Thursday, December 31, 2009


Cartoonist and illustrator David Levine passed away on Tuesday at the age of 83.

Levine was one of the most highly regarded caricature artists of his generation, having started out providing marginalia for Esquire magazine, and by 1963 settling into a long and singular career as the only illustrator at The New York Review of Books. Over 40 years he provided more than 3,800 drawings for NYRB, ranging from illustrations of the day's political figures to historical personalities to scathing editorial cartoons.

Levine's work was part of the signature of one of the greatest American intellectual journals, and will be simply impossible to to replace. Levine's artwork is in the permanent collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, the Cleveland Museum, the National Portrait Collection, the National Portrait Gallery in Britain and the Pierpont Morgan Library & Museum in New York. Many of his drawings for the NYRB are viewable on an online archive that includes 2,500 illustrations dating back to his earliest years at the magazine.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Patti Smith

Today is the birthday of poet and musician Patti Smith, born December 30, 1946. The Godmother of Punk has been writing and singing her scathing poetry since the mid-70's with various degrees of success. She is getting her due this year with the widespread release of a documentary about her career as a poet and musician, Patti Smith: Dream of Life, and the release of a new memoir, Just Kids, which documents her long relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, set to come out on January 19. She has several readings and musical performances lined up in and around New York City in support of the book and movie, including Patti Smith and Her Band live at the Bowery Ballroom on 12/29, 12/30, 12/31; a reading of Just Kids on Jan. 19 at Barnes & Noble Union Square and on Jan. 21, Smith reads with longtime friend Sam Shepard at the 92nd St. YMCA.

This poem is from Patti Smith's 1978 album, "Easter."


I haven't fucked much with the past, but I've fucked plenty with the future. Over the skin of silk are scars from the splinters of stations and walls I've caressed. A stage is like each bolt of wood, like a log of Helen, is my pleasure. I would measure the success of a night by the way by the way by the amount of piss and seed I could exude over the columns that nestled the P.A. Some nights I'd surprise everybody by skipping off with a skirt of green net sewed over with flat metallic circles which dazzled and flashed. The lights were violet and white. I had an ornamental veil, but I couldn't bear to use it. When my hair was cropped, I craved covering, but now my hair itself is a veil, and the scalp inside is a scalp of a crazy and sleepy Comanche lies beneath this netting of the skin. I wake up. I am lying peacefully I am lying peacefully and my knees are open to the sun. I desire him, and he is absolutely ready to seize me. In heart I am a Moslem; in heart I am an American; in heart I am Moslem, in heart I'm an American artist, and I have no guilt. I seek pleasure. I seek the nerves under your skin. The narrow archway; the layers; the scroll of ancient lettuce. We worship the flaw, the belly, the belly, the mole on the belly of an exquisite whore. He spared the child and spoiled the rod. I have not sold myself to God.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Printed Matter

Sigh. Back from vacation, and slow to take up the heavy reigns of blogging. Quel trevail!

It doesn't help matters that I felt blessed to be away from the internets for a few weeks, and got reacquainted with the world of lengthy literature for the first time since the birth of baby Nico.

Waiting on my doorstep when I returned, helping to ease the transition, were two fantastic printed journals that brilliantly and deliberately illustrate the vast distances between browsing internet posts and reading large and thoughtful printed articles.

McSweeney's issue #33 has been praised far and wide, but it bears repeating here. The current issue of the quarterly magazine is a huge and gorgeous riff on a daily newspaper. The large format "San Francisco Panorama" has extensive news, sports, arts and books sections, plus 16 pages of full-color comics from the likes of Chris Ware, Dan Clowes and Art Spiegelman. McSweeney's commissioned new journalism from William Vollman and Andrew Sean Greer, sports writing from Stephen King, new fiction from George Saunders and Roddy Doyle, dispatches from Afghanistan, and much more besides. It was available on the streets of San Francisco for a single day, and is now available in bookstores and online. Buy it. Read it. Hold on to it.

Less lavishly praised, but equally ambitious, is the latest issue of Coilhouse. Coilhouse was conceived as a daily "love letter to alternative culture" which quickly spun off a glossy print edition to cover the stories which couldn't be fully explored in the blog format. Issue #4 of the magazine, lovingly produced and published by photographer Nadya Lev, artist Zoetica Ebb, and musician Meredith Yayano, features a photo essay on "The Tarnished Beauties of Blackwell, Oklahoma," dozens of portraits of long-grown, long-dead children of pioneer America; a lengthy interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky, the filmmaker behind The Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre; and paper dolls from cartoonist Dame Darcy. Available only through the Coilhouse website, right here.

