Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Emerald City ComiCon

Gonna try to leave the house this weekend and show my pasty white face to all my house-bound homies at the Emerald City ComiCon. It's an unusually fun convention for us genre-loving geeks, with a strong independent and underground comics presence, thanks mainly to the international profile of Seattle-based Fantagraphics, in addition to all the old school comic books for sale. I'll see if I can find some comics appropriate for a newborn (non-violent and droolproof), stand in line to shake the hand of Love and Rockets co-creator Jaime Hernandez and commission a starving artist or two to create a new drawing for the Punk Rock Flea Market. This Saturday and Sunday, April 4th & 5th, at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bargain Hunt

As a case in point, this little poem for today by Ron Padgett.

Bargain Hunt

Suppose you found a bargain so incredible
you stood there stunned for a moment
unable to believe that this thing could be
for sale at such a low price: that is what happens
when you are born, and as the years go by
the price goes up and up until, near the end
of your life, it is so high that you lie there
stunned forever.

Friday, March 27, 2009

It's a Girl!

Nico Hazmat d'Pepita i Gurldogg was born on March 26, 2009. She's a cute little thing, 3.1 kilos. (First photos here!) This blog will continue as normal, though postings will probably be a little irregular for a while, and may feature a greater percentage of baby stuff. Thanks for reading and thanks for your well wishes!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Boom Box Bikes

The boom box bicycle is coming into its own as a phenomenon of urban culture. It can be tricky mounting a decent (ie. LOUD) portable sound system to a bicycle, but tinkerers from around the world are increasingly up to the challenge. From impromptu street dance parties to Critical Mass rides, boom box bikes are a growing component of the cityscape.

Oobject has got a nice photo compilation of boom box bikes, and the gear heads over at Instructables recently posted detailed instructions for pimping your own ride.

The documentary "Made in Queens" follows a group of imaginative audiophiles and bike geeks from Trinidad, now living in NYC, who rigged enormous stereo systems onto their ordinary bmx and mountain bikes. The film, celebrating America's first stereobike crew, is currently on the festival circuit and I'm crossing my fingers that it makes it to Seattle as part of SIFF. In the meantime, check out this bitchin' (though far too short) trailer. Maybe I'll see you at Critical Mass?

(This post is deciated to longtime Gurldoggie reader and boombox biker WW.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

In Just Spring

by e. e. cummings

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan whistles

Friday, March 20, 2009

Zou Zou & Princesse Tam Tam

As part of the ever-expanding footprint of Seattle's "Moisture Festival" vaudeville extravaganza, the SIFF Cinema is presenting a week long film program highlighting the world of cinematic varietè, circus, and burlesque. On Sunday March 22nd, SIFF is showcasing a rare Josephine Baker double bill - the 1934 film "Zou Zou", followed by "Princesse Tam Tam" from 1935.

Baker, who was born Freda Josephine McDonald in 1906, had a minor American career as a vaudeville comedian and chorus girl, but like any Black performer at that time she was seriously limited in the level of success she could attain. However, when Josephine traveled to Paris with a new venture, La Revue Nègre, she became a sensation. Everything about Josephine Baker was new and exotic - her famously bold costumes, her uninhibited dancing, and her unabashed sexuality. Her career thrived in integrated Paris society, and by 1927 she was the highest paid entertainer in Europe. She tried to return to the United States a number of times as a star performer but the ventures proved disastrous and Josephine lived the rest of her in France.

The two films being shown in Seattle, created specifically as starring vehicles for the charismatic performer, represent Baker at the height of her career.

The film series, which opens on March 20, also features the Wim Wenders film "Wings of Desire", the Jacques Tati opus "Playtime", and the film "Gypsy" which stars Natalie Wood as burlesque legend Gypsy Rose Lee.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I've been seriously impressed by the work of painter, photographer and world traveler Swampdonkey. This young man is continually moving across the country by freight car, finding time to throw up his signature mammoth skull, create gorgeous murals, and document the intriguing people he meets in his travels. He also manages to mount spectacular solo shows of his work from time to time, like this one last summer at Sweet Hickory Music & Art in Bloomington, Indiana. You can follow Swampdonkey's work and adventures at his impressive flickr page or at his in-need-of-updating website.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Today is the birthday, in 1842, of French poet Stéphane Mallarmé. Mallarmé was a wildly innovative writer who believed in erasing any lines that separated poetry from other art forms. He constantly explored the relationship between content and form, and experimented widely with the appearance of text and with different arrangements of words and spaces on the page. His work, which gave raise to the symbolist movement, anticipated and inspired many of the revolutionary artistic movements of the early 20th century, including Dadaism, Surrealism, and Futurism. He also famously held salons - gatherings of poets, painters and philosophers - at his Paris home every Tuesday. The salons were considered the heart of Paris intellectual life for many years, with such regular visitors as W.B. Yeats, Rainer Maria Rilke, Paul Valéry, Stefan George, Paul Verlaine, and many others.

