Sunday, February 28, 2010

Your Sunday Squirrel

I was getting a little worried. For most of the week, I'd only seen one squirrel. And it was the same guy - not the fellow above; I took that shot two weeks ago. Sure, there were a lot of guys around Denny Park doing maintenance and such, but urban squirrels are bold. Naturally, I feared the worst. But this last Friday, I saw no fewer than six. The weird thing is that they all seemed completely unaccustomed to somebody handing out peanuts, whereas there were a whole bunch of them who would come running whenever I called them. They don't seem to be around anymore. I fear the worst. However, squirrels are quick to learn that peanuts are delicious and that I won't hurt them. Very soon, this relatively new crop won't be nearly as skittish. But by then, there will be others who fear both peanuts and humans. I guess it never ends.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

After Hours: Ska-turday Edition!

Madness. Baggy Trousers

Golly, I'm already running low on ska tunes! How the hell did that happen? At this rate, I'll be posting stuff from the freakin' Selector in just a few weeks. You have been warned. So this is just a minor tune from Madness. It's all about how England is a wretched place to grow up. True enough, but once you're an adult, it's a scream. That's something worth surviving for. I mean, you can get anywhere in a day and everybody speaks English. What's not to like?

Coming Soon to the Moore!

I've only seen a few episodes of this show, but I like it. It dispels the notion that Canadians are all quiet, polite and friendly. They can be just as trashy as us! The series isn't on the air any more, so that's why they've taken their act on the road. What's it gonna be like? Well, I'm pretty sure there'll be lots of swearing. The was a big selling point for the original series. Did you know they also made a TPB movie? Yeah, me neither. Anyhow, this show will probably not suck.

Friday, February 26, 2010

After Hours

Benny Goodman. Sing, Sing, Sing

This is a very short version of the tune, but it's no worse than some of the longer takes. It might even be better. You get a lot of Krupa, some Harry James and enough Benny Goodman. Even though Benny didn't pay his guys squat, they sure looked sharp. And speaking of Benny's guys, I unearthed the trailer for The Gene Krupa Story. It starred method actor Sal Mineo in the title role. The big dramatic moment arrives when he gets busted for marijuana possession. That's not entirely accurate. I believe he got busted for smack and some well-placed bribes made it into weed. Either way, it's pretty hilarious how everybody shuns him. This trailer pretty much gives you the story for the entire movie, so you don't have to go out and see it. Have a look:

It's got one of my favorite lines in it: "You hear that, papa? Your boy's caught the train again!" Yeah. Oh, and the opening with Sal playing drums is dynamite. The rest of the movie is a terrific mess.

Closing Time

As you may know, the Night Exhibit is closing this Sunday at the Woodland Park Zoo. Say goodbye to the night monkey, folks:

Goodbye, night monkey! By the way, that really is a picture of the night monkey. It just didn't turn out so good.

I heard that the slow loris and bushbabies will stay. No news on the anteaters and fruit bats, though.

As Predicted...

The awful graffiti on the blockhouse of mystery at 4th & Battery has been eradicated. It is now available for more temporary demonstrations of self-expression.

Well, Finally!

My trivia team has managed to do something rather odd and cool this season - we've led all competitors in total points without winning a single contest. We've had a lot of second places and such. Last week, we were a disappointing seventh and because of that, we briefly relinquished our lead. But last night we finally won. And it certainly didn't feel like a victory until they announced it. It felt more like a fourth place showing. Hey, we'll take it! Not only did we do well, our nearest competitors kind of tanked, so we have more of a cushion. We would have won even without our miraculous guesses - there were several: Andy's guess of Rampage Jackson and mine of the Slim Shady LP by Eminem. FYI, I hate Eminem and never listen to his stuff. We got both the 10-point bonus (the number of films that De Niro has made with Scorsese) and the 21-point end bonus, which was all about film sequels. Still, there was nothing that made it feel like we were steaming along to victory. But that's the way it was. After three consecutive first-place finishes, rivals Super Karate Monkey Death Car went down in defeat. After falling way behind early in the season, they've been kicking ass recently. Not last night, though. If we can muster another win, we can just coast into the playoffs. Anyway, it's really nice to lead AND win.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

In terms of singer-songwriters, this guy is reasonably special in my book, because:
a) I know who he is, and
b) I like him.
Tunes like "Code Monkey" and "Zombies" really won me over, although their lyrics are a bit weak in places, plus "Code Monkey" unexpectedly turns into a love song - rather than it being a tale of a hapless drone in a featureless landscape - but otherwise, he's quite the troubadour. In addition to those two numbers, he wrote a song a day for a year. I wrote a brass piece a day till I hit 300. It took me 323 days. I'm pretty sure his songs are more entertaining, unless you're totally into brass music, in which case, you'd probably like my stuff way more. Anyhow, I would seriously consider going to this show, but I have the unwieldy Icebreaker Festival to attend tonight through Sunday. This is the time of year when the Seattle Chamber Players bring out all the scariest contemporary music from around the world. Tonight's madness comes from the Netherlands. There will be another four concerts on Saturday and Sunday, so I'm stretching out my ears to prepare for the great event. But I wish those attending Coulton's gig much joy.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

