Everything seemed normal. Our 9-month-old was teething, and, as any parent knows, that means a slight fever and a lot of extra drool.

He also had what looked like a diaper rash. A tiny patch of little red bumps on his butt. But it went away in a day.

No worries, right?

Well… the next day we got a note from the school that “Some children in the infant class had been diagnosed with ‘Hand, Food, Mouth Disease,’ or Coxsackievirus…” and to “be on the lookout for symptoms.”

Oh no!

But a quick Google informed us that the symptoms were pox-like blisters on (you guessed it) hands, feet, and mouths. And (foreshadowing here) “…not common in adults.”

Pshew! Thanks Google!

Our kid had none of that stuff. He was just teething, and had a little diaper rash. Very normal stuff. Right?

“I now remember, vividly, the exact moment the little bugger drooled right in my face.”

HFM is super grodey.

Around that time I was lifting him over my head, he was giggling, it was awesome, and… plop! He got me. Yes, it was gross, but it comes with the territory as a parent. And I thought nothing of it at the time. Well, besides “ewww!”

Turns out, that was all it took.

Ironically I was almost over being sick with a chest cold (that the baby gave me a week prior, the little petri dish) so when I woke up a few mornings later feeling very, very icky I assumed it was a relapse of the same cold.

But then the headache crept in. And, wow, what a headache it was. A ballooning, deep, dull pressure behind my eyes that Advil (and later Tylenol) couldn’t really touch.

The added bummer was I was on a business trip, and scheduled to fly back home at noon that day (landing at 3). So I was counting the hours until I was tucked safely, and warmly into bed.

Well, of course, the flight was delayed, and with each passing minute I grew sicker and sicker. My throat started hurting. Fever, rising. And once I managed to get on the plane the compression/decompression in my ears was simply insane. I had never been this sick on a plane before.

*For the record, I don’t think I infected anyone on the flight. I kept to myself, tried to sleep, and was not “sneezy” or otherwise leaking fluids.

But I was not well. Not at all.

I had managed to call my doctor before takeoff, at that point thinking it was Strep, an ear infection, or a bacterial chest infection from the cold, and had a Z-Pack waiting at my pharmacy for me when I arrived. When finally I got home I greedily took the first day’s allotment of the antibiotic regimen.

But that night, even though I was chocked-full of OTC medications (Robotussin, Advil, Benadryl, the whole aisle, really) I descended into total misery. Sicker and sicker. I couldn’t sleep, and I emailed-in sick for work in the middle of the night, because I knew something was wrong. Bad-wrong.

“Then I noticed the first tiny bump on my finger.”

The next morning, under blankets on the couch, trying to pay attention to a movie, I saw it. Red. Tiny. Slightly puffy.

If you’ve ever had a small splinter from, say, doing yard work, you’ll know what this is like. Some miniscule prickle has lodged under your skin. Too small to really bother you… until it becomes infected. Not bad, not painful, but just enough of an irritation for your body to attack it with it’s built-in defense mechanisms, creating a little, raised, red bump.

So there I was: thinking I had a tiny splinter, poking at this thing, convinced there was a sliver of something under there. Itching, tingling, pulsating.

I decided to leave it alone, (me is smart) and, my plan was, if it got worse, I’d deal with it after the antibiotics did their thing. After all, if it was a splinter, they’d probably help with the infection.

But then it started to itch. Which is not uncommon, either, for a splinter. But it really itched, and by by the evening I noticed I had another tiny red bump, on an adjacent finger. And it itched like crazy too.

By this point my fever had subsided a bit, but my throat was still on fire, and I had zero appetite. So I went to sleep with some more Advil and some throat lozenges, thinking “Fever’s going down, I’ll be out of the woods by the morning.”


I only managed to sleep for an hour or two before I woke up with a start: both of my hands were itching uncontrollably. And when I say itching, I mean ITCHING. Intense and unavoidable. It was unlike any itch I’ve ever felt before. It was simply un-scratchable.

“It felt like I had poison ivy, deep underneath my skin… on my bones.”

Hand with bumps

Seriously, WTF?

Needless to say I couldn’t sleep much. For hours I just kept tossing and turning, and itching and scratching. Rinse, repeat, times infinity (and woke my wife up several times).

The next morning (day 3) I had more red bumps on my hands, and they all felt like they were on fire. So that’s when I decided to consult Dr Google again.

“Red bumps hands itchy” gave me a lot “eczema” results. Also a lot of “dermatitis,” “rash” and “allergic reaction” came up, too.

“Phew!” I thought. Just a little rash. All good.

(We’ve all been there. You just want to believe.)

But then I clicked on “images” (because ‘images’ is often times the best way to get the answers we seek, weirdly). And there I was! Or, rather, someone who’s hands looked exactly like mine; and I clicked the image.

“Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.”


Immediately my brain did one of those “waka waka” back-in-time things like you see in the movies, where the all the instances that lead up to the present situation flash before your eyes. I could literally see the email from the school in my mind. I pictured those little red bumps on my kid’s butt when I was changing his diaper. I saw that drop of drool falling from his mouth and hitting me in the face. Slow-mo. Plop.

“This is some 3rd World sh$¡t right here.”

So, suddenly, my search term was much more specific.

Here’s the aggregate of what’s out there:

  1. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease / Coxsackievirus
    • is not the same as “Foot and Mouth Disease” aka “Mad Cow Disease”
    • Children under age 10 are most often affected.
    • Usually occurs in the summer and early fall.
    • You can catch hand-foot-and-mouth disease if:
    • A person with the infection sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose near you
    • You touch your nose, eyes, or mouth after you have touched something contaminated by the virus, such as a toy or doorknob
    • You touch the stools or the fluid from blisters of an infected person
    • Complete recovery occurs in 5 to 7 days. *
  2. Symptoms include:
    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Loss of appetite
    • Rash with very small blisters on the hands, feet, and diaper area that may be tender or painful when pressed
    • Sore throat
    • Ulcers in the throat (including tonsils), mouth, and tongue
    • Hand foot and mouth disease usually is mild and over within a week. Treatment is directly toward relief of symptoms (fever and sore throat). *

* At least TWO of these points are complete BS, at least for myself and the many other adults who’ve posted about it recently.