Mallarmé is famously difficult to translate, owning both to his distinctly French sense of word play and his refusal to be constrained by anything resembling the normal rules of punctuation, spelling, or even page sizes. This printed page is just one of hundreds of examples of the challenges his writing poses to the translator. However, it hasn't stopped folks from trying.

Sea Breeze

The flesh is sad, Alas! and I have read all the books.
Let’s go! Far off. Let’s go! I sense
that the birds, intoxicated, fly
deep into unknown spume and sky!
Nothing – not even old gardens mirrored by eyes -
can restrain this heart that drenches itself in the sea,
O nights, or the abandoned light of my lamp,
on the void of paper, that whiteness defends,
no, not even the young woman feeding her child.
I will go! Steamer, straining at your ropes
lift your anchor towards an exotic rawness!
A Boredom, made desolate by cruel hope
still believes in the last goodbye of handkerchiefs!
And perhaps the masts, inviting lightning,
are those the gale bends over shipwrecks,
lost, without masts, without masts, no fertile islands...
But, oh my heart, listen to the sailors’ chant.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Place Your Bids!

Theater director Richard Foreman — the creator of expressionist spectacles so brilliant, so inspired, so lunatic that no one has ever adequately described one — is letting go of some of his famously baroque prop pieces in an online auction that starts today. The auction includes a Large Hypnotic Heart ("Viewed by some as a melancholic target and others as a spellbinding vortex pulling them into a trance"), Bejeweled Axes ("The masculinity and destructive quality of the Axes reverberates against the femininity of the plumage and the multi-colored jewels") and a Jewish Fish Wrapped in Silk ("The gold and green fish, wrapped in silk with Hebrew letters...is a little atom of total potentiality.") Even if you have no room for an 8 foot tall feathered ax, the site is worth visiting for the descriptions alone.

Foreman's latest offering, Astronome, plays in New York City through April 5. He also recently released the handsome DVD Compilation Sophia: The Cliffs and 35+ Year Retrospective Compilation, which casts an eye back over a truly mind-boggling career.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Unnatural Histories

Out of Thorp, Washington comes Justin Gibbens, a highly skilled wildlife artist with a decided focus on the "wild." His uncanny work is a pitch perfect imitation of conventional 18th and 19th century zoological illustration, but with curious and unsettling modifications. With watercolor and gouache he depicts four headed geese, amphibious horses, and detailed anatomical studies of Bovinus giraffa and other animals that don't exist. His latest series, Birds of Paradise, is a creepy mediation on birds and their mutations. At the G. Gibson Gallery in Seattle until April 18th.

From Seattle, but currently living in New York, Parskid is in town for an opening of his work at Schmancy toystore and gallery on Friday March 13. The street painter and toy designer is becoming increasingly well known for his beautiful renderings of the strange world hidden within the gloomy forests of the Pacific Northwest. Since he's been back in Seattle, Parskid has painted a few new pieces on walls and alleys around the city. For example, this strange figure popped up on the walls of 'Tubs' in the U District.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dame Darcy

Cult cartoonist and countercultural force Dame Darcy will be in Seattle for a book signing and banjo performance at the Fantagraphics Bookstore in Georgetown this Saturday, March 14, as part of that neighborhood's "Second Saturday Art Attack."

Dame Darcy, who recently resettled from LA to Portland, is best known for her comic "Meat Cake," an unusual blend of Victorian creepiness and punk romance which has been irregularly published by Fantagraphics for at least 10 years. She recently released a full length graphic novel, Gasoline, described by the publisher thusly: "At the height of a society governed by corporate greed and corruption, a fiery apocalypse rains down. Among the few survivors are a family of orphaned witches. Establishing a utopian commune, they uphold their position of power through the maintenance of their car, the only remaining working automobile. The search for precious gasoline pits them against the conniving nihilists who lurk in the decaying urban sprawl." That sounds about right.

Dame Darcy is also known to play a mean banjo.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Each One Good as Gold

It's been very gratifying to see Donald Barthelme getting some overdue love recently. The miraculous story teller and wondrous prose stylist had been unjustly neglected since his death in 1989. After a small flurry of tearful obituaries and a couple of posthumous story collections, Barthelme was largely forgotten. His stories were rarely if ever reprinted, and his books all went out of print. Recently however, with the long awaited publication of the biography"Hiding Man," Barthelme is being reintroduced and reconsidered. Both the New Yorker and New York Review of Books recently featured profiles of the author, and McSweeney's published a whole issue dedicated to his memory, with a terrific celebratory essay by noted Don-o-phile George Saunders. Despite all this, it's worth noting that most of his titles are still out of print.

