Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Here at the Year's End

The Earth will be going on a long time
Before it finally freezes;
Men will be on it; they will take names,
Give their deeds reasons.
We will be here only
As chemical constituents—
A small franchise indeed.
Right now we have lives,
Corpuscles, Ambitions, Caresses,
Like everybody had once—

Here at the year's end, at the feast
Of birth, let us bring to each other
The gifts brought once west through deserts--
The precious metal of our mingled hair,
The frankincense of enraptured arms and legs,
The myrrh of desperate, invincible kisses--
Let us celebrate the daily
Recurrent nativity of love,
The endless epiphany of our fluent selves,
While the earth rolls away under us
Into unknown snows and summers,
Into untraveled spaces of the stars.

--from Lute Music, Kenneth Rexroth

Monday, December 27, 2010

Limited Editions

Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo is working with local artists and printmakers to raise awareness of animal species nearing extinction. The campaign is cleverly titled "Limited Edition," referring to the six animals featured (the African Wild Dog, the Golden Lion Tamarin, the Western Pond Turtle, the Sumatran Tiger, the Panamanian Golden Frog, and the Red Crowned Crane) and also to the fact that only 45 copies of each image have been printed. Like the creatures themselves, once the prints are gone there's no bringing them back.

The gorgeous high-quality prints are available for $200 online and at the Zoo Store. All proceeds from the sale go to the zoo’s conservation efforts.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sacred Music

"Every man prays in his own language." Duke Ellington

Today is Christmas Eve of course, and even those atheists among us have something to celebrate: the end of a long season of schmaltzy, repetitive "holiday" music. As a gift for enduring the torture of Christmas time radio, on December 26th Earshot Jazz presents their annual concert of Ellington's Sacred Music, which is neither schmaltzy nor repetitive.

Ellington's suite of sacred music was the culmination of the last phase of his life's work, inspired by the civil rights movement. In his program notes for the first concert in 1965 he wrote, "How can anyone expect to be understood unless he presents his thoughts with complete honesty? ... Every time God's children have thrown away fear in pursuit of honesty - trying to communicate themselves, understood or not, miracles have happened."

Ellington performed his evolving suite only four times - The first sacred concert took place in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco in 1965, the second in 1968 at the Cathedral of St. John in New York and St. Mark's Cathedral in New Canaan, CT. The final concert was premiered on October 24, 1973 at London's Westminster Abbey. Exactly seven months later Duke Ellington passed away. In his lifetime, Ellington stated that this was the most important music he'd ever written, but because of the scale of the music and the sheer number of artists needed to perform it, Ellington's sacred concerts have rarely been performed since his death.

It's a great treat to see the work performed live, and Town Hall Seattle is a wonderfully intimate setting. This year the concert features the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, co-directed by Michael Brockman and Clarence Acox, with guest vocalists Everett Greene, Nichol Eskridge, and the NW Chamber Chorus, and a special appearance from tap-dancer Alex Dugdale. Tickets run from $15 to $34 and are available here.

Here is some excellent footage of the premier of Ellington's Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral, with a star-studded orchestra that includes such legends as Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, and Paul Gonsalves.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spiral Path of a Blindfolded Man

in 1916 the American zoologist Asa Schaeffer observed that an amoeba placed on a cylindrical surface always moved in a spiral path around the cylinder. To further study spiral movement, Schaeffer blindfolded a right-handed friend and instructed him to walk a straight line across a country field. Schaeffer plotted his friend's track, which described a clockwise spiral form until the man happened to stumble on a tree stump.

From the aptly named Endless Forms Most Beautiful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Clouzot's Inferno

“Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno” is a fascinating documentary about a movie that was never made.

In 1964, Henri-Georges Clouzot was a titan of French cinema, venerated for films like “The Wages of Fear” and “Diabolique." It had been four years since he had made a film, and Clouzot conceived an ambitious project — to be called “L’Enfer” — a story of sexual jealousy and psychological instability that would encompass an array of new and radical techniques.

Columbia Pictures greatly anticipated the film, promising “unlimited” support, with a sense that this would be a historic work. But as the production grew in scale Clouzot grew more demanding, more obsessive and harder to work with. The crew and cast grew restless and alienated, and Clouzot, who seemed to go mad himself, had a heart attack. The project came to a screeching halt and was never completed.

Serge Bromberg, the documentary's director and narrator, worked with Clouzot's widow to unearth 85 film cans containing some 15 hours of footage. There were some completed scenes and hours of tests that the meticulous director had conducted to assess everything from costumes to camera lenses to complicated optical effects. The images that have made it into the documentary are frequently beautiful, if sometimes bizarre, and give a tantalizing sense of what might have been while chronicling the disintegration of Clouzot and his epic.

“Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno" plays at the Northwest Film Forum this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hidmo means Home

I just got the news that Hidmo - a most unusual restaurant, performance venue and cultural space in the heart of Seattle's Central District - is shutting down. The family and friends who ran Hidmo for more than 4 years put their hearts and souls into creating an uncommonly warm and welcoming space. On any given night you could find performances by young hip hop artists, presentations by filmmaking collectives, Iranian folk music, pan-African activists, family reunions, and the list goes on. PLUS you could get killer Eritrean food and a cold bottle of St. George beer.

