing. In the nineteen days since the shooting, Florida has banned AR-15 rifles, only to rescind that legislation fifteen minutes later; survivor David Hogg has become a media star and the new face for gun control; and, according to a new survey, the solid majority of people who make up the Left in America, want to ban guns—not just AR-15s but other rifles and handguns as well.

I wrote last time that tragedies like Parkland become the nuclei of what has become the cyclical gun debate between the political divide when other questions, such as fatherlessness, would be more important debates to have. But, as I also admitted, (paraphrasing Samuel Johnson) people do not so much need to be taught new things as reminded of things and…

View original post 1,804 more words

Mass Shooter Profiles

As reported LAST WEEK, I’ve started to compile a database of mass shooter profiles.

I didn’t get near as much done as I would’ve liked. All the same, I’m going to publish my labors up to now.

I haven’t collected all the data that I’d like to and, as a result, I haven’t started running basic statistics (frequency tables, etc.) But, there are a few curious trends I’m picking up on.

Firstly, I’m using the top 20 shootings listed HERE as a starting point. Wikipedia has a similar page, but every fact is linked to a more credible reference. During my initial sweep, I didn’t take note of how many guns the shooter had or the category of the weapon(s). I will continue to add –

  1. Gun data
  2. More specific notes about the shooter – including analyzing background. The words “autism”, “Asperger’s”, “loner” and “bullied” are mentioned frequently – I’d like better numbers on that stuff for each shooter
  3. More shootings. I’ve decided to go beyond NCLB, but not rule it out as a key factor in our troubled times.
    1. NCLB era shooters can be isolated from the rest of the shooters to see if they possess some unique characteristic that might point more definitively to issues caused by the parameters of NCLB

A few curious coincidences (curioundences?) I’ve found are –

  1. The prevalence of social development disorders, like autism spectrum disorder mentioned above, and
  2. The desire to enlist or successfully joining a branch of the armed forces.

All that said, here is the table that I’ve labored to produce. Again, it’s not finished, with the way things are going it’ll probably never be finished, unfortunately. If there are any variables you feel should be included, please leave a comment.

Uhh, I dont’ know why, but despite all my effort to get the data into an embedded spreadsheet, it defaults to the bottom. Scroll up a ways to see the content.

No Culture Left Behind

I’ve a third component for my list of agitators resulting in school violence, read about the first two HERE. I’ve pontificated HERE on the dog and pony show that is standardized testing. The third element in this trinity, along with 1. The second amendment(al), and 2. “Snowflake Syndrome” (we’re all part of the same compost heap), is the education system itself.


I’ll start with a picture –

Snap 2018-03-03 at 19.06.44

This image doesn’t reflect the myriad of technological changes in education, which is the point. I wouldn’t be out of line if I say that learning modalities and the tools to cater to those modalities are vastly different. In a manner of speaking, it’s like trying to upload rotary phone firmware (insofar as it has firmware) onto iPhones using a coaxial cable.


That is to say, the content is outdated and the transmission medium is incompatible with the hardware.


What should we do? Give the kids more tests and give the teachers guns!


I think it’s time for some fun facts about standardized testing –


Listen, I don’t have access to fancy databases like I did in college. I know what I’m looking for, but JSTOR or Ebsco Google Scholar is not. That being the case, the information contained here is a curious mix of stuff I go looking for and what Google allows me to have. In this case, I would’ve liked an article from a longitudinal research study based on data from a tidy sample of a few thousand students from all grades across the country (notably high schoolers and people who were in HS during the NCLB transition from 2003-2007). I actually did find something like this, but I found myself more concerned with figuring out how NCLB SOOO left children behind.


Allow me to digress briefly – among educators, NCLB is a four letter word (… you know what I mean).


Briefly, it turned teachers into robot bureaucrat prostitutes (hereafter referred to as “robureaucrutes”) whose primary functions are to submit a form for just about everything that happens in the classroom or during school hours and turn their tricks (teach) to tests whose validity and reliability are questioned to this very day. In exchange, they are given a pittance.


By its title, we are to conclude that no child will be “left behind”. There isn’t a “No robureaucrutes (Teachers) Left Behind” bill.


Indeed, I am one of those lost souls, but that is a horse of a different color – I will digress no more.


