Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Handmade Nation

Long-time Seattleite and current Milwaukee resident Faythe Levine just returned from a promotional visit and art auction in Los Angeles. The visit and auction were coordinated to raise money and attention for Levine's new film and book, "Handmade Nation." Faythe, who runs Paper Boat Boutique and Gallery in Milwaukee and coordinates that city's version of the Punk Rock Flea Market, the "Art vs. Craft" fair, is filming and editing a documentary about the swelling wave of independent artists making a living by selling their handmade crafts. The film frames the contemporary craft movement as the bastard offspring of traditional handiwork and punk rock - a genuine alternative to mainstream consumption rather than a lifestyle trend. To date Faythe has spent hundreds of hours filming and interviewing artists, crafters, organizers, critics, curators, cultural theorists and historians at boutiques, studios, galleries and craft fairs and through websites, blogs and online stores. The independently produced and financed documentary is slated for a 2009 festival release.

I'm sorry to have missed the auction on July 19th which featured exquisite work from such artists as Nikki McClure, Dawbis, The Polaroid Kidd and many others. I'm hoping that we can arrange a similar event later this year with the help of the Punk Rock Flea Market. Until then, Faythe has recently posted an 8 minute trailer of her film, available right here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Who Controls the Blog Controls the Future

A few months ago, while re-re-re-reading Down and Out in Paris and London, I remarked to a friend that I was "going through an Orwell phase." "You and the rest of the world" he responded. As if to prove his point, The Orwell Prize has announced that they are going to publish every one of George Orwell's diary entries, exactly 70 years after it was written, on this blog starting August 9. As one would expect, the diaries cover events both personal and political and will allow readers to follow the egg production of Orwell's domestic hens, his recovery from a gunshot to the neck during the Spanish Civil War, and his observations on the descent of Europe into World War II.

It sounds like a very clever way to introduce readers to the range of interest of one of the 20th century's most important writers, as well as being a smart and timely blog. "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

Monday, July 28, 2008

PRFM Follow Through

Another great Punk Rock Flea Market.

In the end, we had 70 vendors selling everything from comic books to hunting knives to pocket watches to Crass records. Among the scores of the day: Count Spankula had a huge collection of bootleg Residents recordings, and the "What would GG Allin do?" t-shirts went like hotcakes.

Local graffiti hero Heck showed up at the last minute to sell stickers and hand painted tiles and Bruce Pavitt, the founder of Subpop Records, made a killing and cleaned out his attic at the same time. The entertainment was spot on as well. We couldn't keep it all contained during the day, so DJ's Grindle and Isepp moved the sound system into the parking lot. Scott Adams showed up with his banjo for a few hours, and after the sun went down the music was insanely good. Heaping helpings of fantastic music from Geist & Samuel Joseph, the Wrecked Chords, T.V. Coahran and the hugely popular Suburban Vermin.

Hope you made it. If not, check out some great photos at espressobuzz or my flickr page, or visit the updated PRFM myspace page (thanks to The Corey.) Keep an eye on Gurldogg for news of the next one. Peace out!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Race to the Bottom

For a chaotic group of rebels and misfits, the Dead Baby Bike Club sure gets a lot accomplished.

The perennially raucous Seattle bike club is holding the 12th annual Dead Baby Downhill bike race on Friday August 1. The race, which began as a lark by a bunch of drunk bicyclists in Belltown, has grown into a 4-day festival of competition, bike culture and punk music that draws hundreds of people from up and down the west coast. For the first time, the race begins on the north side of town. Riders of tall bikes, small bikes and assorted dangerous contraptions surrender to gravity at 7:00 PM sharp, from El Chupacabra, high on Phinney Ridge, at 6711 Greenwood Ave N.

In addition to the teetering-on-catastrophic downhill race, the weekend brings a track stand competition, bunny hop limbo, the midnight Huffy heave, and the always popular tall-bike jousting. The group has also arranged 2 screenings of their Dead Baby Short Film Festival on Thursday June 31 at the Central Cinema. The highly entertaining film collection first screened at the Underground Events Center back in May, and has since been picked up by a number of larger venues and festivals across the country.

