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Photo by Sam Falk/The New York Times

And a hero has gone. May we all try to live with even a fraction of the dignity, compassion, spirit and mindfulness that he did, and may we all carry his music in our hearts along the way. Goodnight, Pete.

Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94

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My father gave me this record when I was about 3 or 4 years old, and some of my earliest memories are of listening to it on the stereo in his studio—and, of course, singing along. When I was a little older, maybe 6, we listened more to Pete’s political songs like “Little Boxes” and “What Did You Learn in School Today,” and Dad explained to me what the words were all about. I learned what activism is. Big lessons for a little kid, but Pete (and Dad) made a huge impact on me and started to shape my social, political and ethical beliefs at a very early age. We’d go to see him play down by the Hudson River at the annual Clearwater Festivals, and later on, when Evan and I moved to Beacon, Pete became our neighbor. I’d see him at the train station all the time, and he kept on playing at local benefits in Beacon and Newburgh well into his 90s. The last time I saw him play was a few years ago in front of a small group of captivated children on the dock of the Hudson River, surrounded by the mountains and with his beloved Toshi nearby. I’ll miss you, Pete. Sorry to see you go.

If you have memories of Pete Seeger, whether from growing up in the Hudson Valley or from being a part of the political folk movement yourself or just from listening to his records, I’d love to hear them. Please feel free to share.

“I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American.”
Pete Seeger, speaking before the House Un-American Activities Committee (1955)

Christmas in Sweden
This is a reposting of a guest blog post I did for Dos Family four years ago. I regularly receive emails asking for the link to download the Swedish Christmas record, so I will repost it here yearly!

In the United States, it’s not uncommon to hear Christmas music wafting from shop speakers as early as the beginning of November, but it’s not “Here Comes Santa Claus” or “Jingle Bell Rock” that puts me in the holiday spirit. For me, it’s not Christmastime until I put on the recording of Swedish Christmas music that I grew up listening to each and every year: Christmas in Sweden, recorded in 1962 by Åke Jelving and a chorus of parents and children.

This is jovial, happy music, sung with energy and enthusiasm…and with audible gasping and stomping!

Our mother may be Swedish, but my siblings and I haven’t got a clue what the lyrics mean. I suspect that they, like me, sing along phonetically (and badly) in the privacy of their own homes. On Christmas day, we put the record on and leave the singing to Mommy as we all hold hands and dance in a circle, usually around the spread of snacks and glögg on the kitchen island.

My gift to you is a download of Christmas in Sweden. Evan made the MP3s directly from the record, so you’ll hear all the same snaps and crackles that I do when I listen to the original. I think that just adds to the appeal! Unless you’re a Swede, this may not sound like Christmas music to you at first, but give it time. (And maybe enjoy it with a little glögg.)

To download the album, you’ll need to visit this link. No need to create an account, just click on “download.” Easy!

God Jul!

Christmas in Sweden

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I have a few things to do in the city this weekend so the kitchen won’t get my attention for a few days. The past couple of weeks have felt almost unbearably long and hectic. To cap thing off, I spent all day Thursday thinking it was Friday, so today felt like going to work on the weekend. I’m sure it’s Friday for real now, though, and it’s past 5:00pm, so…I’M FREE! I’M FREEEEEEEEE!!! I want to make the next couple of days as productive as possible since it’s been ages since I’ve been at the apartment during daytime hours. Time for a list!

Vacuum, including entry stairs
✚ Cut anti-slip pad for new kitchen rug
Drop off laundry
Bring winter coat to cleaners
Scrub bathroom to death
Put new locks on the windows
Remove air conditioner from window
Vet appointment for Fritz & Bruno
JOHNNY MARR CONCERT AT WEBSTER HALL WOOHOO
✚ Paint the stairs (c’mon, Dorfman, you can do this…)
Dye hair + trim bangs
Pedicure
✚ Write a billion emails
Learn how to properly set the thermostat, then set it properly
✚ Make a big pot of chili (it’s that time of year again)
Belated birthday lunch with Laura

Totally doable, provided I start tonight with the cleaning. I’ve been really lazy about thoroughly cleaning the apartment lately, and it’s starting to weigh on me. I’m not as fastidious about cleaning as my reputation among my friends and family would have you believe, but I do like to be in relatively clean surroundings. Right now there are dustbunnies the size of grapefruits (and no, I’m not talking about Bruno) clustered in every corner, and I can write my name with my finger on any piece of glass in the apartment. Time for a real scrub-down!

