I MADE YOU A CHILDREN'S BOOK NOT FOR CHILDREN: "IS TED PARANOID?" (NSFW)


"ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST!" -- PHOTOS & MORE FROM THE LAST BIG HURRAH AT CHOP SUEY, SEATTLE, WA. 1/18/15

It was coming, and we knew it was coming for months, but that didn't really make it any easier. The buyout, closing, and rebranding of one of the few remaining small clubs for Seattle's "musical misfit" community, Capitol Hill's Chop Suey, is a personal punch to the gut. Booker Jodi Ecklund worked her ass off to not only bring in awesome national and international bands to Chop's stage, but was and is a true champion of local music, multi-cultural awareness, and charity. All the punks, funks, queers, geeks, freaks, thrashers, bashers, moshers, paraders, and even geriatric suburban moms like me were welcomed with open arms, never judged, and always entertained. The shaggy old Chinese dragon hanging from the ceiling greeted you upon arrival, and didn't say anything if you left after a show covered in beer and sweat, smiling from ear to ear.

So be it. Change is here, and we will figure out a new home one way or another. But it was important to have one last big show honoring Jodi and all the good times we had together. "Another One Bites The Dust!" quickly sold out with a stellar and super-fun local lineup: Blood Drugs, Childbirth, Sashay, Chastity Belt, Deep Creep, Kithkin, Universe People, wimps, Pony Time, and Tacocat, with DJ Dave Hernandez keeping it all grooving between sets. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to go -- a major illness has kept me on the low n' slow side for the last month, and has also affected my eyesight to where I can't drive nor take photographs (my peepers should be back to normal within a month, whew) -- but DAMMIT, I HAD TO BE THERE so got there for the last few hours of the event. Talk about a lovefest! Just about everyone I know in town was there, hugging, laughing, talking, dancing, moshing, and remembering. A few tears here and there, but the vibe was still so positive, and nearly every person left that night for the last time covered in beer and sweat, smiling from ear to ear.

My dear pal and fellow Wisconsinite Jerkaminski offered to photograph the show for me for most of the earlier hours, which was SO NICE and then got even nicer when I got there and she brought me SNACKS! I tell you, I'm one lucky punk. Bring it on, Clint Eastwood, bring it on. Please to enjoy her images right now!



YOU CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC: PHOTOS & A FOND FAREWELL TO SEATTLE'S CHOP SUEY

Do you know what the buyout of Capitol Hill's beloved music dive Chop Suey means to me and a whole lot of funky punky sorts? It may be hard to understand that in the context of some of the realities of the ol' joint, dark and dim with a weird layout and bathrooms that never smelled so great, hosting a lot of crazy-ass weirdos, bands and patrons alike. But if you are part of the Chop Suey community, you know -- another one of our dwindling musical "homes" is likely to be making some major changes. I'm not averse to change, mind you, but like in so many cities across the nation now, small alternative venues like Chop Suey are closing, replaced by luxury condos, big box stores, frou-frou gastropubs, or mindless EDM venues. Artists and musicians are struggling to live and work on negligible pay while seeing the character of their neighborhoods corporatized and diluted. I know this pattern is not new, I know all the creatives will eventually find and form new and supportive communities and/or rally to keep the scraps that remain, but it's at times quite disheartening.

This Sunday, January 18th, fierce and fabulous booker Jodi Ecklund has put together one last bash to celebrate all the glorious times we've had at Chop Suey, "Another One Bites The Dust!" The show, which begins at 4PM with (very awesome) DJ Dave Hernandez, will feature the coolest, and MOST DAMN FUN local bands we have: Tacocat, Kithkin, wimps, Pony Time, Chastity Belt, Universe People, Deep Creep, Childbirth, Sashay, and Blood Drugs. If you have not purchased your tickets yet, STOP READING THIS RIGHT NOW and GO HERE -- best ten bucks you'll ever spend, Seattle.



SIXTEEN MORE WEIRD RECORD COVERS FROM VALUE VILLAGE AND GOODWILL THRIFT STORES TO START OUT 2015!

