Galería Abierta is a unique gallery located alongside a side street in a busy market district of Barcelona. In June of this year, the geniuses behind the 2006 Difusor project petitioned the city government to tranform a series of 34 street-level spaces, once reserved for advertising, into rotating canvases for graffiti artists. The Galería Abierta, or "Open Gallery" completely transformed the wall enclosing the Parc de les Aigües into an exhibition space open 24-7, 365 days a year. The 2×4m frames are open to anyone, and the organizers simply ask that aspiring painters fill in a simple online form. The panels vary in quality - some are intensely beautiful and well designed, while others are distinctly amateurish - but the fluid nature of the gallery means it will always merit a repeat visit.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
In the morning, Pepita's beautiful niece Emma was born.
In the evening, we took advantage of our Christmas presents of tickets to see Muchachito Bombo Infierno at Barcelona's Palau Sant Jordi. The story has it that Muchachito, a native of the immigrant-heavy Barcelona suburb Santa Coloma de Gramanet, was discovered playing guitar in the street in 2004 and invited to open for Ojos de Brujo on their world tour. The 10-piece band went on to become hugely popular in Barcelona, building on the success of similar rumba/flamenco/reggae/swing party bands like Dusminguet and Tonino Carotone. Their Barcelona performance was the last stop on a year long European tour. Haven't heard much about a possible American appearance, but judging by the overwhelming reactions of the local crowd, it won't be long.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
La Puntual is the only theatre in Barcelona dedicated exclusively to puppetry, aka "putxinellis." The tiny theatre, "a performance space made-to-measure for puppets, marionettes, shadows and any other subjects that let themselves be manipulated" was built by Catalan puppet master Eugenio Navarro in 2005. The restored space had been the workshop and rehearsal room of the renowned Barcelona puppet company La Fanfarra, and was renamed in honor of the emblematic Catalan modernist play "L’Auca del Senyor Esteve" which is centered around a haberdashery shop called La Puntual, located very near the actual theatre in the Santa Catalina neighborhood.
La Puntual is currently in the midst of their annual Winter Puppet Festival, taking place until January 4. In addition to 4 charming shows for families, the Winter Festival features a short series of shows and talks by English puppeteer Rod Burnett, regarded as one of the world's leading Punch and Judy performers. That's the way to do it!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
While the street art of Amsterdam is characterized by clean design and an attention to detail, the graffiti in Barcelona has a fierce urgency. Despite a year-long campaign to clean up the city, graffiti is everywhere - on public and private buildings, on the walls of churches, in schoolyards, on banks and parkbenches, and on the exterior walls of private homes. The work is completely varied, but if there is any abiding theme it is "resistence." The residents of Barcelona are resisting just about everything you can think of - the government, the King, the church, America, the European Union, consumerism, the price of housing, and most of all, anonymity.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Through a lucky series of events, we had a cup of tea on Spuistraat in one of the last remaining squats in Amsterdam. From the early 70's until the mid 2000´s, Amsterdam had a loud and vibrant culture of occupation. A liberal interpretation of property rights and an unusually open period of police communication resulted in a code of laws that benefited the young people who entered and repaired abandoned buildings.
In recent years however, a series of lawsuits and standoffs with the authorities had caused a decline in the number of squatted houses, until finally just this one block of apartments remained. Like the other squats on Spuistraat, the building we visited had been vacant for some 20 years before being occupied. The three-story home had been completely cleaned up, pigeons and rats were removed, timbers replaced, brickwork patched, and the house was painted inside and out by artists from around the world.
Sjoerd, the bouncer/squatter/graffiti artist who explained all of this to us hinted that he knew of a few more sites scattered around the city, but they had all adopted a low profile in the hopes that it would keep them alive a little longer.
Sjoerd was proud of what he and a few dozen colleagues had accomplished, but was philosophical about the general nature of squats. "All housing is temporary." he said, "You may sign some kind of contract, but no one keeps a home forever. Squatters just get more aggressive notice when it's time to move on."
Friday, December 19, 2008
Boekie Woekie ("Bookie Wookie") is one of the world's foremost speciality stores for handmade and limited edition books by artists. The tiny shop, tucked into a side street in central Amsterdam, is packed floor-to-ceiling with precious hand drawn tracts, silk screened folios of Dadaist poetry, original photocopied zines from the 1970's, odd collections of fluxus-era artifacts signed by George Maciunas himself - a dragon's lair of riches. I was overcome.
In the store for more than 90 minutes, only two other people ventured in. One man was thinking to find paperback novels. One woman came in looking for photocopy paper. Both left shaking their heads. Boekie Woekie, which has existed in one form or another since the mid 1980's, clearly does not survive based on casual browsing by locals. Rather, International book fairs and the internet have allowed the store to persevere if not quite flourish. Collectors from around the world shop on the store's quirky and extensive website, or consider themselves lucky to encounter the Boekie Woekie stall in Frankfurt or Guadalajara.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Pepita and I spent 4 active days in Amsterdam. Pretty much every waking hour was spent on the streets, admiring the vibrant culture of this clean and efficient little city.
As always when in a new city, what first grabs my eyes is the street art. In keeping with the focus on clean design that seems to be a national preoccupation, the graffiti in Amsterdam is remarkably respectful and well presented. There is very little tagging to be seen, and a whole lot of colorful murals and elaborate stencils.