Starting a pot of coffee and putting on The Messenger now!

p.s. Yes, those cashmere skull gloves are just as soft and warm as they look. Skull Cashmere very kindly sent me a pair after seeing their blanket in my skull-love post, and I have been waiting for months to wear them. Now I never want to take them off…

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A little more than a year ago, I wrote a post about how little traveling I do. It was difficult to write because it’s always been something I’m a bit ashamed of, but (as is often the case with the posts I hesitate to write) I felt braver and stronger once it was done. A few weeks later I traveled to London and had a wonderful time. This past June I went to my friends Lisa and Clay’s beautiful wedding in San Francisco, last month I went to Palm Springs for Camp Mighty and yesterday I got back from a long weekend in New Orleans! Look at me: Anna Dorfman, occasional traveler. Who could have predicted?

A very good friend of mine moved from Brooklyn to New Orleans about six years ago, and I’d been talking about the possibility of making a visit for a while. Our birthdays are a couple of days apart (I turned 38 right before Halloween — hello, 38!), and just by chance it turned out that The Cure were scheduled to play on the last night of Voodoo Fest. K and I met because of our love for The Cure and it’d been years since we’d gone to a show together…so really, how could I not go? Everything just seemed to fall into place perfectly. This was my first visit to New Orleans, and I loved it. What a magical place!

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K and her husband and son live in an incredible 1875 house in the Bywater neighborhood. She has always had the best sense of style when it comes to interiors, and unsurprisingly her home is amazingly beautiful inside and out. I slept in a bedroom painted black from the bottom up, save for a white beadboard ceiling. So perfect and cave-like. (And no, sorry, she doesn’t have a blog, haha. Believe me, it was all I could do to not take a million pictures!)

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Like all grown-up former (?) goths, we made sure to visit a cemetery. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest in New Orleans, all crumbly and beautiful and densely packed. (I also just learned that a New Kids on the Block video was filmed there, so, um, a slight reduction in goth points.)

GOATS!!! This guy was just walking around a residential neighborhood with a couple of goats on leashes. They were super soft.

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Top to bottom, left to right:
(1) I have a new appreciation for shutters now, especially when they’re floor-to-ceiling (2) Pretty outdoor lights at Pizza Delicious (the vegan campanelle was very good) (3) Living room mantle, fancy fancy (4) Belated vegan peanut butter birthday cake from Shake Sugary (5) Me, all moody right before the Cure concert (6) Matching manicures (Saints colors totally unintentional) with my waiter at Booty’s

Here’s a silly little video I made of a lenticular photo stuck to a door in the French Quarter. Love!

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Top to bottom, left to right:
(1) Drinks at Cane & Table — I had the Valeira Gorge: Portal Tawny Port, Banks 7 Year Rum, lime, fresh coconut water, vanilla and Angostura bitters (2) Skulls grow on agave plants in New Orleans, FACT (3) Dinner from the Fat Falafel truck (4) Freret Street (5) LIZARD!!! I saw a lizard in the wild for the first time, very exciting (6) Perfect tofu scrambles and coffees at Satsuma

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This is Willie. He was just a little kid when he lived in Brooklyn, and now he’s an old man. I love French bulldogs and all of their grunty croissant-marshmallow-bodiedness. He’s such a sweet guy, and a very patient model.

