Sunday, November 30, 2008

Punk Rock Flea Market Mere Moments Away

It's less than a week until the Holidaze Edition of the Punk Rock Flea Market, going down on December 6 at the Underground Events Center. In addition to 55 vendors (!) we've also got 3 awesome bands playing in the evening. Starting at around 6:00, we've got killer sets from Absent Minds, Suburban Vermin, and the Yellow Hat Band. Plus we're heralding the long-awaited return of DJ Port-a-Party and his old school 45 rpm mixes.

The PRFM is taking place on the same day as a handful of other craft shows and art fairs in the same general neighborhood, and in a very healthy break from holiday-time competition, all of the organizers are sharing info and shoppers the best we can. If you're making your way down to Belltown for the PRFM, why not swing by the Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle Center, the Vera Project's Bring it-Screen it Bazaar, and the Hollow Earth Radio Record Sale. Then come back to the Underground to drink beers and check out the show. What could be better?

Thanks to Espressobuzz for the above photo, taken at the summer '08 PRFM.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine

Beginning this Friday, SIFF Cinema is showing the film The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine, a documentary on 96-year old French sculptor Louise Bourgeois. Bourgeois has been working since the 1940's creating strange, perverse, unsettling objects. Over the years her work has evolved from painted wood carvings that resemble tribal art, to abstract cocoon-like forms, to the menacingly sexual figures that came to dominate her work in the 1970's.

Possibly her best known works are the monumental spider structures, titled Maman, from the late 1980's, but even these massive works only scratch the surface of a huge and complicated body of work.

In June of this year, Bourgeois opened a show of recent work which has garnered some of the strongest reviews of her endlessly impressive career. The show opened at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, moved to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in October, and will close at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. in May 2009.

A review of the show in the New York Review of Books said:

Perhaps the most amazing of the many remarkable aspects of Louise Bourgeois is that if she had died in her middle seventies we would not have known how daring, strange, ambitious, or disturbing an artist she could be. We would not have known how lively a colorist this ninety-six-year-old sculptor is capable of being; and we would have been deprived of the full measure of one of the loveliest aspects of her art, her feeling for a range of weathered, frayed, and matte textures.

The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine, in the making since 1992, is an intimate and ambitious documentary of this extraordinarily complex artist. Plays November 28 through December 4.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Terrible Sadness

My friend Douglas Paasch died suddenly on Saturday. His most recent show, the Wizard of Oz, had opened the day before at the Seattle Children's Theatre.

Doug was Seattle's best puppeteer, bar none, as well as a hugely imaginative thinker, a giving friend, and a total sweetheart of a man. I worked with him on a whole mess of shows, and saw and admired his work in many more. He was one of the very first puppeteers to commit to being part of Drunk Puppet Night, way back in 1998, and I always believed that Doug lent that whole crazy enterprise a dose of beauty and professionalism that it otherwise would never have deserved.

The most beautiful puppet show I ever saw was Doug's adaptation of dozens of Paul Klee paintings into a living, breathing piece of theatre. I believe Doug was extra proud of that one too, but day in and day out for 20 years or more Doug made gorgeous objects and brought them to life. He was a beautiful man and his loss will be sorely felt by the many people who loved him, by the hundreds who worked with him, and by the many thousands of theatre goers who were captivated by his work without ever knowing his name.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lead Story

While in Baltimore, I saw a small and miraculous exhibit of Dalton Ghetti's work at the American Visionary Arts Museum. Ghetti makes phenomenally intricate carvings from the centers of pencils. Using a razor blade and a sewing needle, he can take months or years to create his precise carvings of boats, churches, linked chains, and a bust of Elvis. One of the pieces is made up of 26 different pencils, the tip of each one carved into one of the letters of the alphabet. Splendidly obsessive.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Making It Plain

I’ve been around Baltimore and DC for the past few days, and to say the least, the mood here is ebullient. Everywhere I go, people are practically giddy with pleasure, proudly calling themselves “community organizers,” exchanging hand slaps and hugs with strangers, and referring again and again to “November 4th, 2008” as a date that already has the ring of history.

While here I’ve had the great fortune to see and hear a number of political leaders, all of whom have much to say about the end of one era and the start of another. By far the most impressive of these was the great civil rights era lawyer Vernon Jordan, who spoke at one epicenter of DC book culture, Politics and Prose, to promote his new book "Make it Plain."