After Hours

Michel Delpech. Pour un flirt

Well, by 1971 Michel's hippie anthem, "Wight is White," was far behind him, so he returned to his harmless pop roots with this tune. Did I say harmless? It all depends on how you look at this clip. He's either a simple, everyday horndog or a serial killer. He takes his special ladies into the bushes and emerges alone. What are we supposed to think? I say serial killer. He claims two victims in the first part and at the end of the video, he walks away with yet another special lady in tow and we're all overjoyed to know that he will kill again. Murder conquers all. Hooray!

There's Something You Don't See Every Day!

I encountered this on 1st, between Stewart & Virginia yesterday. It's a set of box springs. The strange thing is that I passed by that spot, went into the Market, quickly bought stuff and on my way back, there it was - like it had been there all day. It had magically appeared in the intervening time of around five minutes. It looks both at home and out of place at the same time. At home, because, well, it's Belltown, home of large, worthless items. And out of place, because this is a relatively swank segment of 1st Avenue. With foot traffic what it is on 1st, I'm betting that it's been dealt with. I'm still trying to figure out how it got there, though.

McGuire Scaffold-Watch! Week: ???? + 45

Lookee there! The light pole is taller than the Space Needle! Why isn't that the symbol of our precious city?? By the way, the McGuire's scaffold is still there. The dwarf army continues its loud working ways. They weren't as loud as the metal slicing brigade at the Security House, but you could still hear them blocks away. I compliment them on their efforts to make the McGuire less ugly and defective, but once the scaffold comes off - if it ever does - the building will merely be less defective. I don't remember too well what it looked like without that sheath of metal tubing around it, but I seem to recall that it was quite non-beautiful. All the dwarf-work will probably not change it in any significant way.

Security House Scaffold-Watch: Week 19

I know that this looks a lot like last week's photo, but it isn't. If I want to Needle-bomb the shot, I have just one angle - and this is it. So, new photo, same scaffold. La-dee-dah. The non-dwarfs were actually doing work while I was passing by. They were sawing metal, which always makes a lot of noise and creates many sparks. I'm sure it's somebody's version of "looking busy." I've figured out another reason why they should be done: their work area is so much smaller than the McGuire. They should have been done weeks ago. But no, they're almost at the five-month mark. Five months trying to beautify the Security House! Good luck with that one. But hey, take your time.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Back in the eighties, I listened to the radio a lot. Everybody did. It was fun - not like today. Anyhow, during that decade, only two music acts would make me shut off that radio as quickly as humanly possible. They had tunes so unendurable that I couldn't stand to listen. One of them was Animotion, a terrible glam-wave creation. Luckily, they were a one-hit wonder, vanishing after a short and painful stint on the charts with "Obsession." The other was Suzanne Vega. Mere words cannot express the hatred I have for the song "Luka." You remember that one, don't you? It's the one where this kid comes up to some schmo in her building and says, "Hey, you're my downstairs neighbor. Don't worry, nobody's beating me - except they are. Peace out." I hate that song on so many levels. And yes, I hate Suzanne Vega for singing it. She's the responsible party. I hate her. I'm also not crazy about anything else she's done. Most of it is just merely pretentious. "Tom's Diner" is an example. I also hate that song - not as much as "Luka," but enough. Funny thing, it wasn't a hit until some DJ made a remix of it. But unlike "Luka," at least it wasn't forced down our throats. For almost a year, "Luka" was in heavy rotation. It's one of the reasons I stopped listening to the radio. Every time I'd switch on, she would be there, trying to convince me with her tiny voice and wan expression that child abuse was bad. Guess what? I already knew that!! Jeez, give it a rest! Did that song have any impact? Hell no! It's pop music, not social policy! You know that in 1983, U2 released an album called War. Its message? War is bad. Did war go away? If anything, it increased! I think Bono's voice is to blame. It makes people want to tear each other's heads off. But I digress. If you're a big fan of Suzanne Vega, I apologize. Go in peace to her concert. Enjoy a live rendition of "Luka." I wish you a long and happy life. Me, I will continue to hate Vega and her music until she produces something that isn't dopey, pretentious or utterly lacking in musical quality.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

After Hours

Kobza. Z horikha zernya

This is a nice old Ukrainian ballad. Except for the weird jazz interlude, it's very nice. I don't know what my aunt's favorite song was. But I'm pretty sure she liked this tune.