Assuming you're reading this after Monday night, you've already missed the closing party (with Gabriel Teodros spinning) like I did. But you may be in time for the next party, when Hidmo reopens as a ground floor tenant in the newly renovated Washington Hall. Even so, Seattle will miss the special little Jackson Street space where you could always find the unlikely.

Keep an eye on the developments, if any, at the Hidmo website.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Farewell Captain

“If you want to be a different fish, you gotta jump out of the school.”

Captain Beefheart died yesterday, December 17 2010. Beefheart was simply one of the most singularly strange, goading, galvanizing musicians of the 20th century. He led the Magic Band, one of the tightest and most bizarre of all rock bands, with his remarkable vocal style covering four-and-one-half octaves and employing everything from grunts and groans to hoots, howls and ear piercing screams. He experimented with idiosyncratic rhythms, absurdist lyrics and an unholy alliance of free jazz, Delta blues, modern classical music and rock & roll to create a singular body of work virtually unrivaled in its daring and fluid creativity. While he never came even remotely close to mainstream success, Beefheart’s impact was incalculable, and his fingerprints were all over punk, new wave and whatever comes next. He was one of modern music’s true innovators. We were very lucky to have him.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Heaven and Hell

Those lucky enough to ride the elevator at the swank new Standard Hotel, on the western edge of Manhattan, are treated to an otherworldly piece of eye candy: "Civilization," a depiction of heaven, hell, and purgatory created by video artist Marco Brambilla. The enormous video collage is cobbled together from hundreds of scenes, lifted from movies. As the elevator rises, the sequence, running from an overhead projector, ascends to heaven. As the elevator descends, the video runs in reverse, ending in hell. The piece runs as one enormous loop.

Absolutely hypnotic.

Thanks to mega gorgeous Anne Grgich for the tip!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Narradores Jovenes

Granta literary journal, and its Spanish language spinoff Granta en Español, just released their magazines' respective November issues which feature short work by the 22 "best" young Spanish-language novelists. In a first for Granta, the magazine has been published simultaneously in English and Spanish.

Each of the writers selected was born since 1975, the year that the dictatorship in Spain finally came to an end and the tradition of exiled South American writers living and working in Paris shifted toward a new generation of émigrés seeking publication in post-Franco Spain.

It's a vibrant and diverse portrayal of a generation of talented writers from across the planet, as selected by Granta's editors along with the Argentinian writer and film-maker Edgardo Cozarinsky, British journalist Isabel Hilton, novelist Francisco Goldman, and writer and literary critic Mercedes Monmany. The fiction is also profoundly diverse, ranging from political tales to moral fables to deeply unsentimental love stories.

The magazine is available in English at most good bookstores, and available in Spanish right here. Pick it up.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The melancholy year is dead with rain.

by Trumbull Stickney

The melancholy year is dead with rain.
Drop after drop on every branch pursues.
From far away beyond the drizzled flues
A twilight saddens to the window pane.
And dimly thro' the chambers of the brain,
From place to place and gently touching, moves
My one and irrecoverable love's
Dear and lost shape one other time again.
So in the last of autumn for a day
Summer or summer's memory returns.
So in a mountain desolation burns
Some rich belated flower, and with the gray
Sick weather, in the world of rotting ferns
From out the dreadful stones it dies away.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Art Jam

On Saturday December 11th, as many as 30 Georgetown and South Seattle-based artists will convene on the 9lb Hammer in Georgetown to create art into the wee hours. Everything made will be for sale on the same night, with nothing priced higher than 50 bucks. In addition to the art making, drinks will be flowing all night and a number of DJ's will be spinning jams until closing time. Some fun photos of past events here and here.

In related news, Seattle collective Artifakt are throwing a party at LO-FI which also blends music and art. On Friday December 10th, they’re hosting a show of new stencil work by local artists Wakuda, Grym, 179, and Urban Soule, with sets from DJ's Flave, Hanibal, Jonny Foreskin, and Flat & Furious.

Come out this weekend to have a drink, shake your tail and support Seattle artists!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Leonardo Ericailcane is best known for his large scale street art, but his small works on paper are also very beautiful and absorbing. Ericailcane has a truly weird and wonderful new book out, called Potente Di Fuoco, in which he revisits drawings from his childhood and redraws them 20 to 25 years later. It’s a very clever idea, and the images are truly beautiful, especially when seen side by side.

Ericailcane currently has a show running at Upper Playground in San Francisco. He painted a sweet new mural for the occasion. The show runs through December 19th.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Fire in My Belly

Gurldoggie is doing her part to make sure that you can see the video created by David Wojnarowicz which was recently removed from the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery after the video was criticized as "being offensive to Christians."

The video, called “A Fire in My Belly,” was created by Wojnarowicz in the 1980's as part of his long and thoughtful response to AIDS and the criminally hypocritical reaction to the disease by public officials. The video was recently part of an exhibition at the Portrait Gallery called “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" which opened on Oct. 30 and which billed itself as “the first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture.”