In fact, I’m at a good place to relate it to our troubled times. If NCLB can be said to have one lasting impact on public education, it’s unrest. Students are nervous that, despite high grades, they’ll perform poorly on the state exam, and potentially get held back, or denied entry into a desired academic program – be it college or maybe a HS AP class.


Meanwhile, the robureaucrutes are scared they’ll lose their jobs if their students’ scores don’t cut the mustard.


That’s okay, these rigorous assessments hold every child to a high, transparent achievement standard, right?


If by “rigorous” you mean hard on minority groups, the answer is yes. We know this because, in many cases, test scores have stagnated and the achievement gap has widened.


For example, according to THIS ARTICLE, math and reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP (a standardized assessment of student achievement in a variety of subjects – scores are reported by demographic group, race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status), shows both a widening achievement gap between minority students and white student and diminishing returns in both math and reading in grades four and eight.


Much time and resources go into teaching strategies that target minority students.


But all the shooters have been white dudes, right? I can only speculate that white students feel marginalized by an increased emphasis on closing the achievement gap.


Another theory – school staff are so busy with minority groups that they don’t notice the warning signs.




More to the point, I am pointing out that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Assuming this is true, we can expect school officials to start scrutinizing the metrics of their white male students, to the detriment of minority groups.


Thus the cycle of extinguishing the fires of the American public education system continues.


What about the tests themselves? THIS ARTICLE says students spend 20-25 hours each school year taking a test. This amounts to “about 2.3 percent of classroom time for the average eighth grader.”


This may not sound like a lot until you consider the hours upon hours of test prep. Put another way, teachers are forced to forgo more useful skills – say, coming up with a simple monthly budget or reading and writing cursive to have more time to “teach to the test”.


Concerning the former, the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) contains a “financial literacy” component that purports to measure –

knowledge and understanding of financial concepts and risks, and the skills, motivation and confidence to apply such knowledge and understanding in order to make effective decisions across a range of financial contexts, to improve the financial well-being of individuals and society, and to enable participation in economic life.

I tell you what, dear readers, in my ~12 years in education, this is the finest example of educationese I’ve come across – it lithely straddles the hair thin line between ingenuously vague and technically obnoxious. It’s verbose – pregnant with buzzwords (“effective”, “knowledge”, “skills”, etc.) to show the reader how important it is, but it doesn’t state any concrete or measurable parameters. Fear not, dear reader, I’ve waded through the mire of needlessly grandiose *ahem* verbiage contained in the PISA supporting documentation to give you a clearer idea of what 22% (roughly one in five) of our nation’s youth don’t understand.

Here’s the gist – “financial literacy” as defined on the PISA includes an understanding of –

  • Insurance policies
  • Pensions
  • Budgeting for “household goods and personal items”
  • Bank accounts
  • Inflation
  • Interest
  • Accessing financial information
  • How to calculate a percentage
  • Currency conversion

There is quite a bit more, find it HERE if you’d like some stimulating reading while on the toilet or some such situation.

It is long time for me to get to the point. In short, the focus on testing has pulled the rug out from under the culture of our education system. Education doesn’t serve students anymore, it serves itself. The result has been the neglect of students who feel lost. They’re given little direction beyond always having a #2 pencil and filling in the right bubble – this is not a life skill. Imagine your outlook on life if you suddenly discover that the “real world” is a place where you have to manage your own money, but you have no money because “bubbling with extreme care and meticulous detail” is not counted as a worthy skill.

While writing this, quite a few ideas poured into my skull related to this issue. Firstly, are testing companies, like ETS and Pearson, pulling strings at the US DoE? Seems to me that a company that has made a name for itself through standardized testing would go to great lengths to make sure the government continues to mandate tests.


Also, I’ve posted a few times about peddling the English language like so many products at your local convenience store (HERE and HERE if you’re still on the toilet or like to read great writing). I teach English to Chinese kids online. In a recent conversation with an older (age 16), nearly fluent student (fludent?) the issue of school shootings came up. He likes to talk about lofty, philosophical stuff so he perked right up. I asked him, with an education system far more strict and intrusive than ours, why weren’t they having trouble with guns. He thought about it, and he answered it jokingly, but it was more profound than he realized. He joked that they do shoot each other with guns…water guns.