Rotten Family News

I just got news that my Aunt Zosya has passed away. That's her with her twin grandkids. She was by far my favorite old-country relative. I'm planning on visiting Ukraine this spring and was really looking forward to seeing her. Well, now I get to see everybody else. I guess I shouldn't be too upset. I mean, she was 77 - and that's way above normal life expectancy in Ukraine. And she had a tremendously hard life. She spent 10 years in a Siberian prison in the forties and fifties for being a kulak. She outlived two husbands and had one son, my cousin Arsen. Aunt Zosya was a cheerful soul, although like almost every Slavic woman, she could burst into tears without much prompting. She was curious about the outside world, which was an uncommon trait for those of her generation. She was always asking about American relatives and life. I told her what Belltown was like. She declared that she'd probably hate it and that she preferred farm life, because it was the only kind that she'd ever known. And so it was.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

OK, I'm gonna say their name out loud a few times. Hold on... Almost done... Nope, it's still a dumb name for a band. I haven't actually ever heard their stuff, but as long as they're not as bad as Los Lobos, I could possibly dig them. They get additional cool points for hanging out a lot with Willie Nelson, but gosh, it's not a very good band name.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

After Hours

Sylvie Vartan. Ballade pour une fugue avec Jean-Claude Brialy

Who the heck is Jean-Claude Brialy? Well, he was (he croaked in 2007) a French actor who starred in all these French "new wave" movies in the fifties and sixties. The guy liked to work hard; he was in 26 films between 1956 and 1959. I'm not exactly sure why Sylvie's so miffed at him in this clip. He's clearly stalking her - that's about the most romantic thing you can do for your French special lady. Well, he does end up with her. And check out that scarf! I think 1969 was officially the last year you could wear a scarf in that manner and not automatically be considered gay. Anyhow, this tune is really weird. With a little reworking, it could actually be very good. But that's for somebody else to do. I've just spent all day reworking five of my own creations, which accounts for my lack of blogging initiative. I'll have a lot more stuff tomorrow.

What Can You Do?

When I was coming home from the gym, this is the sight that greeted me:

It's a guy sacked out in front of Real Change - on the sidewalk. Generally, people sleep in the doorway, so that's a little unusual. I'm just a little curious - since I've never seen this actually happen - what those who work at Real Change do when they come across somebody sleeping in their doorway. They're a homeless advocacy group, so they're probably nicer than most. And because of that advocacy, they draw in some who are more likely to spend the night in their doorway. So if they were somewhere else, there would probably be fewer people sleeping in that doorway. But all things being relative, Real Change is actually a good neighbor - especially when compared with the El Rey, which stands next door on the other side. Someday, I'll write at length about having an entire building of crazy people as next-door neighbors, but for now, let's just say that it can be challenging at times. There are myriad of quality-of-life issues that crop up all the time. But that's for another time.

Back to the original question: how does the Real Change staff react to people sleeping in their doorway? Most of those who sleep in the Rivoli's doorway are usually so messed up that they think they're sleeping in Real Change's doorway. If you should wake them up, they'll typically want to fight. I just leave them alone, step over them or whatnot, unless I can't get out the door because of them. Asking them to move seldom leads to good results. Does Real Change have a better approach? I merely curious.

Monday, February 22, 2010

After Hours

VIA Gra. Американская жена (American wife)

I just can't get over how un-clever their name is. Yep, that's how subtle Ukrainians are - not very. Anyhow, this is the title song to a Russian film of the same name. I've never even heard of it. It actually looks - what's the word? - watchable. Many Russian films cannot make a similar claim. Most just trudge along until everybody sobs - or everybody dies. But this movie has bright colors and quick young people with unusual hair. The song isn't great. That's mainly due to the arrangement. Somebody didn't know their jazz theory, so you have disagreement between the chords and the melody. There's something else weird in the chord changes, but I can't figure out precisely what it is. In case you're wondering, that phrase they keep repeating that sounds like "yemu ne nuzhna Amerikanskaya zhena" means "he doesn't need an American wife." Now you know. Yes, very sophisticated - especially that unfortunate bit of scat singing at the end.

The Rivoli at 100!

Part 1: In the beginning...

On January 1st of this year, my building, the Rivoli Apartments, quietly turned 100. Buildings are like racehorses, their birthdays are always January 1st. But I challenge you to find me a 100-year-old racehorse. The Rivoli's century of survival has been as unlikely as it is unusual, but despite all that, it continues to keep watch over the southwest corner of 2nd & Blanchard for now and into the foreseeable future.

