Thursday, December 31, 2009

After Hours

Natalka Karpa. Vpershe (At first)

OK, here's a tune whose title I can translate. Not only that, I can also understand the chorus. Whoop de doo! It goes something like: The first time I saw you, I fell in love with you. You stirred my soul, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, pure poetry right there. I just recently went to see Avatar and this looks a lot like James Cameron's Pandora-world - only this was made in 2007. But neither Natalka nor her gentleman friend are dying by breathing the atmosphere and they're not blue cat-people, so there are differences. And (spoiler alert) this video ends up being a dream. Anyhow, it's not entirely unpleasant. Oh, and speaking of translating titles, I figured out what "shmata" means. Ready for it? Tatters. There you go! Have a fine New Year's Eve.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

After Hours

XS & Skriabin. Shmata

I don't have a Ukrainian dictionary handy, so I can't tell you what the hell "shmata" means. Everybody's singing it at the end, so it's probably important. I also have no idea what this tune is about. I only know that the semi-scary singer guy seems to be quite lucky with the ladies. At least they don't recoil in horror when they're around him as any normal person might do. But you do have to admit that it's a pretty catchy tune.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

After Hours

Taisia Povaliy. Serdenko (Little heart)

Ukrainian pop week continues. Once again, this video looks like it's a parody of something American, but no, these people are earnest in their efforts. I've never heard of this person before. All I know is that this song is in Ukrainian and its downtempo R&B stylings leave much to be desired. Since my Ukrainian is pretty shaky (I have to translate it in my head into Russian and then into English), so "Little heart" may not even be the title. The Russian for "heart" is serdtse and the diminutive is serdechko. That's mighty close to serdenko, so I'm going with that. Plus, they have this heart graphic at the beginning of the video. I'm pretty sure that's what it means. But Ukrainians are a notoriously contrary people. Serdenko could really mean "blood worm" and this might just be part of an elaborate scheme to piss off Russians.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

So this is what your New Year's Eve show looks like. It should be good. I like Cake. They're just like REM, except that they're totally different. They can be credited for making the trumpet part of the indie rock arsenal. Only a decade later had it reached the saturation point. And then everybody switched to glockenspiel as their quirky instrument. I guess my favorite tune of theirs is "Rock'n'Roll Lifestyle." I like how it's aimed at people who might potentially be their fans. I'm not gonna go see them - even if they're touring with the legendary worst band of all time, Dieselhed, as opening act. A group of friends and I saw them open for Link Wray years ago. They were awful in new and completely unexpected ways. For instance, each of their terrible tunes would feature lots of style and tempo changes. Instead of being interesting, it just become very boring very quickly. But the thing that made it such a grating experience is that they all acted like rock stars, strutting, preening and playing power chords for the crowd. We heckled them for the entire time they were on stage and then went and bought t-shirts. Anyhow, this has nothing to do with Cake. They're a decent group of guys and this looks like it will be a very good show.

Monday, December 28, 2009

After Hours

Newz Cool & Queens. Ozero Sliz (Lake of tears)

I've decided that I'll feature Ukrainian pop music this week. What better way to kick things off than with some Ukrainian hip hop? Think this is a parody? You're totally wrong. These guys are serious. And that's what makes this clip so very, very cute. Enjoy.

Belltown's Top Five of 2009

On account of the year being 2009 and all, a lot of people are doing end-of-the-decade "best of" lists. Not me. No, I think everyone agrees that this decade has been absolutely terrible for a variety of reasons. I'm overjoyed that it's over. But although the last 10 years have brought new meaning to the word "awful," there were some bright spots in 2009 worth noting. If you consider how the decade started off here in Belltown, with people smoking crack in every accessible doorway, then the relative peace and harmony of 2009 is something to acknowledge. So I'll say this right now: with the positive events of this year, I'm actually looking forward to 2010.

Here is my list of 2009's best in Belltown:

5. SIFF returns to the Cinerama.
I like the Seattle International Film Festival. And I love the Cinerama. Being able to see a SIFF film at the Cinerama is a great experience. And it doesn't even have to be a good film. The Cinerama just seems to make everything better - except maybe that first Transformers movie. For the last several years, it hasn't been a SIFF venue, much to my extreme disappointment. But this year, it hosted many a film and we are all better people because of it. I hope that SIFF and the Cinerama can sustain the magic into 2010 and beyond.

4. That day it hit 103 degrees.
The day was July 29th. By afternoon, the thermometer read 103 degrees. I know, I know, it was 103 degrees for everybody - not just those of us in Belltown. But owing to our dearth of shade and vegetation (except along parts of 4th and 5th Avenues), we felt it much more intensely. In fact, the real heat began after sunset. I swear to God, when the buildings began to release all their accumulated heat, it must have hovered around 100 degrees for most of the night. At the time, the high temperatures were something of an inconvenience, but given our recent cold temperatures and dreary weather, I'd welcome another 103 degree day in a second.