Both of these documents are pointed and beautiful demonstrations of all the great things that printed periodicals can do
and the internet simply can't. Well worth your money and time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


For the lonely days surrounding Christmas, a Hypnotic little film from Polish film maker Zbigniew Rybczynski. Tango won the 1983 Oscar for Best Animated Short.

Update: The "Tango" video seems to have been removed from Vimeo. I smell a lawsuit. Well, for now you can still see it here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Salvador Elizondo

Today is the birthday of Salvador Elizondo, born December 19, 1932. The Mexican novelist, poet, critic, playwright, and journalist was one of the most unabashedly experimental writers coming out of the vibrant Mexican literary world of the 19650's & 60's. Elizondo is perhaps the best known of the Mexican "meta-fictionalists," his style combining a wonderfully poetic sense of language with vernacular outbursts from news reports, comic books and the sounds of Mexico City street life. Elizondo was a Professor of literature at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México for two decades, and received dozens of international awards, including both Guggenheim and Rockefeller grants, and received the 1990 Mexican National Prize for Literature.

Elizondo's most widely read novel is Farabeuf, the fictionalized biography of an early-20th century renegade anatomist, but my personal favorite is the wonderfully strange and idiosyncratic El Grafógrafo ("The Graphographer"), a series of short texts using dozens of voices and unexpected twists of language to give a tour of a writer's mind as he puts pen to paper.

Elizondo died in Mexico City on March 29, 2006.

From El Grafógrafo

I write. I write I write. Mentally I am writing I write and I can also see that I write myself. I remember seeing and writing and writing. And I am remembering that I am writing and I remember seeing myself remembering that I wrote and I write seeing myself write that I remember having seen me write that I was writing I remembered having seen me writing and writing writing writing writing that. I can also imagine writing that he had written that I imagine writing that he had written that I thought writing that I am writing to write.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Puck Cinema Caravana

The smallest cinema in the world, the Puck Cinema Caravana, is making its way around the Spanish state of Catalunya this winter. The Puck Cinema is built into a tiny caravan with seats for no more than 6 kids under 5 feet tall. The Puck parks in side streets and wooded spaces and runs programs of splendid little animated films from around the world. Currently the Cinema is parked in Sabadell, about 30 miles south of Barcelona, showing a program called "Tales, Stories about Love, and some Poems" with 11 short films from Russia, China and the US. Don't miss it if you're in the neighborhood with your little ones. Check here for film times.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Down Mexico Way

I'm out of here for the next couple weeks, headed down South with Pepita and baby Nico to soak up some much needed sun on the Yucatan peninsula. This being the 21st century, I may sniff out an internet connection on some desert island or other, but basically I'm checking out until well after Hanukkah. Have a hell of a holiday, and thanks for flying Gurldoggie airlines. We know you have a choice.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Bizarre

BHerd Gallery in Greenwood has been doing a stellar job navigating the border between graffiti and fine art, creating lots of opportunities for Seattle street artists to create new outdoor pieces and providing an exhibit space for them to show and sell smaller works. The holidays bring a group show to the walls of BHerd which is basically a who's who of Seattle urban artists. "Holiday Bizarre" features artwork priced to sell, none of it larger than 12" x 12", from the likes of Parskid, Weirdo, Solace, EGO, Joey Nix, 179, John Osgood, NKO and a whole lot more. In their new digs at 8537 Greenwood Ave N. Show opens today, December 11, and runs through the 23rd.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Baby it's c-c-c-cold outside

Katie Paterson is a Scottish artist whose works claim a very unusual middle ground between sight and sound. Past works have included launching snow from a thousand catapults and recording the sound as it landed; creating invisible fireworks that explode with black sparks; and beaming radio transmissions of music to the moon in order to record the results as they bounced back to her earthly receiver. In her latest piece, Paterson recorded the sound of 3 melting glaciers on Iceland (Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull and Solheimajökull). She then pressed the recordings onto ice records made of melt water from those glaciers. The records were played on 3 turntables until they were completely melted, which took around 2 hours. You can listen to one here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Milton Rogovin

Milton Rogovin turns 100 years old on December 12. In 1957, Rogovin was an optometrist practicing in Buffalo, N.Y., more or less minding his own business and volunteering as the librarian for the local Communist Party, when he was called in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. He refused to testify, his family was outcast, and his practice fell apart.

