Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jewish Shouting.

Writer and critic James Marcus interviewed novelist Philip Roth about his latest novel, Indignation, for the LA Times last September. During the course of the interview, Marcus asked Roth what he thought of the film version of Portnoy's Complaint, and was told it was "unspeakable". "It's a movie about shouting. Jewish shouting," said Roth, proceeding to give "a brief, comical example" of what this might sound like. His performance struck Marcus "as a specimen of literary history, like Thoreau demonstrating how to peel the bark off a birch tree".

"Clearly," Marcus wrote on his blog, "his ululating outburst impressed me", and he used it as the backbone of "Jewish shouting mix 3", interspersing Roth's laughter and shouting with a strong dance beat. This has now been posted online by US independent publisher Melville House, which is always, said Marcus, "on the alert for booty-shaking literary artefacts".

Marcus promises that if the track proves popular enough he'll create a 15-minute club version. It's worth a listen, if only to imagine hip young scenesters eventually shaking their stuff to a 76-year-old novelist's groaning.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bloody Henry

Seattle puppeteer Brian Kooser is currently in London, researching locations, costumes and period language for his upcoming epic "Bloody Henry," a puppet show "wildly based" on the life and times of King Henry VIII. Kooser has working steadily on his craft for years - through his journeyman efforts with Thistle Theatre, his group work with Monkey Wrench Puppet Lab, and his turns as the creator-in-chief of Frankenocchio and Dracula: A Case Study. Still, puppets have a hard time reaching a mainstream audience and Kooser's increasingly excellent work has garnered a cult following but has otherwise been ignored by local audiences and media. Bloody Henry may well be Kooser's breakthrough. The show has been awarded funding from the Seattle Arts Commission and Artists Trust, and Kooser has been laboring on the production all year as an Artist in Residence at Seattle University. Bloody Henry opens at SU's Lee Center on September 24, and Kooser will be showing selections from the work in progress at the Frye Art Museum on July 30th.

Friday, June 26, 2009


A little something to get us in the mood... Rosemarie Fiore's firework drawings are created by setting off and controlling firework explosions. She explains:

"I bomb blank sheets of paper with different fireworks including color smoke bombs, jumping jacks, monster balls, fountains, magic whips, spinning carnations, ground blooms, rings of fire, and lasers. As I work, I create imagery by controlling the chaotic nature of the explosions in upside-down containers.

When the paper becomes saturated in color, dark and burned, I take it back to my studio and collage blank paper circles onto the image to establish new planes and open up the composition. I then continue to bomb the pieces. These actions are repeated a number of times. The final works contain many layers of collaged explosions and are thick and heavy."

Cool. More photos and work here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Get Pona!

Linguist Arika Okrent has been making the rounds of brainy talk shows promoting her book "In the Land of Invented Languages," a fascinating historical survey of artificial languages from the medieval visions of Hildegard von Bingen, to the 20th century invention of Klingon. The book looks to be both profoundly erudite and highly entertaining, which is why the University of Chicago asked her to share her ten favorite made-up words on their blog.

Among Okrent's favorites are "radíidin," from Suzette Haden Elgin's language Láadan, a language designed to capture the unique perspective of women. The word means "non-holiday, a time allegedly a holiday but actually so much a burden because of work and preparations that it is a dreaded occasion; especially when there are too many guests and none of them help."

The word "pona" comes from Sonja Elen Kisa's language Toki Pona, a minimal language with only 118 words. Pona can be a verb ("improve," "fix," "repair," "make good"), an adjective ("good," "simple," "positive," "nice," "correct," "right"), a noun ("goodness," "simplicity," "positivity"), or an interjection ("great!", "cool!" "yay!")

More here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Primiti Too Taa

Today would have been the 122nd birthday of Kurt Schwitters, born June 20, 1887 in Hanover, Germany.

Kurt Schwitters was one of the founders of the post-war Dada movement, and is generally acknowledged as one of the modern masters of collage. The material for Schwitters' montages, collages and assemblages came directly from the streets of Hanover, and while his work is always challenging and exlores an astonishing range of ideas, it was rarely specifically "political," which led the most dogmatic Dadaists to view him with suspicion. Eventually he rejected the Dada label and began calling himself and his artistic output "Merz," from a cut-up fragment of newspaper that had originally read "Kommerz".

The center of Schwitters' universe was his house in Hanover, which became his ultimate work of art. Between 1923 and his exile in 1937, Schwitters made collages and assemblages all around and throughout the walls of his home, which gradually became connected by string, wire, wood, and plaster. His house eventually became a "Merzbau," a huge and ever-changing sculpture he lived within.

Schwitters was driven out of Germany by the Nazis, and after a spell in Norway, he moved to England where he lived and worked until his death in 1948.

