Thursday, December 31, 2009

Levine

Cartoonist and illustrator David Levine passed away on Tuesday at the age of 83.

Levine was one of the most highly regarded caricature artists of his generation, having started out providing marginalia for Esquire magazine, and by 1963 settling into a long and singular career as the only illustrator at The New York Review of Books. Over 40 years he provided more than 3,800 drawings for NYRB, ranging from illustrations of the day's political figures to historical personalities to scathing editorial cartoons.

Levine's work was part of the signature of one of the greatest American intellectual journals, and will be simply impossible to to replace. Levine's artwork is in the permanent collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, the Cleveland Museum, the National Portrait Collection, the National Portrait Gallery in Britain and the Pierpont Morgan Library & Museum in New York. Many of his drawings for the NYRB are viewable on an online archive that includes 2,500 illustrations dating back to his earliest years at the magazine.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Patti Smith

Today is the birthday of poet and musician Patti Smith, born December 30, 1946. The Godmother of Punk has been writing and singing her scathing poetry since the mid-70's with various degrees of success. She is getting her due this year with the widespread release of a documentary about her career as a poet and musician, Patti Smith: Dream of Life, and the release of a new memoir, Just Kids, which documents her long relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, set to come out on January 19. She has several readings and musical performances lined up in and around New York City in support of the book and movie, including Patti Smith and Her Band live at the Bowery Ballroom on 12/29, 12/30, 12/31; a reading of Just Kids on Jan. 19 at Barnes & Noble Union Square and on Jan. 21, Smith reads with longtime friend Sam Shepard at the 92nd St. YMCA.

This poem is from Patti Smith's 1978 album, "Easter."

Babelogue

I haven't fucked much with the past, but I've fucked plenty with the future. Over the skin of silk are scars from the splinters of stations and walls I've caressed. A stage is like each bolt of wood, like a log of Helen, is my pleasure. I would measure the success of a night by the way by the way by the amount of piss and seed I could exude over the columns that nestled the P.A. Some nights I'd surprise everybody by skipping off with a skirt of green net sewed over with flat metallic circles which dazzled and flashed. The lights were violet and white. I had an ornamental veil, but I couldn't bear to use it. When my hair was cropped, I craved covering, but now my hair itself is a veil, and the scalp inside is a scalp of a crazy and sleepy Comanche lies beneath this netting of the skin. I wake up. I am lying peacefully I am lying peacefully and my knees are open to the sun. I desire him, and he is absolutely ready to seize me. In heart I am a Moslem; in heart I am an American; in heart I am Moslem, in heart I'm an American artist, and I have no guilt. I seek pleasure. I seek the nerves under your skin. The narrow archway; the layers; the scroll of ancient lettuce. We worship the flaw, the belly, the belly, the mole on the belly of an exquisite whore. He spared the child and spoiled the rod. I have not sold myself to God.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Printed Matter

Sigh. Back from vacation, and slow to take up the heavy reigns of blogging. Quel trevail!

It doesn't help matters that I felt blessed to be away from the internets for a few weeks, and got reacquainted with the world of lengthy literature for the first time since the birth of baby Nico.

Waiting on my doorstep when I returned, helping to ease the transition, were two fantastic printed journals that brilliantly and deliberately illustrate the vast distances between browsing internet posts and reading large and thoughtful printed articles.

McSweeney's issue #33 has been praised far and wide, but it bears repeating here. The current issue of the quarterly magazine is a huge and gorgeous riff on a daily newspaper. The large format "San Francisco Panorama" has extensive news, sports, arts and books sections, plus 16 pages of full-color comics from the likes of Chris Ware, Dan Clowes and Art Spiegelman. McSweeney's commissioned new journalism from William Vollman and Andrew Sean Greer, sports writing from Stephen King, new fiction from George Saunders and Roddy Doyle, dispatches from Afghanistan, and much more besides. It was available on the streets of San Francisco for a single day, and is now available in bookstores and online. Buy it. Read it. Hold on to it.

Less lavishly praised, but equally ambitious, is the latest issue of Coilhouse. Coilhouse was conceived as a daily "love letter to alternative culture" which quickly spun off a glossy print edition to cover the stories which couldn't be fully explored in the blog format. Issue #4 of the magazine, lovingly produced and published by photographer Nadya Lev, artist Zoetica Ebb, and musician Meredith Yayano, features a photo essay on "The Tarnished Beauties of Blackwell, Oklahoma," dozens of portraits of long-grown, long-dead children of pioneer America; a lengthy interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky, the filmmaker behind The Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre; and paper dolls from cartoonist Dame Darcy. Available only through the Coilhouse website, right here.

Both of these documents are pointed and beautiful demonstrations of all the great things that printed periodicals can do
and the internet simply can't. Well worth your money and time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tango

For the lonely days surrounding Christmas, a Hypnotic little film from Polish film maker Zbigniew Rybczynski. Tango won the 1983 Oscar for Best Animated Short.



Update: The "Tango" video seems to have been removed from Vimeo. I smell a lawsuit. Well, for now you can still see it here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Salvador Elizondo

Today is the birthday of Salvador Elizondo, born December 19, 1932. The Mexican novelist, poet, critic, playwright, and journalist was one of the most unabashedly experimental writers coming out of the vibrant Mexican literary world of the 19650's & 60's. Elizondo is perhaps the best known of the Mexican "meta-fictionalists," his style combining a wonderfully poetic sense of language with vernacular outbursts from news reports, comic books and the sounds of Mexico City street life. Elizondo was a Professor of literature at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México for two decades, and received dozens of international awards, including both Guggenheim and Rockefeller grants, and received the 1990 Mexican National Prize for Literature.

