Tyler Clementi is on my mind. The 18-year-old Rutgers student jumped to his death a few days ago from the George Washington Bridge after being surreptitiously recorded in a romantic encounter by his college roommate, and the sad event has made worldwide news. It’s a hot topic, cyberbullying, and the reality of being made fun of on the internet for the entire world to see is too much for some young people to cope with.

It’s funny – there’s never been a generation more protected from harassment, and schools often take hardline approaches towards bullies. It’s not because people are becoming all that much more tolerant and kind that the mean kids get the evil eye now; it’s a more PC and more litigious world now, administrators know, and a repeat bully is a problem no one wants. Back in the day, expelling bullies was uncommon; you just had to deal one way or the other with the bad kids. Everyone has a story about dealing with a bully, I think, which ends usually in some kind of climactic physical fight, a hard-won truce, avoidance, or endless trouble until graduation. But it ends. Everyone gets older, people move on, and the power hierarchy of the playground or the college dorm is dismantled and rebuilt, over and over.

Things change, is what I would have told Tyler. As bad as this was for you, it wasn’t going to always be that bad, no matter if you felt that every friend, family member, professor, and stranger would have turned against you. What shamed you and why could have been dealt with.

I can’t claim to be able to get inside the mind of someone who is so devastated by the judgment of others that they decide to completely give up on living, over something that to some other college freshman would have dealt with by punching out the roommate or filing a lawsuit. The teenage mind is often more easily overwhelmed by stress, their psyches blown apart over having strangers laugh at them. And what about the kids who set up the webcam to humiliate Tyler? This is seen every single day on TV and YouTube and people love it. It’s no surprise whatsoever that something like this happened. So what can we do about it? You can’t just say STOP THAT YOU GUYS, SETTLE DOWN. There will always be bullies. Always, even though I doubt Tyler’s “pals” here thought that what they were doing was anything worse than a prank, and never once thought of how it all might play out, because you just can’t tell.

The only thing I can think of to do is to spend those years that you have your kids letting them know that there are situations in life that are going to be incredibly hurtful. People will do you wrong, and sometimes in a big way and sometimes for a long time. But you also have to tell them, in a meaningful way, how you can get through it. Tell kids of times when you struggled and felt hopeless and weak, and didn’t know what to do. Tell them that sometimes things will seem so bleak that you can’t even think right. Tell them that anything they are working though, someone else has already been there, and can help. Tell them to TALK to someone and ASK for guidance. No matter what it is. Show them by example, not by preaching down from the adult pedestal. And don’t set them up to fear failure more than anything else. Tell them life still has so very much joy to offer, maybe unseen now but surely coming, and that 18 is no time to quit.

A thoughtless, cruel prank, and a young life is ended. Tyler Clementi’s terror at jumping from the bridge was less than facing his peers at school. Sit with him for a minute there, in that moment before he let go.


One of the great pleasures I have enjoyed throughout my life is that exquisitely exciting moment when you discover, again, Your New Favorite Song. Sometimes you know instantly that awesomeness has come your way, sometimes a song grows on you over time, but in both cases you end up playing the song over and over -- you can't hear it enough. Then sometimes a song will become a Permanent Favorite, one you always love and keep. And THEN, discover a song that for one reason or another blows past Permanent Favorites into that tiny little club of MOST FAVORITES OF ALL THE SONGS EVER.

I don't care if you think I'm a mental. I don't care if you think what I am going to play you here is the worst crap you've ever heard (and it may well be). I LOVE IT, and I've loved it ever since my old Chicago pal Kevin played it for me on a completely wrecked up 45 he found at a thrift store at least 30 years ago. Kevin is a lifelong aficionado of early rock n' roll, and always came up with the best obscure old stuff to share with me, which helped to broaden my musical tastes from British Invasion, garage rock, punk, garage punk, Garage Invasion, etc: twangy ancient hillbilly country, yodelers, completely insane weird rockabilly cats. And the latter description fits Tender Slim, the name of the artist of whom I rhapsodize here, and the record of which I speak is "Teenage Hayride" b/w "Hey Joe!"

Tender Slim??? BAHAHAHA! Even the name is weird. Try to picture a guy calling himself "Tender Slim," and not meaning he's low on cash. Tender Slim? You'll have to picture him, because I don't have a picture of him for you. For years, pre-internet, we knew nothing about the origins of Tender Slim. We theorized that this record could have been a one-off homemade deal recorded in what sounds like a room made completely of tin cans, aluminum foil, and electric eels with a lapel mic. Everything about these two songs is so RANDOM and WEIRD and MANIC. I fell completely in love with it, begged Kevin to sell it to me, and wisely, he did not. Turns out Tender Slim actually had some other records in the late '50s/early '60s and was notable enough to get a Billboard review for "Teenage Hayride" in November of 1959:

Good god, they even had a producer/director for this, and his name was Teddy Vann? BAHAHAHA!

