But I like the box better

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

When I started this weblog three years ago, it was a continuation of my web site that I’ve had since 1995. As such, it focused primarily on technology, with an occasional aside into science or art or literature. I started with a free Manila-based weblog hosted by Userland, which was removed sometime last year, probably because it hadn’t been updated for so long. I regret now that I didn’t copy some of the entries, but not too much because I didn’t really write anything special during that time.

In my first few months, I rarely wrote just to write, to be a writer; I was intimidated by the medium. Unlike my other writing, in articles and books and online, weblogging lacked abstraction. I could view the statistics and watch the numbers of readers rise and fall and realized that there was a core of readers who would come by daily who didn’t do so because they followed a link to a tutorial or found a page from a search engine – they were returning to read me, and I didn’t know who they were.

It became a game with me to write a few posts in a certain manner or on certain topics and then watch the statistics to see if my readership would increase or fall off. I wasn’t writing, though I was using words to the best of my ability; I was fishing, and trying different bait. Moreso, I was trying to carve my space into a small audience amidst others who were famous (at least within this subculture), or very talented, and occasionally both.

Among these others, the first weblogger I started reading was Dave Winer, but I eventually connected up with the Cluetrain gang through the writings of Chris Locke, otherwise known as Rageboy. This was back before 9/11, the event that sent Americans scrambling for guns under their beds, flags to hang from their trucks, and made weblogging what it is today. (At least, until some other pivotal moment that will make weblogging what it is today, tomorrow.)

Back then, in 2001 we were trying to understand what weblogs were, and to me, they were all about the writing. I wrote the following, till preserved at Rageboy’s site:

Within these things called weblogs there are gems of creativity and brilliance that take my breath away. There’s writing that’s so good that I feel gifted with the words.

Sometimes the people who write the weblogs are known; most of the time, they aren’t. Doesn’t matter, though. All that should matter is the writing. It’s the words that count – everything else is just fluff, sparkle, and zazz.

That was in November of 2001 during the time of the infamous Blogmatch between Winer and Locke, which focused on the question of that time: what is a weblog. Winer said that …weblogs are rational writing, that’s why it’s so close, if you’re serious about it, to academic writing. To which Locke responds with:

There are two things I want most in life. The first is to be taken seriously. The second is to be mistaken for an academic. No wait, there are three. The third is to set my hair on fire.

Today Dave Winer works for Harvard and hosts BloggerCons and talks about weblogs and politics; while Chris Locke paints posts with pictures, some naughty, some nice, about narcissim and new age cranks, pulling words reluctantly from the page like a fisherman heaves fish, line caught and fighting, into a boat. (And Voidstar preserved the Blogmatch, to which we owe him, “Thanks”. )

Through Chris I was introduced to another Chris, otherwise known as Stavors the Wonder Chicken. Today Chris/Stavros appears in an Empty Bottle but back then it was Waeguk Wasn’t Soup.:

I don’t beat small children senseless, although I have been known to swallow them whole when they cross my bridge without permission.

I should clarify what is no doubt an overwhelming impression that I hate Korea. I don’t. Well, sometimes I do, goddamnit, but it’s more complicated than that. I do hate the chaos, the filth, the racism and casual cruelty, but there are scores of Korean people I just love to bits. I live in hell. My Liver is a big, misshapen bubbly fat-encrusted abomination that keeps functioning through sheer power of will I’m grumpy. Old Korean men – fuck, how I hate them with a white-hot eye-popping passion. I’ve got no problem with people eating dogs, if they want to. Shit, I’ve done it.

I’m afraid I’ve walked through the portal into bizarro-world.

Sometimes, my mind reels. Other times it just kinda sashays around, coyly. Sometimes I surprise myself. I don’t fucking know.That’s cool with me. I’m pure misanthrope, with enough scorn to go around for all of humanity. At the same time, love love love. It’s weird being me.

As Chris Locke would say, What a pleasure to read good writing once in a while, even if it does make you want to puke.

(Others concur because our Chicken is now destined for fame and glory, and it behooves us to toddle on over to his place and put in links to our favorite ravings from that grumpy old man with the pickled liver who doesn’t swallow children whole.)

What are weblogs is a question that keeps re-appearing over time, and as new webloggers come along who begin to question the format and all the written and unwritten rules. The issue of what is a weblog splits into two major categories: what makes a proper weblog, and what makes a proper weblogger. Over the last three years, I’ve watched both being defined and redefined again and again, and have spent, as I look back now, an inordinate amount of time defending weblogs against proper weblogging etiquette and form and webloggers from being classified as everything from political activists to citizen journalists.