Just wandering aimlessly we found some world class pieces from FAKE, Plusminus Produkties, and Ben Frost as well as dozens of reaches by anonymous locals and passers-through. And of course, I couldn't resist the temptation to make a few humble contributions of my own.
As soon as I find a nice speedy connection, I'll post many more photos on Gurldoggie's flickr page.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Once again, I'm off to Barcelona for a month of food, family, and Mediterranean winter sunshine. I'm bringing a few projects this time, and Pepita and I are stopping off for a few days in Amsterdam on the way to Spain, so with enough time and internet access, I'll keep posting periodically.
This gorgeously alphabetical series of photos of the Barcelona sky is by German designer Lisa Rienermann, who spent a few weeks in courtyards looking up at the heavens as part of her course work in typography. More about the photo project here. More about my Barcelona projects, hopefully, here.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Local renaissance man Michael Hall, who the Stranger called "the Baudelaire of Seattle" and "the Holy Ghost of Northwest Hiphop" (aka. Specs One, Specs Wizard, Mic Mulligan, the Elevators, etc.) just released a new comic anthology, "Mux Adapter," published by yet another Hall alter ego, Capstan Media. The 80 page collection reunites us with Hall's character Reum the Cosmic Architect, and fills us in on his ingalactic roamings since 9/11/2001.
The limited edition trade paperback is available in Seattle at Wall of Sound or Zanadu comics, or for $7 per copy directly from Michael at Capstan Media, PMB 824 1122 E Pike St. Seattle, WA
Hall is performing as rapper Specs One on December 12 at the Free Sheep Foundation and December 21 at the Comet Tavern.
Monday, December 8, 2008
28 years ago today, on December 8 1980, pop icon and peace activist John Lennon was killed in New York city.
11 years before that, in 1969, a 14-year-old named Jerry Levitan managed to talk his way into the Beatle’s Toronto hotel room. Lennon let him hang out, and allowed the teenager to record a rambling five-minute chat that covered war, peace, hidden messages in pop music, and the arrival of the Bee Gees. Last year, Levitan teamed up with filmmaker Josh Raskin to make a 5 minute animated film based on their conversation. “I Met the Walrus" has since been nominated for dozens of international awards including a 2008 academy award for Best Animated Short Film. The conversation is loose, the animation is beautiful, and the film is one more reminder of how many people were profoundly inspired by Lennon's art and by his example.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Gotta say, the fifth Punk Rock Flea Market was a doozy. At the last minute, 4 unexpected vendors showed up and one dropped out, bringing us to a grand total of 58 vendors selling records, clothes, furniture, computers, stereo equipment, housewares, toys, videos, CD's, tamales, falafels, handbags, skateboards, 'zines, fetish wear, smoking supplies, watches, knives, jewelry, pickles, plastic robots, zippo lighters, hoodies, stickers, political propaganda, soap, soup, books, art, bike parts, baby stuff, handmade cards, and curse words hand-sewn onto recycled clothing.
Exactly 880 people paid to get in, plus another 100 or so who found the secret entrance, and then at about 7:00 everyone was tired of working the door and we decided to just forego the entrance fee altogether. It's safe to estimate some 1200 people making their way through the Underground on Saturday. Massive.
Glad to report that the Wrecked Chords got over their break-up drama to kick the music off in style at around 7:00, followed by the red hot Absent Minds who drove up from Portland just for the show, then a surprise set from the Yellow Hat Band. Everyone left standing at that point was pummeled by a blistering set from Suburban Vermin who had recently recruited Seattle Punk superstar Chris Crass on lead guitar. Damn, Sam.
In all, an exhausting and satisfying day for us organizers, and hopefully for all the vendors, bands and friends who showed up. Keep an eye out for #6, some time in spring. Hell yes!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
It's a sign of the times. The extraordinary painters and printmakers at Los Angeles' La Mano Press have decided to call it quits. For the past 14 years Artemio Rodriguez and Silvia Capistran and their ever-growing community have done as much as anyone in this country to promote Latin American arts and artists. La Mano has been a cultural center organizing exhibitions, offering workshops in traditional and modern crafts, and publishing gorgeous limited edition books.
And of course, they launched the legendary Graficomovil, a traveling mural, mobile cinema, gallery and print studio which is touring the country as you read this.
Rodriguez and Capistran are going to focus on their work in Mexico, including the burgeoning "El Huerto" project, a new center for ecology and arts in Michoácan, built from an old adobe house and featuring a demonstration ecological house, a childrens library, a cafe and workshop space.
The very last La Mano event will be the upcoming Christmas sale on Dec. 5-7 which features new and old work by Silvia & Artemio, as well as prints, crafts, jewelry, books and paintings by Javier Granados, Jose Lozano, Emilia Garcia, Burnt Tortilla Creations, Colectiva Mujeres en Movimiento, and many more. If you're in LA, stop by, offer your support, and wish them well. They've earned it.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
The other show I saw in Baltimore which left a strong impression was a series of handmade mechanical toys by the brilliant British kinetic sculptor Paul Spooner. For a limited time, you can witness a wide sampling of Spooner's automata genius as a Virtual Exhibit at the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre website.
The videos are clever, but can't do justice to the feeling of turning the cranks of these marvelous machines by hand. I saw his work at the American Visionary Art Museum. The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry also has a real life exhibition through March 2.