Among his many projects, Schwitters continually worked on and recited an epic-length sound poem, "Ursonate," between 1922 and 1932. This film is an animated excerpt of the poem called Primiti Too Taa, created by the animator Ed Ackerman and read by poet Colin Morton.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Best of SIFF

They should have thought of this years ago. The Seattle International Film Festival is over and gone, but for those of us who just couldn't find the time to see all the films we wanted, the SIFF Cinema is running a program of the "Best of SIFF" this weekend. Most exciting to me is having another chance to see The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, Sunday at 8:30. "Dizzle" is the first feature film by local film maker David Russo, using animation and time-lapse cinematography to tell a wild tale about druggie janitors, clandestine market research, and addictive cookies that cause men to give birth to small, blue creatures. It got some excellent reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, and is not scheduled to play in Seattle again anytime soon. I haven't seen it or ANY of the other films in the lineup, so I have no idea what makes them the best, but like so many of the movies at SIFF, it's worth taking a chance. The full schedule is here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Moore of Everything

Rising from the ashes of their Belltown project, the Free Sheep Foundation are once again creating a temporary installation in a Seattle landmark. On June 30th, Free Sheep are turning the Moore, Seattle’s oldest operating theatre, “inside out.” Over the course of a 4-hour evening, dozens of actors, sculptors, painters, film makers, dancers and musicians will claim spaces throughout the 100-year old facility – not just on stage, but backstage, through the halls, up the balconies, in the windows and on the fire escapes. The concept is to turn the Moore itself into an interactive artwork, encouraging spectators to explore the nooks and crannies of this architectural behemoth. The list of artists involved represents a who's who of cutting edge Seattle artists. There are simply too many impressive names to rattle off, but the roster includes such luminaries as Lead Pencil Studio, NKO, DK Pan, Susan Robb, Stefan Gruber, Heumer, Baldman, Orkestar Zirkonium, Seattle School, Byron Au Yong, Kaleb Hagan-Kerr, Lucia Neare, Scratchmaster Joe and many many more.

The Moore project is the culmination of a collaboration between the artists of Free Sheep, the 4Culture Site-Specific program, and STG, the non-profit arts organization that operates the Moore and other historic theatres in Seattle.

The show ends at 10:00 pm with a procession led by Orkestar Zirkonium from the Moore to the Underground Event Center, where the party rages into the shortest night of the year with live sets from Unnatural Helpers, Fresh and Onlys from San Francisco and Portland's The Whines.

Believe it or not, this event is completely free and open to the public, with no ticket required. Don't miss this one!

Monday, June 15, 2009

50 Years of Lunch

July 2009 brings the 50th Anniversary of William Burroughs' masterpiece Naked Lunch, published in July 1959 by the Paris-based Olympia Press. Naked Lunch is an absolute landmark in the history of American literature - an often obscene and deliberately provocative work originally banned throughout the U.S. for its references to drug use, homosexuality, child murder, pedophilia, pornography, capital punishment and auto-erotic asphyxiation, among God-knows-what-else. After a major legal battle in 1966, which included testimony from the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer, the Massachusetts Supreme Court found that the work had "some social value" and the censorship was lifted. The book has since paved the way for hundreds if not thousands of writers, been the basis for at least 3 films, inspired countless petty thefts from bookstores, and has generally been one of the most influential novels since WWII.

From July 1 to 3, the city of Paris is hosting a series of concerts, readings, performances and exhibitions featuring an international body of scholars, writers and performers paying homage to Burroughs and his seminal novel.

The celebration includes Burroughs-centered tours of the city and visits to key sites including rue Git-le-Coeur, home of the old Beat Hotel, and the Musée Eugène Delacroix, the artist’s last studio and a testament to the enduring influence of Moroccan culture on generations of artists and writers. All these events will be taking place on the left bank of Paris, only a few hundred yards from where Burroughs completed his manuscript. If you're a Burroughs fan, the streets of Paris are the place to be. If you can't make it, at least visit the website Naked Lunch@50, which includes full details about the celebration and a wide range of essays on Burroughs & the Beat Generation, including a discography of Naked Lunch by Ian MacFadyen, and a complete section-by-section breakdown of the text by Oliver Harris.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bike Friday

The Henry Art Gallery is starting their summer season this Friday by extending their evening hours and offering their first "Bike Friday" event.

In addition to being a good chance to see the currently running shows (such as the 2009 University of Washington MFA Thesis Exhibition which recently went up and is almost always worth a look) they'll be showing bike films in the courtyard, the ASUW bike shop will be running valet bike parking in the Sculpture Court, and Recycled Cycles, Cascade Bicycle Club, and 20/20 Cycles are all offering prizes in night-long raffle. The early evening brings an old school dance party hosted by DJ Tape Deck from Hollow Earth Radio, and the night closes with live music from Olympia's Lake.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The End of Northland

Some very sad news out of Minneapolis. The Northland Poster Collective is closing. The venerable union print shop and non-profit organization had been working for more thirty years to create the images and print the posters that came to define the look of American civil rights struggles. Since the days of the Vietnam War, the artists at Northland have maintained important and powerful relationships with a huge number of organizers, activists, students, teachers, leaders and members of unions, immigrant rights groups, GLBTQ organizers, farmers, women’s rights groups, and many many other groups caught up in one battle or another. They've been part of community strategy sessions, designed demonstrations with high-school students and taught screen printing behind bars. Basically, for anyone who has come of political age since Nixon, Northland has always been there. “After three decades of working to undermine Wall Street, it finally fell on us,” explained founding member Ricardo Levins Morales.