Then I jested that I hope he didn’t melt, as per Isaac Asimov’s “Rain, Rain Go Away” and that led to a discussion about how the commoners of today are the sugar people and the government is rain… it was way philosophical.


The profundity comes from the idea that he would find humor in the very idea of someone shooting up a school in China. I’m not suggesting that education is without dysfunction in China, but that is another horse of a new hue…


For a third time, I’ve wandered away from my thesis – “trigression” to be sure.


I’ve produced a flow chart summarizing my stance –


As I was producing this graphic, I investigated mass shootings and found that many are not in a school. However, most were perpetrated by a white male who was school age when NCLB took hold – this is a broad generalization I know – I think I’ll look at the shooters themselves next time to get an idea of their school lives.





Bashing Through the Prose, In 100 Days…

I recently tried an accelerated writing program offered by The program is designed to help the aspiring writer complete the first draft of a novel in 100 days. It is aptly named “The 100 Day Book” program, the brainchild of Joe Bunting (not to be confused with the “100 Novels in a Day” program from Bo Junting).

Full disclosure – I didn’t finish a first draft, but I’m still pleased with the overall experience. To finish a draft would’ve been great, but I did come away with several valuable lessons.

First and foremost, I learned that I am what Kurt Vonnegut refers to as a “basher”, as opposed to a “swooper”. Hard as I try, I can’t churn out 800 to 1,000 words a day. The basher

“goes one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before going on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”

The swooper

“write[s] a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work.”

Teh Basher
“Hey Joe, where you going with that hammer in your hand?”

I did have a few breakout sessions where I produced 1,000 words, so I can swoop, but for the most part, I bash. All the same, no matter what your approach, this program provides sage advice, deadlines and a support forum for other aspiring writers to hold you accountable and provide feedback on your writing.

Perhaps the most useful feature of the program is the daily email tips to spark the flame of goodly writing inside the budding writer. Notable examples –

“Today, have a character do something. It can be as small as eating a cookie or as dramatic as drawing a gun on someone. Whatever they do, use it to show us who that character is and make them stick in our minds.”


“Open up your book to something you wrote a few days or weeks ago. Glance over it and take a few minutes to laugh. Then, once you’re feeling good about writing again, jump back to today’s scenes and keep writing!”

Uno mas,

“Challenge yourself to write something deliberately bad today. What’s the worst sentence you can imagine? Write it down, and then keep writing.”


This last tip is especially meaningful for me. As were all the messages concerning what a pissant perfectionism can be. That was what held me back – the unquenchable desire to be perfect.

Many of the daily emails harped on the myth of perfection. Applying the practice tips from these messages were tools that allowed me to write 1,000 words in one day a few times.

I saved all the emails and plan to revisit them as I do my own thing.

BONUS! A cute lady with a squirrelly last name sends you weekly emails with your progress and other words of encouragement. Perhaps most impressive of all is that both cute, squirrelly last name girl and the Joe himself always responded to my questions and concerns with a genuine, not canned response, and in a timely manner.

And Joe is a good sport, I’d message him on Facebook, starting with “Hey Joe, I heard you shot your lady down” or “Hey Joe, where you gonna run to now?” and he played right along.

I was way short on the word count, but that’s because I need to get over this idea that my writing must be perfect as soon it’s written. I’m happy with every single word that I wrote – wish there were more…

I suppose that’d be a complaint – the program didn’t write a book for me. Writing a book is frickin hard, but this program breaks it into manageable tasks, making the process a more… manageable task.

Another perk was weekly author interviews. I attended a few, and it always got me thinking about my own writing process, but while sitting there listening I was jonesin to write, so I skipped some. Looking back on it, I wish I would’ve sat attentively through all of them, that’s part of the experience that I paid for.

In closing, I’d say this program would benefit any budding writer. You may not finish a book, but you’ll be writing and you’ll gain an understanding of the logistics involved in writing a book. In the end, if my ho-hum attitude toward interviews is any indicator, you get out what you put in.


There is a blight upon the lexicon of our time! Read on and I’ll literally tell you what I mean.

Listen, my daughter watches a TON of YouTube. Bad parenting? Probably. Germane to this blopic (blog+ topic)? Only concerning my exposure to what I shall term “secondhand lexico-hyperbolitis”.

