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So Fred Phelps is dying. Few will mourn him. I’m sure he doesn’t care. He has said countless times that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks or feels about him, and I’m sure it isn’t bravado. He cut himself off from other people a long time ago.

I have great pity for that man. It doesn’t take any effort of will or empathy on my part. Every snippet of video, quote and photo of him has shown a man in the grip of rage and hatred. I think of my most out of control, seething moments and try to imagine feeling like that all the time, and I see a soul in torment. I would not want to be a person dealing with grief and facing Fred and Company at the funeral of someone I loved, nor would I want to be one of his abused family members, but neither would I want to be Phelps himself.

I believe heaven and hell are what we make here in this life, and as far as I can see, this man has been living in hell, and making every encounter with him hell for others, for decades. I don’t believe that any punishment or reward awaits him, just that soon his pain will stop, and I am glad for him.

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(Sorry for the misfire. An earlier version meant to be saved as a draft got published instead.)

The San Francisco Chronicle poses a fun question: given that some bands took a while to hit their stride, which are the bands that didn’t? What are some great debut albums?

I don’t know their answers, but I’d love to know yours: whose debut albums blew your mind?

For me:

Suzanne Vega. Every song is so good.

The Roches. Ditto.

GP, Gram Parsons. He’d done a lot of recording already, but this album is more exciting than anything he did with the Byrds or Flying Burrito Brothers, in my opinion.

Talking Heads: 77. It’s not even my favorite Talking Heads album–Remain in Light and Little Creatures are particular favorites of mine, probably because I listened to them constantly during high school–but it’s a hell of a debut.

Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, Bruce Springsteen. Again, immediately topped by The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle . . . but “Blinded by the Light”! “For You”! First album!

Horses, Patti Smith. Her utter confidence as a singer is even more amazing when you realize this was her first album and “Gloria” was her way of introducing herself to listeners. She just gets right out there and in your face.

Over to you. Remind me of the 20 great debut albums I’ve forgotten.

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