3. The 5 Point Cafe's 80th anniversary celebration.
Belltown's oldest bar/restaurant changed ownership this year and the new bosses have been increasing its visibility with various promotions. The most prominent was the 80th anniversary celebration on December 8th. For that, the menu was reduced to only three items, but the prices were rolled back to what they originally were in 1929. I was there in the morning. It was controlled madness. I returned in the evening and there were just way too many people. But at least I can say I was there.

2. The Moore Inside-Out.
This was actually one of the more fantastic experiences of the decade for me. On a warm June night, the Moore opened its doors to the public to view dozens of art installations that had been set up all over the theater. It was weird, trippy, interesting and many people ended up getting free watermelons. I said it then and I'll say it again now: this is what Belltown is supposed to be about. It was a magnificent event. I hope they put it on every year.

1. Belltown's City Hostel opens.
This was even more impressive than the Moore Inside-Out partly because the art stays put. Honestly, the transformation that has come over the dour old former William Tell is truly amazing. The vision and dedication of new owners Kindell and Gambin is nothing short of miraculous. Since the hostel officially opened in September, it has become famous around the world as "that place with the weird art in every room." Some rooms are whimsical. Others are downright nightmarish. But each is unique. It is an absolutely wonderful place and every time I walk past it at 2nd & Battery, I'm tremendously glad that it's part of the neighborhood.

Honorable Mention:

Buckley's opens.
In just a few short months, Buckley's has become a neighborhood fixture and a very nice place to hang out. Yes, they're a sports bar, but not that kind of sports bar. If you want that kind of sports bar in Belltown, go to the Spitfire Grill. It's great to walk by Buckley's on a Sunday through crowds of short, bald white guys on the sidewalk smoking and wearing Donovan McNabb jerseys.

The Bell Street Park Boulevard Project.
Since nothing's actually been built, this doesn't really rate. Personally, I think it will be a disaster, but I'd be overjoyed to be wrong. There is a possibility that it will be a boon to the neighborhood, so that's why it's on the list. It should be completed by summer 2010, so we'll see what happens.

So there's the list for 2009. If you want to add to the list, feel free in the comments section. And once again, let me say how glad I am that this nameless decades (The aughts? The naughts?) is done. Better things are on the way.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Your Sunday Squirrel

Well, here it is, the last Sunday Squirrel of the decade. It's just a squirrel eating a peanut. Speaking of that, funny story: I was in Denny Park several weeks ago. A few squirrels were around along with maybe a half dozen crows. I spotted one little guy and offered him a peanut. He took it and I walked away from him. There was some commotion and I turned around to see that a crow had stolen his peanut. Apparently, this crow had walked up and simply taken it away from him. This did not make the squirrel happy. You know those old cartoons that feature irate forest creatures shaking their little fists at whatever's making them mad? Well, this was just like that. The poor squirrel was chasing after the crow, stopping occasionally to shake his little squirrel-fists at his thieving assailant. It was just like one of those cartoons. The crow eventually took off. The squirrel turned back to me and gave a little shrug. I offered him another peanut. This time, he held on to it. The end.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Your Sunday Squirrel

Hello and welcome to the Your Sunday Squirrel Holiday Special. This features grainy cell phone footage of a little fellow I took last March. What makes it a holiday special? Beats me! But this is the first video I've ever posted. So I guess that makes it unusual. Enjoy watching this guy dart around for 17 seconds.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Rampage Continues!

Before I go on holiday hiatus, I would be remiss if I failed to feature Belltown's two construction projects. For those unacquainted, the two projects are the Recovery Cafe building and the A.L. Humphrey House. To say that construction is flying along is something of an understatement. Let's have a look:

Pardon those lousy trees blocking the view. Anyhow, this is the Recovery Cafe two weeks ago and now. Things are going really fast, but they done compare to the A.L. Humphrey House:

Ladies and germs, what we have here is a construction rampage, plain and simple. I hope that once it's up, it stays up. Usually, when I build something fast, whether it's IKEA furniture or a shrine to Vishnu, it falls apart quickly. It can't possibly be the case here, could it?

We close, as usual, with a shot of the A.L. Humphrey's crane, which is looking very non-majestic these days.