Way back 101 years ago, 2nd Avenue looked like this:

This shot was taken from around Bell Street; the Moore and Josephinium are those big buildings in the distance on the left side of 2nd. Notice anything different? Yeah, there's a big ol' hill across the street! That's pretty much how things appeared at the time the Rivoli was built the following year.

The building's architect, A.H. Albertson, came to Seattle working for the prestigious New York firm Howells & Stokes. His original task was to develop the University of Washington's downtown properties, but he stayed on and designed the Northern Life Tower, St. Joseph's Church, the Seattle YMCA and numerous other buildings. How he ended up designing the Rivoli is a bit of a mystery, as he was obviously more interested in projects much grander than building an apartment building for dock workers. Whatever the reason, I'm glad he did it. I really love this old wreck of a building.

As you can see, the Rivoli's front is pretty ornate, considering its utilitarian purpose. Here you can find marble, wrought iron and terracotta all accenting the functional brick design. This is quite a contrast from its next-door neighbor, the El Rey Apartments (also built in 1910), which has almost zero ornamentation and far less charm. What you see in the picture above is only about 25% of the Rivoli, because it's an L-shaped building that wraps around a functional two-story structure that contains Cafe Zoe. The rest of the building is much more plain. But the ornate entrance counts for a lot.

The Rivoli's apartments are small. They were originally intended to house dock and other low-wage workers for cheap. Cheap places are small. But the building's saving grace is its high ceilings. Most of its units are studios. Combine a studio with a high ceiling and you can feel a bit like you're living in a box, but try living with a low ceiling - it's downright claustrophobic. I have one of the few one-bedroom apartments that the Rivoli offers. It's tiny - just a bit over 400 sq. feet. Yeah, it's small, but its location can't be beat and rent is still relatively cheap.

I had always believed that it was built as a walk-up. After all, it's only three stories tall. I was wrong. There was an actual working elevator for at least 60 years. When the building fell into disrepair in the sixties and seventies, it broke down and the then-owner decided to build over all traces that there had ever been an elevator.

The Rivoli was built halfway through a population explosion that increased Seattle's size threefold. It and other buildings in Belltown offered small apartments to both manual laborers and office workers. Over time, many of these places have disappeared and been replaced by condo towers, but the Rivoli has managed to avoid the wrecking ball. Next week, I'll explore why it's survived for so long.

Tune in next Monday for Part 2: Bad Days, Ghost Stories and Our Crazy Modern World.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

See what I was saying about people with ordinary names finding relative fame? So who is this guy? Brad Garrett's brother? No, he's a German-American pop violinist and heartthrob. Apparently, he's fast. He holds the world record for quickest performance of "Flight of the Bumblebee." Well golly, that's impressive, but as a sax player, I can tell you that speed is overrated. Playing fast is just an excuse to not play something substantial. For my first few years of learning to play (I started quite late), I just wanted to get fast. It took a long time, but I could play lots of notes at quick tempos. As soon as I could do that, I soon found that it was a hollow pursuit. It was just notes. The music became much more meaningful with fewer notes. Whenever I hear guys flashing their technical chops and playing torrents of notes for a long period of time, I always have the urge to fall asleep. Guys, fewer notes, more music. I'm sure there are more, but the only two guys I can immediately think of who play tons of notes and still sound great are Johnny Griffin and John Coltrane. Coltrane has his legions of imitators and Griffin does not, but they both knew how to keep the big picture in mind when they were blazing along. So yeah, speed isn't completely crucial. It's better to have an outstanding sense of tempo than anything else. That's what I say. Anyhow, I've never heard this David Garrett guy. I just know that he was a child prodigy (strike one), is part German (strike two) and plays pop music covers (strike three). Who knows, maybe someday he'll become the Kenny G of the violin.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How Nice Is It?

This nice:

Also, this nice:

How warm is it? That warm:

Enjoy it while you can.

Your Sunday Squirrel

With all this nice weather we've been having, you know what I haven't seen a lot of at Denny Park? Squirrels. I've only seen ones and twos of them all week. Back in January, there were always quite a few of them milling around and being squirrely. Gosh, I hope they haven't been throwing themselves into traffic. They're remarkably unsavvy when it comes to cars. That reminds me of another squirrel story from my hometown of Edmonds. This happened at least 30 years ago. My mom, sister and I were heading off to mass one Sunday, late as usual. My dad only joined us for holidays, such as Easter and Christmas, and even then, it was a grudging attendance. So we're driving down a road near our house. My mom's at the wheel, going rather fast. We always ended up standing due to our habitual lateness. Always. But she thought that speed would give us the edge in the matter. She was always wrong. Always. Anyhow, we're heading off to mass when I hear my mom gasp. I hear this slight ping! sound by the right front tire, then she slams on the brakes. We're all jerked forward. All this loose stuff in the car flies to the front. The car comes to a jarring halt. "Oh, I hit a squirrel," she says. Apparently, the little fellow had darted out from nowhere and she had no time to react.