“Complete recovery occurs in 5 to 7 days.”
Nope. Try 10-14 days, with scabs remaining long after, and peeling up to 2 months after.

“Hand foot and mouth disease usually is mild…”
Try again internet. The “usually” here is simply misused. At the very least it should be caveated with a “…but severe cases have been documented, so be prepared for a possibly rough ride.”

“Most of the information on HFM on the internet is for parents, treating their kids.”

Why is this the net-net on HFM? Probably because most of the information on HFM on the internet is for parents, treating their kids. Which makes sense because kids are historically the ones that usually get the Coxsackie virus. Small kids crawl around on the floor; they drool, cough and sneeze on each other; and put the same toys in their disgusting little mouths.

The problem is that most of the information available, from all the prominent medical websites, echoed the “adults don’t usually get it” refrain. Which simply isn’t helpful, in the grand scheme of things. Because it lets you put your guard down.

My wife and I would have certainly been more careful if, instead of “…adults usually don’t get it…” was amended with “…is extremely contagious, and children often don’t exhibit symptoms…” If it were written like that things might have been a tad different for me.

But, oh well. It’s ultimately my responsibility and my fault. Such is life as a grown up.

As a result of this fairly blasé attitude by the larger medical sites, the second page of search results nets a lot of articles written by parents (like this one) essentially saying “HFM ‘Affects Just Kids?’… really?! Ha! Look at my hands!”

“What most “official” sites also gloss over is how incredibly painful HFM can be.”

Here are some of the more helpful “personal” blog articles I found. And big props and thanks to those “normal people” who took the time to document their experiences.




It’s important to point out that, most of the time, children tend to breeze through a lot of illnesses that adults struggle with (case in point: my 9-month-old barely got any symptoms). It happens with colds and flu all the time.

Of course, sometimes kids get walloped by illnesses that adults breeze through. So there is really no hard and fast “rule.” But with this particular strain of HFM the parents seem to be bearing the brunt of the pain and suffering.

Is this a different strain? Who knows. But over the last year-or-so there certainly seems to be a ton of adults suddenly getting bad cases of this “kids’ disease.”

Add to that doctors’ current reluctance to prescribe true pain relief medication, in general, (thank you pill poppers!), the wide-held belief that HFM “…isn’t a big deal in adults” is counterproductive. After all, if you follow the advice on WebMd, CDC, etc, you’d think you easily can treat HFM with Tylenol or Advil.

“Make no mistake: HFM really, really sucks.”

Combine that misinformation with the fact that this probably is a new strain (or at least a new varietal), doctors nationwide are being caught offguard.

This is a real shame, because HFM is a hell of a thing.

So back to my personal saga:

At the end of the 3rd day of this super fun magical journey, my hands had way more bumps on them, and it literally felt like they were on fire. The itching and burning had increased exponentially, and I found myself loosing my sanity a little bit: I literally could not get comfortable. I was inhaling OTC medications, and none of it was doing anything to help.

I tried all of the over-the-counter anti-itch medications (literally, all of them), and there was no change at all. No help. Not even a hint of relief.

So, getting a tad panicky, I called my doctor, and he seemed generally amazed that I actually had HFM: “Wait, the “kids’ disease?”

Like most doctors, he doesn’t trust google-self-diagnosis, but after I gave him a rundown of the facts, and sent him snaps of my hands, he agreed that I was right-on.

He went on and on about how surprised he was that an adult “actually got this disease!”

Apparently he’d been Googling, too.

This is where I thank my lucky stars that I was prescribed some actual, bona fide pain killers. I was getting really worried about making it through the rest of that day, and night. But I did, thanks to the meds.

“Hallelujah, thanks be to the Gods for opiates!”

The only thing that remotely helps.

Look. I don’t drink, or do drugs of any kind… but those heavy-duty painkillers were that important to me getting through this. I really can’t imagine what I would’ve done without them.

They really didn’t “numb” the pain, but rather separated me from it. And they allowed me to sit gingerly on the couch, and sort of watch TV, with my tongue hanging out, and drooling a little bit. Otherwise I would’ve probably jumped out the window or something.

A lot of people describe the pain and itching of Hand, Foot & Mouth as being similar to Shingles. I’ve never had Shingles (thankfully) but it’s apparently the same kind of “nerve pain” that’s incredibly intense and all encompassing. Based on this experience I really, really don’t want to get Shingles, either.

Day 5 it had spread to my feet.

I have “guy feet.” They’re tough and calloused. So not as many bumps this time, as tiny red splotches underneath the skin. They were just as painful and itchy as the blotches on my hands, but now I couldn’t walk, either. Yay.

I noticed that I was starting to have problems with my face, too. My nose had started leaking yellow fluid (yes, gross, I know), and I had random patches on my face that were obviously part of the overall program. I even had icky scabs in my earlobe, from that stupid decision to pierce my left ear, back in 11th grade. Even my forehead, and chest had a blister or two.


Wow. Just, wow.

Thinking about the overall placement of the lesions, they seemed to crop up in places that I had previous injuries; even decades old. Places I had had a cut, or a burn, or (on my face) where I usually get a pimple. I’m not sure if that means anything, but it was curious placement to me. Almost as if it was attacking my weakest points.

Which brings me to the word: LESIONS. And OMG what lesions they were.

You know you’re in trouble when you not only have one “lesion” (a foreboding word by itself), but instead having plural “lesions” on your body. Any time you have “lesions” you’re pretty much screwed.

Lesions: quite a mental picture that one little word conjures up.

I’m not going to post any pictures of my specific “lesions,” but it was all pretty gross. And when my HR person was curious why I was insisting on working from home on days 8-12, I threatened to send her instagrams of my “lesions.” She took my word for it.

Day 6 saw the blisters begin to scab over, most everywhere. The pain was reduced a tad in my hands, but still quite present in my feet. Even walking to the kitchen or bathroom was a “thing.” I was getting tired of being on the pain killers, too, so I was thankfully able to stop taking them. I was still in pain, and very uncomfortable, but at least not at the levels I was.