One month later, Catholic League president Bill Donohue called the work an act of "hate speech" against Christians, and began to pressure the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to reconsider funding for the Smithsonian. In response to this misreading of the work and mounting pressure, the work was removed from the exhibition on November 30.

Responses to the censorship have ranged from the Washington, D.C. nonprofit Transformer showing the video in its window, to an activist entering the gallery with the video playing on an iPad hung around his neck, to the angry rant of Diamanda Galas. Museums across the country are putting works by Wojnarowicz on display, and the New York gallery PPOW is offering to ship the video for free to any group that wants to exhibit it. For those of you who do the Facebook, you can keep up with actions surrounding the Wojnarowicz controversy on the Facebook group "Support Hide/Seek."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Richardson on Picasso

Art historian John Richardson will be in Seattle on Wednesday December 8 to speak about Pablo Picasso with scholar Gijs van Hensbergen.

Richardson was Born in London in 1924 and was already a renowned critic and curator by 1952 when he moved to Provence to create a museum of cubist art. Picasso and his wife at the time, Jacqueline Roque, were neighbors and frequent visitors, as were Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, and other vitally important 20th century artists. Picasso and Richardson became friends during these years, and Richardson made a point of carefully studying the painter's life and his work.

Upon moving to the United States in 1960, Richardson organized a major retrospective of Picasso's work that was held simultaneously at nine New York galleries. Beginning in 1980 he devoted himself full time to writing the definitive study of Picasso’s life. His phenomenal A Life of Picasso now fills three volumes, soon to be four. The final volume, currently being written by Richardson with assistance from van Hensbergen, covers Picasso’s last forty years.

In addition to his work on Picasso, Richardson has written art criticism and history for The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair. In 1993 he was made a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy; in 1995-96 he served as the Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University.

Richardson speaks with van Hensbergen at Benaroya Hall on December 8 at 7:30 PM. More information and tickets available right here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What to Read in the Rain

826 Seattle is a nonprofit organization focused on teaching young people how to improve their writing, and helping teachers inspire their students to write. The organization has just released a new anthology titled What to Read in the Rain (written by "famous and not-yet-famous adult and young writers.") which they are selling as a fundraiser. The collection is a kind of love letter to Seattle, with over 300 pages of Northwest-centered stories, poems, essays and recipes from some well-known authors (including Tom Robbins, Michael Chabon, and Seattle-based scribes Lauren Weedman and Megan Kelso) as well as many young participants in the 826 program.

The book is being placed in hotel rooms throughout Seattle, where visitors will find What to Read in the Rain greeting them from their bedside table and will be able to credit their room accounts for the cost of the book at check-out time. For those of us who actually live here, the book is available now through 826 Seattle's retail front, the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Punk Rock Flea Market

I almost forgot to mention... the next Punk Rock Flea Market is right around the corner, taking place this Saturday, December 4. The particulars are the same as ever - at the Underground Events Center, hosted by the Low Income Housing Institute, just $1 to get in - but the specifics are a little different. About 2/3 of our vendors are BRAND NEW this time, including many craft vendors, record sellers and junk dealers who are unknown to me. Very exciting - I love our old friends, but I'm psyched to see the new treasure trove of goodies. As always, DJ Port-a-Party spins the tunes, the bar is open, and the event is all ages, all day. For God's sake people: don't miss this.

Also worth noting: the graphic and poster for PRFM9 were designed by none other than Seattle street art heroine 179. AND true blue PRFM honcho The Corey has got our new website up and running. Cheers!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

...speaking of Harry

This is an excerpt of one of Harry Smith's earliest film experiments, created between 1946 and 1957. This movie was made through a combination of hand-drawing directly onto the film strip, and batiking each individual cell, a process involving successive layers of dye, through which masked areas of the strip form abstractions. The process is involved and exhausting, the results fascinating and beautiful. It took him 9 years to create his first 10 short films, they are well worth 6 minutes of your day to watch.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wild About Harry Smith

On the night after Thanksgiving, American Standard Time and Columbia City Theater present a night of history and song honoring hometown counter-cultural hero Harry Smith and his celebrated Anthology of American Folk Music.

Harry Smith was a film maker, painter, ethnomusicologist and collector born in Portland and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His parents were Theosophists, who encouraged his fascination with unorthodox spirituality and philosophy. By the age of 15, Harry had spent time recording songs and rituals of the Lummi and Samish peoples and had compiled a dictionary of several Puget Sound dialects. He studied anthropology at the University of Washington between 1943 and 1944, and moved to San Francisco in the late 1940's where he began to build a reputation as a leading experimental filmmaker. His work in Non-Objective Painting led to a Solomon Guggenheim grant in 1950, at which point he moved to New York where he lived for the rest of his life. In addition to his many other accomplishments, Smith donated the largest known paper airplane collection in the world to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, was a collector of Seminole textiles and Ukrainian Easter Eggs, and was the world's leading authority on string figures, having mastered hundreds of forms from around the world.