The question of weblog form has resurfaced again this week, when Eric Meyer of CSS fame wrote that Weblogs are temporarily broken. He based this posting on the reverse chronological order of our front pages, and started a conversation carried by other webloggers including an odd one by Scoble about just wanting to know that the rabbit was eaten being good enough.

The proper form for a weblog was a large topic of discussion once long ago based on an article that Meg Hourihan wrote for O’Reilly titled What We’re Doing When We Blog. In it, Meg started out promisingly with the following, in response to American Journalism Review article:

In her article, Catherine forgoes the more traditional weblogs-are-links-plus-commentary definition to carve out a new meaning for the word, limited to the type of blogs she reads. But Catherine’s analysis misses some of the very subtleties that distinguish weblogs from other writing. Rather than rant that Catherine just “doesn’t get it,” it seems to me that her article, and others that are similar, are perfect opportunities for the blogging community to talk about our own evolution.

But then wrote:

If we look beneath the content of weblogs, we can observe the common ground all bloggers share – the format. The weblog format provides a framework for our universal blog experiences, enabling the social interactions we associate with blogging. Without it, there is no differentiation between the myriad content produced for the Web.

The article received almost universal acclaim, but I wasn’t one of the admiring crowd. I wrote a critical essay but then I pulled it based on some misplaced sense of honor, which I’ve since shed – not the honor, but that honor could be misplaced. However, others also responded including Stavros, (and here), Jonathon Delacour, and Jeff Ward.

Stavros wrote:

How tedious is this, how perfunctory and lacking of any sense of the mad, wild spirit of creativity that is tearing through the souls of (fill in the names or pseudonyms of your favorite bloggers here)? Sorry, Meg, but this piece strikes me as soulless, by-the-numbers, and regrettably keen to dumb things down as much as possible, custom-designed for Big Media to understand and quote it. Calculated to be Just what the Market Wants.

Like me and Stavros, Jonathon Delacour was also struck by the reduction of weblogging to the format, writing in a post (that’s since been pulled from his active archive, proving yet again that old posts never fade away, as long as they live in the memories of your readers–dammit):

Just like those photo-technicians, Meg Hourihan defines blogging in terms of the format: reverse-chronological and time-stamped. In this sterile depiction, the key elements of a blogging post are the links, the time-stamp, and the permalink.

God give me strength. I could describe a Walker Evans photograph by saying that it was taken with a Zeiss Protar lens on a tripod-mounted 8 x 10 Deardorff view camera, at f/45 to maximize the depth of field and with a G filter to emphasize the clouds. All of which is true but, frankly, who gives a shit? Such a description refuses to acknowledge that Evans’ image of a highway corner in Reedsville, West Virginia in 1936 is not just visually complex and gorgeous to look at. Evans’ radical approach to picture-making subverted many of his contemporaries- most deeply ingrained beliefs about pictorial beauty and the purpose of documentary photography.

Which is not to say there’s no place for an explanation of the mechanics of weblogging: tools, posts, links, time-stamps, permalinks. But wouldn’t it be better to leave those prosaic details for later? And to start by mapping out an imaginative vision of the medium’s potential?

Jeff Ward, though, likened weblogging format to a grammar, which in the end fosters a new form of communication. Returning to Jonathon’s photography analogy, Jeff wrote:

The technology of photography is indeed of great importance, for example, in examining how the small hand-held camera and high speed films fundamentally changed the content of photography. In a mature medium, these questions are less important. But still, Walker Evans’s nearly recursive move back into heavy view cameras deeply effected the character of the images he produced, when contrasted to his street photography with roll-film cameras. The grammar of the machine affects the content. I gave up infrared photography largely for the reasons Jonathon suggested; people didn’t care about the photographs, only the technology. But, how old is blogging? Shouldn’t we be asking precisely these sort of questions?

Weblog as format continued to surface from time to time in other contexts. There is the issue of the long-format webloggers as compared to the linkers (the link/comment blogging), and what is or is not “good weblog writing”. Halley Suitt recently discussed this:

With a new project I’m working on, I am teaching some non-bloggers how to blog and it’s really interesting to show someone the ropes. I have a whole different attitude about blogging than I used to.