More info on all of this, including race registration, is at the Dead Baby website.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Out of Sth

Briefly showing on the streets of Wroclaw, Poland is an extraordinary exhibition of graffiti as part of a festival called "Out of Sth." The groundbreaking exhibit features beautiful and deliberately provocative paintings in extremely public places and is sponsored, in part, by the Polish Ministry of Culture. Among the works now adorning the streets of Wroclaw is this amazing piece, on a commandeered billboard, by Polish artist Peter Fuss.

Many more images here and here. If you happen to find yourself in Poland, the exhibit is on display until August 17.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Measure of America

On July 20th , the study The Measure of America: American Human Development Report 2008-2009 was released by Columbia University Press. The book, commissioned by the Oxfam charity and several foundations, presents a wealth of data demonstrating the profound and deepening social decay of the United States. Using figures provided by the US Bureau of the Census, the report documents the dramatic decline of American society relative to other advanced industrialized countries, and the mounting social disparities within the US. The resulting portrait shows that much of our country’s population live in conditions that can only be described as “Third World."

Some key findings from the The Measure of America:

* The U.S. ranks #24 among the 30 most affluent countries in life expectancy - yet spends more on health care than any other nation.

* One American dies every 90 seconds from obesity-related health problems.

* Fourteen percent of the population - some 30 million Americans - lacks the literacy skills to perform simple, everyday tasks like understanding newspaper articles and instruction manuals.

* African American students are three times more likely than whites to be placed in special education programs, and only half as likely to be placed in gifted programs.

* The top 1 percent of U.S. households possesses a full third of America’s wealth.

* Nearly one in five American children lives in poverty, with more than one in thirteen living in extreme poverty.

* Over the course of a year, at least 1.35 million children are at some point homeless.

* The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s people - but 24 percent of the world’s prisoners.

* African Americans are imprisoned at six to eight times the rate of whites; the rate is much higher for African Americans who do not graduate high school; by age thirty-five, 60 percent of African American high school dropouts will have spent time in prison.

* In 98 countries, new mothers have 14 or more weeks of paid maternity leave. The U.S. has no federally mandated paid maternity leave.

* The U.S. ranks forty-second in global life expectancy and first among the world’s twenty-five richest countries in the percentage of children living in poverty.

You can find out much more about the report at their very impressive web site. The site lists key findings from the report, a Well-O-Meter which allows you to approximate your own human development index by answering a series of questions, interactive maps, and tables.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Lots of weird and interesting art popping up in Belltown recently. This is a nicely modified billboard on Bell st.

And here's a storefront display window at 3rd & Battery.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


...and in another burst of synchronicity, illustrator and animator Pes posted a beautiful new film while I was gone.

Damas y caballeros, I give you "Western Spaghetti."


Back in town just a few hours, I checked out the NY Times to see what I missed while off the grid. I was surprised to find this story about Portuguese poet and novelist Fernando Pessoa.

Even writing in the mid-20th century, during an age of modernism and literary experimentation, Pessoa was noteworthy for his daring and inscrutability. He wrote hundreds, possibly thousands, of poems and stories under the guise of “heteronyms.” Unlike simple pseudonyms, Pessoa’s heteronyms were imaginary characters who not only wrote in different styles but were fully developed personalities with their own supposed physical appearances, biographies and social lives. Several heteronyms published their work in different languages (Pessoa wrote fluently in Italian and English as well as Portuguese) in various countries. Pessoa never revealed the extent of his disguises, and according to the latest count by his editor Teresa Rita Lopes, work by at least 70 of his heteronyms was published during the poet’s lifetime. There may be many more not yet uncovered.

This photo of Pessoa is one of very few that exists. The poem below is attributed to one of his better known heteronyms, Alberto Caeiro.

Pity the flowers in the corners of formal gardens.
They look as if they fear the police.
But such goodness is theirs that they bloom just the same
and they wear the same ancient smile
they wore before the first look of that first man
who, seeing them emerge, touched them lightly
to see if they could talk.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Turning Beastly

Gurldogg is heading out of town for the next few days to premiere a pair of new puppet shows at the Oregon Country Fair. After not making any puppets for several years, it was important that the new shows be well considered, well made and unusual. Following Pepita's lead, as always, the two of us have spent the last 8 weeks crafting two wordless shows based on dance performances. One show features a puppetized version of Argentina bandoneon genius Anibal Troilo explaining, in song, the genesis of the tango. The other is a 3 minute flamenco performance by our puppety homage to La Farona, Lola Flores. I'll get some photos or footage up here when I return.