Elizondo's most widely read novel is Farabeuf, the fictionalized biography of an early-20th century renegade anatomist, but my personal favorite is the wonderfully strange and idiosyncratic El Grafógrafo ("The Graphographer"), a series of short texts using dozens of voices and unexpected twists of language to give a tour of a writer's mind as he puts pen to paper.

Elizondo died in Mexico City on March 29, 2006.

From El Grafógrafo

I write. I write I write. Mentally I am writing I write and I can also see that I write myself. I remember seeing and writing and writing. And I am remembering that I am writing and I remember seeing myself remembering that I wrote and I write seeing myself write that I remember having seen me write that I was writing I remembered having seen me writing and writing writing writing writing that. I can also imagine writing that he had written that I imagine writing that he had written that I thought writing that I am writing to write.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Puck Cinema Caravana

The smallest cinema in the world, the Puck Cinema Caravana, is making its way around the Spanish state of Catalunya this winter. The Puck Cinema is built into a tiny caravan with seats for no more than 6 kids under 5 feet tall. The Puck parks in side streets and wooded spaces and runs programs of splendid little animated films from around the world. Currently the Cinema is parked in Sabadell, about 30 miles south of Barcelona, showing a program called "Tales, Stories about Love, and some Poems" with 11 short films from Russia, China and the US. Don't miss it if you're in the neighborhood with your little ones. Check here for film times.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Down Mexico Way

I'm out of here for the next couple weeks, headed down South with Pepita and baby Nico to soak up some much needed sun on the Yucatan peninsula. This being the 21st century, I may sniff out an internet connection on some desert island or other, but basically I'm checking out until well after Hanukkah. Have a hell of a holiday, and thanks for flying Gurldoggie airlines. We know you have a choice.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Bizarre

BHerd Gallery in Greenwood has been doing a stellar job navigating the border between graffiti and fine art, creating lots of opportunities for Seattle street artists to create new outdoor pieces and providing an exhibit space for them to show and sell smaller works. The holidays bring a group show to the walls of BHerd which is basically a who's who of Seattle urban artists. "Holiday Bizarre" features artwork priced to sell, none of it larger than 12" x 12", from the likes of Parskid, Weirdo, Solace, EGO, Joey Nix, 179, John Osgood, NKO and a whole lot more. In their new digs at 8537 Greenwood Ave N. Show opens today, December 11, and runs through the 23rd.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Baby it's c-c-c-cold outside

Katie Paterson is a Scottish artist whose works claim a very unusual middle ground between sight and sound. Past works have included launching snow from a thousand catapults and recording the sound as it landed; creating invisible fireworks that explode with black sparks; and beaming radio transmissions of music to the moon in order to record the results as they bounced back to her earthly receiver. In her latest piece, Paterson recorded the sound of 3 melting glaciers on Iceland (Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull and Solheimajökull). She then pressed the recordings onto ice records made of melt water from those glaciers. The records were played on 3 turntables until they were completely melted, which took around 2 hours. You can listen to one here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Milton Rogovin

Milton Rogovin turns 100 years old on December 12. In 1957, Rogovin was an optometrist practicing in Buffalo, N.Y., more or less minding his own business and volunteering as the librarian for the local Communist Party, when he was called in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. He refused to testify, his family was outcast, and his practice fell apart.

Completely cut off from the world he knew, Rogovin turned to photography. He started at home, photographing poor and working class residents of Buffalo’s East Side, then traveled with his camera to document the downtrodden of China, Cuba, Czech, France, Germany, Mexico, Scotland, Spain, the United States, and Zimbabwe. In 1999, 1200 of Rogovin’s photographs were acquired by the Library of Congress. Here in Seattle, 40 of Rogovin's works were recently donated to the Henry Art Gallery collection, and a show of his work is currently being planned.

Rogovin, who still lives in Buffalo, was nominated to receive this year’s National Medal of Arts. In a statement accompanying the nomination, James Wood, the president of the Getty Trust, wrote that Mr. Rogovin has “created images that allowed us to see our fellow man with an intensity equal to that of Walker Evans or August Sander.” Photography historian Robert Hirsch conducted an in depth interview with Rogovin here.

A gala birthday celebration for Rogovin is planned for this Saturday at the WNED Studios, in Buffalo. Tickets to the birthday celebration are still available, and they are free. If you act fast, you can still R.S.V.P. for the party honoring this powerful artist and exceptional man.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Creative Typing

Two stories from the literary landscape that caught my attention.

The surprisingly popular novelist Cormac McCarthy is auctioning off his well-loved Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter. McCarthy, who recently wrote the apocalyptic bestseller "The Road" and years earlier wrote the fascinating and slightly less apocalyptic "Suttree," has used this machine exclusively for his entire writing life. He estimates that more than 5 million words flowed through its keys - his entire professional output plus several unpublished works. Bought for a mere $50 in 1963, McCarthy is hoping that the sale of the Olivetti will fetch $20,000 or more for the Santa Fe Institute, a nonprofit scientific research organization. McCarthy has already replaced the worn typewriter with a newer copy of the very same machine.