Have you ever thought, "Gee, I wish I could have had a musical career -- that would have been super cool!" and kicked yourself for never following through with it? Here's something to cheer you up: you very well could have spent years of your life crafting your songs and image, secured a record contract, recorded what you felt was your life's master work, and then your album could have been discovered by me years later, discarded, dirty, and unloved, in a thrift store. Count your blessings, my friends. Please to enjoy this latest batch of weirdoes!

Well. Hmm. I...I...um...I am confused. Like, in every way possible. I have no answers, so just look.


PEOPLE TAKE PICTURES OF EACH OTHER: MY FAVORITE CONCERT PHOTOS THAT I TOOK IN 2014!

Do you know WHAT?

Taking live music photographs is REALLY FUN. Even when it's miserably hot, you have beer thrown all over you and your camera gear, get elbowed in the kidney, or have to face strobe lights that feel like a nuclear blast, grabbing images of fast-moving, ever-changing stage situations while grooving to great music is a professional and personal delight. I hope to continue doing it for a long time, and I hope you like that hope of mine.

For a variety of reasons, I did not shoot a large number of concerts this year (less than 40 different musical acts), but I genuinely enjoyed each and every one. From Seattle's pretty Volunteer Park to the big ol' Bumbershoot Festival, from my favorite funky glam club in Miami to my favorite funky punk club a few miles from my house, from brand-new bands to those that have more than 50 years in the biz, I had plenty of opportunities to ROCK OUT, always trying to bring you cool photographs and improve my skills each time I take another crack at capturing magic. My selections here only had only one factor: do I love it? Not "like," not "OK," not "is-this-a-big-band," not "these-are-my-pals" -- just "is this beautiful?" So, please to enjoy, and I will work very hard to get up and running for more in 2015! Thank you for looking at my work, which is also my joy.

FEBRUARY 2014

Tacocat, Chop Suey, Seattle, WA. 2/17/14

2S0A5729

COPPING THE ELECTRIC FEEL: AN AGING HIPSTER'S TAKE ON BASSNECTAR

This is Marianne's pal Dena, commandeering this space one more time to bend your ear about beats and bleeps and bloops because that's what I'm digging these days. I am delighted to inform you that Marianne is recuperating nicely from her recent health travails and will soon be filling this space with more bizarre thrift-shop finds and concert recaps. In the meantime, doesn't Bassnectar have pretty hair?
Image via WhiteRaverRafting
Reading my better half’s ruminations on hipness the other day, it struck me again how we both have always had our antennae out for that next jolt of musical inspiration or transcendence. Sometimes we have shared our thrills in dark, sweaty clubs and concert halls and sometimes we have found them separately, but the common thread is that we are both always searching for music that tickles our neurons in ways they haven’t been tickled before. I shall always remember 2014 as the year I fell out of love with Rufus Wainwright and heeded a magnetic pull to electronica, which is how I found myself at a Bassnectar show in Las Vegas on November 5, grooving to phat beatz with a bunch of kids who were young enough to be my offspring.

I’m not sure how it happened, but these days I find I spend a lot less time contemplating jangly guitar music on my headphones and a lot more time blasting Robyn and The Knife on my Road Rocker in the basement while I play with my hoops or fold laundry. I’m still a newcomer to the genre and I mostly know just a handful of songs that I’m obsessed with, but I need energy and melody and beat, or I am just not satisfied. I was torn when I saw Bassnectar was playing at Brooklyn Bowl on my last night in Las Vegas before I flew back to Chicago. For one thing, I was boarding my bus to the airport at 6:15 the next morning.  But goddamnit, for once I had the cash resources to see almost any show I wanted and what I wanted was a nonstandard Las Vegas experience. I wanted to see a show that was not the same every night, so I bought my ticket and set my controls for the heart of the Brooklyn Bowl.

I saw the doors opened quite early, so I thought I would saunter in late, sidle up to the bar for a drink, and blend into the crowd. Instead, the line snaked out the door and onto the Linq Plaza when I got there. Shortly thereafter, they moved the line forward and we all stood on the stairs for about an hour for reasons that remain unknown to me. Between that and the fact that they frisked me twice and confiscated my brand-new Lip Balm before I was finally admitted to the venue, I could have gotten really cranky. As it was my feet ached and my lips were getting paler and dryer by the moment, but I could not help reflecting that this was the nicest and most polite bunch of people with whom I had ever been trapped on a staircase. They all seemed so happy I was there with them and I was Dena and we were all seeing Bassnectar together that I tapped into the welcoming vibe and felt my anticipation building. Then Mr. Bassnectar started his set and my hair stood on end from the bass, and I knew I was in the right place.

