I just checked my planetarium program, and (viewed from Tucson) Venus will be in the Pleiades cluster tonight. If you have binoculars or a small telescope, haul ’em out and enjoy. Venus is the extremely bright object in the northwest part of the sky. It might be so bright that it’ll wash out the Pleiades, but it’s worth checking out anyway. It’d probably be a good idea to first look before it’s fully dark, so as to avoid the washout effect.

(Update at 7:10: I’ve been doing this for the last half hour or so about every five minutes through my 90mm refractor, and it’s really cool to see more and more stars start to show; when I started just after sunset, all I could see was Venus. Further update at 7:25 — Venus is close to the center of the Pleiades, and I can see about two dozen of them, but the glare/washout effect is starting to become pronounced.)

As well, Venus is in its crescent phase (looks like a miniature crescent moon), and you might be able to see the crescent with something as low-power as 10X or 12X  binoculars. Almost any telescope will show it. (Update: just tried that using zoom binoculars, and couldn’t see the crescent until I was approaching 20X.)


(We’re all  under a lot of stress right now and could use some comic relief; there are many other pieces on line showing exactly how Il Douche, Dumbasso Cheetolini, has royally screwed up America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic (here’s a good one from today), so I’ll be keeping the posts mostly on the light side for at least the next few weeks if not months, and also will be dipping into ones from the past. (We have over 1,500 archived posts, including over 500 in the humor category.) Here’s one from about five years ago that is, unfortunately, all too relatable — or at least will be again soon, I hope.)

MUSICIAN, n. A guy who spends five thousand dollars on instruments so he can drive a thousand-dollar car a hundred miles to make fifty bucks.

–Thanks to Mick Berry (former bandmate, drummer extraordinaire, and co-author of The Drummer’s Bible)

for this one


An Open Letter to the president
from Tommy Lee
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dear Fucking Lunatic,
At your recent press conference – more a word salad that had a stroke and fell down stairs, you were CLEARLY so out of your depth you needed scuba gear. Within minutes of going off air your minions were backpedaling faster than Cirque De Soleil acrobats… In India a week ago, i couldn’t get past the bit about your being the most popular visitor in the history of fucking India — a country of a BILLION human souls that’s only 3000 years old, give or take.!!! Trust me – Gandhi pulled CROWDS.. You pulled a cricket stadium and half WALKED out…

Do you know how fucking insane you sound, you off-brand butt plug? That’s like the geopolitical equivalent of “that stripper really likes me” — only 10,000 times crazier and less self aware.

You are fucking exhausting. Every day is a natural experiment in determining how long 300 million people can resist coring out their own assholes with an ice auger. Every time I hear a snippet of your Queens-tinged banshee larynx farts, I want to scream!
We are fucking tired. As bad as we all thought your presidency would be when Putin got you elected, it’s been inestimably worse.

You called a hostile, nuclear-armed head of state “short and fat.” How the fuck does that help?

You accused a woman — a former friend, no less — of showing up at your resort bleeding from the face and begging to get in. You, you, YOU — the guy who looks like a Christmas haggis inexplicably brought to life by Frosty’s magic hat — yes, you of all people said that.

You attempted — with evident fucking glee — to get 24 million people thrown off their health insurance.

You gave billions away to corporations and the already wealthy while simultaneously telling struggling poor people that you were doing exactly the opposite.

You endorsed a pedophile, praised brutal dictators, and defended LITERAL FUCKING NAZIS!

Ninety-nine percent of everything you say is either false, crazy, incoherent, just plain cruel, or a rancid paella of all four.

Oh, by the way, Puerto Rico is still FUBAR. You got yourself and your family billions in tax breaks for Christmas. What do they get? More paper towels?

Enough, enough, enough, enough! For the love of God and all that is holy, good, and pure, would you please, finally and forever, shut your feculent KFC-hole until you have something valuable — or even marginally civil — to say?

You are a fried dick sandwich with a side of schlongs. If chlamydia and gonorrhea had a son, you’d appoint him HHS secretary. You are a disgraceful, pustulant hot stew full of casuistry, godawful ideas, unintelligible non sequiturs, and malignant rage.

You are the perfect circus orangutan diaper from Plato’s World of Forms.

So fuck you Mr. President. And fuck you forever.

Oh, and Pence, you oleaginous house ferret. Fuck you, too. You’ll be as useful as a chocolate teapot against a medical crisis you Bible thumping cock socket.


I’m going stir crazy, and I presume damn near everyone else is too — and after only two weeks.

After thinking about how much you dislike this mild form of isolation, please think about all of the prisoners subjected to total isolation for months or years on end think about how they feel, what it does to them. And then think about how the government you support subjects people to such psychological torture.