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THE CURE!!! Yayyyyyyyy. I’ve never succeeded in taking good photos at a Cure concert, and this time was no exception (here are some MUCH better ones!). No matter, though, because the show was great as usual. The Cure will for always and ever be my most favorite band, and the best way to experience them (I mean other than locked in your dark bedroom with headphones on, age 15) is LIVE. Their festival shows are shorter by default, but 2+ hours is still nothing to sneeze at. Plus, I got to hear “Burn” played live for the first time ever, and it sounded like a whole new song — like it came off of Pornography instead of The Crow soundtrack! So great.

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Some classic Robert Smith dance moves…

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My lovely friend Roger doing his thing up on on stage. Toss that hair, shake that tambourine! What a fun night. It’s been two years since the last time I saw The Cure, which is far too long to go between shows. I’m so glad I made this trip!

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Full setlist:
Shake Dog Shake / Fascination Street / From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea / The End of the World / Lovesong / Just Like Heaven / Burn / Pictures of You / Lullaby / High / Hot Hot Hot!!! / The Caterpillar / The Walk / Stop Dead / Push / Inbetween Days / Friday I’m in Love / Doing the Unstuck / Bananafishbones / Want / The Hungry Ghost / Wrong Number / One Hundred Years / Give Me It // (encore) The Love Cats / Close to Me / Let’s Go to Bed / Why Can’t I Be You? / Boys Don’t Cry

Thank you so, so much to K (+ family) for being such wonderful hosts and for having me stay in your beautiful home. I had the most amazing time. And thank you Roger for everything I can possibly thank a person for.

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Yes, another concert photo post! I go to a lot of concerts, but I don’t usually blog about them because it’s just much too much. In the past couple of months alone I’ve gone to see Adam Ant, Janelle Monáe, Depeche Mode, Public Enemy/LL Cool J/Ice Cube…and I have The Cure and Johnny Marr coming up right around the corner. There are few things in life that make me happier than going to concerts (I even wrote a list of concert-going tips), and in recent years I’ve been making a concerted effort to go see bands/artists I’ve liked for years but haven’t taken the initiative to experience live.

And so: Pet Shop Boys. I went to see them for the very first time Monday night at Beacon Theatre, and it was really an incredible night. I don’t have any local friends who are fans (or at least I don’t think I do!), so I managed to score a really good single ticket that was remaining between grouped blocks — 2nd row! As soon as the show started, I was able to just stand next to the stage, essentially making it a front-row kinda night (albeit more to the side of the stage than is ideal, but I’m not complaining). I’ve said it before, but it really does matter to me to be up close. I like to be fully immersed. When my friend Jenna and I went to see Depeche Mode a few weeks ago at the enormous Barclays Center in Brooklyn, we were so far up in the nosebleeds that we might as well have been watching in TV…but I degress.

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I was completely and totally unprepared for what this concert turned out to be. It was performance art — scene after scene, with costume changes and dancers and a narrative thread running through the entire thing. It’s funny, Pet Shop Boys were HUGELY popular when I was in junior high (the reissue of “West End Girls” was a massive hit in the US around the time I was making friendship bracelets nonstop), but I didn’t really grow into becoming a fan until quite a few years later. Very (with its Pentagram-designed nubby-dotted orange cover) was released the same month I started college, and I fell into a crowd of British electronic dance-pop fans. It’s a phenomenal album, I’d argue it’s their best. Pet Shop Boys had always seemed much lighter to me than, say, New Order, but once I started listening to the lyrics — always frank to a fault; romantic and funny and sad but hopeful — and growing attached to Neil Tennant’s voice, my appreciation for their music was solidified.

Anyway, now that I’ve seen them live, I’m ashamed that I never let that appreciation develop into the kind of full-blown fandom that would’ve led me to buy tickets to a show a long time ago! It really was a spectacular performance. Seeing this show right on the heels of Depeche Mode makes me feel happy about all of the great new music that’s still being put out by the old school of electronic music.

