About admin

I'm a photographer, editor, designer, writer and Photoshopper and arguably, a guitar player now living in the Pacific Northwest. My wife is amazing. We have two cats, no kids. The moon is my planet, I love rain, good, strong coffee and a Gibson ES-335.

Farewell Sweet Prince

No one who knew him would argue that he wasn’t one of the sweetest creatures who ever graced this earth.

He was soft and furry. He had big, fluffy feet and long whiskers.

And he loved to sing in the shower.

He was adored by both Linda and I but Spooky and I shared a special bond, like nothing I’ve ever felt in my life and no doubt ever will again.

His full name was Marshmallow “Spooky” NoHo. He got his nickname because he was so shy. He didn’t like meeting new people, but if he got to know you, he would sit in your lap or wrap himself around your neck like a scarf and purr loudly. Then he might butt his head on your chin … or your elbow or your shoe and you just knew what he was saying to you, “Hold me.”

Not a night has gone by since I rescued him from the North Hollywood Animal Shelter in September, 1998, that he didn’t sleep in the bed between us and in his later years, under the covers. And unlike most kitties I’ve known, if you moved or rolled over or snored or kneed him during the night, he would just ride it out, wait till you settled down and go back to sleep. And he would stay there, in bed all morning long until I got up. Didn’t matter if I slept till noon. He was not leaving until I rolled out of bed.

Not a night had gone by that that sweet boy didn’t sleep in bed with us, until last night.

beautifulBoy-editSpooky, left the beautiful body he was given at birth yesterday afternoon and headed off into parts unknown. If he slept next to me last night, I couldn’t tell. I didn’t feel his paws on my side or the vibration of his purring. He didn’t drape himself across me this morning as he always did.

When he left, the hole that he left behind was bigger that I could have imagined and the sorrow we now suffer is nearly unbearable.

He was, by all accounts, an old kitty having essentially reached the age of 115 kitty years. But except for the last year or so, he didn’t act his age.

He was always quite vocal, especially when it came to food. He loved salmon, except when he didn’t. He loved tuna, except when he didn’t. He loved people food and cheese and would eat as much bbq chicken as you would give him.

He was of course, like his brother Joey who left us in 2011, a liberal. He was appalled to have to live through eight years of the Bush administration which was half of his life on this planet.

He was sickened by recent events perpetrated by humans and lately tried to ignore the middle east and Paris and Africa preferring to soak up sunshine on the patio sniffing the jasmin wafting through the air and occasionally, half-heartedly swatting at a bee or a fly.

He paid no attention to hummingbirds or lizards or other wildlife. He’d rather be asleep in your lap than running across the lawn or climbing a tree.

He was also, a creature of habit. In his youth he was a bit of a fetch kitty and would chase crushed up cigarette packs up and down the stairs placing them at your feet for hours. Cigarettes packs later became “mice” of all kinds. He love to fetch the plastic ring that seals a carton of milk and would leap into action the minute you said loudly, “Mouse!”

For years when I got home from work he would run to the bed and wait for me to sit down to take off my shoes, knowing petting would ensue. If he was on the desk where you were working and you placed a pencil (or anything) there, he would just calmly kick it to the ground, over and over and over.

In the last few years, he loved to get up on the sink in the master bedroom ostensibly to drink from the faucet once you turned it on but after quenching his thirst, he would just sit there, looking at himself in the mirror, probably contemplating how much older he looked now and asking himself, “Where’s the time go?”

Finally, in the past year, when his hearing was all but gone, he would get into the shower and sing at the top of his lungs just to hear his own voice reverberating off the tile walls.

He sang his favorites from his youth, everything from Creed to Britney Spears, but he mostly loved standards and would end his sessions with Funny Valentine and Body and Soul as an encore. Of course he first learned the Billie Holiday version but he loved to emulate the way Amy Winehouse sang it.

Spooky likely suffered a kitty heart attack while Linda was bringing him to see the doctor yesterday afternoon. I’m thankful he didn’t suffer very much or for very long in his last days.

But I’m also devastated.

I’m devastated that I’ll never hear his beautiful voice singing in the shower again. I’m devastated that he won’t be at my side waiting for me to wake up every morning.

I’m devastated that my face was not the last one he saw before leaving.

It was with excruciatingly heavy hearts that we buried him last night in one of his favorite places to lounge, under an oak tree in our backyard, right next to his brother Joseph.

Wherever it is that he went so suddenly, without a proper goodbye from me, I hope to meet up with him there someday.

Until then, farewell, sweet prince.