Friday, December 18, 2009

After Hours

Ellington/Smith/Taylor. Perdido

Here's a fun thing from 1969. Three players representing distinctly different styles all onstage together. There's Willie "the Lion" Smith, the old school stride merchant, who is least comfortable in this setting, Duke Ellington, swing genius (who sports a really bad greasy jazz mullet) and Billy Taylor, representing the post-bop generation. Their rhythm section is not the greatest, but this is television. It was Ernie Kovacs who said that television is a medium because it is neither rare nor well done, so the rhythm section's quality corresponds inversely with the vastness of the audience. As a special bonus, you get to see a pre-Nixon-interviewing David Frost being dismissed by Ellington. Overall, it's an interesting artifact. Nobody plays really well, but they all end at the same time, so that counts as a good performance.

What's the Best Thing You Can Give Yourself This Holiday Season?

A brief respite from self-loathing? Discount porn? A carton of menthols?

Did somebody say squirrel calendar? Because that's what I vote. All these little fellows are Euro-squirrels. You can tell because of their tight clothes and strange accents. So now I've done it; I've given myself the greatest gift of all - twelve months of squirrels.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

After Hours

Dalida. Pour ne pas vivre seul

I'm pretty sure this is the original version. If not, no big deal. It's not a very good tune. On top of that, it's not a very good performance. I've never heard of this Dalida person, but even with my limited knowledge of French, I can tell she sings with a fairly heavy foreign accent. She might be Spanish or Italian. It seems, however, she sang most of her songs in French. It's kind of like Bizet's Carmen. It takes place in Spain, features bullfighters, hot gypsies and the like, but is sung entirely in French. That confused me as a child. So maybe Dalida is the human embodiment of Carmen. I can't say for sure, though. Anyhow, our 8 Women version is done by Firmine Richard. She's really, really not a singer. So much so that she mostly talks through this number. There is some singing, but it doesn't sound very good. Check it out:

See what I mean? Not too good. I think I've reached the end of the 8 Women project. There's a tune sung by Fanny Ardant, but for some reason Studio Canal doesn't want anybody to see it. So no Fanny. As the French say, "Zut alors."

Ah, Apartment Life!

I won't lie to you; Belltown is loud. There are drunks, club-people, drunken club-people, crazy people, car alarms, sirens and fights that can jolt you out of your sleep at any ungodly hour. But last night was something else. I awoke at 4:30 in the morning. There was this immense rumbling in the hallway and my apartment was shaking. I had no idea what was going on. I had just about fallen back to sleep when it happened again. There was all this rumbling and shaking. I thought it was the pipes, but it soon became apparent that it was actually someone. Or perhaps even something. I didn't think it could possibly be my across-the-hall neighbors having a fight, because there was no yelling or screaming - just a lot of pounding. I didn't know what the hell it was and my mind wasn't awake enough for me to deal with the situation. It eventually stopped and whoever or whatever was doing it left. By that time, I was completely awake, so yeah, I'm a little groggy at the moment. When I left for the gym at 6:30, I expected to see all kinds of damage to my neighbors' door. There were no marks at all. There was, however, a weird wet stain on the carpet in front of the door. Ew! I tried not to think about that while I was on the elliptical.

I gave the managers a call a short time ago to find out what had happened. It turns out that the girlfriend of some guy who lives down the hall went sleepwalking last night. And yes, she was quite naked. In her zombie-like state, she thought my neighbors' apartment was hers and tried to get in. They were apparently not home. So basically, all the the shaking was caused by this naked chick trying to bust down the door. The manager eventually came down and took her back to her boyfriend's apartment. The stain remains. I still don't want to think about what it could be.

The next time it happens, at least I'll know that it's a sleepwalking naked chick trying to break into the wrong apartment and not some mute, angry rhinoceros trapped in my hallway.

Billy King Closes, Part Zillion

This isn't really news, because it happened a while ago and it also doesn't qualify for an "Oh, the Humanity!" because it's happened so often, but the Billy King Gallery at the former carpet store at Western & Lenora has closed. Well, I'm sure he'll find another location soon. I like the way he operates. He finds an empty storefront, moves in, sells art, then packs up and eventually finds another location. Apparently, he packed up in late-October/early November. I don't get down to that area of Belltown much, because, y'know, it's Western Avenue. But here is proof of his departure:

Sorry for the blurriness. My focus-bot must have been sick or something. Anyhow, I wish Billy the best of luck finding his next location.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

After Hours

Marie Laforêt. Mon amour, mon ami

There's not too much to this clip; just Marie cold singin' into the camera. When she's done, the audience applauds wildly for some reason. I kind of don't like the arrangement of this tune. The song itself is OK; it's just that the bouncy polka-like beat doesn't work very well. Plus, that weird organ in the foreground doesn't help things. Yes, the tune is repetitive, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. A good arranger would know how to deal with that, maybe adding little interludes between verses or something. Anyhow, that's the original. The 8 Women version is sung by the slightly-beady-eyed, fairly-hot Virginie Ledoyen. Ludivine Sagnier accompanies:

I like this arrangement a lot more, and Virginie does a good job with her tiny little voice.