This is a debilitating disorder of the speech center of the brain, literally. You may have this disorder if you’re compelled to preface lackluster occurrences with the word “literally”. For example, “the cup I use to scoop out dog food disappeared, I literally had to get another one.”

Another symptom is a lack of proper respect for the hierarchy of “super” adjectives. Submitted for your approval, internet – here’s how I would order superlative adjectives; I’ll use donuts as a reference

Glazed “pretty good”
Chocolate “good”
Maple “Really good”/“Great”
Blueberry cake “awesome”
Cinnamon roll “totally awesome”/ “awesome to the max”
Chocolate cake “Murica!”
Maple cake “transcendent”
Old fashioned “restaurant quality”
Chocolate old fashioned “epic”



Of course, the ranking of donuts is open for debate, but I think we can all get behind the classification system. I’d like to note that “epic” is not my choice to describe the very best. I have always liked “restaurant quality”.

No matter what your word for the apex of quality, the notion that something could be so sweet necessarily requires that one be selective when classifying stuff. In other words, if everything is “epic”, is anything truly “epic”?

Let me slow down, my mind is literally flooded with righteous indigtation (indignation + dictation). To be clear, this is a treatise against the hyperbolic terminology literally soiling the garden of agreeable discourse in America today. Even, the book that literally contains all the words (epic feat, no?) has recognized this egregious trend (LINK).

Is “literally” being used incorrectly? Well, yes and no – lists the following definitions/examples for “literally” –

  1. in the literal or strict sense: She failed to grasp the metaphor and interpreted the poem literally.

e.g. What does the word mean literally?

  1. in a literal manner; word for word:

e.g. to translate literally.

  1. actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy:

e.g. The city was literally destroyed.

  1. in effect; in substance; very nearly; virtually:

e.g. I literally died when she walked out on stage in that costume.

It is my understanding that literally is most effectively used when referring to a strange/very rare occurrence. Such as, “Trump literally made a good point”. Another is to show exaggeration. Example, “I literally shat myself when he did the bit about the unicorns with toilet wands for a horn.”

I’m seeing and hearing a lot definition #3 mixed with #4; i.e. prosaic occurrences described as if it started raining money.

Here is a test, dear reader, that you might find out if you suffer from this heinous malady. Which of the following statements can “literally” be most appropriately applied to (assume that the occurrence described happened exactly as it is…uhh, described) –

  1. The bacon was on the skillet so long it got burned
  2. That lion tore that gazelle’s throat out and ate it.
  3. Jimi Hendrix makes the guitar sing
  4. I barfed when I saw the new iPhone

Answer key:

  1. Not necessary
  2. Not necessary
  3. Appropriate to exaggerate Hendrix’s skill (Jimi Hendrix literally makes the guitar sing)
  4. Appropriate when thinking about an iPhone – new or old. (I literally barfed when I saw the new iPhone).

Scoring –

If you thought it ok to put “literally” on either of the first two, you have a mild case of lexico-hyperbolitis and must memorize and practice using very bland adjectives like – “kinda cool”, “it’s OK”, “Meh” and “not bad” to temper your sensationalist tendencies.

If you think they all could benefit from this most malevolent term, you are (literally) about to drown in a mire of embellishment, a hypoolbole if you will. Your only hope is total sensory deprivation and the prohibition of the use of all adjectives. For instance, let’s say Steven Seagal shows up at your door one morning with some hot flapjacks and says he wants to give you free ass-kicking lessons. Your first reaction might be “THAT’S AWESOME!” If you would purge yourself of lexico-hyperbolitis, your reaction would be pared down to “THAT’S!” or “THAT IS!” if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

Seagal Pancakes

Ok, that’s what I think about the word “literally”, if I hear it again I will have a cowdog (literally).





RIP Chris Cornell

Growing up in the 90s, Soundgarden were my Beatles. Chris Cornell’s piercing wail was the voice of rock and roll in my mind. Superunknown could easily be said to be the soundtrack of my adolescence. “Spoonman”, “Black Hole Sun”, “My Wave” and a playlist staple for me to this day, “Like Suicide”, among others play in the background of my memories from my formative years.

In a manner of speaking, Chris Cornell (along with Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell, Billy Corgan, Anthony Kiedis and a few others) was a composer of the soundtrack of my life.

