I think my generation (kids born in the late '50s/early 60s) was the first to experience the widespread wonder of battery-operated toys, although certainly the majority of my playthings didn't have them. I had dolls that didn't "do" anything other than sit there or maybe pee out water or cry like a rubber chicken if you pressed in on their tummies. I had building blocks and Play-Doh and a Spirograph and board games like Monopoly and Life and Sorry and Trouble. I had a Viewmaster and a Sit n' Spin and a rocking horse on squeaky metal springs and a Marvel the Mustang and Twiggy Colorforms. To get anything out of these toys, you had to actually DO stuff with them.

When I had my own kids in the '90s and '00s, everything had a fricken battery in it. I mean everything, from baby crib toys that would play creepy electronic lullabies to books that played equally-creepy sounds as you pressed buttons along with the text, batteries that would light up a basketball, batteries to fly tiny helicopters indoors, batteries batteries batteries. We were forever buying batteries, because the function of all these things depended upon them completely. I don't know how many times I saw one of my kids poke poke poke at a toy whose battery had died, frustrated because it no longer DID stuff for them. Three kids, a mountain of battery-operated, cheap-ass plastic crap for each, and I doubt they will ever remember any of them with the fondness I feel when I hold one of my old Matchbox cars in my hand.

Since I now consider myself a seasoned expert on battery-operated toys, today I would like to share with you the Sounds Of Near-Silence: the hideous and hilarious noises that some of these toys make as their batteries are slowly headed to that great toxic landfill Somewhere Where I Can't See Them. Please to enjoy these YouTubes from other Dying Battery Noise Fans!

I posted this one years ago, and it's still one of my all-time favorites. I suggest playing this at high volume if you want to drive away a pack of wild dogs or Jehovah's Witnesses. That it plays "It's A Small World" is far, far too perfect.

Remember the "Billy Bass" fad from a few years ago? Here's one that's ready to be pan-fried. I'm laughing at the video guy laughing as much as the Satan Fish.

OK, so this doesn't have a battery. It's still a plastic piece of crap! It's six seconds long and I laugh every time I play it. ELMO WHAT HAPPENED?

Ladies and gentlemen, The Flatulent Four!

Ladies and gentlemen, Skrillex!

This baby's deadpan reaction to his dying lullaby toy is priceless.

HAHAHAHA! This toy is so mad about dying it can't stop swearing!!

Finally, when I came across this one, my mouth dropped to the FLOOR in HORROR of how WRONG WRONG WRONG this Louis Armstrong singing toy is to begin with, but watching it with a dying battery made me laugh so hard I cried. OMG. OMG!!


As everyone is aware, there's been a whole lot of talk recently about the legislative "War On Women" that's been ramping up across America. In state after state, court after court, and in the hallowed halls of the House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, we have seen seen economic, civil, and reproductive rights rolled back for women. It hardly seems like this could really be happening in a sane, civil, and thinking world, but it is. Far-right legislators have made it their cause to ensure that women are prevented from or at least are hideously harassed if they choose to have a pregnancy termination, to make contraceptives for women less available, to refuse or repeal Equal Pay laws, and to vote against laws protecting women from violence. There are so many of these instances and they are so widespread that the term "War On Women" is frighteningly, sickeningly accurate. What these reprehensible and misguided politicians refuse to understand is that when you attack the well-being of women, you attack men and children as well, causing a domino-effect of misery and chaos. Know the old phrase, "When Mama ain't happy, ain't no one happy?" How true this is, folks! A woman who is healthy, able to earn a fair living, is free from fear of violence, and is able to choose if and when she has a family is a powerful asset to the world. Destruct this, and as it is in so many repressive nations in the world, you destroy the true potential of everyone.

With this in mind, I was very excited and honored to attend the "We Are Women" rally at Seattle's Westlake Park yesterday afternoon, sponsored by the grassroots organization Unite Against the War On Women. It was inspiring to see all the people that turned out from all walks of life, from babies in front packs to elders with canes, long-time activists to first-time rally-goers, city dwellers to those who traveled hundreds of miles to be there, rich and poor, straight and gay, women AND men. My goal was to photograph the event to show you just that -- the great diversity and strength in all of the people across the country who understand that our rights are not to be battered about in political games. They are inalienable, human rights.

My photos are now up on Seattle Weekly, so please click HERE to go see and Like, Tweet, Pin, Google+, or otherwise share them! (The full set from the day is over on my Flickr HERE if you'd like to see some more.) Thank you thank you thank you, and thank you to all the Unite Women organizers for their warm and helpful hospitality, the kickass speakers, and every single person who turned out. Heroes, all.

(photo: Marianne Spellman/Seattle Weekly, Westlake Park, Seattle WA., 4/28/12)


My Saturday has been entirely taken up by taking and processing photos -- a good, good thing -- but other than taking a short break to eat something and smile at the dog and the kids, I haven't been able to make something super-pithy for you today. Instead (and this might be better anyway) I will bring you some dumb YouTubes, because you like them and I like them and you like them. And I like them!

Next is "Trapped," possibly the worst attempt at writing a song ever. Notice when this dumbass kid swears, he quick looks around to see if a parent heard him. Get off the internet and learn something useful, boy. NICE HAIR. I dub this, "Crapped."

And to make it all better, another wonderful '60s cover from Sam Chalpin form his LP "My Father The Pop Singer." Ladies and gents, "Satisfaction." I love this guy so much.

Here is a photo of a goat. See you later!


Spring is springing everywhere, and when I came across this old episode of the "I've Got A Secret" TV game show from approximately ONE MILLION B.C., I knew I wanted to share it with you. A little info first, if you aren't familiar: "I've Got A Secret" was a long-running game show (1952-1967) on CBS-TV. It was essentially the same premise as "What's My Line?" -- a panel of celebrity guests tried to guess what someone's weird secret or occupation was and the longer the guessing went on, the more cash the subject got (up to EIGHTY WHOLE BUCKS!!!). There were no blinking lights or brapping buzzers or loud theme music bits; it was all rather genteel and low-key, with an air of bemusement. I always liked the show because of its combination of weirdness and sweetness and the slightly-awkward interactions between the stuffy panel members and the regular folks who would nervously try to answer their questions. And sometimes you would see cool stuff, like on this particular episode with an Easter theme and all-animal marvel, won't you, at the World's Largest Bunny (and lots and lots of Winston cigarettes)....

