Sunday, May 31, 2009

Up in China

Wow. French graffiti legend Jef Aerosol is getting up in China. Aerosol has been in the public eye since at least 1982 and has been extremely prolific since then, spreading his images of "Sitting Kids" in cities around the world. Aerosol, along with French street artists Monsieur Chat and L’Atlas received a grant from CulturesFrance to paint live during the opening days of Art Beijing, and then traveled to Chengdu to paint two walls at the Zebra Music Festival. Aerosol has also done some AMAZING extracurricular work, such as this insanely beautiful paste up on the Great Wall itself. See the full set of images on Jef's Flickr page.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Seattle Book and Paper Show

If you're among that small subset of the population who still has a little money and time to read, the Seattle Book and Paper Show takes place at Seattle Center this weekend, with some 60 booksellers, including many locals plus vendors from Germany, California, Florida, Illinois, Oregon, and Utah. Specialties include those stalls dealing in rare and unique books, manuscripts, maps, prints, first editions, signed documents, poetry, broadsides, posters, children's literature, and of course, "ephemera." Just $5 at the door to enter, and a promise of large numbers of beautiful things to buy for less than $20. This Saturday and Sunday, May 30-31, at the Seattle Center's Northwest rooms.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Zoobomb Goes Semi-Legit

I've raved on about Zoobomb before - the unique Portland tradition in which people take kids' bikes on a public elevator up to the tallest hill in the city and then ride downhill as fast as possible past the zoo and into downtown Portland. It's a great way to spend a Sunday night and an awesome spectacle to behold, fully legal yet inevitably angering cops and drivers. One of the issues that has grown into a sore spot is that the zoobombers leave all the kids bikes - sometimes as many as 40 of them - locked up to a single bike rack across the street from Powell's books downtown. The city has been threatening for years to cut all the locks and throw away all the bikes, and a local reactionary politician maintained a failed push for a misguided law mandating no more than 6 bikes to a rack.

Over the last three years or so the Zoobombers have worked with Mayor Sam Adams, the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) and the Bureau of Transportation to secure $10,000 worth of public money for an officially recognized and sanctioned public art work that also serves as a brand new bike rack. Portland artists Vanessa Renwick and Brian Borrello led the design process, and they're keeping the new shape under wraps until the grand opening this Friday, May 29. The parade to the opening meets at 4:00 at the Old Pyle, and processes to the New Pyle two blocks away at 13th and Burnside. The opening ceremony will feature a dedication by Mayor Adams, performances by bike dance teams The Sprockettes and Chain Reaction, and a whole mess of swag. As always, animal costumes are encouraged and donations of working mini-bikes are gratefully accepted!

Thanks to Bike Portland for the pic!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Free Puppet Show

What an outrageously beautiful weekend in Seattle. Probably the best "start of summer" weekend most of have ever experienced in this town. It bodes very well for the months to come.

Amongst the hundreds of things going on this weekend was the opening for The Puppet Show exhibit at the Frye. I missed it for the sunshine, but first cloudy day this week I'm there. It sounds to be an absolutely flabbergasting exhibit by some of the world's most respected contemporary artists - (Louise Bourgeois, William Kentridge, Bruce Nauman, Kara Walker, Dennis Oppenheim, Kiki Smith, Annette Messager and Survival Research Laboratories among other equally impressive names) - all of whom were specifically invited to exhibit their work with puppets, some of which was created specifically for this show. The Frye didn't organize this exhibition — it is the fifth stop of a traveling show curated by the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia — but it seems a particularly good fit for the Frye's sharp and uncommon focus on representational art. Jen Graves at the Stranger says "The Puppet Show...is one of those shows you can disappear down into, and at every level down you go, you will get something more. ...It's the oldest question—which parts of us do we control and which parts belong to systems that pull our strings?—asked another way. And what if we know about the strings? What then?" All together, there is work by some 30 artists on display, with over seven hours worth of video.