Day 7 my hands started to become numb.

How do I describe this? Okay. Have you ever gotten dried Super Glue on one of your fingertips? Well, that’s what my hands felt like, but with a little dash of lingering nerve pain thrown in for kicks.

Day 8 my hands were even more numb, but now my feet felt like they had been dipped in Super Glue, too. But the pain was still making its presence known in the background, now appearing more in “waves” than before. Which is better, for sure, but still there.

And now I’m stircrazy because I’ve been in the house for pretty much a week straight (half because I’m still contagious, and half because it hurts to move).

It’s taken 8 days for my appetite to return, but I was finally hungry again (very hungry) but for the most part I can only eat really bland foods. Which is boring and annoying.

“Day 8…still working from home: typing with hot dog fingers, and monitoring the “ooziness–to–scabiness ratio” of my many, many lesions.”

By this point I was really getting sick of this sick. I was still sequestered away from my family, and things were just barely, slowly starting to clear up.

But I was definitely on the upswing from Day 8 – onward.

In the end it took me 10 days to get to a point where I was able to mingle with my family again. And 14 days – 2 full weeks – to go back to work. Now, maybe I could’ve returned to civilization sooner? Maybe I wasn’t officially contagious past, say, Day 9 (when I was relatively pain free, and more “scabby” than “oozie?”) Who knows for sure. I was dropping disgusting scabs all the way up until the 2 week mark… so are those scabs contagious? Dunno. But they’re disgusting. And if I can do my work from home (I can) I will.

Infect the office with this terrible thing? Nope. I’m not gong to be “that guy.” No sir. No way.

“The last thing I want to do is be known as “Patient Zero” for a workplace outbreak.”

An image of me, after giving my entire office this disease

Days 14 my hands started peeling like crazy. Huge, white flaps of skin with pink, tender flesh revealed underneath (so playing guitar was not an option). This meant I still had to wear gloves.

Day 20 my feet finally stared peeling.

And here we are, now: Day 30. My feet are almost done peeling, but there are still some residual white “callouses” on my hands and feet, which I’m assuming will peel off at some point due to normal skin replacement cycles.

The odd thing is I still get occasional bouts of minor itching in my hands and feet. I really, really hope that eventually goes away, too.

“Day 30: WTF?”

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease can be a hideous, horrible thing. It certainly was for me, and I’m a very healthy dude. I don’t get sick much. I’ve had chicken pox, and all my vaccinations. Etc.

But this came out of nowhere, and rocked my world for almost a month.

HFM is insidious, and probably more contagious than we’d like to admit: especially kid-to-adult.

It doesn’t take a kid to drool on your face, either. It could be a sneeze. Changing a diaper without surgical gloves on. Touching the same doorknob, or even drinking (by mistake) out of the same glass.

It’s not smallpox-contagious. But it’s certainly really-damn-crazy-contagious.

“Is this actually a new strain?”

There’s a noted spike in recent cases, in kids and adults, around the country, right now, as of this posting. So is this a new variation of HFMD? Is it due to the huge influx of immigrant kids, and our overwhelmed intake/screening procedures? Or does it have something to do with the idiotic “anti vaccine” movement? Who knows. But those are the leading theories for the recent uptick in reported cases. But it’s certainly happening, and it’s caught the attention of several news sites recently; so something is up lately:






As always, the best defense is always education. But, if you’re unlucky enough to contract HFM, your only real options are pain management, and physical seclusion. To that point:

“Drugs are good, Mmkay?”

Remember: do not think that over-the-counter medications will help you. This is about condition management. There is no “cure.” Go to your doctor and demand proper pain relief, and do not let them talk you out of it. Demand good drugs! Do not leave your Doctor’s office without them! Doctors have been trained in recent years to avoid prescribing decent painkillers (a modern mistake). But decent painkillers are really the only thing that will get you through this.

That, and time.

So, anyways. I hope this helps somebody out there. Hand, Foot, Mouth came out of nowhere, and knocked me on my ass for over a month. It’s one of the worst things I’ve experienced in my life. And I really wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

Okay, maybe I’d wish on my worst enemy… because, honestly, HFM would be a great way to torture someone.


Coxsackievirus is the gift that just keeps on giving. Wow. Now my fingernails are falling off.

It’s more than 3 months after I was baptized in Coxackie, and a week ago I first started noticing some “patches” under the base of my fingernails. Didn’t think much of it. Until they started to grow out a bit, and the flaky part of the nail started catching on my clothes, and sheets. Really weak, “broken” patches on several of my fingernails and both of my thumbnails. I finally put two and two together and realized that this was a remnant of the lesions that were under my nails! Way under, below the cuticle. The lesions had harmed the nail from underneath.

So now I have a collection of clear fingernail polish that I have to keep dousing my nails in, and I already have one of them wrapped in bandages to keep the nail from being ripped off. Because it’s coming up from the bottom, it’s a bit tricky, because the top half of the nail is 100% healthy, and properly attached to the nail bed. So if I’m in for a treat if I catch this on something and rip the nail off by accident. I DO NOT want that to happen.

My feet are still peeling too, and I’m starting to think a couple of my toenails are going to start getting funky (they grow a lot slower than fingernails).


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All BS aside, we have questions to answer here:
1) “are these Pixies songs?” and 2) “are these good songs?”

Thankfully, the answer to both is “yup.”


Disclosure: I’m a life-long Pixies freak, and I was very very very skeptical about this whole thing. I loved the reunion, and was super-glad they were finally getting some bank for all their historical influence. Sure, I wanted new tunes, but if they “weren’t feelin’ it” then, hey, don’t force it. Right?

So I didn’t like “Bagboy” when it came out. To me it sounded like a blatant attempt at trying to apply the “Pixies formula,” which it probably was. Surprisingly, I’ve actually grown to like “Bagboy” a bit; I still think it’s too long and a tad forced, but it’s actually pretty catchy. Damn them Pixies.