"I've Got A Secret," Easter Parade Part One

Acting goat "Lady Astor" eats some Winstons and HOLY CRAP, A HORSE ROLLER SKATES, GO JIMMY!!! And a famous bird! GO BUTCH!!

"I've Got A Secret" Easter Parade Part Two

Butch the Cockatoo continues and then we end with bountiful Boys' Club bunnies! DON'T SMOKE, KIDS!

"I've Got A Secret" Easter Parade Part Three

And to clear your mind from all that smoke and animal are some photos taken by Miss Nine of some of our pretty springtime flowers, including her own first gardening effort, a tulip, of which she is immensely proud.




Sometimes, ya just can't even believe it until you see it, and then it's STILL pretty surreal. This is why I've not yet mentioned that something pretty amazing was in the works. But today...I CAN MENTION!

If you read here regularly, you may know that Portland's own Dandy Warhols are a favorite band of mine. I just love 'em, and have truly enjoyed being able to photograph them in concert. This is plenty enough for me, really: I get to hear and see music I love, dance around a bit, and make what I hope are beautiful images. It's my favorite way of experiencing music. Photographing live music heightens my senses, making the sights and sounds even more vibrant for me. It is always an exciting challenge to try to capture what is such a visceral event in a still image. I hope I can continue to do it for many more years.

Last summer, the whole family traveled to see the Dandies perform at this marvelous old theme park outside of Salem, Oregon called Enchanted Forest for the Great Idea Music Festival. We had a blast, I shot some pictures in this awesome Old West setting, and wrote about it when we got back home. Fast forward to a couple of months or so ago, the band is readying a new studio album, and contacted me about the possibility of including some of the Great Idea shots for the photo collage in the album booklet.


I swear, swear, if you had told me years ago that someday in the future some of my photos would be included on the albums of bands I love, I would have been so stunned that I possibly would have entered a catatonic state for several months. I mean, come on!!! Frosting on cake!!!

Today, the Dandy Warhol's "This Machine" was released and I get the double sweetness of new music from a beloved band and the kick from seeing two of my photos in the collage. Did the band need my photos? Nah, they had lots of cool shots to use from lots of people. But there they are, and it sure makes me smile.

So, thank you, Dandies and managies, and thank YOU for going over HERE or to Amazon or iTunes to purchase "This Machine!" I'll be seeing the band again at Seattle's Showbox Market on June 17th, and I'd also like you to purchase tickets for that HERE or check the band's tour schedule and see them in your town this summer. Hurray!


A flawless, warm sunny spring day here in Seattle-ish, one of those we treasure so here, for tomorrow we shall likely go back to the usual impenetrable gray skies and cloud leakage. I wish my moods weren't so affected by the weather. There is no doubt that the many rainy days here puts me in a different frame of mind: somber, contemplative, and probably more irritable that usual. But when the sun shines I am like a languid, stretching cat, deliciously rolling in the comfort of its beams, gathering warmth with a tiny satisfied smile on my lips at all times. I don't lower the sun shade in my car, even when everyone else does. I grab every ray like it might be the last transmitted to the earth from our pal, The Flaming Giant Ball Of Gas, as if I could somehow bank it for the days I need it the most.

The sun cheered me so today that I didn't even mind the extra hour I spent locked up in fantastically-slow construction traffic after picking up my daughter from school. MissNine was not quite as beatific in the backseat.

MissNine: Grr!

Me: What?

MissNine: I don't like this traffic! And it's too sunny! My one leg is getting too hot!

Me: Well, there's nothing I can do about the traffic, sweetie. Or the sun.

MissNine: GRR!

Me: Aw, cheer up! Once we get out of here, let's go for a treat.

MissNine: France?

Me: No. You have school tomorrow.

She giggles, and eventually we are not hit by steamrollers or backhoes and make it over to a Starbucks. I order a smoothie and she gets a croissant, the closest she will get to France today. We sit at a table outside, and talk about vintage glassware, Ray Davies coming to Seattle in July, the flower gardening she did at school today, and that yes, I would share some of my smoothie with her. I turn my chair to face more towards the sun; she turns her chair to face away from it. 

We take some funny photos with my phone.

A gust of wind sweeps up the last bite of her croissant and its brown paper bag and sends both tumbling across the sidewalk. 

"Noooooo!" she cries, and chases after them, successful in retrieval.

"NO. You can't eat it now! Throw it in the garbage, please. Good job picking it up, though!" I admonish and praise her, Mom-like.

"Awwww! Are you sure?" she asks as she opens her mouth to take a mock-bite.

"AWAY!" I smile, as does she, and the items are placed in the proper receptacle, no doubt to be pilfered by a large crow within minutes.

One of the other things I love so much about sunny days is that I take the time to slow down, get off the grid for a moment, and allow myself the space to just be a person, sitting with a person I love on some little spot of earth, watching a croissant roll away across the ground, like it's late for a date in La Ville-Lumiere.


If you are willing to get your fingertips a little dusty and have surrounding shoppers look at you a bit curiously, a good time can be had rummaging through your local thrift stores to find...interesting...record album covers of the past. There's nothing like holding 12 square inches of graphic improbability in your hands while someone else behind you is considering adding to their fake Hummel collection. Let's go!

If you'd like to see these in larger detail, click on them!

Jerry Vale's "Santa Mouse" was given to me by my grandma when I was five years old, so I have some history with the guy. But this cover just puts me in confusion. Is that Jerry's daughter, or his wife? Why are they asking where the playground is while looking at the bleachers at a baseball stadium? Who ate up all that popcorn? Who the hell is Susie and why would she know anything? Does James Taylor disapprove of the whole thing?