As for the Anthology of American Folk Music, Smith's six-album anthology featured songs recorded by unknown artists for obscure record labels in the 1920's and early 1930's. Smith collected the vinyl records as a personal obsession, but in 1952, in need of money, he offered to sell his extraordinary record collection to Folkways Records. Instead, Moses Asch, the label's president, challenged Smith to cull his collection into an anthology. The records went on to become a vital compendium of American music and a touchstone for the folk music revival on the 1960's.

Inspired by Harry Smith's pivotal release, many Seattle folk musicians - including Zoe Muth, Pufferfish and Shenandoah Davis - will perform selections from all three volumes of the Anthology at the Columbia City Theater on Friday November 26. The evening is hosted by Greg Vandy, the DJ behind "The Roadhouse" on KEXP and the visionary behind American Standard Time, a new enterprise which collects and presents contemporary and historical research on Americana and Roots music.

The show begins at 8:00 and costs just $8. Tickets available here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Paul Celan

Today is the birthday of Paul Celan, born November 23, 1920.

Born into a Jewish family in Eastern Europe, Celan bore witness to the atrocities of World War II while in his 20's, the most cataclysmic being the deportation and murder of his parents. Celan escaped from a forced labor camp, living in Bucharest and Vienna before settling in Paris. Though familiar with at least six languages, and fluent in Russian, French, and Romanian, he continued to write poetry in his native German.

During and immediately following World War II, Celan’s poetry contained some of literature's strongest verse capable of reflecting the war and the Holocaust. His later poems often contain brief, fractured lines and stanzas, with compressed and unpredictable imagery, with the forms of the poems echoing the difficulty of finding language for the experiences he witnessed. About confronting the horrors he witnessed during the war he wrote:

Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech. It went through. It gave me no words for that was happening, but went through it. Went through and could resurface, ‘enriched’ by it all.

Celan lived in Paris until his suicide by drowning in April 1970.


In Kohln, a town of monks and bones,
And pavements fang'd with murderous stones
And rags, and hags, and hideous wenches;
I counted two and seventy stenches,
All well defined, and several stinks!
Ye Nymphs that reign o'er sewers and sinks,
The river Rhine, it is well known,
Doth wash your city of Cologne;
But tell me, Nymphs, what power divine
Shall henceforth wash the river Rhine?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

WK in DF

Street artist WK Interact is in Mexico City right now, having just completed work on a massive mural on the walls of the Archivo General de la Nación or General National Archives. The image above is just one cropped section of the 200 meter long design that WK has been installing for weeks. More images from the mural in progress here.

With WK’s characteristic energy and dynamism the mural expresses the power-struggle between the federal and revolutionary armies during the Mexican Revolution, which commemorates its 100th anniversary this year. The building commonly known as the “Black Palace of Lecumberri” was built by Porfirio Diaz’s government in 1900 and served as a prison until 1976. The notorious jail held such figures such as Pancho Villa and the legendary muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros and was the site of the assassination of President Francisco Madero, the event that sparked the most violent period of the Revolution. Today the Archivo houses an important part of Mexico’s graphic legacy, and a section of the building will soon be transformed into a museum.

The grand opening took place yesterday, November 20, and the monumental mural will be exhibited until January 20, 2011.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Catch and Release

Seattle artist No Touching Ground, aka. NTG, has long explored the spaces within our urban environments that play host to wildlife. His work not only focuses on the lives of the coyotes, wolves, bears and birds who become displaced as city landscapes take over their habitats, but he also prophesies their eventual return. NTG's most recent project looks closely and poetically at pigeons.

Using hand built traps, carriers and coops, NTG caught 50 pigeons in Seattle. He then wrote a 50-word story, cut the story into sections, and released the birds back into the wild carrying a single word of the story affixed to its leg. The resulting show, titled "Catch and Release," combines elaborate and delicate "portraits" of each pigeon along with the traps, coops, seeds and other artifacts of the process in a lovely and unexpectedly touching installation.

The exhibit opens tonight at pun(c)tuation on Capitol Hill and runs through December 29.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Daniel Beltrá

Photographer Daniel Beltrá has made a career out of traveling to the world's precious ecosystems to document scenes of environmental devastation. Based in Seattle, Beltrá has traveled from Indonesia to the Arctic to the drought-ridden waterways of Brazil to the marshes of Louisiana to capture images of nature fouled by industry run amok. Yet his photographs are so well composed, so energetic, so artful in their composition that they lure your eye into lingering before you quite realize the extent of the devastation you're seeing.

He was recently named first runner up for the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year award, and two just weekends ago Beltrá was the subject of a lengthy article in the Seattle Times. His blog also features hundreds of his images, arranged by geography.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Patterson Clark's day job is working as an artist for The Washington Post, where he specializes in science graphics and natural history illustration. When he gets home to his garden near Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, Clark rips out invasive plants like English ivy, white mulberry and multiflora rose, brings the plants into his basement studio, and has been perfecting the process for turning the invaders into paper, ink, and art. The current issue of American Craft magazine has more info and images on Clark’s process.