I totally understand the bar that’s been set here: this is one heck of a legacy to live up to. What I don’t understand is the haters. This album is better than most of what’s currently out there in this, or any genre. The songs are, for the most part, smart, fun, rocking, sometimes surprising, and ultimately addictive. But because this is the (gulp) Pixies, there seems to be this crazy standard out there, that, Kim-or-no-Kim, they simply could never have lived up to.

I also understand some of the confusion over releasing the EPs, and then this “album” (with the exact same songs). But this release strategy worked perfectly for someone like me. I wasn’t that jazzed about the first EP, I liked the 2nd one (but didn’t purchase), I saw some videos and liked them, and by the time the 3rd EP came out I knew I was going to buy the album, if not out of pure “want” out of loyalty. These guys (and gal) have influenced my life so much, I can spare $9.99 even if they just fart into a mic for 45 minutes.

So I plunked, and after repeated listening most of the songs are growing on me. It’s obvious that they put a lot of thought and heart into these tunes, and it’s appreciated. I find myself dialing up Indie Cindy a lot, in fact. More than I thought I would when I initially payed the $9.99 into iTunes, like coins in the can of one of my favorite bands.

Yes. Indie Cindy is good. But, I don’t think Indie Cindy tracks that well as an album. It’s more of a collection of tunes, which is fine, because I don’t listen to many albums like that anymore, anyway (yes, I know, heresy). So, shuffled in with my other new music, most of these tracks stand out well, and almost always have me nodding along and trying to sing the harmonies. More importantly, they shuffle well with the rest of the Pixies catalog.

The production is top-notch, and if you liked the Gil Norton phase of the first Pixies run, then you’re more likely to like this. The mix, arrangement and professional polish actually helps a lot of these songs. I don’t think they could’ve gotten away with Steve Albini on this batch. So take that as you will. …for me it’s not an issue.

All the elements are there, too. The “Pixies thing” that even Kurt Cobain acknowledged ripping off. The 3/4 time. The “loud quiet loud.” The quirkily melodic guitar lines. The appropriately odd chord shuffles. The screams.

The opener “What Goes Boom” is very rockin, and very cool. A good first track.

It’s got just enough “Pixies” in it to make it seem like it could’ve gone on Trompe Le Monde. The changes are good, too, and it’s just the right length. “Another Toe In The Ocean” could’ve graced TLM, too.

“Blue Eyed Hex” is probably my least favorite song of the bunch, but I didn’t like Bossanova’s “Stormy Weather” either, and they’re very similar.

“Indie Cindy,” “Greens and Blues” and “Magdalena 318” could’ve easily been on Bossanova (my personal dark horse favorite Pixies album). They’re all velvety and meandering and sinewy and wonderful, and no surprise that these are the three most popular tracks.

“Ring the Bell” and “Jaime Bravo” are just bouncy poppy wonderful little tunes. Not exactly classic Pixies, maybe, but Pixies nonetheless.

“Snakes” is pretty different, but a great rock song. Reminds me of They Might Be Giants in a way, which is not a bad thing.

“Silver Snail” and “Andro Queen” are droners, but nice in that way.

But, alas, no Kim. Duh.

Look. I think a lot of the Haters forget that 99.9% of the original Pixies songs were Black Francis’ songs. Kim only had “Gigantic” (and “Into the White” if that counts). Sure, back in the day, we all wished Kim had had more of an overt contribution per album (like Spiral Stairs in Pavement, etc). But Doolittle was very Kim-heavy, even though none of those were “her” songs, because her backing vox were strong on pretty much every tack. We easily forget that she was relegated to the fringes on Bossanova and even more so on TLM.

That said, let’s be honest here: many of these tracks could’ve used her. For background vocals, at the very least. And, honestly, it would’ve been easy to do. I really don’t know why they just didn’t make that happen (yes, yes, I know she “left” the rehearsals and the band, and it sucked and was a bummer and such). But they really should’ve just taken these finished songs, just as they are now, and driven a portable studio to her house and begged her to sing a sprinkling of backing vox on 10-out-of-12 of these tracks. It would’ve added that magical “something” that a lot of people seem to be missing. That magic that made, say, “Velouria” so awesome… where she merely sang the letters at the end of the song. How hard is that?

But she’s not here, and it is what it is.

I’ll put this review in plain terms, so everyone can understand it:

Indie Cindy is a collection of Pixies songs. As a whole, it’s better than Trompe Le Monde. But not better than Bossanova. The songs just aren’t in the same vein as Doolittle, or Surfer Rosa / Come on Pilgrim, but that’s okay. The Pixies weren’t the same after Doolittle, either, and I have a feeling some of the same people bitching about Indie Cindy bitched about Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde when they came out. Or maybe they weren’t born yet?

To me, these songs seem like a legitimate, honest continuation of where they left off in the mid 90’s. And that’s pretty cool.

TLDR; Indie Cindy is a pleasant surprise. Kim’s absence is certainly noticed, but this collection of songs is way better than it has any right to be.

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Well, at least they got the story right.

I'll call you back later, I have to save the Earth

I'll call you back later, I have to save the Earth

In about 100 minutes they managed to explain a very complicated series of rapid-fire events in an understandable, and even entertaining way. The writing was engaging. The acting was great. And so forth.

But ultimately, HBO’s “Too Big To Fail”… fails… because it punts on the whole “blame” issue.

Why with the blame? Well, put simply, so we don’t do this shit again.

Yes, yes yes. The bankers were greedy idiots: hard-headed and childish zillionaires who nearly brought down our entire economic system because they were dumb enough to believe (or to convince themselves) that “real estate only goes up”.

(I mean, really? Real Estate always goes up? Never down? Really? It still boggles my mind that this is even a question. Gah.)

“Too Big To Fail” does a decent job of casting that concept in it’s proper light: a pale illumination of disdain.

Where HBO’s “Too Big To Fail” falls short is ONLY blaming the bankers.

This is a huge, historical mistake.

TBTF completely dismisses Congress and multiple decades of terrible, terrible decisions on everything from Freddie & Fannie, to the FHA, to the CRA. Instead, the film chooses to serve up the “de-regulation” canard in whispy, vague intro scenes (are housing quotas “regulation” or “de-regulation”?).

What’s more, “TBTF” completely lets consumers (us) off the hook.

