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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


TWELVE MORE WEIRD RECORDS & KNICK-KNACKS FROM THE VALUE VILLAGE & GOODWILL!

People! AMIRITE HERE OR WHAT? I TELL YA! Yes, people are the people who originally bought these things that ended up in my local thrift stores, and you are the people who get to experience their choices right here, right now. Please to enjoy!

Oh, WTF. Who in their right mind at ALL would choose a graphic of a crying cowboy shooting his broken stick horse in the head for a CHILDREN'S RECORD??? If someone had given this to me when I was a kid, I would've cried massive buckets of tears, and that's the truth.



I MADE YOU A CHILDREN'S BOOK NOT FOR CHILDREN: "WE ARE POOR NOW"


TEN VERY COOL SONGS WITH "AUTUMN" IN THE TITLE!

As I type this at my desk in Seattle-ish, autumn is in full force: winds whipping through the eight zillion pramillion trees that make even our urban areas feel wild and majestic, leaves of every color crowd-surfing on the currants, sprays and slaps of rain spattering on my window, water puddles forming and filling on the ground for the express purpose of being my dog's favorite water bowls.

I hate autumn.

OK, sure, sure...it's very beautiful, all this color and movement and shiny wet, I agree. But for me, fall is just a soggy reminder that my favorite season, SUMMER, is gone yet again and won't reappear until July. I'm a sunshine kind of girl, and there's nothing I find charming about driving in the dark and the rain hoping one of those giant trees doesn't fall on me, having the dog track in mud for months, and chokingly-sweet Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Top that off with the bad old mental remnants of autumn = OH GOD NO I HAVE TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL AGAIN, and all the pretty leaves in the world don't really make it swing for me.

But the fall is a good thing to write about, rich in imagery and melancholic change. Our friends, Professional Songwriters, know this and have provided us with some swell songs about the season, ten of which I shall share with you from my personal archives. I'm being very strict in that each song must have the word "autumn" in the title, mainly for the fact that it takes too long to figure out if the "fall" songs are about autumn as opposed to actually falling, figuratively or literally. I have to devote more time these days to wiping the dog's paws off, you know. Let us begin.



"Autumn Almanac," The Kinks 



Of course, this song would be first on my list, taken from the absolutely perfect "Something Else By The Kinks" album. We find the Kinks here at their sweetest, English vaudevillian best, with starring (and uncredited for decades) harmonies by Ray Davies then-wife, Rasa. Because it's Ray Davies, midway through the song an element of claustrophobic discontent appears as our protagonist proclaims "This is my street/And I'm never gonna leave it/And I'm always gonna stay here/ If I live to be ninety-nine/'Cause all the people I meet/Seem to come from my street/And I can't get away...". But with some highly jaunty "la la la"'s, the darkness is swept away, at least for awhile.

I have an extra-special memory related to this song. I was discussing the recording of it one night in a nearly-deserted and dank hotel bar with Dave Davies many years ago, and he asked me if I would sing it with him, right there and then. After I picked up the pieces of my blown mind, I did so, and will never forget it, sitting across from the actual recording artist in dingy blue club chairs, singing such a wonderful song together.

"Autumn Leaves," Nat King Cole



This list would be a SHAM without including a version of composer Johnny Mercer's standard, "Autumn Leaves," and I chose Nat King Cole's. Cole always knew how to deliver a melancholy song, cradling the melody in such a nuanced way that the emotion subtly threads through the listener's heart: an infusion rather than a soaking, if you will. The cascading notes remind us of the falling leaves themselves, tumbling from high to low.

"Autumn Is Your Last Chance," Robyn Hitchcock



Another gorgeous autumn song from another quirky British artist, from another absolutely perfect album, "I Often Dream Of Trains." The arrangement is simple, acoustic and sparse, spotlighting the reflective lyrics. We feel the solitude of the narrator, walking amongst the fall beauty in his surroundings, seeing it, feeling it, but unable to enjoy it for missing someone to share it with.

"Autumn Sweater," Yo La Tengo



This song could be interpreted in polar opposite ways: a couple either at the awkward beginning or awkward ending of a relationship. It's hard to tell if the narrator is critical or fond of his partner's "autumn sweater," but I think the use of this single-shot of fall imagery tell us that no matter what, change is coming, whether the couple likes it or not.

"Autumn," Joanna Newsom



Newsom does not shy away from composing long pieces, which unfold at their own pace, giving the listener the feeling that they are precisely as long as they must be.  That, and exquisitely-angelic vocals remind me of Kate Bush's earliest work, a fusion of classical and British folk traditions. "Here, in a row of silent dove-grey days..." Newsom quietly tells a tale of loss and longing in poetic language that is unashamedly elegant and mysterious, in times that are most often neither.