Fantagraphics, the Seattle publisher heretofore known strictly for publishing comic books, has taken up the challenge of publishing the newest collection of short stories by Stephen Dixon. Dixon, also known for composing on a manual typewriter, is a strange and compulsive writer whose fictions tend to feature neurotic men and their families. He has published hundreds of stories in dozens of collections, some great and some merely very good. The new book, entitled "What Is All This?" is a 900-page compendium of uncollected stories from throughout his career. Dixon is a masterful writer who deserves a wider readership, and it will be interesting to see how this experiment pans out. Will Fantagraphics bring his work to a larger audience? Will they establish themselves as viable publishers of non-comic literature? I'll pick up a copy for sure - that's 1.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Stargazer

David Narvaez, aka. Pablo D, has been a force in Seattle hip hop since way back in the day. Pablo was an early member of DJ 'Nasty' Nes Rodriguez's Emerald City Boys, and as a b-boy in the 1980's represented Seattle in street battles and national competitions. Not quite as limber as he used to be, Narvaez has turned his talents to photography, remaking himself as the premier chronicler of Seattle's hip hop scene. His good eye and impressive CV gets him backstage and on the floor at shows ranging from local heroes like Specs Wizard to superstars like Antipop Consortium.

Stargazer, Studio Narvaez's new solo show, opens Saturday December 5th at Vermillion on Capitol Hill. In addition to 20-odd years of Studio Narvaez photographs, the evening also promises performances from Capstan Media, Fresh Chopped Beats, Tulsi, DJ Able, Specs Wizard and doubtless many others. At Vermillion, 1508 11th Ave, beginning at 6:00 pm.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gladiator

My very good friends lost their son this weekend. It was a gruesome and senseless death.

The Shield of Achilles

by W. H. Auden

      She looked over his shoulder
            For athletes at their games,
      Men and women in a dance
            Moving their sweet limbs
      Quick, quick, to music,
            But there on the shining shield
      His hands had set no dancing-floor
            But a weed-choked field.

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
      Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
      That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
      Were axioms to him, who'd never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

      The thin-lipped armorer,
            Hephaestos, hobbled away,
      Thetis of the shining breasts
            Cried out in dismay
      At what the god had wrought
            To please her son, the strong
      Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles
            Who would not live long.

Full poem here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Later Nerd

Adam Beadle, aka. "Team Nerd," has been a vital presence in Seattle's underground art scene for years. Primarily a print maker, Beadle creates celebratory and subversive images with wood and linoleum block prints, silkscreens and lithographs. He's shown his work in solo shows and group exhibitions, contributed to any number of zines and print collaborations, and created dozens of lighthearted pasteups and stickers that tweak Seattle's often glum streetart scene.

Beadle is off to Knoxville, Tennessee indefinitely to take a rare and precious gig at the Yee-Haw Industries letterpress studio. He's mounting one last Seattle show, opening this Thursday, December 3, on the 6th floor of 619 Western. He'll be there to sell off years worth of linocut prints, zines, stickers, t-shirts and more.

Beadle's aesthetic is both obsessive and joyous. Meticulously detailed and playfully spontaneous. We're gonna miss him around here, and wish him all the best on his new adventures.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Be Thankful

You may not have a car at all,
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bike Repairs

In 2001, graphic designer Philip Carter published an esoteric little book called '1057', after the Highway Code number for the bike lane symbol used on British roads. 8 years later he is following up by collecting examples of symbols that have been repainted individually after the road they are on was repaired. He's using an ever growing Flickr site to gather the charming images. Check it out and contribute your own photos here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alias 'Man Ray'

A major retrospective of painter/ photographer/ filmmaker/ dadaist incarnate Man Ray opened this week at the Jewish Museum in New York City. Man Ray, born Emmanuel Radnitzky, was one of the defining artists of the 20th century. In addition to re-inventing his biography many times over, Man Ray was chameleon-like in his embrace of myriad cities, languages and art forms. First known as a Dadaist painter in New York, he became a Parisian Surrealist, an experimental filmmaker in Hollywood, a sculptor, a poet and a pioneering photographer. Contemporary biographical statements describe him as everything from the heir to a chewing-gum fortune to a coal merchant. A multimedia presentation is an absolute must to grasp Man Ray's enormous vision. This show offers paintings, photos, objets d'art and films in several languages.

Good essays about the exhibit here and here. 'Alias Man Ray' is at the Jewish Museum through March 14.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Back to the Punk Rock Flea Market

Things are falling into place for the 7th Punk Rock Flea Market, just a few short weeks away on December 5. Market spaces sold out in record time - within 3 weeks of announcing the date all 60 spots were gone - and we've got an unusually strong array of vendors this time around. In addition to the usual books, records and high-class trash, a number of nationally known print makers and crafters have sniffed us out and are traveling to Seattle for the occasion. Plus the loyal Pokie Bones from Bike So Good is making a return appearance with a full load of bike supplies. Good stuff for sale, I kid you not.

The band line up is also insanely good once again, with appearances from the Hungry Crow Sideshow out of Eugene, OR ("forged in the cauldron of transcendent poetics and stamped with the sepia-tinted
seal of vaudeville"), Variables (from a collective of intelligent, angsty, nihilist, and absurd Seattle hip hop musicians, rapping over old school, new school and punk beats.) and Mexican UFO (five piece glam/punk/metal rock n roll powerhouse, making trouble wherever they go.) The Underground is only just big enough to contain all this insane energy.

And of course DJ Port-a-Party spins old school 45’s and accompanying films, bringing us back to a time when hope was plentiful, love was cheap and recorded music occupied physical space.

All this plus our taps are full of beer, and it still costs just ONE DOLLAR to get in. Word. The market is on Saturday Dec. 5 from noon to midnight at the Underground Events Center, 2407 1st Ave. in Belltown. More here. Don't miss it!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bruno Schulz

Bruno Schulz died on this day, November 19, in 1942.