Here's a charming short story with a signature sense of Barthelme mirth. Just perfect for us parents and expectant parents.


The first thing the baby did wrong was to tear pages out of her books. So we made a rule that each time she tore a page out of a book she had to stay alone in her room for four hours, behind the closed door. She was tearing out about a page a day, in the beginning, and the rule worked fairly well, although the crying and screaming from behind the closed door were unnerving. We reasoned that that was the price you had to pay, or part of the price you had to pay. But then as her grip improved she got to tearing out two pages at a time, which meant eight hours alone in her room, behind the closed door, which just doubled the annoyance for everybody. But she wouldn't quit doing it. And then as time went on we began getting days when she tore out three or four pages, which put her alone in her room for as much as sixteen hours at a stretch, interfering with normal feeding and worrying my wife. But I felt that if you made a rule you had to stick to it, had to be consistent, otherwise they get the wrong idea. She was about fourteen months old or fifteen months old at that point. Often, of course, she'd go to sleep, after an hour or so of yelling, that was a mercy. Her room was very nice, with a nice wooden rocking horse and practically a hundred dolls and stuffed animals. Lots of things to do in that room if you used your time wisely, puzzles and things. Unfortunately sometimes when we opened the door we'd find that she'd torn more pages out of more books while she was inside, and these pages had to be added to the total, in fairness.

The baby's name was Born Dancin'. We gave the baby some of our wine, red, whites and blue, and spoke seriously to her. But it didn't do any good.

I must say she got real clever. You'd come up to her where she was playing on the floor, in those rare times when she was out of her room, and there'd be a book there, open beside her, and you'd inspect it and it would look perfectly all right. And then you'd look closely and you'd find a page that had one little corner torn, could easily pass for ordinary wear-and-tear but I knew what she'd done, she'd torn off this little corner and swallowed it. So that had to count and it did. They will go to any lengths to thwart you. My wife said that maybe we were being too rigid and that the baby was losing weight. But I pointed out to her that the baby had a long life to live and had to live in a world with others, had to live in a world where there were many, many rules, and if you couldn't learn to play by the rules you were going to be left out in the cold with no character, shunned and ostracized by everyone. The longest we ever kept her in her room consecutive was eighty-eight hours, and that ended when my wife took the door off its hinges with a crowbar even though the baby still owed us twelve hours because she was working off twenty five pages. I put the door back on its hinges and added a big lock, one that opened only if you put a magnetic card in a slot, and I kept the card.

But things didn't improve. The baby would come out of her room like a bat out of hell and rush to the nearest book, Goodnight Moon or whatever, and begin tearing pages out of it hand over fist. I mean there'd be thirty-four pages of Goodnight Moon on the floor in ten seconds. Plus the covers. I began to get a little worried. When I added up her indebtedness, in terms of hours, I could see that she wasn't going to get out of her room until 1992, if then. Also, she was looking pretty wan. She hadn't been to the park in weeks. We had more or less of an ethical crisis on our hands.

I solved it by declaring that it was all right to tear pages out of books, and moreover, that it was all right to have torn pages out of books in the past. That is one of the satisfying things about being a parent-you've got a lot of moves, each one good as gold. The baby and I sit happily on the floor, side by side, tearing pages out of books, and sometimes, just for fun, we go out on the street and smash a windshield together.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Some of Seattle's best known street artists have commandeered the defunct "Tubs" building at 50th and Roosevelt. Over the last 2 weeks a dozen local graffiti writers, including NKO, Kinoko, Bald Man, NTG, EGO and others have been putting in the time to make the place shine.

It's an evolving gallery with new pieces showing up and getting painted over by the moment. The building is slated to be torn down in late spring, be sure to check it while there's something to see. More photos of the work in progress on Gurldogg's flickr site here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Case for Big Government

A lot of digital ink has already been spilled on the recently passed $800 billion federal stimulus package and the proposed $3.5 trillion federal budget. The single best article I've read on the importance of Obama's plans and the tremendous impact his policies could have on America's future is by Richard Parker, Senior Fellow at the Shorenstein Center for Economics at Harvard, in the current issue of the New York Review of Books. It is absolutely worth your time.