Well, let's listen to the A-side first. Both songs come in at just under two minutes long, which endears them to me even more.

HAHAHAHA! HAHAHAH! I can't help myself. "Three Blind Mice," guys yelling "HA!" or "POW!" or who knows what, no lyrics until the end, some sexy girl going, "ohhh baaaybe," and the abrupt end with some wiseguy saying, "WHYYY NOT?"


Answer: SQUAT. Which is why it's so stupid, and great.

You think it can't get stupider or greater? OH YES IT CAN. "Hey Joe!" is not at all the famous rock song you know done by scads of artists like Hendrix, the Byrds, the Leaves, and Love. Nope, it's not that song at all.

I think I may have laughed myself sick when Kevin first played this for me. WHAT IS GOING ON THERE? From the speed metal guitar to the PLOINK at :38 to the Jerry Lee Lewis/Keystone Kops piano to the pause before the big chord ending, but mainly for the question asked: "HEY JOE!" "WHAAAT?? "let's go home," this is GENIUS STUPID.

Tender Slim and your friends there, I salute you with all of my rock n' roll heart. Sometimes you just gotta go a little damn crazy.


Honestly, if she had declined the offer, I would not have gone. After all, it was her Big Day, and I am a firm believer in honoring Big Days. However, when I told MissSeven months ago that the Flaming Lips were playing a concert in the Big City on her 8th birthday, this is what she said:


She likes the band, and was quite taken by the photos and vids I took from the band’s last stop in the area at Marymoor Park. It is my opinion that seeing the Flaming Lips in concert is simply something everyone should do. Yes, everyone. It’s more than a rock show, more than an elaborate, outrageously explosionary and colorific spectacle filled with nerds and freaks, although it is that, too. There is something very sweet about it all…silly and over-the-top, but with a genuine spirit of kindness and -- dare I say it lest you call me a hippie and YOU BETTER NOT CALL ME A HIPPIE, BROTHER -- love. You don’t have to be sleeping on a patchouli-soaked futon to dig it, or be high, or be anything other than you. You’ve never seen a more delighted bunch of folks than those watching a Lips concert.

We missed the opener, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, just catching the last song over the TV monitor in the Paramount lobby. Sounded good to me, with a substantially-harder edge than the recorded material I’ve heard. As we made our way to our balcony seats, a nice usher stopped me and asked if I had earplugs for MissSeven. I assured him that I did, thanked him for considering her well-being, and he said, good thing, because it’s gonna be LOUD. This, I knew.

I also knew that we would be seeing some interesting clothing choices. Mr. Cape watches the roadies set up for the Lips.

It’s unusual to see a band at this level of fame come out onstage prior to the show’s official start, but they do. They tinker and putz around and soundcheck, and every so often a cheer goes up from the audience, excited. You get the feeling that the band very much wants to provide their fans with a great experience. It’s also unusual for a band at this level of fame to pour so much money into a stage show – you’d be more likely to be seeing a lot of this kinda fansay stuff at a Pink Floyd or U2 show, and be paying double the ticket price, too. Right before the show began with the house lights up, lead Lip Wayne Coyne came out to give folks an amusing but also sincere plea that the audience should be aware that the strobe lights and other effects might make some people feel seizure-y or ill, and the cure for that would be to STOP LOOKING. MissSeven was briefly alarmed, so I told her if she was concerned she could close her eyes. It’s not every day a rock star in a suit comes out and tells you to be careful, after all; she took that to heart.

The show began with the band emerging from the backscreen and Wayne Coyne rolling into the audience in his human-sized hamster ball, the Flaming Lips’most-famous accoutrement. See for yourself here. It’s kinda hard to follow the bouncing ball sometimes, when there’s a billion balloons and confetti flying all over and people are goin’ NUTS. Fun!

Last year at Marymoor, Wayne rode the shoulders of an angry-looking gorilla. This time, it was a black bear with a sprightly march step. Here’s “Silver Trembling Hands.

MissEight (Eight!) has a need to mention something to me during the show. Of course, she had to yell.








March Bear retired for the evening, and the pace calmed for “In The Morning Of The Magicians,” which almost felt like a Ziggy Stardust lullaby, questions directed at a night sky, or just us.