I’m not here to write a detailed review of this show. That would be no fun for me and I do not have enough knowledge of Bassnectar’s music to do it justice. The only song I heard all night that I knew was his remix of “Hello” by Martin Solveig and Dragonette, a song I first heard when it popped up on Spotify and which I have played as compulsively as just about any other song I heard this year. By this point, I wasn’t sure if my hair was standing on end because the bass was so loud or because I was having a mystical experience. The kinetic visuals enhanced this sensation, from Loren Ashton’s evident enjoyment as he bounced back and forth between two laptops and tossed his long, flowing hair with abandon to the wonderfully trippy video projections that covered not only the screen behind Bassnectar, but also the front of the DJ booth itself. And then there was the delightful candi-festooned crowd, full of exuberant movement and joy, splashing beer on me right and left and then apologizing sincerely every time. I felt pretty bad that I had to leave early to go back to my hotel and pack, but I knew I would do it again the next chance I got.

I’m an old fart on the far side of my fifties, but I’m not dead yet. Once upon a time I was the youngest person in the room when the Dolls played their last shows at Max’s Kansas City (with Blondie as opener and Wayne County in the DJ booth, no less), and now I’m one of a small handful of obvious geezers at the Bassnectar show, almost forty years later. This flip in perspective seems completely appropriate when I think about it. My neurons fire harder and I feel more alive and energized when I place myself in these highly charged situations. I don’t know if always keeping one eye open for new aesthetic kicks and settling only for music that makes my hair stand on end ever qualified me as a hipster, but I fully intend to keep sticking my finger in sockets until I finally short myself out.





GUEST POST: MY HIP(NESS) HURTS

Sometimes our goddamn earthly vessels decide to communicate that something is wrong by staging a massive shutdown that forces us to kick back and recalibrate, and so it is that Marianne has found herself bedridden for the nonce. I have no doubt she will be back in her batcave banging out blog posts before we know it, but in the meantime, please aim all your most potent healing gamma rays in your direction.  This is Marianne’s pal Dena, stepping in for just a few days to make sure all of ye faithful Popthomologists do not lack for new quality content to ponder. Since my own head is currently running on empty due to post-holiday work overwhelm, my lovely and talented spouse Bill Tarlin has stepped up to the plate with a few timely observations regarding life as an aging hipster. Cool, daddio. I would be amiss if I did not inform you that Mr. Tarlin is a legit writer of poetry of whom we are very proud. Check out his stuff here. Now, Quick! To the Batmobile!

Image via Funnyjunk
The other day at work someone mentioned a local punk band that had gotten back together. I said, “Oh yeah, I saw them. They were on first that time Husker Du opened for the Dead Kennedys.” Suddenly all eyes were on me like I had witnessed the signing of the Magna Carta. Or as one flanneled hipster put it, “Dude, I wasn’t even born then.” 

On this side of 50 there are too many opportunities to say “Well back in my day…” and it’s probably only going to get worse. The funny thing is, it isn’t like saying I lived through the Great Depression and suffered the privations of 3 front-page wars. It’s more like, “Yeah, you got that Einstürzende Neubauten tattoo 10 years ago but when I saw them play at EXIT, you were still in diapers.” 

When I was their age I didn’t want to relive another generation’s greatest hits. In my day sonny, I wanted the absolute fringes of novelty. It seemed to be a decades long wave of Now and I don’t know where the grey snuck in. And I suppose I was on the front lines of protests against the first Gulf War, though no one wants to hear about that. Its popthamology that is persistent. I saw REM when Michael Stipe had long hair. Really. 

I slipped off the pop wave years ago to explore alleys of ethnographic and avant-garde purity. You have to blaze your own trail. Oh, and Jazz. Every fart used-to-be hipster has their jazz. So I don’t have a clue whats on the radio now. (Is there still radio? Marianne will know.) But it’s satisfying to know that twenty-somethings take an interest in the soundtrack of my twenty-sometimes. Meanwhile David Bowie belongs in a museum now. Literally!!! We have tickets to see the exhibit next week.

