Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sonic Fourth

Speaking of July 4th, Sonic Youth are giving a free Independence Day concert in Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan. There's no fucking way you're getting in, but wfmu will be webcasting the concert live. Starts at 1:45 Pacific time with a rare appearance by the Feelies.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Golden Afternoon

As everyone knows, July 4 1862 was the day that the Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson took the three Liddell sisters rowing on the River Thames, telling them the stories that later became Alison's Adventures in Wonderland. That book was published exactly 3 years later, on July 4 1865. The book was an immediate sensation and has never been out of print since that day. In honor of this momentous day in literature, the U.S. federal government gives everyone the day off on July 4, and cities and towns throughout the nation launch fireworks and bottle rockets in celebration.

Because I'm nothing if not a literary patriot, I've been enjoying this re-mixed dance track and video by a fellow called "Pogo." This wonderment of electronica is composed using sounds exclusively recorded from the Disney film 'Alice In Wonderland'. Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Powers of 42

Went to the post office today to buy some new 42 cent stamps and was delighted to see a brand new set of Charles and Ray Eames commemoratives.

The Eames were pioneering American designers, a married couple who are best known for their furniture design and who also made major contributions in industrial design, art, graphic design, film and architecture. Several Eames Chairs are housed in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and their landmark film Powers of Ten is still widely shown around the world in design schools, film festivals and math classes.

Pick up a sheet at your local post office, or on line right here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

His Winnipeg

Guy Maddin’s unlikely new “docu-fantasia” My Winnipeg opens at the SIFF Cinema on June 27th and runs for just one week.

My Winnipeg was commissioned by Canadian Television as a documentary, and in some ways it is. By all accounts, Winnipeg is a strange place to call home. But according to Maddin’s ironic, deadpan voiceover narration, it’s even stranger than you may have thought. In Maddin’s version of events, the following is true: Winnipeg is home to more sleepwalkers per capita than any other city in the world; the city includes a winter lake that eleven horses rode into, froze to death, and thus became a grotesque park of statues; a makeshift league of old hockey players, some of whom are dead, meets to play in the remains of a decrepit arena; the local Eaton’s department store once held a series of lascivious “Golden Boy Pageants” aimed, delicately, at the city’s homosexual population. And that ain’t all.

Maddin’s city myth fuses with his personal life as he re-creates key events and horrors of his childhood. As the title suggests, My Winnipeg is a personal, idiosyncratic account of an unusual city’s culture and resonance.

Maddin’s singular film technique – using deteriorated film stock and fuzzy visuals that often move slightly into and out of focus – lends itself surprisingly well to the world of Youtube. He has dozens of short films out there, all of them worth the 5 or 6 minutes that they ask. For example, here is Sombra Dolorosa, a four minute mini-epic in which an inconsolable Mexican widow must wrestle Death during a total eclipse. I wish I could post them all. Like his brain, Maddin’s Winnipeg is filled with quiet wonders and antiquated oddities so bizarre that they must be true. Even if they’re not.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Making Jam

The stencil jam on June 21 was great fun. A moderate turn out in the Underground parking lot - about 15 people showed up to make and paint images - but the results were grand. Here's a few photos of the work in progress. More at Gurldogg's flickr page.

By the time the wall was finished the sun was down, so I didn't get any good photos of the completed project. I'll try to get some shots in the next few days.

Huge props to DJ's James Grindle and Isip of beetlabs who showed up with turntables just as the action was getting underway and really helped to create the party.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bicycle Collectives Benefit

Small grassroots bicycle collectives are proliferating throughout the Northwest. Four of the newest local projects are combining forces to stage a great looking benefit show next Friday, June 27th.

The bike-friendly bands include Glue, Weapons of Marching Destruction, Seattle's favorite Gypsy brass band Orkestar Zirkonium, the theatrical death-metal glam band Doom Hawk and perennial anarcho-punk dance party favorite DJ Can O' Beans. At the Underground Events Center, 2407 1st Ave. in Belltown. Just $5 to get in.

The entertainers are donating their time, and all proceeds go to benefit bike building, bike education and bike advocacy at the Bike Shack (in Seattle,) Second Cycle (Tacoma,) The Bikery (Seattle,) and Bike and Bike (Olympia.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reading for Books

Two good book-centered events and shopping opportunities this weekend.

