Sunday, January 31, 2010

Your Sunday Squirrel

One of the things I like about squirrels is that they often stand on their haunches. This makes them seem a lot less like rodents and more, well, human. Mice and rats rarely eat standing up, but squirrels do it almost exclusively. True, they're not the smartest animals on the planet, but when you can climb a tree like that, do you need to be? Recent theories about human evolution purport that the reason why our brains grew to such a comparatively large size is that we had no specialization. So basically, squirrels' great climbing ability is their greatest hindrance toward becoming super-intelligent. But if that day ever arrives, I'm betting their number one industry will be tail extensions.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

After Hours: Ska-turday Edition!

The Specials. Concrete Jungle

Here's one of my favorite tunes of all time. It's all about pre-Thatcher paranoia and about how being fashionable isn't safe. It's a live performance from the film Dance Craze, which is well worth a gander. The Specials' first album was produced by none other than Elvis Costello. I've read interviews with him where he said that he didn't have a clue to what he was doing, but when anybody was looking his way, he'd just twist a few knobs on the board and act like everything was under control. Well, somehow it all worked out, because the Specials' debut was a masterpiece - a true document of young Britain in the late seventies. Of course, their second album sounded a lot like their first, but it wasn't without its charms. Expect many more clips from these guys in the future.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

I've heard from several people that, while they really like Paula on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, they're truly afraid that her standup routine will suck. I'm with them there. Initially, Paula wasn't so great on WWDTM; she was poorly informed and her timing was completely off. But she actually started reading the newspaper and playing off her fellow panelists (especially Roy Blount Jr.), so now she can keep up with everybody else to the point where she occasionally wins. This gig is just gonna be her alone and, like I said, there is great cause for apprehension. But honestly, she can't be any worse than Bob Saget.

Here's something else I discovered this week. You know, since I discovered The Venture Bros., I've been trolling the Adult Swim depths for something comparable. This has led me to Metalocalypse, which is occasionally funny. It's not Ventures Bros. caliber, but it has its moments. For those unaware, it's a cartoon series about what the world would be like if an idiotic black metal band were the richest and most popular entertainment act in the world. Anyhow, I was watching it this week and noticed that there's some similar hair-action going on. Observe:

Paula Poundstone, and...

William Murderface

Similar! Just the hair. Am I right?

Friday, January 29, 2010

After Hours

Ben Webster & Teddy Wilson. Old Folks

This is some very late Ben - 1970 in Copenhagen. From the mid-sixties on, all the monster players couldn't get gigs in the U.S., so a lot of them headed to Europe. Ben settled in Copenhagen from 1964 till he died in 1973 (although he passed away in Amsterdam). For the life of me, I can't figure out why he starts crying during Teddy's solo. It's not that lyrical or anything. Everything's normal and suddenly, he's got tears running down his face. I dunno, maybe good memories, maybe bad memories. Perhaps the world was changing and he suddenly realized that there was nothing he could do about it. Whatever reason there is, this is a nice reading of an old warhorse.

UPDATE: Apparently, Ben was distraught over the recent death of Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington's stalwart alto player. He died in the dentist's chair after an illustrious career of sounding the same for 40 years. Don't get me wrong; I love Johnny's playing and one of the things I truly admire about him is that he never changed.

An Anniversary of Sorts

By my reckoning, I quit smoking a year ago today. I haven't had a single cigarette since then. It's kind of amazing, considering that my previous 11 or 12 attempts failed. I'd always planned to cheat, but I never got around to it. Things were particularly bad when I was traveling around the South last February. Cigarettes were cheap and you could smoke just about everywhere. Somehow, I always forgot to buy a pack. I don't know how that happened, but it did. And it took months for me to feel normal again. Even in August, I was vowing to start smoking again, because I was feeling so incredibly creepy. I got distracted and forgot about that, too. Things would be just dandy if I didn't play cards with a bunch of smokers. Spending a couple hours several times a week is giving me the fits again. I guess the only solution is to not play cards until the fits retreat. At this point, I can't imagine going back. I like breathing. I don't wheeze or constantly feel like I'm gonna hurl at the gym. And I save money. That's the main reason why I quit. I also didn't want to feel like I was slowly dying.

You know, there are all kinds of people wandering around Belltown asking for smokes, regardless of whether they see one in your hand or not. They just assume that the entire world is a smoker. At first, I would just dispense with the basic, "Sorry, man" refusal. But by May or June, I started saying, "I quit in January, so I can't help you there." That's about the time when things began getting slightly better. They improved from then on, but I certainly wasn't out of the woods. Somebody told me that I'd be back to normal after a year. Funny thing, though, I played cards last Tuesday and breathed that smoky air for around two hours, and today I've got a very strong Jones going on. It seems a fitting way to celebrate one year of being liberated from cigarettes.