Completely cut off from the world he knew, Rogovin turned to photography. He started at home, photographing poor and working class residents of Buffalo’s East Side, then traveled with his camera to document the downtrodden of China, Cuba, Czech, France, Germany, Mexico, Scotland, Spain, the United States, and Zimbabwe. In 1999, 1200 of Rogovin’s photographs were acquired by the Library of Congress. Here in Seattle, 40 of Rogovin's works were recently donated to the Henry Art Gallery collection, and a show of his work is currently being planned.

Rogovin, who still lives in Buffalo, was nominated to receive this year’s National Medal of Arts. In a statement accompanying the nomination, James Wood, the president of the Getty Trust, wrote that Mr. Rogovin has “created images that allowed us to see our fellow man with an intensity equal to that of Walker Evans or August Sander.” Photography historian Robert Hirsch conducted an in depth interview with Rogovin here.

A gala birthday celebration for Rogovin is planned for this Saturday at the WNED Studios, in Buffalo. Tickets to the birthday celebration are still available, and they are free. If you act fast, you can still R.S.V.P. for the party honoring this powerful artist and exceptional man.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Creative Typing

Two stories from the literary landscape that caught my attention.

The surprisingly popular novelist Cormac McCarthy is auctioning off his well-loved Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter. McCarthy, who recently wrote the apocalyptic bestseller "The Road" and years earlier wrote the fascinating and slightly less apocalyptic "Suttree," has used this machine exclusively for his entire writing life. He estimates that more than 5 million words flowed through its keys - his entire professional output plus several unpublished works. Bought for a mere $50 in 1963, McCarthy is hoping that the sale of the Olivetti will fetch $20,000 or more for the Santa Fe Institute, a nonprofit scientific research organization. McCarthy has already replaced the worn typewriter with a newer copy of the very same machine.

Fantagraphics, the Seattle publisher heretofore known strictly for publishing comic books, has taken up the challenge of publishing the newest collection of short stories by Stephen Dixon. Dixon, also known for composing on a manual typewriter, is a strange and compulsive writer whose fictions tend to feature neurotic men and their families. He has published hundreds of stories in dozens of collections, some great and some merely very good. The new book, entitled "What Is All This?" is a 900-page compendium of uncollected stories from throughout his career. Dixon is a masterful writer who deserves a wider readership, and it will be interesting to see how this experiment pans out. Will Fantagraphics bring his work to a larger audience? Will they establish themselves as viable publishers of non-comic literature? I'll pick up a copy for sure - that's 1.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


David Narvaez, aka. Pablo D, has been a force in Seattle hip hop since way back in the day. Pablo was an early member of DJ 'Nasty' Nes Rodriguez's Emerald City Boys, and as a b-boy in the 1980's represented Seattle in street battles and national competitions. Not quite as limber as he used to be, Narvaez has turned his talents to photography, remaking himself as the premier chronicler of Seattle's hip hop scene. His good eye and impressive CV gets him backstage and on the floor at shows ranging from local heroes like Specs Wizard to superstars like Antipop Consortium.

Stargazer, Studio Narvaez's new solo show, opens Saturday December 5th at Vermillion on Capitol Hill. In addition to 20-odd years of Studio Narvaez photographs, the evening also promises performances from Capstan Media, Fresh Chopped Beats, Tulsi, DJ Able, Specs Wizard and doubtless many others. At Vermillion, 1508 11th Ave, beginning at 6:00 pm.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


My very good friends lost their son this weekend. It was a gruesome and senseless death.

The Shield of Achilles

by W. H. Auden

      She looked over his shoulder
            For athletes at their games,
      Men and women in a dance
            Moving their sweet limbs
      Quick, quick, to music,
            But there on the shining shield
      His hands had set no dancing-floor
            But a weed-choked field.

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
      Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
      That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
      Were axioms to him, who'd never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

      The thin-lipped armorer,
            Hephaestos, hobbled away,
      Thetis of the shining breasts
            Cried out in dismay
      At what the god had wrought
            To please her son, the strong
      Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles
            Who would not live long.

Full poem here.