My mom has always been an animal lover, but she prefers birds over everything other than horses. She tends to look at squirrels disparagingly, because they eat what she puts out for her beloved birds. But that doesn't mean she wouldn't be completely devastated if she ran over a squirrel. "What are you talking about?" my sister asked, pointing down. "He's right there." It was true. There was a squirrel right by the side of the car, looking a little woozy, but very much alive. He staggered off in the direction from which he had come and was seen no more. Here's what happened: heedless of our rapidly approaching car, the squirrel decided to cross. Instead of certain death, his timing was such that in his mad scramble, he had run directly into our car's hubcap. Back then, they were made of metal, which accounted for the ping! noise. So we didn't hit him; he hit us - with his head.

We were of course late for mass and stood, but that was quite a bit better than being late, standing and having the demise of a squirrel on our consciences. So that is the second of my two and only two squirrel stories. Both of them are true.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

After Hours: Ska-turday Edition!

The English Beat. Twist & Crawl

Well, it was quite the spring day today, wasn't it? It's kind of fun to go out and see all the people in their shorts. You won't catch me doing that sort of thing, because it's STILL February! Anyhow, here's the Beat with a classic off their first album. There are several live versions on the YouTube, but none of them beat the original. But it's a trade-off, so you have to stare at the same picture for the whole tune. You also don't have to see how chubby Dave Wakeling's gotten. I'm saving you a lot of consternation, folks. You're welcome.

Friday, February 19, 2010

After Hours

Miles Davis & Gil Evans. Blues for Pablo

This is a really superb clip from 1959 with Miles playing Gil Evans' arrangements for the album Miles Ahead. This is just part of a larger televised session. If I can find decent-sounding clips (that's kind of a challenge), I'll post them all. In his autobiography (which is really hilarious at times), Miles describe Gil Evans as an obsessive perfectionist. He claimed that it would often take Evans several weeks to write just a few measures of music. He would write and rewrite until it was perfect. And that's what you hear in this track - and also on Evans' solo albums. Out of the Cool is particularly good. It was recorded just a year after Miles Ahead. The band is smaller and the instrumentation is more diverse. But Evans' arrangements are just as well-constructed as they are here. I heartily recommend it. Anyhow, I really like this clip, because you're there at the session. There's all this intimacy and intensity of the real thing happening in real time.

...Plus the Space Needle

You know, the Space Needle is such a common sight that I forget to look at it for weeks on end. I even used to have a kinda-sorta view of it (though I had to stick my head out the window to see it) until they built the starkly unattractive Senior Services Building a few years ago. Well, they do take good care of old folks, so I guess it's worth the view-blockage. Anyways, I just cooked up a challenge for myself: to try to Space Needle-bomb as many Belltown photos as possible - for fun! Here are a few I took today when I was out in the nice weather:

Of course, that's the McGuire with its scaffold. Suyama Peterson Deguchi is in the foreground. I thought it would be a lot tougher to capture the McGuire and the Needle together, but it was really easy. I just had to look with my eyes and then take a picture with my camera. The shot below is Belltown's ugliest building, the Bayview Tower:

The shadows and tree branches are obscuring a whole lot of gruesome architecture. You're welcome. So there's my first attempt at Needle-bombing. More examples will follow, because news is slow and the weather is very nice.

More Bloomin' Trees!

In case you haven't taken a look outside, it's really quite nice. I've spent a fair amount of time out there, trudging from the supermarket to the Market in a quest for burrito ingredients. Along the way, I took these pictures:

This is at 1st & Cedar, and this really nice fellow is at 1st & Wall:

It looks like the pear trees all down 2nd are ready to bloom in the next few days. When it happens, I'll take many pictures. Anyhow, happy spring-like February, y'all!

Last Night's Action

As I mentioned a few days ago, I've been very lucky at cards recently. I'm not sure why, but it's happening. After a disappointing seventh-place finish in trivia last evening (the bonus question was about Project Runway; nobody on my team watches that show; we missed it), I went down to the basement for a game. It seemed like the thing to do. The Olympics at the time were about women doing tricks on snowboards and falling. Yawn! I can do that! Where's my silver medal?? Anyhow, this is the fourth game we've had here at the Rivoli this week. The turnout was a healthy 15 people and we got down to it shortly after 10:00. For a long time, nobody except my soon-to-be-former-neighbor Josh was making any money. Stacks were getting shorter and people began making daft bets. I was there to call them. And I was lucky enough to win - again and again. I knocked out so many opponents that I lost count. It must have been at least 10. I'm not sure. All I know is that I knocked out three people in one hand and another two the very next hand. I wasn't like I felt that I couldn't be defeated. I had good hands and I thought that I could afford to call anybody's all-in bet. Luckily, the cards broke my way. It could have easily gone against me.