Security House Scaffold-Watch: Week 9

Attention, sweet people! Scaffold-Watch is going on hiatus for the next two weeks! I'm gonna take a break from blogging for the last two weeks of the year. Of course, I'll be doing posts every now and then. For instance, I'm planning a "Belltown's Best of 2009" for December 28th. So far, I've got four things and one of those is "the day it hit 105 degrees." Remember that? So do I! I might do After Hours posts as well. I've really neglected Ukrainian pop music, so I might explore that madness. OK, so I'm not really taking a break. I'm just allowing myself time to wrap Christmas presents. That's all.

As for the Security House's scaffold, it's still there, as you can see. I decided to take this picture from the second of a possible two angles. This is the less good one. It seems that the workmen are getting into the holiday spirit somewhat. They've put up lights. It could be the season or it could possibly be a way to cut through Seattle's trademark December gloom. Either way, it's nice to see. For this scaffold, the only prediction I have is that it will still be standing on the first week of January of 2010. That's as far as I'll go.

McGuire Scaffold-Watch! Week: ???? + 35

This is also the last McGuire Scaffold-Watch for 2009. I'm sure many of you are relieved. You're thinking, "Golly, this would be one of my favorite blogs if he didn't talk about the McGuire with such obvious derision." Well, I won't be kicking the McGuire around for the next few weeks. It's doing a good enough job of kicking itself around. By the way, pardon the water-spattered lens. It was raining very hard when I snapped this picture. It's still raining hard and I'd rather stay dry, so we'll go with this photo. No matter how much water got on the lens, it's still easy to tell that it's a poorly-constructed building with an ugly-ass scaffold around it. Do you see? I can't help the derision!

Who would have guessed when I started this blog way back in April that this scaffold would still be up? Me! That's who! Who else? Bueller? Bueller? I won't make exact predictions, because the cosmic world doesn't operate like that, but I will say that the scaffold will still be there on Memorial Day, crappin' up Belltown's unimpressive skyline. The spirits tell me that it may be there even longer. So that's it for the 2009 editions of Scaffold-Watch. Peace out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

After Hours

Sheila. T'es plus dans le coup papa

Golly, somebody really wanted this tune. I mean, they filmed the freakin' TV and everything! Yes, the quality isn't that great, but it is the original version of the song. This is the legendary Sheila back when she had really crazy hair. A decade and a half later, she was a disco goddess, so she made a lot of bad style choices. However, as far as churning out hits, few were her equal. This was one of her first. It's short, peppy and annoying. I'm sure the kids bought it in droves. OK, so the 8 Women version is performed by Ludivine Sagnier, who looks very much like Penelope Ann Miller and Molly Ringwald's lovechild. She is also obvious not a singer - although you can spell "singer" by rearranging the letters in her last name and discarding one letter. It doesn't matter. She's still not a singer. She does a good enough job, though. Deneuve and Ledoyen back her up. It's all very cute:

Oh, the Humanity! Part 1

The Pita Xpress at 3rd & Bell has closed. Gosh, that didn't take very long at all! What happened? They opened at the tippy end of August and now they're a thing of the past. I guess that maybe there is a gypsy curse on this storefront. I ate here once. See, I'm not a huge lunch person, but I found it pretty good, though not especially cheap. At least the owner was really friendly. I always meant to go back, but now that's not an option. Well, poor Pita Xpress. It's too bad, but there are plenty of other cheap Mediterranean options close at hand. There's Kebab at 2nd & Virginia. They do a good job. Deli Shez is at 4th & Blanchard. I've never been there, so I can tell you nothing. There's also Falafel King in the Market. They're super-cheap, but sometimes not so great. Let's also not forget that there are two other Pita Xpress locations:

Like the sign says, there's one on Denny (which I hear is very good) and another on Howell (about which I hear nothing). Sorry, guys. A gypsy curse is a horrible thing to fight.

Oh, the Humanity! Part 2

Well, this closure is much less abrupt than Pita Xpress. Egbert's has been in Belltown longer than I have. When I moved here 19 years ago, they were already well established at 1st & Bell. Their line of business is "gifts and accessories," and indeed, they have had some very interesting stuff from time to time. I'm pretty sure that their decision to close was more the owners deciding to retire than them going broke. I was always surprised to see them chugging along year after year. It made me slightly curious as to how they stayed in business. Well, they managed. And although I haven't set foot in there in well over a decade, I remember them as carrying unique items that were surprisingly inexpensive.