Monday, December 1, 2008
A very nice concrete poem/stencil from Rob Giampietro, written in honor of pioneering fluxus poet Emmett Williams, who died last year. The poem reads, “A saint I ain’t. I rap in sin. I rain in print. I pray in rap. I rant in pain. An ant I ain’t. I paint.”
Sunday, November 30, 2008
It's less than a week until the Holidaze Edition of the Punk Rock Flea Market, going down on December 6 at the Underground Events Center. In addition to 55 vendors (!) we've also got 3 awesome bands playing in the evening. Starting at around 6:00, we've got killer sets from Absent Minds, Suburban Vermin, and the Yellow Hat Band. Plus we're heralding the long-awaited return of DJ Port-a-Party and his old school 45 rpm mixes.
The PRFM is taking place on the same day as a handful of other craft shows and art fairs in the same general neighborhood, and in a very healthy break from holiday-time competition, all of the organizers are sharing info and shoppers the best we can. If you're making your way down to Belltown for the PRFM, why not swing by the Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle Center, the Vera Project's Bring it-Screen it Bazaar, and the Hollow Earth Radio Record Sale. Then come back to the Underground to drink beers and check out the show. What could be better?
Thanks to Espressobuzz for the above photo, taken at the summer '08 PRFM.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Beginning this Friday, SIFF Cinema is showing the film The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine, a documentary on 96-year old French sculptor Louise Bourgeois. Bourgeois has been working since the 1940's creating strange, perverse, unsettling objects. Over the years her work has evolved from painted wood carvings that resemble tribal art, to abstract cocoon-like forms, to the menacingly sexual figures that came to dominate her work in the 1970's.
Possibly her best known works are the monumental spider structures, titled Maman, from the late 1980's, but even these massive works only scratch the surface of a huge and complicated body of work.
In June of this year, Bourgeois opened a show of recent work which has garnered some of the strongest reviews of her endlessly impressive career. The show opened at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, moved to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in October, and will close at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. in May 2009.
A review of the show in the New York Review of Books said:
Perhaps the most amazing of the many remarkable aspects of Louise Bourgeois is that if she had died in her middle seventies we would not have known how daring, strange, ambitious, or disturbing an artist she could be. We would not have known how lively a colorist this ninety-six-year-old sculptor is capable of being; and we would have been deprived of the full measure of one of the loveliest aspects of her art, her feeling for a range of weathered, frayed, and matte textures.
The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine, in the making since 1992, is an intimate and ambitious documentary of this extraordinarily complex artist. Plays November 28 through December 4.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Doug was Seattle's best puppeteer, bar none, as well as a hugely imaginative thinker, a giving friend, and a total sweetheart of a man. I worked with him on a whole mess of shows, and saw and admired his work in many more. He was one of the very first puppeteers to commit to being part of Drunk Puppet Night, way back in 1998, and I always believed that Doug lent that whole crazy enterprise a dose of beauty and professionalism that it otherwise would never have deserved.
The most beautiful puppet show I ever saw was Doug's adaptation of dozens of Paul Klee paintings into a living, breathing piece of theatre. I believe Doug was extra proud of that one too, but day in and day out for 20 years or more Doug made gorgeous objects and brought them to life. He was a beautiful man and his loss will be sorely felt by the many people who loved him, by the hundreds who worked with him, and by the many thousands of theatre goers who were captivated by his work without ever knowing his name.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
While in Baltimore, I saw a small and miraculous exhibit of Dalton Ghetti's work at the American Visionary Arts Museum. Ghetti makes phenomenally intricate carvings from the centers of pencils. Using a razor blade and a sewing needle, he can take months or years to create his precise carvings of boats, churches, linked chains, and a bust of Elvis. One of the pieces is made up of 26 different pencils, the tip of each one carved into one of the letters of the alphabet. Splendidly obsessive.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I’ve been around Baltimore and DC for the past few days, and to say the least, the mood here is ebullient. Everywhere I go, people are practically giddy with pleasure, proudly calling themselves “community organizers,” exchanging hand slaps and hugs with strangers, and referring again and again to “November 4th, 2008” as a date that already has the ring of history.
While here I’ve had the great fortune to see and hear a number of political leaders, all of whom have much to say about the end of one era and the start of another. By far the most impressive of these was the great civil rights era lawyer Vernon Jordan, who spoke at one epicenter of DC book culture, Politics and Prose, to promote his new book "Make it Plain."
The well-known power broker who led Bill Clinton's presidential transition team in 1992, was in the news again recently to say that a "president should pick a White House chief of staff first" - advice which Obama followed. Jordan's speech at the bookstore didn't focus on the recent campaign season, but rather on an unknown and unsung chain of events that made Obama's victory possible. He cited a number of battles and law cases that most people in the audience had never heard of, including one emotional story about Primus King, an uneducated man who sued the Georgia Democratic Party for his right to vote in 1944, and won. It was a tremendous reminder that Obama's success was not a singular event or the work of one smart politician and his team of advisors, but was rather the latest blessed link in a long and arduous chain of events.
"Lest we forget that moments like this are not happenstance: They are the direct result of the work, sacrifice and passion of disturbers of the unjust peace."