For instance, I think brevity is the soul of blog wit more than ever. Look at my archives and see some of my first year’s worth of posts – too too long and ponderous I think.

Short and sweet – the best blog is a fresh blog full of lots of little posts.

Halley did not get universal agreement for her ’short and sweet’ assertion, and she would later point out examples of longer writing that she felt were acceptable. However, if you ask many old time webloggers what a weblog post is, they’ll say it’s a link to something interesting, with a short comment, no matter how many of us fill pages and pages with writing (causing all sorts of havoc with weblog tools finetuned for links and blurbs).

How much we syndicate is another issue of format that has occupied much of our writing. In this case of proper weblogging format those of us who provide excerpts in our syndication feeds are pushed to provide full feeds. The reason is that others who link to hundreds, thousands, of webloggers can then read many thoughts at a single gulp, disregarding carefully maintained weblog appearances, thoughtfully crafted writing, and how can one differentiate so many voices compressed into one simple aggregator.

Or as I wrote in The Gluttony of Information:

Rather than fight information overload, give in to it. Embrace it. Accept complete saturation as nothing less than that which is to be achieved. Apply the same practices to our consumption of information as we’ve applied to food and consumer goods and foreign policy, because we can never have too much.

After all this reading about RSS today, I finally get it. I finally understand the magic:

RSS is the both the McDonald’s and Wal-Mart of data”

(And then there’s the topic of RSS 2.0 and RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 and Atom. I have so many writings on these that I can’t link to all of them – you can just search on Atom to get a feel for how much this has impacted on my writing. What would we write about, if we didn’t have RSS and Atom?)

Proper form, short and sweet, aggregated and conjoined: sometimes the demands of the weblogging medium have grown so large, and the format so important that I’m reminded of a time my mother received a present for Christmas one year that was beautifully wrapped. It had gorgeous paper and an intricate paper flower surrounded by glittery ribbons of many colors. After opening it and seeing what was inside, some silly knick knack, she laughed and said, “I think I’ll toss the gift and keep the box”.

I wrote the following April, 2002, in a post titled My Weblog has Fallen Down:

A weblogger’s nightmare:

I am looking at a weblog page with a Google box to the right and a NY Times box to the left and several buttons with coffee mugs all over them that generate OPML, RSS, and various other assorted and sundry XML flavors. Within the page there is this outline with links and plus signs and you click on the plus signs and the content is expanded to show even more outlines, which can expand to even more outlines, and on and on and on.

And I see myself hunting desperately through the page knowing if I look hard enough, deep enough, I will find the truth. I will find what the weblogger has to say.

Finally, after I click enough of the little plus signs, and get rid of all these boxes that keep opening up and tell Google to shut the fuck up for just one second, I find it.

Hear the words of The Weblogger:

You are The Doc Searls Weblog!
You are located at

You are rather jolly. You write a lot of geeky stuff. You are so fond of penguins that you edit a journal about them.

At which point my head implodes from one mind bomb too many, and the weblog falls over and the Internet gets sucked up into this huge black hole and the universe as we know it ceases to exist.

What is a proper weblog. Might as well ask, what is proper writing and hope to find a universal answer that will satisfy everyone. Or as I wrote wrote in April, 2002:

We’ll never know what is or is not good weblog writing, because the writing is as unique as the number of writers, as good as the worst of us and as poor as the best. We define the rules and we can break the rules, and the first rule we break is to throw out all our assumptions about ‘what is good writing’.


Photography as Maze

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Towards the end of 2001 I started posting photos from my walks or explorations of my neighborhood, using my new digital camera. And though I was pleased at the photos of Yosemite Park, or the Embarcadero and the Golden Gate or Bay Bridges then, I am not as content with them now. Whether this makes sense or not, they fit me then, they don’t fit me now.


Odd thing is, I see scenes from my memory, that I regret I didn’t photograph: the homeless lady dressed properly who made her home on the Embarcadero benches by my condo; the boats nestled among the bridge bases; the graffiti covering the abandoned warehouses, and the birds among the tall grasses along those fingers of the Bay that stretched inwards.

Still, there were a few Muir photos I like.


Photography is learned, and our skills grow over time, as we learn the tools and techniques–like climbing the steps in the path in the Muir photo. What I’ve come to discover, though, is that the art of photography is more like a maze than a simple path.

Burningbird Weblogging

Gimme plenty of this and that but hold the burn cuz I forgot the antacid

My three year weblogging anniversary is on April 5th, I believe. I can’t exactly remember the day and the old weblog, an old hosted Manila weblog, has long since gone from lack of updates. But the 5th is close enough.

