Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Back in Seattle. It's a far cry from the beaches of southern Mexico, but at least you can say this for my hometown - it's a good place to grow mushrooms.

Olson Kundig Architects are making the most of the natural damp by building an indoor mushroom farm nourished by nutrient-rich coffee grounds salvaged by local baristas. Together with design collective CityLab7, Olson Kundig have created an installation that includes an impressive mushroom-growing tent constructed out of salvaged plywood and plastic, and a gathering area for educational workshops, lectures, and community lunches, all centered around a twenty-foot-long table made of reclaimed timber. Visitors are invited to tour the cocoon-like tent and witness urban farming firsthand in the form of 215 oyster mushroom growing bags, expected to eventually yield over 200 pounds of mushrooms, all to be donated to programs that feed local families. Very resourceful. Read more about it right here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Happy Days

As you read this, I am currently laying on the beach on Mexico's Pacific Coast, watching the waves come in. Or maybe I'm already in the bar, drinking a Negra Modelo and eating fresh ceviche. Happy Days.

Back home in Seattle, another woman is spending time on the beach. However, seeing as how her travel agent is one Samuel Beckett, one can assume her time is somewhat less enjoyable. In fact, actress Mary Ewald is currently buried in sand up to her neck, getting ready for her turn as Winnie in the New City Theater production of Beckett's play Happy Days.

The ironically titled play is indeed a beach scene of sorts - the action takes place on an endless expanse of beach, with harsh sunlight beating down on the protagonists. Winnie, the main character, is buried in sand, completely immobile, engaging in her tedious daily routine. There is no relief from the heat - at one point even her parasol, her only protection, bursts into flames. Meanwhile her only companion in the world, Willie - played by Seanjohn Walsh - grunts with irritation, works Vaseline into his privates and sleeps. In short, this is theater not be missed.

Happy Days opens on March 1st. Tickets are available right here. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a margarita demanding my attention.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Missing Links

There's just too much internet out there. You know as well as me, it's impossible to keep up. So instead of trying to write about the countless things that catch my eye, I'm going to start just posting lists of links occasionally. I'm calling the series "missing links" which probably isn't original, but I still like the sound of it.

* "'Fail better' is now experimental literature’s equivalent of that famous Che Guevara photo, flayed completely of meaning and turned into a successful brand with no particular owner." * Hollywood tryouts for black cats, 1961. * Boomtown, Bill Vaccaro's photo series about fireworks stores * “What We Talk About When We Talk About Joan Didion” * Typewriter erotica from the 1920's * Things organized neatly * MoMA announces a Kraftwerk retrospective * Riding the bicycle school bus * The New York Public Library now offers the Stereogranimator to create animated GIFs * Splendid etchings by tattoo artist and semi-professional boxer Tony Fitzpatrick at Seattle's Davidson Galleries * Josie & the Pussycats in A Clockwork Orange. * Neighbors are breaking ground on a public food forest in Seattle's Beacon Hill *

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Something Out Of Something

You have three more weeks to submit a work of art inspired by the writing of by Israeli short story writer, filmmaker, and graphic novelist, Etgar Keret. The Something out of Something Design Contest, which takes its name from a passage found in Keret’s forthcoming story collection Suddenly, a Knock on the Door is currently taking place on a blog of the same name, where submissions can be viewed and commented on by other entrants, readers, and Keret fans. Some of them are very silly, and some are shockingly beautiful. The winner gets $500, inclusion of the winning piece in a short story or film by Etgar Keret, and one signed and personalized copy of the new book. The contest ends on March 2, 2012. Keret speaks at Seattle Town Hall on April 25.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


by John Ashberry

Like a serpent among roses, like an asp
Among withered thornapples I coil to
And at you. The name of the castle is you,
El Rey. It is an all-night truck stop
Offering the best coffee and hamburgers in Utah.
It is most beautiful and nocturnal by daylight.
Seven layers: moss-agate, coral, aventurine,
Carnelian, Swiss lapis, obsidian—maybe others.
You know now that it has the form of a string
Quartet. The different parts are always meddling with each other,
Pestering each other, getting in each other’s way
So as to withdraw skillfully at the end, leaving—what?
A new kind of emptiness, maybe bathed in freshness,
Maybe not. Maybe just a new kind of emptiness.

The poem continues here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Afrika Bambaataa in the 206

206 Zulu is the local chapter of the Universal Zulu Nation, and the Northwest hip-hop organization ne plus ultra. The Zulu Nation was the brainstorm of hip-hip pioneer Afrika Bambaataa who traveled to Africa in 1973 on a quest to find an alternative lifestyle to the gang culture that was tearing apart his Bronx neighborhood. Bambaataa returned to New York preaching the five original elements of hip-hop - DJing, MCing, break dancing, graffiti writing, and knowledge of the past.

In 2004, local MC and graffiti writer King Khazm got the go ahead from Zulu originator Bambaataa to establish a local chapter. Since then, 206 Zulu has become one of the most active and progressive Zulu chapters in the country. They've been at the forefront of using hip-hop as a vehicle for social change, staging workshops in schools, community centers, and juvenile detention facilities — pretty much anyplace that will have them. This week, 206 Zulu celebrates their 8th Anniversary with plenty of live music, DJ battles, b-boy and b-girl competitions, a graffiti art showcase, lots of educational workshops, and much more.

The week of celebration is capped with an appearance by Afrika Bambaataa himself on Saturday the 18th. Bambaataa is performing and hosting a "Zulu Jam" with multiple Seattle hip-hop luminaries. The show is for all ages, and tickets are a super affordable $10.