More than any other album, chances are one of the fifteen tracks is eternally tethered to some memory and to hear the song is to relive that memory and recalling that memory plays the song as clearly as if it were playing through the red earpiece, over the ear headphones tethered to my Aiwa personal cassette player.

The introductory riffs of the first track – “Let Me Drown” form a symbiotic sense recollection with the smell of grass. To hear those three short notes followed by a shrieking electric guitar might as well be shoving my nose in a bag of fresh lawn clippings. Conversely, every time I fire up the lawnmower, I feel a powerful urge to call up Chris, Kim, Matt and Ben to rock me through another lawn mowing.

You see, when Superunknown was released, I was 13 – the age where fathers rejoice that they have an able body (willing or not) to share in the yard work.

I decreed that, though I had become a thrall of sod, I’d maintain sovereignty over my ears.

With a brazen disregard for aural health, I donned my cassette player and let Chris take me hither and thither. To look at me, you’d think that boy with the freckly, round face is mowing that yard and listening to music at the same time, what a nice boy.

In actuality, I was watching a black hole sun gobble up the world, or “wallow[ing] in the blood and mud with all the other pigs” or “feel[ing] the rhythm with [my] hands” as I beat the rhythm with the bones of my friends, the ones so afraid of death.

Occasionally, I’d come down from “My Wave” to empty the grass catcher or get a drink.

I’d continue delving into the Superunknown to see me through my landscaping duties through high school.

Speaking of the gratuitously anonymous, the title track for Superunknown was the catalyst for one of my earliest recollections of independent thought.

As a lad, I’d spend a few weeks out of each summer at my grandparents house in that exotic landlocked Xanadu of the plains – Salina, KS. Also living in that sprawling, wheat enclosed utopia was my cousin, TJ. A few months older than me, I typically did what he did, liked what he liked, said what he said, etc. that I’d make a suitable, and dare I say, pleasant companion. TJ liked Soundgarden, so naturally I liked Soundgarden.

During one of our Coca Cola and Cheese Whiz fueled Street Fighter II (yes, the original) sessions, we discussed the joy joy sounds of Superunknown. I was shocked to learn that TJ didn’t rank “Superunknown” among the noteworthy tracks on the album that bears its name. To uphold my position as pleasant companion I agreed, but on the inside I was boiling with unsettling dubiety.

“Superunknown” was worthy of the same praise given “Spoonman”, “My Wave”, “Fresh Tendrils” and so on.

I hope that, when he reads this, he’ll overlook my treachery and continue to view me as a loyal companion.

Listen, at this time (early to mid 90s), the music video was hitting its stride as the creative visual outlet for musicians. The music video for “Black Hole Sun” was a sparkling example of how this medium could enhance the appeal of a piece of music. By itself, the song is worthy of inclusion on any respectable rocker’s rockinest playlist, but the downright eerie countenance of each citizen depicted in that forsaken suburban development is most disturbing. I wanted the black hole sun to suck those plastic smiles off each of face and pull those bulbous orbs out of each eye socket.

As an outspoken GI Joe enthusiast, I took a morbid satisfaction seeing the Barbie get barbecued (Barbiecued?). And I can’t forget feeling sticky after watching ice cream dribble out of the little girl’s mouth.

Why do I remember a ~23 year old music video so well? Because MTV might as well have been called “Black Hole Sun TV” at that time.

I took a long hiatus from this grim ballad, and now have a more grievous reason to spurn the melodic…uhh, melodies of this grunge classic…

…RIP Chris Cornell, you will be missed.






Super special bonus – you just finished reading (then following, oh yes, follow…) this blog and are probably thinking I better see to *insert lame crap* now. But then you’d miss out on my expert selections of Soundgarden’s most face meltingest creations.