Meanwhile, Josh was also making money, though he wasn't knocking anyone out. With seven people still at the table, he started negotiating with me about how we were going to split the pot. That makes for some super-terrible luck. I didn't want to hear it. I've had games where I hold an insurmountable chip lead and see it all evaporate in minutes. The reason? I start thinking about how I'm gonna spend all that money I haven't yet won. So yeah, negotiating before the table is down to the final two is poisonous.

I managed to knock a few more people out and then it was Josh, Danelle (another neighbor who is relatively new to poker) and me. Josh kept chiding me to knock Danelle out, so we could split the pot and he could hit the bars. It was about 12:30 by now. As things were, I started getting really lousy cards. I couldn't do squat. Finally, Danelle knocked Josh out in two hands. We split the $150 and I got my name on the wall, which is how we keep track of past champions. After two second places and a fourth just this week, I won. Praise Allah! My winnings for the week are $235. By the way, Josh holds the record for most consecutive wins with four. I'm pretty sure that it will be a long time before anybody breaks that streak, as luck is a very fickle thing.

OK, so I didn't mean to turn this blog into a poker symposium. I also didn't intend to feature French and Russian pop music, but here we are. Don't worry, though, my luck will soon turn and I'll go back to my dependable, losing ways and I will write nothing about that. I promise.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

After Hours

Michèle Richard. Les bôites à gogo

This is a little more fun French-Canadian-ness. I'm just wondering whether the title is really "Les bottes à gogo" - go-go boots - and not "Les bôites à gogo" - go-go boxes. I dunno, maybe the French Canadians were really into go-go boxes back in the sixties. So much so that they had to write a song on the subject and have a woman in a hypnotic dress sing it. But the go-go boots option makes more sense. Anyhow, sorry about the dampened audio, but in comparison to a lot of other French Canadian stuff from that same era, this is actually in pretty good shape, quality-wise. It's just that almost everything about this is about four years behind the rest of the world. Well, I guess that's how they operated up there back then.

McGuire Scaffold-Watch! Week: ???? + 44

The Space Needle is really tough to feature in conjunction with the McGuire. It's a matter of getting above and to the side of it. In future weeks, I might find a way to do it, but for now, just imagine the Needle being out of the picture, three or so inches to the right. OK, so big surprise, the scaffold is still there. When I dropped by to take this picture, there was a lot of activity. The dwarf army was working hard. Or if not that, at least they were making a lot of noise. There was even a dwarf foreman going up in one of those elevator-things, if you look closely. None of this really means anything, because they've been making noise and going up in that elevator-thing for almost a year now and the job continues. It would be kind of nice to know what they were trying to achieve. But then again, it would take the element of mystery out of the work and who wants that? Not me, that's for sure.

Security House Scaffold-Watch: Week 18

It's still there. I didn't hear the sounds of guys hard at work when I took this photo, so who knows how much longer this scaffold will be gracing Belltown with its presence. You'll also notice the Space Needle lurking in the background. Just as the Eiffel Tower is visible from every window in Paris, the Space Needle can be seen from all over the Puget Sound area. Anyone who tells you different is lying. You can see it from everywhere: Ballard, Wedgwood, Georgetown, Leschi and Laurelhurst. In the future when I'm taking pictures of things, I'll try to include the Space Needle in everything, because it's kind of a fun challenge.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

After Hours

Steve Fiset. Les chemins d'été (dans ma camaro)

This clip is absolute bedlam! You've got go-go dancers and confetti and a very shiny stage and screaming girls and a singer with unstoppable hair. And he's singing about a Camaro. Wow! I know almost nothing about this Steve Fiset person, except that he prefers large belt buckles and the chicks dig him. And he's probably also Quebecois. Let me do a little research. Hold on... Hold on... OK, it turns out he costarred in a movie with Susan Sarandon in 1971. Lordy, is she that old?? Well, I guess so. And that's all I can tell you about Steve Fiset. But golly, you gotta love that showbiz chaos! This video renews my faith in both things.

Igor Goes to the Aquarium

I recently got the aquarium's newsletter. In it, they claimed that they had gotten a new batch of lumpsuckers, an odd, local fish. I decided to visit especially to see these new arrivals. Little did I know that I was walking smack into Octopus Week. It seems that they're going to release one of their giant octopi this Saturday, so this week is octopus-centric. Here's a giant octopus they're not going to release:

I case you're into it, they're releasing the other giant octopus this Saturday at noon. OK, so besides that, there were lots of other things. An angry-looking fish:

A seahorse:

Some seals:

A puffin:

And finally, the main attraction, the lumpsuckers:

Yeah, they're really tiny. With all they were saying about these fish, I expected them to be, y'know, bigger, but that's OK. I can now tell the Internet that I've seen a lumpsucker up close. How many people can say that? Not many, I tell you what.

