Saturday, December 10, 2011

a lowlight, or how not to interview your favorite band

last saturday night was my radio station's annual holiday concert. one of my favorite bands was headlining, and something really embarrassing happened to me while i was interviewing them.

it feels weird to type this, but i've been on the air in one form or another for almost 20 years. yikes. i started at age 19, hosting a noise/punk/metal show on kuci, my college radio station, and it's all i've ever done since (aside from a couple college internships at record labels and a short stint teaching rock climbing) (really). over the years, i've interviewed some bands who i loved to bits and some bands that i could care less about, and i've experienced the full range of situations. interviews like with will from arcade fire, or wayne coyne, ben harper or beck or gwen stefani where, when it's over, i love and admire the musician even more; i've done interviews that i've had to cut off abruptly thanks to interviewees dropping f-bombs (i'm looking at you, lars from rancid) and interviews where the person in question is someone whose music i have LOVED but i left the interview deflated, if not disgusted (ahem, anthony kiedis. such a bummer. made out with his girlfriend-du-jour the whole time, was rude, let any attempt at banter fall totally flat, and was plain unfriendly). i've prepared for days for interviews with people who intimidate me (omar rodriguez-lopez) yet have pulled them off fairly well, and i've done some off the cuff ones when they were thrown in the mix at the last second (a.c. newman, interpol) and made it through. but i have never, ever, ever done what i did last saturday night: have my mind go completely blank in the middle of an interview, so blank that i felt like i'd forgotten how to speak, so blank that it physically felt like my brain had hit a wall, hard. so blank, my brain hurt for a minute and i started sweating. and it was right in the middle of an interview with one of my favorite bands ever, my morning jacket. sheesh.

i knew a few days in advance that i'd be interviewing jim james from the band, so i'd been brainstorming questions, visualizing how it would flow, listening to older my morning jacket records that maybe i hadn't heard in a while. i jotted down ideas and a rough outline of a potential interview. i made notes in the margins. i read other interviews he had done. i cranked their new album as i drove to the venue on the day of the show. i was nervous, because, dude! it's my morning jacket!! they are so rad! but i almost always get nervous when i have a ton of interviews to do, so i just tried to squash the nerves and get excited for the broadcast.

i started the afternoon by interviewing two door cinema club, and they were great - easy going, talkative, polite, interesting - about the best you could hope for. then matt and kim came by, and i loved them; they are funny, open, friendly, silly, you name it. i was easing into the broadcast and aside from it being about 50 degrees where we were set up, everything was a-ok. it was awesome watching the bands soundcheck, and when my morning jacket soundchecked with "victory dance," i stood there with my mouth hanging open, blown away by how great they sounded and thanking my lucky stars that i was able to witness them soundchecking to an almost empty arena. wow. and now that i think about it, maybe that's what i did wrong: watching their soundcheck reminded me of how flipping AMAZING they are live. it gave me goosebumps! i think i set myself up for trouble. because when jim and carl sat down for the interview, and jim had this open, friendly smile and looked me right in the eyes - i just kinda lost all my sense. i remember starting with a question about their live show, and i remember jim answering it, and then: it was like i fell into a black hole of blankness. i was just looking into jim's eyes thinking, "oh my god, YOU ARE SO AWESOME, like, you are a musical GENIUS and you have such a GIFT and thank you for sharing your radness with us peons!" but on the outside, i said, "uh... and, um... uhhh..." - just stammered uncomfortably for about 20 seconds. and then: nothing, for about another 10 incredibly uncomfortable seconds as everyone waited to see if my head would in fact explode or i would be able to save the interview with another question. but i wasn't, and it totally flipping sucked. i was paralyzed! i looked over desperately at my boss garett and halle-friggin-lujah, he saved the day with a question about their recent grammy nomination. YES, I DID THAT ALL RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY BOSS. right next to him, actually. GAH.

i remember feeling horrified and embarrassed. my ears were ringing, my heart was racing, and sweat literally popped out of my pores - i'm surprised i didn't rain sweat on poor jim and carl. i was frozen and had trouble following their conversation. and i remember simultaneously thinking "THANK GOD GARETT IS HERE" and "WTF? this has got to be either a stroke or a flashback. SERIOUSLY, WTF??"

a few deep breaths later, i was able to somewhat regain my composure, and i even had a chance to make fun of myself mid-interview - jim james even fist-bumped me, bless his big kentucky heart - and i ended up asking about 50% of the questions i had prepared. but i never fully recovered, and in fact, i could not stop thinking about it for the rest of the night. i was able to apologize to jim and carl afterward and they were sweet and acted like it was no big deal, but DUDE. imagine one of your favorite, extremely talented celebrities, someone you respect and admire, someone whose work you have pored over and enjoyed immensely and whose performances you have paid good money for good seats at, someone who all of your good friends love and admire too. and now imagine totally blowing it with a giant stuttering brain fart when given a chance to talk to them. now throw in the fact that a few tens of thousands of people were listening as you did that. holy crap, right?