Youtube was a great help in developing the dance moves for these pieces, and one particularly helpful video was this odd little motion capture of a flamenco dancer who metamorphosed, like the characters in Ionesco's famous play, into a rhinoceros. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ryhmes with Ohio

Local musical luminary Amy Denio is briefly back in the Northwest for a few must-see solo accordion concerts. You’ve already missed the Experimental Music Fest in Olympia, which took place last week, but there’s still time to catch her at the Rendezvous in Seattle on July 9 and in Everett on the 17th at Under The Red Umbrella. Both shows also feature Gohger & Audio Antethesis from Ghritztopia.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Kode9 from Outer Space

Back in the late nineties, Scottish born DJ Kode9 began making "Weird Garage" music at his home in Edinburgh. Moving to London he started the influential Hyperdub blog, and in 2002 put out his first release, a 12" by dubstep superstar Burial. The blog became a label and the rest - including his chest-busting remix of Massive Music's 'Find My Way' - is history. He's bringing his sound laboratory to Chop Suey this Tuesday night, July 9. The Stranger's Charles Mudede has a well-informed (if slightly overheated) write-up here.

This video for a Kode9 dubplate remix from 2006 features lots of archival footage of the legendary King Stitt, "the world's oldest living DJ."

According to reports, Kode9 is currently researching and writing a book on sonic warfare.

Friday, July 4, 2008

This Moment Yearning and Thoughtful

In addition to being the anniversary of the first telling of Alice in Wonderland, July 4th is also the anniversary of the first publication of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass in 1855. Whitman spent his entire life writing Leaves of Grass, continually revising it until his death in 1892. While the book is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest work of American poetry, the truth is that the book celebrates the glory of individuals much more than the innate goodness of any nation. As he notes in a poem from the first edition: "All doctrines, all politics and civilization exurge from you, all sculpture and monuments and anything inscribed anywhere are tallied in you... If you were not breathing and walking here where would they all be?"

This poem adopts that characteristic and less celebrated note from Leaves of Grass. Transcending petty patriotism, Whitman looks beyond America's shores to sing about the inherent beauty of all people.

This Moment Yearning and Thoughtful

THIS moment yearning and thoughtful sitting alone,
It seems to me there are other men in other lands yearning and thoughtful,
It seems to me I can look over and behold them in Germany, Italy, France, Spain,
Or far, far away, in China, or in Russia or talking other dialects,
And it seems to me if I could know those men I should become
attached to them as I do to men in my own lands,
O I know we should be brethren and lovers,
I know I should be happy with them.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Punk Rock Flea Bands

As of 10 pm yesterday there's a full slate of 4 bands and 2 DJ's confirmed for the Punk Rock Flea Market on July 26.

The bands, not yet in order, include:

The Shy Ones
T.V. Coahran
Suburban Vermin

And from Beetlabs DJ James Grindle will be spinning during the market and DJ Isepp is playing the post-market dance party.

This is gonna be a righteous show. A huge shout out to all of the bands and DJ's who keep coming to rock the PRFM. You're all awesome and I wish there was some way to include you all on one bill. Maybe one day. Until then, come to the market and the show on July 26, and spread the word.

The pirate dog is apropos of nothing. I just like the photo.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Few artists have the access, let alone the perseverance, to follow the same subject for decades. Photographer Jack Radcliffe has constructed a haunting portfolio of work documenting the life of his daughter for more than 30 years, from infancy to adulthood, titled simply Alison.

A stunning series in black and white, the photos walk a fine line between exquisite and intrusive, caring and unsettling, as Alison grows from thoughtful child to striking punk teenager to obviously troubled adult. “I wanted to photograph her in all her extremes,” Radcliffe writes in his introduction, “and to be part of these times in her life without judging or censoring.”

An abridged selection of images here.