Thanks to Heidi K of Luminous Yolk for the tip!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bicycles in Iran

For those of us getting used to the idea of a wet winter bike commute, gorgeous photos of the bicycles of Isfahan by the Iranian photographer Alieh Sâdatpur. Via the highly literate travel and photo blog Poemas del Río Wang.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Survivors

A poem in remembrance of The War to End War.
by Siegfried Sassoon

No doubt they'll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they're 'longing to go out again,'--
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They'll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,--
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they'll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter'd all their pride...
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

The image "Night-time Encounter with a Madman," is by Otto Dix from his series Der Krieg.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


“Wishery” is the newest track from sample magician Nick Bertke a.k.a. Pogo. Bertke uses nothing but sounds from Walt Disney’s classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to construct a mesmerizing trip-hop soundscape. Absent for the past year due to, it would seem, a contract with Disney, it’s good to see the man who brought us Alice return, and in such spectacular fashion. For those of us living in the Northwest, these may well be the brightest sounds and colors we experience until Spring.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dykeman at Vito's

Seattle artist Warren Dykeman was commissioned to paint a large mural on the wall of the newly reopened and revamped Vito’s Restaurant and Lounge on First Hill. The now complete 35 foot-long mural features Dykeman's signature male and female silhouettes surrounded by sumptuous red, green and yellow abstract patterns scattered across a dark gray background. It's a terrific and mysterious design, beautifully executed, an electric and engaging new backdrop for the re-invented visage of one of Seattle's finest dives.

Dykeman's work on paper is also currently featured as part of a group show at the Seattle Art Museum Gallery in the Seattle Tower.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


The Belgian-born street artist ROA has been painting his wonderfully detailed and insanely large images of animals all across Europe for years. Just this summer he put up amazing pieces at the Nuart Festival in Stavanger, Norway, in Bassano del Grappa, Italy, at Critica Urbana in Madrid, in London, and on the streets of Moscow. On November 1st he arrived in Los Angeles for his first-ever US show, presented by Thinkspace at the New Puppy Gallery. ROA's larger-than-life and nearly-as-threatening organic animals have already been spotted on the streets of LA reminding the residents of the City of Angels that they can't escape from nature, however hard they may try. You can follow his progress around the city here and check out ROA’s own international Flickr set here.

If you find yourself in LA, the show opens on Saturday Nov. 13th at 6PM and runs through Nov. 24th.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Poem for Day of the Dead

Interview with the Boatman
by Laurie Kutchins

The boatman’s boat bumps up against the dock—
he waits for his passengers to step in—
coins in hand, they look up, find the circling hawk.

But a job he winks, set to punch the clock.
All paths lead to the river’s mud and din.
The boatman’s boat bumps up against the dock.

How do you get this job, checking the rock
Shore of the living, recognizing kin—
Coins in hand, they look up, watch the circling hawk.

Dunno, his shoulders ripple, his keys knock.
He padlocks his barrels of rum and gin.
The boatman’s boat bumps up against the dock.

Crossing is wide; don’t plan to swim or walk.
Across the river the dog-god is thin.
Coins in hand, look up, land the circling hawk.

Someone’s always arriving in a travel frock.
Passengers, come a dime a quick dozen.
Coins in hand, look up, mind the circling hawk.
The boatman’s boat bumps up against the dock.

Photo by Roman Loranc.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Speaking Engagements

Just in time for the start of the rainy season we have a tremendous new way to lose ourselves on line. The entire run of The Paris Review’s storied interviews of the most important writers in the world, previously almost impossible to find in electronic form, is suddenly available, free for the taking, at the Paris Review website. This radical first act of generosity by new PR editor Lorin Stein, who recently took over from Philip Gourevitch, has already paid off for me in dozens of lost hours reading interviews by the likes of Simone de Beauvoir, William Faulkner, Robert Crumb and hundreds of others. If there’s a better way to spend the winter online, I can't imagine what it is.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ornette Coleman

The Earshot Jazz Fest brings the classic film Ornette: Made in America to the NW Film Forum for 4 screenings this Friday and Saturday. 'Ornette' is a hazy but inviting glimpse of the great modern jazz musician and his world. The film maker Shirley Clarke was one of the key figures of the American independent film movement, and for her final film Clarke created a highly unusual music documentary featuring the legendary Ornette Coleman, a toweringly innovative yet humble figure.

The film follows Mr. Coleman rather randomly through time and space, jumping from Morocco in 1973 to Berkeley in 1969, then back to Italy in 1980. Coleman's music weaves through a series of interviews with personalities as varied as Buckminster Fuller, William Burroughs, and Coleman's son Denardo. Meanwhile, all manner images occasionally flash on and off the screen, and a small boy impersonates the lonely young Ornette outside the house where he spent his childhood. It's a bizarre film, but an truly entertaining one, and Coleman is a figure well worth spending more time with in whatever form. Four showings only, at 7 and 9 pm on October 29 & 30.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

X'ed Out

Charles Burns is a Seattle native who burst forth from The Evergreen State College in the mid-1970s. He contributed his starkly beautiful illustrations to now defunct Rocket weekly magazine and composed album covers for the fledgling Sub Pop record label, before coming to the attention of cartoonist Art Spiegelman, who published his work in the seminal comics anthology RAW. Burns left an indelible mark on regional culture and modern comics in general.