The second annual Books for Bucks fundraiser for Real Change takes place Friday and Saturday June 20 & 21 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Ballard. Thousands of quality books, records, tapes, and CDs have been donated to help Seattle's street newspaper reach their summer funding goals. Friday Friends' Pre-sale from 4:00 - 7:30 pm and the Saturday Browsers Bonanza, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm. At Trinity Church, 65th and 23rd NW.Also, both locations of Third Place Books are holding their semi-annual sale with 40% off all used books. Both stores have an amazing stock of used titles, with more than 100,000 volumes between them. This weekend only. 6504 20th Ave. NE in Ravenna and 17171 Bothell Way NE in Lake Forest Park.

I'm hoping to find a copy of A Journey Round My Skull by Frigyes Karinthy, or maybe a nice used copy of Griel Marcus' Lipstick Traces. Wish me luck.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Scorching the Showbox

The ultimate show from Noise for the Needy was a knockout. Seattle artists Common Market, Gabriel Teodoros and Grayskul opened for Talib Kweli at the Showbox, representing the Seattle hip hop scene triumphantly. In three back-to-back sets with barely a pause between them, the crews from the 206 displayed tremendous charisma, riotous rhymes, and a beaming sense of local pride. Without exception the music was smart and engaging and the lyrics were poignant and passionate. Between songs the Greyskul crew shouted that no one is making music like Seattle, and it was easy to believe them - I've never heard so much hip hop that displayed non-stop humor, imagination and originality.

Common Market's performance was really the highlight of the show. MC Ra Scion was all anger and lyricism, delivering blistering tirades on everything from the social justice movement, to fair trade, to the state of local hiphop, to fatherhood in urban communities. I didn't catch every word, but you couldn't mistake the force of his convictions. At the end of the night Talib Kweli played the star and had charm to burn, but I don't think I'm the only one who felt that his set was an anti-climax after the enthusiasm and brilliance of our local crews. Word.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Stencil Jam!

Stencil Archive guru Russell Howse is going to be in Seattle on June 21 to promote his awesome new book Stencil Nation. I invited him to be part of a "stencil jam" in which a whole bunch of local stencil artists get together with old and new stencils, a whole mess of spray paint, and a few walls in need of beautification. He enthusiastically accepted, I've got the walls, the plan is to create a bitchin' new stencil mural in a few short hours.

The Underground Events Center in Belltown (same space as the Punk Rock Flea Market) is gonna host the Jam starting at noon on June 21. We'll start with a short workshop and then get to work. We have two large outside walls to work with, so we're thinking about LARGE pieces to fill the space and serve as graphic anchors. I'm still looking for a DJ for the day. We'll go until we can't see anymore, and then we'll drink beer, play some music, or get on our bikes and look for some other walls to hit.

We want this new mural to have a long life, so we've got some interest in keeping the paint job relatively neat and aesthetically under control. In other words, thoughtful stencil pieces are completely welcome. Random tagging is not. I understand it's a narrow line to walk, hopefully things won't get too weird.

Russell's talk is at Elliot Bay Books at 2pm, and he'll be at the Underground space after 4:00. And I betcha he'll sell you a book at the jam if you want it. The photo above is from the inspiring Difusor project in Barcelona. Assuming all goes well, pictures from this event will follow shortly.

Friday, June 13, 2008

At the Races

Today is W.B. Yeats birthday. Had he been possessed of super human longevity, in addition to his super human dedication to wonderfully expressive formal poetry, he would now be 143 years old.

On top of being one of the most consistently excellent poets of the last 200 years, Yeats was also an avid horse racing fan, which is something I'm happy to share, and maybe for some of the same reasons. At Emerald Downs last week, a punter taking in the Spring air could briefly believe in a time "before the merchant and the clerk." The stadium was full of young parents and their infant children, watching together as longshot after longshot came in to make a mockery of every handicappers' most logical picks. Including my own. Regardless of losing every bet I made, I totally enjoyed myself. The air was clean, the beer was cheap, and the flesh was truly wild. Yeats knew all about it.