(In honor of Iggy Pop's 65th birthday today, I am reposting this piece from May 4, 2009. Love you, Iggy, and I'm still holding out hope you could save the SCOTUS yet.)

I have been thinking more about whom President Obama should nominate to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice David Souter. A lot of people are thinking about this, including Professor Sherrilyn Ifill, who teaches at the University of Maryland School of Law. She wrote this article that appeared on today, and I am in complete agreement with her:

The gist of the article is that for the last 20 years, all appointed Supreme Court judges have come from appellate courts, and Professor Ifill would like to see lawyers from other areas of practice be considered as well. Of course she is right. When you limit the kind and type of experience you bring to a court in this way, you limit the depth of the Court’s view. There are gifted legal scholars that have chosen not to serve on the nation’s appellate courts, and they could serve the Court just as well or possibly better. You cannot know if you cut them out because recent precedent has gone a certain way. The best possible person for the position should always be sought out. It’s the SUPREME COURT, after all, not the “Appellate Court Finishing School.” SUPREME, I say!

As a matter of fact, there are no set qualifications for becoming a United States Supreme Court Justice. You don’t even have to be a lawyer, although all of them have been…to date.


If I were President, me, I know who I would nominate: The Right Honorable James Newell Osterberg, Jr. You may be more familiar with his musician’s moniker of IGGY POP. Yes, I would wish to appoint Mr. Osterberg to the highest court of the land, and I will tell you why:

-- Iggy is one smart dude. Don’t let all that shirtless and reckless rock n’ roll excess fool you; underneath that punkish and abused exterior is the heart of an intellectual. Don’t believe me? Hey, the guy, when not working with David Bowie or the Teddybears or The Stooges or the Boss Martians or scads of other musicians, actors, filmmakers, and artists, might be writing an article for a scholarly journal, as he did in 1995 in Classics Ireland.

-- He brings the outsiders’ view to an insular place…way way way outsider, like former drug addict, physically-challenged person (he has one leg markedly-shorter than the other), and once played both a vacuum and a blender onstage. Take that, Clarence Thomas!

-- He’s old enough to know stuff and young enough to shake things up.

I have total faith that Mr. Osterberg would surround himself with the finest and coolest legal clerks available, that he would study and consider each case to the best of his ability, and would be removed from the bench after one term for calling out the other judges or standing on tables.

I will never be President, and Iggy Pop will never sit on the Supreme Court. But maybe it is indeed a good thing to think outside of the box a bit for our next judge, even if one of the progenitors of modern punk/hard rock music could never make it through the confirmation process. I’d even take someone who liked the Stooges.


I am very happy to be able to show you this.

My daughter was born in 2002. My mother was born in 1926. Here they are as babies, splashing in metal washtubs. The two photos were taken 75 years apart.


OK, now it's just completely and utterly WRONG WRONG WRONG that: ONE, you might not be familiar with the completely charming, catchy, sweet, and cool "Am I Wrong" by San Francisco-based garagerockpopper Mikal Cronin and; TWO, you can't even BUY this song if you wanted to!!! AIIEEE! In a just and sane world, "Am I Wrong" would be #1 all over the whirled, with grannies and tots and formerly-gloomy teens humming it to themselves while going about their biz-nii. " The song to me sounds like Cronin could be the bastard son of Harry Nilsson, but with his DNA run through a fuzzbox. In other words, that's a YES YES YES!

I know this song because as an attendee of 2012's Bruise Cruise, I was able to snare it as a split 7" exclusive promo item for the boaty-boat-boat-boat-goers (King Khan and the Shrines excellent "Bite My Tongue" is on the flipside). Out of the entire festival, Cronin's set was my favorite. I am waaaay impressed with his songwriting chops, and he's really fun to watch live, too. One to watch, kiddies, one to watch. My hope is that "Am I Wrong" surfaces again in Cronin's catalogue, but until then my little contribution to keeping it floating in the air is this modest retro pool party video, done in my retro YouTube old film pilfering style. You people out there with old home movies? KEEP POSTING 'EM UP, TIA.

Mikal Cronin, "Am I Wrong"

Please make sure you pick up Mikal Cronin's self-titled debut album HERE on Trouble in Mind Records, or via your local record store or the digitally-efficient iTunes or Amazon.

(photo by yours truly, Bruise Cruise, February 12, 2012)


DATE: Almost every Saturday around noon, from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s

My first, and longest-running dates with Dick Clark were spent here, usually just he and me and the TV, and maybe a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and a cold glass of fresh Golden Guernsey Dairy milk. Far more sacred than church for me was my weekly viewing of ABC-TV's "American Bandstand." Nothing was allowed to interrupt, no playdate more important, no weekend chores that couldn't be put off another hour. As a pop-obsessed kid, I was ravenous for any rock-related content on television, and "American Bandstand" provided me year after year with that. The only things that really changed during those Saturday dates were the fashions on the dancers, and that I grew from a pixie-cut radio-toting preschooler to a long-haired teenager with a multi-component RCA stereo. The TV set stayed the same (black-and-white!), as did the brands of peanut butter and milk. Dick Clark never looked a day older.

I loved that show. I loved "Rate-A-Record," forming my own silent opinions concurrently with the teenage critics. I loved seeing the record charts change from week to week, the black cards ceremoniously removed to reveal the hot singles from #10 to #1, how I'd cheer when the Beatles were on the top. I loved the AB dancers, and dreamed of the day when I would be old enough to have a cute boyfriend and a sparkly minidress and could dance on the show myself. I loved seeing the bands; even though they were lip-syncing, it was so exciting to see the performers rather than just imagine what they looked like from the radio. I loved that no matter what, there was Dick Clark, smiling and enthusiastic, like he was just beginning.

DATE: A whole lot of New Year's Eves in the '70s through the '90s.

