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.