Thursday, January 31, 2008

Punk Rock Flea Market! #3

We have set a date for the next Punk Rock Flea Market. It'll be on March 22, in the same great basement in Belltown. We have space for 50 vendors and 3 bands, and it's still just $25 for a space and one measly dollar to get in and buy. Any money left over after expenses goes back to the Low Income Housing Institute, who donate the room for the day. Watch this space for more details, and by all means pass the info along to any vendors, bands, cooks, DJ's who may be interested.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fools Survive

I went to see the Luis Bunuel double feature at the SIFF Rialto series last night, and was deeply impressed, again, by the violent surrealism of "Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" and the enchanting beauty of Jeanne Moreau (right) in "Diary of a Chambermaid."

Tonight brings two 1960's Jean Luc Godard films: The sexy and analytical "Two or Three Things I Know About Her," and possibly his best film, "Bande A Part," which features the luscious Anna Karina, and boasts this always unexpected dance scene.

My French isn't good enough to know if this translation from the clip above is accurate, but it's an appropriate sentiment nonetheless: "Empires crumble, my friend, republics founder, and fools survive."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Real Live Slug Bearers

I don't know what to make of this, but I wish I was there to see it.

Ben Katchor is the genius behind the comic strip Julius Knipl:Real Estate Photographer. Since at least the 1980's, Katchor has been chronicling the melancholy existence of a city which looks exactly like New York, yet is somehow stranger, sadder, more Jewish. Knipl, the man of the title, is an incidental player in this imaginary metropolis. Like most of the characters who wander out of Katchor's grey wash, Knipl is middle aged and alone, and passes his days by paying careful attention to insignificant details. Katchor's drawings are replete with verbal and visual puns, masquerading as the clutter of the city. He is the only cartoonist I know of who works exclusively in grey guaches, and is also, notably, the only cartoonist I know of to have won a MacArthur "Genius Grant."

As if that wasn't enough, Katchor has now written a new musical called "The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island," which is playing in New York City, at the Vineyard Theater, as of yesterday. According to the website, "The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island follows the exploits of a New York philanthropist to bring the modern poetry of instructional pamphlets to a group of exploited island workers." Now why didn't I think of that? With music by Mark Mulcahy of Miracle Legion. Sure to be fascinating.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tales from the Count

I was up all night on the 25th, writing the press releases for the Annual One Night Count of the Homeless, and transcribing the stories of the volunteers who did the counting. Between myself and three other writers, we gathered hundreds of stories, only a tiny handful of which made it into the official press. The most interesting people to speak with are the ones who have heard about the count from friends or through the media, and are volunteering for the first time. They really have very little idea of what to expect, and have no clue as to how many people they are going to see on the streets or what kinds of makeshift provisions they've made for themselves. These are some random quotes from counters. There are literally hundreds more.

I didn't expect to see anyone, but I found a man in a doorway sleeping in a sleeping bag. He asked me for an aspirin.

We talked to a walker and he asked us what we were doing,. When we told him, he wanted us to tell him whether it was going to help him to get housing. He's upset at all the condos that are being built, but no affordable housing. "When we lay down we're harassed by peole who tell you to move somewhere else. And there are markets being built around the condos, by Paul Allen, but those aren't for us."

We were counting under a freeway, and we found a guy, then we realized that it was one of our clients. He invited us back to his campsite. He had a mattress, sleeping bag, some boxes of food and other belongings, it was pretty well stocked. There are other people living in that area in other campsites, and there's an agreement among them that they won't touch each other's stuff. So they go off during the day, and no one messes with their stuff. He said "you're my first guests." He said that they all need more services, and we had the impression that if he had other options, he would definitely not be living there.

In one area near a freeway there was a D.O.T. sign that said "no trespassing." On it someone had written "Fuck you D.O.T., I want my stuff back."

We counted someone on the premises of a building, and the building security guard said "oh yeah, I let them sleep here. I just tell them they have to get out in the morning, even though I know that building management doesn't want them around."

I found most of the people in loading docks. I didn't see people where I expected to, in parks and places like that. I found them in loading docks.

I was counting in a wooded area where I checked one week ago, with lots of bushes with campsites behind them. I went last night, and the bushes have been cleared and there are no more campsites. I found 2 people's ID's and food stamp cards that had been placed up on a concrete wall, so that when people came back they could find them. I found tarps and tennis shoes, but the place has been cleared.

I was going along and didn't think I'd see many people, but when I finished I counted 32 people spread out through the area.

I saw one kid who looked about 15 years old.

One guy had his electric blanket plugged in at a construction site. That was pretty smart.