Look What They Builded

OK, this isn't in Belltown and it's not open yet, but it's worth a mention. I knew that they've been working on it for quite some time, but this is the first time I've seen the sign lit up. I initially heard that this was going into the former Rite-Aid space at 4th & Pike, but my sources were incorrect. Its real place in the world is on Pike, between 1st & 2nd. Its space was formerly occupied by a crooked pawn shop (that got caught fencing stolen goods) and a porn store. I guess having a Hard Rock there is an improvement. Heck, if Phoenix and Ho Chi Minh City can have one, so can we.

I never really got the mystique of the place. I mean, I'm not sure whether having lunch there will infuse you with oodles of street cred. But they continue to expand and people seem to think it's a great place. These days, the corporatization of rock 'n' roll is complete. Bands that call for the downfall of society get sponsored by Pepsi. Eric Clapton hawks phones and just about anybody who can halfway play an instrument and has an armload of tattoos can get a series on MTV. The whole "rock 'n' roll lifestyle" has been done to death. It was a tired and worn-out concept when Cake sang about it in 1995. But nevertheless, I see why they're putting the Hard Rock there. It's for tourists who are intimidated by the hive-like Pike Place Market and want to have lunch at someplace familiar and reputable. Falafel King is just a hole-in-the-wall joint. Why go there when Hard Rock is a worldwide operation? The noodle place's menu is in Chinese. At least the Hard Rock's is in English. Why go to the Bolivian restaurant? Don't those people eat guinea pigs? No one will try to serve you one of those at the Hard Rock. Plus, they've got guitars on the wall!

Well, I wish them the best in any case. I'm quite curious to see how this will play out. If they fail, I'll bet you 50 bucks that it will revert to a porn store within three months.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Do you like to see people running/jumping around? Do you like drumming? If you said yes to both, this might be your show. Although it is to taiko drumming what Stomp was to tap dancing, it looks pretty exciting. At the very least, it'll be loud. The only thing is that I don't know how much spectacle they can exhibit on the Moore's wee stage. I'm sure they'll find a way and everybody will be happy and joyous.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

After Hours

Jenny Rock. Douliou douliou Saint-Tropez

Here's an extremely inoffensive pop tune by Jenny Rock. Hey, I bet that's totally not her real name. And she wants to walk barefoot down to St. Tropez. OK, have fun with that, "Jenny." Call me when you need shoes.

Turn, Turn, Freakin' Turn!

You know, I had great ambitions last summer of photographing all of Belltown's lushest greenery while there were leaves aplenty. This mainly involved walking down 4th & 5th block by block, because all the other streets just don't pack the same punch. I wanted to be able to compare shots from high summer to the dead of winter. Well, it's pretty much the dead of winter, so I tried my best to duplicate the summer shots. It seems that I only took three shots in this grand effort. Let's have a look at the then and now. Here is 6th & Wall:

OK, sun's shining/it's quite dreary. Through the magic of photographs, we now go to 5th & Wall:

Sun-dappled/bleak and cheerless. And finally, 4th & Wall:

You can see with your own eyes that things have changed. For one thing, there aren't any leaves on the trees. Then there's the overall grimness of the landscape. It doesn't bother me, but if I had SAD right now, I'd be selling a cornea to get a ticket to Hawaii. Anyhow, things change. Leaves fall and the overall landscape becomes something else entirely. So there's your contrast in seasons, kiddo.

Belltown Challenge: Glassblowing Studios vs. Indian Restaurants

After a long hiatus, the Belltown Challenge is back! To be honest, I kind of forgot about it for a few months. But no more! The rules are simple: whichever business that has the greater numbers wins. Wins what? Nothing, except the honor of knowing that they won. Hey, everybody's scrapping to win kudos from an unemployed blogger! Anyhow, today's contest is between glassblowing studios and Indian restaurants. Think that this is going to be a blow-out? You might be surprised!

Let's start with glass blowing studios:

Known simply as Seattle Glassblowing Studio, these guys are situated at 5th & Bell. The studio has been around since 1991, but I'm pretty sure it's been in Belltown for less than that. Every time I walk by (which is fairly often), they always have something interesting out on their sidewalk. Around Christmas, they had all these massive tree ornaments and at Halloween, they had full-sized glass pumpkins. Wouldn't it be cool if we had a "Glassblowing District?" Well, unfortunately the economy can only sustain one studio in this neighborhood. The next closest one you'll find is in Pioneer Square. I used to work above it. They did mad business with the tourists. Those are the only studios I know of. I'm sure there are others, but they definitely aren't in Belltown or Pioneer Square. So the grand total for this crummy neighborhood is one. Let's count the Indian restaurants now.

You would think that the popularity of Indian food meeting the abundance of restaurants in Belltown would spell an overwhelming victory for Indian eateries, but you'd be wrong. Observe:

Behold, the Tandoori Hut, located on 2nd, between Vine & Cedar. As you can see, it's a lot bigger than a hut. I used to get takeout from here all the time, but recent economic circumstances don't allow for that. It's a shame, because they're quite yummy. And takeout is the way to go, because despite their best efforts the place has, like, zero ambiance. But if you drop by for their lunch buffet, you have no choice in the matter.