Whatever. Here are a few things that might help you pass the time in your mild form of lockdown:

  • Archive.org  has a very large library of classic films, including a very nice collection of films noir. All are free.
  • Kanopy features the Criterion collection of films and many others, and is free on many public library sites. The film I’ve seen most recently that I’d recommend is Harrod Blank’s (son of legendary countercultural director Mel Blank) Wild Wheels, a wonderful documentary about art cars and their creators. If nothing else will do it, this will leave with a kinder view of humanity, its creativity, and a smile on your face.
  • Learn the night sky. The best free tool to help you do this is Stellarium (free download). Probably the best planetarium program, regardless of cost. Even if you just have your naked eyes, you can learn the constellations and follow the planets. If you have even cheap, small binoculars, Stellarium will open a whole new world of deep sky objects to you; and if you have even a cheap kid’s 60 mm telescope, wow are you in for some fun — especially as both air pollution and light pollution abate with the coronavirus tragedy. (Always look on the bright side of life.)
  • Learn to sing or play an instrument. Even if you just have your voice, there are a lot of vocal lessons available on Youtube. Singing is also a great shame-attacking exercise. If you have even a cheap instrument available, there are likewise a hell of a lot of useful instructional videos. One Youtube channel that I’ve found particularly useful is GuitarPilgrim, though to take full advantage of the videos you need to be at least an intermediate-level player. Whatever, the guy is an incredibly good guitarist and also incredibly good at explaining how to do things. I can’t recommend this more highly — it’s head-and-shoulders above all of the other instructional guitar videos I’ve seen.
  • Write. If you’re reading this, you have the means to do it. Nowadays, there are an incredible number of aids available, both in your word processing program and online. My favorite tool is probably the self-explanatory thesaurus.com. And buck up — today, you have it good: take advantage of all the tools. For both nonfiction and fiction, it’s a great idea to write a highly detailed outline before you start writing. You won’t follow it, but it’s a great jumping-off point.
  • Garden. As long as the water stays on, you’re good. Even if you’ve never done it before, it should be pretty easy. I live in one of the most hostile environments in the U.S. for gardening (alkaline, nutrient-deficient soil, low rainfall, brutal sun), and I still get good yields. If I can do it here, you can do it anywhere. A lot of public libraries have seed catalogs which will help to get you started. Helpful hints: start small — if you’ve never gardened before, start with a garden of under 100 s.f.; buy seeds or get them free from a seed catalog — do not buy individual plants for $3 or $4 apiece from a big-box store. They’re an incredible rip. Six-packs for $3 or so aren’t a bad way to go (far from great, but not terrible), but spending three bucks or more for a start is obscene. And then start saving seeds and saving money next year. (Sorry to sound so mercenary, but cost is a consideration, even with treating Mother Earth well. And I hate ripoffs.)

Much more on all this later.

For now, please meditate on how the government tortures your fellow human beings with solitary confinement.


(improved billboard by Billboard Liberation Front)

Image  —  Posted: March 28, 2020 in Livin' in the USA, Politics
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A couple of nights ago I was talking with my longtime friend, ex-stand-up comic, and ex-bandmate, drummer extraordinaire Mick Berry. We’ve both been working on our vocals recently, but for very different reasons: me, because I’m sick of dealing with egomaniac vocalists; Micko, because he’s sick of dealing with musicians period, and wants to go out and do solo gigs playing piano and singing.

Anyway, he suggested that I do some singing and let him critique it. I panicked. Over the last year, I’ve sung several times during jobs at bars and thought nothing of it, but this spooked me: Micko actually has ears and I value his opinion; this is in stark contrast to audiences, who (god bless ’em)  tend to be way too forgiving.

Anyway, Micko finally talked me into it, and I reluctantly said, “I’ll do it as a shame-attacking exercise.”

He replied without missing a beat:,”You didn’t realize that all music performance is a shame-attacking exercise?”


At the tail end of January and beginning of February, I was sick as hell and somewhat out of it for a full week: sore throat, fatigue, pressure on inner ears, dry cough, and after a few days in hacking up phlegm. But no sniffling, no sneezing. And it took two or three weeks before I began to feel okay. At the time I thought it was just some weird, run-of-the-mill cold virus. Now I’m not so sure. (I stayed away from my friends during this time, but unfortunately I was still going out to buy food.)

A few days ago the GF told me that I told her six or seven weeks ago, when I was sickest, that I had a fever. I don’t remember saying that at all, but she assures me that’s what I told her.

What difference will this make in how I feel? Considerable. I’d previously considered that I might have had the virus, bur rejected the idea because I believed I didn’t have a fever. Now, going down the check list, it’s all “Xs.” Still, there’s no test for antibodies to show who’s been previously infected, so I suspect, but I don’t know.

How does this affect my behavior? Not at all. Because I don’t know. I’m still self-distancing on the rare occasions I go out, (Damn but I miss human touch) I’m washing and disinfecting compulsively, ordering food on line, and spending a couple of hours a day on the phone talking with friends. I urge you to do the same. And this is with the phone and Internet — think about the routine psychological torture inflicted on inmates in solitary in America’s gulags.

At best, the pandemic will subside by late May or early June. Until then, hang on, be responsible, and don’t risk infecting others — if you’re infected, you could, and probably would, kill someone.