Not to be morbid, but what do you suppose is going to go in this space next? I say a restaurant. It is the way of things. Please no more Asian fusion; Belltown is already saturated! Either that or Egbert's Episode II: Attack of the Egberts, another store exactly like Egbert's. If you've always wanted to shop there and haven't yet, now is the time. They're having a liquidation sale:

So long, Egbert's. Thanks for sticking it out so long in this crummy neighborhood.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

This sign always used to confuse me. Before I understood that this is an annual ritual undertaken by Blanchet High School, I thought that the good bishop returned from the dead to star in this show. Not so, my friends. Like children's shows, this production is always madness, too. It's like every Blanchet student's grade depends on them and their families attending the performance. So naturally, traffic is backed up for blocks and parking becomes ultra-cutthroat. You know Catholics - if you burn one by stealing his parking spot, the next thing you know, the pope and his goons are knocking at your door. You best give those papists a wide berth.

Monday, December 14, 2009

After Hours

Gluk'oZa. Oi-Oi

Welcome once again to trashy Russian pop Monday! Today's selection is a good intro to one who calls herself Gluk'oZa. It means glucose. Her real name is Natalya Ionova. Although she's quite good-looking in a weird androgynous way, you'll notice that she has an absolutely terrible voice. It's thin, nasal and grating. She sings all of her songs in the exact same way - not well. I didn't think it was possible for somebody to be this bad of a singer and still make a living as a singer. Oh yeah, right, Britney Spears. If it wasn't for pitch correction, she'd probably be a truck driver or something. As for the lyrics, they're not exactly Pushkin. The chorus goes like this: "Oi, oi, oi, oi, there's love between us" repeated over and over again. Very deep. Anyhow, you'll notice that this clip isn't as lurid or suggestive as so many others in Russian pop music. Don't worry, there are plenty of other Gluk'oZa tunes that are downright creepy. I'll get to those in the future. Prepare yourself.

The DSHS Gets Tagged!

Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit more than something scrawled in spray-snow on a government building. The war on Christmas is over - and the enemy is in full retreat! This weekend there wes a gaggle of filthy Santas roaming around the neighborhood. I think this bit of graffiti can be blamed on them. Frankly, I'd love to see more filthy Santa action around here. I thought it was primarily a Portland tradition, but they can't have it forever. I've seen the site that lists all these official documents regarding the filthy Santa gathering a few years ago (I'm too lazy to do a search for it). Apparently, the Portland police thought is was a legitimate threat to public safety, so they cruised around and arrested anyone dressed as Santa Claus. This only incited the remaining Santas to become drunker and filthier. It sounded like nonstop hilarity.

All this inspires me to go out this Saturday with my trusty camera and try to photograph as many filthy Santas as I can. Yeah, that sounds like a cool project. So it's decided!

As for the DSHS, they merely came in this morning and wiped off the tag. And now my holiday spirit is at a low ebb. Thanks a lot, guys!

The Moda: Epilogue

Well, the weather is cold and the news is slow, so I'm going to revisit one of my favorite stories from the last few months. I've written about it here and here as it developed, but now it's worth a mention that the situation has finally come to a resolution.

It involves the brand-new Moda Apartments on 3rd Ave., between Bell & Battery. About a month and a half ago, I got a tip that a gang of subcontractors (from an outfit called Brace Point Railing showed up unannounced with ladders, promptly disassembled about a half dozen balconies, threw the components into their truck and drove away. The workmen cited the Moda's lack of payment as the reason for their action, claiming that their company had been owed something like $20,000 for months. The story went as far as the local news, but quickly faded away. Meanwhile, those half dozen balconies were being replaced by parts cannibalized from other areas of the building. For me, that was the most bizarre aspect of the story. Instead of having six balconies that were unsafe, the Moda management made other sectors or its own building unsafe just to effect partial repairs on the balconies. It was madness.

Well, a month after the situation presented itself, it seems that the Moda has had its day in court against Brace Point Railing and it has emerged victorious. The terms of the settlement are unclear, but Brace Point Railing has returned all the parts that they repossessed. It's unknown whether they got the money that was owed to them, but as you can see from the photo above, they have their balconies back. They had to hire another company to reinstall them, but now Moda residents previously deprived of the opportunity to survey their domain can now stroll their eight square feet of balcony in relative safety.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Your Sunday Squirrel

Here's an interesting little example of squirrel coloring. Gray squirrels aren't completely gray. There's a lot of brown on them. This little fellow has a brown stripe up his back that goes all the way to his head. He's recently become quite friendly. I haven't seen him that much, owing to the cold weather. When it's below freezing, squirrels stay in. And who can blame them? They don't like being cold. So none of the Denny Park gang was around this week. They were all inside, watching Christmas specials and drinking cocoa. That's not a bad way to be.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Actually, it's more like "Recently Gone from the Moore." I just wanted to show Bob Saget's name up in lights, so to speak. I really hope his foul-mouthed comedy gig went well. Perhaps he told lots of jokes about masturbation and/or public urination. It's anybody's guess. I just want to say that I support his move away from bland, family-oriented material. It endears him to me more.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Coming Soon to the Moore!