Anyhow, it was a nice visit to the aquarium. Today was pretty much the perfect day to do it. The sun was out and there weren't too many children there.

The Poker Report

I don't write about it much, but I play a lot of poker. I started playing about two and a half years ago in the Rivoli's basement with my neighbors and their friends and their friends and so on. At the beginning, I was fantastically lucky (because I didn't know any better), then terrible for a long time (once I'd learned all the rules). Over the last three or four months, I've done really well. There are up to five games a week (usually only about three) and I've ended up either winning or splitting the pot almost each week. If I recall correctly, I've only been out of the money two weeks in the last four months. Since Saturday, I've done quite well: I took second on Saturday, fourth on Sunday (I knocked out five people and lost to some freakish luck) and second again last night. There were 19 players and the take for that was $95 - half of $190. What made it special is that there was one hand where I landed four aces. It's the first time I've ever done that. What's even better is that I knocked somebody out with it. Usually, when you have these really good hands, it's tough to get anyone to play. Earlier in the evening, I scared everybody away from my full house with a tiny bet. But my opponent took the bait and soon she was sitting on the sidelines, watching the action. I knocked out three others over the course of the evening. There are some people who are good table company. They have funny stories or weird things to say or whatnot. If you take their money and knock them out, you feel just a little bit bad. There was a guy at the table last night who wasn't one of those people. He was either quite dumb or mildly retarded or both. He seemed to have no short-term memory. He would ask what the blinds were every single hand. I'm not kidding. Every. Single. Hand. It was like playing cards with a goldfish. He also never knew when it was his turn, so he'd just drop chips on the table whenever he felt like it. After more than an hour of this nonsense, I started to get a little cranky at his dumbness. I tried to figure out a way to get rid of him. His style was completely reckless, but he managed to win big over the course of the evening. He also lost big, too. His biggest hit came when he walked into my pocket tens. I won the hand, 15,000 of his chips and knocked out the Rivoli's manager. But this guy was still in the game and he recovered somewhat over the next half hour or so. Yet he never knew what or where the blinds were or when it was his turn to bet. When guys annoy me like that, I try like hell to knock them out. In the past, this has always resulted in disaster. I generally lose everything. But I didn't rush things along and finally chose the right moment and knocked him out with three kings. It was really sweet. After that, all I had to do was wait for Angelique to knock out Kevin Bucket and then split the pot with her. She knocked me out on Sunday with some impressive luck. Last night, she was just as lucky, winning a series of really daft all-in bets. I could have continued on and tried for an undisputed win, but I've tried that as well once or twice and lived to regret it. I'm just fine with second place. Since the beginning of the year, I've had one first and about six second place finishes. I'm starting to feel like I can play the game reasonably well, so I just thought I'd mention it.

Coming Soon to the Moore!

Well, Spectrum Dance is back, this time for three nights. One of their recent presentations featured Merce Cunningham, who danced his 90-year-old ass off and then died soon afterward. Despite the "Farewell" moniker, this isn't their last show. It's just that Farewell: A Fantastical Contemplation on America’s Relationship with China wouldn't fit on the marquee. I have no idea what to expect, but the write-up on the STG site promises "highly personal movement." What the hell is that supposed to mean? They're trying to get people to attend and not writing a grant proposal! Anyhow, I wish them much highly personal movement.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

After Hours

Dick Rivers & les Chats Sauvages. Tu peins ton visage

Here we have the very un-French-sounding Dick Rivers (born Hervé Forneri) with a delightful bit of "ye-ye" nonsense. Obviously, he's trying to emulate Elvis, but one thing is for sure (besides the fact that he's wearing a killer leather tux) - NEWS FLASH - he's no Elvis. Once French rock 'n' roll came into being in the mid-sixties, you had real people singing real songs, but in the early sixties, during Rivers' stint of popularity, it's just imitative and derivative. It's like watching a bunch of monkeys trying to run a major corporation. But that doesn't mean that neither French rock nor business monkeys aren't fun to watch. This is really the best the French had to offer the pop music world at the time. Good thing Serge Gainsbourg came along and invented a viable French approach when he did.

