Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Street Level

I was up in Greenwood this morning and saw a few hopeful signs of things to come. Some nice stencils of a decidedly political bent.

Also, this photo from v!sualism of the ever-changing Belltown stencil wall appeared on the Seattle Streetart flickr page.

Correo Denio

I've gushed before about local musical hero Amy Denio. Another local phenomenon are the duo Correo Aereo, who play a beautiful and unique mix of traditional Hispano-American music and their own original compositions. Madeleine Sosin is a violin prodigy and Abel Rocha restlessly explores the many exotic stringed instruments of Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and Latin America. The three of them - Amy, Madeleine and Abel - share a stage for the first time this Saturday, October 4, at the Cafe Paloma in Pioneer Square. I don't know exactly what's in store, but they are three extremely passionate musicians with exquisite taste and an uncanny sense of harmony. The music will certainly be interesting, and it may be great. Cafe Paloma is tiny, reservations are recommended.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Attending Mass

As Friday afternoon rolled around, it was tough deciding whether to stay at the Rendezvous and watch the presidential debate or join the monthly Critical Mass bikeride. Man, did I make the right choice. As far as I could tell afterward, the debate went absolutely nowhere while Critical Mass covered some 10 miles of new ground. Around 300 people showed up to take advantage of the warm autumn night. After half a dozen sweeping loops around and through downtown, the ride headed due south on 1st Avenue, past Safeco Field, across the Spokane Street Bridge, over Harbor Island, and finally to Alki Beach in West Seattle after nightfall. Glorious. We're not gonna have too many more nights like that one, I'm glad I made the most of it. There are still two more debates in which Obama may yet crush old man McCain like a worm.

As always, some fantastic pics from eagle eye photographer The Corey.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Last night I headed out to Nickelsville to lend a hand and take a look around.

Nickelsville is a homeless camp that appeared early in the morning of Sept. 22, on a vacant lot in the industrial lands south of Seattle. Using tents donated by the girl scouts and the Race for the Cure, the makeshift city had some 200 tents in place by dawn. By the end of that day the City of Seattle had covered the site with No Trespassing signs and 72-hour eviction notices.

For a "city" that was built overnight, Nickelsville is impressively efficient and well-organized. Tents are arranged in distinct groups, with a small group of Port-a-potties behind each group. At the entrance to the camp a set of tables beneath tarps serves as a check-in point, first aid station and camp kitchen.

While I was there, a team of volunteer builders, led by UW engineering student Joe Taylor, was constructing an administrative building from palettes and donated scraps of lumber. SHARE/WHEEL, the organization responsible for organizing the Tent Cities that roam Seattle and the East Side, was a major force behind getting Nickelsville up and organized. Many of the campers had been living in the two nomadic Tent Cities.

Mayor Nickels (for whom the camp is named) has been consistent in describing the camp as a political demonstration - which it is, to a certain extent - but much more importantly it's abundantly clear that the camp is full of genuinely neglected people who need a safe and supportive place to stay.

As advocates have pointed out again and again and again, 2,631 people were counted sleeping outside on a freezing January night this year. The Post-Intelligencer reported that 24 people were turned away from Operation Nightwatch on the very night that Nickelsville went up owing to a lack of shelter beds. The fact is indisputable - there just isn't enough shelter in Seattle.

The word in the camp is that clearances may begin this morning. The City is due to arrive between 6 and 7 am today, with bulldozers. Send an email to Mayor Nickels to let him know what you think, and keep an eye on Real Change news or Tim Harris' blog Apesma's Lament for updates.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I've got to add my baritone to the chorus of voices singing the praises of recent MacArthur award recipient Alex Ross. For the last twelve years Ross has been the music critic for the New Yorker magazine, where he writes about new music with amazing passion and fluency, often introducing obscure or over-looked music with great enthusiasm and without a hint of condescension. In 2007 Ross published the remarkable book The Rest Is Noise, (the name from Ross' must-read blog of the same title) an extremely lively cultural history of 20th-century music that journeys through pre-World War I Vienna, Paris of the 1920s, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and New York of the 1960s and 1970s. I haven't read the book cover-to-cover, but instead have been dipping into it as the occasion arises for a treasure trove of revealing anecdotes about Arnold Schoenberg, John Cage and Duke Ellington. Ross champions all manner of music, but more than anything else he encourages listeners to keep their ears, and their minds, open to new sounds and new experiences. The book brilliantly has its own online audio guide, to which any music lover can devote many, many hours.