And that, folks, is the only place in Belltown for Indian food. Yes, there's Pabla at 2nd & Pine, but that's downtown. It is also quite tasty, but it doesn't count. I keep thinking that there has to be another Indian restaurant in Belltown, but I've wracked my brains and I can't think of any others. If I'm wrong, let me know.

So let's review the final score:

Glassblowing Studios 1
Indian Restaurants 1

It's a tie! Nobody wins, but nobody loses! Congratulations to both competitors!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

After Hours

Françoise Hardy. Il est tout pour moi

Although I'm not crazy about those "aftermarket" videos on the YouTube, I make exceptions from time to time. This is some very, very early FH, back when she was merely one "ye-ye" among many. That was all to change in the years to come (along with the fortunes of fellow "ye-yes" Sheila and France Gall), but it gives you a good idea as to where she started. It seems that the French discovered rock 'n' roll only around 1961. And this is what it sounded like until about 1965, when Serge Gainsbourg invented a practical version for his countrymen. Anyhow, from the very start FH had a nice voice and cool white boots. Enjoy.

De Crane ! De Crane!

Whenever you see this sight, you know that something cool is going down. Yesterday was no exception. They sent in a giant mobile crane, blocked off Cedar Street and dismantled the A.L. Humphrey House's construction crane. In past weeks, the building had been rising to the point where its once-majestic crane seemed puny and irrelevant. Once that happens, the arrival of the crane-crane is imminent. Whenever the crane-crane shows up just about anywhere in Belltown, I always seem to stumble onto it. It's great to see them making such huge strides with the Humphrey House. Soon, a select bunch of crazy people will have a nice place to stay. I'll go out on a limb here and predict that it'll be all done by April. There, you heard it here first.

McGuire Scaffold-Watch! Week: ???? + 41

OK, finally a different-ish photo of the McGuire. I just walked a little further down 2nd Ave. and let it fly. As you can see, the scaffold is still there. I didn't detect very much activity at all. There was just this loud hissing sound coming from around the sixth floor. God knows whether it was part of the problem or part of the solution. Otherwise the dwarf army was not in sight. Most of them are kicking mole people ass elsewhere at the moment. All that drilling in the area has brought them to the surface. Who can blame the dwarf army? The mole people have really done a number on them in the past. They've messed up their crops and ridiculed them in public. And now they're fighting. And where is the McGuire in all of this? Nowhere. It's just a building with issues to be resolved later. Until then, we get to stare at that ugly-ass scaffold.

Security House Scaffold-Watch: Week 15

Although it may seem like I'm recycling the same photo of the Security House over and over again, I assure you that I'm not. I'm totally going the distance for you, my three readers. I'm walking over a block and a half, standing in the parking lot that many people going to the Mexican Consulate use and taking my shot. It's just that good perspectives of this place are limited. And unlike the McGuire, the Security House scaffolding stands on this one side only. My options are limited, so this is the best shot you can expect. But it's new every week. This I swear.

As for progress on this sorry place, well, you be the judge. I don't see anything new at all. When I walk past it, I see guys scurrying around under that attractive plastic sheet. They're not as boisterous as the dwarf army struggling to fix the McGuire, but I know that they're present on the scaffold. That's all I can tell you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

After Hours

France Gall. Y'a du soleil à vendre

Gosh, it's been ages since France stopped by. And we've sure missed her, haven't we? This is kind of a random clip from 1969. She's just cold walkin' around a clothing store lipsynching to this rather appealing bossa nova tune. You'll also notice that there's just one camera and just one shot. Last week, I was really impressed with Sheila holding it together for around a minute. Well, France does a really good job for more than double that. What a pro! Lipsynching is actually pretty difficult. She manages to sell the words and walk at the same time. And on top of that, this song seems to fit her rather, er, distinctive voice. When she sings it, my head doesn't want to explode. Hooray!

So Long, Santa Mural!

It's about time. I don't know whether you're aware of this, but Christmas is over. The news took some time to reach certain mural-painting powers, so for the last few weeks we've been looking at Santa Claus in a sailboat with some kind of vague accompanying slogan. Well, no more. There's a new Adult Swim ad in town:

This obviously doesn't feature Santa, but what the heck is it all about? Here's a closer look:

I still don't know what they're trying for. Here's the deal: if you already know Adult Swim, you're aware that it's brilliant and you watch it (if you have cable, which I don't). But if you have no idea what it is, does this explain anything. I say no. It's irreverent, yes, but it details nothing about the show or its component parts, many of which are hilarious - especially The Venture Bros. This doesn't diminish Adult Swim in my eyes, I'm just puzzled that with all the zillions of channels out there, they can be as vague as this. That's all.

So now I'm going to be trying to make sense out of this every time I walk past it for the next however many months that it stays up. I don't think I'll be able to do it.

Oh, the Humanity!