At Galway Races

There where the course is,
Delight makes all of the one mind,
The riders upon the galloping horses,
The crowd that closes in behind:
We, too, had good attendance once,
Hearers and hearteners of the work;
Aye, horsemen for companions,
Before the merchant and the clerk
Breathed on the world with timid breath.
Sing on: somewhere at some new moon,
We’ll learn that sleeping is not death,
Hearing the whole earth change its tune,
Its flesh being wild, and it again
Crying aloud as the racecourse is,
And we find hearteners among men
That ride upon horses.

(Mad props to Farrell the Fisher for snagging the photo above.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Father's Day Bike Wash

Give your hard-pedaling Old Man a real treat this Father's Day. Seattle's pioneering group of acrobatic hotties on bicycles, the Stripped Nipples, have been resurrected as the Bicycle Belles. In honor of their rebirth, they are holding a Father's Day Bike Wash at 20/20 Cycles up on Capitol Hill. Sure to be a fun scene complete with lovely ladies in tight clothes and buckets full of bio-degradable degreaser.

As you may know, 20/20 is Seattle's newest bicycle storefront, and have already won many converts among the DIY demographic with their populism and sense of humor. Definitely the place to shop when you're looking for cheap parts and trying to avoid the growingly pervasive snootiness among the self styled Bicycle Elite.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dance Music for Depressed People

The band Dance Music for Depressed People has got it going on. Always interesting for being an excitable group of women with great musical chops and literate lyrics, they have now outdone themselves by adding trombone player-about-town Aaron Long and 12-year old guitar player Max Moonpenny to their lineup. The expanded DMFDP plays an all-ages show (what else?) at the Vera Project on Wednesday June 11. The FREE show also comes with a vegan dinner (at 7:30) and additional entertainment from the Tea Cozies and The Blanket Truth.

On the Bus

Very very silly front page article in the Seattle P-I today explaining how to ride the bus (actual quotes: "The bus is not going to be exactly like your car" and "The bus doesn't take credit cards"), followed by this even sillier (but at least self aware) response from the Stranger.

Clearly Seattle desperately lacks for public transportation, and I consider it a positive development that rising gas prices are finally forcing commuters to consider alternative means of getting around. But if King County Metro really wants to get folks on the bus, I suggest exposing them to the exquisite sketches of Gabi Campanario. Campanario is a graphic artist and illustrator from Spain who has been living in Seattle for a few years, working as a Seattle Times staff artist and keeping a blog of his professional and personal illustrations. As far as I'm concerned, the high point of his work is the hundreds of sketches of his daily bus trips that he makes in his Moleskine notebook. The sketches of people and scenery are all done rapidly, and feature little scraps of context and commentary - "one scary looking dude," "guy with long beard lights up," "Super long legs," "Oops! She got off!" - that feel and sound just like a bus ride. Honest and sometimes annoyed, but refreshingly non-judgmental. Maybe he's seen you!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dreaming Up America

I walked over to the Seattle Public Library after work and found that author Russell Banks was about to start reading from his new book, "Dreaming Up America." Banks is primarily known as a writer of fiction, and I've enjoyed the books I've read by him, including Affliction, Cloudsplitter and Rule Of The Bone. He has a great talent for creating distinctive voices (the main characters in those books include a perpetually drunk snowplow driver, abolitionist John Brown and a 14-year old mall rat) and has always been unabashed about his lived-through-the-1960's liberal politics. But perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Banks' writing has been the profound portraits he creates of deeply flawed people and their attempts to make sense of the desperate situations they find themselves in.

Even knowing all that about Banks, I was impressed with the way he used his perpetual themes in crafting a book length essay about American history. Banks read four lengthy excerpts from his new book over the course of an hour, exposing and dissecting three versions of the American dream. In the oldest version of that dream, Spanish mercenaries dreamt of "El Dorado," the "City of Gold," an untold prosperity based on exploiting the rich resources of the New World. Ponce DeLeon and his conquistadors came seeking a Fountain of Youth, or the promise of escape from one's old life amidst the impossible promise of perpetual re-invention. And finally, the New England colonists sought religious and political freedom in a pastoral "city on the hill," which they imagined to be a beacon of purity in a vast continent ripe for pillage.
These values, in conflict from the very beginning, became ever more corrupted as Americans forged a national culture based on the unholy tripartite marriage of capitalism, delusion and spiritual purity. The result has been a belligerent nationalism coupled with a foreign policy that is blatantly self-serving while claiming to promote universal ideals. The most modern manifestation has been a destructive empire, led by an imperial president acting aggressive abroad and repressive at home, all in the name of progress.