Three years slaying dragons. Three years tilting at windmills.

Three years. That’s a long time, or at least, it feels like it’s been a long time. If I had applied myself and this were a university, I would have a degree now. If the words were added together and bound, I’d have at least a couple of books. If the photos were printed and mounted, I’d have several shows. If the technology expended were applied to a project, I’d have at least one weblogging tool, possibly an aggregator or two, and the RDF Poetry Finder completed. If I’d been paid for the time, I’d be rich. If the people I’ve met were all in the same room, I’d have a huge party, though I may have to keep my back to the wall at times – I haven’t always been complimentary, nor have I always kept quiet when I should all things being equal. (Note to self at anniversary party: remove sharp knives, and provide plastic forks and chop sticks with dull ends. Lots of booze, but provide juice for those who have quit. Drinking that is, not weblogging.)

Dave Rogers (who has had a weblog since 1999, that old weblogging fart) recently said something on knowing when to keep quiet, but I can’t find the post. He said that we don’t always have to fight the fights; we don’t always have to respond or take issue with everything that comes along. However, he also says, But what do I know? That should be a tagline we’re all forced to wear in our spaces, like the slave standing behind the triumphant returning general, whispering into the hero’s ears as he’s hailed by the masses, Thou art mortal. Thou art mortal.

(By the way, I ‘own’ these words in Google. Ah, such is the intimacy between Google and Weblogs, another subject I’ve discussed here many a time. Remember ‘googlewhacking”? Well, from the site that fish has done been chewed and the sharks have moved on. )

For the next week in celebration of my three years anniversary, I’m combining equal parts old and new, something borrowed, and too many things blue, to create my own party mix; to see where I’ve been, and where I’m at, and where I want to go. Yeah, one of those historical perspective things–somewhat like the slide shows you had to sit through at the neighborhood parties when you were a kid. Feel free to skip the week if you wish.

Among the old will be links to past posts, mine and others, that have impacted me, good and bad. With each, through the magic of hindsight and semi-permanent archives, I’m going to give a contemporary take on the whatever the subject was, or should I say, is.

I’ll also be republishing favorite photos; my favorite photos, not necessarily the ones that others have liked. In addition, I’ll be providing at least one post with links to articles and technical how-tos from the past that could still be useful, but have disappeared into the archives and become difficult to find.

That’s the old. For the new, I’ve been discussing future book ideas with Simon St. Laurent, and Simon sent representative examples of several new and existing book ‘brands’ that O’Reilly is now publishing. I was rather amazed at how far the company has come from just being the publisher of the popular ‘animal books’, so I’m going to be reviewing one or two in each of the brands–what I like about the books, and whether I could see myself writing a book within the brand. You learn about some nifty books, and I learn more about myself as a writer. What goodness.

Interspersed throughout all of this will be some writings about Walker Evans. Reading about his life has made me take a closer look at mine. And that’s about all I can say on this for now.

Sound fun? Yes? No? Doesn’t really matter what you think, though, does it? After all, in our spaces, it’s all about us.

Burningbird Photography


Spring didn’t gradually intrude this year; it exploded in a verdant flood, blossom-bedecked and ready to roll. The bird tree on the corner, visible from my window went from naked limbs and buds to full flower to green leaves in just a matter of a few days; the fields have already greened, and it’s only March. That’s what heavy rains and unusually warm days and nights – almost sultry– will bring.

The last few days have brought our first thunderstorms but even so I can still get out for my daily walk. Rains here fall as if they mean it, and then the clouds break apart and you can get out for a time before they regroup for another go. Even then, as warm as it has been you can get caught in the rain and rather than be cold and damp and clammy, it’s a wonderful feel on your skin; my hair is never better then when it is wet by the rain and dried into a soft, curly mess. Must be the acidic precipitate.


I have been playing with new site designs in preparation for moving Burningbird to a new weblogging tool. I’ll make the design in Movable Type since I am most familiar with that tool’s tags, and then when I have the design I like, I’ll just incorporate it into the new tool, whatever it is (still trying a few new tools). I’m using the Tin Foil Project site for experimentation, and rather like the newest incarnation, which probably breaks several design rules but I don’t much care.