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
There's still a few days for procrastinating poets to apply for the Robert Frost Fellowship in Poetry at Middlebury College. The selected poet will reside in Robert Frost's farmhouse in Ripton, Vermont, teach two courses and advise undergraduate poetry projects during the academic year, and teach one course during the summer. Newly-employed poets receive a 3-year renewable contract. Review of applications will begin November 21, and will end when the position is filled. More info about the fellowship here.
A poem from Mr. Frost for you ambitious types.
On Looking Up by Chance at the Constellations
You'll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves
But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drouth will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn't reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Northwest artist Hans Nelsen is known for his exquisite woodwork. His large and elaborate pieces, often painstakingly hewn from a single block of wood, are remarkably subtle and poetic, and for this reason are regularly chosen to adorn area churches, libraries, and the regional Children's Hospital. Locally, Hans is represented by the William Traver Gallery.
In conversation with Hans the other day, he surprised me by showing me a body of pen-and-ink drawings that he had completed as a much younger man in the 1960's. He traveled through Seattle, New York and London, drawing buildings, parks and people with amazing skill, working for architect Victor Steinbreuck, and publishing the occasional drawing in long gone literary magazines. I insisted on his making these pictures available to a larger body of viewers, and he laughingly obliged by scanning a dozen images and allowing me to post them here on the Gurldoggie flickr page. Check 'em out and send Hans an appreciative note.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Spanish Cinema has exploded onto the world scene in a huge way. For all intents and purposes, there was no Spanish film industry between the creative period that gave rise to Luis Buñuel and his peers in the 1930's and the death of Franco in 1975. The dictator's death brought a huge liberalization of Spanish culture, and the long repressed creativity of Spanish designers, artists and movie makers absolutely burst forth. In the years just following the shift to democracy, Spanish film makers like Pedro Almodóvar, J.J. Bigas Luna (Jamón, Jamón), and Fernando Trueba (Calle 54) introduced the world to a generation of Spanish superstars including Victoria Abril, Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz. In the 1990's, Alejandro Amenábar, Julio Medem and Álex de la Iglesia unleashed a second front of artistically excellent and commercially successful international film makers.
Beginning today, the Northwest Film Forum is featuring a weeklong series of Spanish films, made in 2007 & 2008, by directors who have won significant acclaim in their native country but are still largely unknown here. NWFF has a curated a stellar ensemble of vibrant, polemical, artful and eclectic films in a wide variety of styles ranging from pointedly commercial to wildly experimental.
Several directors are having their American debuts at this mini-festival, including Rafa Cortes whose film "Me" was named “Revelation of the Year” by FIPRESCI, the international association of film critics at Cannes 2007. NWFF is also screening the latest films from established directors like Iciar Bollain, whose 2008 film Mataharis has been nominated for six Goya awards, including Best Director, Screenplay, Actor and Actress. ShortMetraje, screening twice, presents a sampling of new short films completed this year.
Series passes are only $30 for NWFF members, and $40 for the general public, available here.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Today, November 11th, marks the 121st anniversary of the execution of the Haymarket Martyrs - eight anarchists and labor organizers who took part in the struggle for the 8 hour work day and the May Day uprising in Chicago in 1886.
In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (Now the AFL) began loudly calling for a great movement to win a national 8-hour workday. The plan was to spend two years urging all American employers to adopt a standard 8-hour day, instead of the 10- to 16-hour days that were then prevalent. Beginning May 1886, all workers not yet on an 8-hour schedule were to cease work in a nation-wide strike until their employers met the demand.
Accordingly, on May 1 of that year great demonstrations erupted across the country. The largest was in Chicago, where 80,000 people marched, much to the alarm of Chicago's business leaders who saw it as a foreshadowing of "revolution," and demanded a police crackdown.
A mass meeting was called for the night of May 4, 1886 in the city haymarket. A large force of police arrived to demand that the meeting disperse, and someone, unknown to this day, threw a bomb. In their confusion, the police began firing their weapons in the dark, killing at least four in the crowd and wounding many more.
In the aftermath of the event, unions were raided all across the country. The Eight-Hour Movement was derailed and it was not until passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1935 that the 8-hour workday became the national standard, as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal.
Albert Parsons and seven others associated with radical organizations were prosecuted in a show trial. None were linked to the bomb thrower, and some were not even present at the time, but the charges against them alleged that their public criticism of corporate America, the political structure, and the use of police power against the working people, inspired the bomber.
Governor John Peter Altgeld subsequently found the trial to be grossly unfair. On June 26, 1894, Altgeld pardoned those defendants still alive and in prison; but five of the martyrs had already been hanged, on November 11, 1887, and one was dead of an apparent suicide.
In July 1889, a delegate from the AFL attending an international labor conference in Paris, urged that May 1 of each year be celebrated as a day of labor solidarity. With the notable exception of the United States, workers throughout the world now celebrate May 1 as "Labor Day."
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Greg Boudreau is Seattle's most prominent stencil artist, having long graduated from creating street pieces to mounting national exhibitions of his elaborate multi-layered stencil paintings. He is currently creating an ambitious exhibit to be installed in the Form/Space Atelier in Belltown. Greg's new work, "Spire," combines some two hundred stenciled panels and several towering spires created from salvaged wood, mounted in the 20 foot tall opening hall and landings of the gallery. The show opens on Friday November 14 and runs only three weeks, closing the day before the Punk Rock Flea Market, in the same space, on December 5.