i think one of the biggest gifts of parenting is you don't even have time to really worry about your own petty bullshit much at all once there is a kid in the picture. so i did get over it pretty quick, about the time i got home and kissed my girl while she sawed logs in her little twin bed. i hardly even have time to look in the mirror most mornings before we leave the house, let alone worry about making a big radio ass out of myself in front of a band i love and respect and all the listeners too. ahhh well, you know? i'll be alright.

i just may never be able to listen to a my morning jacket record in the same way again, dagnabbit.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

my protch.

she'd been wearing a hand-me-down, sparsely-sequined, extremely garish "recital costume" for about three hours, dancing slow interpretive/ballet dances in the living room to a weird al yankovic song on repeat. she'd eaten dinner in it. watched half an "electric company" episode in it. plastered an 8x10 piece of paper in painters tape in it (arts and crafts, you know the drill). and when we came upstairs to get in the bath, she reluctantly peeled it off.

"mom, it hurts me, right here," she said, pointing to her nether regions.

"oh, your vagina?" i asked. "no, like, out here," she said, pointing to either side of her groin, where the too-tight leotard portion of the costume had been chafing.

"oh, honey, your crotch. it means it's too small for you, love." i said, hopeful we'd be retiring it soon.

"yes," she said. "my protch."

Monday, October 24, 2011

so good:

i've got a new favorite website, and the coolest thing is: my 4 year old and i love it equally. the kid should see this is "Off the grid-for-little-kids videos and other smart stuff collected by Rion Nakaya and her three year old co-curator..." and the videos are smart, interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes stunningly beautiful, and always awesome.

like this rad japanese beatboxer:

or these stop-motion images of landscapes:

Landscapes: Volume Two from Dustin Farrell on Vimeo.

next time you are online with your wee one, hit it up - hopefully you'll both dig it as much as we do.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


the one i overheard while in line at the grocery store: pointing to a magazine cover with a picture of an emaciated celebrity's chest bones protruding above her neckline, the woman behind me turned to her male companion and said (lightly, like it was funny and awesome) "ha! that's my six pack! right there! i have THAT six pack." it sounded to me like she was proud of it.

wow. so ribs showing through skin is the new six pack. it leaves me speechless.

happier thoughts:

f asked me how the earth was born the other day, then proceeded to tell me. "ANIMALS were ALREADY ON IT when the earth was born, there were animals shaped like ICE CREAM CONES and then there were BONUS ANIMALS TOO, with long tails."

i thought, really, that's just as out-there as most other explanations. so we went with it.

we also had an in-depth discussion about jedis, the force, and the dark side last night, thanks to a new hand-me-down yoda book she just got. i loved every second of it. it felt momentous, you know? our first star wars conversation! made me think of this:

Friday, August 5, 2011


just now, as we walked into the restaurant to get dinner, i told f, "i really need to go to the bathroom, so let's do that first." she spun around, grabbed my crotch, and said, "here mom, i'll help you hold it!"

that's my girl.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

may the source be with you

dear universe,

please never ever let f stop referring to star wars characters as "loop skywalker" and "dark vader."



p.s.: ditto for calling them "light savers."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

when worlds collide, with a side of chips

it's trippy that i've known o (or, like, anyone, for that matter) for 20 years now, but it's true. we met when i was a freshman at uc irvine, going to shows at the stab you in the back records headquarters, and his band fluf used to play live sets on my college radio show - just set up in the record library and go to town. 20 years later i still love seeing o at shows and he's still in more than one band, still making all kinds of good music.

so i was super excited when i found out o was going to be on "yo gabba gabba" (a show we watch a lot at our house because i'm pretty sure my 4 year old and i enjoy it equally) with one of his bands, reeve oliver! a coworker of mine, dallas, writes songs and music for the show, and another coworker of mine, john reis, is on it too: he's the swami. talk about a triple whammy of radness. here's john as the swami introducing o (he's the one in black) and his band reeve oliver on a recent episode:

i mean, who DOESN'T like a good sandwich?

Friday, April 1, 2011

no idea where she got that

this morning, f was looking for a baby doll. when i suggested she look in her room, she replied "shit, my room! i'll look in my room." pretty sure j shot me with a mind bullet (as he stifled a laugh).


Thursday, March 31, 2011

please hold while i call "l.a." for you. oh wait, he hung up.

when i'm on the air, i answer the request lines myself. not every DJ does, but then again, not every call to the request lines sounds like this one. he really knew how to win me over so i'd play "backdoor man" for him:

Crazy doors guy 3 28 11 205pm2 by hilahil

** NSFW or around kids. fair warning!

Monday, March 14, 2011

a ted talk on education & creativity

yes, it's from 2006, but i just saw it for the first time today, and i loved it. it's 20 minutes, but it's funny, insightful, and totally thought-provoking, especially for anyone who is a parent of young kids. with f starting kindergarten in the fall of 2012, where she will go is on my mind a lot lately. waldorf? montessori? a great magnet school or charter, if we get in? our local public school? we'll see. this video, though, reminded me that so much about her education is up to j and i, no matter where she goes - we can make it awesome and well-rounded no matter where she ends up.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

the circle of life: not just an elton john song these days.