I won’t be migrating the existing Bb pages to the new tool. I thought about it but decided to just leave the pages as is and call it my “Movable Type” period, like my previous “Radio” period or “Blogger” period, or even my now gone forever “Manila” period. I like idea of showing a clear transition between site lives, rather than use technology to pretend as if nothing ever changes. Just think of the confusion I’m saving those poor souls who look up “comment spam” and “Movable Type” in some search engine and come to my pages on these topics, yet I’m not using Movable Type?

For me at least, I have found that the tools I’ve used, and the discussions of what is or is not facilitated can have subtle and not so subtle impact on what I write and it’s only fitting that when I put aside one I do so as an artist puts down a well worn brush: with reverence and gratitude for past creativity, but also a feeling of relief and anticipation. Adapting to a new environment is easier when one doesn’t have to haul behind old baggage.


Speaking of adaption, I watched the movie “Adaption”– based, loosely, on the book “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orlean– this weekend. It was an interesting movie, very creative and well acted, and I liked the not so sly dig at Hollywood with the twist on the title, Adaption. The screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, uses all variations of this word in his script: from the orchid’s adaption to the environment to people’s adapting to loss and disappointment, and, lastly, to Hollywood’s adaption of books in order to make them more palatable to audience’s demand for overt emotionalism in the movies.

This is about orchids and loss, passion and disappointment, he says. We don’t want to add in scenes about drugs and sex and car chases and death, he continues, as he proceeds to do just that; but so obviously and blatantly that rather than lose the book in the story he carefully frames it so it stands out from the medium’s demands.

Innovative movie, wonderful book, and fascinating topic: orchids. So much so that I started researching orchids in Missouri and found there are 27 varieties of orchids in this state. I’ve already ordered Bill Summer’s “Missouri Orchids” from my local library, for my own photo hunt this year.

Still, you don’t have to look far to find the beautiful in this state.


I have no doubt that this lush Spring will give way to a hot, humid, and voluptuous Summer and am preparing my gear to maximize coolness while minimizing surfaces to be bit by the fauna that finds Missouri to be as tasty as I. However, I am less fearful of things that go bite in the night than I used to be.

At the Gardens this weekend, the bees were so heavy with the nectar they could barely fly, and last time I was stung by something (we thought was a bee), my arm was so swollen I couldn’t use it, but that didn’t stop me from diving into the flowering trees to try to capture the creatures at work. Not an act of bravery; somehow, for me, the camera forms a psychic shield and I’m just not that afraid – of heights, or of bees, and even dark, country roads. After all, what can happen? The most you can do from a height is fall; and the most that can happen on a dark, country road is that the light doesn’t come; and a bee can only sting you. Each is infinitely safer than our brothers and sisters, who kill with weapons and rules; and rip bloodlessly at you for no other reason than to exercise wit or practice an economy of attention.


The bee wasn’t my only encounter with weaponed creatures this weekend. At Shaw Nature Reserve I was following my favorite path when I almost stepped on a snake sunning itself on the dirt and rocks. I begged its pardon, which captured the attention of two bird watchers nearby, and we stooped over the baby snake; big, giant shadows scaring it up the hill and into dead leaves.


I whipped out my camera and took three pictures in a row, the most I can take quickly before the camera writes the images to the disc. I was only a few inches away from the snake, not that worried because I wasnt expecting a dangerous snake, and it was only a baby.

But then we saw the cute little rattle on its tail.


As I hovered with my camera over the baby, it formed itself into a coil, which I did recognize from my youthful experiences with rattlers and instinctively moved quickly away–realizing that I had seriously alarmed it with my camera. Still, I wasn’t that worried because it just a baby; but I did stop because I didn’t want to continue scaring it.

I didn’t know that Missouri had poisonous snakes, but found out it has five different types of poisonous snakes, including the Timber Rattlesnake, which I’m fairly sure is my baby; the Pygmy Rattlesnake, the very rare Eastern Massasuaga Rattlesnake, the Osage Copperhead, and the Western Cottonmouth. I’m not sure why I thought there would be no dangerous snakes here in this state. Probably disregarded the thought, and didn’t practice commen sense hiking methods because there are so many insects waiting to bite me, I just assumed that ‘biting’ was covered already.

Another interesting fact I found from my reading is that baby Timber rattlesnakes are venomous from birth, and that their venom has 12 times the concentration as an adult snake. After this weekend, I think I should keep my closeups for my flowers.