In the morning I'd awake
And couldn't remember
What is love and what is hate
The calculations error
What is love and what is hate
And why does it matter
Is to love just a waste
Why does it matter

As the dawn began to break
I had to surrender
The universe will have its way
Too powerful to master
What is love and what is hate
And why does it matter
Is to love just a waste
Why does it matter

You know what fans are the happiest of all at a Flaming Lips show? The ones who get to dance onstage! This also seems like something one should add to the checklist of “Things To Do Before You Die.”

The set was nicely paced, and it was just as fun shooting pictures from the balcony as it was at Marymoor down front. You could shoot every single minute of that show – there’s just SO much visual splendor. There are more photos here.

The Ego’s Last Stand” came up close to the end of the show, one of several songs played from 2009’s “Embryonic” album.

The closer this evening was the transcendent “Do You Realize??” and the Paramount again was treated to a fantastic rain of fluttery confetti. The song is beautiful without needing a single special effect, but everyone knows that. At the end of the song, I noticed on the big screen that Wayne Coyne’s eyes had filled with tears as he smiled at all the people, smiling at him.

My favorite moment of the show is unabashedly personal. I took a moment to watch MissEight’s face as the huge balloons bounced up to the high, high ceiling, coming closer to us, then floating down, popping up again, floating down. She smiled and giggled and reached out her hands to catch one over and over, leaning forward in her seat, but with no luck – the blue one popped away, the orange one, then the red one. But then…right down to her came one huge white balloon, down, down, down. She caught it and held onto it with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. After a few seconds, I had to remind her of concert-goer balloon etiquette.



Happy birthday, big girl. Thank you, Flaming Lips.


"All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth."

Unearthed from a 1965 UK "Ready Steady Go" TV performance caught by some intrepid and wonderful fan at the time, fresh on YouTube today and caught by the intrepid and wonderful Dave Emlen at, this is audio of what is clearly the Kinks putting their crunchy spin on the Christmas classic. (Not sure who sings the song after it.)



[Scene: Two common houseflies, Fly 1 and Fly 2, are sitting on the remnants of a half-eaten hot dog and its paper wrapper which have been tossed on the concrete floor of the Depends Undergarments Arena in Shataway, New Jersey.  Lady Gaga is performing for a full house of enthusiastic fans.]

Fly 1: Is this a Nathan’s dog? It doesn’t taste like it. Something’s off.

Fly 2: I dunno, man, maybe Depends changed vendors or something. You gonna finish that part of the bun?

Fly 1: No, you can have it, I’m full anyway. Some fat putz was trying to juggle a plate of nachos and two cheeseburgers and a beer and dropped that in Aisle 12, so I was all over that, let me tell you. (Fly 1 moves over to sit on a miniscule piece of pork bone in the hot dog, and regards the stage for a moment.) Dude. DUDE. What the hell is this show??

Fly 2: (excitedly, through a mouthful of bun, predigested by his own spewed spit prior to eating) Are you kidding? Man, this is Lady Gaga, only the hottest musical property going! Where have you been, under a rock or something?

Fly 1: No. The dump off of Route 12.

Fly 2: Ohhh. Well, that’s a sweet gig, man.

Fly 1: Tell me about it. I had an entire bag of kittens last week!

Fly 2: Lucky!

Fly 1: (watching Lady Gaga) That’s some get-up that girl has on, eh?

Fly 2: She’s outrageous.

Fly 1: Is it just me, or does this sound like recycled club dredge from like thirty years ago? “…Ra ra ah-ah-aaah, ro-ma, ro-ma-ma?” Sounds like a Eurovision song contest winner from Abba with sub-bass and Autotune.

Fly 2: Ha. Dude, that’s so true. Mmm…Roma tomatoes. I once sat on some excellent ones at Safeway until this old bitch shooed me off.

Fly 1: (angrily) God, I hate getting shooed all the time! I have personal space, too, you know! People and animal tails are just getting ruder all the time, I swear. Back in the day, everything was so much more civil.

Fly 2: Dude. Your “back in the day” was like, last week. We only live for a couple of weeks, you know.

Fly 1: Well. Sayin’. (Looks around at the fans) Damn, son. Those rotted kittens looked better than this crowd.

Fly 2: Don’t hate! The Gaga welcomes all the Misfit Toys to her Island!

Fly 1: At fifty bucks a pop for the nosebleed seats.

Fly 2: It’s an elaborate show. She changes her clothes a lot.

Fly 1: I see that. I think she’s been through five costumes since you puked on that bun.

Fly 2: She’s really more of an entertainer, man. Like walking art or some shit.