BTW: Watch this link of Spooky dancing from 2001, apologies to Fiona Apple.

Polarity on a rainy day

It’s a cold, rainy day here today. The kind of weather we live for.

I know that sounds odd. Don’t most people like warm sunshine?

Yes. And I like warm and sunny as much as the next person. But when you get 330 days a year of warm and sunny and perfect blue skies, well, you get bored.

You just sort of crave any kind of change in the weather. A single cloud floats by and people are stopping traffic and shooting photos with their phones from their car windows.

So when it finally rains it’s just such a calm release and a massive relief. A break in the relentless monotony that bears down day after day.

And that says nothing about the tranquility the sound of rain tapping the window brings while you sip hot tea.

So we just soaked it in today.

At some point, during a pause in the rain, I decided to grab the LX3 and shoot a few macros in the yard.

I’m walking around the front of my house in my green, plaid pajamas and a sweatshirt sticking my camera into the bushes and crouching down at the curb taking photos of leaves in the gutter.

Might as well have been out in front of a single-wide coach with a washing machine on the porch and a barking doberman pincher on a chain in the yard.

I notice my neighbor directly across the street has his garage open. He’s not out front but there’s a large deep-fryer, the type you’d use for a Thanksgiving turkey, on the curb with sign on it. “Free” it says.

Further down the curb is a wooden rocking chair with a sign on it. “$20” it says.

There were no junk cars in the yard, but there may as well have been.

My neighbor, Clem (not his real name) with his improvised rummage sale, and me, crawling around on the sidewalk in my underwear, have unconsciously combined forces to take home values on our usually well-manicured street, down 15-20 points, temporarily.

As I’m down on my knees, getting my green jammies wet and the Lumix down to sidewalk level, my neighbor Clem calls out.

“Hey Tom, how are you doing?”

Strange he didn’t ask WHAT are you doing.

“Good Clem, how are you?”

We start chatting about the rain, the upcoming holidays, the brand-new deep-fryer he just bought, the fact that he’s going to turn 68 next month and how he’s going to retire next year, but not with a big enough fund to hold him over. In fact, he tells me, he’ll be relying on his social security.

“And to think the Democrats are trying to take that away from us,” he says.

Awkward silence.

I’m nothing if I’m not stupefied by that statement.

Not because I’m a staunch Democrat or a bleeding-heart-liberal-socialist. Or a radical. Or an anarchist. Or advocate of death panels.

I’m stupefied that there are people on this planet, on my street, using the same air as I am, that actually think this could be true in any fantasy that even Glenn Beck could dream up.

After a long pause, as hard as I try I can’t contain myself and  just reply, “That’s bullshit.”

Immediately realizing that the word bullshit, mentioned in response to something he just said, hit him like huge tax increase I follow with, “We’re just not going to talk about politics. Let’s not talk about politics.”

“Yeah right,” he says. “Let’s not talk about politics.”

Another long pause.

“But didn’t you hear about that? he asks.”

More pausing.

“No, Clem,” I said finally, “I didn’t hear that. In fact, that’s preposterous. If any party would even dream of such an idea it would be the Republicans. Remember, it was Bush who wanted to take the whole system and privatize it by putting the entire fund into the stock market.”

“Ah, well, uh, yeah, we’re obviously on opposite ends of the, the … let’s not talk about politics,” he says adding, “At least we live in a free country and we elect our government and we don’t have somebody just taking over and … we have freedom.”

More silence.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s a good thing,” I said, sensing that the conversation had just been hit by a bus and that there would be no recovery.

So I just looked him in the eyes and said, “Now if only we could get universal health care.”

I think he shit himself.

“Clem, have a great Thanksgiving if I don’t see you!” I said as I headed back toward my single-wide with the barking doberman pincher on a chain in the yard.

Butterscotch Telecaster in open G

Good music comes out of people playing together, knowing what they want to do and going for it. You have to sweat over it and bug it to death. You can’t do it by pushing buttons and watching a TV screen.
– Keith Richards

Here’s something I didn’t think I’d ever say. I’m a Keith Richards fan.

Not just a fan but a HUGE effing fan.

So what, you say? Everybody likes the Stones right?

Well, no. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m not much of a Stones fan. The reason for this is as follows, not necessarily in this order:

  • Jagger.
  • “Some Girls”
  • Mick Jagger

1) Jagger for obvious reasons. Who wants a 90-pound budgie strutting around onstage in top hat and tails while clucking into the mic, nearly unintelligibly, something about “Oh little sister, Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, girl, Pretty, pretty, Such a pretty, pretty, pretty girl, Come on baby please, please, please.”