When "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin'  Eve" debuted in 1972, it was a very welcome alternative to the somnambulant Big Band sounds of Guy Lombardo or some local channel showing a clock over some ding dong shooting fireworks over a frozen Wisconsin lake. Many, many December 31st evenings I spent with Clark, some celebratory with family or friends, some in a funk-laden pity party wondering why I wasn't at some wonderful gathering kissing some wonderful cute boyfriend at midnight. But the Rockin' Eve rocked on no matter my circumstances, as we all would wait for the ball to drop in Times Square and Dick to, of course, run the countdown. There was something good about being "there" with a familiar face as one pondered all the possibilities of a coming year, even if at times I did not find Rockin' Eve performers like Helen Reddy or Miami Sound Machine very rockin'.

"Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" Times Square ball drop, 1973

DATE: School sick/hooky days in the '70s, couch potato evenings in the '80s.

Clark seemed to be everywhere you looked at times, and he and I had plenty of extra TV dates as I lounged at home. He was a complete natural as a game show host, and I tuned in as the $10,000 Pyramid eventually grew to be the $100,000 Pyramid,which I would watch when not absorbed in Days Of Our Lives, listening to music, or sleeping off some Nyquil. I watched his TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes, because those are always funny, and I watched his American Music Awards, hoping they'd be more authentic than the Grammys were.

Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) on "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes"

Dick Clark died today at age 82, after suffering a massive heart attack. So, having "dated" Dick Clark for, really, all of my life, here's what I think are the legacies of the man:

He was arguably the most important figure in making rock n' roll music acceptable to the general public. I know that it is difficult to comprehend for most people who have grown up with rock n' roll, but when it first started sneaking out from its hillbilly/Southern Black confines, The Man (aka traditional white guy culture) did a great deal to stop it from reaching the rather large block of preteen and teen Baby Boomers. Rock n' roll was seen as low-culture, disposable garbage that would incite young people to riot and think about sex and reject traditional roles and separation of the races, and to many, that was unacceptable. The Man fought back, hard. Clark didn't take on The Man as his fellow rock n' roll booster DJ/promotor Alan Freed did, which was with plain, honest talk and a lot of middle-finger work. No, Clark played nice, and maybe more importantly, looked nice. Week after week, here was this squeaky-clean young white guy hosting a nice dance show, and week after week, it remained wholesome and utterly uncontroversial. Middle America began to accept that not all rock n' roll was by crazed drugged-up Southern hip-swagglers, and it let its guard down enough to make it all OK, or OK enough to continue. If not for Clark's steady, good-guy presence, everything may well have unfolded very differently indeed.

He was the first person to expand rock music into multiple entertainment ventures, pioneering the modern-day music business mega-industry. There wasn't anything Clark didn't have a hand in when it came to pop, because underneath his sweet, youthful exterior was the heart of an extraordinary and tireless entrepreneur. He was in it early enough to sniff out and understand rock's potential, and smart enough to create wholly-new ways to market it. Clark wasn't anyone you wanted to cross in business either; "extraordinary" and "tireless" also could mean "ruthless" and "unethical," depending on whom you spoke with. During the infamous radio "payola" scandal, Clark acted quickly to cover his tracks (nearly every DJ of the time accepted money, goods, or favors from record companies, agents, or the like to assure radio play), and denied ever accepting a bribe. His cooperation with the Senate saved his career, and ruined others'. However the means, it is undeniable that Clark built a previously-unthinkable empire based on music that was given little respect for many years, and paved the way for rock n' roll as a viable career medium.

TIME: At my laptop computer in my home in Washington State, surrounded by musical instruments, books about rock n' roll, 1000s of records and CDs, posters, movies, magazines, photos, 140 GB of songs at my fingertips.

My last date with Dick Clark is today. For any of the things that I didn't agree with about how he ran his business life, this is certain: my life and the lives of most of you reading this were made better via rock n' roll, and Dick Clark went a long, long way in assuring that, indeed, it would never die. For that, I owe him my deepest gratitude. I will miss our times together, our shared dates in life. I may never have made it on to "American Bandstand" in that mini to dance with that adorable mod boy, but I'll never forget the feeling of that possibility, Clark's buoyant personality, and the rock n' roll magic that embraced us all.


I love Batman. BUT ONLY ONE BATMAN AND THAT IS ADAM F-IN' WEST, PEOPLE! Not only was the 1966 Batman TV series fresh, funny, colorful, and cool, it had the BEST THEME SONG EVER form Neil Hefti. How could I not love it?? It was like Kinks crossed with the Ventures sprinkled with Mitch Miller. Genius! The Batman Theme is one of those songs that you simply must play when you first pick up a guitar, even if you like Rush or Lil Wayne or Andres Segovia or something. It's irresistible in its glorious stupidity.

Today I'd like to bring you a few awesome and awkward Batman Theme covers from the intertubes. I bet they make you want to do the frug and yell "BATMAN!" out your window. NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA BATMAAAAAAAAAN!

I particularly enjoy how these youngsters are set up, with the guitarist standing on a cement block for no real reason, and the drummer setting his toms nearly vertical.

Continuing on with the inexplicable, apparently this guitarist is naked beneath his axe. I wonder if he realizes he is mooning the poster of Jimi Hendrix behind him.

This Aeolian player piano roll does a very fine boogie woogie style "Batman." I also nearly collapsed from laughter when I saw the words come up on the right side of the roll. Watch and see.

Did you know that the Flaming Lips covered the Batman Theme? Now you do! GO!

And finally, very possibly my favorite version of EVER...ladies and gentlemen, from the long-playing record "My Father The Pop Singer," here are the very special stylings of Sam Chalpin!


In the midst of doing of spring cleaning today, I opened up yet another box of Ancient Saved Crap from my mom, which is always a total blast for me and a great distraction from actually cleaning anything. In a box of old books I found "The Book Of Rock Quotes," a 1977 compilation by Jonathon Green, and "The View '76," which was the arts yearbook of my own Oconomowoc (WI.) Junior High School. Today I'd like to pick out some of the quotes from the book that I circled as favorites as a 15-year-old, and from "The View," a review of a KISS concert in Milwaukee written by my classmate, Pete B.