Well, it appears that the dream is over for International Kitchens at 2nd & Vine. Here is a bad picture. I tried, but there were no good ways to photograph it. It's simply not a very photogenic retail space. Observe:

They're not abandoning operations completely; they're just ceding Belltown to the rising tide of kitchen tribalism. If people around here really want an international kitchen, they'll have to go to Bellevue for it. And speaking of that, what exactly is an international kitchen? I understand why people would want German appliances or French layouts, but what if I wanted a Gambian kitchen? Can they hook me up? Or if I was really adamant, could they build me a Ukrainian kitchen? For the uninitiated, it's a building kept separate from the house, usually standing on the opposite side of the yard. This is done, they told me, in case any of the gas containers used for cooking should explode. The resulting devastation would only extend to the kitchen itself and any casualties would be suffered by the womenfolk. But the house proper and the men would be fine. That was apparently the strategy. But anyhow, could they organize a Ukrainian kitchen for me? How about a Brazilian kitchen? Exactly how international are they?

Monday, January 25, 2010

After Hours

Blestyashchie (& Arash). Vostochnie skazki (Eastern tales)

Here's a recent incarnation of Blestyashchie. I can't tell you whether it's the latest one. The only thing I know is that neither Zhanna Friske nor her sister is in the band. The guy in the straw hat who dances really badly is Arash. He must be famous on some level, otherwise they wouldn't let him record with Blestyashchie. Anyhow, it seems the girls find a breakthrough method of teleportation; they open a lamp and bingo, everybody wants to dance. The world works that way in Russian music videos. Plus, nobody seems to wear a lot of clothes - including Arash. I wonder if he had to shave his back for this occasion. If I ever meet him, I'll have to ask.

Why I Live in Belltown

OK, it's time I talked about this. After all, I've been living here for almost 20 years. I mean, what can possibly make me want to stay in one of Seattle's more notorious neighborhoods? Read on. Maybe my reasons will make sense to you, maybe they won't. First a little background.

I grew up in Edmonds, a pleasant town a little north of here. If you ever wanted to do something, you had to walk to it. The store was 20 minutes away, downtown Edmonds was thirty minutes and the mall was forty minutes. The streets were extremely pedestrian unfriendly; there wasn't a single sidewalk within a half mile of our house. Life was pretty quiet. In fact, nothing ever happened. It was downright dull. Many people seemed to like it there, but it wasn't for me. Even after I got my license, things didn't get any more interesting. At the time, the City of Edmonds was on a crusade against anybody under 30, so I spent a lot of time looking out for cops, who would pull me and those of my age group over for no reason at all. It seemed so silly that my driving privileges depended on the whims of local law enforcement, but the reality was that if I got tickets, I'd lose my wheels. And if I lost my wheels, I'd have to walk to work and school and have no social life, etc. I guess it was about that time that I vowed that I would eventually live someplace where a) things happened, and; b) I didn't have to depend on having a car in order to survive.

Several years went by. I lived abroad for a little while, then tried Ballard on for size. It was slightly more exciting than Edmonds, but it still wasn't right. Finally, one night when I was lamenting my predicament, a friend recommended the Rivoli in Belltown. It was being renovated (after decades of neglect) and the rent was cheap. My first studio in 1990 went for $255 a month. I have a one bedroom now. Rent has climbed over the last two decades, but it's still affordable, if you don't mind that your place is on the smallish side.

Belltown's main selling point then is as now: you can walk to everything. For me, that is a huge reason why I stay here. You walk to work, you walk to a restaurant, you walk to the store, you walk to the movies. And you don't have to walk far to get to anything, because places are close. Full disclosure: I do own a car. I keep it in order to visit family in the area. They're all situated out of reach of public transport. I've done the cost-benefit analysis numerous times and for me, car ownership and garage costs are actually less than what I'd pay either renting a car two or three times a month or with a Zip car.

Sure, this neighborhood gets its share of bad press; it's a crack-soaked hellhole infested with crazy people and party animals who scream and yell at all hours while sirens and car alarms blare. That reputation is way overblown. Most of the time, my section of Belltown is quite peaceful. OK, maybe "peaceful" isn't the right word. I think that maybe "guardedly calm" works better. I'm only one floor above 2nd Avenue, so if it was truly as terrible as they say, I'd have left long ago. I mean, who needs that kind of aggravation? And because of that perception, people who move to Belltown and want to party 24/7 are often terribly disappointed. Sure, there's action here, but not all the time. Most party people I've known end up moving to Capitol Hill - or if they're super-serious about that lifestyle, they move to New York. But honestly, despite the crack, crazy people, drunks, noise, occasional bad smells, graffiti and all that, it's a very livable neighborhood.