Ross also has something of a Seattle connection. Earlier this year Ross hosted the local Icebreaker Festival, which featured nine world premiere performances by young composers, and in 2006 he donated a fully loaded iPod to a charity auction whose proceeds benefitted Northwest Harvest, Washington's statewide hunger relief agency. Somewhere in Seattle, some lucky person is riding the bus with his or her ears tuned in to the musical selections of a verified genius.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Seattle's Earshot Jazz Festival, now in it's 20th year, begins on October 18th. I'll be writing more about this in the coming weeks, but I just saw a festival schedule this weekend and a few performances deserve some excited advance notice.

Most thrillingly, Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra are making a very rare appearance at the Seattle Town Hall on October 31. This big band, which was started by bassist Haden in the late 1960's in response to the U.S. bombing of Cambodia, has released only 4 albums over the last 40 years, each of which is an brilliant exploration of free jazz and political music. The ensemble's first album focused on the Spanish Civil War, a 1983 album commented on US involvement in Central America, a 1990 release focused on apartheid in South Africa, and the latest album, from 2005, dealt with the wars in the Middle East. Past members of the LMO have been a virtual who's who of American jazz - including Carla Bley, Don Cherry, Gato Barbieri, Curtis Fowlkes, Dewey Redman, and many many more. The band almost never tours, and, owing to their unapologetically radical politics, have trouble getting bookings when they do. Halloween is one of the busiest nights on the Seattle calendar, but this show is simply not to be missed.

On Otober 19, violinist Billy Bang is bringing his quartet to the Langston Hughes Center. Bang is one of the greatest jazz violinists working today - over a 40 year career he was worked in a huge variety of genres with such luminaries as Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society, trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, funk legend Bootsy Collins, and a ten-year association with Sun Ra. Two of his recent recordings, Vietnam: Reflections and Vietnam: The Aftermath, are incredibly powerful and personal explorations of Bang's time as an infantryman in Vietnam, and are among my favorite albums of recent years.

Act fast to get tickets - Bang and the LMO are world-class performers and these concerts should sell out quick. The complete Earshot festival runs from Oct. 18 until Nov. 9.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pirate Jenny Day

According to many sources, none of them reliable, today is "International Talk Like a Pirate Day." I don't care about that. But I do care, very much, about Lotte Lenya performing 'Pirate Jenny' in the film version of the Threepenny Opera, one of the greatest movie musical numbers of all time. If a silly non-holiday gives me an opportunity to post this wonderful clip, in which a cheap prostitute indulges in an gory reverie of laying waste to her city, so be it.

Now you gentlemen can wipe that smile off your face
'Cause every building in town is a flat one.
This whole fuckin' place will be down to the ground,
Only this cheap hotel standing up safe and sound,
And you yell, "Why do they spare that one?"
Yes, that's what you say:
"Why do they spare that one?"
All the night through, through the noise and to-do,
You wonder who is that person that lives up there?
And you see me stepping out in the morning
Looking nice with a ribbon in my hair.

And the ship, the black freighter
runs a flag up its masthead
and a cheer rings the air.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bike Smut

Portland bike evangelist Reverend Phil Sano is on the road touring with his latest collection of dirty bike films called "Bike Porn 2: Bikexploitation." Phil has been alternatively collating and screening a wide range of short films for years, and his series of new and old bike porn has become insanely popular. The 28 shorts in the current program range from the contemplative, to the inventive, to the downright nasty, with a common theme of erotic bicycles.

Since December Phil and his films have gone from Portland to L.A. to Minneapolis to New York and now back to Cascadia, almost always via his trusty two-wheeler. He pedals into Seattle for two screenings this Saturday, Sept. 20, at the ever- experimental F.B.K. House, 6272 S. Ellis in Georgetown. After that it's the Capitol Theater in Olympia on the 22nd, and back to the Hollywood Theater in Portland on 10/2.


Lots of serious stuff recently, this is more fun. Schtock is the work of an anonymous "amateur designer" who works at a stock photo company and creates lovely digital collages out of images that catch his (or her) eye on the job. Clicking on the image shows you its component parts. Nicely done.