In this case it took THREE to tango: 1) The greedy, bankers 2) the maybe-well-intentioned but ultimately bumbling and hurtful bureaucrats who first incentivized, and supported those bankers, and 3) the millions of willing homeowners who were also greedy, and bumbling, and now are whining a lot.

We can argue “chicken-egg-chicken” here, but anyone who knows anything about this mess knows that, although the bankers deserve all the disdain we can muster, the other two major players deserve just as much attention.

But “Too Big To Fail” isn’t about those other 2 legs of the stool. It’s about the bankers, and their interaction w/ Paulson, and the slap-dash series of events that took place in the fall of 2008. So it’s understandable that it didn’t dive deep into, say, specific legislation, or some poor, dumb family caught trying to flip some houses.

If “Too Big To Fail” had stayed on topic, then it would be fine. But they didn’t.

Understandably, though, they did try to explain what was going on.

In one painfully obvious scene (putting the 4th wall in much peril) Paulson and his advisors “talk through” how the shit actually got into the fan.

It’s in this scene where “TBTF” willfully ignores The Government’s role in encouraging the build-up, and at the same time washes away any homeowners’ responsibility with the old “American Dream” chestnut; all in about 20 seconds of screen time. This is a damn shame, because they really didn’t have to say much here to be accurate. But instead they chose to perpetuate the fallacy that it was ALL the fault of the bankers.

(Remember kids: bankers are evil, politicians are just there to help, and we consumers can do no wrong.)

The problem here is that, it’s movies like this, about crises like this, that will actually help shape history. And it’s in this little scene that HBO’s “Too Big To Fail” essentially absolves the other 2 legs of the stool of any blame.


And what’s extra frustrating is “TBTF” came so darn close to being nonpartisan. All they had to do here, in this short little scene, was be ACCURATE.

= Accuracy FAIL.

Instead, they chose pitchforks and populism. And they just might get away with it because the Bankers are, in fact, pretty darn evil.

So, ultimately, “Too Big To Fail” ends up being a love letter to Hank Paulson. Does he deserve it? Maybe so. But along the way they missed a simple, and important opportunity to help educate the public about what really happened. And why.

It’s a near-miss. Which sucks, because it’s not a bad movie. In fact it’s a pretty darn good movie. But as a historical document, HBO’s “Too Big To Fail” will be doomed to repeats.

Yeah. I just wrote that.

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Yes. I’m a geek.

I’ve waited a couple years now for this particular camera to come out, because I’ve so-loved the Lumix series from the get-go. I’ve gotten so much good use out of my old FX7, and took many fantabulous pics with that little bad boy, that, in my mind, Lumix could do no wrong.

In general, the Lumix line is very underrated, and hence a darn good value (especially compared to Canon). In fact, the FX75’s big brother, the Lumix ZS7, has become the “sleeper” hit of the year. Being generally regarded as the best, most versatile compact camera without being a full-on DSLR.

But for the FX70/75 specifically, I liked the idea of having such a wide, bright lens (a Leica @ 2.2 no less), in such a small package.

Even though Panasonic is notorious for not including even basic manual features in their ultra-compacts, I have a fancy-schmancy DSLR for the really important stuff, so a micro-snapper, albeit totally “automatic”, is a good thing to have in my workflow.

The FX75 an extremely small camera (think deck of cards), with a very sturdy build. Its pre-set “modes” are nice and varied which helps offset the lack of manual control a tiny bit. It even takes darn good “flash” pictures (for weddings, parties, etc), with a better-than-normal color/flash/exposure balance, which is something even decent DSLRs have a problem with.

The image quality of the 14-megapixel Lumix DMC-FX75 is very, very good, too. As long as you’re under IS0-800, you’re going to get a low-noise, crisp image with great, accurate color. However, the built-in “sharpening” tends to look a bit wonky on small details like leaves, or other natural elements. But, weirdly, with more man-made details (architecture, bricks, cars) that same sharpening algorithm actually helps the image. So, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. In fact, I really wish they had an option to turn this “feature” off, allowing the user to apply their own “sharpening” in post via Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture.

But no. The FX70/75 insists on doing EVERYTHING for you.

The touch screen is a welcome feature too (even if you don’t use it to “take” pictures”, you can use it to assign focus, navigate menus, etc), and the visibility of the LCD in daylight really isn’t that big of a deal.

Because of that handy Touch Screen, there are very few physical buttons on the FX75. One of them is the “MODE” button which, when pressed, presents 4 on-screen choices: “Normal Picture” (a poor man’s “manual” mode); “Intelligent Auto” (which actually does a pretty good job of guessing your needs); “Scene Mode” (which takes you to a larger scene menu: sports, landscape, candlelight, etc, etc); and… “Cosmetic Mode” (which allows you to adjust face tones).

Wait. What? Really guys? You have 4 options and one of them is a “Cosmetic Mode”? Is this supposed to be “The Fashion Camera” or something? At the very least the user should be able to assign that 4th choice, either with a commonly-used “Scene Mode” or a user-created variation for an extra “Normal Picture” mode. But if that’s an option, I haven’t found it (because the 100 page manual is a bit intimidating, and a PDF). Nevertheless, dedicating such a prominent UI element to a “Cosmetic Mode” seems, well, strange.

That said, it’s not that big of a deal.

What IS a big deal is that this camera, as noted to some degree in all the reviews so far, is that the Lumix DMC FX75 has pretty major highlight and shadow problems, especially when shooting in the “normal picture” mode. If you’re outside, on a sunny-ish day, casually shooting pics, you are going to end up with a ton of snaps that are either blown-out, or way under-exposed. And, more often than not, you’ll have both problems in one picture. Literally white-white highlights AND black-black shadows. It’s really sad, actually.


(NOTE: these 3 images are shown in their original capture state first, and then as “adjusted”: my valiant attempt to eek-down the highlights and nudge-up shadows in post. As you can see, the progress even on these non-extreme examples was minimal, at best.)

Yes: all cameras have their pluses and minuses. But this little camera has SO much going for it that these very basic exposure issues are a huge let-down. Frankly, this is an issue that feels very “2001” in terms of technical performance. The FX75 has all these wonderfully modern bells and whistles, but when you check out your pictures of that family picnic, you’ll find yourself shaking your head and asking “jeesh…really?”.

