Friday, December 30, 2011

So Long, Splash Lounge...

...we hardly knew ye. Well, it was a short life for the place. It opened in July or so. Things were initially very quiet, but I really believed that it would pick up clientele. It didn't. This morning I saw a bunch of people load its furnishings into a U Haul truck and drive away. So it's the end again for the place across the street. That's showbiz, I guess. The big question is what it's going to be now. OK, so if we refer to the past, maybe this might help any future potential owners.

1. Saito's: wonderful sushi and various other yummy stuff. So authentic that it became a hangout for the Japanese players on the Mariners after games. It stayed open for years and only closed because Saito decided to do high-end catering.

2. V Bar: pretty good pho, but they weren't too adept at keeping order. It did mad business but fights and shootings came to dominate. They were open less than two years, closing when they couldn't get their liquor license reissued.

3. Splash Lounge: a short and uneventful life. They had almost nothing on the menu, so it was just a place to drink and hang out. On most weekends, it looked like it was just half full.

OK, so which place stands out above the others? That's right, Saito's. If they make it into a great restaurant and not some booze palace, it could possibly do well. True, it's not the greatest location in the world, but it could work.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

One More Thing

OK, it's still Christmas and everything. I just pulled up in front of the Rivoli and, whaddaya know, two guys were smoking crack in the doorway of Action Small Appliance right next door. Ah yes, it can't be Christmas without a little crack smoking, I guess. At least that's how they do it in Belltown. Anyhow, I still wish you a Merry Xmas.

Merry Xmas...

...from me and Creepy Bunny.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Your Sunday Squirrel

Well, this guy was pretty shy, but he did consent to this photo. Sunday Squirrel will take Christmas day off - all the squirrels will be worshiping Squirrel-Jesus and not running around Denny Park, so just wait another week and hopefully, I'll be able to lure some more friendly fellows down to the ground with some delicious peanuts.

Toys Today...

I was at Toys R Us at Northgate today and I caught this curious sight:

This is part of the Journey Girls Action Play Set. There is an entire section of the store devoted to this stuff. We've got a wheelchair, crutches, casts and sundry items. Wow, kids in wheelchairs. That's great. On a related note, my Christmas shopping is just about done.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

After Hours

Completely out of self-interest... Enjoy!

P.S. I play saxophone on this.

A Superb Sunset Today It Was

I think that it's enhanced by the crappy cell phone quality of it all. By the way, this was down at 1st & Union.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Your Sunday Squirrel

Here is a little fellow standing up and looking kind of strange. Not to worry, though, squirrels - like dogs - look at you from all kinds of different angles to activate certain parts of their little brains. OK, so they're not really bright, but they are a lot more fun than smarter animals. Plus, they can climb trees like nobody's bidness.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I Finally Got on the TV!

It's happened at last! We filmed this thing way back in October and I've been waiting and waiting for it to air. It was on yesterday evening and guess what? Nobody from KING told me! Oh, well! It would have been nice to give people some advanced warning, but it's at their website, so no harm done. You can see it here. Sorry, it's not allowing me to embed. I'm kind of a little surprised at how it turned out. I mean, it's actually much, much better than I expected. I give the impression of being a sane person with something coherent to say. Honestly, I had a blast filming this whole thing. The two guys I worked with were fun and professional. And then I went back to the grind and awaited my moment. It arrived last night. Anyhow, have a look.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Your Sunday Squirrel

The squirrel says: "These are all mine; the leaves, the twigs - all mine. Do you like them?"

I was lucky enough to run into a few squirrels this week. There were all these guys from the Parks Dept. ranging around with metal detectors. The squirrels didn't quite know what to think about these developments. But they were hungry enough to ignore them.