Here’s a very short, badly-cut Instagram video:

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WOWZA. I’m told by friends who have seen Pet Shop Boys many times in the past that this tour is nowhere near as visually extravagant their previous, which doubly fills me with regret for waiting so long. (Not that I felt disappointed, mind you!) As much as music is about, well, the music, it’s also about aesthetics for me, and I care about album packaging and presentation and all of that kind of thing. Seeing visual continuity between record sleeves, music videos, costuming and live performance is very exciting! I can only describe the whole thing as a kind of lush minimalism, if that’s possible, avant-garde without pretension (again, if that’s possible).

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Pet Shop Boys are currently on tour in support of their latest album, Electric (produced by Stuart Price, who opened the show with a DJ set as his Jacques Lu Cont persona). If you have the inclination and the opportunity, GO. Even though I went to the show alone, I walked out really wishing that I’d had certain friends with me just because I know they would have loved the visuals and the ecstatic atmosphere…and the music too, of course.

Full setlist:
Axis / One More Chance + Face Like That / Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) / Memory of the Future / Fugitive / Integral / I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing / Suburbia / I’m Not Scared / Fluorescent / West End Girls / Somewhere / Leaving / Thursday / Love Etc. / I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too) / Rent / Miracles / It’s a Sin / Domino Dancing / Always on My Mind // (Encore) Go West / Vocal

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About three and a half years ago, Janelle Monáe came into my life. I fell hard for her right when she was just starting to get widespread attention, and it’s been amazing to see everything that’s happened with her career since then. I was lucky enough to see her perform live in 2011 when she toured with Bruno Mars, and since then I’ve been waiting (im)patiently for a new album and another chance to see her come alive on stage. I was crushed when her tour dates were finally announced and I realized I’d be out of town when she’s at the Apollo Theater in October.

BUT THEN…I was poking around on Facebook on Saturday morning, and I saw something on her official page about sending an email for a chance to see her perform on Monday night in NYC at a private launch party for her new double album, The Electric Lady. I figured there was no chance, but I send the email anyway and got on with my day. Eleven hours later, I got a reply to my email letting me know I was on the list for the event — location to be disclosed Monday afternoon! WOO-HOO + YAY!!!

The party (sponsored by Target, who are clearly very invested in JM, having floated a pirate ship around the Hudson all day while broadcasting the album over the airwaves) was held at Pier 84, in pretty much ideal weather for outdoor concert-going. The stage was T-shaped with no barrier whatsoever, and because the event was so small compared to a full venue show, I was able to stand all the way up in front in the best possible spot. I kind of couldn’t believe it was happening even before she came on stage.

Here is where I think photos should take over for a bit…

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I don’t know how else to say it: Janelle Monáe is PHENOMENAL on stage. So full of energy and passion and true artistry — and that goes for the rest of her band, too. She OWNS the stage. Everyone at the show was having the most amazing time; singing, dancing, yelling, clapping and pounding the stage. It was one big huge party! I know it’s a cliche to say that someone’s energy is infectious, but Janelle’s really is. I defy anyone to watch her perform and not want to dance like a little old earthquake. She is IT. There is no one else in popular music right now who is doing anything like this — she’s like a futuristic hybrid of James Brown, Michael Jackson, Prince and Judy Garland. UN. REAL.

A few hours before the show, she recorded a performance to air later that night on David Letterman’s show. Let’s take a look, yes?

YES. YES. YES. The audience loved her, Dave loved her, that desk loved her. Why the whole world isn’t talking about this performance (or, for that matter, why we don’t see Janelle on shows like MTV’s VMAs) is really beyond me. We should all be hanging flags out of our windows professing our love for The Electric Lady.

Speaking of The Electric Lady, you’ve gotta get this album. It was officially released yesterday, and I doubt I’ll be listening to anything else for quite a while. It is SO GOOD. There aren’t enough superlatives — it’s the best new album I’ve heard in years. Like Metropolis and The ArchAndroid, The Electric Lady follows the story of android Cindi Mayweather in a continuation of a 7-part concept series. Beyond being a incredible listen, it’s also smart and deep. (Also: PRINCE.)