A few years back, I experienced something that reminded me why I was still living in Belltown. I was house sitting with my girlfriend for a week out in the Crown Hill section of Ballard. It's a nice neighborhood with tidy, solid houses nestled along cute, narrow streets. By day three, I was going bonkers. I felt like I'd been abandoned by civilization. The closest store was 15 minutes away on foot, but I never, ever felt like walking. The street was so quiet that a passing car was a major event. Almost no one walked anywhere. Maybe the worst thing of all was that the view never changed. You looked out at the house across the street and they looked at you. It was always the same. From my 2nd floor perch at the Rivoli, I look out directly at the wonderful Darth Vader building, a restaurant, a tattoo parlor, the sidewalk across the way and up at a myriad of large buildings. The view is always changing; I'm always seeing this neighborhood in a different light.

After a week in Ballard, I was so relieved to be back in Belltown. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Ballard, but it is what it was over two decades ago: not for me. For as long as I live in Seattle, Belltown will be home. True, it's not the prettiest neighborhood in Seattle - some spots are downright ugly - but it still feels like the right place.

(Cross-posted at the P-I blog)

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Well, this looks a worthwhile thing. Gosh, Haiti's bad luck has reached almost Slavic levels. They've got widespread poverty, an ineffective government, an ongoing environmental crisis and now an earthquake. I hope something good can come of this, but I'm not holding my breath. At this point, if the quake's survivors don't die of hunger or thirst, I guess we can consider that a victory. What happens to them from here on out is uncertain. Their society has collapsed. Will rebuilding it as it was do anybody any good? Is there any other way to approach it than simply clinging to the old ways? Gosh, these questions are beyond my pay grade. Besides giving money, there's nothing else to do but wish Haitians the best in getting through this ordeal.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Your Sunday Squirrel

Well, I hope you had a frank and productive National Squirrel Appreciation Day. I sure did. I went to go see Avatar on the world's smallest IMAX screen. It was still quite the filmgoing experience. Anyhow, I'm watching football all day today, so I'll just quickly give you a handsome profile shot of this little guy. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Afer Hours: Ska-turday Edition

The English Beat. Mirror in the Bathroom

They actually played this tune at my gym this week. What a shock! I sang along. There was nothing unusual about doing that. Anyhow, I'm still convinced that this is one of the finest tunes of the eighties. It's tense, weird and a bit surreal. Somebody told me that it was supposed to be about masturbation, but I think they were dead wrong. It's obviously about garden-variety narcissism. And that's all. For this clip, all the guys are here: the two Daves, Andy, Ranking Roger (who doesn't do much during this video except wear a large hat and dance a little), Saxa and the rest. I was under the impression that Saxa was dead, but he's just pushing 80 and living in Birmingham, which is another form of death, I suppose. Of course, later on the band went through some personnel changes, released that awful "I Confess" song and broke up in 1983. I saw them on that last tour. They were fantastic. Dave and Roger went on to form General Public and Andy and other Dave were in the Fine Young Cannibals. I think maybe other Dave and Andy got the better end of that deal. Every so often, the Beat reforms and goes on tour. For a time, they were the best second-wave ska band in the world, but that time is long past.

3rd Ave. Feels the Love!

Two blocks closed (from Virginia to Pine; one in Belltown, the other in downtown), a phalanx of metal monsters and the strains of Baroness von Jackhammer in the air. Ah, the SDOT is at it again. This time, the object of their affection is 3rd Ave. And why not? That street needs as much help as it can get. I mean, it's Belltown's crummiest street. Here are some pictures:

I have no idea what they're trying to accomplish. All I know is that those two blocks don't seem to need it. I mean, the street ain't full of holes or anything. Maybe they're going to replace what they've got with a more appealing shade of pavement. Whatever improvements they make will be an improvement, because it's 3rd Ave. after all.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Portly stand-up comedian who is no relation to Julio Iglesias. I've never seen his act, so I don't know whether he's funny or not, but I understand that he is unique in that he doesn't work blue. That's supposed to be his selling point. Lenny Bruce is rolling in his grave. I mean, in this country any kid has the right to grow up to be a foul-mouthed comedian. It's in the Constitution, you know. If we can't count on our favorite comics cursing non-stop and telling jokes about genitalia, then what have we become as a nation? I wish Iglesias luck.

Friday, January 22, 2010

After Hours

Ben Webster. How Long Has This Been Going On?

Here we have Ben Webster playing somewhere in Scandinavia during the sixties. Accompanying are competent bassist Nils Henning Orsted Pederson, the marvelous Kenny Drew on piano and some drummer. Although Ben was very good at big, loud, take-no-prisoners playing, his most memorable tunes as a bandleader are ballads. I like his slow tunes, because he exhibits a lot of patience in waiting for any given chart to open up for a lyrical turn. It's a very admirable thing to have. Me, I'm totally impatient. I'll just jump into the changes, because if I don't, the guys in the band will think something's wrong and then something weird will happen. Yeah, I blame the rest of the band for everything. I'm sure Ben did the same.

Forest Giant Sighted!