when i get off the air today, i'm heading home to cook up a big batch of my new favorite dinner, a pasta/italian soy sausage/fennel recipe i found when we got some fennel in a CSA box and i googled "fennel recipe" after saying to myself "WTF, fennel?" thankfully, i found an awesome pasta bake thingie that i've now made about 4 times, so today i'm going to make two more batches and pack them up with loaves of french bread, salads, and bottles of wine, then pick up f and we'll go deliver them. my friend maria just had a new baby, baby ruby, and i'm happy to get to drop off some love for her family in the form of a pasta dinner & some treats for her older kids. after their house, we'll head to university city to make our second drop off, at my friend lisa's house, but not for a happy reason: lisa's mom is staying with them and was just diagnosed with lymphoma, and last night lisa went to the ER because SHE was feeling so crappy and she ended up spending the night and is currently having all kinds of tests done on her. ugh. and in another example of the circle of life, last month our good friend j found out that her dad died on the same day she had the first sonogram of her first pregnancy, one they'd been trying for for a long time now.

sometimes i wish it was more "WTF, fennel?" and less "WTF, life?"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

nut allergy rookies

this whole food allergy business is taking some getting used to.

for about the first week after our allergist appointment, i had nightmares about f's allergies - weird, half-lucid scary dreams about food and allergies and all kinds of fun stuff. i took it as a good sign when i finally had a night with dreams that were just about vegetables (cooking them! buying them! exciting, i know).

remembering to have a set of epi-ens with her at all times? one night i left them at her school (before we had two sets) and last sunday, she went out to lunch with her dad and i forgot to send the epi-pens with them. maybe we should build a shelf near the front door and have a set there so we never forget them. i'm sure ikea makes an epi-pen shelf. it probably has a name like "allerginska" or something.

and we're working with her to learn to ALWAYS ask if something has nuts in it before she eats it, but, you know, she's three and stuff so... it will take some doing. sunday morning we were at open play at the PB rec center and as i chatted with a friend, i looked across the gymnasium to see f taking a giant bite out of what appeared to be a granola bar. i'm pretty sure i reached her in one 27-foot leap while yelling "noooooooooooooooooooooo!" in that slow-motion way. thankfully, it was actually a cereal bar that had no nuts at all in it, but wow. i should probably just start wearing an adult diaper whenever i go anywhere with her now. sheesh.

Monday, January 3, 2011

about that time i cried in the allergist's office

i did - it sorta surprised me, but i got all teary eyed as our new allergist, dr. griener, described what to do the next time f has an anaphylactic reaction to nuts. administer the epi-pen, call 911 or if you're close, just drive to the ER, administer a second dose as needed, etc - as he calmly told us what we have to do in the event she has another allergic reaction, i totally got all choked up. it is just so scary to even imagine it. scary, surreal, but apparently, really really real too. you know, because it's already happened twice, and now that we went to the allergist and had f tested, even realer. "realer" should totally be a real word, by the way.

so that one small red welt to the left of her spine is the control histamine test. the nurse said if that one doesn't react, then the test isn't valid. the other two welts? those are where she was tested for cashews and pistachios. she eats peanuts regularly and has shown no allergy to those, knock on wood. and they tested for other tree nuts, with no reaction showing up; ditto for shellfish. she was a trooper, too. fortunately, they only did 12 skin pricks, and i breathed a huge sigh of relief when we learned it wasn't going to be the full 72. she winced a little but kept smiling as the nurse pricked her back with the little tools, and then while we waited she watched a caillou video on j's phone. it was pretty easy when all was said and done. it was also kinda crazy watching the little red welt develop over the course of the 15 minutes in those two spots. it's all so nuts. you know, for real.

so now, i feel a little unsure about what's next. we got the epi-pens and are starting to bring them with us when we go places, but that still is a little foreign to me - i think i just need to get used to it. i talked to her teachers and her school and am going to type up big bold signs for their classroom: don't hesitate, give her the epi-pen, call 911, that kind of thing. it makes my stomach feel queasy just thinking about it, but i guess it is necessary now. ugh. and, like, play dates and birthday parties and stuff? i need to let other parents know, that like she can't even touch cashews or pistachios. it's no joke. but i know other kids bring nuts to school and i hate to be the one to have to rain on everybody's nut parade. i am her advocate, though, and i think i just need to get used to it. all of it. sheesh.

what's that term that gets bandied (bandied!) about? "a new normal"? looks like we're going to have to adjust to a new normal at our house. no tree nuts at all, no chinese food, no greek food, no trail mix, no granola bars, nothing that could have been cross-contaminated with cashews or pistachios. reading food labels, being vigilant, and teaching f what it all means, how to avoid them, and what to do if she does ever start to have another allergic reaction. the epi-pens come with a "dummy" pen to practice with, so i showed her how it works and gave it to her to play with, just so she gets familiar with them. all of the teachers at her school have been trained how to use them, so that rocks. and we love those squirt-your-own yogurt places - we go about twice a week! - but now i'll be the one putting the toppings on for her, so she doesn't have a chance to come into contact with any nutty badness. small prices to pay, in the long run. still, it's scary and it kinda sucks.