Monday, August 30, 2010

Summer Peak

Saturday at the bus stop. It rained that morning.

The Washington State ferry, Issaquah. At speed the boat sounds like it could shake apart at any moment, yet we never felt at risk. The smells coming out of the commissary were a far bigger threat to our health.

Sunlight on the water beats Prozac for firing up happy neurons.

It should be called Sealth, after the chief Seattle is named for, but white people couldn't pronounce it; instead they named the mountain after Rainier Beer.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


What is the best way to celebrate anniversaries, by looking back and celebrating the past? Nostalgia is one of the most powerful currents in life, not least when it springs from a source of deep happiness, in this instance a golden season spent on a beautiful island with dear friends. Next year will mark the twentieth since those halcyon days.

Can this be occasion to recognize where we have come in our lives and what lies ahead? That summer forms a wonderful memory and many of our activities continue to reap benefits today, for people who were there and others who have come along since. Our Dead Poets Society-style reading group meets regularly to this very day, threading what was and what is yet to be.

I'm a sentimental cuss. I love to sink into the warm comfort of fine memories and linger over images captured from the best of times. In girding for next year's anniversary, I'm reminded of this quote from John Galsworthy, that the value of a sentiment is the amount of sacrifice you are prepared to make for it. This is the real question, to weigh the precious metal of memory, to discover whether it is better kept in a vault or transformed into new currency.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Speechless Tuesday

Photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook a photographic survey of the Russian Empire with the support of Tsar Nicholas II. Follow this link to see more images of Russia in color one hundred years ago.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Moses Rock

You might have heard recent reports of US soldiers being punished for refusing to attend a concert. As somebody who grew up listening to what was fondly called Jesus Rock, I see another angle on the story that goes beyond religious tolerance: maybe the soldiers stayed away simply because they didn't like the band. I doubt that anywhere in the Army Manual it makes "rocking out" compulsory but the implication is disturbing, that our defenders of liberty might one day instead of shaved heads have mullets.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday Song

For your listening pleasure, Petula Clark sings The Cat in the Window (The Bird in the Sky). I post this not for the video but to share the song. There is this cat, y'see, sitting in the window and staring at a bird up in the sky. Do we hear stomach growls? Not a peep. But look to the cat's eye and, lo and behold, it is crying. It has a tear in its eye because it wants, quote, to fly away. The cat weeps for not having wings. I think there's a bit of that cat, friends, in each one of us. Listen and learn:

Friday, August 20, 2010


Outside the US I don't know how familiar people are with Homies, or outside the state of California, for that matter. There was a time when you couldn't get away from them. These plastic figurines called Homies appeared in grocery vending machines in the mid-nineties and collectors were immediately hooked. They represent the variety of Southern California's Latino community, from a guy sitting with his boombox to a high school grad to a man in a wheelchair, and they each had a cool name, like "Hootchie" or "Vato Grande." They even had dogs, including the Rottweiler picture above. I obsessively collected for awhile, then forgot about them in a drawer. It wasn't until the other day that I was given a reason to remember Homies, when I ran across a Jeep dashboard covered with them. Actually, seeing that dashboard provided me a sense of relief: I was wild about collecting these figures, but not this wild:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs The Whinge

Fun stuff, brilliant battles with his girlfriend's seven evil exes, special effects best described as "rad" and more video game references than you can shake a joystick at; an all-around good time out at the movies, but... Michael Cera needs a voice coach. He is Scott Pilgrim and his adenoidal whinge should have gone away after the first five minutes. It could have gone away after the first minute. I was praying that one of the evil exes would mute him forever, or overdub his voice with Duke Nukem. That would have dried my tears.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weekend Wonders

My morning started here, crossing a footbridge into lower Woodland Park. People were scarce, the only sound a fresh breath of summer combing through high trees, and the heat of the day, ninety degrees Farenheit at its worst, was still hours away.

Darth Vader and friends were out in force to promote a massive sale at Comics Dungeon. They arrested anyone wearing a t-shirt from the previous night's Rush concert.

I didn't expect to time travel this weekend. We happened upon a coin-operated video game arcade, a shadowy cove behind Pink Gorilla (which joins Seattle's rainbow fleet of pink elephants, red robins and brown bears), and it was like going back in time to junior high, when I would blow all my paper route money in a place just like this one.

Washington state loses more of its citizens to propane every year.