The slow news continues in Belltown. I just got back from walking around, and at 2nd & Blanchard, I spotted this massive guy. Rarely do people so tall come to Belltown, so it is a unique treat. The fellow might be even taller than Obama economic adviser and gentle giant, Paul Volcker. If he's not a forest giant, then I'll venture that he's actually a shaved Sasquatch who wearing special foot-shrinking, orthopedic shoes. Anyhow, welcome to the neighborhood, large man - or possibly man-ape! We're glad to have you!

This Doesn't Swing! Call the Police!

It's Friday and things are slow here in Belltown, so I thought I'd pass along something that my pal Jim sent me. It seems that this American sax player named Larry Ochs was playing with his group, Drumming Core, at a jazz festival in Spain. During the performance, one particular audience member became so distraught that he called the cops to arrest Ochs and band. The original story is here. Larry and his guys play a kind of post-free jazz. It's not for everybody, but I really doubt whether they should be arrested for it. Me, I like his playing, but I can't get into his music. Here is what he sounds like:

Pardon the awful camera work. As you can see, there's somebody painting in back of Larry. Plus, there's an Asian guy looking bored in the middle of the stage for the first three minutes of this video. Now that's how you put on a post-free jazz concert! Like I said, it's not everybody's cup of tea, but should these guys be arrested for it? If that poor, distraught guy in the audience had any gumption, he should have sued the concert promoter. Why the heck did he bring the police into it? And how did the story get to the press? It was probably the Spanish cops themselves with their funny hats and machine guns trying to make the guy feel like an idiot. Well, it's nice that Larry can laugh about it. Jazz musicians go through a ton of crap, but being arrested for playing at a jazz festival shouldn't be on the menu.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

After Hours

Sheila. Ecoute ce disque

Here's Sheila from the early-mid-sixties doing a very ordinary video for a very ordinary tune. But there are two things that distinguish it. First of all, the instrumental break is played on a MUSICAL SAW!! Lord, how completely insane and gratifying. Don't try to stop the saw! Secondly, about the first two minutes of this video is all one take, as is the last minute-plus. That's kind of an achievement. The more stuff I see by Sheila, the more I realize that she's quite the consummate professional. That doesn't mean that every one of her tunes is good. This one certainly isn't, but I'll tell you, the musical saw saves it from being bad.

Happy National Squirrel Appreciation Day!

What's not to appreciate? Well, I guess squirrels could have broken into your house and stolen your computer or prescription meds or something. Most squirrels aren't like that. They just want to eat peanuts and climb trees. Around here, we have gray squirrels, like nearly all those featured on Sunday Squirrel. If you can remember way back to mid-November, you'll know that I confirmed the presence/existence of black squirrels in British Columbia, like so:

There are red squirrels back east, but did you know that they have white squirrels in North Carolina? It's true, look:

There are enough of them that they have a White Squirrel Festival in Brevard, NC every year. Me, I think we should have a gray squirrel festival around here. The squirrels might not understand, but I think it would be a good excuse to drink.

Anyhow, let's appreciate all the squirrels out there. Not running them over qualifies as appreciation. I'm off to Denny Park to hand out peanuts then I'm gonna see Avatar at the IMAX, because why not?

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Well, this guy's been around forever. And he's looking very much like the last person in the world you'd want to fight in a bar, because his look is an odd combination of murderous and frail. Hitting him would make you feel bad, but if you didn't hit him, he might very well kill you. That's your dilemma. And no, I don't think anybody should go out and pick a fight with Steve Earle. I've kind of lost track of him over the last few years. I know that he won a Grammy a few years back, but honestly, who hasn't? Anyhow, he's a polished performer and a noted personality, so he should be quite entertaining.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

After Hours

Jacques Dutronc. Mini mini mini

This is Jacques Dutronc from 1966 singing (barely) a tune about fashion and Albert Schweitzer. You'll also notice the lovely FH guest starring. She is at times tiny and at other times colossal. But she does have nice legs. She and Jacques have been together for all this time. As far as the better musician goes, I'm a firm believer in FH. She was a better singer and performer and she was way better looking. Dutronc's stuff is a little intriguing because of its relentless headbanging simplicity. It was ahead of its time in terms of sounding like punk rock, but I doubt that anybody from the Sex Pistols listened to Jacques and got ideas. The fact that Jacques' stuff sounds like early punk rock is just a coincidence. I mean, if you listen to French punk music from the seventies, it sounds nothing like this. If anything, this tune sounds like early American punk. And I'm not sure anybody was listening to him over here. Like I said, coincidence. And FH has nice legs. She says something funny at the end, but I don't know exactly what she says, so I'm not gonna try to translate it. But she does say something about everybody in England wearing miniskirts, as well as the Scottish.