He returns to Seattle on Saturday, October 30 to celebrate the publication of his amazing new graphic novel X'ED OUT which continues Burns' look at the bizarre and horrific consequences of adolescence, while paying homage to the never-aging cartoon character Tintin and his world. In addition to signing copies of his books, Burns will present a slide show, and an exhibition of new work, old work and emphemera. At the Fantagraphics bookstore in Georgetown. From 6:00 to 9:00 PM, all ages, free admission.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

100 Books

Two interesting books released recently which use the number 100 as an organizing principle.

Seattle 100: Portrait of a City is the culmination of a three-year project by Seattle photographer and filmmaker Chase Jarvis. Jarvis spent 36 months photographing a curated collection of creative people in and around Seattle. The book compiles 100 of his black-and-white portraits of the Seattle-based artists, musicians, writers, scientists, activists and filmmakers. Many of the photos are beautiful, and it's a worthy attempt to capture a snapshot of a city’s culture through its people. Jarvis is donating a portion of his proceeds from sales of the book to the King County arts and culture organization 4culture.

The Exquisite Book is a project dreamed up by designers Julia Rothman , Jenny Volvoski and Matt Lamothe, inspired by the Surrealist parlor game Exquisite Corpse. The editors asked 10 groups of 10 artists to contribute a page to the book. The first artist was given a few words to inspire their drawing, and each of the following artists only saw the page that immediately preceded their own. Each artist was given two weeks to complete their page, and the whole process took approximately five months. In addition to the three progenitors, the book features beautiful contributions by Caitlin Keegan, Lisa Congdon, Eunice Moyle, Tom Neely, Kelly Lynn Jones, Susie Ghahremani and Lorena Sim.

The book was designed by the New York design team ALSO and just published by Chronicle Books.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Project Thirty-Three

Project Thirty-Three is a sweet and sporadically updated online collection of vintage album cover art featuring simple shapes and typography-based graphics, scanned and archived by the owner of Jive Time Records, a Seattle music store specializing in second-hand and vintage vinyl. Categories include circles and dots, squares, rectangles and triangles, and typography-only.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Poem Occasioned by the Bitterness of Watching a Pathetic Election Campaign in which Candidates Mouth Only Trivialities While the World Goes to Hell

Have You Killed Your Man for Today?

by Kenneth Patchen

In these hands, the cities; in my weather, the armies
Of better things than die
To the scaly music of war.

The different men, who are dead,
Had cunning; they sought green lives
In a world blacker than your world;
But you have nourished the taste of sickness
Until all other tastes are dull in your mouths;
It is only we who stand outside the steaming tents
Of hypocrisy & murder
Who are "sick" —
This is the health you want.

Yours is the health of the pig which roots up
The vines that would give him food;
Ours is the sickness of the deer which is shot
Because it is the activity of hunters to shoot him.

In your hands, the cities, in my world, the marching
Of nobler feet than walk down a road
Deep with the corpses of every sane & beautiful thing.

Photo by D-K-D. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Illustrated 3-Line Novels

I still love a little book I first blogged about back in 2008. Félix Fénéon's nouvelles en trois lignes or Novels in Three Lines features 1,220 brief, grisly news items the author—a Parisian editor, critic, and anarchist—wrote in 1906 for the newspaper Le Matin. Now, the Brooklyn-based illustrator Joanna Neborsky has come out with a glorious 128-page book of collages and drawings in which she illuminates a selection of Fénéon's miniatures in their English translation by Luc Sante. The book is just gorgeous, and is right up near the top of my holiday wish list. (Hint, hint.)

The always inspiring Journey Round My Skull has a large collection of unpublished and alternate drafts from Neborsky's book here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sounds Like Lipstick Traces

Greil Marcus' book Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century has long been a touchstone for many sessions of intense, questing and often drunken sessions of intellectual debate. The book is an obsessive examination of the birth of punk rock, traveling on the wings of philosophy, history, conjecture and copious research to visit parallel movements of cultural rebellion ranging from Dadaism to French Situationism to Anabaptism.

In addition to its scholarly breadth, the cult book also makes copious musical references which provide a scorching backbeat to the fiery energy of its obsessions. The bloggers over at Lucky Psychic have unearthed a soundtrack to the book released by Rough Trade in the UK back in 1993.

It's a smart and powerful collection of music that takes you a 60-minute journey from The Slits "A Boring Life" through the 1948 recording of The Orioles "It's Too Soon To Know," past a wild recreation of "L'amiral cherche une maison à louer," composed by Tristan Tzara in 1916 and performed at the Cabaret Voltaire, past an utterly unexpected reading by Marie Osmond of a Dada sound poem by Hugo Ball and back to "Boredom" by the Buzzcocks. It's terrific played alongside the book, but it also stands on its own as an awesome mix tape that presents familiar punk bands in a way that makes them fresh again by placing them in a context of original, primal alienation.

Download the whole thing here. You can also download the original record sleeve with quotes from Greil Marcus, and liner notes by Jon Savage. Good stuff.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Read All About It

I have a lot of friends who know how to make pretty things out of cardboard. But I don't know anyone who could build something like this.