That’s no coincidence. Lately I’ve wandered back out of the alleys and am revisiting the greatest hits of my prime. Much of my demographic is surely doing the same. Look for more and more relics of late-stage baby boomage to flood the high and low markets. Look for stadium acts to be franchised like Australian Pink Floyd. Weird mash-ups of Andrew Lloyd Weber and the Sex Pistols? Already happened.

One thing that is worrying about being an aging culture consumer is that we can keep winding the clock backwards until we are insufferable. Along with the music of my college days, I’m revisiting the comic books of my teens, the tv shows of my tweens (we didn’t have that word in the 70s) and so on back to infancy. Is that what getting old will be like? When I’m seventy will I be pulling the binky out of some grandkid’s maw and letting them know I teethed on rawhide? I hope so. Frighten the little ones so they’ll make a better world.

But as I was saying. Um. (I get the forgets sometime). Everything is being served back to us. It can be beautiful. A new mom we know posted after xmas about watching Adam West’s Batman for the first time. That show is now guaranteed another couple of generations of pop brilliance. We are in a golden moment where we have access to almost everything. (Except justice and peace?) The door may slam shut when the Barons figure out a better turn-style and raise the rent on our past. But until then I am privileged that I can google proof that my generation was cooler than yours. I was there when it stank of tobacco and originality. That gum you like is back in style. And the toys I desperately wanted when I was 5 years old had better commercials than any shite on the shelfs now.

PEOPLE LIKE LISTS: MY FAVORITE 15 ALBUMS* OF 2014!

In the midst of the general chaos that is my every December, it is a genuine pleasure to revisit the year in new music and spend a few hours going through all the wonderful album releases I have enjoyed in 2014, in part because this task also involves some spirited chair dancing and tasty eggnog. My selection parameters are these: the albums must be new music released in 2014 (but, hey, don't miss out on The Kinks 5-CD set  The Anthology 1964-1971), and that they must have contained songs that left a lasting impression and kept me singing, dancing, rocking, and thinking all year. I kept coming back to these albums for moremoremore, and invite you to discover them for yourselves if you have not already! Let's go!



HAIKU: POST OFFICE AT THE HOLIDAYS, 2014

With trepidation
I enter the post office;
The worst time of year.

Only two boxes!
I try to cheer myself up;
My arms, getting sore.

No one is smiling.
Christmas music is playing.
They should serve eggnog.

Yes! Eggnog! Gallons!
In giant mugs and spiked with
Bourbon or Xanax.

Hey Lady! Move back!
Don't you try to cut in line!
Or I will cut you.

Why are there only
Two counter workers working?
It destroys my soul.

Many small dramas
Are playing out before me.
Shipping cost despair.

"Will this box arrive
To Australia before
Christmas? Ha, ha! NO."

"Do you need some stamps?
Do you need some stamps? Do you..."
" DEAR GOD, NO, THANK YOU."

Each year I do this.
What do I learn? I am a
Procrastinator.






VIDEO: THE GLORIOUS, TECHNI-COLORFUL, HISTORIC ANIMATION OF TED ESHBAUGH'S "THE WIZARD OF OZ" (1933)

One of the great joys in life is that there are always, always, fascinating things to discover and share, new or new-to-you. I am particularly interested in entertainment technology of the last century, so when I came across this amazing little animated film from 1933 on TCM, I was excited to bring it to you here.

Ted Eshbaugh (1906-1969) was a pioneer in animated color cartoons, and an independent name often buried in history by more-famous and corporatized cartoon competition (cough-Disney-cough). The legendary film processing company Technicolor commissioned Eshbaugh to produce author L. Frank Baum's "The Wizard of Oz," a one-reel color cartoon testing its new three-strip dye-transfer technology. Note the beginning of the cartoon, as Dorothy's bland Kansas morphs into the Land of Oz's super-saturated riot of color -- an idea that was replicated six years later in the groundbreaking and beloved 1939 MGM version of "The Wizard of Oz," which also featured the arduous Technicolor three-strip process. For reasons unknown, Eshbaugh's gorgeous, historic cartoon was never offered to the public (cough - Disney had a contract with Technicolor at the same time - cough), so remained largely unseen, only circulated underground in poor quality until its first commercial release in Canada in 1985, also in less-than-ideal condition.