All events take place at Washington Hall at 153 14th Ave. in Seattle's Central District. For more info and tickets, head over here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Films of Nicholas Ray

In 1971, Hollywood director Nicholas Ray was broke and took a teaching job at the State University of New York at Binghamton. His last film, 55 Days at Peking, had been a multimillion-dollar production that nearly killed him, and he didn't attempt to make another film for more than 8 years. Ray's class filled up with ambitious film students thinking they were going to take a directing class from a master, and who instead found themselves enmeshed in a no-budget, high-energy, and extremely confusing wild goose chase titled "We Can't Go Home Again."

Ray's vision for the film involved using multiple images simultaneously as a way of telling complex stories. He called it a “journalistic film... that shares the anthropologist’s aim of recording the history, progress, manners, morals and mores of everyday life.” The film was never completed and never released - until now. The incomplete but fascinating film "We Can't Go Home Again" opens today at the Northwest Film Forum, along with a documentary about the making of the film, "Don't Expect Too Much" by Ray's widow Susan Ray. The documentary goes even deeper into the director's vision, and includes interviews with Ray's students at the time, including Jim Jarmusch.

Ray died in 1979. "We Can't Go Home Again" and "Don't Expect Too Much" screen all this week, Feb 10–16, at Northwest Film Forum. More info and tickets here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Monster by Mail

Since 2007, illustrator Len Peralta has been drawing personalized monster portraits for anyone who is willing to name one and cough up $50. It ain't a bad job, but Len just announced a small change in his business model. He is inviting a new stable of artists to tackle the monster-making chores, and the inaugural Monster By Mail guest artist is Sunday Williams of Olympia, WA - a woman represented on the web only by her charmingly odd blog Anger Burger which documents her disease-ridden digestive tract and self destructive eating habits. It's better than it sounds, and I have high hopes for this project. In fact, I've already dropped $50 for an image of a Punk Rock Flea. You've still got time kids! Get a personalized monster for your Valentine! Right here!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nobody Beats the Drum

Sasquatch, the annual music festival at the Gorge ampitheatre, has announced their line-up. Some of the bands listed are intriguing, and who knows? I may wind up there myself.

An appearance by Nobody Beats the Drum grabs my attention. This very creative claymation video from 2011 is totally hypnotic, but what in the world is their live show like?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Wislawa Szymborska

Wislawa Szymborska, the Polish poet who won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, died on Wednesday in Krakow. She was 88 years old.

Szymborska was born in Krakow in 1923, among the worst moments and places to arrive in the world over the last several decades. Despite her many experiences of armies and dogmas and death, which inevitably became important subjects in her poetry, she somehow created a body of work that maintained a lightness of spirit and even took joy in the particulars of life during the most difficult times. As her work makes clear, she was no stranger to terrible events, but she also found great beauty in writing charming meditations on furniture, insects, scissors, violins, teacups and onions.

A lovely summary of her life and work by New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik here.

Seen From Above

A dead beetle lies on the path through the field.
Three pairs of legs folded neatly on its belly.
Instead of death's confusion, tidiness and order.
The horror of this sight is moderate,
its scope is strictly local, from the wheat grass to the mint.
The grief is quarantined.
The sky is blue.

To preserve our peace of mind, animals die
more shallowly: they aren't deceased, they're dead.
They leave behind, we'd like to think, less feeling and less
departing, we suppose, from a stage less tragic.
Their meek souls never haunt us in the dark,
they know their place,
they show respect.

And so the dead beetle on the path
lies unmourned and shining in the sun.
One glance at it will do for meditation—
clearly nothing much has happened to it.
Important matters are reserved for us,
for our life and death, a death
that always claims the right of way.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Diamonds are Everywhere

"In my life, that's what I want to be able to do with art, is to point out to everybody: 'There's just a fog over what you're seeing! But I swear to god, there's diamonds and sulfur, and you could make these awesome guns and defeat the evil slow-moving lizard guy! The diamonds are everywhere! You've just gotta look. They're right there!'"

Two of Washington State's greatest cultural exports, Sherman Alexie & Neko Case, have a conversation in this month's Believer magazine.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Three Quarks for Muster Mark!

Today is the birthday of James Joyce, born February 2, 1882. Joyce is, of course, the most tortured and most influential of all 20th Century writers. His life and his work has inspired all manner of praise and pilgrimage, from the small and silly to the large and ambitious. Revisit his work as often as you can, and read the indispensable biography by Richard Ellmann (double-ell, double-enn!) some day. For today, take the time to visit the absolutely marvelous James Joyce Portal curated by Jorn Barger.

This small section is from Joyce's final work Finnegans Wake.

Three quarks for Muster Mark!
Sure he hasn't got much of a bark
And sure any he has it's all beside the mark.
But O, Wreneagle Almighty, wouldn't un be a sky of a lark
To see that old buzzard whooping about for uns shirt in the dark
And he hunting round for uns speckled trousers around by Palmerstown Park?
Hohohoho, moulty Mark!
You're the rummest old rooster ever flopped out of a Noah's ark
And you think you're cock of the wark.
Fowls, up! Tristy's the spry young spark
That'll tread her and wed her and bed her and red her
Without ever winking the tail of a feather
And that's how that chap's going to make his money and mark!

Overhoved, shrillgleescreaming. That song sang seaswans. The winging ones. Seahawk, seagull, curlew and plover, kestrel and capercallzie. All the birds of the sea they trolled out rightbold when they smacked the big kuss of Trustan with Usolde.