Fly 1: So’s a Tijuana zebra-stripe-painted sombrero-wearing mule, then.

Fly 2: (spit-takes a piece of saliva-covered bread) LOL! I know that guy!

Fly 1: This is just nowhere near as good as the Justin Bieber show here a couple days ago. Those little girls were crapping their pants over that guy. Like, actually, crapping. Delicious, it was.

Fly 2: How did I miss that??

Fly 1: I flew in for it.


The puddle, notably, did not sink into the bedroom carpet, but pooled on top of it in a shiny oblong. The fibers had over fifty years or so become so densely compacted  through use and dirt that it rejected any sort of spill, at least for a few minutes. Antoine the grey Shihtz-A-Poo arthritically hobbled away nearby, in no rush to flee the scene of his bladder crime. Someone eventually would come by and throw some paper towels on it, or not.

The room always looked the same: the tweedy brown curtains with the blackout liner drawn tightly closed, the only light in the room from a single bedside lamp with a yellowed papery shade that gave the room a harsh amber glow, never switched off. The fake wood paneling, if you touched it, would leave an oily yellow stain on your finger, and it smelled like smoke. A teetery fake brass TV tray held multiple pill containers, many empty, and old bits of tissues, neatly folded. A stack of paperback pulp novels sat haphazardly in a bookshelf, not moved  since Nixon left office and it was Fritos the Chihuahua peeing on the carpet.

A portable toilet with metal handrails. A flickering television set, also never turned off because no one could find the remote.  The steady hiss of an oxygen tank. Antoine’s toenails clicking on the bathroom floor. Time only marked by the television, and never noticed.



Someone driving that tan Dodge minivan wanted you to know that her name was Fern, because she paid to have her license plate spell it out, all boldly capital : FERN.

FERN was, as you might guess, a woman of an indeterminate middle age, whose lumpy, shapeless body and indifferent fashion sense outwardly belied the inward personality she proudly claimed. FERN thought of herself as a tigress: fearless, powerful, sexy and sensual, beautiful and deadly.

The only visible way in which she expressed her natural temperament was in her refusal to look behind her backing up in a parking lot, ever. Everyone else would just have to watch out, make way, and wait as the tan van boldly announced that HELL YES, it’s FERN.


“Would you like a sample of pumpkin bread today?” The supermarket bakery clerk stood stoutly behind a counter, which was filled with neatly-cut samples in white paper muffin cups. She was over six-foot-tall, ruddy-faced, was pushing 300 lbs., and wore her long brown hair in two enormously-thick braids hanging down from the both sides of her face.

I looked up from the bread to her, with her red face in her red apron. I don’t think I could have wrapped my hand completely around one of those braids. “Sure,” I said, and took the piece closest to me and popped it in my mouth.

Conspiratorially, she leaned towards me, as much as she reasonably could over the counter. “Do you bake a lot?” she whispered.

“Oh…yes,” I lied.

“You should get over to Aisle 8 right away. You didn’t hear it from me, but there’s going to be a real shortage of Libby’s Canned Pumpkin. Get it while you can.” She seemed both nervous and proud to let me in on this.

“Oh…OK…great!” She nodded at me.

As I walked away, I remembered to say, “Thank you, Helga!” and then cringed as I turned from her, because I really, really doubt that her name was Helga. 



Every so often, there are these moments. For me, today, it was in the last gasp of a Seattle summer on a Saturday in September in a lounge chair on the patio, just me, MissSeven, and the sound of the boats on Lake Washington.

The leaves are just starting to turn. I miss the bright red color on the Japanese Maple.

HA! SPIDER! Damn, they are everywhere. Fortunately, I don't have a spider phobia.

MissSeven was very pleased to have me all to herself for hours. She likes to be busy and useful, when not being slothful and difficult. She and Ellie decided to water the plants.

The patio needed an expression of global goodwill.

Time for a snack of fresh raspberries. It's not possible to eat raspberries any other way than fingertip style, I agree. MMMMMM.

MissSeven: It's a good day to look through the dinosaur thing!

Me: Yes.

There's a big-ass rip in the leg of my shorts. It came that way. They call it fashion.

MissSeven thoughtfully brings out this teeny tiny little ice cream cup to me, after I had been sitting in the sun for about an hour. We agree, it is just the right amount of ice cream, and it's terribly adorable.

Little did I know, it was the Worldwide Day of Play, sez Our Girl.

"Play!" I said.

"OK!" she said.

And she did.