Fortunately for us, Thunderbean Animation has fully restored Eshbaugh's cartoon to its proper glory this year, and you can purchase it along with several other delightful and historic cartoons of the era on Blu Ray and DVD. (hint: the holidays are coming up like NOW). It's worth seeing on your big screen HD TV. For now, please to enjoy!

Ted Eshbaugh's "The Wizard of Oz" (1933)





PHOTOS & SHOW REVIEW: THEE OH SEES & JACK NAME @ THE CROCODILE, SEATTLE, WA. 12/1/14

It is inarguable that the world is in constant, ceaseless change. It is also true that we often resist change, preferring to reside in our comfort zones until prodded out. One thing I have noticed over these decades as a dedicated music fan is, MAN, people HATE it when a beloved lineup of a favorite band goes through a radical change. The "new guys" always have it rough, trying to live up to recording and performance legacies that can be pretty daunting. It's not fair, but it's common.

Take Thee Oh Sees, the Hardest Working Band In Showbiz. The California garage psych combo, featuring frenetic lead vocalist/guitarist/mastermind John Dwyer, was long made up of Brigid Dawson on vocals and keyboards, Petey Dammit on bass, and Mike Shoun on drums, until a band "hiatus" was announced about a year ago. Fan lamentations were shouted to the sky, fearing a permanent dissolution. This did not quite happen, as the band released their album "Drop" early in 2014, and a new touring lineup was formed of Dwyer, Nick Murray (from the touring lineup of White Fence) on drums, and Tim Hellman on bass. What?? No sweet Brigid, no shreddy Petey, no steady Shoun? Well, no, because CHANGE, as we have discussed. Embracing the idea of change, I landed at the Crocodile in Seattle this past Monday excited and ready to see and hear what the Trés Oh Sees would bring.



My arrival timing was off, however, since I expected opener Jack Name (who also tours with White Fence) to start later in the evening. By the time I got there and set up my camera gear, his set was nearly finished. It was an unusual set-up, in near complete blue-hued darkness, with the musicians facing each other instead of the audience. I felt a bit like I was an unwanted guest, and had trouble connecting to the chilly, somber demeanor and synth-heavy sound. That said, perhaps if I had been there for the entire set I would have dug the groove. Punctuality is important, kids.


The all-ages, sold-out crowd at the Croc filled the floor with shiny faces and moshy bodies, ready to go Oh Sees mental. Lineup change or not, it was certain that Dwyer would bring his trademark manic energy to the set, and that drives everything. In near-constant motion, he held his guitar high on his chest, wielding it like an assault rifle, filling the room with a reverb-laden crunch. Immediately, the crowd began to release its own energy back, the center swirling and undulating like a hurricane sea, waves of arms and shoulders and heads crashing into each other, quite happily. 

I enjoyed the show immensely as well, straight through to the two-song encore. Dwyer, Murray, and Hellman did a damn fine gig, and if there were any jitters or mistakes, I sure didn't hear them. Here are the changes I noticed:

Vocals: It's all on Dwyer now. He's more than up to the challenge; however, since he sings in a higher register most of the time, I do miss the warmth and strength of Brigid doubling-up with him. It's a lot for one person to be heard over all that glorious noise.

Keys: Dwyer added a little synth here and there. Again, I liked the extra keys myself, but it's not critical to the live Oh Sees sound.

Bass: Hellman is the performance-opposite of Dammit -- reserved vs. high-energy. It wasn't easy for me to hear him specifically from where I was, but he did just fine. Also, in place of Petey's Doc Martins, Tim prefers the naked onstage foot. The More You Know!

Drums: I'm already familiar with Nick Murray's style, which is quite different from Shoun's but equally appealing. Shoun is crisp, precise, and no-nonsense, with clean and complex fills, making me almost sure he learned to play drums in school. Murray has a more relaxed feel reminiscent of mid- to late-'60s psychedelic drum styles -- more organic, you could say, and very comfortable in Dwyer's longer jams where his loping, rolling power propels the songs in a wholly different and interesting space.

Now is the time we enjoy The Fabulous Flying Hair Of John Dwyer! Click on the photos to enlarge and click on the Flickr set link for even more photos!



