The well-known power broker who led Bill Clinton's presidential transition team in 1992, was in the news again recently to say that a "president should pick a White House chief of staff first" - advice which Obama followed. Jordan's speech at the bookstore didn't focus on the recent campaign season, but rather on an unknown and unsung chain of events that made Obama's victory possible. He cited a number of battles and law cases that most people in the audience had never heard of, including one emotional story about Primus King, an uneducated man who sued the Georgia Democratic Party for his right to vote in 1944, and won. It was a tremendous reminder that Obama's success was not a singular event or the work of one smart politician and his team of advisors, but was rather the latest blessed link in a long and arduous chain of events.

"Lest we forget that moments like this are not happenstance: They are the direct result of the work, sacrifice and passion of disturbers of the unjust peace."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nice Work If You Can Get It

There's still a few days for procrastinating poets to apply for the Robert Frost Fellowship in Poetry at Middlebury College. The selected poet will reside in Robert Frost's farmhouse in Ripton, Vermont, teach two courses and advise undergraduate poetry projects during the academic year, and teach one course during the summer. Newly-employed poets receive a 3-year renewable contract. Review of applications will begin November 21, and will end when the position is filled. More info about the fellowship here.

A poem from Mr. Frost for you ambitious types.

On Looking Up by Chance at the Constellations

You'll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves
But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drouth will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn't reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Drawing a Line

Northwest artist Hans Nelsen is known for his exquisite woodwork. His large and elaborate pieces, often painstakingly hewn from a single block of wood, are remarkably subtle and poetic, and for this reason are regularly chosen to adorn area churches, libraries, and the regional Children's Hospital. Locally, Hans is represented by the William Traver Gallery.

In conversation with Hans the other day, he surprised me by showing me a body of pen-and-ink drawings that he had completed as a much younger man in the 1960's. He traveled through Seattle, New York and London, drawing buildings, parks and people with amazing skill, working for architect Victor Steinbreuck, and publishing the occasional drawing in long gone literary magazines. I insisted on his making these pictures available to a larger body of viewers, and he laughingly obliged by scanning a dozen images and allowing me to post them here on the Gurldoggie flickr page. Check 'em out and send Hans an appreciative note.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Cinema from Spain

Spanish Cinema has exploded onto the world scene in a huge way. For all intents and purposes, there was no Spanish film industry between the creative period that gave rise to Luis Buñuel and his peers in the 1930's and the death of Franco in 1975. The dictator's death brought a huge liberalization of Spanish culture, and the long repressed creativity of Spanish designers, artists and movie makers absolutely burst forth. In the years just following the shift to democracy, Spanish film makers like Pedro Almodóvar, J.J. Bigas Luna (Jamón, Jamón), and Fernando Trueba (Calle 54) introduced the world to a generation of Spanish superstars including Victoria Abril, Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz. In the 1990's, Alejandro Amenábar, Julio Medem and Álex de la Iglesia unleashed a second front of artistically excellent and commercially successful international film makers.

Beginning today, the Northwest Film Forum is featuring a weeklong series of Spanish films, made in 2007 & 2008, by directors who have won significant acclaim in their native country but are still largely unknown here. NWFF has a curated a stellar ensemble of vibrant, polemical, artful and eclectic films in a wide variety of styles ranging from pointedly commercial to wildly experimental.

Several directors are having their American debuts at this mini-festival, including Rafa Cortes whose film "Me" was named “Revelation of the Year” by FIPRESCI, the international association of film critics at Cannes 2007. NWFF is also screening the latest films from established directors like Iciar Bollain, whose 2008 film Mataharis has been nominated for six Goya awards, including Best Director, Screenplay, Actor and Actress. ShortMetraje, screening twice, presents a sampling of new short films completed this year.

Series passes are only $30 for NWFF members, and $40 for the general public, available here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Today, November 11th, marks the 121st anniversary of the execution of the Haymarket Martyrs - eight anarchists and labor organizers who took part in the struggle for the 8 hour work day and the May Day uprising in Chicago in 1886.

In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (Now the AFL) began loudly calling for a great movement to win a national 8-hour workday. The plan was to spend two years urging all American employers to adopt a standard 8-hour day, instead of the 10- to 16-hour days that were then prevalent. Beginning May 1886, all workers not yet on an 8-hour schedule were to cease work in a nation-wide strike until their employers met the demand.