The FX75 does provide an “intelligent exposure” option, which helps this dilemma a bit, but if you have that option turned on it overrides your ISO preferences even in “normal picture” mode. So all of a sudden you may get stuck with an ISO-1600 picture (which is extremely noisy) taken in the daytime (which is crazy).

Overall, it’s almost as if they paid so much attention to the glitter and zaz of the FX75 that they glossed over the basics: ie., capturing a properly-exposed image.

They could’ve included an HDR or RAW option so at least you’d have some room to play on the back end. But, sadly, no. You’re stuck with more than an expectable number of badly exposed JPGs.

I don’t know if something like a “firmware upgrade” can fix this problem, but I certainly hope so. Because if they can find a way to fix this, they’ll have one of, if not THE best camera in its class. If not, I’ll probably have to try and sell this (quick, before word gets out!), and buy another mini-snapper. And that’s a real shame.

I’m sorry Lumix. I’m your biggest fan. But, as-is, the DMC FX75 (FX70) is a real heart breaker.


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Digital Camera Review
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The Ad World has had more than our share of “duplicate” ads this year.

The biggie being Ogilvy Paris recycling a Cannes Winning print campaign for the second time; same visual, different client, same award: a shiny Gold Lion.

Yeah, that was a bad one. Everyone in the business did a collective /facepalm and once again vowed to “never again!”

Just like the time before and the time before that.

But sometimes idea theft happens on the consumer level, too; with the boring old commercials that we make for our real clients (as opposed to the phantom clients we use for award shows).

The latest, and one of the most brazen I’ve ever seen is Subaru’s latest TV spot: “Baby Driver”:


Anyone who sees this spot in a vacuum would say that it’s a big idea, well executed.

It’s a great spot.

But those of us who have seen State Farm Insurance’s spot “, which has been running for a couple of years now, have a slightly different opinion on that:


Seriously, WTF?

Was it a coincidence? Or did they know? Or are they just clueless?

Whichever it is, I find it hard to believe that nobody on the agency or client team had never seen the State Farm spot…because it’s gotten a LOT of rotation in the last year-or-so.

Call me crazy, but I think that watching at least a little bit of TV should be required for anybody who writes TV spots for a living. And a little bit of competitive research should be required for any big agency before diving into campaign planning.

What a shame.

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I just saw Dr. Russell Chianelli on Bloomberg TV, and my jaw hit the floor.

He’s a professor at UT, and helped clean up the Exxon Valdez Oil Spil by “populating” the beaches with these natural “oil eaters”. In his interview, he pointed out that oil is CONSTANTLY leaking into our oceans from various sources (obviously, not as fast and overwhelming as the BP situation).

But this is the first I’ve heard about something that makes a lot of sense: that, despite the impression we’ve all developed, oil is a NATURAL phenomenon and there are naturally-occuring creatures on Earth that have evolved to subsist on it.

In fact, he went further, and insisted that, despite popular conception, the Valdez Spill has been “almost completely” corrected using these little oil-hungry buggers. And he challenged anyone to “go up there, and prove otherwise”.


By Dr. Russell Chianelli

As I am starting the Materials for Energy Blog, a BP oil well, located 50 miles off the coast of the U.S. in the Gulf of Mexico and one mile below the surface of the ocean, blows out releasing 5,000 barrels of oil per day. This brings me right back to 1989 when I was working on the cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill[i]. People remember the Exxon Valdez but don’t realize that it wasn’t the biggest tanker spill in the world[ii].

So what was the biggest global oil spill? Before the Gulf War the biggest oil spill in the world was the Ixtoc Blow-Out in the Bahia de Campeche, Mexico on June 3, 1979[iii]. When PEMEX drilled a deep exploratory well, similar to the current blowout, the sea bottom gave way and in 9 months 3,500,000 barrels of oil were released; more than 10 times the amount released by the Exxon Valdez. The nearest coastline in the U.S. was in Texas, approximately 600 miles away! Out of this huge amount of oil, very little ever reached the shores of Padre Island, which was the closest point. Why? This is because of hydrocarbon degrading organisms, Hydrocarbon Degraders. These microorganisms consume the oil creating CO2 and H2O and more of themselves. Approximately, 50% of the petroleum goes to making biomass that then goes up the food chain.

After every major oil spill there is an explosion in the number of fish and other marine creatures as they consume the Hydrocarbon Degraders. Everywhere in the ocean oil seeps occur. In fact, many of the deposits in the Gulf of Mexico were discovered by observing Oil Seeps.

Thus the Hydrocarbon Degraders are everywhere waiting for their dinner! What can be done to oil spilling into the sea?

The science of Hydrocarbon Degraders and oil spills was originally investigated by Dr. Ronald Atlas, now of the University of Louisville, who studied the Amoco Cadiz oil spill which occurred on March 16, 1978[iv]. The Amoco Cadiz was the largest tanker spill ever, spilling 1,600,000 barrels of crude on the beaches of Brittany, France. Nutrients, N and P, from farms above the beach, enhanced the growth of the Hydrocarbon Degraders giving rise to the concept Nutrient Enhanced Bioremediation for dealing with oiled beaches. It was this idea that Ron Atlas and I developed for the beaches in Alaska after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. This was the largest successful bioremediation project. The materials used were INIPOL EAP-22[v], an oleophilic nutrient and CUSTOMBLEND, a typical agricultural fertilizer. Their application is described in reference 1. These nutrients were successfully used on the beaches in Alaska and not on oil in the open water.
For oil in open water, an EPA approved dispersant may be used such as COREXIT[vi].

Since oil and water don’t mix the oil is only available to the Hydrocarbon Degraders at the oil/water interface slowing hydrocarbon degradation. Adding the dispersant allows the oil and water to mix accelerating the degradation of the oil and destroying the oil slick. Such a dispersant is being used on the current offshore oil spill to prevent the oil from reaching the beach[vii].