For The Corey.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Our Revels Now Are Ended

In reaction to the financial news coming at us from all sides, this poem by William Shakespeare, as spoken by Prospero.

The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Different Approaches to Mass Transit

Very interesting story in the NYTimes today about the transit system in Rochester, New York. It seems the Rochester transit system just cut fares, thus increasing ridership and ultimately making more income.

"The Rochester system, which expects to run a surplus for the third year in a row, has been able to reduce its one-ride fare in part by eliminating some low-trafficked routes, avoiding debt and aggressively raising revenues from other sources. The fare fell to $1 from $1.25 on Sept. 1."

Concurrently, the Rochester system made some creative arrangements with local public schools, colleges and private businesses, all of whom have students or employees who use the system extensively, to help subsidize transit operations.

In contrast, this morning King County Metro announced that it will be adding new bus routes and more frequent service to keep up with rising transit demand, and “revising” bus service for 22 other routes. To support the service expansion Metro has already had to raise fares 25 cents, and another 50-cent increase is in the works. As Rochester's approach demonstrates, higher fares lead to lower ridership, bringing lower revenues, which launches us once again into the vicious cycle of crowded buses, unreliable schedules, and a less pleasant bus experience.

Obviously there are great differences of scale - Rochester’s Regional Transit Service carries 15 million riders a year, which is a fraction of the King County ridership. But as economic hard times have reduced tax revenues and increased demand for government transit subsidies, Rochester's unusual approach to transit may provide valuable lessons for larger cities that are having trouble balancing increasing demand with reasonable fares. Like Seattle.

Thanks to RocBike for the sweet photo taken on a Rochester bus.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Twilight Zoning

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels recently rolled out his latest proposal to increase development in the City of Seattle while ostensibly benefiting the affected communities. The plan creates a structure for a voluntary trade off: developers would be asked to create or pay for new affordable housing in exchange for lucrative land-use changes. Basically, the proposal would require developers to convert 11% of increased height into affordable housing. The legislation won't change building heights anywhere, but it would establish how developers can take advantage of greater building height allowances in the future.

Puget Sound SAGE (Seattle Alliance for Good Jobs and Housing for Everyone) called a community meeting last Friday, September 11, to dissect the proposed plan. SAGE, an up-and-coming coalition of labor, faith and community organizations, is coming off of a successful three-year effort which created the landmark Community Benefits Agreement guaranteeing culturally sensitive development and 200 units of affordable-housing in the rapidly changing Little Saigon neighborhood.

Around 75 people showed up at the Columbia City Library to learn about incentive zoning from local development experts, and to hear a detailed analysis of the Mayor's proposal. The organizers made it perfectly clear that while they support increasing density as an important means of creating urban communities, curbing traffic and reducing greenhouse gases, the City could do much more for its citizens in exchange for instituting zoning changes that make development far more lucrative.

The general feeling at the meeting was that the Mayor's proposed incentive program does very little to create affordable housing in neighborhoods where it's most needed. Given the option, most developers will make the choice that least affects their bottom line - either paying a fee to build low-income housing in distant locations, or designing smaller projects to avoid the costs altogether. Unsurprisingly, many developers are arguing that any legislated community benefit is too much. In cities where zoning has worked well to create affordable housing - including New York City, San Francisco, and Boston - the rules have not been voluntary but rather require that a given share of new construction be affordable to people with low to moderate incomes.

Adding insult to injury, Mayor Nickels' current proposal provides primarily "workforce housing," or homes for people making up to 100% of Seattle's median income - around $77,000. By any measure there is already an abundance of such housing in Seattle. What we really need is a strategy to build housing for poor people within existing communities.

Seattle area developers will make a presentation to the Seattle City Council on Sept. 24, and the only public hearing on the matter is scheduled for October 7. Every Seattle resident who has an interest in the future of their neighborhood and who believes that the creation of affordable housing is a necessity, should come to this meeting to demand that any new laws work to meet the housing needs of people in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, and don't just open up further opportunities for massive give-aways to powerful developers.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Some Photos of That Day

In 1979, a young New York film student named Jamie Livingston decided to take one Polaroid image every day of his life. He died 18 years later, never missing a day. The resulting album is archived on this fascinating and deeply moving website.