"My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion," The Flaming Lips



The Flaming Lips have often examined the uniquely-human gift/burden of knowing that life is finite, and celebrate a humanist view: make the most of the one life you have right here, right now. Whatever your own personal views, it's a good rule to live by and one that few people actually accomplish. "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion" is a delicate and wistful ode to appreciating the cycles and patterns of life, and embracing all of what is around you.

"Autumn in New York," Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong



Two incomparable jazz masters take on a slow, sexy love letter to Manhattan, making me want to book a flight right now. There are so many, many songs written about New York City -- some passionate paeans, some snarky and sarcastic -- but here's the thing: The Big Apple inspires creativity like no other place on earth, no matter the season. Listening to this, I can imagine myself walking arm-in-arm with a friend through Central Park, crunching leaves beneath my feet, glancing up at the giant buildings in the distance, and feeling like magic is always happening there, somewhere, because it really is.

"Autumn's Child," Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band



Captain Beefheart makes The Flaming Lips sound, well, as Safe As Milk. The stamp of Zappa is all over this song, of course, with odd timings and orchestral punctuations. The Captain's growl/shout is nicely incongruous considering the poignancy of the lyrics, remembering falling for a "cornhusk hair" girl met at a harvest party ten years past.

"The Autumn Carnival," The Dandy Warhols



The Dandy Warhols have gotten more out of four chords than any other band I can think of, save for the dear ol' Ramones. OK, so this sounds like a rewrite of Blur's "Song 2" sans "woo hoo"'s and if Damon Albarn had a sore throat, but there's nothing wrong with that in my book. Courtney Taylor-Taylor takes us for a spooky trip through a fall freakshow, but we aren't entirely sure where that is located -- out in the world or inside his mind.

"Autumn Waltz," Tony Bennett


Finally, in honor of the deeply wonderful Tony Bennett, playing this very evening at Seattle's Paramount Theater and whom I've had the honor of photographing twice, we end with the "Autumn Waltz." I wish I could be there tonight, waltzing with the coolest 88-year-old that ever was (outside of my mom), but since I cannot I think I will choose to take a lesson from him: be young at heart, be creative, give of your time and talents generously, and take good care of yourself, and your Fall may extend in swirling, beautiful color for many, many years, Winter be damned.

15 MORE WEIRD KNICK-KNACKS AND RECORD COVERS FROM THE VALUE VILLAGE THRIFT STORE IN WOODINVILLE, WA!

Ah, the joys of thrifting...saving a buck here and there and getting CREEPED OUT at the same time! Here are a few more oddball items from the ol' VV -- please to enjoy!!

I...I...don't know. I just don't.


I MADE YOU A COOKBOOK: "HORRIBLE FOOD FOR HORRIBLE PEOPLE"


PHOTOS & SHOW REVIEW: KING TUFF @ NEUMOS, SEATTLE, WA. 10/22/14

Every night of the week, year-round, Seattle provides me with a dilemma: there are too many great entertainment options available to me, and I am just one (semi-) humble person located on the far side of Lake Washington. This embarrassment of cultural riches is nonetheless most welcomed by me, having spent my youth entertained mostly by giant snow drifts and clouds of mosquitos. Last Wednesday, my evening overfloweth, not only with buckets of damned rain but the opportunity to once again enjoy the performance skills and pithy prose of perfectly-peculiar power-pop princes, King Tuff. Say the last half of that last sentence five times fast, then look at this, and I feel your day will be made.


I MADE YOU SOME HALLOWEEN CARDS


PHOTOS & SHOW REVIEW: KING KHAN & BBQ SHOW, AUSMUTEANTS, THUNDERPUSSY @ THE CROCODILE, SEATTLE, WA. 10/11/14

As a highly-experienced concertgoer, I know that each show I attend has a quality of unpredictability: that the chances of the unexpected happening sometime during the night are pretty good, and this, for me, is very good. I don't like to go to shows where it's something slick and overproduced, where each crowd is told they are the very best that ever was tonight and that their sportsball teams are also the best. Sometimes the surprises I get are good, sometimes they are bad, and sometimes are just "huh?"  I'd say that at least two of those categories were fulfilled last Saturday night at The Crocodile in Belltown, and now I will tell you why and also show you photographs of the event that I personally took with a camera device.