A dispersant was not used in the Exxon Valdez oil spill. If it had been used the oil would not have reached the beaches after a major storm. Oil on the beach requires Nutrient Enhanced Bioremediation. In the case of the Ixtoc blow-out, natural dispersants, produced by the Hydrocarbon Degraders, allow them to access the oil. The dispersant being added accelerates the process and will likely prevent most of the oil from hitting beaches[viii].

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The 10 Best (and worst) SNL Characters of Kristen Wiig

kristen wiig

No question about it: Kristen Wiig is a force. She’s one of the most refreshing Saturday Night Live players we’ve been blessed with in decades. She’s cute. She’s smart. She’s insanely talented. And, lucky for us, she’s a work-a-holic.

Despite the perennial claims that “SNL has gone downhill!”, Kristen (can I call you Kristen?) is one of those go-to cast members that always has at least a chance of saving a bad episode.

Did the network book another Athelete?
Reality Show Cast-Off?

Well, have no fear. Chances are that Ms Wiig will reach into her seemingly endless bag of tricks, and save the show. Or, at the very least provide a few precious moments of levity in an otherwise excruciating 90 minutes of slow, comedic death.

I would even venture to say that Kristen Wiig is not only the best current cast member, but one of the best ever. And that’s saying something.

Is she perfect? No. As often happens for such a talented and hyper-active contributor, she’s often over-used. And it’s certainly possible to get too much of a good thing.

That doesn’t happen too much, thankfully, because the current SNL cast is pretty good overall.

But what also often happens with these freakishly prolifically creative types of personalities like Kristen’s, is that there’s just so much output that you’re bound to get some bad apples in the bunch.

It’s simply a consequence of volume.

That’s probably not her fault, either. First of all, it’s not ultimately her job to edit herself (or at least it shouldn’t be). She seems like the kind of person you wind up, let loose, and then pare-down after the dust settles. And I would venture to guess Lorne Michaels probably doesn’t want to over-use her better characters either (although it’s probably not that calculated).

So what we’re left with is a hardy bunch of fantastic characters, skits and bits… and a handful of, well, no so great characters and skits.

Not really complaining, though. Because having someone as talented as Kristen Wiig lay a rotten egg on Live TV is still pretty damn good.

So, without further hemming / hawing, I present to you:

The 10 Best (and worst) SNL Characters of Kristen Wiig:

– BEST –

“Babe” (One-of-Two A-Holes)

A Hole

Yes. This reoccurring character has reoccurred, well, a lot. A whole lot. But even when we find ourselves thinking “…oh, not these guys again…” they always manage to eek a reluctant laugh out of me anyway. These are people we’ve all run into in real life, and Wiig plays the setup-gal perfectly. Twirling her hair, smacking her gum, perfectly and beautifully oblivious. The main question we have after watching this skit is “how are these people still alive?”

“Target Lady” (Over-Zealous Kitsch-Collecting Cashier)

Target Lady

Yes, she’s clichéd, and singular. Perhaps overly-focused, a bit too “inside”. But Target Lady still makes the GOOD list because, well, she’s likeable. She’s kinda slow upstairs. More than slightly annoying. But if you encountered her in real life, you’d probably chuckle. An incredulous “is this really happening to me?” type chuckle, but a chuckle nonetheless.

“Junice Merill” (Slightly-Off Laurwence Welk Performer)


When I first saw this skit I almost split my gut. The set-up was pretty pat, standard SNL fare, but with the first reveal of Junice –with her freakish doll hands and car-hood-for-a-forehead– you realize you’re in for a real treat. Perhaps the best moment was her jabbily enthousiastic attempt at bubble catching at the end. Absolutely classic.

“Aunt Linda” (Weekend Update Movie Reviewer)

Aunt Linda

So glad to see “Amy Poehler’s Aunt Linda” didn’t leave with Amy Poehler, because that would’ve been a real shame. Because of all the stabled Weekend Update “Contributors”, Aunt Linda is easily one of the best. Seriously… “Apoklypto !?” Comon! Everyone has a relative that would’ve said the same thing, which is why it’s so friggin awesome. And instead of “thumbs up” or “stars” as a rating scale, she has these little twisted face icons. Friggin brilliant. Don’t like Aunt Linda? I’ve got one word for you: “Gah!”

“Michelle Dison” (Bi-Curious Local Reporter)

Michelle Dison

What’s funny to me about Michelle Dison (besides the obvious), is you’ve gotta wonder… where in the Hell did this character come from? We’ve all seen newscasters do some pretty amazing things, but this is just nuts. And somehow, even after you “get” the initial joke, it stays funny as Wiig keeps ushering it along. Sure, Dison’s a one-trick, and wouldn’t be as funny if she were over-used. But she’s not. So yay us.

“Shana” (Sexy-But-So-Very-Un-Sexy Siren)


The Shana sketches are in essence an exercise in what constitutes sexy, and what constitutes “oh-my-god-i-feel-ill” in our society; and the extremes of each men are willing to put up with. Sometimes venturing into nuanced fetishism (You pooped your pants? Awesomez!), Shana shines a revealing light on both men and women’s perceptions of… oh, whatever. It’s funny! What’s also cool is that it’s actually kind of hard to tell at first that it’s actually Kristen Wiig under there. I don’t know if it’s the makeup, the acting, or the fact that I can be a bit thick sometimes, but it took me a few seconds to realize it was actually her. Which makes Shana even better, in my book.


“Penelope” (The Consummate One-Upper)


The term “heebie jeebies” comes to mind here. Because whenever Penelope shows up on SNL (which is way too often by half), I feel bad for Kristen, and I feel sorry for me (actually, me more). The premise is pretty simple: Penelope, who is beyond-desperate for attention, will take whatever someone says, and will “top it”. And the top that. And that. And so on. The only thing that’s vaguely interesting is “how” she one-ups each statement, but even that’s so hit-and-miss, it only serves to remind us how good Kristen can be… and how good Penelope is not.