Greg has been keeping a sporadic blog about the build for Spire here.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Digable Planets first appeared in the early 1990's with the very clever and utterly unexpected album "Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space)." During an era when the early promise of hip-hop was being eaten alive by the aggressive posturing of gangsta' rap, Digable Planets had the sense and the skills to create a whole new sound composed of literate lyrics, unusually rich and well-informed jazz samples, and inventive arrangements. They opened my ears to a brand new way of hearing hip-hop, and I have been a fan ever since. The DP's haven't released a record since Blowout Comb in 1994, but they continue to exert a gravitational pull on the ever-rotating heavenly body of hip-hop.
Digable Planets will be at Neumo's on November 12. You can buy advance tickets here.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Last words on the election from poet Langston Hughes.
Let America be America Again
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")
Complete poem here.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
A poem for Election Day by William Carlos Williams.
The Approaching Hour
You Communists and Republicans!
all you Germans and Frenchmen!
you corpses and quickeners!
The stars are about to melt
and fall on you in tears.
Get ready! Get ready!
you Papists and Protestants!
you whores and you virtuous!
The moon will be bread
and drop presently into your baskets.
Friends and those who despise
and detest us!
Adventists and those who believe
Get ready for the awakening.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Studs Terkel died yesterday, Oct. 31, at a ripe 96 years old. Terkel was a genius of 20th century journalism, working for decades in television and radio before publishing his first book in 1967 at the age of 55. That book, "Giants of Jazz," was a collection of radio interviews with Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. He explored that technique for the next 40 years, interviewing working people, immigrants, prostitutes, soldiers and countless ordinary Americans in books like the Depression-era memoir "Hard Times," a chronicle of the 1970's labor force "Working" and "The Good War," remembrances of World War II.
In an interview in the 1990's, Terkel said "I think of myself as an old-time craftsman...I've been doing this five days a week, for more than 30 years. When I realize the work is slipping, I'll quit. But I don't think I've reached that point yet. I still have my enthusiasm. I still love what I do."
Terkel worked until his last breath. Found at his bedside was a manuscript of his latest book, "P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening," scheduled for release later this month.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Some superbly appropriate films opening in Seattle this week.
Just in time to freak out expectant parents, "Rosemary's Baby," perhaps the creepiest film ever made about pregnancy, is showing at the SIFF Cinema for a week beginning on November 1 as part of their "Dark Nights" series. John Cassavetes and Mia Farrow play a New York couple expecting their first child while the next door neighbors eagerly await the arrival of Satan's spawn. A terrifying classic, re-released as a glorious new print on the occasion of its 40th anniversary.
And I've been looking forward to this one since reading about it nearly two years ago. "Fear(s) of the Dark" is a feature length creep show featuring black-and-white animated shorts by six international super-star illustrators, including Italian charcoal artist Lorenzo Mattotti, New Yorker artist Richard McGuire, French graphic artist Blutch and local hero Charles Burns. Each segment is a tour de force of emotional intensity, exploring madness, sexual insecurity, rural superstition and disease with a scary and mesmerizing inventiveness.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
New York dance music pioneers Liquid Liquid have resurfaced after 25 years of dark obscurity. The band existed briefly in the early 1980's as part of a brief but fervent Lower East Side scene, where they played alongside other funk-inspired post-punk bands like ESG and Konk, playing a strange kind of low-budget dance music built out of clacking percussion, rumbling drums, roaming bass, marimba, and indecipherable vocals. Driving but gloomy, Liquid Liquid's music seems to echo something of the New York that spawned it: a decrepit urban metropolis, threatening to regress to a state of savagery.
Liquid Liquid's simultaneous breakthrough and breakdown came when Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel hired the Sugar Hill house band to recreate the infectious two-note bassline of Liquid Liquid's song "Cavern" for their hit "White Lines." The song became one of the most famous of early hip-hop, but before Liquid Liquid could successfully claim royalties, Sugar Hill claimed bankruptcy. The band went their separate ways in 1983, and the band's entire back catalogue is now back in print for the first time on a collection called "Slip in and Out of Phenomenon." Liquid Liquid are currently touring Great Britain and will hopefully make their way back to these shores in the near future.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Poet John Berryman was born on this day, October 25, in 1914. Berryman looms large in contemporary poetry, owing largely to the dark, drunk, confessional tone that characterized many of his mature poems. As a matter of taste, I've always preferred the musical yet morbid Dream Songs, written over a span of 5 years earlier in Berryman's career, detailing the inner and outer workings of Berryman's nebbishy Everyman, "Henry."
Berryman killed himself by jumping into the Mississippi River on January 7, 1972. The Paris Review conducted an interview with Berryman only a few months before his death in 1971.
Where do you go from here?
My idea is this: The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business. Beethoven’s deafness, Goya’s deafness, Milton’s blindness, that kind of thing. And I think that what happens in my poetic work in the future will probably largely depend not on my sitting calmly on my ass as I think, “Hmm, hmm, a long poem again? Hmm,” but on being knocked in the face, and thrown flat, and given cancer, and all kinds of other things short of senile dementia. At that point, I’m out, but short of that, I don’t know. I hope to be nearly crucified.
You’re not knocking on wood.
I’m scared, but I’m willing. I’m sure this is a preposterous attitude, but I’m not ashamed of it.