McGuire Scaffold-Watch! Week: ???? + 40

Has it really been 40 weeks? I guess it has. I mean, only a person keeping track of ugly-ass scaffolding could tell you for sure. Well, even less is happening at the McGuire than at the Security House. The dwarf army seems to have blown town again. It might be because of the mole people once more. They're doing a lot of drilling, so it might be dislodging the mole people and bringing them to the surface. Dwarfs and mole people are natural enemies, so they're most likely at war again. That means that nothing on the McGuire gets fixed and the scaffold stays right where it is. But that's OK, because I wouldn't recognize the McGuire at all without its wrap of metal tubing. If I saw it without the scaffold, I'd be all like: "Who are you?" And it would be all like: "I'm the McGuire." And then I'm: "You're not the McGuire. Where's your scaffold?" And it's: "I don't need it when I'm walking around." And I'm: "Sorry dude, I'm not buyin' it. Go back to Bellevue." That's totally what I'd say.

Security House Scaffold-Watch: Week 14

As you can see, not much is going on here. I've stopped trying to figure out what is going on here. I thought it might be a gigantic puppet show or some such, but it seems I was incorrect. I think it's probably your standard exterior renovation, although a puppet show would be nice. Now that they've gone past the three month mark, the novelty has worn off and I'm just waiting for them to remove the stupid plastic and take down that damn scaffold. I realize that this isn't a race, but I have this to say to those working on the Security House: If the McGuire finishes before you're done, it means they're better than you. Get back to work.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

After Hours

Michel Fugain. Une belle histoire

Here's French semi-hippie, Michel Fugain, in a velvet tux singing a bittersweet ballad. Things really go south when Caterina Caselli shows up. She's not a very good singer - in any language. You'll recall that I already featured Fugain and friends doing a tune that called for them to act like birds. Yeah, that was something. This is quite tame in comparison. Of course, it would be a lot better if Caselli could sing.

News Flash!

Bell Street is a mess:

OK, sure, it's always a mess, but right now it's messier than usual. There's such a conundrum of traffic and heavy equipment over there that it's probably better to avoid it, even if you're on foot. All this work is in preparation for the Bell Street Park Boulevard project, which begins in earnest in around two months. But right now, they're just tearing up everything in sight with their sundry metal monsters. I hope that makes it a better park. I'm still fairly convinced that it's gonna be a disaster.

Monday, January 18, 2010

After Hours

Irina Saltykova. Byla ne byla (I was, I wasn't)

Here's a Russian pop star about whom I know very little, except that she's almost 44. She also looks a lot like that actress who used to be on Nip/Tuck. What's her name? She used to play Gina. Ah yes, Jessalyn Gilsig. Anyhow, this isn't such a bad tune as far as mindless Russian pop goes. There's a lot of fire going on, but that sort of thing is really common in Russia. Things burst into flames all the time. People are used to it, so this video is exactly like real Russian life.

Welcome to the Neighorhood!

Two new places in Belltown - and they're not bars or restaurants! The first is Under the Needle Tattoo:

I've written about this place before, but back then they weren't open and I didn't know what they were called. Now it appears that they're open for actual business. This makes them Belltown's only tattoo parlor. If you're in urgent need of a tattoo, check them out. You can find them on 2nd Ave., between Blanchard & Lenora. Basically, if you walk past the V Bar, you've either gone too far or not far enough. I have no interest in skin art (Free Bird!! Whoooo!!), but the window promises that there's more to them than ink:

What the heck are "soft goods?" Anyhow, the place looks clean and friendly enough.

Next up is a shop called Damaged Goods:

I swear to God, I'm totally oblivious about some things. For nearly a year, this space was the Halogen Gallery, the place that was right next to Roq La Rue. Well, that's no longer true! Unbeknownst to me, Halogen and Roq La Rue merged, and Halogen's former space suddenly became Damaged Goods. If I'm wrong about that, let me know. Here's their story: it's a thrift/vintage/music/junk store owned by former Screaming Trees drummer, Mark Pickerel. According to my source, the shop came about when Pickerel's brother-in-law moved into his house and thus displaced a bunch of his stuff. Instead of putting it into storage, Pickerel decided to open a store and sell it. I haven't been inside yet - they keep some odd hours, as do I - but from the window, they seem to have a lot of interesting stuff. They're located on 2nd Ave., Between Battery and Bell.

You know, when I first moved into the neighborhood, there were a handful of thrift/vintage/antique stores. They were fun to have around. But they've all been gone for years. It's nice to see one make its way back here. Anyhow, let's welcome them to the neighborhood by getting a pentagram tattoo and an old copy of Soul Sauce by Cal Tjader.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Oh no! The Moore is running out of the letter N. Such a tragedy! Well, this shindig appears to be a corporate event. These Onvia guys keep track of all sorts of government contracts and help companies win them. So when they say "revolution," they might mean that they're gonna bring the government down from within. And it all starts at the Moore. The only question is when. The marquee doesn't say. I guess we'll know for sure when the government falls.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Your Sunday Squirrel

I'm not in the habit of translating pictures into LOL, but this one clearly cries out for the following caption:

I promise no more LOLz ever again. I just couldn't resist.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Afer Hours: Ska-turday Edition