It was wonderful to see the sun go down. People on the street were maundering zombies, heat drunk, with skin various shades of pink and orange, wiping sweat away with weak limbs and craving milkshakes, slurpees or margaritas -anything with life-giving cold to renew strength and vitality, little suspecting that tomorrow would bring another round of the summer sauna. I know what you're thinking: those wimps.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book of the Week

Well, cover of the week, at least: I wouldn't wish this read even on Dick Cheney... okay, maybe him but nobody else, it's that bad. Reading this book will leave you feeling as though you just rode through the desert bareback on a donkey for forty days. If that's your thing, go for it, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Dig the lady's low-g thighs. She didn't heed the warning about leathery winged types harassing females on the moon. Thank the good lord she didn't wear her Gumby print underwear. Still, she has her dignity. Observe how she averts her eyes from the little bone pile.

I'm being carried off to who knows what kind of horrible fate, she thinks, and I'm catching a lunar chill, but I must not look at that skull. It isn't there. I'll do my breathing and pretend this is a yoga exercise.

With what does Satan's orbit intersect, exactly? For starters, I didn't know he was in orbit, which strikes me as a better place than down here with us. He was down once, of that we have proof, long enough at least to pen a novel under the name Ian Wallace.

Happy Jason Day!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Elephants, Monsters, and Other Spectacles Witnessed by an Innocent Bystander

In Seattle you can get your car cleaned by pink elephants and brown bears. The demand for green octopi is growing.

Local architecture regularly undergoes mutation and becomes a devouring monster. Here you can see the Experience Music Project ready to devour the Science Fiction Museum. No radioactive fire... yet.

Speaking of mutations, little known is the fact that Soviet Bloc housing lives again in our fine city. I blame the Wobblies.

Forecast is for a heatwave this weekend. Personally I'm against it, but since we have a Moscow aesthetic it's no surprise we'd get their weather too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Eagle vs Shark

I could embrace this film if it didn't discriminate shamelessly against lesbians. It's harsh. When it comes to hackers and people in wheelchairs, you can feel the love in this film, it's radiant, but nobody is smiling when it comes to women who like other women.

Lily (that's her with the smirk) talks to Jonah, who uses a wheelchair and is portrayed in a very sympathetic light, and the film's bias comes out, and not the good kind of coming out:
Jonah: Take me away from here.
Lily: Where?
Jonah: Anywhere. Help me escape.
Lily: Okay. Where should we go?
Jonah: Where do you want to go?
Lily: Home, I want to go home.
Jonah: Ah, home's horrible. You must want to go somewhere else.
Lily: Mmm, dunno. Australia?
Jonah: Nah, not there. My ex-wife lives there.
Lily: What, is she alive?
Jonah: Who cares about her, she's a lesbian.

When Lily goes to Jarrod's party, he wants to know why the girl he invited isn't there. Incidentally, Jarrod has a hacker friend, he appreciates the contribution made by hackers, but when it comes to... well, judge for yourself:

Lily: She's a lesbian. She went to a lesbian party.
Jarrod: Typical.

The title of this film, seeing that it was made in New Zealand, should be changed to Kiwi vs Lesbian. When it is, I'll wrap my arms around this brilliant comedy, but no sooner than that.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Speechless Tuesday

Monday, August 09, 2010


According to the blog where I grabbed this arresting photo, it was snapped moments after impact. Morbid character that I am, I've been staring all day, mesmerized, reflecting on just how profound Nagasaki remains for us today.

Sixty-five years ago, three days after Hiroshima, an act of merciless aggression at Nagasaki ended the Second World War. I spoke to a professor in Budapest who was a young boy at the time and he described what it was like when the news got out, the deep hush that seemed to fall over the world. It was the kind of peace no one could have anticipated, a shadow we've lived in ever since.

Fidel Castro timed his re-emergence into the spotlight to coincide with this anniversary and foretells nuclear disaster if we keep pushing Iran. The merit of these claims will bear out. Meanwhile Israel builds up a nuclear stockpile while denying its very existence, the US and Russia averting their gaze, diplomats on each side assuring the other that everything will be fine.

Sixty-five years. That's a long time, right? Too bad we can't look at that dark episode as if it were so removed from our lives today that it could be forgotten.

A portion from today's broadcast of Democracy Now! talks about the first journalist to visit the destruction and what he found and how subsequently he was silenced by General MacArthur. Worth watching:

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Sausage Party

Happy hour was extended well into the night this last Friday. By the time we stumbled home the drummer for Rush had been compared to Denzel Washington, Stonehenge narrowly avoided being crushed by a dwarf, and our ears rang from the voice of a man who has no inner monologue. There are worse ways to start your weekend.