The show runs Tuesdays through Sundays until Sept. 13. The Frye has also programmed several complementary events, including an adult puppet cabaret hosted by local puppeteer Brian Kooser on June 30th, and a rare screening of The Music of Regret starring Meryl Streep and a dozen ventriloquist dummies on August 16. As always at the Frye Art Museum, admission is free.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Roethke

Today is the 101st birthday of poet Theodore Roethke, born May 25, 1908. Roethke's parents were greenhouse keepers in Saginaw, Michigan, and his early exposure to horticulture exerted a lasting influence on the young poet who returned repeatedly to glass-walled houses as a symbol for his interior world. He moved from Michigan to Harvard to Vermont before taking up a lengthy residence in Seattle as a teaching poet at the University of Washington. The move to Seattle in 1947 coincided with the award of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Poetry magazine's Levinson Prize, and grants from the Ford Foundation and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. His 1954 collection The Waking was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1954, and the 1957 collection Words for the Wind won the National Book Award. During the last years of his life he composed the sixty-one new poems that were published posthumously in The Far Field, which received yet another National Book Award.

Roethke's style ranged from highly structured existentialist themed poems in strict meter, to light musings on sex and drink, to free verse poems full of mystical and surrealistic imagery. At all times however, Roethke remained intensely aware and focused on the mystery, beauty, fierceness, and sensuality of the natural world.

Roethke died at the age of 61 while visiting friends on Bainbridge Island.

Dolor

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplicaton of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

West Side Invite

This weekend brings the legendary Westside Invite to Seattle for the first time. The "Westside" is a series of races, demonstrations and parties by and for the Urban Bike Community. For eight straight years the Invite has taken place in Portland, and it has taken an incredible effort from a dedicated local crew to bring this event to the Emerald City. The insanely ambitious weekend-long series of events begins on Friday May 22nd with two Alley Cat races - one co-ed and one for women only. Saturday brings the city-wide time trial and a group ride through the urban core. The biggest event of all - "The Main Race"- starts on Sunday, taking riders from Georgetown to Lake Washington to Lake City, over to Ballard and back to Georgetown. Hard core. Other events over the weekend include a bike polo tournament, fixed gear freestyle, bike messenger time trials, stationary bike sprints and much much more.

For lovers of bike gear, the weekend also has an amazing list of sponsors, from Knog to Raleigh to Phil Wood to Chrome Bags, all of whom are providing both money for the shindig itself and bitchin' prizes for the race winners. The unprecedented level of organization is paying off in spades - individuals and teams are coming from Portland, San Francisco, Vancouver BC, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia to compete for prizes and bragging rights.

Even if you can't quite keep up with the bikers, there are many opportunities over the long weekend to party, drink, and check out some of the baddest bikes on the west coast. Check out the full website here and the Westside blog here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mingus Big Band

The Mingus Big Band is performing this Saturday, May 23rd as part of the Bellevue Jazz Festival. The 14-piece band, which performs nothing but the dynamic and challenging music of jazz giant Charles Mingus, was brought together in 1991 by Mingus' widow Sue as a means for reviving her husband's repertoire and reputation. The band pays tribute to Mingus by using his compositions as a starting point for their own spirited explorations. Mingus' catalogue of music is so vast, varied and unpredictable that it serves as a renewable resource for an ever expanding roster of top notch musicians. The band has recorded eight albums of their variations on Mingus' compositions and arrangements, six of which have been nominated for GRAMMY awards.