It's going to be a very busy day for the Moore. I'm no expert in children's acts, but these guys appear to be the American equivalent of the Wiggles. Yeah, I know, God help us all. My nephew was really into those Wiggles a few years ago. In addition to being tremendously annoying, I felt that they created the unfair impression that Australians are friendly and helpful, whereas many I have met are merely drunk and loud. These poor Imagination Mover-guys are doing two shows today. These affairs are always chaos. The intersection of 2nd & Virginia is transformed into this gigantic all-lane load zone that snarls all traffic, all parking lots within five blocks are packed with poorly-parked SUVs and mini-vans and the sidewalks teem with children demanding merchandise from the show. Good thing I'm leaving town for the day. Kid shows are just total madness.

Speaking of madness, guess who plays there tonight? I'll give you a hint:

OK, that was more than a hint. It was more like the answer. Well, after years of doing bland and successful family-oriented comedy, Bob is finally working blue. But honestly, who wants to see Bob Saget swear? I'm sure that many other comedians do it better. Patton Oswalt, for one. Everybody else in the world, for another. Of course this all depends on just how much misanthropy Bob deals out. Even though I have no intention of going, I hope it's a lot.

Friday, December 11, 2009

After Hours

Gerry Mulligan. Line for Lyons

When Chet Baker left Gerry Mulligan to become the world's handsomest drug addict (at least for a time), Mulligan replaced him with a valve trombonist. Those of you who read this sucky blog know that I try to make fun of trombonists just about every chance I get. And why not? They're a big target. In average hands, the instrument sounds like somebody with chronic gas. You can't play it fast and it has little character. I mean that as compared with, say, a saxophone, trumpet or even a piano. Those are my prejudices against the trombone. I hang them all up whenever I listen to Bob Brookmeyer. He's about the closest thing to a genius on the instrument as I've ever heard. True, he plays the valve trombone, but it's still a trombone. You can play faster and not tire out your arm. Otherwise, same mouthpiece, same range, same everything else. If you suck on the slide trombone, you'll suck on the valve trombone. To be honest, I actually like the darker sound of the Mulligan Quartet with Brookmeyer. Chet Baker was an OK trumpet player. Brookmeyer was (and still is) a much better musician than Baker and he's able to blend and contrast with Gerry in very subtle and interesting ways. Gerry also deserves credit for taking a chance on Bob. He could have gotten another trumpet player. but he delved into the lower register by picking a trombone, which is also a baritone-tenor instrument. Although both were in the same register, there was a difference in timbre that I just love. I could listen to these guys forever.

The Bell Tower's New Look

Well, it's about time. For as long as I've been in Belltown, the Bell Tower has been this stark white hulking mass on 1st, between Blanchard & Bell. Way back in July, I did a post on how ugly it is. Recently, however, it's been undergoing some renovation. This has included a new paint job. Instead of that particularly unpleasant shade of white, it's not light gray, with its elevator shaft a shade darker. Here are the before and after shots. This is from last summer:

This is from a few days ago:

Can you tell the color's changed? Since the building faces east and it's December, the sun doesn't actually make it to this side. But you catch my drift, right? It's a new, more attractive color - it's still a very ugly building, but it has a better paint job.

And Speaking of Guy Fieri...

I saw this at 1st & Lenora just a little bit ago:

The guy's got his own truck! Wow, talk about hitting the big time, baby! I still can't figure out what his show at the Moore is gonna be about. Are they setting up some sort of kitchen onstage? Maybe he's cooking in front of an audience. He won't be the first. The Galloping Gourmet used to do that back in the seventies. He usually ran around like a crazy man because he was completely soused. But he never had his own truck. If you go see Fieri tonight, please let me know what he does. I'm dying to know, but not enough to buy a ticket.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

After Hours

Duet. Toi Jamais

OK, this is totally not the original version. The singer who first did this was none other than Sylvie Vartan, but the YouTubes doesn't have a version of it. And here I've been praising it as a valuable cultural institution for the last week. Well, what have you done for me lately, YouTube? So this is a fairly cheesy version by two Asian ladies calling themselves Duet. There are two of them. Get it?? At one point, they break into another language. What is that, Laotian? Thai? It's definitely not Chinese or Japanese, that's for sure. Anyhow, they put on a show and their backup dancers earn their pay. The 8 Women version was done by none other that Catherine Deneuve. Here it is:

That's the almost-equally-as-lovely Fanny Ardant looking on. You know, I remember it being a lot worse than this. I guess I remember wrong, because this is actually pretty good. I'd even go so far as to declare it better than the Asian ladies' effort. That'll do, Deneuve. That'll do.