John Iwasaki, a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer joined one of the Count teams and wrote a positive, sensitive and unusually accurate report about the Count for the morning paper. Thanks to Scott Eklund of the P-I for the photo.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Professor Anderson Explains

Having trouble understanding the impact of the National debt on the volatile economic situation? Here's Laurie Anderson in a PSA from the 1980's, putting it all into perspective. The numbers have become more extreme and depressing of course - in this video the debt was around 2 trillion dollars and now it's something like nine trillion - but Anderson's personalization of the issue is as relevant as ever.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Counting the Uncounted

Gurldogg is one of the 700 volunteers who will be out on streets on the early morning of January 25th in an attempt to count the number of homeless people sleeping outside in King County. Since 1980, the local non-profit Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH) has organized the annual One Night Count in order to establish the actual number of homeless individuals and families who are sleeping unsheltered. On the same night, the King County Department of Community Services coordinates a survey of all homeless people utilizing shelters and transitional housing, to capture the number of all people using overnight services.

The numbers can vary from year to year for any number of reasons, but usually hover around the 10,000 mark. That is, on any given sub-freezing January night, there are about 10,000 people sleeping unsheltered in King County. Being part of the Count, and attaching human beings to the often abstract statistics surrounding homelessness, is a profound experience.

Tim Harris of Real Change newspaper is one of the most consistently eloquent advocates for the rights of homeless people in our city. He has a new blog posting referencing the count and urging Seattle residents to attend a public hearing on January 28 against new City of Seattle regulations which would further de-humanize the people in the most dire need of help. From Tim:

“It is unacceptable to allow the work of ending homelessness to be confused with the systematic practice of eradicating the evidence. By harassing homeless campers out of the city, we only deepen their misery and decrease the odds that they will ever find the services they need. This week, Seattle will hold the Annual One Night Homeless Count. More than 700 volunteers will fan out through the city in the middle of the night to assess whether we’re winning or losing the war. By turning the fight against homelessness into an attack upon the homeless themselves, the Mayor has undermined the integrity of the longest-running, most sophisticated homeless count effort in the nation.This is profoundly sad. And sadder still if he gets away with it.”

This blog entry from 2007 gives a summary of last year's Count, and a passionate explanation of why it matters.

He's Alive!

A few months ago I asked for any evidence of the continuing existence of Seattle poster/graffiti artist Heck. This new sticker appeared the other day on the reverse of a Wallingford street sign, which leads me to believe that he is, in fact, still alive. Good to know. And thanks to The Corey for the photographic evidence.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Now With More Twang!

The dynamic musical duo Miles and Karina have been commissioned by the Northwest Film Forum to compose a new score for The Adventures of Prince Achmed. "Prince Achmed" is one of the great classics of animation. It was created by film pioneer Lotte Reiniger in 1926, and is widely cited as the first full-length animated film. Nearly eighty years later, this enchanting film remains beautiful, mesmerizing and utterly seductive. Taken from The Arabian Nights, the film tells the story of a wicked sorcerer who tricks Prince Achmed into mounting a magical flying horse and sends the rider off on a flight to his death. Miles and Karina perform the new score live at NWFF on January 25th and 31st @ 8PM and Jan. 27th and Feb 3rd 2008 @ 1PM. More info and images from the film here.

Rialto Pictures

Beginning on January 25, the SIFF Cinema is running a a great series of classic films as restored by Rialto Pictures. Rialto came into being ten years ago and in that time has restored a number of gorgeous movies, creating pristine new prints, and re-translating many of them with new subtitles. Among the treasures are the ever astonishing "Battle of Algiers," the super sexy Godard gangster film "Band of Outsiders,"and the incredibly creepy George Franju film "Eyes Without a Face," about a plastic surgeon who becomes obsessed with giving his disfigured daughter a new face. Includes a number of two-for-one double features.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Something is happening here, Ms. Smith

Patti Smith has been hosting an excellent series of short podcasts exploring the career of Bob Dylan. This series, now up to 13 episodes, has explored such themes as the Basement Tapes, Dylan’s Gospel music, and his favorite backing bands. In addition to the canny observations of Smith, the series features interviews with the likes of Garth Hudson, Suze Rotollo and John Hammond, along with comments from Dylan himself. Subscribe to the series here, or through itunes here. Good stuff.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Belltown Now & Then

Local scribe Clark Humphrey, the redoubtable Seattle scholar behind Loser: The Real Seattle Music Story and the essential Seattle blog miscmedia, has now published "Seattle's Belltown." The book is the latest title in the Images of America series (celebrating "the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country") and features hundreds of historical photographs of this ever-changing neighborhood on the edge of Seattle's downtown. Humphey, a Belltown resident, doesn't lament a vanished past so much as he takes a long view of this restless quarter. "Alexander Calder's Eagle sculpture may have landed here, but Belltown's official metallic bird is still the crane of the construction variety."