The Mingus Band is unique among modern bands for having taken a towering musical legacy and using it to form a contemporary showcase for original and vital performances. They perform in the Center Hall at Meydenbauer Center in downtown Bellevue. Tickets are available here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bike Wash So Good

Georgetown is finally getting a bike shop of its own! For as long as I can remember, getting your bike tuned or your wheels trued down south has meant taking a long ride to Beacon Hill or Columbia City. Not no more! Gurldogg's dear old friend Ashok Mudholkar is about to open Bike So Good, a full service bike shop in the heart of Georgetown. This Sunday Ashok is hosting a grand not-quite-opening where you can get a quick tune for just $10, and from 3 to 6 pm Seattle's original bike dancers, the Bicycle Belles (shown here), are holding a bike wash. Come get your ride in shape, do some socializing, and meet your new neighborhood fixit man.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chronicles of America Latina

Anyone paying attention to new literature can't help but be amazed by the wealth of gorgeous writing coming out of Latin America. Just looking at the last twelve months, Dominican novelist Junot Díaz won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for the Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao, followed by the International Madrid Book Fair dedicated to the 19 countries of Latin America, after which was the explosive discovery of Roberto Bolaño in the United States and its global impact. Now, spring has brought a special edition of the magazine Zoetrope: All-Story dedicated to ten young Latin American story tellers. The collection features only literature - no interviews or statements from the authors, just stories in English and Spanish - along with a handful of illustrations by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro.

The issue is not a list of the "best Latin American writers," such as Granta produces periodically for our northern hemisphere counterparts, but is rather a sampling of the wide literary diversity that populates the continent. The stories are just strange and beautiful, brutal and honest, a brave and fascinating selection of contemporary short-story writing. The excellent Latino Literature Blog La Bloga recently ran an interview with Daniel Alarcón who co-edited the issue with Diego Trelles Paz. Says Alarcón:

Latin America has changed a great deal in the four decades since the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude...The demographic shifts that have transformed Latin America in the last forty years are stark, and art and literature reflect these massive changes. Economies have opened up, blossomed, and crashed. There is less ideology and a generalized fracturing of political parties. Meanwhile, the rise of a polarizing figure like Hugo Chávez has heightened tensions between some nations, and brought others closer together in unexpected alliances. The small town settings favored by García Márquez’s numerous imitators still exist, but you’re more likely to find young people there online, trading music files with their peers across the continent, than sitting around a tree listening to folk tales.

More about Zoetrope and the authors featured in the special Latin American issue here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Save Peter Case

Peter Case has been an underground musical icon since forming The Nerves in the late 70's, writing some early songs for Blondie, then scoring big with The Plimsouls in the 1980's. He's been living an on-again off-again existence as a solo artist ever since. Like so many musicians with a small bit of name recognition and not much else, Peter reached his 50's with zero health insurance. He underwent emergency heart surgery last month, and his medical costs have put him in a dreadful position, so he's asking us for help.

Check out his work on line, listen to "A Case for Case", the 3-volume Peter Case tribute album, maybe read his memoir about growing up punk in California ("As Far As Your Can Get Without A Passport,") or just donate a few bucks to his cause at Hidden Love Medical. Just five dollars from a few of the many people who have enjoyed Case's music and his presence would make a big difference for this talented and hard working man who hasn't had much luck recently.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

KLED!

The outrageously extroverted band KLED are led by guitarist and professional ballet dancer Pat Phylmm. The flamboyant Phlymm, in tiny pigtails and hot pants, led his trio, consisting of Butt Cake on drums and Beirdo on the bass, from small town Missoula to slightly-more-accepting Seattle in the late 1990's. KLED plays a thrillingly unique version of heavy-metal disco modern dance performance art, with song subjects ranging from diarrhea to death to selfless love. Always perverse and always entertaining, KLED are playing several Seattle gigs in the next few weeks. Catch them this Saturday, May 16th at the Blue Moon Tavern in Wallingford, and/or June 6th at the Punk Rock Flea Market in Belltown.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Desmadre

The Vermillion Gallery in Seattle has been working for months with the curators Jose Tapia, Damion Hayes and Julio Guerrero to create one hell of a group show, called "Desmadre," which opens this Thursday, May 14. The show features new works by 18 emerging Latino artists from the U.S. and across the hemisphere working in pen and ink, spraypaint, photography, tattoo ink, music, video, and just about every modern medium. The goal of the ambitious exhibition is to "shed light on a growing movement amongst Latino artists who are exploring and incorporating cultural roots while creating work that expresses the 21st century realities and complexities of life." The name "Desmadre" is a brilliant pun, somewhat untranslatable into English, meaning both "overflowing the borders" and also "movement without limits," a very clever way of describing this immense and powerful body of work.