2) “Some Girls,” because this was the first record they made with Ronnie Wood as a full-fledged member replacing Mick Taylor. And because, unless you were a pubescent, suburban schoolgirl, that album pretty much sucked. The hits from that record, ‘Miss You,’ ‘Beast of Burden’ and ‘Shattered,’ are a far cry from a ‘Street Fighting Man’ or a ‘Jumpin Jack Flash.’

3) Although in a recent interview on NPR, Richards calls Jagger a “phenomenal performer,” I’m not sure there are a lot of people who would refer to him a “good singer.” But I guess you don’t have to be a good singer to be successful in the music business even if your role in a band is that of singer. Just ask Bob Dylan.

It’s not so much that I don’t like Ronnie Wood. I loved him as a bass player in the Jeff Beck Group on ‘Beck-Ola’ and ‘Truth’ and I still liked him when he joined The Faces around 1969. He’s an amazingly versatile musician who, in addition to bass, plays slide, pedal and steel guitar and harmonica. He’s also a decent songwriter and fairly well-respected painter. I just don’t see his guitar style meshing well with Keith’s. I liked the lead /rhythm combination of Taylor/Richards. The Stones really need a lead player in my view but I’m obviously wrong about that because …

According to Wikipedia and regardless of VisualKaos’ personal opinion, the Stones seemed to have done fairly well.

“In a career that has spanned nearly half a century, the band has released over 90 singles, more than two dozen studio albums, and numerous compilation and live albums. Ten of their studio albums are among Rolling Stone magazine’s The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, with their 1972 double album Exile on Main St. placing seventh.”

It may be that Rolling Stone likes the Rolling Stones because they named their freaking magazine after them, sort of.

So, at the risk of sounding like one of those narcissistic know-it-alls who, when referring to bands, says pompous, self-important shit like, “Yeah, I liked their early stuff,” I liked (some of) their early stuff.

During the “British Invasion” of the 1960s (yes, I was around then) there was a bizarre and somewhat amusing competition going on between the Stones and the Beatles. You almost had to choose a side and I was, and still am, squarely in the Beatles camp. Toward the end of that tumultuous decade that all faded away and both bands were recording the best music of their careers.

The Stones’ two best records, 1968’s ‘Beggars Banquet’ and ‘Let It Bleed’ the following year definitely rank in the top 500 of all time in my book. Probably much higher than that, possibly the top 50. ‘Sticky Fingers,’ which came out in 1971 was also a pretty good record but it signaled the end of good songwriting and innovative guitar riffs and the beginning of a juvenile and sophomoric marketing plan that was directed at pubescent, suburban schoolgirls. The album cover, conceived by Andy Warhol, featured a photo of a man’s package in tight jeans and a functioning zipper that when pulled down opened to reveal his tidy whiteys. The album also featured the first use of the tongue and lips logo.

Clever? Hell yes. Artistic? Ok. Lame? Uh huh.

So it surprised me a little, when I heard Keith interviewed on Fresh Air, that I love this guy. Maybe what surprised me the most is that I realized that I have always loved this guy but I was only this week able to admit that to myself.

I immediately bought the autobiography he’s out there hawking called ‘Life’ and although I’ve only gotten through the first chapter, I’m so loving it.

What occurred to me almost instantly is that Keith Richards has over the years come up  with some of the most awesome and inventive guitar licks in all of rock music.

Because the song ‘Satisfaction’ is probably the single most played single in the history of radio, I pretty much hate it. That song came out in 1962 but if you put KLOS on your radio in Los Angeles, you’ll still hear that song in the rotation almost daily. To me, that says more about KLOS than it does about ‘Satisfaction’ but all that aside you have to admit that the guitar lick, as simple as it is, with that ancient fuzz box, was kind of a game changer.

Add to that, the aforementioned ‘Street Fighting Man,’ ‘Jumping Jack Flash,’ ‘Gimme Shelter,’ ‘Monkey Man’ and ‘Midnight Rambler.’ All cool songs but I’m talking about just the guitar. Next time you listen to any of these, listen to the basic rhythm guitar. That’s all KR.

Then there is what may be my favorite Stones song, mostly because of the whole garage guitar sound, ‘Stray Cat Blues.’ And  just so many others. Keith even plays that awesome, thumping and melodic bassline on ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’

Ask any modern rock guitar player who they think are among the best and you may hear the usual and obligatory reply; Clapton, Satriani, Van Halen, Beck. You’ll probably even hear some say Robert Johnson or any of the Kings, BB, Freddy, Albert. You have to give the Delta its due. But once you get past those names nearly all will have KR on their list.