The bittersweet silver lining is that they are selling off their entire stock at 50% off, all of which is posted on their website. Act fast to get some utterly unique items that may never be available again. And keep your eye on Life After Northland for future endeavors.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Some of You People Just About Missed It

I hope for your sake that you got down to the Punk Rock Flea Market on Saturday. It was one hell of a good time - a gorgeous day, a record turn out, and just awe inspiring music. Huge props to the Yellow Hat Band, Keg, Specs One and Kled, all of whom gave larger than life performances and left our audience enrapt.

Also major gratitude to all the volunteers who came out to move tables, sell entrances, sweep the parking lot, empty trash barrels and pour beer. Come back next time? Please? And as always, big kisses to the Low Income Housing Institute without whom of this could happen.

Speaking of next time ... I had a few conversations on Saturday which may just lead to a new-and-improved Punk Rock Flea Market which could bring even more shoppers and bigger audiences for our extraordinary entertainers. Watch this space for details. And check out EspressoBuzz's flickr page, or my own, for more photos of the day. Thanks again for choosing the Flea Market for all your Punk Rock shopping needs!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Fear and Loathing: The Board Game

Here's a sure cure for summer boredom. J.R. Baldwin has created a new narcotics-themed board game inspired by Hunter Thompson's drug addled masterpiece, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The rules are simple:

Before the game starts, every player throws in $20. Whoever finishes the game first wins the whole pot of money. Each player rolls the die to see who will go first....There are three different spaces to land on. Yellow means dosing a certain amount of a drug specified by a dosing card. Blue means going on an adventure or doing a fun activity. Red cards are challenges that would be specifically hard for someone to accomplish while on various drugs...Have fun and be safe!

A perfect graduation gift for the college kids in your life. Or maybe you have a friend who is looking for a new start in journalism? The game is only available here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Screen Printer and scholar Lincoln Cushing recently posted a fascinating article on the influence of screen printing on social movements on the AIGA website.

Screen printing—or serigraphy, as it’s called in finer art circles—has been a standard commercial process for more than a century. As a reproduction technique, it has many wonderful qualities. It requires very little in terms of equipment, and even that can be easily made by hand; it is easy to teach and to learn; and it’s very well suited to very short runs of large format objects. It seems like an obvious choice when looking for ways to create prints for the public. Yet there have been at least two periods in history when screen printing was “discovered” by artists—the first was in the United States during the mid-1930s, under the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration, and the second time during the 1960s.

Read the rest of the article here.

By the way, if you've never seen it, the prints & photographs division of the Library of Congress has a huge archive of silkscreened posters from the WPA. More than 900 Works Projects Administration posters on this site, including large versions available for download. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


When President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela met President Barack Obama in April, he gave the American President a copy of "Las venas abiertas de América Latina" (or "Open Veins of Latin America") by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano. That book, which Galeano wrote while in political exile in Argentina and published in 1973, was the opening blast in a uniquely explosive career that has sought to analyze the centuries-long economic exploitation of Latin American history using an uncommonly lyrical prose style. The book was banned by right-wing governments throughout South America, but it was routinely smuggled into Uruguay, Chile and Argentina and then circled underground, soon acquiring the status of a classic.

In 1976 the Videla regime took power in Argentina and Galeano was condemned to death. He chose exile again, this time in Spain, where he wrote his equally famous poetic history of Latin America, Memoria del fuego (Memory of Fire), a blindingly brilliant three-volume work that draws from pre-Columbian myth and first hand contemporary accounts of historic events. Since then he has published dozens of books of fiction, journalism, and social history, always pointing to abuses of power and advocating for social justice.

Galeano will be in Seattle this Thursday night, June 4th, at Town Hall. He'll be speaking about his newest book, Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone and answering all manner of questions on politics, poetry, and his personal view of history. Tickets are just $5, available here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Punk Rock Flea Music

The Punk Rock Flea Market is coming up on Saturday. In addition to the most vendors EVER (80 booths + 8 food sellers + several roaming salespeople equals close to 100 vendors!) we've also got a stellar line up of music and entertainment. Starting at around 6:00 Keg (local high-energy high-kicking one-man-band) takes the stage, followed by Seattle hip hop legend SPECS ONE, and the night wraps up with Kled, dramatic psycho-death-disco-rockers in hot pants. Also, our regular tunesmith, the extraordinary DJ Port-a-Party, will be spinning records all day, the Yellow Hat Band will be making an appearance, and we've got an "almost-promise" from the Bicycle Belles dance troupe that they'll show up as well. Rock and Roll, flea market style.

It's gonna be a insanely good show so come to the market, stick around for the show, and tell all yer friends. See you there!

And hey! The Punk Flea up above was drawn by Rachel Dukes of Poseur Ink, who I met at the Emerald City Comic Convention, where she was pushing her book "Side B: The Music Lover's Comic Anthology." Available here! Now!