MACEFIELD MUSIC FESTIVAL 2014, DAY TWO: THE POSIES, THE MALDIVES, GREAT SPIDERS, STAG, BEN UNION,OLE TINDER, KIM VIRANT, & FULL TOILET (!), SEATTLE, WA. 10/4/14

(Thanks once more to the lovely and talented writer/photographer AJ Dent, we have this sparkling coverage of Day Two at Macefield Music Festival! I'm a pretty lucky person to know her. -- Marianne)

Ah, the sweet smell of death and decay. Ballard’s streets were filled with it as I stepped off the bus at NW Market Street and Ballard Ave NW. My friend Mariama and I paused for a moment to breathe in the aroma, caused by fallen leaves scrambling across sidewalks and huddling in the gutters. The sun coated everything with that perfect orange color that’s synonymous with October, and above the passing cars, I could hear alt-country music in the air. The minds behind Seattle's Macefield Music Festival are definitely doing the neighborhood justice by hosting it during this resplendent time of year.


MACEFIELD MUSIC FESTIVAL 2014, DAY ONE: THE SONICS, BOSS MARTIANS, DEEP CREEP, & STAR ANNA, SEATTLE, WA. 10/3/14

(Once again, I am happier than a kitten rolling in endless carpets of fluffy catnip to bring you the writing and photography of AJ Dent, who spent last weekend covering the Macefield fest for Popthomology. Thank you so much, AJ, and everyone at Macefield! -- Marianne)

Live music is medicinal, I swear. Even though I had a horrible cold and was way too sober Friday night, I found myself elated as I wandered around Ballard for the Macefield Music Festival. Northwest Market Street and Ballard Ave were lit up with fellow revelers, but the atmosphere felt very mature -- no teens in neon nor angry, shovey crowds here. I did catch wafts of weed and plenty of smiling stumblers, but they added to the contentment all around. It seemed people were actually there to support local bands (gasp!), not just be seen.

As twilight took over the sky, I bolted to the KEXP main stage in Hattie’s Hat’s parking lot to catch the Boss Martians. Since their debut album dropped nearly twenty years ago, they’ve been fueling parties with surf-poppy rock and their badass 'n bubbly stage presence. To the loud delight of the crowd, Sonics bassist Freddie Dennis joined the guys to provide vocals for a cover of Esquerita’s “Rockin’ The Joint,” and the entire scene just made sense. No doubt the Sonics have been inspirational for the Seattle four-piece, so for them to appear together at a PNW showcase, well, it was just awesome. And the perfect appetizer for The Sonics’ full performance.

Boss Martians, Macefield Music Festival 10/3/14




HOLY CRAP! 28 ODD VINTAGE (MOSTLY RELIGIOUS) RECORD COVERS FROM THE THRIFT STORE!

There's so much cultural anthropology in thrift stores, I tell ya whut. If I were an academic sort, I'd be writing my thesis on discarded American ephemera, with special emphasis on musical recordings and the sociological implications of finding great quantities of small-time religious pressings dumped in donation bins all over the country (along with the entire recorded outputs of Mitch Miller, Neil Diamond, and 101 Strings). Instead, I'll post my findings here, save a ton in tuition money, and have lots more fun. Please to enjoy!

WISE UP, EVERYONE! The End-Time Voices are telling you to "Save Yourselves" before it's too late! Also, to invest in plaid before the Rapture. Please note that the sale price of this album is one cent.



MACEFIELD MUSIC FESTIVAL 2014: AN INTERVIEW WITH LARRY PARYPA OF THE SONICS!!!

(I am beyond excited and honored to host this outstanding exclusive-to-Popthomology piece from writer/photographer AJ Dent, featuring an interview with Larry Parypa, the founder of the Godfathers of Garage, the Progenitors of Punk, the Sovereigns of Psycho, The Sonics, who will be performing at Seattle's Macefield Music Festival this weekend!!! WOW! Thank you AJ, Larry, and Jen Stippich! -- Marianne)

If only more people’s morals inspired music festivals!


For those unfamiliar with the story, Edith Macefield was the Ballard resident who refused to sell her 1900s-era farmhouse to developers -- even for a cool million. While the construction manager’s story goes that she simply thought it was too much work to move, her house has become a symbol for sticking it to the man and refusing to sell out. Her tiny home -- now surrounded by the Ballard Blocks -- was even a source of inspiration for the movie Up.


In honor of this smart, stubborn woman, in 2013 the discontinued Reverb Music Festival was reborn as the Macefield Music Festival. To me, that’s an even better legacy than any Pixar flick. I can’t think of a more fitting namesake for a celebration scattered across Ballard, especially one with such a strong local focus.


This year’s fest takes place October 3rd and 4th, and includes a comedy showcase, rock ‘n roll market, and over seventy freaking bands! Yowza. I don’t know what Edith’s musical tastes were, but I bet she could've found plenty of new favorite artists within that bounty. While there are simply too many groovy groups to give proper shout-outs to, I’ve gotta go ahead and say that Goodbye Heart, Bad Things, RA Scion, and Deep Creep are high on my recommendations list. And, gloriously, Friday night will feature the matchless, can’t-miss Sonics.
Macefield Music Festival.png