The site, lovingly compiled by Livingston's friend Hugh Crawford, features one photo for every day between March 1979 and October 1997. There is no commentary or captions, just the strange and compelling photos of friends, family, landscapes, beaches, buildings, graffiti, TV screens, parking lots and swimming pools.

Livingston himself regularly pops up, doing ordinary stuff like eating dinner or doing unusual things like playing music on the street or holding a skinned goat. Then, in 1997, events take a dark turn. There are pictures of the photographer in a hospital, then with a long scar across his head. In October there is a picture of a gold ring, then two days later a wedding ceremony. After that he's back in the hospital with some of the friends from the early photos around his bedside. On October 25 the series ends. The photographer has died.

This beautiful collection of photos forms a unique legacy of a life and a touching souvenir of thousands of tiny details that would otherwise have been completely lost to time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Voter's Guide to the End Times

Folk hero, punk godmother, art terrorist & Rochester native Lydia Lunch just published a guide to the 2008 elections for 3AM magazine. It dispenses with endorsements altogether to provide some much deeper truths.

War is as old as God himself. And the War is never over. The War is never ending. The War is just an orgy of blood and guts masterminded by testosterone-fueled dirty old men that get off on fucking the entire fucking planet. This is the REAL PORNOGRAPHY. An outrageous cockfight fought by gung-ho cowboys who have drawn a line in the sand and will challenge anyone to a duel foolish enough to threaten resistance against the advent of the rodeo mind.

Check it out. And register to vote right here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Satchmo on Scotch Tape

The current edition of the Paris Review holds an unexpected surprise - several collages created by jazz giant Louis Armstrong. In addition to playing 300 gigs a year, writing three autobiographies, being a prolific letter writer and famously enthusiastic pot smoker, the ever-creative Armstrong somehow found time to make hundreds of collages on paper and tack them up on the wall of his den in Queens, New York. His wife Lucille, who had supervised the purchase and interior decoration of their house, objected. Armstrong removed the artwork from the walls and started using the collages to label his extensive library of reel-to-reel tapes. By the time he died in 1971, he had amassed a collection of some 650 tapes with decorated boxes - 1,300 collages counting front and back.

The collages feature photographs of Armstrong with friends, congratulatory telegrams and clippings from reviews of his performances, a blessing from the Vatican, and cutouts from packages of cheese, candy, cigarettes and Swiss Kriss herbal laxatives.

The collages now reside in the Louis Armstrong Archives at Queens College in Flushing, New York and are due to be published in Spring 2009 in a new book titled "Satchmo: The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong," by Steven Brower.

Friday, September 5, 2008

9/11 at 1412

The reborn Gallery 1412 in Seattle is nothing if not eclectic. The mercurial arts venue at 18th & Union has gone through more guises than I can possibly count, and is currently experiencing a very interesting and productive renaissance. At present, 1412 is a communally owned, free of charge, all ages performance space. That wide ranging mission has allowed 1412 to welcome all manner of artists and experimenters to try their hands at curating shows and music events. Just looking at the September calendar, for example, brings a rarely seen Cuban surrealist film from the 1970's, an intimate appearance from much-in-demand Seattle trombonist and composer Chris Stover, and this great looking quadruple bill on September 11.

VxPxC is an improvisational threesome from Los Angeles and Kansas City described as "a smog cloud of tones and voices... somewhere between a relaxation tape and a overloaded funhouse ride."

Warm Climate performs selections from 20th century avant-garde composers with guitars, clarinets, vocals, and found sounds.

Paintings for Animals
brings field recordings, live radio, mixer feedback, throat singing, vocal blips, clicks, chants & the buzz of electronics.

And if your cup wasn't already running over, Wind Swept Planes offer only this: "Shards of broken glass reflecting the moon through ancient forests while the sun burns down hotly from above. Melting wax faces revealing the skulls of lost children, finding their final resting place amongst the burning winds. Total horror creep doom folk microtonal drone skull crush soul belt."

The doors, at 1412 18th ave, open at 8pm, and the organizers suggest a modest donation of 5-15 bucks. Watch their website for announcements of further experiments and try to catch a show or two before the space metamorphoses once again.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Many many folks have seen the excellent little film Hyperactive by Norwegian animator Lasse Gjertsen. However this video from 2006, Amateur, was unknown to me until today. A very entertaining music video created by someone who admits that he can't play music, but sure knows his way around an editing suite. Enjoy.