Schulz was a writer, poet and cartoonist, born in Drohobycz, Galicia, now Drogobych, Ukraine. Schulz studied architecture at Lvov University and fine arts in Vienna, specializing in lithography and drawing. After returning to his native town, he worked from 1924 to 1939 as an art teacher in the local gymnasium. Schulz was often considered strange, and spent many hours on his own in his parents' house, writing fiction.

Schulz's literary career began in earnest in the 1930's. His first collection of short stories "Cinnamon Shops" appeared in 1934, and a second collection, The Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass was published in 1937. (The two titles are available only as a single volume in English, called "The Street of Crocodiles") With these two collections Schulz became celebrated as one of the most original figures of the Polish avant-garde. In 1938 he was awarded the Golden Laurel of the Polish Academy of Literature.

In 1939 Germany invaded Poland, and the remainder of the country was occupied by the Soviet Union. Between 1939 and 1941 Schulz lived in Soviet occupied territory, but when Germany attacked the U.S.S.R., his town was occupied by the Nazis. A Jew, Schulz garnered the favor of a Gestapo officer who liked his drawings and arranged for him to paint frescoes on the walls of his house. However, Schulz's patron had an argument with another Gestapo officer, and to prove a point the officer shot Schulz dead while he was crossing the street.

It has long been rumored that the manuscript of Schulz's last novel, entitled Messiah, still exists in the KGB archives relating to the Gestapo.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ever Yours, Vincent

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has recently launched a marvelous new website, presenting hundreds of Vincent van Gogh’s gorgeous and revealing letters. The massive website not only features high resolution scanned facsimiles of more than 900 letters to and from Van Gogh, but also translates the letters into English, and provides a richly annotated index of the letters, searchable by chronology, place, and correspondent.

Perhaps the most impressive feature is the menu called Concordance. Here, the letters are hyperlinked to profiles of people and images of artworks specifically referenced by van Gogh — all the cultural scraps that formed the artist’s world.

It's an absolutely splendid website, but the ironies are manifold. Of course there's the cosmic joke that an artist who never made enough money to pay his rent is now the object of international veneration. Additionally, a project like this only makes sense in a world in which access to the internet is fast and widely available. Sadly, it's that same speed and available that has marked the death of letter writing. Van Gogh's letters were uniquely beautiful even at a time when letter writing was common, and are even more so in a world where we can throw millions of words and images at each other with a keystroke, yet create so little of lasting value.

Finally however, the letters are a powerful remedy for the over saturated market that is the Van Gogh industry. It's hard to have an unjaded opinion of Van Gogh. Who even looks anymore at the millions of cheap reprints available in any Hallmark store? The letters invite a lengthy new look at a truly fascinating artist.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Isabella Rossellini

How do I love Isabella Rossellini? As the daughter of Italian film giant Roberto Rossellini and legendary Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, she could have done practically anything. After stints on Italian television as a young woman, she became internationally famous as one of the most highly photographed models of her era. In 1986, while still appearing on the cover of Vogue magazine, Rossellini made the daring move of appearing as the abused nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens in David Lynch's epically disturbing film Blue Velvet. The film was a sensation, and Rossellini's brave and revealing performance was simply breathtaking. Since then she has appeared in dozens of films and is in the midst of a gorgeous and unpredictable long-term collaboration with Winnipeg film auteur Guy Maddin. She is a former trustee of the George Eastman House and was a 1997 George Eastman Award honoree for her support of film preservation.

One of her current film projects is the splendidly strange Sundance Channel series Green Porno, a series of short films about the sex lives of insects. She writes, directs, and performs one-minute shorts in costumes she designs. “I was fascinated by the infinite, strange, and ‘scandalous’ ways that insects copulate” she wrote in the recently published book of photos and stories which accompanies the series, also called Green Porno.

Rossellini will be in Seattle this Tuesday, November 17 as a guest of Seattle Arts & Lectures. She reads from her new book and talks about her work at Benaroya Hall at 7:30 pm.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Oscillating Field

On Halloween night, on the corner of E. Denny and Broadway in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, sculptor Dan Corson put the finishing touches on a splendid temporary installation. As part of the Sound Transit STart public art program, Corson was commissioned to place more than 3000 1/4" fiberglass rods of various heights in the then empty asphalt lot. The top of each rod is painted orange and the poles are spaced every 18" on a 100' x 65' grid, creating a topographical field.

Starting each night at 6pm lasers scan the Field to create patterns of light atop and across the poles. It's a mesmerizing effect.

Photographer Corey Scherrer worked with Corson on both installing the project and documenting the process. He published a gorgeous series of photos on his Picasa site here. At the end of November, the site will be turned over to the contractor in order to start construction on the Capitol Hill light rail station.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dark Days

Seattle bike bloggers Bikejuju and GoMeansGo have come together to stage a cool little contest for these dark winter months. They are calling for your very best bike-related photographs taken outside, after dark. Every photographer can submit up to 4 photos, and winners will be announced on the winter equinox, December 21. The contest is being sponsored by Planet Bike and Bikeglow, which means some decent prizes to reward your creativity and hard work. Winners in each of 3 categories receive a prize package including sweet bike lights. One winner will receive a full “commuter package” - a set of Cascadia fenders, mini pump, professional quality lights and a saddle bag with tire levers and patch kit. Full contest rules here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lisandro Alonso

Thrilled to see that Northwest Film Forum is screening all 4 films of the young Argentine director Lisandro Alonso over the next 10 days. Reading film blogs and journals these days you can't help but be aware of the breathless assessments of Alonso's limited output, but until now not one of his films has shown in Seattle.