(Note: this may actually be a Midland Brown or DeKay snake, which is not poisonous. It does resemble it except for the tail, but the tail may be damage rather than a rattle. I can’t find a good photo of a baby Timber rattlesnake, and the snake seems too thin and distinctively colored for being a DeKay. Time to take some photos to the Shaw nature center office for identification. I suppose I could have picked it up and see if it bit me, and if so, whether I reacted to the bite. But I think a photo identification would be a better approach.)


That white flower is for Jeneane that lovely lady who likes the white magnolia blossom. Speaking of blossoming, AKMA came up with an interesting idea this weekend to have individual people record Lawrence Lessig’s new book on copyright. I wasn’t up for recording but I thought I would volunteer my baby rattlesnake photo for the cover of any CD made from this effort.

After all, I am an O’Reilly author, and am used to ‘animal books’. As for a description of the colophon, I would write something like the following:

Copyright, like the baby rattlesnake, seems harmless at first, but gets deadlier as it gets older.

I thought it was rather clever myself, until I found out the baby rattlesnake is deadlier than the adult. Perhaps they’d like another picture, instead. Something a little less “toothy”, such as this:


Or this:


No! I have it! The perfect photo:


However, recordings abound and a graphic has been chosen already in this snooze you loose atmosphere, which is probably for the best. I’ve never shared Lessig’s view of the uncritical goodness of the Creative Commons license scheme though I appreciate his passion and eloquence for this cause, as well as his generosity for sharing his book online. I can also appreciate the energy of the participation, as well as the sheer fun of this recording enterprise, which perhaps could turn next to so many of the books that are freely available at the Guttenberg Project.

Just Shelley Photography

Walker Evans: Real need is a personal thing

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’ve spent the last week reading about the photographer Walker Evans. The more I read, the more I understand why I like his photos so much, and will have more to say on this later.

There are some excellent biographies and compilations based on Evans, but my favorite of the books I picked up from the library was a slim volume of Evans photos matched with the contemporary poems of the poet Cynthia Rylant — Something Permanent. Though a writer for children’s books, there is nothing childlike in Rylant’s poems; however, their wonderous simplicity and humor might not appeal to more jaded tastes. I liked them. Perhaps I like simplicity and humor; or perhaps I like poems meant for the Young Reader (which rather pleases me than not).

Rylant’s words complement the effect of Evans’ photos rather than overlay or alter or detract, and the book was a pure delight. You can read it in less than an hour, though I think it deserves to be consumed more slowly. My favorite approach was to turn each page and look at the Evan’s photo and form my own personal interpretation. Once finished, I would then read the poem, and it was like rediscovering the photo all over again. What an absolutely fun way to spend an afternoon, and I made a special event of it by taking the book to the park with me to sit beside the water in the sun and finish it slowly.

I’ve reproduced a few of photo/poem pairs here, and then one of my favorite poems alone (because I could not find the matching photo).



They both loved the same girl
but she wouldn’t have either of them
because she was married–
and to the store owner by god,
so it wasn’t worth thinking about.

But at night,
they each stretched upon a bed
and had her,
had her whole
and leisurely.
And when they were done,
they settled her back in their minds
like a soft peach
will disappear

into a young boy’s pocket,
warm August nights.



She loved it with all her heart
and on warm days would take a blanket
out into the yard so she
could just sit and look at it.

She never once complained about the
work it took to
keep it clean
nor about being so far from things,
living outside of town.
She loved it.
And when her husband said
he was taking a job in Chicago
and they’d have to be moving,

she was sick on and off for weeks
until it finally occurred to her
that staying sick would keep them there.
She developed the most awful cough,
and now and then a patch of her hair would fall out,
but she never felt so bad
she couldn’t do a little dusting.

There wasn’t a poem I didn’t like in the book, or one that didn’t make me chuckle or nod my head. Rylant’s writing, like Evan’s photos, provide a sensuously real look at the world, keeping sentiment to a minimum. By doing so, they bring a true honesty to an experience in both words and pictures.


Filling Station

Everybody wanted that job
and when Ferrell Brown’s son

got it,
when Mr. Brown’s son got to pump gas
and flirt with the pretty girls all day long,
they all said it was a crock,
that that boy never worked a day
in his life, never had to,
with his rich daddy,
so how come he got a job that

plenty of decent boys with real
need wanted.
Then word got around about
the boy’s mother
and how she walked through that
house stark naked and
trying to hang dinner plates on the

and people shut up about the
Brown boy.
Real need is a personal thing,
they said.
And his mother’s a loon.