Banks' intriguing analysis and persuasive vision captivated the assembled crowd. As the talk finished, and Banks opened the floor for questions, he was prompted to share his thoughts on the current election campaign, which led to a long string of impressive observations on the state of the American Presidency. "McCain presents himself as the warrior wounded in service to his country, returning home with painfully acquired wisdom and experience to lead his nation. Obama is the fiercely intelligent young outsider, raising himself from obscurity to offer bold new perspectives. Both of those narratives are powerful and universally understood. But I think McCain will win. Americans expect a great deal from their president - he is treated like a King and a Pope, in addition to being a Chief Executive, and I don't think most Americans are prepared to see a black man in that role." After the wealth of wise commentary, the crowd at the Seattle Library were clearly shaken by this conclusion. The entire audience mumbled nervously. "I don't think there's any good reason for it. It's not even necessarily racism. I just think it makes people feel weird and uncomfortable, and it takes a great deal of courage to overcome that."

Friday, June 6, 2008

We Ain't Got No Money, Honey, But We Got Rain

While in college in Buffalo, New York, I had the great fortune to take a modern poetry class taught by the wonderful Robert Creeley. He was such a smart and sensitive man, with such a wide body of references, that the class sometimes seemed less like a class in poetry and more like a class in seeing the world. I think of that class and that teacher often. I escaped from Buffalo as quickly as possible, but Creely hung in for years, making him a profound expert on rain and on finding a glimmer of hope in the largest mountains of muck. In that spirit, I offer this rainy yet hopeful poem.

The Rain

All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls
this quiet, persistent rain.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,
insisted upon
so often? Is it

that never the ease,
even the hardness,
of rain falling
will have for me

something other than this,
something not so insistent--
am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.

Incidentally, the title of this post comes from a strikingly appropriate and even optimistic poem by the often inappropriate and pessimistic Charles Bukowski.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Critically Massing

The rain has certainly established itself as another of life's certainties. It's been coming down fast and heavy since June started.

At least May concluded with a little bit of promise for a brighter summer. Last Friday brought a dry (if not warm) day and a powerful Critical Mass ride. Around 500 of us circled the city a few times, took over lower Queen Anne, and headed through Ballard to watch the sunset at Golden Gardens. The Corey's flickr site features some good photos of that better day. Now how the hell can we make this rain stop?

Monday, June 2, 2008

If It Ain't STIFF, It Ain't Worth a F*ck

I've been having a grand time at the Seattle International Film Festival (aka. SIFF.) I've seen 5 movies to date, 4 of them excellent and 1 of them the single most boring film I've ever seen. However, for sheer entertaining weirdness, I'm pretty certain that none of them will compare to the 100+ films being shown at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival (aka. STIFF).

For the fifth straight year, STIFF will be held over 10 days in June, from the 6th to the 15th, at the Rendezvous, Seattle Art Museum, R Place, and Chop Suey. The films at STIFF come from out of nowhere by way of outer space. While a small handful of the films are invited from other festivals, the vast majority are submitted to the festival from unknown directors in Seattle and around the world. The films inevitably display an incredible range of creativity, resourcefulness and outright freakiness. They're not all great, but they're all original, and you will NEVER see 99.9% of them on a mainstream movie screen. EVER.

This year's schedule includes "Sexina: Popstar, P.I.", "Time Jogger", and "The Addiction of Ethan Lonemyer." I know nothing about these films. I do know that one or another of them may win a coveted STIFF award such as "Best Speed Bump," "Best Use of Sir-Mix-a-Lot," or "Best Mustache." Several of the films feature live music this year, including this great looking performance of Bronze Fawn, The Animals at Night & Yokai No Uta Trio.

Pick a film. Take a chance. You will be rewarded.