Oh and in case you're wondering, my squirrel calendar is still for sale. You can get it here. You will be glad you did.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

After Hours

Potap and Nastya Kamenskikh. Lyeto (Summer)

This is like Vern Fonk Vision gone completely haywire. And the best thing is that you can sing along with it. OK, it's not Shakespeare, but what is these days? In case you don't know, Russia is totally like this: no grinding poverty, superstition, or authoritarian government; only nice weather, swimming pools and women who show lots of fanny. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

After Hours

I've been watching The Ricky Gervais Show lately on DVD. It's pretty weird - basically, it starts as a podcast and gets animated into a cartoon. I'm a little surprised that Ricky Gervais looks like Fred Flintstone, but if he doesn't mind, who cares? So they just sit around and ask Karl Pilkington questions. At first, I thought he was just stupid. That's not the whole story. OK, he might not be very smart, but he also has a breathtaking lack of imagination. They ask him a question - any question - and he can only answer back with another question. Eventually, he'll launch into a long, drawn-out answer that makes no sense at all. This is my favorite one right here, the "blind ghost" answer. In earlier episodes, I thought that Gervais and Merchant were being kind of mean to Pilkington, but by this episode, I began to admire their restraint. The one thing about Karl Pilkington that's nothing short of incredible is that he is completely even-keeled. He never gets angry or annoyed and always talks in that lilting semi-monotone. Nothing bothers him. When he tells a story that makes no sense or sounds like an idiot, he doesn't care. That's kind of admirable. But then Gervais and Merchant swoop in with the ridicule. And Pilkington just digs a deeper hole. I can imagine that some of these conversations go on for hours. We just get the edited parts.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Your Sunday Squirrel

Tonight on a very special Sunday Squirrel: the squirrels of Cost Plus. I know that photos of rambunctious, twitchy, unpredictable tree rodents are always preferable, but I found very few at Denny Park this week and when I did, I was camera-less. At Cost Plus, however, they did have a selection of squirrel-related goods. Here are a few of the items I found:

This scene wouldn't happen in nature, as squirrels and hedgehogs would run for their lives from owls. Still, it's nice to know that they get along on gift bags. The squirrel below is a bit too stylized for me. It looks more like a lemur. But what, I ask you, would a lemur be doing with Santa?

These are some abominable snow squirrels. And finally, a squirrel ornament:

As you can see, it's the only one left. I was going to get it, but it was six freakin' bucks. And the squirrel is brown, not gray, so no. My apologies for no real squirrels this week.

Meanwhile, at 2nd & Broad...

This sounds like the worst thing ever:

I know that they're trying to differentiate the two, but it caught my eye the other day and got me to wondering what a lemonade burger would taste like. I'm guessing pretty awful.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Calendar Is Here!

Behold, this year's cover-squirrel! He's Mr. April. There are 11 others, as well. Hey, what kind of calendar editor would I be if I didn't have squirrels for all 12 months? That's right, a pretty lousy one. But in this calendar we have some of the best Denny Park squirrels from this year. Here is a sampling:

This last shot is actually my computer's desktop. That's how much I like it. And as a matter of fact, this little fellow is not only Mr. October, he's also Mr. December. Yes, he was very friendly/hungry. You can see all next year's squirrels at my rather desolate Cafe Press store here. A full year of local squirrels will run you $16.99 plus shipping. Yeah, it ain't super-cheap, but I'll tell you, this year would have been a hell of a lot worse without squirrels telling me the date/day of the week. IF you feel so inclined, you can also purchase a t-shirt of this year's Mr. November. It's a very good shot of a rather sleepy-looking squirrel. I have one myself and I wear it all the time. OK, so once again, Sunday Squirrel Calendar at Cafe Press. They make wonderful gifts but sub-par Frisbees. Damn straight.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Your Sunday Squirrel

OK, so I have the calendar photos selected and sized. I just have to remember my CafePress password and we're in bidness. Until then, enjoy this shot. It again features the very friendly fellow who has been your Sunday Squirrel for more than the last month. He's also scheduled to be Squirrel of the Month twice. I'll give him the two best months. I haven't decided what they're going to be yet, but he'll have them.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Two Things

You know, I've had a sum total of about two conversations all week. That's it. I feel like I might be forgetting how to talk. When this happens - and it has been more recently - I tend to go to where people congregate. It's not like I strike up conversations with strangers or anything, but rather that I feel a bit more re-attached to the human race. Of course, if I make small children flee and old people cry with my mere presence, then I suppose that's cause for concern. It hasn't happened yet, so hooray. I decided on a trip to Uwajimaya for dinner fixins and the Market for sundries. I knew that both places would be absolutely mobbed. And they were.