Let’s look at some more pictures…

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Yes, that’s Diddy, whose Bad Boy label has played a huge role in allowing Janelle to get the exposure she deserves while still maintaining full control over her career and musical output. In his introduction before she came out on stage, Diddy (like Letterman) gave a nod to James Brown by referring to Janelle as “The Hardest Working Woman in Show Business” — and I can’t disagree with that title. She is giving it ALL.

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Big Boi was there too — he sang the praises of his little sister and performed “Tightrope” and “Come Alive,” which as usual turned into a huge party to close out the night. The Wondaland family, the entire band, backstage celebrities and a pack of android-alikes danced like crazy on stage while Janelle crowd-surfed. So good.

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(Just in case you needed more convincing…)

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As of this morning, I think I need to add a new question to my FAQ: “Have you seen this Smiths/Peanuts tumblr?” I’ve received close to 40 emails (!!!) and about a dozen tweets since yesterday about it, leading me to believe that I have indeed accomplished my primary mission in life, which of course is to be someone who comes to mind when subjects involving Morrissey and/or Charlie Brown arise. They’re two of my most favorite guys, forever and always.

The answer, obviously, is YES, I have seen it — I first saw it on the NPR Music blog, courtesy of Jen’s husband. Thanks, Jim! Never before has so much self-awareness and sensitivity been presented in such a heartwarming way. I think the Peppermint Patty & Marcie ones are my favorites. Sheila take a bow, indeed!

For the three remaining people on the planet have not yet seen this brilliant combination of Peanuts comic strips and Smiths lyrics, I hope you enjoy This Charming Charlie as much as I do. Lauren LoPrete is obviously a genius, and I’m truly sorry that I’m not the one who thought to do this. Thank you for making it happen, Lauren! You really made my day/week/life.

And also: Thank you, Charles Schulz. Thank you, Morrissey.

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It has been a LONG time since I posted a mixtape! I’ve had this one in the works for a while now as a follow-up to 2011’s original Summertime Jams mix, but between the too-hot-to-think weather we had in July and all movies I’ve been going to see, I just hadn’t been feeling it. Something happened last week, though — we started having the best summer weather here in New York, the kind you fantasize about during the winter. Cool breezes in the evenings, great sunsets, people out and about at night, hanging out on their stoops and eating late dinners at sidewalk cafés…perfect.

Anyway, I’m in love with this mix, and I hope you like it too. If the Bar-Kays alone don’t make you feel like summertime, then your funky might be broken. Enjoy!! And if you need more music…
Here are all of my previous music mixes!

I guess it’s a little silly to make a weekend to-do list on a Saturday afternoon, but I’m feeling a bit panicked at the moment about not getting done everything that needs to get done. We have guests coming to stay at our house for a long visit, and I want to make sure everything is comfortable for them. Hail the productivity a good to-do list can inspire!

Do this stuff before tomorrow afternoon:
Laundry, including hand-washables
Clean bathrooms
Vacuum
Fresh linens in guest bedroom
✚ Set up closet in guest bedroom; empty drawers/install hanging rack
Clean exterior dryer lint trap
✚ Move stuff in the basement so the plumber doesn’t hate us
Bring excess recyclables to Mommy’s house
Make list of local restaurants/shops for guests
WEED FRONT GARDEN, trim plants
Finish installing butcherblock in kitchen
Oil treatments for butcherblock x3
Make iced coffee

I’m cutting myself off there. I can think of a dozen other things I wish I could get done this weekend, but this is what absolutely HAS to happen.

p.s. GOOD NEWS: We finally got a quote from plumber #3 for removing and re-piping/moving our kitchen radiators at the house. Now we just have to schedule him in here for a day, and then I can FINALLY finish tiling the last two kitchen walls…and we can rip up the carpenter-ant-ravaged subfloor and see what’s going on underneath. I am very anxious to get back to work on the kitchen, so YAYYYY.

