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Welcome to PenHead.org, an oasis of uninformed analysis in a desert of educated guesswork. What is a Penhead? Do you fancy yourself a writer? Enjoy a good read? Then you may already be a Penhead yourself!

We are your source for original stories, the occasional interview with our favorite authors, book and play reviews, recommendations (of current and forgotten finds), and more.

Our Goal: World domination through the written word via the vast network of the internet. Until then, we'll be found risking what's left of our reputations here, at PenHead.org.

Keep in mind the internet's similar to the Jersey Turnpike - it's all about hits and traffic - so visit often, share us repeatedly and we'll do our best to keep things interesting. Who knows... you might even be entertained.


For many, the sixties was a decade best swept under the rug. For others, it remains a phenomenon worthy of recapturing. The former miss the point. Perhaps, so too do the latter. We've been there, done that. To look at the decade as only a period of revolt - the shattering of social norms - is to rob it of the positivity it brought to the table. It was a catalyst of not only drug experimentation (which, argumentally, had its upside as well as down), but of changes to America's fundamental structure. It questioned what the nation stood for, and for whom its constitution served. The decade also blew up our thinking about art, fashion, tradition and music, while expanding the collective consciousness. Love it or hate it, none of us, a half-century later, would be standing where we are without the sixties.

Published under the LIFE moniker by Dotdash Meredith, The Grateful Dead: The Long Strange Trip of the World's Greatest Jam Band chronicles the evolution of the infamous Bay Area band, The Grateful Dead. From its humble beginnings as a jug band, The Grateful Dead exploded . . . more >

Mark Twain is quoted as once saying "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." It's also been said he wanted his tombstone to read: "I told you I was sick." Jerry Garcia, the late great troubador who encapsulated the spirit of The Grateful Dead didn't broadcast to the world his health challenges with diabetes. He didn't have to. The world was watching, and after slipping into a diabetic coma which very nearly upended the band in 1986, there wasn't a fan out there who wasn't aware of Jerry's fragile health.

Dark Star
As for his struggle with addiction, it was a more guarded subject. In the days before social media, an organization like The Grateful Dead could control information more easily, and screen what got publicity, and what didn't. The frequent rifts between band members over Jerry's increasing opiate use, and the personality changes it wrought, fell into the latter. Today, nearly . . . more >

Published in 1977 as a joint venture between Random House and Rolling Stone Press, The Sixties: The Decade Remembered Now by the People Who Lived it Then brings together a bevy of writers to reflect on the decade passed. When it was written, the sixties were still fresh in the minds of Americans. Events seemingly of great importance, had yet to be tested with time. The result is a hodge podge collection of essays; some standing up to the test of time, others feeling incredibly dated.

Designed by Robert Kingsbury and packed with photos, each chapter is dedicated to a single year, opening with a month-to-month calendar listing the events deemed - at the time - significant for that year. The first chapter covers 1960, a year of incredible optimism. San Francisco was experiencing a renaissance in free expression, from fashion to politics to music. JFK got elected to the White House, breaking the conservative grip of the last eight years on Washington, while bringing a sense of hopeful purpose to the national political scene . . . more >

Coffee and nicotine: two things that for many, go hand in hand. Not only is coffee and tobacco a match seemingly made specifically with Parisian cafe' society in mind, they have many things in common. Tobacco-growing regions of the world, in general, are also coffee producing regions. Whereas tobacco is grown in rich fertile valleys, often in the shadow of volcanoes, Coffea arabica is grown on their slopes, taking advantage of nutrient-rich volcanic soils. Additionally, premium tobaccos and specialty coffees are graded in similar terms, and each have been catalysts for both political and cultural revolution.

Steve Luck's The Complete Guide to Cigars: An Illustrated Guide to the World's Finest Cigars is a massive undertaking. Between its covers the author has endeavored to bring to light the history, successes, follies, trends and brands of the world's premium cigar industry. The result is a tome worthy of standing beside Guns, Germs, And Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond (Norton, $18.95), or Kenneth Davids' seminal work on specialty coffee, Coffee . . . more >

Kenneth Davids is the ultimate authority on coffee. Whether your interest lies in green beans, blending, roasting, brewing or serving, Davids has information you want. His mind is a search engine of coffee topics that predates Google. First published in 1976, Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing & Enjoying is Davids' manifesto on all things coffee, and is considered by many the holy grail of the specialty coffee world. Copies of his book are hoarded and jealously guarded by coffee afficionados and industry insiders alike. Among this hoard, there is a consensus that Davids, and Davids alone, can access the secrets behind the alchemy of the world's most popular brew.