I will add that these books smell old, like the smell I used to think was "old" when I went through my grandparents' old stuff. It happens.

"Let's face it, you can't worship a guy for destroying an instrument in the name of rock." - Pete Townshend


Inspired by the sartorial splendor of today's Coachella fest appearance by one of my favorite bands, the Hives, I decided to comb through the Series Of Tubes today to find other excellent examples of formalwearing. Specifically, we shall focus here upon the grand and elegant top hat, and those whom I feel have done it proud. And HELL NO, there won't be any pictures of Slash or Madonna. NO.

You may recognize one or two of the folks here. Cough.


One of the sad realities of getting older is that your parents age along with you, and the day comes when you lose them. Just because this is the natural pattern of life doesn't make it any easier. A close friend's dad died unexpectedly a few days ago, and he now begins the journey of going forward without his father's presence. Of course, when we hear of such a loss, we are saddened and want to help in any way we can. I thought I would spend a few moments writing about how we can help friends who have lost a parent.

1. Don't be afraid to reach out. Depending upon the relationship you have with your friend, you might feel that commenting on their loss might be intrusive or awkward; you don't want to insert yourself into a situation that might bring up strong, complex emotions and make things worse. But I don't think there is ever a time when even a simple, "I am sorry for your loss" isn't appreciated. A feeling of support is so important when you are reeling from a such a life-changing event.

2. Relate...but don't over-relate. It can be a very powerful connection to let a friend know how you felt about or coped with a parent's death, but you have to always remember two things: this is not about you and your loss, and even though you "understand," you cannot know what this particular loss means to your friend. You just can't; not even a sibling will feel exactly the same about a parent's death. It's a complex and utterly personal event for us all, whether close to a parent or not. There is no "Parent Death Club" to join, and you don't want to hurt or offend a friend by insisting that you know exactly how he or she feels. Do share the experiences that you feel would be comforting to your friend, but in small doses. Don't overwhelm.

3. Step in, lightly. Depending on how bereaved your friend is, or how difficult the logistics are in the early days of dealing with a parent's death, your help may be needed quite a lot. Sometimes they may not know what they need. You can pitch in with the details of organizing food for mourners, child and pet care, finding hotel rooms or providing transportation for those coming into town for the funeral, compiling music or photographs that were meaningful to the parent for the wake or funeral, providing at-home meals for your friend or yardwork or any of a hundred little tasks that might go undone in the wake of a difficult loss. If you have an idea of how to help, ask your friend or someone close if it's OK to go ahead with.

4. Share your memories of the parent. If you knew your friend's parent, make time to write down or tell a story about how he or she was important to you. Whether it's personal characteristics or achievements that you admired, their quirks or unique talents, or how the parent influenced your life for the better, don't hesitate to let your friend know. These stories from others build a kind of perspective about the parent's life that is invaluable to healing, and often bring a smile through the tears.

5. Give your friend three gifts: time, patience, and you. There is no universal timetable for grieving a parental loss, and no "right way" to mourn. Losing a parent can be particularly rocky, as not only are you missing the person that is no longer there, but it closes a door on a huge part of your own identity as well. Even if you are a "Golden Years" person as well, you are always someone's child as long as your parents are living. A parent's death is a profound reminder of how incredibly short life is, and of your own mortality, too. Your friend might seem, to you, too sad for too long, or not sad enough, or might veer all over the place emotionally, including anger, indifference, irritability, or become hyper-focused on work issues. Allow your friend to process all the emotions in their own time and own ways. Be a friend, and be there through this tough time, even if it's not always easy or might not seem appreciated. You are needed.

Ride, "Vapour Trail"

First you look so strong,
Then you fade away.
The sun will blind my eyes,
I love you anyway.
First you form a smile,
I watch you for a while.
You are a vapour trail,
In a deep blue sky.

Tremble with a sigh,
Glitter in your eye.
You seem to come and go,
I never seem to know.
And all my time,
is yours as much as mine.
We never have enough,
Time to show our love. 

(photo: Ed Smith)


Oh, my dearies, I cannot even TELL you how excited I was when I found out that I was going to be able to photograph the one and only Elvis Costello for Seattle Weekly! This was a big deal for me, as a huuuuuuge fan who hasn't missed an Elvis tour since 1979 but never had the opportunity to bring the big camera along. Downright giddy, I was, to walk into Seattle's beautiful Paramount Theater with my gear last night to shoot the "Spectacular Spinning Songbook" show -- especially photographically cool with the fun stage set-up, a go-go dancer in a pearl-stringed go-go cage, and of course, natty Elvis himself. (My only regret is that I could not shoot past the first 3 songs, as per usual rules these days, for the audience interaction and stage participation would have made for even better shots!)

So go and check out Mike Seely's show review on Seattle Weekly HERE, the slideshow HERE, and the Flickr set HERE! Don't miss seeing this show if it comes your way -- it's so entertaining, and Elvis really is one of the most talented musicians you could ever see.

After I went back to my seat in the balcony to enjoy the rest of the show, I just happened to have my iPhone out. Visually, we are far away, but sonically...what a gem to listen to! Please to enjoy "Slow Drag With Josephine," from the encore.

What a night!


MissNine: Mom, you have a show tonight?

Me: (busily loading camera gear in bag) Ya, I'm shooting Elvis Costello at the Paramount.

MissNine: Can I go??

Me: Aw, no, honey, not this time. I'm sorry.

MissNine: Aw!!

Me: Next time for sure.

MissNine:'re pretty busy right now?

Me: Yup.

MissNine: You want some help on your blog tonight?

Me: (smiling) Sure! Whatcha got for me?

(She leaves, and comes back with a drawing of her brother, Mr14, and some old homework that, to me, reads rather amusingly poetic.)

Me: Thanks, punkin!

MissNine: You're welcome.

Me: You're a good helper.

MissNine: I know.