Proudly Serenading Our Corporate Masters

I was walking by the Crocodile and I saw this:

Should I be very afraid? Sasquatch isn't until the end of May, but why not start celebrating right now? My primary question has to do with the corporatization of rock music and here it is: Has there been an "independent" music festival over the last 10 years that didn't have prominently-displayed corporate sponsorships? For Sasquatch, you can rock out courtesy of Jack Daniels. It's right there on the sign! And does anybody else think that it's slightly unnecessary? I mean, the festival is gonna happen even without Jack in the mix. I dunno, I guess I'm from a generation that constantly scrutinized its rock stars for signs of impurity. If somebody's music was "too commercial," that meant they had lost their cred. That's why I watch that stupid Eric Clapton phone commercial with low, mordant laughter. When I think of his (mostly mediocre) work from the sixties and seventies, I think, "Wow, that guy's just counting the days before he can sell out." That kind of weird thinking is completely absent from today's music culture. From what I've seen, rock musicians are as likely to court sponsorships as any snowboarder or motocross rider. The thing is, there's enough money in rock 'n' roll to sustain musicians without corporations stepping in. Now, jazz and classical music need company bucks a lot more desperately, because they're quite unpopular (as compared with rock) yet culturally necessary. But rock gets sponsorships from companies who want to show off. They want to be linked with rock to appeal to certain lucrative segments. I'm sure that musicians could refuse those sponsorships, but why turn down free money? And one thing's totally for sure, nobody's gonna write a song for the Sasquatch Festival ridiculing Jack Daniels. My point? There's already enough money to be had in rock music. Keep the corporations out. If I was one of those performers, I'd feel pretty strange about strummin' my gee-tar for the greater glory of Jack Daniels or Budweiser or Coke or Pepsi.

Anyhow, this probably makes me sound like some old crank. Fair enough. Gosh, did I just go off on a rant? I guess I did.

Bad Graffiti of the Week

It's been a while since I've featured an individual work of bad graffiti. Well, it's about time, wouldn't you say? This particular creation exists at the corner of 4th & Battery, on the side of that blockhouse of mystery. Have a look:

You have all the hallmarks of bad graffiti here: the puffy "fart font" that was so popular in the seventies, the garish size and its illegibility. I've been looking at it for five minutes and I can't tell what it's supposed to say. Whatever it is, it needs to be expressed with an exclamation mark. The good news is that the blockhouse of mystery gets repainted once every few months, so it'll be covered over fairly soon. Then others can try and fail in the same spot.

Slow News Day...

How about a sumo baby?

Sumo baby, people! On 2nd, near Bell.

Monday, February 15, 2010

After Hours

Vika Antonova. Poimai menya (Catch me)

Last week's Russian-language selection was so restrained that I feel obligated to post a doubly trashy clip to compensate. Well, here it is. There's no nudity in this video, but if there was, it would actually be something of a relief. Yeah, there's a whole lot of gratuitous underwear portrayals and whatnot, all under the guise of working out. Of course, everybody knows that the most popular forms of exercise in Russia are smoking and weeping. I know, I lived there for a time. So I'm not buying this physically fit version of things. They're either not Russians (I think Vika might be Ukrainian) or they're computer generated, like all those impossible basketballs. And that's another thing - nobody works out with basketballs. And what's up with those astronaut sound bytes? That has nothing to do with anything! OK, I realize that I'm looking for logic where none is to be found. This is just supposed to feature a lot of people writhing. Well, it does. Enjoy!

Springtime Comes to 2nd (and 1st, too)!

Last week, during some aimless wandering around the neighborhood, I spotted a lone tree in bloom along 1st Ave. It was really nice to see. It was also an odd sight for February. Usually, things are really grim this month. The gloom is near-constant and people with SAD barricade themselves in their apartments and refuse to come out till spring. Well, here's a sign that spring is just around the corner: the plum and plum hybrids along 1st & 2nd Aves. are beginning to bloom. That single tree has inspired a host of others. This is a unique happening to 1st & 2nd; 3rd Avenue's trees are mostly those awful skeletal honey locusts that get their leaves late and lose them early, 4th & 5th's majestic oaks, maples and plane trees are still months away from foliage and 6th Avenue...well, there's just not much to see.

I'm still not sure what's going on with these trees, whether it truly is a byproduct of warm El Nino temperatures or climate change or whatnot. My friend Jim says that the purple-leaf plum and the plum-apricot hybrids bloom early, but I've never seen them pop in February. So yes, this is kind of a cool thing - and it's happening in terrible Belltown. Here are some pictures from along 1st Avenue:

This is what 2nd Ave. looks like:

So that's how things are looking around here. Pretty soon the lovely pear trees are also going to bloom. This is how most of them are looking now:

Once again, it's really unusual for this to be happening so early. Last year, most of these trees didn't bloom until May.

You know, the last few winters have seemed to last for an eternity. I think it's about time we got an early spring. Then again, what with Seattle weather being what it is, we may well get snow, freezing temperatures and general gloom well into April. But I'd like to think that the trees know best about how things are going to go down.