Three of Alonso's four films, La Libertad, Los Muertos and Fantasma, form a trilogy often compared to the first films of Jim Jarmusch. The first two feature solitary characters in isolated and otherworldly landscapes, working toward elusive goals. The third film, Fantasma, works as a curious commentary on the first two. In it, the lead actors of the first two features wander through a building looking for a screening of Los Muertos. His most recent film, Liverpool, follows a sailor on a lonely journey in the southernmost region of Argentina.

Lisandro Alonso will be on hand at the NWFF throughout the series, introducing the premiere screenings of all four films and conducting a master class. The series begins with La Libertad on Wednesday the 11th and concludes with Liverpool on Friday the 20th.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hard Rain Falling

The 1966 novel Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter is an extremely well regarded "forgotten work" of American realist fiction, highly praised by lovers of classic crime novels and scholars of Northwest literature. The book was recently reprinted by the ever reliable New York Review Books, and I've been looking for an open window of time in which to start reading it. I'm even more eager to crack it open after reading George Pelacanos' appreciative essay in a recent edition of The Rumpus.

[Hard Rain Falling] is the kind of infrequent reading experience that can only be described as a revelation. Inexplicably long out of print, its republication by New York Review Books is cause for celebration...

Having escaped from his orphanage, [protagonist Jack Levitt] now runs with a group of hard teenagers who hang on the corner of Broadway and Yamhill in Portland, Oregon...Carpenter’s descriptions of pool halls and the intricacies of various billiard games are top shelf, as are his tours of the rooming houses, diners, and boxing arenas of the Pacific Northwest. After an incident involving a break-in, Jack is sent to reform school in Woodburn...Jack’s next stop is a stint in the state mental institution in Salem. He is released, boxes semi-professionally, does jail time in Peckham County, Idaho for “rolling a drunk,” and gets work in eastern Oregon, “bucking logs for a wildcat outfit.”

“I’m an atheist,” said Carpenter, in a 1975 interview. “I don’t see any moral superstructure to the universe at all. I consider my work optimistic in that the people, during the period I’m writing about them, are experiencing intense emotion. It is my belief that this is all there is to it. There is nothing beyond this.”

The complete essay is here. More about Don Carpenter here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Help Val

If you've been riding a bike for any length of time in Seattle then you know Val Kleitz. Val is widely recognized as the best mechanic in town, boasting an encyclopedic knowledge of old bicycle technology and a most impressive mustache. It turns out that the beloved Val is battling cancer.

Aaron’s Bicycle Repair in West Seattle and Redline Bicycles, based in Kent, are selling raffle tickets for a Redline 9-2-5 fixed-gear commuter bike to help pay some of Val's suddenly massive medical expenses. Because of Washington's gambling laws you have to swing by Aaron’s in person to buy a ticket, but far-flung folks who want to help can also make donations through this PayPal account. The drawing will be held at Aaron's on Sunday December 20th with Val in attendance.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Savage Illustrations

Illustrator and Art Director Joe Newton recently launched a new blog to show off the nearly 100 illustrations he's produced over 8 years for the sex advice column Savage Love. In Seattle, those illustrations are reproduced each week as teeny-tiny spot drawings in the Stranger. Newton's blog Savage Illustrations makes it much easier to appreciate the fine color and line work behind these charming drawings. Plus each image links to its original letter. Saucy!

Despite the subject matter they were originally commissioned for, the illustrations are cleverly safe for work.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I Say Nix!

For my 2 cents Joey Nix is the hardest working street artist in Seattle. As far as I've been able to count, in 2009 alone Joey has painted 3 large murals, painted an exquisite stairwell in the Moore Hotel as part of the "Moore Inside Out" project, contributed one whole room and two full hallways to the City Hostel Seattle, mounted 3 group exhibitions, 1 solo show, and has served as curator for the Whiskey Bar's ongoing series of exhibitions and performances. His reworking of the logo for Seattle's Juju Lounge was followed by a luminous series of hand painted vintage girlie postcards and mug shots of famous arrestees. And somewhere in the mix, he also found time to paint the Frank's Produce truck which has been circling the city delivering fruits and veggies.

And of course this is to say nothing of the street work that he may or not have done under an alias during the same period.

Seattle has its share of talented graffiti artists, but very few have the drive and talent to turn street writing into a legitimate career. Mad props to Joey Nix for working so damn hard to create such beautiful work. Nix's next show is a collaboration with the street artist Bingo, opening at the Whiskey Bar on November 15th.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pound

Today is the birthday of Ezra Pound, born October 30, 1885, the poet generally considered most responsible for defining and promoting a modernist aesthetic in poetry.

Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho, and he grew up around Philadelphia. At the age of 15 he entered the University of Pennsylvania, then taught for a time at Wabash College in Indiana. After a scandal involving a local actress, Pound left his teaching post and headed for Europe. Pound self-published A Lume Spento, his first collection of short poems, while living in Venice. He finally settled in London, and was named the editor of the Little Review in 1917. In 1924, he moved to Italy and became involved in Fascist politics. When Pound finally returned to the United States in 1945 he was arrested on charges of treason for broadcasting Fascist propaganda by radio to the United States during the Second World War. Though he was acquitted of the charges, he was declared mentally ill and committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. During his confinement, he was awarded the first ever Bollingen Prize from the Library of Congress Award for his Pisan Cantos, which he wrote while being held in a U.S. Army detention camp. Continuous appeals from an international coterie of writers won his release from the hospital in 1958. Pound returned to Italy and remained in Venice until he died in 1972.