“Judy Grimes” (Weekend Update Travel Writer)

Judy Grimes

What Judy Grimes has to do with travel, I’ll never know. But what Wiig does here is pretty amazing. That is, if you’re a student at Second City or a UCB Bunny. Judy Grimes is merely comedic histrionics. The improv equivalent of the ‘ol “Peggy Babcock” vocal exercise. The Yngwie Malmsteen-ing of one, small, lame joke. Sure, it’s impressive on a technical level (which is why the studio audience always reacts favorably), but it falls flat for the folks in TV Land.

“Gilly” (Mischevious Schoolgirl)


This relatively new invention by Wiig is all of a sudden on every other show. In fact, they named last season’s Christmas Special after her: “A Very Gilly Christmas”. Why? God only knows. The sad part is, Gilly has the DNA of a good character. There’s something intriguing there. We’ve got a faintly funny costume and hairdo, a grin and those darling darting eyes… but that alone doesn’t-a-quality-character make. The Gilly skits are plodding, and predictable… although, her little dance is kind of funny. Sort of.

“Sue” (Surprise Party Pooper)


OK. Everyone has a friend that just loooves surprises, right? And they love surprises soooo much that they end up actually blowing the surprise? Right? Right? Well…um… no. And that’s the problem with Sue. She’s not grounded in any real truth at all. None. Anywhere. And the fact that her family is always soooo surprised at her strange behavior concerning the surprise, Sue just wreaks of hack. I mean, really, this is the first time she’s exhibited bizarre behavior? Also (and this is a tell) Sue is eerily reminiscent of Penelope in that she “pops up” in the scene. And, just when you think she’s done, she “pops up” again. Derivative of another bad character, no less. Seriously, Sue. Uncle.


As with all of these “best/worst” lists, much of this is obviously one-man’s opinion. So take it with a grain (or three) of salt. But the main point still stands: that even Kristen Wiig’s “worst” characters are still damn awesome.

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Sloppy Seconds

Okay. So we’ve been assaulted by AT&T’s “Verizon Sucks” ads for a few weeks now:


Obviously, AT&T had to do something. Verizon’s “Maps” campaign (cue Yeah Yeah Yeahs) was the marketing equivalent of a bitch slapping. But what AT&T didn’t have to do was get an out-of-shape B+List actor to slap back.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Luke Wilson. I like his movies. In fact, I think I’d like to grab a beer with him and shoot the shit. But I’m not sure he’s the best choice to be a spokesperson. At this time. For this brand.

I’ll say what everyone else is thinking:

Luke Wilson AT&T

Seriously Luke, WTF?

He’s… doughy!

More seriously BBDO, WTFF?

I’m not one of those people who follows celebrities, indulging in their romantic escapades, and secretly reading Star on the shitter. And I don’t care who’s fat and who isn’t. In fact, I think we put too much pressure on movie stars, models and musicians to be super-skinny. I think it’s unrealistic and ultimately counterproductive for society.

That said, when a pudgy Luke Wilson first graced my screen a few weeks back, my first thought was “Oops!”

To put it kindly, it looks like either Luke really needs money, or AT&T doesn’t have a working sense of spokesperson quality control.

He just looks tired. Or maybe even hungover. But for both parties, this is a campaign FAIL.

Not that the commercials themselves are bad. They’re at least as good as the Verizon spots… on paper.

Execution? Not so much. And this is just another instance of just how important good casting is in the making of a good commercial.

Oh, and for the record: Yes, I have an iPhone. And no, I don’t hate AT&T.

I just hate this campaign.

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One of the most-aired, but somehow least-annoying commercials on is the Orbitz.com “Valet” spot: where the Orbitz Guy exits his hovercraft, thows the keys to the valet, and says “Ah… the Hernandez..ez..es..es..” to a surprised Hispanic-lite couple.

It’s subtle, but it’s a great opening. It’s a small, but ultimately pretty funny joke at the expense of trying to make a last name that is already plural, plural.

It’s something we’ve all stumbled with, and chuckled about, at some point in our lives. And it’s exactly the same as making the last name “James”, or any other word that ends in “s” or “z” plural.

Except this last name was Hispanic.

Orbitz has quietly re-edited their spot, and removed the extra “..ez..es..es…”s, most likely at the direction of some easily offended letter writers with too much time on their hands.

But what is surprising here is the amount of outrage… not over the original version, but over this new, “cleaned up” version:



The original version (“..ez..es..es…”) is what we in the industry call a “truism”. A little human touch that helps endears viewers to your commercial. Some commercials and even campaigns are awash in “truism” (see: Just Do It). But most commercials out there are pretty bland, and would fade into the woodwork if it weren’t for these little gems of humanity. A look. A unique line delivery. A perfectly-cast bit player with a strange face. Or, more often, as in this case, a seemingly “throw away” line, that people like. And remember.

Orbitz’s (“..ez..es..es…”) removal of this small-but-powerful moment is a big deal. Not because it made a pleasantly decent spot bad (it did), but because it’s a symptom of a bigger, more nefarious issue: Political Correctness.

Offensive language and stereotypes are kind of like Global Warming. You won’t find anyone who will readily admit to thinking that pollution is GOOD, just like you won’t find anyone who will willingly cheer on the insulting of groups of people, religions or cultures. Especially minorities. But the problem is, with this kind of thin-skinned knee-jerk skiddishness, we’re ultimately missing the larger point. And when we focus on these little, unimportant, but still-perceived “slights” we take the focus off of larger, more harmful, and “real” racism.

The natural reaction to people or groups that are overly sensitive is to treat them like little children. And, for groups that are ironically clamoring for respect, that is the most offensive thing of all.

Yes. It’s a stupid commercial about a silly guy in a hovercraft. But it’s a glaring example of a larger, more insidious problem in our World today: PC Thuggery, the attempt to control other’s thoughts and speech, and the overall wuss-i-fi-cation of our society.

Hopefully this reverse-outrage will garner some attention, and start a proper, grown-up discussion. It’s long overdue.

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Well, my “theory” that only the Lacie “multiple” disk external drives had problems has finally gone up in smoke.

My single-disk 250 finally crapped out on me. I was using it as the Time Machine for my MacBook, and the other day it started acting wonky. So today I tried to erase it, to no avail.

It is dead.

Seriously. Is there a lawyer out there who wants to make a zillion dollars on a class-action lawsuit?

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