Accordingly, on May 1 of that year great demonstrations erupted across the country. The largest was in Chicago, where 80,000 people marched, much to the alarm of Chicago's business leaders who saw it as a foreshadowing of "revolution," and demanded a police crackdown.

A mass meeting was called for the night of May 4, 1886 in the city haymarket. A large force of police arrived to demand that the meeting disperse, and someone, unknown to this day, threw a bomb. In their confusion, the police began firing their weapons in the dark, killing at least four in the crowd and wounding many more.

In the aftermath of the event, unions were raided all across the country. The Eight-Hour Movement was derailed and it was not until passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1935 that the 8-hour workday became the national standard, as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal.

Albert Parsons and seven others associated with radical organizations were prosecuted in a show trial. None were linked to the bomb thrower, and some were not even present at the time, but the charges against them alleged that their public criticism of corporate America, the political structure, and the use of police power against the working people, inspired the bomber.

Governor John Peter Altgeld subsequently found the trial to be grossly unfair. On June 26, 1894, Altgeld pardoned those defendants still alive and in prison; but five of the martyrs had already been hanged, on November 11, 1887, and one was dead of an apparent suicide.

In July 1889, a delegate from the AFL attending an international labor conference in Paris, urged that May 1 of each year be celebrated as a day of labor solidarity. With the notable exception of the United States, workers throughout the world now celebrate May 1 as "Labor Day."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Boudreau building

Greg Boudreau is Seattle's most prominent stencil artist, having long graduated from creating street pieces to mounting national exhibitions of his elaborate multi-layered stencil paintings. He is currently creating an ambitious exhibit to be installed in the Form/Space Atelier in Belltown. Greg's new work, "Spire," combines some two hundred stenciled panels and several towering spires created from salvaged wood, mounted in the 20 foot tall opening hall and landings of the gallery. The show opens on Friday November 14 and runs only three weeks, closing the day before the Punk Rock Flea Market, in the same space, on December 5.

Greg has been keeping a sporadic blog about the build for Spire here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Digable Planets

Digable Planets first appeared in the early 1990's with the very clever and utterly unexpected album "Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space)." During an era when the early promise of hip-hop was being eaten alive by the aggressive posturing of gangsta' rap, Digable Planets had the sense and the skills to create a whole new sound composed of literate lyrics, unusually rich and well-informed jazz samples, and inventive arrangements. They opened my ears to a brand new way of hearing hip-hop, and I have been a fan ever since. The DP's haven't released a record since Blowout Comb in 1994, but they continue to exert a gravitational pull on the ever-rotating heavenly body of hip-hop.

Digable Planets will be at Neumo's on November 12. You can buy advance tickets here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Let America be America Again

Last words on the election from poet Langston Hughes.

Let America be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Complete poem here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Approaching Hour

A poem for Election Day by William Carlos Williams.

The Approaching Hour

You Communists and Republicans!
all you Germans and Frenchmen!
you corpses and quickeners!
The stars are about to melt
and fall on you in tears.

Get ready! Get ready!
you Papists and Protestants!
you whores and you virtuous!
The moon will be bread
and drop presently into your baskets.

Friends and those who despise
and detest us!
Adventists and those who believe
Get ready for the awakening.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Day of the Dead, Studs Terkel edition

Studs Terkel died yesterday, Oct. 31, at a ripe 96 years old. Terkel was a genius of 20th century journalism, working for decades in television and radio before publishing his first book in 1967 at the age of 55. That book, "Giants of Jazz," was a collection of radio interviews with Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. He explored that technique for the next 40 years, interviewing working people, immigrants, prostitutes, soldiers and countless ordinary Americans in books like the Depression-era memoir "Hard Times," a chronicle of the 1970's labor force "Working" and "The Good War," remembrances of World War II.

In an interview in the 1990's, Terkel said "I think of myself as an old-time craftsman...I've been doing this five days a week, for more than 30 years. When I realize the work is slipping, I'll quit. But I don't think I've reached that point yet. I still have my enthusiasm. I still love what I do."

Terkel worked until his last breath. Found at his bedside was a manuscript of his latest book, "P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening," scheduled for release later this month.