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About "Dan Brown"

I do a bit of everything for The Free Press. I edit copy, write columns, report, and blog on I've been with the paper — which I delivered as a kid growing up in Poplar Hill — since 2005. My main passions are pop culture and local personalities, and I also do a weekly column about graphic novels. Like what you read? Got a beef? Send me an e-mail at or tweet me at @DanatLFPress. I look forward to hearing from you!

Keith Tomasek’s podcast

- December 16th, 2014

Keith Tomasek is the Londoner behind Stratford Festival Reviews.

But you may not know that he also has a regular podcast, The Inadequate Life.

Keith describes it as “a podcast about the creative process and those whose lives depend on it.”

Check out his latest, which features an interview with Wortley Village writer Mary Rayner.

You can find it by clicking here.

London Humane Society appeals to public after cat has leg amputated

- December 15th, 2014

Samarah is a three-legged London kitty who is looking for a forever home!

Would she be suitable for you?

If you need more info, check out our update about this irresistible feline.

As the kids say, she is adorbs — totes adorbs.

This little gal is going to make some Forest City family very happy!

London travel writer blogs Christmas trip

- December 14th, 2014

Melanie Chambers is a writing instructor at Western with a passion for travel.

She is currently overseas, and you can read about her latest adventure by clicking on this link.

She was in Iceland for a few days, and has now flown to Norway.

If you have any other local blogs you would like me to plug, leave a message below or send the link to

Enjoy Melanie’s blog musings!

Santa Claus is coming to town, whether you like it or not

- December 9th, 2014

Most Christmas pop culture is cheap, shabby and weird.

But that doesn’t mean our attachment to it is any less genuine. If it makes us feel, it’s a valid work of art.

What is the absolute worst piece of Christmas pop culture?

That’s a hard question to answer, since there are so many possible responses.

There are forgettable movies.

Heck, one performer on his own – hip wiseguy Vince Vaughn – appears to specialize in these stinkers, with both Four Christmases and Fred Claus on his ever-growing filmography.

There are such novelty records as Meowy Christmas, Here Comes Santa Claws and Rhythm and Mews (you get the idea), all by the Jingle Cats.

And there are TV shows like the Star Wars Holiday Special, which is so crappy that Star Wars creator George Lucas spent decades after its 1978 debut trying to suppress the thing.

However, the one piece of Christmas pop culture I hate the most, above all others, is Bruce Springsteen’s live rendition of Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.

It’s hard to explain why I detest this song so, but I’ll try.

It has to be the sloppiest, laziest version of a song that was pretty mediocre to begin with.

There’s always a point in the Christmas season when I am out shopping, or listening to the radio, when I hear the Boss and his forced cheer for the first time that year.

It inevitably sends a shiver of dread down my spine.

Maybe I hate it for the simple fact that it’s been played to death.

Then again, every Christmas song is overplayed and I don’t hate all of those ones.

Some I think are quite beautiful, such as Dean Martin’s take on Silver Bells, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee and Mel Torme’s definitive version of the Christmas Song.

I actually look forward to hearing some Christmas tunes. Not so with the E Street Band.

Which isn’t to say I don’t get the financial imperative behind Christmas pop culture.

The idea is to pay to produce it once, then re-use it every December and cash in over the long haul. Christmas crap represents one of the best returns on investment in pop culture.

And the odd side effect is that, through repetition, audiences begin to form an attachment to the most unlikely stuff.

Look at the Jimmy Stewart motion picture It’s a Wonderful Life, which bombed when it was released in 1946. By dint of repeated airings, it has become a holiday classic.

This, despite featuring an unbalanced lead character in George Bailey. It is a truly Christian film because the message is that the individual must be sacrificed for the betterment of the community — which is a pretty grim reality to grapple with during what is supposed to be a joyous time of year.

But enough of my complaints. I would love to hear from you.

What is the worst part of Christmas pop culture in your view?

I would love to know in the comments below.

How to fight back against Christmas creep

- December 1st, 2014

Ever-increasing Christmas creep is a serious problem because ultimately it makes Christmas less special, robbing the holiday of its power.

What am I talking about?

The fact that we now have at least two months of Christmas cheer, which is way too much of a good thing.

I understand the feelings that are powering Christmas creep.

It is such a special time of year.

I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas. Many of my happiest memories revolve around it.

I don’t blame you or anyone else for wanting the peace of Yule to extend for as many months as possible, but it’s arriving earlier and earlier every year.

I turned my TV set on the morning after Halloween and noticed Christmas commercials and movies were suddenly all over every channel. It was impossible to avoid them.

And that’s not the worst of it.

Some stores, like a certain craft retailer I know, had their Christmas displays up by early October. Some big-box stores had artificial trees on sale in August, when most people were doing their back-to-school shopping.

It’s not that I begrudge anyone the opportunity to make a buck.

I don’t want anyone to stop celebrating Christmas, but the least we can do is try to preserve its appeal.

How do we stop it from being drained of all its unique glory?

I’m afraid it’s up to us.

For starters, we can refuse to watch the Christmas specials until a few weeks before Christmas. Dec. 1 is a good benchmark, I think, or even Nov. 25 – which would allow for one month of Christmas, which is plenty.

We can refrain from turning on our outside holiday lights until then.

We can use our power as consumers to hold off on holiday purchases.

Heck, would it hurt anybody to make a new rule that veterans should be the focus of our attention until Remembrance Day?

I realize I may sound like a Grinch. Maybe you think I’m trying to spoil your fun. I’m not. What I am trying to do is keep this holiday special.

Christmas creep is sort of like grade inflation in schools: Just as not every child can be an A student, it can’t be Christmas every day of the year.

Christmas is a powerful time exactly because it is fleeting. Like all good things, it should come and go quickly — so we make the most of it until next time.

So I’m asking you to put a conscious thought into how you celebrate this year.

We need to limit our Yuletide feelings to a shorter period of time. Christmas creep needs to be confined.

Otherwise, the best day of the entire year will become humdrum and ordinary.

Who’s with me?