On a tip from Twitter pal Greg Bowdish (@gbowdish), we have Hymn For Her, a duo who play gut-bucket punk folk (yes, I said punk folk). You cannot possibly hope to be so cool as Lucy and Wayne here, because you are not playing this music, you don't live in this immaculate '61 Airstream trailer like they do, and you don't have an adorable cherubic toddler with blonde ringlets acting as your roadie. Sorry, that's just the facts, deal. Check out their cover of Morphine's "Thursday" right here, while taking a dip in the see-ment pond while wearing a leather motorcycle jacket. Do it because I said so. Thank you.


Time flies, and Vampire Weekend reappeared in Seattle this week for a two-night run at the Paramount Theater, the replacement gigs for their August 29th Marymoor Park show which was canceled last minute due to illness. There were some whiners and grumblers and put-out sorts after Marymoor, sure, but I think most everyone realized that the band was quite sorry for the mess, and they hustled to provide the best alternative possible for fans. VW enthusiasts MissSeven and I lost our coveted front row spot we had at Marymoor that night, true, but easily scored front row balcony seats at the Paramount last night, so we were fine. Here’s her set-up: little pink camera, earplugs, a roll of LifeSavers, and a water. I like how all her stuff looks like it’s smoldering here.

Tell me what you thought about the Paramount Theater.

MissSeven: I thought it was very fancy and had a lot of lights and a lot of passion. The crowd was really loud.

Me: I like the Paramount. The staff is professional and friendly, and the venue is always supah clean. The crowd last night was mainly made up of the clean hipster teens/20s kids that you for figure for Vampire Weekend, but I spied quite a few little kids too, and some younger than our reporter here. I am very sorry to report that I sat next to an elderly woman who smelled like stale undergarments. Very, very sorry indeed.

Tell me what you thought of the opening act.

Miss Seven: They were a really good band because their voices were good. They weren’t all cough-y like some people’s bands. Like, their voices weren’t rough. Like David Gray. They were country-ish. I don’t know how the woman with the white hair jumped with those high heels!

Me: The Head and the Heart are a local group that is getting a LOT of rapturous praise in this town – Next Big Thing, it’s said. I, too, was most impressed with their vocal skills, showcased in bell-clear, booming three-part harmonies. All were fine musicians. Their sound reminded me a bit of Blitzen Trapper, sort of indie/country blend with a large dollop of rootsy Americana folk. One breakout single and I think they will be on their way to national prominence.

Here’s “Winter Song” and “Heaven Go Easy On Me.”

(A few more pix here.)

What did you think of seeing Vampire Weekend this time? (Last time was during our trip to Washington, DC last spring.)

MissSeven: I thought they played a few different songs and they were really good and they had really pretty lights. Ezra grew his hair. Every song was my favorite song. That’s why I like them.

Me: I have to agree with all her points there. I like every Vampire Weekend song, a lot, and Ezra did grow his hair. In comparison with the DC show, this one seemed a bit more mellow and not quite as musically precise. To me, the band seemed a teeny bit fatigued, although I doubt that would be noticeable to most. This doesn’t surprise me; they’ve been touring nearly non-stop for many months, which can wear on the most hardy. The audience seemed to be into all the songs, happy, more than willing to dance and sing, so don’t sweat it, VW. Take your vitamins. The band was unfailingly polite and genuinely thanked the crowd for giving them another chance to play, which I found pretty damn refreshing. I’ve said it before here – playing your music for people is a real privilege, and having an audience who sticks by you is an honor. It’s really, really nice to see that understood.

Video EXPLOSION time! I gots lots.

"A-Punk," "Horchata," "I Stand Corrected," "Bryn," and the always-delightfully-manic "Cousins."

Yesterday was Bruce Springsteen’s birthday. Here is Vampire Weekend playing a Bruce Springsteen song on Bruce Springsteen’s birthday! PHWWOOOAAR!

I was thrilled that the band added “I Think Ur A Contra” to their set this time. It is my favorite favorite from the “Contra” album, with a sparse, exquisite arrangement that quietly surrounds the somber, sighing resignation of the song’s lyrics.

Finger dance time! You don’t see much of the band in "Mansard Roof" but I just like it anyway for the feel of such happiness from the crowd. Sometimes you just have to get up and dance, you know.

(More VW photos are here.)

Tell me what you thought about taking photos.

MissSeven: I thought it was kind of cool because there were all different lights from last time and robot lights and lights that looked like explosions but weren’t. It was very hard to not be shaky. Everyone moved a lot.

Me: That’s so true. We all do the best we can.

Thank you, Vampire Weekend, from MissSeven and me. We love you.