McGuire Scaffold-Watch! Week: ???? + 34

I am quite close to actively pitying the poor dwarf army toiling on the sides of this terrible building. It's very cold out. Why, just sitting in my apartment and writing this sucky blog is something of an ordeal, because I keep the heat off during the day and the temperature inside becomes comparable to the temperature outside. My hands tend to freeze by the afternoon. If they turn black is that a bad thing? Just kidding. So the poor dwarf army still toils away. In the freezing cold, they toil. In the wind and rain, they toil. In the burning heat, they toil. That's just the way it is for your average working dwarf.

On a note unrelated to dwarf-pity, am I the only one who wishes that they'd put some Christmas lights on that scaffold? It would really cheer the whole structure up. And since they're paying no doubt a tremendous amount of money for scaffold rental, for just a few hundred bucks, they could really convey the holiday spirit, whatever that is. Well, I suppose it begins with lights - and ends with somebody passed out face down in the eggnog bowl. All I know is that at this time of year, I'm totally pro-light. I have some up in window and about a million of them on my tiny, plastic tree. You can see the window lights and the glow from the tree if you look over from the V-Bar. If they don't get you in the holiday spirit, well, then you're truly hopeless. And that is why the McGuire needs to put lights on their tremendously ugly scaffold - to let everybody know that they're serious about Xmas.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

There's no explaining this dude. His frat-boy look is at least 10 years out of date, his Wolfman Jack-lite rasp is grating on the ears and from what little I've seen of him on the Food Network, he's not particularly funny or even entertaining. My introduction to him was on those commercials for TGI-Chili-Applebee's. I thought he was just some actor with poorly bleached hair. But no, he's got his own show(s) and everything. Can you imagine how they pitched it? "OK, chief, so this doofus here goes around to hole-in-the-wall places around the country, invades their kitchens and makes food. Roll credits." I can't even conceive of what he's going to do at the Moore. It doesn't make sense to me when food people do these gigs. Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali did something similar at the Paramount last May. Do they just stand around and talk about food for two hours and then take a bow to thunderous applause? OK, sure, Bourdain is an entertaining character (especially when he's being a mega-jerk, which is often) and Batali makes a fine henchman, but Fieri? What's he gonna do? I guess you'll just have to go in order to find out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

After Hours

Françoise Hardy. Message personnel

Here we have the lovely FH singing one of the more popular seventies French ballads. Me, I think it's, like, sappy city, but what do I know? It's very French, which may explain why it's actually in French. For example, there's a lot of this when-you-say-stay-I-want-to-go-but-when-you-say-go-I-want-to-stay-and-I'm-really-afraid kind of stuff. But honestly, I can't see anybody navigating through life with the assistance of this song. Imagine how unfortunate that would be. Anyhow, there was a version of this in 8 Women. Isabelle Huppert sang it - not altogether badly. Her voice is - what's the right word? - distinctive. It a little rough and raspy, but she gets the job done just fine. Of course, she does even better with all that talking before the singing. Anybody can talk - except maybe for people who are mute - so that goes off without a hitch. Here's that version:

I have no idea where this falls in the film. I seem to recall that many of the songs have nothing to do with what's happening onscreen. That was one of my major beefs with it. Also, it wasn't that great of a film unless your only goal in life is to see Catherine Deneuve sing. Like almost everybody else in the cast except Isabelle Huppert, she does a fairly poor job. Speaking of Catherine Deneuve, I'll feature her tune tomorrow. That should be a reason to get out of bed. Or maybe not.

Security House Scaffold-Watch: Week 8

Here's my latest theory about the Security House: it's not a renovation project, it's a Christmas present. Some monstrously gigantic little boy will come along on Christmas morning, unwrap it and take it home. And then he'll rip away the roof and eat all of the unfortunate old people who weren't visiting relatives at Christmas. Yum!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

After Hours

Coryne Charby. Pile ou face

Here's eighties-hot Coryne Charby wearing a large jacket and singing her hit song from the, uh, eighties. You know, a few years ago I saw the film 8 Women. It wasn't a completely enjoyable experience, but I did recall that this song was in it. And because YouTube is so awesome, there resides the 8 Women version of it with nineties-hot Emmanuelle Béart.

You'll notice that she's not a singer - and how! But all the actresses in the film are in the same boat. Some performances are better than others. You can judge for yourself because I'll post all of the original tunes with their 8 Women counterparts. I think there are four in all. Anyhow, enjoy.

The 5 Point Experience, Part 2

Well, it wasn't much of an experience. My neighbor at the counter this morning was correct. There was a line going down the block. Observe:

It was probably an hour's wait just to get in, and the temperature was below freezing, so I did the prudent thing: I went to the completely empty V-Bar for some V-Noodles. They were quite good.