Kiel Johnson has built a fully functional printing press using primarily cardboard. The press is up and running as part of a new show titled "Publish or Perish" at Mark Moore Gallery in Santa Monica, California. The incredible machine releases sheets of poster-sized paper printed with tiny drawings of all of Johnson’s belongings, from clothes hangers to houseplants. In addition to the printing press, the show features Johnson's working cardboard camera, cardboard radio and other equally impressive objects.

On view now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Prints by Spitzack

Seattle print maker Charles Spitzack has a beautiful new show of woodblock prints and lithographs up at Bauhaus Books & Coffee, 301 E Pine St. on Capitol Hill. Spitzack is a young but tremendously accomplished print maker, having graduated from Cornish just last year and already recognized as one of Seattle's best, with an appearance earlier this year in Seattle Print Arts' ten-year anniversary collection. His images are both subtle and strong, showing a truly masterful use of line and color. His work can be as bold as a sharp stick, or as gentle as a breath through lace. The show, titled "Far Away Home," opened Oct 1st and runs through Nov 1st, but the opening reception is Oct 14th at 7pm with party to follow. See it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Alex Ross

Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker and author of the hugely entertaining and informative bestseller The Rest Is Noise, comes to Seattle on October 12 to lead his audience through a whirlwind history of music as told through bass lines. In an audio-rich lecture based on a chapter of his follow-up book, Listen to This, Ross shows how lusty Spanish dances were transformed into somber masterpieces of Purcell, Bach, and Fats Waller; he also explores the fascinating link between figures of lament in Eastern European folk music, Renaissance Masses, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and the songs of Bob Dylan. Billed as "an extraordinary tale of the interconnectedness of musical language and the universality of human emotion," this should be great.

At Town Hall Seattle, Tuesday October 12th, at 7:30. Tickets are just $5 and available here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Up Up and Away

Tell me Luke Geissbühler doesn't deserve to win some kind of Father of the Year award.

This past August, Geissbühler and his young son Max attached an HD video camera to a helium-filled weather balloon that rose into the upper stratosphere. The two spent eight months developing a camera housing that would survive 100 mph winds, temperatures of 60 degrees below zero and speeds of over 150 mph.

The intrepid duo then traveled from their home in Brooklyn to a remote area of Orange County, NY with their camera and a GPS system carefully wrapped in a homemade styrofoam capsule and fitted with a parachute. The balloon reached a height of nearly 20 miles above the earth before it exploded and the camera came spiraling back to Earth.

The result is an awe-inspiring video that sends the viewer into space and back again. Check it out.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Caps 4 Slats

Up on Capitol Hill, artist Cameron Larson is finishing a mosaic made from bottle caps on the wall surrounding the Sound Transit project. Larson has been making pictures with various forms of pixels since his time at Cornish College, and this large image is his first attempt at taking his technique public.

When finished, the piece will be a portrait of Chris Harvey, aks "Slats," the musician and Capitol Hill habitué who died back in March.

The blog CHS has an interview with Larson here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bicycle Film Festival

That last post reminds me...

The 10th annual International Bicycle Film Festival rolls into Seattle this week, from October 7-10. One of the Seattle organizers, Ryan from Go Means Go!, has been working overtime to get some worthy Seattle-made films included in the international touring program, and he succeeded gloriously. Among a small handful of locally produced films is Man Zou, a gorgeous travelogue by Jason Reid about biking from Beijing to Shanghai in a rapidly-changing China. The festival kicks off this Thursday at the King Cat Lounge at 2130 6th Ave. with a DJ set by hip hop legend Prince Paul, followed by three days of film screenings at Western Bridge in SoDo. The festival pass is $35, and individual tickets cost $10. The after parties are free. The full schedule is right here. (Watch the trailer for Man Zou here. The film itself screens on October 10th at 5 p.m.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fixed dexiF

A beautiful and hypnotic little bike film from Dan Nasser out of Savannah, GA.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Love Letter to Syracuse

Sign painter and graffiti artist Stephen Powers is in Syracuse, New York painting gigantic slogans on the surfaces of three formerly rusty train bridges.

"A Love Letter to Syracuse" involves painting phrases that arose from conversations that Powers had as he and his crew went door to door and attended community meetings to ask people about the city. The project was conceived and facilitated in partnership with COLAB, an initiative by Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor with the goal of using public art to revitalize the city neighborhood and to reexamine the traditional relationship between university campuses and their surrounding neighborhoods.

The phrases include such thoughts as "Now that we're here, nowhere else matters" and "I paid the light bill just to see your face." More images from the project here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Half a Life

Eighteen years ago author Darin Strauss struck a girl on a bike while he was driving. The cyclist, a girl from his high school, swerved in front of his Oldsmobile and was killed. Strauss survived and went on to make a name for himself as a novelist with Chang and Eng and More Than It Hurts You.

Recently, he broke two decades of self-imposed silence and released a memoir of the tragic event and its aftermath. The non-fiction account Half a Life is a book about how the writer has tried to live with a terrible error behind him. Strauss shows us how the agonizing questions he's faced since that afternoon have made him who he is. In their review of the book, the New York Times wrote: "What is truly exceptional here is watching a writer of fine fiction probe, directly, carefully and with great humility, the source from which his fiction springs."