Madness. One Step Beyond

New feature! You know, there's a whole heck of a lot of 2nd wave ska on YouTube, so I'm gonna post some classic from those bygone days every Saturday. Today's offering is Madness' wonderful first single. My absolute favorite moment is at 1:28, where they're all walking down the street in unison. It only lasts for something like two seconds, but it is so very cool. Of course, Madness would go on to mainstream stardom with "Our House" and later rename themselves as The Madness (ugh!), but this is the version of Madness that we all know and love. In the future, I'll post many other ska classics. You'll know that I'm getting short on material when I start posting videos by (*groan*) the Selector. Lord, I hate those guys. Anyhow, enjoy the antics of Madness.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Since I don't have cable, I barely know who this guy is. I've seen one episode of Insomniac. It was from Amsterdam. It was not very funny. I can see how this guy can be entertaining in a stand-up context, though. Who knows, maybe he'll achieve funniness tonight.

Friday, January 15, 2010

After Hours

Wes Montgomery. Windy

There are very few videos of Wes in action on the YouTubes, but here's one. True, it's not too terribly interesting, but you gotta admit, that is one super-hip tux. This also gives you a pretty good view into Wes' playing. He was all about playing octaves, and that's why his pop stuff is so pleasant. OK, so he's performing a tune by those hippies, the Association. It's not jazz. In fact, his last four years (he died in 1968) were spent doing pop covers for A&M. By the way, that's Herb Alpert himself who does the intro and outro. Herb was Wes' producer during those A&M years, so naturally he had to say that Wes was his favorite guitarist and so forth. But his departure to pop left a void in jazz that could only be filled by imitators. It wasn't until the seventies that jazz guitarists became prominent again. But I don't blame him for getting away from jazz. It's a hard life. He could make way more money playing pop covers. And then he died, so I guess it's all a moot point.

So Long, Flying Fish

Well folks, the Flying Fish (aka the Frying Fish) is pulling up stakes and moving out of the neighborhood. Since 1995 (has it been that long?), they've been at 1st & Bell, dishing up all kinds of yumminess. They're still dedicated to that principle; they just plan to do it somewhere else - like South Lake Union, for example. Uh...OK. This spring, they'll relocate to Westlake & Thomas, into one of Paul Allen's nice new buildings. You know, that part of town is notoriously dead at almost all times of day. I mean, it's so dead that light can barely escape. Maybe the new-and-improved Flying Fish is exactly what the neighborhood (or that particular stretch of Westlake) needs in terms of a commercial jump start. Boss-lady Chris Keff seems confident that they'll do good business. I have my doubts. What I don't doubt is that the food will be really good. So if South Lake Union is too far for you to travel, go visit them soon.

Christmas Is Really Over

Great Jones has finally taken down its decorations:

I've stowed my holiday spirit along with my wobbly plastic Christmas tree in my Murphy bed. Now you can send out all your Martin Luther King Day cards. And don't forget that next Thursday, the 21st, is National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Support your local squirrel. I hear that peanuts make the ideal gift.


Definitive proof that taggers aren't math geniuses. He can put that on a dozen more signs and it still won't be right.

The Thrill of the Drill

Well, apparently they're drilling in preparation for some kind of deep-bore tunnel or some such. At least that's the story. I still think it has something to do with the mole people. All I know for sure is that it's really loud - on par with last summer's Operation Enduring Pavement, which resurfaced all of 2nd Ave. Here's what the outfit on 3rd looks like:

It's almost right out in front of Dan & Rey's. Does it have some kind of negative impact on their business? Does anything? No, we could have a huge zombie invasion and Dan & Rey's would still do a brisk trade among zombies and non-zombies alike.

Here's the situation at 2nd & Blanchard:

Yeah, it's pretty much the same scene as the other day, except that they brought their own toilet. I guess they're here for a while. Good luck with that deep-bore tunnel, guys! It sounds deeply boring. Thank you, I'll be here all week!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

After Hours

Sylvie Vartan. Dans tes bras (je veux l'oublier)

Here's Sylvie from 1965 with a "wall of sound" attempt. It's actually more of a "chainlink fence of sound." Golly, she's really belting it out - and she doesn't really need to. Just let the microphone do the work, baby! But still it's a fun tune. In just a few short years, Sylvie would be getting in more than her fair share of car accidents (she survived all of them) and becoming a Barbarella-like character for a short time. She's still around these days and remains almost everyone's favorite Franco-Armenian-Bulgarian singer. Charles Aznavour (who is also still very much alive) is merely Franco-Armenian, so he's in a different category.

Oh, And They're Also Building This

This isn't in Belltown. It's right across the 2nd & Denny border in the Dukedom of Lower Queen Anne. As you can see from the Google photo, it used to be an H&R Block office. I thought it was going to be just another apartment building until its design clearly indicated it was something else. And now I know for sure that it's a place for First Methodists to gather and talk Jesus. Second Methodists are not welcome. But everybody else is. They seem like friendly, accepting folks, these First Methodists - except if you're a Second Methodist. Let's wish them much safe and humble worshiping in the years to come.