I missed out on the meatloaf and the burger. Well, I did get in on the morning action. Anyhow, happy 80th, 5 Point!

The 5 Point Experience, Part 1

It's the 80th anniversary celebration at the 5 Point and I've just returned. Yes, the prices really are from 1929, but there are only three items to choose from. I sat at the counter and the guy next to me ordered all three: the bacon and egg breakfast, burger and fries and meatloaf AND he put it all away. No, he was not a pudgy fellow; that counter does not accommodate the obese. It ended up costing him 75 cents for everything. Me, I had the bacon and eggs (their bacon is honestly the best in town):

(This is a partial depiction; I didn't think to take a picture till I was nearly halfway done.) And for dessert:

A tiny, 25 cent PBR - the breakfast of champions! To quote Tom Waits: I don't have a drinking problem, 'cept when I can't get a drink. I know that I often badmouth PBR for tasting like metal filings mixed in with fizzy water, but this morning it was a great way to finish off the meal. My final tab: 50 cents.

Despite the promotion, it was surprisingly uncrowded. Larger parties will have to wait for a table, but I found a place at the counter right away. Nevertheless, you'll have to wait at least half an hour for your cheap chow. One crazy old woman stormed out in a torrent of very unladylike swearing because she was not "down" with the concept of waiting offset by low price. Otherwise, everybody was fine with it.

I will return this afternoon for the meatloaf. My hungry neighbor at the counter predicted that the line will stretch down the block. We'll see about that.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

I've never heard of these guys, but here are two things I've recently learned about them: 1. 60% of the band wears nerd glasses, and; 2. they're not named after the hangout on the original Beverly Hills 90210. That was the Peach Pit. The local dive in the Jerry Lewis comedy masterpiece, The Nutty Professor, was called the Purple Pit. Neither of these is the Passion Pit, but they're close enough to cause slight confusion. Am I wrong in concluding that this is not a very good band name? I wish them a really nice gig at the Moore regardless.

Oh, and just to tie up loose ends since we're talking about the Moore... There was no surprise appearance by Sonny Rollins on Sunday. Commenter "Ken G" was fibbing. Question: why should one person on the internet want to lie to another person on the internet? It's a mystery for the ages. OK, so now we all know that if you're thinking about going out with "Ken G" and he sends you his picture, it's probably not recent.

Monday, December 7, 2009

After Hours

Blestyashchie. Agent 007

This particular incarnation of the Blestyashchie features neither Zhanna Friske or her sister, who looks quite a bit like her. The group has changed personnel no fewer than seven times, so I'm totally not sure who all these people are. Even the Wikipedia is uncertain as to who its members are at this moment. Anyhow, this video shows us what it takes to be a Russian secret agent. Apparently, it involves wearing silver boots and cute hats. That's all you need. Well, happy spying, girls!

Construction's Great Leap Forward!

Well, there has been much progress in the two projects being built around these parts. As usual, we look at the Recovery Cafe first, two weeks ago and recent:

Gosh, I thought they'd added a floor, but I guess I was mistaken. Let's just rate their progress as "steady" and move to the A.L. Humphrey House.

I had to change the shot to include the whole structure, but I assure you that's the same building. Can you believe that? What did those guys eat for Thanksgiving? They're just flying through this job. I guess it's no fun working out in the cold, so they're hurrying it along. Well, I say that if it doesn't fall over, good job, guys!

And here's a shot of their crane:

Its stature is getting less impressive each day.

For No Reason at All: Lee Marvin

Well, not the real Lee Marvin. That version probably ain't looking too good at the moment, but here's a picture hanging at the famous Roc LaRue Gallery.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

I got a comment last night in my last Moore post, claiming that none other than Sonny Rollins was playing at the KMTT Winter Warmth concert. I think somebody is Yankee-ing my doodle. I sent my flying monkeys around the internets this morning and could find no mention of Sonny, save for his upcoming appearance here in May, 2010. If it really happened, then, well, why was Sonny crashing the singer-songwriter party? It makes no sense. I know that he likes to play in front of different kinds of audiences, but why this show? And what singer-songwriter in his or her right mind would want to follow that? The guy's been recording for 61 years! Anyhow, if I did miss out, I like to remind myself that not only is Sonny the absolute best guy I've ever seen live, he's also the worst. I've experience both sides. I guess that's why he's always worth seeing; the show could go either way. So if you were at there last night and heard Sonny play, good for you!

As for the Cranberries, God help us all! That "an dare bums, an dare gons" tune they did years ago was easily the worst song of the nineties. Sure, "The Macarena" was also a terrible song of that decade, but at least Los Del Rio could laugh at themselves. The same can't be said of the Cranberries. I'm pretty sure that if Sonny is still in town (if he ever was), he'll sit this gig out.