Strauss reads at Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle on October 2.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Victor Jara

Today is the birthday of Víctor Jara, the Chilean teacher, theater director, poet, singer-songwriter, and political activist.

Jara was born in the town of Lonquén, near the city of Santiago. His family was poor and his parents were illiterate. By the age of 6, Jara's father had left the family, leaving his wife to raise the children. Amanda Jara insisted that her children receive an education and taught them to play piano and sing as well as read and write.

Jara's mother died when he was 15. He moved into a seminary, studying to become a priest, but after a couple of years he became disillusioned with the Church and joined the army before returning to his home town to pursue interests in music and theater. Jara was deeply influenced by the folklore of Chile and Latin America and was particularly inspired by the work of Violeta Parra, Atahualpa Yupanqui, and the poet Pablo Neruda.

He became greatly involved in the Nueva Canción movement of Latin American folk music, releasing his first recording in 1966, and by 1970 had become an important musical figure, his songs drawing on a combination of traditional folk music and left-wing political activism. He supported the Unidad Popular coalition candidate Salvador Allende for the presidency of Chile, taking part in the campaign through volunteer political work and playing free concerts. Jara composed "Venceremos," the theme song of the Unidad Popular. He was a key participant in the cultural renaissance that swept Chile after the election of Allende, organizing cultural events that supported the country's new socialist government.

On September 11 1973, Chilean troops under the command of General Augusto Pinochet mounted a coup against the Allende government. Jara was seized and taken to a large sports stadium. He was held for four days, deprived of food and sleep. He was tortured, and his hands were broken by soldiers who ordered him to keep playing the guitar. At some point, probably on September 15, Jara was taken to a deserted area and shot, his body dumped in a road on the outskirts of Santiago. His wife Joan was allowed to retrieve the body and bury it on the condition that she not publicize the event.

Although the military regime destroyed the vast majority of master recordings of Jara's music, Joan Jara managed to sneak recordings out of Chile, which were later copied and distributed worldwide. In June 2008, Chilean judge Juan Eduardo Fuentes re-opened the investigation into Jara's death. José Adolfo Paredes Márquez, a 54-year-old former soldier was formally charged with Jara's murder. On December 3 2009, a massive funeral took place in which thousands of Chilenos filled the streets. His remains were re-buried in the same place he was buried in 1973.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

San Pancho Rooster

One of my favorite artists in Seattle - an extremely talented painter, illustrator and graphic designer who also happens to paint splendid graffiti behind the tag 179 - was down in San Pancho, Mexico during the recent storms and floods that washed out seven bridges in seven days, left dozens of families homeless, and cut off the small rural community from food and supplies.

In between watching the disaster unfold and helping where she could, she created a new illustration which she has now turned into a silk-screened limited-edition print. She is selling the signed and numbered prints as a way to raise money for the ongoing relief efforts. She has set no price - all sales are by donation - and all proceeds are going directly to the relief organization Entreamigos.

For more information on the relief efforts go here. More of 179's work here, and images from her adventures in Mexico right here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Capitol Cinema

Earlier this week the magnificent Capitol Theater in downtown Olympia was sold to its longtime tenant, the Olympia Film Society. The volunteer-run non-profit film society, which operates on a shoe string budget to say the least, had been renting the 1920's-era movie palace since 1986.

The theater's owner had been trying to sell the place along with the retail building surrounding it, but after negotiating for months, and lowering the price repeatedly, he finally decided to sell just the cinema to OFS for $300,000. Call it one one more recession-era success story.

Despite boasting a terrific staff, having a well curated year-round calendar, and being Olympia's only alternative or art house cinema, being a tenant in the building had seriously limited the film society’s opportunities to raise funds as grant agencies were reluctant to give upkeep money to a group that didn’t own its space. Now that they own the place the money should come pouring in. And their biggest annual event, the 27th Olympia Film Festival, which is always a great party, will be better than ever. The Festival runs from November 12th through the 20th.

Thanks to iphone-alot for the photo!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Great Artists Steal

I finally made it down to Pioneer Square on a sunny day with my camera and was able to get some shots of this gorgeous new mural by Weirdo and Joey Nix. (Click on the photo for a better view.) The two street painters are working hard to get their legitimate business jump started, and have been expending a ton of time, energy and spraypaint under the name Franklin and Thomas. This amazing 30 ft. long piece, which heavily references Picasso's Guernica, was created in time for the opening of the blockbuster Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum on October 8. In the lower right corner, they added a quote widely attributed to the master: "Bad artists copy. Great artists steal."

Monday, September 20, 2010


The Japanese-born Cornish College graduate Kumi Yamashita creates unique art by casting light over strategically placed objects which shape the resulting shadows and form fascinating silhouettes. She lived and showed work in Seattle in the 1990's and early 2000's, and received a fair amount of local recognition, including a Betty Bowen award back in 1995. She lives in New York these days, and shows her work around the world. More on Yamashita's work here.