Perhaps the coolest thing about Keith Richards the guitar player is that most of his signature licks come from an old ’53 butterscotch Tele which he calls “Micawber,” set up for five-string open-G tuning (-GDGBD), and has only five bridge saddles. He’s actually pretty famous for this tuning and it’s well imitated.

As you can see in the photo it’s further modified with the neck pickup being replaced by a Gibson humbucker and the bridge pickup swapped for a Fender lap/steel pickup.

This is KR’s main stage guitar and he usually plays it through an 80-watt Fender Twin.

This is how multi-millionaire rock guitar gods with access to any guitar/amp combination imaginable get their sound. Not everybody uses a wall of Marshall stacks and a forest of Les Pauls.

Maybe in the end this is why I love Keith Richards.

Now go play ‘Stray Cat Blues’ and tell me you don’t agree.

Note: The amazing art at the top of this post was ‘borrowed’ from the great German painter Sebastian Krüger, a long-time Stones fan and fab portrait artist.

Does yer dug bat?

One of my favorite scenes/lines in any movie from any era comes from “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” I think about 1976.

Clouseau, checking into a hotel room asks the clerk “Does yer dug bat?” The clerk replies, “No.”

The next few lines are just brilliant.

Sometimes, when I meet someone’s dog for the first time I might ask in my best Clouseau accent, which is really lousy, “Does yer dug bat?”

People usually pull their leash a little closer to them at that point.

Last night we went to see “Let Me In,” which is a remake of the fabulous Swedish film called “Let the Right One In.”

We loved that movie so much that we went to see the American version just to see how different it was.

I think it’s safe to say the Linda and I would highly recommend both but you should see the Swedish one first. It’s on DVD now.

So we’re walking past a restaurant just outside the theater and there is a cute little dog tied to the railing of an outdoor area of the restaurant.

For some reason I’m just drawn to him. Party because it didn’t look like I would be bothering anybody if I just walked up to that dog and greeted him and partly because he was just so adorable.

So I start petting him and he starts snorting and kind of growling in this adorable kind of way. He just seemed to really like me and for that reason and others, I fell madly in love with him.

Pretty soon Linda and I are both petting this sweet little dog and he’s snorting and making little love growl sounds, melting our hearts onto the pavement.

His owner, was on the other side of the rail watching us so I strike up a conversation.

“He’s so amazing,” I said.

“Yeah, he’s something, he said.

“How old is he,” I asked. He seemed to be up on his little dog years and he was pretty barrel shaped like some dogs get when they get older.

“He’s six,” the guy says. “He’s a miniature Australian Shepherd.”

“WHAT????!!!” A miniature Aussie?

Are you shitting me?

An Aussie is probably my favorite dog and they come in toy sizes?

I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not taking a photo of that guy but he was kind of tucked into this dark corner and, well, there wasn’t enough light on him anyway, but he looked pretty much like this. And just little. Not even up to your knee.

So we’re there, petting this little dog, he’s grunting and growling, our hearts are melting, dog owner guy does not seem to mind when suddenly this teen chick comes up and says, something like, “Hey will you take this leash for you dog because” … unintelligible … “I had this leash and” … unintelligible … “could you take it for your dog?”

I could barely believe what I was about to say and I had to try really hard not to use my best, terrible, Clouseau accent when I replied, “That is not my dog.”

Of habits and hangy down parts

I’m not a creature of habit.

Some time ago, like a year, I told myself that I was going to make one photo a day. I told myself that it didn’t have to be anything stellar, just something that would be worthy of a “Dude, check this out!”

I think that lasted about 3 days, which is kind of disturbing for a host of reasons, such as:

  • I used to shoot for a living so it was my job to make at least one photo a day that could run on the front page of a newspaper. You would think then, that it would be easy if I lowered that standard to at least one photo a day that could run on a blog.
  • I gave myself the option of allowing that one photo a day to be shot with, anything. I have a bazillion cameras of every size and shape and I carry an iPhone with me everywhere I go. Say what you will about iPhone but given the right light (or enough of it) that tiny lens and sensor manages some pretty amazing images. Don’t think so? Believe me.
  • I live in Southern California.
  • My wife is beautiful.

So, that didn’t work out. Dammit.

Next, I decided that I would turn that one photo a day into one photo a day of my cat. Spooky is actually quite photogenic and even though he’s getting up in his kitty years he still does some pretty wacky stuff.