Long may any and all incarnations of Oh Sees reign. DO NOT MISS THIS BAND...well, ever!

A TINY HOLIDAY TREAT: CBS' 1966 "SEASONS GREETINGS" COMMERCIAL BY R. O. BLECHMAN, WILLIS PYLE, & ARNIE BLACK

Nostalgia and the holidays go together naturally, like a cold day and cocoa, or horrible ice storms and tire chains. I like to remember all the pleasant, fun things about Christmas from the days when it all was quite exciting and magical and all I had to do was make a few paper snowflakes and show up in my flannel jammies on Christmas morn. I don't have any religious traditions around the holiday, but I do take from Christmas the sincere spirit of goodwill, generosity, and kindness, and do try to remember it throughout the year, as best I can.

I came across a little piece of nostalgia today that warmed my heart when I saw it. It is just a small thing: a one-minute-long interstitial station ID from CBS-TV, from December, 1966. It was designed by the award-winning illustrator R.O. Blechman, animated by the very accomplished Willis Pyle, and the music was arranged by Arnie Black. I remember it very well, and am sure it must have been shown for several years after. It needs no words to tell its story, and is playful, sweet, and touching. It's everything you'd want in a piece of art, and everything good you need to take from a season that is often bludgeoned with commercialism and stress.

Please to enjoy.

CBS-TV, "Seasons Greetings" R. O. Blechman Commercial, 1966








HEY HOLIDAY SHOPPERS! CHECK OUT THE "GALLMART" BLACK FRIDAY FLYER!

(Click to enlarge each page for DEALS DEALS DEALS!)


I MADE YOU SOME THANKSGIVING CARDS (SORT OF NSFW)



REVIEW: AN EVENING WITH JOHN CLEESE @ UNIVERSITY TEMPLE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, SEATTLE, WA. 11/16/14

My solitary issue with Reginald Cleese, father of John Cleese (you know, that lanky British writer/actor fellow who is terribly funny on the television device and in the movie parlor and inside those paper word-holder thingys) is this: by changing the family name from "Cheese" to "Cleese," he prevented thousands of hack writers like myself the opportunity to entitle essays about his son with lame surname jokes.

"JOHN'S 'CHEESE-D' OFF AT THE DAILY MAIL AGAIN!"

"CHEESE CURDLES IN ACIDIC NEW COMEDY"

"WHO CUT THE CHEESE?: JOHN DROPS OUT OF PROPOSED MONTY PYTHON FOX-TV SERIES, 'MORTY BOA CONSTRICTOR'"

But I suppose I must forgive the dearly departed Reg for this, as he did provide us somewhat indirectly with one of the biggest laughs of the night during "An Evening With John Cleese": a show-stopping and spectacularly hilarious recreation of his morning smoker's cough, delivered by his son in choking, expertly-timed, red-faced comic perfection, so horrifyingly realistic I feared that the Reg's son, a strapping lad of 75 years, might blow a lurking aneurysm and drop dead on the church floor. I feel, although this would have been truly awful to witness and possibly even worse to have happen personally, there would have been no regrets on John Cleese's part. He committed to the bit, gave it everything he had, and one has to admit that it would have been very darkly humorous indeed to cough yourself to extinction inside a church moments after you asked "Is is alright to say 'fuck' in here?"

Presented by the University of Washington Bookstore, "An Evening With John Cleese" delighted the capacity crowd at the lovely University Temple United Methodist Church in Seattle, who gave Cleese standing ovations at his entry and exit, smiles on the faces of all. The event was arranged in support of Cleese's newly-published autobiography, "So, Anyway..." (Crown Archetype,  Random House, 2014), in a simple and relaxed two-guys-in-chairs-talking format with host Steve Scher. Scher, former anchor of KUOW's Weekday program for many years, was an excellent choice as host: relaxed, well-prepared, expert at letting Cleese do his thing while keeping questions flowing from topic to topic seamlessly, keeping the focus on the guest of honor. 