In addition to putting this show together, the curators have been producing a great blog for several months, loaded with images and interviews. Late last week, the blog posted this "desmadrado" video flyer for the show. Don't miss this exhibit, running until June 6. It's gonna be a knock out.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tony Millionaire

Drunkard, draftsman and cult cartoonist Tony Millionaire will be in Seattle this Saturday, May 9, to open an exhibit of his artwork and sign copies of his new book "Drinky Crow's Maakies Treasury". Millionaire's Maakies is a well known weekly comic strip running locally in The Stranger and across the country in most of the best read weekly newspapers including the Village Voice and the L.A. Weekly. The long running strip is a study in contrasts. Millionaire's subtle drawing skill is a throwback to a more refined era - his exquisite line work brings to mind comics pioneers like George Herriman and Winsor McKay. His subject matter, however, is anything but "comic." The strip is populated by dangerously depressed alcoholic animals who routinely riff on such subjects as domestic brutality, crib death, skin diseases, and the ever present promise of suicide. Despite all odds, Maakies has recently been adapted as "The Drinky Crow Show," an animated series on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.

The fearless culture blog Social Stereotype has a very entertaining and revealing interview with Millionaire right here.

Millionaire will be at the Fantagraphics Bookstore from 6:00 to 9:00, showing 10 years worth of original artwork and unveiling his latest collection, designed by the legendary book designer and comics fan Chip Kidd.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Figure 5

For today, 5/5. This painting, by Charles DeMuth, and this poem, by William Carlos Williams:

The Great Figure

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
fire truck
moving
tense
unheeded
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Make a Bike Movie

You've got about a month to get your movie together for the fourth annual Seattle Bike-in. The excellent end-of-summer event brings together bike lovers, bike nerds, transportation advocates, movie makers, street artists, and assorted community activists for a great big film festival, picnic and bike party. The films are being coordinated by the Northwest Film Forum and the Dead Baby Bike Clubs' film guru Two-Wheel Terry. They're seeking bike related short films no later than June 1. Make something wonderful and send it to Terry at The Church of Bicycle Jesus in Seattle. For more info, write to him here or check out the PSA.

The bike-in itself is all day Sunday, Aug 23 in Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill. Bands begin at 7:00, and movies start at dusk.

There's lots and lots of excellent short bike movies out there. I just love this awesome documentary on the maiden voyage of the Waffle Bike, a "fully weaponized waffle making device." But for you, here's a bitchin' trailer from last years Bicycle Film Festival in New York.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bless this Bike

Lord knows I have little use for church, but this Sunday morning, May 3, the University Christian Church is inviting community members to bring their bikes to church for a unique service celebrating the bicycle.

UCC’s Bicycle Sunday — which marks the beginning of National Bicycle Month — will feature a bicycle blessing, the first event of its kind in a Seattle church. Churches in other cities hold annual bike blessing services, most famously New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine which held its 11th annual Blessing of the Bikes on April 18.

All bicyclists and their machines are welcome to ride into the sanctuary, and according to the UCC announcement, proxies are encouraged to attend and “bring a helmet to be blessed if a family member or a bicycle cannot be there in person." Those who have died in bike-related accidents over the past year will also be remembered during the service, and family members of these individuals are encouraged to attend.

“We’re doing this to recognize the importance bicycles have in improving our environment, and making this a better city and community,” said the Reverend Janetta Cravens Boyd, who will bless the bikes and ask for the safety of their riders, and who bikes to church every Sunday.

The fascinating picture of God blessing a bicycle is from a stained glass window at the monastery of Debre Libanos in Ethiopia, and is borrowed from the blog Bodhi Tree Swaying. Thanks!