I know what you’re saying, this idea is not exactly original and I wasn’t planning to try and compete with Dooce and her Daily Chuck. That would just cultivate a feeling of personal inadequacy given that Heather Armstrong gets a half million page views a day and makes like $50K a month from advertising. (Disclaimer: Dooce does not need visualkaos’ link here. My readers, both of you, already know and love her.)

And Spooky is nowhere near as riotous as the amazing City the Kitty. (Similarly, Lori Shepler will not benefit from this link, if anything, the opposite may be true.)

So the one photo a day, even of a beautiful, fluffy feline who rarely leaves my side, sits on the sink as I brush my teeth, greets me at the door every night and writhes on my socks when I get home from the gym, didn’t work out.

I couldn’t get into the habit.

But I do some things habitually. When I get to the gym, I have a routine. You might even call it a habit.

Tonight, when I arrived at L.A Fitness, I did what I always do.

Toss gym bag on bench. Open pocket on gym bag, pull out satchel, remove ear buds, empty the contents of pants pockets back into satchel. Pile combination lock, weight lifting gloves, towel, water bottle, sneakers and iPhone onto bench. Remove work clothes, stuff into gym bag. Put on gym clothes. Stuff bag into locker. Plug ear buds into iPhone, then ears.

Tonight, I tossed my bag down on the bench in the locker room at precisely the same time as another dude. I’ll call him real estate guy because he looked like a realtor and he had a leather bag that had a “Freddie Mac” logo on it.

I don’t know if the federal home loan mortgage corporation known as Freddie Mac has a line of clothing, perfume and accessories but I suspect not. My guess is that real estate guy attended a conference or workshop that centered on instructing realtors in how to bilk the government out of money that could then be lent to working-class humans with little or no knowledge of mortgage banking and who think that have a shot at the American Dream. A large portion of these government funds could then be pocketed by realtors.

At tables with folding legs inside booths made of canvas and PVC, “freebies” such as water bottles, coffee cups and golf balls with the Freddie Mac logo adorned on them would be given away to conference attendees.

A few VIP attendees, or those who signed up the most other attendees, got better freebies like a weekend in Las Vegas (complete with a complimentary tour of the newest Time-share property in South Nevada,) unisex polo shirts (baby blue or tope, size medium only) and leather gym bags.

Real estate guy seemed to mirror my every move. He seemed to have the same routine as mine, with some refinement.

Standing on his sneakers so his feet would never touch the floor, real estate guy folded his starched oxford shirt, hung his dockers on a hanger and stuffed shoe trees into his leather shoes. These were not Italian shoes. I’m gonna guess Florsheim, Broxton. Probably about $70.

When I stood up, earbuds in place, real estate guy was looking right at me. He had a white towel over his shoulder, a water bottle in his hand and ear buds plugged into a Blackberry.

“Here we go, ” I said.

He winked at me.

I’m not very fond of the men’s locker room at L.A Fitness. It’s nice enough. Big, newish, clean, for the most part.

What I don’t like about it is that it’s always full of naked men.

Men walk around in there, immodestly, ass-naked.

After working in an office all day and stopping in a cafe for lunch or dropping by a Starbucks or just being in public all day, then walking through that door into a locker room full of naked men, sauntering around, junk swinging, is still always startling.

But this reaction to a company of naked men isn’t from some deep, emotional distress or a traumatic, childhood experience that I’ve been suppressing all my life.

I’ve never been molested, at least not when I didn’t want to be, have only worm women’s clothes once and I don’t have peculiar behavior around young boys.

It’s just the visual thing. I enjoy seeing naked women, not naked men.

This is particularly true, and it is the reason I’m writing this now, when men’s equipment comes into close proximity to myself especially, at eye level.


Occasionally, while sitting on the bench in the locker room, bending over tying my shoes, a naked man may walk past placing Big Jim and the Twins well inside my comfort zone.

There is only approximately 2.5 feet of space between the locker room bench and the lockers themselves. If a naked someone needs to get to a locker that is beyond where I may be tying my shoes, then he must walk, unprotected past my unprotected self. I’m not certain but I think the tolerance radius for male genitalia and my face is at least three feet.

To me, this is really common sense. I wouldn’t subject someone bending over to tie their shoes to my own wedding tackle in this way. I’m sure, as a courtesy, that I would spare them any ignominy by waiting for the person finish tying their shoes and stand up before I made my way past.

Even then I would likely subject them only to my backside

Although, I’m not sure which is worse.