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I just came across illustrator and graphic designer Butcher Billy’s “Post-Punk + New Wave Super Friends” series, and I’m not going to be able to resist ordering at least a couple of prints for my walls. Butcher Billy has applied the concept of a superhero to his heroes — the pop culture icons who influenced him as a kid. As he explains it…

As a child of the ’80s I was heavily influenced by everything from Saturday morning cartoons on TV to the music coming from the radio. Ian Curtis or Johnny Rotten are as iconic to me as Superman or Batman. Real people or imaginary characters, the incorruptible ideals of perfect superheroes or the human flaws and desires sometimes so desperately depicted in song lyrics — all of those influences affect us to the point of defining our character and personality, career paths and life choices.

Well, shoot. That just about says it, right? I totally agree, and it looks like Billy and I have a lot of the same heroes.

You can order any of Butcher Billy’s Post-Punk and New Wave Super Friends designs as prints or on t-shirts, iPhone cases and other items through his shop at Society6. View the entire series of posters at Behance.

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All images © Butcher Billy / Available for sale through Society6 / Found via Slicing Up Eyeballs

Morrissey in a frameless frame

For the past 22 years, I’ve been dragging this giant Morrissey poster around with me everywhere I’ve lived — and I’ve lived in a lot of places. It’s done a few stints rolled up in a closet (not for any loss of love for Morrissey, mind you), but it always winds up back on the wall again. One of the first things I thought about when we rented the new apartment was, “Where is Morrissey’s head going to go?”

I’ve never had it in a frame, and the damage it’s incurred as a result is really starting to show. When you’re 15 years old and sticking up a Morrissey poster with Fun-Tak and pushpins and taping the back when it inevitably falls a million times, you’re not thinking about someday being 37 years old and still having that same poster on your wall. At some point I made the switch from tape and tacks to Jørgen Møller’s Posterhanger, which did work well for a few years. It’s a good design, but I think this post is just too big and heavy — it’s about 4×5′, which is pretty darned large and unwieldy. Morrissey started falling again, so I rolled him up and vowed to be a REAL GROWN UP and get him framed properly once and for all.

There’s a very well-rated frame store right near the apartment, so one evening Evan and I popped in to get a quote. I had braced myself for it to be around $600, thinking that if I prepared for the worst I’d be pleasantly surprised when the quote came in lower.

Well, the quote did not come in lower. For the most basic framing option in the simplest frame, the quote was — wait for it — $1300. Yes. I guess I’ve been spoiled by years of cramming stuff into cheap RIBBA frames from IKEA, but I was totally caught off guard. I glazed over immediately and tried to politely listen to the rest of the spiel from the framer before I apologized for wasting her time and left. The other thing I learned was because my reckless teenage self fixed the poster’s tears by putting tape all over the back, it’s not a candidate for reinforcement options like dry-mounting or linen backings. Boooooooo.

At that point, I figured I had four options: (1) Learn how to frame stuff, buy the necessary tools and materials, and frame it myself; (2) Become really good friends with someone who owns a framing shop and then put them in a horrible position where they owe me a huge favor; (3) Order a cheap framing kit online that I’ll never really be happy with; or (4) Slap something together with spare parts and call it a day. I chose option #4.

So here you have it! A couple of lattice strips cut to size, two thumbtacks (inserted through the back of the poster and into the lattice — one at the center top, and one at the bottom) and four binder clips. Done! No, it’s not fancy, and yes, someday I’d still like to have the poster framed by a skilled framing professional who knows what they’re doing, but for now this is totally fine. It’s not going to fall, rip or sag, and that’s all I really care about.

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Side bonus! Here’s a quick review of me and “Our Frank” over the years. I wish I had more pictures of my bedrooms in the ’90s, but such are the realities of life before digital cameras and iPhones. Despite the passing of years, my love for Morrissey remains as strong as the cut of his 30″ jawline. (He’s even in my bio now!)

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