Farm to Table
Davids has divided Coffee into chapters that clearly drive home specific subjects. He covers everything from the history of coffee (and corrects some misinformation out there about its orgins) to roasting your own . . . more >

If Kenneth Davids' Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing & Enjoying (The Cole Group, $10.95) is the last word on coffee, then Charles and Violet Schafer's Coffee: A Connoisseur's View of Coffee, Its Lore, Varieties, Brewing Methods, Equipment & Companion Foods to Perfect Your Taste is the first. Whereas Davids focuses his expertise on the subtle technicalities of specialty coffee, the Schafers lend theirs to the social aspects of it.

No novices to the food and beverage industry, they have between them more than fifty years sharing their gastronomical adventures with the world. Hyper-inquisitive, they infuse their writing with lore, history, anecdotes and practical advice. While others write for the industry, the Schafer's audience is clearly outside the business of coffee. They write (and do it well) for people not too dissimilar from themselves; curious readers looking to enrich the social experience around their . . . more >

Geography and geology go hand in hand; there is no separating the two. Likewise, the smaller components - rocks and minerals - that comprise the physicality of geology have a profound effect on the appearance of Earth's geographic features. In nature, no rock is an island.

Death Valley National Monument: A Pictorial History was published while Congress considered granting the Monument National Park status. With the outcome up in the air, the Death Valley Natural History Association (which commissioned the book) wisely proceeded with the project on the assumption National Park status would not be approved. Eight years later, and with the grant of an additional 1.3 million acres, Death Valley was finally awarded National Park status. At 3,373,063 acres, it is the largest park in the contiguous United States.

Hidden Forces
James W. Cornett's Death Valley National Monument is chock-full of information on the Monument/National Park. Once an ancient lake (Lake Manly, named after an early prospector whose unfortunate encounter with . . . more >

Joel Arem enjoys the nitty gritty details of structure. In Rocks and Minerals he dives deep into the atomic anatomy of over 700 rock and mineral types for identification purposes. It seems the gem world - the world of professional mineral traders and serious rock hounds - rely on the atomic make-up of their specimens for conclusive identification. It's these atomic arrangements that give rocks and minerals their unique shapes, determined by how subatomic particles are relating to each other on a level naked to the human eye, and to most microscopes.

While Rocks and Minerals isn't strictly limited to the subatomic world of the various species included in its pages (yes, the different types of rocks and minerals are called species, as if they were living things, which in a sense they are, reactive to temperature and pressure that can change them from one form into another), the bulk of the book's focus is. Although interesting to a point, if you haven't got a degree from . . . more >

Christmas: For many it means crowded box stores. For others, shopping for the best deals online. For still others, it can be defined in one word: family. No matter which group one belongs to, the holidays - no matter how rewarding - are often a hectic race to that big day, December 25th. Now, more than ever, it's important to self-care, whether that means finding a creative outlet, curling up with a book, or sharing a holiday classic with others.

This simple craft book puts the emphasis on doing. With simple instructions, it provides the know-how to create Christmas themed "pseudo" stained-glass. (They're entirely made of paper.) With four designs and full-color examples of the finished product, it offers guidance in easy-to-understand directions to complete your stained-glass creations through the use of templates. A godsend for anyone looking to create simple holiday decor that's off . . . more >

First published in 1972, Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has become a holiday favorite. Written for readers with somewhere between beginning and intermediate skills, it's a story that's gained fans young and old alike. The simple narration is told through the eyes of a child about a common tradition played out in churches around the world: the annual Christmas pageant.

When the Herdman children (think of the worst family in your neighborhood - unsupervised, rowdy, irreverent and full of mischief) are allowed to participate in the annual Christmas pageant against everyone's better judgement, they result in bullying their way into the meatiest roles, and the production is prematurely written off as a failure.

Similar to John Irving's pageant in A Prayer for Owen Meany (Ballantine Books, $6.99), in which anything that can go wrong does, Robinson's pageant holds that same possibility for disaster, but disaster never pans out. Instead, the Herdmans do everything right - although different from past pageants - and the attendees gain a . . . more >

The term "classic" is overused these days. But some things cannot be described any other way, whether they be a song, film, or book.

For many of my generation, Gene Autry's crooning over a little reindeer is the earliest song in their memory. Released in 1949, it clinched Rudolph's status as a holiday icon. The story (in case you've been in a coma) is about Rudolph, a reindeer living at the North Pole with an odd physical anomaly: his nose glows. One Christmas Eve, Santa can't get his sleigh off the ground due to fog. Rudolph's talent for lighting the way is discovered, and what's once a source of scorn, becomes a cause for celebration. The story, now approaching 85 years, has become synonymous with the holidays, and the song, a Christmas tradition. If . . . more >


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