It was happy hour at Molly Maguire's when I pulled up at the corner table and worked awhile proofreading edits to my manuscript. All the regulars were either already there or offering an accented sally at the bartender as they came in the door. When an old-timer drifted over the threshold and squinted at me it was apparent I had stolen his seat, but he was content to sit the next one over and nurse a Jameson while one by one men of all stripes, years, and temperament paid their respects.

The plan for the evening was to gather at a friend's and watch the new Rush documentary. Nothing draws a testosterone cloud like Rush. When the sole female arrived, the ratio was to her liking.

"Oh look," she said logically, "it's a sausage party."

The documentary was watched but don't get the impression we were listening. Conversation was free and loud, particularly when orchestrated by He-Who-Must-Be-Heard. This gent, gregarious to a fault, was in regular competition to have the last word on every topic. I recall that the only time he was silenced was when remarks were directed at the screen regarding the Rush drummer wearing Denzel Washington's hat and goatee. He had nothing to add, but the tube might otherwise have been muted for all we could hear.

This is Spinal Tap was suggested as a follow-up, but the gent was appalled and even as the movie began raided the shelf for alternatives. "Who wants to watch this?" he whined at the screen. When it became clear that he was in the minority, he proceeded to bark "Wasp!" at regular intervals, referring I think to the band of the same name.

He was anxious that we watch something about The Who -evidently bands starting with the letter "W" are his favorites. He shouted "Quadrophenia!" and "Tommy!" and each time thrust his fist toward the ceiling. Our host, with infinite sagacity, responded that he never had been a fan and it would be difficult to find any of The Who's movies in his dvd collection. This antagonised the gent, again waving his fist in the air as he loudly speculated about Pete Townsend's sexual preferences.

It was like partying with Chris Farley. When we finally exited, you could have laid me in a van down by the river and I would have been happy, if only it meant not having to hear the gent rant further. For all I know, when I got up too early the next morning he was still carrying on about "fisting Pete!"

Getting up three hours after hitting the pillow is ill-advised for any occasion. I couldn't help myself. The day ahead would be busy and an early start was required. So I dragged my feet down to Cafe Allegro in the University District and juiced up on espresso. Good thing I did. As it happened, it was the last day to see my friend Nathaniel working.

Cafe Allegro is a venerable Seattle institution that retains an atmosphere of sixties counterculture. Though it didn't open until 1975, the bohemian flavor is right out of Greenwich Village when Dylan was making his bones. The University of Washington across the street supplies the tables with poets and free-thinking academics, painters, performance artists and political masterminds. I lived up the alley right out of college and would sit there afternoons soaking up the rhetoric and feel myself get smarter by osmosis. Nathaniel was behind the counter and then as now would hear my order as though I were babbling complete nonsense. No lover of small talk, he would nevertheless open right up chuckling a moment later when something of substance was offered by way of conversation. His scowl invited substance and vanished immediately upon conclusion of the necessary exchange of commerce. It's been something I've looked forward to over the last couple years, when I've made it my Saturday morning routine to see him.

A fine fellow. Once we spent an afternoon talking at a nearby pub and Nathaniel bestowed upon me a copy of his favorite poem, something he had toiled over that represents his outlook on life and love, a touching expression to share those things that even in the best of conversations rarely get discussed. I'll miss knowing where to find him, scowl and all, behind the counter of one of this city's last, best coffeehouses.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Book of the Week

The Great Pyramid is a diverting tract of comparative exoteric theory. Pictured is its original Glasgow publication (Bone & Hulley, Dundas Street) from 1924, pleasantly tactile and remarkably well-preserved, free of any mark or dog ear and replete with terrific handmade illustrations; it smells nice too. Curiously, the author Morton Edgar combines his study of the Gizeh (sic) pyramid with the Second Coming of Christ. To wit, the subtitle reads, In Which Is Shown How The Great Pyramid of Gizeh Prophetically Corroborates The Philosophy Of The Divine Plan Of The Ages As Contained In The Holy Scriptures. See below for a blueprint of said Plan.

Long out of print, this slender book is a piece of history. Unlike nostalgic codices published today that seek to evoke the charm of outdated printing practices, this is genuine. The quaint drawings and absence of blurbs speak of a different time. There's something endearing about the brief notice contained just inside the cover informing the reader that "Further copies of this work may be procured by applying to MORTON EDGAR, Glasgow, Scotland." His address has been crossed out in purple and immediately below, in matching ink, the correction is stamped.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sunday Song