Pound was one of the first poets to successfully employ free verse in extended compositions, his work exerting a huge influence on almost every 'experimental' poet in who followed him, very much including Allen Ginsberg who made an intense study of Pound's use of parataxis before writing his breakthrough poem Howl.

Pound was keenly interested in diverse languages, bringing Provençal and Chinese poetry to English audiences and translating Greek, Latin and Anglo-Saxon classics. As a critic, editor and promoter, Pound helped shape the careers of some of the 20th century's most influential writers including W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, D. H. Lawrence, and Charles Olson.

While his political views irreparably damaged his later career, earning him many enemies in addition to his forced confinement, there is simply no question that Pound's work played a pivotal role in the modernist revolution of 20th century literature.

Ancient Music

Winter is icummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm.
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.

Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing: Goddamm.

Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.

Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm.
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Greil Marcus

Greil Marcus made his reputation as the thinking man's Rock critic. For more than 30 years he has cast a highly intuitive ear toward music, while looking to literature as a backdrop for what he was hearing on the radio. His body of work includes the seminal "Mystery Train", a careful consideration of Elvis Presley as a 1950's avatar of Herman Melville, "Invisible Republic," a thorough dissection of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes as seen through the manic visions of Harry Smith, and "Lipstick traces," a cultural unearthing of the Dadaist inspirations behind the Sex Pistols.

For Marcus, rock music isn't just an American subculture, it is American culture itself. The music in our earbuds is part-and-parcel of our cultural DNA. He recently published his most ambitious work yet, a thousand-page compendium of American literature which he co-edited with Harvard literature professor Werner Sollors. "A New Literary History of America" reads like a monument to the insight that sparked Mr. Marcus's reading of rock and roll. The book comprises hundreds of essays on American life by scholars, poets, philosophers, artists and engineers on topics arranged in chronological order from the 16th century to the present. The themes are arranged like a series of riffs, exploring the themes that the editors lay down in their introduction: "This is the story of a made-up nation... with a literature that was not inherited but invented." It's a astounding compilation which serves as a final proof that there simply are no boundaries between literature, history and popular culture.

Marcus reads tonight at 7:00 at the Downtown Seattle Public Library. The reading is free.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Messquerade

For the 9th (non-consecutive) year, bike messenger Matt Messman is throwing down his annual "Messquerade" scavenger hunt, bike race and par-tay. It all takes place on Halloween night from 6:00 pm until early the next morning. Scavenger hunt participants converge at the registration tables at 20/20 Cycles at 6, then scavenge by bike all over the city, gathering points to compete for the always impressive array of prizes from sponsors like Counterbalance Bikes, Recycled Cycles and Chrome bags. Teams meet at the Underground Events Center at 10:00 at which point winners are announced, prizes are awarded, and the party commences. Bands include warped local metal heads Imperial Legions of Rome, Goth Rock true believers the Anunnaki, local ska heroes the Georgetown Orbits, plus DJ'S Grimus & A2Z.

Register your scavenger teams here. Doors to the Underground open at 9:00, Entrance is $3 with a costume and $5 without.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Manhattan Street Corners

Between March and November 2006, Richard Howe photographed every street corner in Manhattan - roughly 11,000 of them - from all four sides. The images are excellent, all closely cropped to the street level of each intersection, avoiding the standard "skyscraper view" of Manhattan and focusing instead on the people who bring each corner to vibrant life.

As Howe says in his introduction to the project,

Each of Manhattan’s street corners is a life-world of its own, representing the common experience of the daily lives that cross it; taken together, they represent the collective experience of the island’s streets and sidewalks, the larger life-world of Manhattan’s greatest public commons.

You can view all of the photos by neighborhood on the project's extensive website, though to get a real feel for the project I recommend having a look at the 101 Street Corners slideshow.

Individual prints from the collection are now available directly from Howe, and four 12" x 36" prints were acquired by the Library of Congress for its permanent collection.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

At Length Did Cross an Albatross

Yesterday, I touched on Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," in which a seaman brings a curse upon himself and his shipmates when he needlessly kills an albatross.

That theme leads directly to this powerful new series of photographs by Seattle photographer Chris Jordan detailing the deaths of albatross chicks on Midway Atoll. On these remote islands, thousands of miles from the nearest continent, albatrosses canvas the pacific ocean looking for food for their chicks. Instead of food, they too often find bits of plastic and metal detritus which they feed to their offspring, poisoning and asphyxiating them. Jordan documents this phenomenon as faithfully as possible by moving nothing in any of these tragic photographs. Not a bone, not a feather, not a bottle cap was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These beautiful and terrible images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries.

Coleridge's Mariner kills a single albatross, and that sin results in damnation for all who stood by and let it happen. What happens when we kill generations of these birds? How much will we all suffer for abnegating so much responsibility?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Coleridge

Today is the birthday of the poet, literary critic and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, born October 21, 1772. Even as a child, Coleridge was famously sensitive, devouring books and avoiding social life. His brother Luke died in 1790 and his only sister Ann in 1791, inspiring him to write "Monody," one of his first poems, at the age of 22. The depression and consequent illness that followed encouraged Coleridge to take laudanum, which began a lifelong opium addiction. Coleridge entered Cambridge in 1791 and rapidly worked himself into debt with opium, alcohol, and women. He had started to hope for poetic fame, but was famously desperate for money, causing him to try all manner of schemes including joining and then deserting the British army, and planning a utopian community called "Pantisocracy" which attempted to create a garden of Eden in Pennsylvania.

