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Hello, web visitor.

I have moved my current web presence to There you can find information about my book Ghost Dances: Proving Up on the Great Plains, and current readings and reviews, etc. I’m not an overly active blogger, I’ve learned, so I can’t keep both this one and that one current. 



My review of Luc Sante’s book Folk Photography: The American Real-Photo Postcard is now up on the Faster Times. It’s in the form of six real-photo postcards. Pictures by Jay “shutterbug” Davis.

While I’m updating things here, here’s an older post I should have put up: a blog on polygamous Mormons and Wallace Stegner.

Here are some links to Mike’s videos of me playing a couple of tunes in the late afternoon a couple of weeks ago. For some reason it looks like the videos won’t embed themselves, so you’ll have to click the link to see the fruits of his talents.

Blue Scare from michael beach nichols on Vimeo.

Girls and Beer from michael beach nichols on Vimeo.

I scanned my Hellbender patches for illustrations on this piece. Plus, I used a flyer from the Rapid City Punk Rock Archive.

Here it is: at the Rumpus.

Just so you and I can keep track, here are my latest pieces on this world-wide web of ours:

1. a “review” of Joan Didion’s classic book, The White Album, up on the Faster Times.

2. an analysis of the poetry in the hate speech of the Rev. (for “reviled,” of course) Fred Phelps, Mr. God Hates Fags himself; this is up on the reliably fascinating Killing the Buddha.

3. a review of A Heartbeat and a Guitar, a book about Johnny Cash’s strange and brilliant album Bitter Tears, on the Faster Times as well.

The change in seasons, pollution, market fluctuations, and any number of other factors can leave your body vulnerable to attack by dangerous outside elements. Before you feel that first tickle in your throat, down a jigger of this booster cocktail to arm yourself.

In a small mortar and pestle (or with a zinc-galvanized nail in a thimble), crush:

2000 mg Vitamin C
1 dash instant coffee

Pour powder into a martini shaker and add:

5 pumps gel alcohol (such as Purell) with aloe
1 tsp. pomegranate juice
3 ice cubes

Crush, shake, and strain through a germ-proof facemask.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Soloboom: Up Close with Josh“, posted with vodpod

I was brought up in a land far from this one, your America; it’s a world that certainly doesn’t exist anymore, and I’m increasingly unsure whether it ever did. Absaroka, I guess I’ll call it here, after the failed Northern Plains secession state of the 1930s.

As I recall it was a rather haggard kingdom: a shingled castle, carriage house doors made of bifurcating plywood once beigewashed, and a royal sedan of crumpled alloy festooned at its back with peeling, breast-beating coats of arms: “Save the Farm… Export Reagan!”; “Lick Bush in ’92”; “Kill Your Television”; whatever. But I was told I was prince of all I surveyed, or at least all I’ve just mentioned.

A child suckles the pieties of his homeland without skepticism or guile, and pieties there were in my Absaroka. We adhered to a spartan lifeway, maintaining a violent pacifism, supporting only armies of salvation. It seemed for a time that our kind might ascend to world dominance, or at least influence, around the time said bush was licked. Then, holey cardigans and flannels were so popular as to be scarcely found among the armies of salvation or those of good will. A saxophonist had taken the world’s reins—a good sign.

Strangest—some would say most barbaric—of our customs was the practice of carbon footbinding. You see, even the slightest of human desires has a cost to Gaia, and it is the agitation of all that desire from all the billions of people who have ever lived that rubs against the ice caps and is now finally disintegrating them. My folks sought to nip this syndrome in the bud with the carbon footbinding. It was painful at times, certainly—or was that just a lack of pleasure, a comparison to the hedonist gentiles around me? I got used to it.

It’s only now that Absaroka has sunk like Atlantis (again, if it ever existed) that I’m troubled, hobbling around Babylon on knobby peg-legs. I act nonchalant, but the truth is I’m deathly lonely here and unsure of every step. My runty tarsals are like brittle sticks of chalk, and each time I flip on a light-switch it feels as if one might break. I sit in the dark, eating room-temperature local food and waiting for someone to knock on my door; I darn my socks in the night when there’s nobody there. Two weeks ago I sewed rubber bands from the weekly newspaper (a small allowance, obtained through cap-and-trade therapy) into the tops of one tiny, old pair because they were falling off my stunted stubs. I want to hang out, I do, but nearly every opportunity I have to connect with one of you induces an excruciating pedal swelling: a cruise of the loop, a bottle of beer flown from Holland, a coal-fired motion picture splashing on a screen like tides against a dike.

It’s embarrassing to watch, really. I hate to even say anything, but—these poor souls! By which I mean not souls of poor folk, of course, but rather souls we can’t help but look on with a grimace of patronizing pity before we look away.

It’s been so—well, painful, to witness the newfound social mobility facilitated by the recent market situation. Less painful like, “Aww,” and more like, “Eww.” To hear the masters of the universe inhale sharply and wonder aloud whence rent will come this month, to watch them packing their lunches in Citarella bags and munching with the peons they haven’t laid off yet over noon-hour, to even think of them perspiring ostentatiously back in coach—it’s about as nauseating as a McMansion with plaster Corinthian columns.

Heavens, don’t they know how obvious they’re being? Again, eww. Conspicuous nonconsumption is so Patty Hearst. We will soon have to hear how their children are the first in their families not to go to college, how canned soup is good food, how they bought a dress on consignment or, if you can believe this, at the Salvation Army (“…but it looks perfectly new; you’d never be able to tell”; so why are you telling us?). They clearly never got the pink slip about the noble poor, who suffer in silence if you give us a fifth of Old Crow or an eighth of weed—and not just in bear markets.

They may be riding mass transit in the middle of the day dressed in old casuals, but they will never escape their patrimony. You can smell it on their breath like Moët. Their faces are just a shade too unlined even months after the layoff. They have straight, white teeth. And they still don’t give anything to the hunchback beggars or the acrobatic, nonwhite teenagers who pass down the aisle ever more frequently these days, not the way we, the old moneyless, do.