This first selection, from the oft overlooked precursor to Superunknown, Badmotorfinger, will melt your ears. Your eyes will be fine (for now) as there is no official music video. The linked video shows the lyrics karaoke style.
Now for your eyes. It’s too bad that you won’t be able to hear this song after “Room a Thousand Years Wide” melts your ears, rest assured that the song is every bit as organ dissolving as the video. This track was originally composed during recording of Badmotorfinger in 1991, but not released until a 2010 compilation album called The Telephantasm. I give you “Black Rain” –


The Lost City of the Story I didn’t Finish


I’m rolling with the IWSG now. The Incredibly Witty Super-handsome Guy club? No, silly! The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The “eewuhsig”, as it is affectionately known by me ever since I made that up just now, comes up with a blog topic (I will call it a “blopic”) on the first Wednesday of every month. For the month of March, that is today. How auspicious that it be today, the very day that Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne and Tituba were arrested for the supposed practice of witchcraft in Salem, Mass in that foul year of our Lord, 1692. This is auspicious because the topic of this month’s Incredibly Witt….errr, INSECURE WRITER’S SUPPORT GROUP is –

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

You’re probably asking what witch trials have to do with the Incredibly Witt….errr, Insecure Writer’s Support Group topic. Uh, I don’t know yet. I just wanted to talk about witches and make a smooth transition to my story. That said, I’m just gonna throw my response to the IWSG question out there and find a transition later. So, here is the transition-less transition to my response to the above topic.

As a greenhorn 8th grade history teacher, I had the audacity to create an assignment to, given the principles of government, society and economics as learned in history class, create a fully functional nation from scratch.

To demonstrate this assignment, I created Aequitas, a nation composed of three islands in constant war with each other.

I gave each island state a rudimentary topography that governed physical features of its inhabitants and commodities and trade and the like. The fun part was borne out of a lesson from an undergrad course, Modern Peoples of Latin America.

You see, central Mexico has many indigenous villages stuck in a three-way twilight (I will call it a “trilight”). On the one hand, they are Earthlings, meaning they are subject to the ever-changing tides of globalization. On the other hand, they are citizens of Mexico, and must adjust their sails of survival to the hectic winds of the Mexican government. On the other other hand, they are some flavor of Mexican Indian (Zapotec, Nahuatl, Mixtec, Initech,etc.). In keeping with the sea analogy, Indian identity will be the annoying dolphin that keeps pushing them off course.

From the outside, these villages are pretty homogenous – same economy, same family structure/social hierarchy. However, if you were to ask one of them about the similarities between his/her village and the next village over, this individual would invariably explain how backwards the neighboring community is when describing a nearly identical facet of village life. For instance, if you were to ask a resident of village A about the corn harvesting practices of village B, s/he’d tell you roughly the same thing s/he’d said about his/her own harvesting practices. Mention this similarity and this individual would quickly point out that those sickos in village B put their ears of corn in a cloth sac, rather than a basket like a civilized person would do.

I was fascinated by this, so that was the impetus for Aequitas – three island states fiercely asserts its community’s sui generis despite obvious similarities.

This assignment was twelve years ago. Since that time, this fantasy world has mutated and evolved into a saga of sociopolitical intrigue and sociocultural transgressions. The island nation is now called “Lemuria”. Lemuria is to the Pacific and Indian oceans what Atlantis is to the Atlantic Ocean. The island states, now known as Ostis (east), Nordis (north) and Sudis (south), are coming off another devastating war and have decided to form an alliance. To ensure it sticks this time (alliances have been many and without efficacy in the past), high ranking officials create a persona called “Ramtha” (this is an actual name of a supposed Lemurian channeled by some space cadet named JZ Knight, read more about her HERE). In my story, Ramtha hijacks the alliance and starts ravaging all three islands. To fight off this mysterious figure, the three island states must band together. The result would be an alliance built on mutual propagation. It doesn’t end that way though. Ramtha wins out and takes over and a “Ramtha” (similar to Caesar/a Caesar) rules with an iron fist for the next x years until an unlikely hero emerges out of Ostis after a scuffle at a local market.

I had trouble getting the timeline to line up and seemed to run into big plot gaps often – I’m going to revisit this story when I’m a wealthy, famous author.

Holy gosh, this post is longer than I’d like, but I like it all the same. And I still need to justify the transition. How about this – the Salem people lived in villages, just like the Mexican Indians do. I’ll bet that if you asked a villager in a town adjacent to Salem about their witches versus the Salem witches, they’d give you all the same information, but those wacko Salem witches are heavier than wood and don’t float in water.

A special thanks to fellow IWSG blogger Jennifer Lee Rossman for posting about the IWSG “blopic” at THE ETERNALLY UNTITLED…I LOVE that blog title.





Blog at

Up ↑