(Translation: I scrape the fence with my nials. That boy is strange. I spray the windows with water. Throw the ball to me!!! My close shrink when ever I put them in the wocher. I squash the bean's. I scratch my leg when I nervose. Miss Walker is very strict. A King sit's in a throne.)


(Psst: click to enlarge)


As much as it causes me at times great consternation and mental implosion, I do think a lot about American politics, especially in this Presidential election year. For as complex and frustrating as such mulling can be, I get personal satisfaction from trying my best to be an involved and informed citizen, and trying to align the things that are important to me with the things that are also important for my American brethren, and the world's other inhabitants, too. I like digging, reading, synthesizing, working through things, remembering historical patterns of the past and applying everything I know towards future outcomes. It's like a great big puzzle, with pieces that morph into different shapes each time you go back to work on it. There is never any one perfect road to walk nor assured outcome, but I know that my participation is valuable, even though many Americans -- or maybe most -- would cynically disagree with me. The process, the effort, the striving, is good.

Thinking and analyzing and reasoning are the finest assets that humans possess over other species, other than opposable thumbs. I believe this, which is why steam starts to foof out of my ears when I come across conservatives -- sometimes people I like just fine, and whom I think are smart, interesting, and generous -- who put on metaphorical horse blinders when it comes to politics and the choices they make at the voting booth that are often contradictory to their best interests. The "single-issue" conservatives vex me more than those folks who don't think about the issues at all, like the woman who once sincerely said to me, "I don't want to know anything about politics. I'll just vote for any Republican, I don't care who it is."

Before getting into some of the single-issue types, a note: the conservative is often someone who feels most comfortable with the authoritarian model (which, I might add, often clashes completely with a libertarian/rightist desire for small or limited government and claims of individual liberty). In short, they wish for strong, absolute leaders, seen as their superiors in moral fitness and personal power. It's one of the big reasons most people follow a religion: there is a comfort in trusting your fate in a crazy world to someone who seems to have all the right answers. Authoritarian model followers often repeat the pattern in their own homes, where a single family member essentially rules the roost with "because I told you to" and "my way or the highway" philosophies. It's extremely effective...but also doesn't foster the development of higher-level thinking skills. Without those who are willing, able, and allowed to think critically, we cannot move forward to attempt to solve the problems that increasingly threaten the well-being of us all. Now that's something to think about, hmm?

But perhaps the single-issue conservative can be reasoned with. It's worth a shot.

THE FISCAL CONSERVATIVE says: "Why should I work hard just to give away all my money to the government?" "We can't spend more than we earn." "It's a free country; I should be able to spend my money how I want to." "It takes money to make money, so allot our resources to already-successful business job creators." "We cannot increase the nation's debt; it destabilizes us and puts the burden on our children and their children."

YOU say: "First, our country isn't broke in the least. We ran up a horrendous debt very quickly via expensive oil wars and Wall Street bailouts, yes, but we are also continuing to give stunning tax credits to the very wealthiest businesses and individuals. Instead of "trickle-down economics" materializing, those folks have taken the money for personal gains, and have invested in employees outside of the U.S. who will work for far less and have few to no health or safety guarantees afforded to them. Our debt can never be paid off by balancing it on the backs of the middle- and working-class. It can be paid off by insisting that the wealthiest 1% pay the same tax rate as the rest of us. Making the tax code less complicated and less skewed to favor the powerful rich will still leave the rich plenty rich, will stabilize our economy, and end up putting more money back into the pockets of the vast majority of Americans."

THE SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE says: "Why should government be in the business of things that families should be responsible for? Save up your money for health care and a nursing home, send your child to private school if you don't like your public school, save up for college." "Don't give special protections to gays and non-whites; it's not fair to straight white people." "I don't want any government telling me that I have to ignore my religious beliefs; it's persecution to deny me the expression of my values."

YOU say: "Even the wealthiest among us could be bankrupted by one serious illness; the astronomical costs of even basic health care much less advanced or long-term care is beyond the means of us all. Our entire country suffers when we have an unhealthy population with people who choose to feed their family for a month rather than check out a lingering cough. We suffer when hard-working people lose their homes because they cannot pay their medical bills. We suffer when children aren't able to equally access quality education. We suffer when to better yourself through college, you must take a terrible risk of taking on tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, with no guarantee of ever being able to pay it back. Our nation cannot survive with ignorant, sick, fearful, poor, broken people becoming greater in number every day." "If there weren't racists and homophobes by the score still determined to make life difficult or worse for some Americans, then protections wouldn't be needed. Until that time, the government must step in to protect the rights of all our citizens." "Your religious beliefs cannot steamroll anyone else's beliefs or lack of religious beliefs. That's called fairness. It's a general tenet of decent human interaction."

THE 9/11 + ANTI-IMMIGRANT PERSON says: "Islamists will try to take over/kill us all if we don't take severe steps to counteract terrorism." "Illegal aliens are a security threat." "Illegal aliens take jobs away from legal citizens." "All illegal aliens are drug-running, gun-blasting criminals."

YOU say: "Unless you are Native American, consider yourself and all your ancestors immigrants. Immigrants, legal or illegal, often take jobs that no one else will take, and our economy depends on their labor. Almost all of them are peaceful and want nothing more than to earn a living, often impossible in their own countries." "Being a Muslim is not a crime, and most Muslims do not align with Islamic extremists, any more than all gun owners align with serial killer snipers." "9/11 paranoia has led to invasive searches of babies, old women in wheelchairs, your clothes being digitally stripped off your body in order to get on a plane, and laws now allowing the U.S. government to completely override all of your Constitutional rights if someone in the Department of Homeland Security feels like it. The price is too high, and we quickly are becoming the police state that is no better than the regimes of the countries we fear the most."

THE RACIST/HOMOPHOBE says: "(Any ethnicity other than white) and (any other sexual orientation other than straight) are ruining our country with their filthy, abnormal practices and low cultures."

YOU say: Nothing. Just let them hang out and get to know and like some of your friends who are not white and/or not heterosexual. Strongest medicine against prejudice.