Coleridge struggled to make a living through teaching, newspaper work and poetry, but everything from marital difficulties to dying children to a damp climate conspired to keep him depressed and hooked on opium. In 1798, the Lyrical Ballads, the first collaboration between Coleridge and William Wordsworth, was published. The poems, which included The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, signaled a dramatic shift toward modern poetry, and basically created the Romantic movement.

Despite that remarkable accomplishment, things never looked very bright for Coleridge. He separated from his wife Sarah in 1808, broke relations with Wordsworth in 1810, lost part of his annuity in 1811, and basically surrendered to his opium addiction by 1814, putting himself under the full time care of his doctor and caretaker. He continued to write poems and struggled to publish a weekly newspaper with limited financial success. His powerful intellect and insights into literature earned him invitations as a lecturer, but his ill-health, his addiction, and somewhat unstable personality meant that all his lectures were irregular and unpredictable.

In 1817, Coleridge moved into the home of his physician and remained there for the rest of his life, composing poetry and having visions. He died in London on July 25, 1834 as the result of a lung disorder linked to his use of opium.

Frost at Midnight

The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet's cry
Came loud--and hark, again ! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings : save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
'Tis calm indeed ! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village ! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams ! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not ;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.

Complete poem is here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tent City

Last April, author George Saunders stayed for one week in a 300-person homeless tent city in Fresno, California. His 12,000 word piece on the experience appears in the current issue of GQ magazine.

As will be seen, truth was relative within the Study Area. Truth is relative everywhere but was even more relative within the Study Area. Anything anyone ever claimed during the Study was, at some point, directly contradicted by something someone else claimed. Stories within the Study Area, as will be seen, were rife with exaggeration, omission, or fabrication. It is postulated that this was related to the hardship of material conditions within the Study Area, as well as the prevalence of mental illness within the Study Area. The relation between mental illness and residency within the Study Area is worthy of further study. In some cases, mental illness seemed to be the reason for residence within the Study Area. In other cases, residence within the Study Area seemed to be causing mental illness in individuals who, in a less stressful setting, might not have been mentally ill at all.

On his website he writes "...It was a very moving, sort of scary experience, that had the effect of re-energizing certain tendencies in my fiction and in me as a person, I guess, among these: respect for the real; a distrust of the American capitalist juggernaut; suspicion of my own Pollyannaish tendencies; new enthusiasm for the variety and weirdness of the world."

You can read the full story over 21 mini-pages on GQ's website, though I very much recommend that you read it here, on one long page.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Anarchist Bookfair

This weekend brings the first ever Seattle Anarchist Bookfair to the Underground Events Center. To say the least, it's an event that has been a long time in planning - and there's a lot to show for it. More than 40 publishers and booksellers are selling their wares over the two day event, including the venerable anarchist publishers ak press and the absolutely brilliant graphic designers Beehive Collective traveling all the way from rural Maine. The weekends' events also include dozens of workshops on such topics as freeware vs. intellectual property rights, how to resist the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and "Ganging Up on the Bosses." The anarchists have gotten themselves organized to bring in guests and vendors from across the country. The least you can do is organize a visit to Belltown. This Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 7 PM. All ages.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Madonna del Ghisallo

Today is the feast day of the Patroness of Bicyclists, the Madonna del Ghisallo.

Medieval legend has it that a certain Count Ghisallo was traveling near the village of Magréglio when he was attacked by highway bandits. Spotting a image of the Virgin Mary in a roadside shrine, he broke away from his attackers and ran to it. There he took refuge, pled for Our Lady’s protection - and was miraculously saved from the robbers. As the story spread, the Madonna del Ghisallo became known as patroness of local travellers. In more recent times, cyclists would often stop to rest and pray at the chapel, which is at the top of a steep hill. After World War II, Father Ermelindo Vigano, pastor at the shrine, proposed Ghisallo as the site of a shrine for bicyclists, and she was given as patroness of cyclists on 13 October 1949 by Pope Pius XII. The chapel has become equal part religious shrine and cycling museum. There is an eternal flame that burns there in memory of the cyclists who are no longer with us, and services each Christmas Eve and the Feast of All Souls commemorate them.

The above photo is taken from Pez Cycling News, which has many more pictures of this strange and gorgeous church. Thanks!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Combo

This video has been circling the web for a couple of weeks but it bears repeating. “COMBO” is the newest animated graffiti film from Blu, whose previous work “MUTO” became a YouTube sensation. This time around he collaborated with street artist/animator David Ellis at the previously blogged FAME Festival. Both of these films are amazingly inspirational, using already wildly experimental take-no-prisoners street art, and then using time lapse animation to create cartoons. Graffiti artists have always used buildings and urban spaces as canvases, its a great leap of imagination to use them as animation cels.



And by the way, don't overlook the rest of the art created at the FAME Festival. Some truly remarkable images which will change the way you think about street art.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Monk

Today is the birthday of Thelonius Monk, born October 10, 1917. Known primarily as a jazz innovator, the utterly unique Monk has long been recognized as simply one of the most inventive pianists of any genre.

Born in North Carolina but raised in New York City, Monk was a serious music student by the age of nine, and was touring as a professional pianist by his early teens. He formed his own quartet and played local bars and small clubs until the spring of 1941, when drummer Kenny Clarke hired him as the house pianist at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, which became the ground zero of the “bebop revolution." The musical scene at Minton's attracted young musicians brimming with fresh ideas about harmony and rhythm — including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, and Bud Powell. Monk’s harmonic innovations were fundamental to the development of modern jazz in this period and he was celebrated as the “High Priest of Bebop.”