The article is a review and summary of a new book called "The Case for Big Government" by economist and former New York Times columnist Jeff Maddrick. Parker argues that the conventional wisdom that government spending is inefficient and high taxes are a drag on productivity is simply false and not supported by empirical data. From the American Revolution to the Great Depression, the federal government shaped economic growth by fostering small-scale farming, promoting free education, and financing the nation's vast transportation network. State and local governments actively promoted large-scale investments in infrastructure and subsidized America's primary education system, which made the young U.S. the most literate nation in the world.

Moreover, between the Civil War and World War I, government at every level steadily expanded regulatory powers to make the United States the world's largest economy. Government intervened actively in business organization, consumer rights, working conditions, technology, utilities, public health, agriculture, urban design, and private and public finance. The effect of all this government intervention was to enhance the country's overall rate of growth even as it helped equalize income and wealth distribution. Government legislation created an educated workforce, built crucial infrastructure, guaranteed enforceable contracts, sponsored scientific and technological research and development, and made America an economic giant.

Parker also considers the intellectual claims of figures such as Milton Friedman, whose work was central to creating the "small government is better government" consensus, and finds it deeply flawed. He argues that we need to rediscover Americans' capacities for transformational change and the way "big government" can help achieve that end. He asks:

How did the wealthiest nation in history come to believe it is not wealthy?

America has no free and high-quality day care or pre-K institutions to nourish and comfort two-worker families.... College has become far more expensive and attendance is now bifurcated by class.... Transportation infrastructure has been notoriously neglected, is decaying, and has not been adequately modernized to meet energy-efficient standards or global competition. America has not responded to a new world of high energy costs and global warming in general. America has a health care system that is simply out of control, providing on balance inadequate quality at very high prices.... The financial system, progressively deregulated since the 1970's, broke free of government oversight entirely in the 1990's and early 2000's and speculation reminiscent of the 1800's was the result with potentially equal levels of damage.... These facts amount to about as conclusive a proof as history ever provides that the ideology applied in this generation has failed.

Madrick's book, and Parker's article, call for new spending programs and new ways to raise revenue to reverse the consequences of this failed ideology over the past three decades. These recommendations provide both vital explanatory background for the stimulus package and a useful benchmark by which to assess the Obama administration's current and coming proposals.

As for Madrick’s book, Princeton University Press has been kind enough to post Chapter 1, or about a third of the book, at their website.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Christian Faur has got a way with crayons.

“I have assembled more than one hundred thousand hand cast crayons of varying colors and shades to produce a body of work that, to the best of my knowledge, is unlike anything done before in art.”

And how did he make all those crayons anyway?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Puig Antich

Following the premonition of a beautiful birth, the remembrance of a haunting death. On this day 35 years ago, March 2 1974, Salvador Puig Antich was the last man assassinated by the Franco regime in Spain.

Puig Antich was born in Barcelona in 1948, and was 20 years old during the French general strike that led to the collapse of the De Gaulle government. Inspired by this example, he involved himself in the fight against the Franco dictatorship, eventually becoming a member of the Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación, an anti-Franco and anti-capitalist militant organization. Puig Antich was part of a group that robbed Spanish and French banks, using the money to support the group's clandestine publications, and to support strikers and imprisoned workers.

In 1973 Puig Antich and two other gang members were captured in a Barcelona bar, during which a Guardia Civil was killed. Puig Antich was accused of having fired the shots that killed the policeman, though it was later proved that he was killed by another Guardia during the operation. Regardless, Puig Antich was sentenced to death. His sentence was protested around the world by activists and governments alike, but Franco, who was holding fast to the last rudiments of his control, did not concede. Puig Antich, then 25 years old, was executed in a cell of the central Barcelona jail on March 2 at 9:40 am. Franco himself died 18 months later, and his government collapsed soon after.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Assuming all goes well, my child will be born this month. Before things get crazy, I wanted to post this beautiful birth and re-birth poem by Philip Levine.

Let Me Begin Again

Let me begin again as a speck
of dust caught in the night winds
sweeping out to sea. Let me begin
this time knowing the world is
salt water and dark clouds, the world
is grinding and sighing all night, and dawn
comes slowly and changes nothing. Let
me go back to land after a lifetime
of going nowhere. This time lodged
in the feathers of some scavenging gull
white above the black ship that docks
and broods upon the oily waters of
your harbor. This leaking freighter
has brought a hold full of hayforks
from Spain, great jeroboams of dark
Algerian wine, and quill pens that can't
write English. The sailors have stumbled
off toward the bars of the bright houses.
The captain closes his log and falls asleep.
1/10'28. Tonight I shall enter my life
after being at sea for ages, quietly,
in a hospital named for an automobile.
The one child of millions of children
who has flown alone by the stars
above the black wastes of moonless waters
that stretched forever, who has turned
golden in the full sun of a new day.
A tiny wise child who this time will love
his life because it is like no other.