THE "BOOTSTRAPS" PERSON says: "No one ever helped me coming up; why should I help someone else who is too lazy to work hard?" "You can't ever learn responsibility if the government gives you a handout." "Why should unions be allowed to have so much power? Why should those people in unions get better stuff than I do at my job?"

YOU say: "There's honor and worth in hard work, and most people do work hard and want to contribute. Providing opportunities for others to succeed, or even get back on their feet, is compassionate and smart." "Realistically, there will always be a small subsection of the population who will not be willing or able to work. Judging them does little to improve anyone's lot. This isn't the Wild West. We don't let people die on the streets...or do we?" "The mid-20th century 'American Dream' of home ownership, cars, college, travel, material goods, increased access to medical care was, in fact, largely fueled by the gains made by unions, forming a comfortable, healthy middle-class. Without the protections that unions provide workers, most of whom earn less than 50K a year, there would be little to protect them from powerful corporate profiteers, where abuses are still seen in developing countries."

THE NRA GUNS ARE GOD'S GIFT PERSON says: "It's our Constitutional right to bear arms, you can't argue with that! I have a right to protect myself! If you take away my guns, only the bad guys will have guns! If everyone carried a gun, everyone would be safer!"

YOU say: "The 2nd Amendment citing 'A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed' to me, as well as many actual real legal scholars over the years, doesn't mean that every nutjob in the country should be allowed to buy a handgun to shove in his pocket and bring along to the mall. Do you really trust people that much? I don't, because statistics show over and over again that if you own a gun, it is far more likely to be used against you or a member of your own family than any 'bad guy' or intruder. A loud barking dog is a better deterrent to a burglar than the idea that Joe Schmoe might have a gun and might be able to get at it and might be able to actually use it competently. Our gun-death rate in this country is an abomination, and concealed carry a serious public threat. George Zimmerman was just itching to use his gun, went looking for trouble, and a teenager carrying Skittles and an iced tea is dead, and Zimmerman, to the day of this writing, is a free man. We will see more of this, and I really don't want to see where it will lead."

THE EVANGELICAL ANTI-ABORTION, ANTI-CONTRACEPTION PERSON says: "All life is sacred and begins at conception! Sex is for martial conception only! All abortions are a sin against God and nature! Abortion is murder! Contraceptives encourage promiscuity, immorality, and are responsible for the destruction of the family!"

YOU say: The toughest one to counter, because none of this is based on reason. "You have a right in America to your religious beliefs, which is what these are. In this country, we also have a commitment to uphold the separation of church and state. Allowing any religious beliefs to infiltrate the law is denying other citizens their own personal choices and beliefs. America was formed as a place to respect the individual and to protect each person from religious tyranny. Zygotes and fetuses cannot supersede the rights of women to control what happens to their own bodies. To deny women this choice is to clearly assign them to lesser human status, based on biology. If you insist that your beliefs are to be sanctioned by the government, you must recognize there would be little difference between America and Iran."

THE GLOBAL WARMING IS A HOAX PERSON says: "It's all crap, no such thing, liberal conspiracy, anti-business! There's scientists who prove it's a hoax!"

YOU say: "There's science, and science paid-for by the oil industries. Every credible research scientist, all of them far smarter than you or I, show us over and over that if we don't make immediate changes in our use of fossil fuels and chemical waste, our planet may not be able to support us within a few short decades. That's going to affect you and your kids directly, and we've done such a hideous job of dealing with this that it might even be too late. It is the single greatest threat to continued life there is. All of us should be panicking in the streets NOW, demanding our government put in place and enforce severe restrictions -- period. The profiteers won't change."

You may disagree with me, or YOU, but what I hope you do agree with here is that we have a lot of thinking -- and talking -- to do.


When there's a really catchy garage rock song out there that doesn't have a proper video on YouTube (i.e., not just a static image over the music, or god forbid, scrolling misheard lyrics in comic sans...this is where I step in. "Parties" is by Puberty, also known as Lars Finberg and Susanna Welbourne, also of the Intelligence. Lars is also also known as a member of Thee Oh Sees, A Frames, Wounded Lion, and I think KC & The Sunshine Band, but I need to check on that. Anyway, with the courtesy pilfering of educational films, James Brown in a ski sweater, some old home movies of strangers, an old folks' rockin' house party in Newfoundland, Canada, and some people from an unknown Asian country who really knew how to do a mean Jerk, WE HAVE NEW VIDEO! Please to enjoy, and please to purchase the 7" single at Telephone Explosion or digitally via your handy iTunes account.

(photo by Peter Mumford/Seattle Weekly)

Puberty, "Parties"


Yours truly gets a day off, because my pals Stacy and Barry delivered these sweet photos to me to share with you! If you want to know how it would feel to spend a balmy sunny Easter/Passover Sunday on Hollywood Beach, just north of the more-famous Miami Beach, NOW YOU CAN KNOW! Thank you, S & B, and thanks to all the unknown and colorful sandy friends featured!

Stacy goes first...


Just about a month short of a year ago, we went for a fine afternoon drive up the road to Bothell, Washington to visit the Country Village Shops (which you can read about here), and had such a nice time we went back again today. As it was the day before Easter, there were lots of fun kids' activities like pony rides, egg hunts, a visit from a giant egg and the Easter Bunny, and it was very busy. But really, I was all jonesing to get me and my camera back to Town Hall Antique Mall because I love their stuff, and admire how they so carefully place each and every item. It's artful, sweet, and sometimes brings a smile. The handy iPhone was my imaging device today, and I just shot some things that caught my eye. Please to enjoy! (You may click on the photos to enlarge them.)





Like this!

Marianne 0-50 In 2 Minutes, 30 Seconds (Song: "Time" by the Black Lips)

I tell you what, it's been pretty damn great so far. I think the next 50 or so should be just fine.

My love and thanks to my wonderful friends and family and readers who made this birthday extra special, and who make every day fun.


I like Easter. Easter was always around My Birthday Time, which adds allure to anything, and I like jellybeans and chocolate and hunting for easter eggs in the new muddy spring grass. Furthermore, Easter Bunnies are just cute as the dickens.