The full, ballsy, entertaining interview with the doomed Berryman is here.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Throughout the entire painful Bush administration, The New York Review of Books has been the single most consistently critical American media source. On Thursday October 30 several of the Review’s contributors and editors, including Seattle writer Jonathan Raban, journalist Tom Powers, Guardian critic Martin Kettle, and liberal columnist Michael Tomasky come to the Seattle Town Hall to speak on the human and political costs of the war on terror and the occupation of Iraq, and look ahead to the 2008 election. Sure to come up is a powerful new collection of essays published by New York Review Books entitled The Consequences to Come: American Power After Bush. The talk is presented by the Town Hall Center for Civic Life, with New York Review of Books, Guardian America and Elliott Bay Book Company.
Tickets are just $5 and are available at brownpapertickets.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
As some astute readers have noticed, Pepita and I are expecting a child. Sometime around the end of March, little Babydogg will make his or her entrance into our flawed world. In typical Gurldogg fashion, I've been buying up children's books, concerned that our little wonder is exposed to the richest possible literature as soon as he opens his eyes. A number of titles that I've seen recently have really excited me. I only hope the little one shares my lust for this stuff.
ABC3D is a witty and clever alphabet pop-up book by French designer Marion Bataille. The letters not only pop up but move and transform, creating an almost hypnotic effect. It's an extremely engaging and innovative book - almost cinematic. A must-have for fans of paper-cuts, pop-ups or typography.
The publisher has made a sweet little promo film for the book, and the real thing is even better.
And even though I rarely use Amazon, they do have a great price on this one.
Publisher Drawn and Quarterly has been collecting and reprinting the complete Moomin comic strips by Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson. The Moomins are hippo-like creatures with easygoing personalities and lots of troublesome friends. Jansson's art is pared down and precise, small enough to fit in the newspaper format yet grand enough to compose beautiful portraits of ambling creatures in fields of flowers or rock-strewn beaches. Jansson is regarded as one of the great newspaper cartoonists of the last century, the Moomin strip having been syndicated in some 40 countries to millions of readers, but this is the first time the Moomins have been published in any form in North America. The series now includes three large format books, and Drawn & Quarterly is planning to reprint the entire strip.
And finally, I was happy to see that the ever-adventurous McSweeney's is reprinting the delightfully odd book "The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip," written by MacArthur Award winning writer George Saunders, and illustrated by singularly strange Caldecott-winning artist Lane Smith. The book is a sort of fable involving Gappers (baseball-sized, burr-shaped orange creatures with a compulsion to creep up out of the sea and fasten themselves to goats), the goat herders of Frip, a widower obsessed with the past, and some dumb, mean neighbors. It's a strange story, and is absolutely in keeping with Saunders's wonderfully off-beat aesthetic. Smith in turn evokes memories of George Grosz, Dr. Seuss, and Japanese wood block prints. A good book for literary parents and their disturbed children. I trust we'll get there one day, 'cause that's exactly where we're headed!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Socialist poet Adrian Mitchell wrote that "most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people." Seattle's city council, led by the irrepressible Nick Licata, has been working valiantly to bring poetry into our public sphere by sponsoring an annual competition for Poet Populist. Each year since 1999, a dozen local arts organizations nominate local poets, and sponsors stage a series of public readings across the city. The entire city is invited to vote online and the winner is awarded a cash prize of $500, commissioned to write a poem for the people of the city, and encouraged to make public appearances throughout the year.
The poetic election follows the same schedule as the national election - voting ends on November 4th, and in January the current Poet Populist will pass the torch to the new office-holder at a reading at the Seattle Public Library. It's a strong program, and a clever way of promoting literary arts and local arts organizations to a general audience city-wide.
Me, I'm voting for local carpenter, painter and poet Arne Pihl, who I've had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions and who always impressed me as a sensitive and hard-working type with plenty of deep thoughts to share on fishing, drinking, love, and the many causes and purposes of heartbreak. A very likely poet populist!
In support of my pick, this excerpt from one of Arne's poems.
You been engaged
But never married.
“And I’ll have one
For the thumb”
You never been with a man
More than six months,
Maybe that’s why
You have twenty-four hours
From the egg
What are you doing
In the notebook,
Defending your life
Like a squid
With the ink,
Monday, October 20, 2008
There's still time to register for "Messmann's Messquerade," coming up on Halloween. Since 1999, local bike messenger Messman has been throwing an annual spooky Scavenger Hunt, bicycle costume pageant and hard drinking Halloween party. This year, the scavenger hunt begins on October 31st at 7pm in the sunken parking lot behind Cafe Vita on Capitol Hill and ends at the Underground Events Center in Belltown. The party is open to everyone but you must register ahead of time for the Scavenger Hunt. The $30 registration fee gets you and your 2 to 6 teammates a list of clues, commemorative hooded sweatshirts, entrance to the after party, beer all night long, and a chance to win some great prizes from an impessive list of sponsors including Counterbalance Bicycles, Recycled Cycles, Cafe Ladro, New Belgium Brewing Company, Dead Baby Bikes, Aaron's Bicycle shop, Piecora’s Pizza and lots more.