Despite his contributions to the development of modern jazz, Monk remained fairly obscure, and didn't lead his first recording session until 1947 at thirty years old and a veteran of the jazz scene for half his life. In August 1951 he was falsely arrested for narcotics possession, essentially taking the rap for his friend Bud Powell, and was stripped of his police-issued “cabaret card,” without which jazz musicians couldn't perform in New York. He continued to play sporadic concerts and out-of-town gigs, and when his cabaret card was restored in 1957 he enjoyed a very long and successful engagement with John Coltrane, which was a financial and critical highpoint of his career.

Monk recorded a number of great albums through the 1960's, but by 1970 his personal eccentricities and deteriorating health made it hard for him to either tour or record, and he made his final public appearance in July 1976. On February 5, 1982, he suffered a stroke and never regained consciousness. He died twelve days later, on February 17th.

This gorgeous Monk composition, "Crepescule with Nellie" was written for his constant companion, his wife of 35 years, Nellie.



Thursday, October 8, 2009

A World Going On Underground

The last week has brought an absolute explosion of new street art at the Underground Events Center. Incredible new pieces appeared from some of the West Coast's finest writers including Aerub, Huemr, and the legendary Veks. But the crowning glory has got to be this new 100 foot long, 20 foot high mural by Sean Barton. The entire north wall of the Underground parking lot now features a 2-story-tall gorilla bashing the words "Welcome to Belltown" out of the brick. Barton dedicated his huge piece to his mentor, renowned Los Angeles muralist Dennis Bezanis, "The King of Convex," who passed away in April this year. Many more photos here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pulling Strings

Two unusual and potent puppet shows currently playing in Seattle, from two of the last great puppeteers still creating work in this town.

Bloody Henry is Brian Kooser's gorgeous and gory take on the life and wives of King Henry VIII. Billed as a "hysterically accurate" puppet show about history's favorite misogynist mass murdering monarch, the design of the entire show is extraordinary, the puppets are exquisite, and the story is alternately uproarious and stomach churning. At Seattle University's Lee Center for the Arts through Oct 24.

Playwright Scot Auguston, in his perennial guise of "Sgt. Rigsby," is leading his troupe of voice actors through another riotous adventure of "Sgt. Rigsby's Amazing Silhouettes." For more than 10 years, Auguston and his remarkably consistent crew have come together periodically to create dementedly clever shadow puppet shows. The latest show, "Teensploitation," is a brave and bawdy coming-of-age story described as a unhealthy mixture of Judy Blume and R. Crumb, featuring new tingly feelings, horrifying physical changes and a singing chicken. At Theater Off Jackson until October 31.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Freedom in Burma

Poster artist and controversial folk hero/capitalist pig Shepard Fairey has created a new poster featuring Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and calling for democracy in Burma. Fairey is offering to mail them to anyone, anywhere in the world, who promises to put up them around their city. The posters are free, and Fairey will even pay for the shipping. The poster is also available for sale to those willing to take a different kind of risk. More about the Freedom to Lead campaign here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Kid (Koala)

I missed Montreal turntablist Kid Koala when he was in Seattle recently, so I'm doubly glad that he just posted his newest album, The Slew: 100% on his website. You can download the whole new album, 10 tracks, right here, for free. Kid Koala has been dropping strange and funny mixes for years, grabbing hooks from all kinds of unlikely sources like obscure jazz records, recordings of symphony orchestras, comedy albums, after-school specials, medical recordings of speech impediments, and more. This particular mix features lots of heavy metal samples, with bluesy bass licks, pounding drums and screaming guitars. It sounds daunting, but like all of Kid Koala's mixes it's musical, fun, groove heavy and damn catchy. It costs you nothing - what have you got to lose?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Poem in October

Poem in October
by Dylan Thomas

        It was my thirtieth year to heaven
    Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
        And the mussel pooled and the heron
            Priested shore
        The morning beckon
    With water praying and call of seagull and rook
    And the knock of sailing boats on the webbed wall
            Myself to set foot
        That second
    In the still sleeping town and set forth.

        My birthday began with the water-
      Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
    Above the farms and the white horses
            And I rose
        In a rainy autumn
    And walked abroad in shower of all my days
    High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
        Over the border
            And the gates
        Of the town closed as the town awoke.

Complete poem is here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mysterious Gifts

A guest post from my friend Brooke.
__________________________

I work at the Seattle Children's Theater, and I don't normally try to push our productions on my friends and family, and usually don't feel like I need to. SCT is a jewel, and anyone who knows anything about the arts in our city knows that.

However, I really wanted to make sure that everyone knows about the show that we are currently putting on. Mysterious Gifts: Theatre of Iran is part of a project titled Connecting Stories which is an international collaboration of artists creating theatre for young audiences from the United States, the Netherlands, and Iran. Each country has committed to hosting a performance for four consecutive years from 2009 to 2012. The SCT show is the very first performance in this series, and Iranian artist Yaser Khaseb has created such a beautiful show of puppets and movement. After just two weeks here, the show will travel to Tempe and Minneapolis, and the Iranian theater company will have a chance to connect with artists and production staff at each theater. The performance is simply stellar, the whole Connecting Stories project is powerful in so many ways, especially in that it is giving people an opportunity to see the Iranian culture in a brand new positive light.

During opening night of the show this past Friday, the audience, myself included, was captivated. What these artists are sharing is truly something special and unique. Our friends from Iran are only here for a short 4 weeks before they must return home, and the show runs only 2 of those weeks. I am telling you now, you do not want to miss it. It is truly amazing.