After a few technical readjustments with the microphones, Scher and Cleese began the dialogue that would take the audience through some key parts of "So, Anyway..." expanded by Cleese in further sharp and amusing detail. The topic of Cleese's mother, apparently the most anxiety-ridden, self-absorbed human who had ever lived, was often invoked. Mother Cleese lived to the age of 101 years despite crushing self-imposed busy-work such as oiling owls and polishing trees and organizing decorative gourds (I may have remembered this somewhat improperly), and, in comorbidity, after a habit of composing lists of her very many worries for the express purpose of ensnaring her child into the exhausting task of addressing them one-by-one at length. Cleese noted that in psychological studies of brilliant comedians and high-achieving folk, most are found to have fractious relationships with their mothers. He noted, "If only my mother could have been just a little bit worse...I really could have been something great!"

When I last saw Mr. Cleese in person at Seattle's Moore Theater in 2009, he was beginning what he termed "The Alimony Tour" -- a highly-entertaining one-man show designed to refurbish his personal coffers after a staggering 20 million dollar divorce settlement awarded to his third wife. His anger towards what he felt was a grossly-unfair excision of cash was quite palpable then, but turning that anger into comedy not only made for profit, but seems to have been a bit beneficially cathartic as well. In 2014 we find Cleese in a happier place, recently married to a woman he called "the love of my life," and willing to let go of some fruitless frustrations as well. In later life, we find two types of people. The first, like Cleese's mother, view aging and death in the same way they have experienced their lives overall -- so wrapped up in fear that they cannot experience much other than worry and an endless need to try to control the uncontrollable, so that the smallest change is cause for deep depression and alarm. The second type, like John Cleese, may have plenty of concerns and issues but have made some peace with the absurdity of it all. Here are a few of the life lessons Mr. Cleese offered us last night, with a twinkle in his eye that I am sure was visible to even those in the back of the room.

1. The entire world is run by a handful of greedy, power- and control-mad assholes. This is the way it's always been, the way it will always be, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it, other than rake them over the coals comedically on a regular basis.

2. Too many people focus on small details, and miss out on the big picture.

3. The most important thing in life is to be kind.

4. If you meet him, never ask him to do the Silly Walk ever, ever, ever. No. Stop. Don't do it. No. No no. That means you. Have some pity on him -- he's three-quarters of a century old and now made up of bits of plastic and metal held together with tape and spit.

I was unable to bring my proper pro camera last night, which was fine since the event was filmed (properly) by the University of Washington Bookstore and will appear on their YouTube channel shortly. I took only a couple photos with my phone because this was not the event to be obnoxious with a phone. This idea was not shared by the man in front of me, who spent at least half the show with his point-and-shoot camera raised above his sight line trying to get a photograph of Mr. Cleese. Beep beep beep!, went his camera, as he failed over and over and over again to get one single in-focus shot. I hope the entire audience appreciates the restraint I showed in not grabbing the thing from his hands, shouting, "HERE! LET ME HELP YOU! I'LL TAKE THE FUCKING PHOTO FOR YOU AND THEN WE ALL CAN LISTEN TO JOHN CLEESE RATHER THAN YOUR AUTOFOCUS DISABILITY SOUND!" See what I've learned from John Cleese? Turn your anger into comedy, and avoid ulcers.



I've now come to terms with Reginald Cleese's rejection of Cheese, and can appreciate that Muriel Cleese was plenty crazy enough to have produced a brilliant and creative child in John Cleese. "An Evening With John Cleese" went exactly as I anticipated -- joyful, hilarious, thoughtful, and definitely inspirational. Do go buy "So, Anything..." and get your leaden posteriors in gear to see him this week in California and Florida. Thank you, University Book Store and University Temple United Methodist Church, Steve Scher, and to John Cleese, who has brightened things up here on Planet Asshole...errr, Earth, quite a bit for so many for so long. What a tremendous gift to give.

"An Evening With John Cleese" 2014 dates:

11/17/14 The California Theater, San Jose, CA., 7PM
11/18/14 Alex Theater, Glendale, CA., 8PM
11/19/14 The Granada Theater, Santa Barbara, CA., 7PM
11/20/14 University of San Diego Shiley Theater, San Diego, CA. 7PM
11/21/14 Barnes & Noble - The Grove at Farmer's Mark, Los Angeles, CA. 7PM
11/23/14 Miami Book Fair, Miami Miami Dade College, Chapman Conference Center, Miami, FL. 7PM