Friday, October 17, 2008
I tend to write letters and make journal entries with my delightful manual typewriter, a virtually indestructible 1940's- era Royal Quiet Deluxe. I have been irresistibly drawn to old typewriters since I was a kid. At one point I owned 16 of them, but limited space and a practical wife encouraged me to sell off all but two. I kept the Royal because it is small, snazzy, a pleasure to write with, and an absolute workhorse. Also because it allows me the illusion of being in touch with literary history - the Quiet Deluxe model was also favored by Ernest Hemingway, Bernard Malamud, Richard Wright and Joan Didion.
I mention all this because of my exposure to the amazing typewriter sculptures of Jeremy Mayer. Mayer disassembles typewriters and then reassembles them into full-scale human and animal figures. He builds his figures using only the screws and pins that come from the machines - no solder, wire, welding, or glue. The results are extraordinary.
On his website Mayer writes "Typewriters...[have] always been intensely interesting to me. I think of the typewriter as a product of nature- it was designed by minds immersed in nature around them, and mimicked the curves, geometry, and physical processes abounding in nature. Though it is cold metal created by human hands, the typewriter is just as much a natural material as stone or wood."
He also notes, very much to his credit, that "I do not associate my work with the 'steampunk' aesthetic." Mayer is next scheduled to exhibit his works in summer 2009 at La Jolla, California's Device Gallery.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Hoogerbrugge just released a new book and full length DVD showcasing the many aspects of his remarkable work and career including short films, animation, music videos, art works, sound design and a very elaborate graphic universe. Available only though the publisher, BIS Publishers, right here.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Today is the birthday of comic and social critic Lenny Bruce, born October 13, 1925. Bruce's sad life and short career are the stuff of legend. He was perhaps the first comedian to crash through the taboos of the Eisenhower years, broadly mocking the official hypocrisy of the military, the Catholic church, the racist culture of his time, and generally skewering American attitudes at a time when it was considered dangerous to do so.
Bruce was arrested for obscenity in 1961 for using the word "cocksucker," and although the jury acquitted him, the incident began a long and torturous series of arrests. In 1964, Bruce was arrested in New York and the widely-publicized six-month trial resulted in Bruce being found guilty and sentenced to four months in the workhouse. The conviction was announced despite testimony and support from Woody Allen, Bob Dylan, Jules Feiffer, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, William Styron, and James Baldwin, among other artists, writers and educators. The conviction was eventually overturned by the New York Court of Appeals, but the unceasing legal scrutiny took a toll on Bruce. He died of a drug overdose in 1966, having been blacklisted by nearly every nightclub in the United States.
According to the obituary by jazz critic Ralph Gleason,
Lenny Bruce had an incurable disease. He saw through the pretense, hypocrisy, and paradoxes of our society. All he insisted on was that we meet it straight ahead and not cop out or lie about it...He was one of those who, in Hebbel's expression, "have disturbed the world's sleep." And he could not be forgiven.
In 1971, one of Bruce's comedy routines was developed by San Francisco filmmaker John Magnuson into a short animated film, "Thank You Mask Man," which features Bruce performing all of the voices, and is now available to all of us through the miracle of Youtube.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Italian painter Batiste Madalena was hired by Kodak founder George Eastman during the last days of silent cinema to design and hand-paint film posters for his theater in Rochester, NY—at the time the third-largest cinema in the U.S. Working alone over a four-year period and against deadlines that required as many as eight new posters a week for each change of bill, Madalena created over 1,400 unique works. Approximately 250 of these posters survived when the artist himself rescued them from the trash behind the theater. Madalena's rediscovery in the 1980s brought his brilliantly colored, singular designs, done in tempera paint on illustration board, to the attention of critics and collectors, and soon made him one of the most celebrated advertising artists for moving pictures. Fifty-three of Madelena's posters from this period will be on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from October 16 through April 6.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Beginning this Thursday, the talented madmen at Monkey Wrench Puppet Lab present their newest fever dream, "UFO the Puppet Show." The twisted puppeteers, who regularly stage Drunk Puppet Night and recently created the epic "Dracula: A Case Study," now tell the tale of what really went down at Roswell Airforce Base, and what it means for mankind. Apparently it involves Nazi scientists, Bess Truman, and a certain Austrian body-builder turned politician.
The show opens tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 9, and runs Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights until Nov. 8. At the Theatre off Jackson, in the heart of the International District. Tickets are available here. MWPL are the only local theatre group really exploring the strange and beautiful world of puppetry, and their shows are always worth checking out.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Artist and gallery owner Paul Pauper is creating a series of provocative luggage sure to attract attention at airports. His suitcases and handbags feature brightly colored paintings and stencils of explosive devices, with the express aim of making fellow travelers paranoid and getting a reaction from security screeners. The subversive suitcases are available through his gallery, the Form/Space Atelier, and he is asking any buyers to document the process of taking them on board on airplane for use in a future installation.
Evan Roth of Graffiti Research Lab is exploring a similar idea, and taking it one step further. He has been cutting messages and symbols into metal plates and placing them in his carry-on luggage when he goes through airport security. Roth's project, which he calls "TSA Communication" has already made it through three airport runs. So far, he's used plates with portraits of Osama Bin Laden, the message "NOTHING TO SEE HERE," and a design he calls "The Exact Opposite Of A Box Cutter," which is a plate with a box cutter shape cut out of it.
It takes a certain kind of imagination, and a significant level of courage, to respond to the theater of airport security as an active participant rather than a passive one. I'm convinced that the country would be in better shape if more people found a way to creatively talk back to our self-appointed guardians, rather than blindly following instructions.