Part skeptic, part optimist, and always carefully observant, Belltown is fortunate to have a resident chronicler like Humphrey. This Friday, January 11, he is giving a talk and showing images from the new book at the Form/Space Atelier, 2407 1st Ave., in Belltown. 6:00 pm.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Novels in 3 Lines

One of my favorite books published last year was the collection "Novels in Three Lines" by Felix Feneon. (shown above in an 1890 portrait by Paul Signac.) This little book from NYRB Classics collects more than a thousand three-line sketches that appeared anonymously in the French newspaper Le Matin in the early 1900's. Feneon was a journalist and critic who is credited as being the first French publisher of James Joyce, among many other accomplishments. These three-line tales, which he wrote in complete obscurity, present true stories of crimes and tragedies occurring throughout France. Read together, the brief stories paint a very strange and cohesive portrait of a violent and unpredictable era.

A few samples, chosen at random:

Dismissed by the Bridge and Highway Department,
Pajas, an old dock cleaner, jumped into the Garonne, in Bordeaux,
a bag of stones around his neck.

Raoul G., of Ivry, an untactful husband, came home
unexpectedly and stuck his blade in his wife, who was
frolicking in the arms of a friend.

With its horrible monsters and efflorescent skin diseases,
a traveling freak show burned down in the park
at Saint Cloud.

The book is translated and introduced by cultural writer Luc Sante, author of the fantastically entertaining Low Life, who has a very interesting little blog of his own. Pinakothek is an irregularly updated "blog about pictures." Sante uncovers odd images that appeal to him for one reason or another (found photographs, old advertisements, book jackets, clothing labels, etc.) and composes brief prose poems around them. Not an earth-changing blog, but like Feneon's book, quite profound in its limited scope.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Charles Simic (shown here with his father in 1942) is currently the U.S. Poet Laureate. Unlike many of the past Poets Laureate, Simic has no qualms about being forthrightly political. Not political in the sense of favoring one party over another, but rather political in that he is unafraid to speak out against tyranny and injustice wherever he encounters it, from his native Yugoslavia to his adopted home country. Simic has a very powerful essay in the December 20 New York Review of Books, titled "The Renegade," which explains how his childhood in war-ravaged Belgrade influenced his lifelong suspicion of political leaders in general, and of nationalist demagogues in specific. He doesn't single out the current U.S. administration as a notable example of demagoguery, but the implication is there.

"Like many others, I was under the impression that Yugoslavia was a thriving country not likely to fall apart even after Tito's death. I made two brief trips to Belgrade, one in 1972 and another in 1982, had heard about ethnic incidents, but continued to believe, even when the rhetoric got more and more heated in the late 1980s after the emergence of the first nationalist leaders, that reason would prevail in the end. I had no problem with cultural nationalism, but the kind that demands unquestioning solidarity with prejudices, self-deceptions, paranoias of the collective, I loathed....

The years of the Vietnam War focused my mind. It took me a while to appreciate the full extent of the prevarication and sheer madness in our press and television and our political opinion, and to see what our frothing patriots with their calls for indiscriminate slaughter were getting us into. The war deepened for me what was already a lifelong suspicion of all causes that turn a blind eye to the slaughter of the innocent."

Like so much of Simic's writing, the essay is painfully direct, using unexpected yet perfectly tuned metaphors to turn his personal experiences into the stuff of universal truth. This is well worth reading and keeping.

You need to be a NYRB subscriber to visit their site, but the article is re-printed in full here.


This grey landscape, courtesy of Piet Mondrian lets you know that I am once again muddily ensconced in Seattle.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Los Encants

One place I always enjoy in Barcelona is “Los Encants,” an outdoor thrift store and flea market on the edge of the Eixample. The market covers about 5 acres and vendors sell absolutely everything from tools to bicycles to ancient magazines to second-hand clothes to computer supplies. The stalls range from well presented displays of new shoes to chaotic piles of ancient wire and lighting fixtures. A bar in the center sells exquisite meatballs. Once reason I like it is because The Encants is still relatively undiscovered by tourists. There’s no moderne architecture here, and not a single vendor selling tote-bags. Rather, there’s hundreds of Catalan women buying colanders, men buying tire irons and Moroccan families buying supplies for their homes. Whenever we’re here we make a point of buying blank CD’s, kitchen supplies, and a years’ worth of socks and underwear for a fraction of their normal price.