One wonders.


Cabin fever got the better of me today, and at 5PM I decided on a whim to leave the house and go out for a few hours of recreational discount shopping. I find this very relaxing; when I have no time constraints, the store isn't busy, and there's nothing in particular I am looking for, moseying through the racks at places like Ross or TJ Maxx or Marshall's calms me like a fruity drink at the beach.

It was really quiet today at the stores I went to, which was great. I think a lot of families are attempting to acquire some Vitamin D somewhere for spring break, which would account for the lack of screaming kids running around and snotty ineffectual teens at the registers. I mosey, and poke at clothes, and feel if sheet sets are soft enough to purchase, and remind myself that knick-knacks are the devil's work. I also listen to other shoppers talk, if they are already speaking loudly enough for me to hear. Why? So I can write them down quickly when I get into my car and then type them up for you.


Tired middle-aged mom: (speaking to middle-school aged pudgy blond daughter, who is holding up a red minidress) There's no way in HELL you are buying that. It makes you look like a slut!

Girl: Mom! It does NOT! God! You don't like ANYTHING I pick out! It's not fair!

Mom: We are not talking about fair. We are talking about a dress that makes you look like a hooker!

Girl: Mom!!! Allison has one just like this, and you told her you LIKED IT!

Mom: I was being polite. You could see everything

Girl: MOM!!! God!! Can I just go shopping with Dad next time?

Mom: Oh, HELL, no.


Young Dad: (speaking to his toddler son, holding up a colorful striped toy ball) Chase! What is this? What is this?

Chase: Poop!


(Two regular suburban girls in their early 20s are looking at some off-price designer shirts. I catch the conversation in progress.)

Girl 1: I know! She always dresses so well! She looks great. I wish I could dress like that.

Girl 2: I know, me too! Well, she has a husband, right?

Girl 1: No...I think she has a boyfriend who used to be gay or something but now is working at Nordstrom Rack.

Girl 2: (nodding knowingly) Ahhh...nice.



More videos from the Popthomology Vintage Footage Blender! I love making these.

First up, another video for White Fence, who is Tim Presley, who is one of my very favorite musical artists working now. "Down PNX" is from the new "Family Perfume Vol. 1" album on WOODSIST, with Vol. 2 coming in May. I'm finally getting to see White Fence play live here in Seattle at the Chop Suey on May 5th (along with another fave, Ty Segall), and I am already vibrating with psychedelic excitement! I think it's gonna be the show of the year for me.

White Fence, "Down PNX"

Earlier today, I was just stunned to see, for the first time ever, this unbelievably mega-awesome promo video for the Kinks' 1973 song "Sitting In The Midday Sun." I had no idea this existed. Look at Ray Davies! Why he didn't go more for an acting career is beyond me; what an amazingly expressive face he has. Check it out!

The Kinks, "Sitting In The Midday Sun"

Now, what's the first thing that came to my mind? Such lovely hair deserves a reset into a vintage '70s shampoo commercial! That amused me greatly, so I did it!

The Alberto Balsam - Kinks Shampoo Commercial

Fun fun fun!


What do I like best about April Fools' Day every year? Honestly, me realizing that my birthday is in five more days and I get (HINT) cake and kickass presents. Don't prank me, bro -- I might punch you in the oh long johnson!

My second favorite thing about April Fools' Day is cool songs talking about fools. Please to enjoy!

The Impressions, "Fool For You"

Oh my goodness, this soul classic from 1968 is just sososososososo sexy. Curtis Mayfield's sublime falsetto and that driving, punctuated backbeat...oh my.

Elvis Costello, "You Little Fool"

From his 1982 baroque-pop masterpiece Imperial Bedroom, Costello pulls a Ray Davies-type lyrical turn, looking at an everyday situation with a perfectly-observed balance of detached anger and uncommon compassion.

The Cardigans, "Lovefool"

Surprised? I am too. This 1996 hit from Sweden's Cardigans is far poppier than my usual taste, but it's so damn catchy. Plus, I like Nina Persson's pretty voice and pretty face.

The Who, "Won't Get Fooled Again"

Deserves all kudos for all time for the best political line of any pop song, ever: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." This remains the definitive performance of it, from 1979's brilliant Who documentary "The Kids Are Alright."

The Main Ingredient, "Everybody Plays The Fool"

"OK, so you're heartbroken. You sit around mopin', cryin', cryin'. You say you even thinkin' about dyin'? Well, before you do anything rash...dig this!" Testify! Although I do admit when this was a hit in 1972, I thought, huh, not me man, I'm never gonna be a FOOL. HAHAHA! Oh, me.

Elvin Bishop, "Fooled Around and Fell In Love"

"Fooled Around and Fell In Love" from 1976 is a bittersweet, tears-in-your-beer perfect blue-eyed soul performance from Mr. Bishop. Could have easily been a hit for any of the top soul singers of the day. It's just a really great song.

The Manish Boys, "I Pity The Fool"

Vocals sound familiar? Yup, that's our pal David Bowie, in 1965 when he was still known as Davie Jones. Lead guitar sound familiar? Yup, that's our pal Jimmy Page, in 1965 when he was still known as...Jimmy Page.

Etta James, "Fool That I Am"

Ah, Miss Etta. Just take a listen to this. Etta James' gift, and more so than any of her formidable peers that I can think of, was her ability to truly connect emotionally with lyrics and melodies. Everything about what she does with this song is just breathtaking: phrasing, power, pitch, range, raw depth of feeling, cool professional control. Stunning, really.

Ray Brown and the Whispers, "Fool Fool Fool"

This Aussie British-Invasion-style band takes a cool jerk beat and pairs it with actual jerk lyrics about a boyfriend dumb enough to steal presents for his greedy girlfriend, landing him in jail. FOOL!

Mr T, "A-Team Fool Remix"

I don't think I need to elaborate further here. Mr. T rules the day. Quit your jibber jabber.