Monday, October 6, 2008
The date for the next Punk Rock Rock Flea Market has been nailed down.
The Underground Events Center presents the Holidaze edition of the Punk Rock Flea Market on Saturday December 6. For those of you keeping track, this is PRFM #5.
This is a full on flea market selling records, clothing, furniture, computers, stereo equipment, housewares, haircuts, toys, videos, bicycles, tacos, falafels, vegan treats, skateboards, political propaganda, information from non profit groups, books, art, baby stuff, tarot readings & whatever else we can fit into the space. Don't let the name lead you to believe that we only welcome vendors selling punk records, clothes etc. The "Punk Rock" of the name refers as much to the DIY spirit of the event as it does to any particular music or lifestyle.
Spaces are still just $25 (cheap!), and double spaces cost $50 (insanely cheap!). Like before, the market opens to the public at 10:00 am and bands will begin to play at around 6:00 pm.
Once again, the space we are using has been generously loaned to us for the day by the Low Income Housing Institute, aka. LIHI, a non-profit organization that builds homes for homeless and low-income people all around the Puget Sound.
To reserve a table or ask questions email the PRFM crew at PRFleamarket@gmail.com or visit the PRFM MySpace page. More info soon!
Sunday, October 5, 2008
The week to come brings an unusually rich cinema schedule - even by Seattle's extremely high standards - as two renowned film makers come to town to present their work at our non-profit theatres, and one up-and-coming local arts collective premiers a very unusual series of new work at one of the City's brightest new spots for underground art.
On October 6, at the charming Grand Illusion in the U-District, animator Don Hertzfeldt presents a selection of his animated shorts, culminating in the regional premiere of his film I Am So Proud of You. Hertzfeldt developed a cult following after the release of his short film "Rejected" which features his disquieting, and ultimately declined, animated spots for the Family Learning Channel. His newest film is a sequel to the gorgeous and depressing Everything will be OK, which won the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Award in Short Filmmaking in 2007. The Seattle screening will be followed by "an embarassing live interview" and audience Q+A with Hertzfeldt.
On October 8, at the SIFF Cinema in Seattle Center, British Director Mike Leigh presents his latest film, Happy- Go- Lucky, followed by a public reception. Leigh began his career as a stage director in the 1960's, made a series of bleak and beautiful television dramas, and in the 1980's began work on his unique oeuvre of socially realistic films set in the hidden recesses of the English working-class world. Leigh may be best known in this country for his films Secrets & Lies and Vera Drake, and for his 1993 pitch-black comedy Naked, which won Leigh a Best Director award at Cannes and features David Thewlis as Johnny, one of the most physically charismatic and morally reprehensible characters to appear on film in many years. Though he is somewhat under-celebrated in the U.S., Mike Leigh is one of the giants of contemporary film, and is unquestionably one of the great directors in cinematic history.
Finally, at the soon- to- be- demolished Free Sheep Foundation in Belltown, the collective "Silvering Path" opens a two-week run of new works beginning on October 10th. Seattle dancer/performer Haruko Nishimura commissioned film maker Ian Lucero, installation artist Mandy Greer and sound sculptor Colin Ernst to create three new multi-media collaborations. The film by Lucero captures in microscopic detail the life of a “Slug Princess," played by Haruko, and features a sound track made from field recordings of grains and vegetables. Previews of the film are available here, and you can buy tickets for the show here.
We have a rainy week ahead, and there is simply no better way to save an otherwise dreary evening than by supporting our local non-profit cinemas and watching some excellent movies.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
The upstate New York poet was a devoutly private and radically intelligent man of the widest reading and cultivation, equally at home with modern jazz and classical Greek. He made a principle of staying alert to trends in speech, art, music and politics which was closely tied to his self-styled anarchism. Carruth's poetry could veer from gentle and appreciative to sizzling with rage, expressing everything from fantasies of escape to deep psychic unease. To my mind, the most characteristic of his many qualities was his unfailing ear for popular speech - the talk of streets, pubs, barnyards, jam sessions, and lunch counters. This unique sensibility was brilliantly displayed in the book that introduced me to him - and still my favorite - "Asphalt Georgics," in which he rhapsodized the malls, bars and road culture of my own homeland around Rochester, Rome and Utica New York.
As he aged, his disillusion with the world around him grew, but he never stopped writing. His last poems were regretful, even sorrowful, but anger was never Carruth's dominant note. Rather his poems, like the people he lovingly chronicled, were gallant improvisers - bent but never broken.
This poem is from Carruth's 1996 book, Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey.
Both of us had been close
to Joel, and at Joel’s death
my friend had gone to the wake
and the memorial service
and more recently he had
visited Joel’s grave, there
at the back of the grassy
cemetery among the trees,
“a quiet, gentle place,” he said,
“befitting Joel.” And I said,
“What’s the point of going
to look at graves?” I went
into one of my celebrated
tirades. “People go to look
at the grave of Keats or Hart
Crane, they go traveling just to
do it, what a waste of time.
What do they find there? Hell,
I wouldn’t go look at the grave of
Shakespeare if it was just
down the street. I wouldn’t
look at—” And I stopped. I
was about to say the grave of God
until I realized I’m looking at it
all the time....