It's been an intense week. I was on a revision jag that had me eradicating music and lyrics that I've considered finished for well over a year. It was one of those cases when my focus is so narrow that I lose time. It's like I start in, I do stuff and suddenly it's two hours later and I'm working in the dark. That's what three days last week were like. I got a lot accomplished. And when it's over, there's a letdown and a period of adjustment. That's today.

Anyhow, as I was walking down to Uwajimaya, two things occurred to me. The first is that yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the best gig I've ever had. We were playing up at Julia's on Broadway. For some reason, everything worked. I can't explain why it did, but it was like no matter how fast the tune was, I always had time to think about each and every note. My side guys, Hans and Chris, sounded super-excellent, too. But as my luck would have it, owing to a light snow overnight, the place was completely deserted. I think maybe seven people came in all evening, which is weird, because it's Capitol Hill and people are there all the time, rain, shine, snow, hellfire. Well, it was also Veteran's Day, but I don't think that was much of a factor, either. Whatever the reason, nobody showed up. So we had this superb gig that no one except the fine employees of Julia's heard. That's always the way it is. You've got a large-ish crowd (I can't say "huge" because I've never played in front of one of those before), and you sound like crap (and nobody notices), but you always sound superb playing to an empty room (and nobody also notices, because there's nobody around). That's what happened November 11, 2005. But I haven't necessarily lost the magic in the intervening time; July 3, 2010 was the second-best gig ever. So legendary gigs are still possible.

The other thing that struck me on my way to the ID is that I have broken my own record in the annual Rivoli Heating Derby. See, every year I make a mental note of when I switch on the heat in my apartment. In 19 years of living in this dump, the earliest has been September 23rd (I remember because it's Coltrane's birthday) and the latest has been November 10th. Well, that previous mark has been shattered. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not sitting here shivering, trying to best some meaningless milestone. Oh no, that would be - what's the word? - ah, yes, stupid. To tell the truth, I've developed a greater tolerance for cold. I guess that's what it is. God knows, once the thermometer rises beyond 58 degrees, I overheat. It's only logical that I should be more comfortable at lower temperatures. I don't know how to explain this other than I might be turning into a walrus. I haven't gained any weight, but it might explain the tusks.

So this is what happens when I don't have conversations for most of the week. The way things are going now, with a dreary winter ahead of us and people going into hibernation and such, I predict a lot of weeks like this one.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bird Swarm!

This, like many things, has nothing to do with Belltown. You know, I remember a few years back how there was this great push to eradicate starlings from the Seattle area. The argument was that they were a messy, invasive species and not good for much of anything. After all, they weren't colorful and didn't have an interesting song. Well, it turns out that if you get enough starlings together, pretty incredible things can happen. Here's how they behave out in the countryside. I swear, if you stare at it long enough, they will seem at times to be governed by a single intelligence. Oh, and please excuse the sappy Pachelbel Canon. That was not my doing.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Your Sunday Squirrel

I'm almost nearly hard at work on the new squirrel calendar. I just have to finish a tune about regicide. For the time being, here's more of last week's friendly squirrel. And yes, I'm also going to post the last few photos from my road trip. I can't believe it, but I have no pictures from either Jackson or Pocatello. Well, with the latter, you're not missing much, but I thought at least I'd take a few shots of the town's many, many jewelry and candy stores. Anyhow, that's all forthcoming.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween 2011

So many people have come up to me and asked, Hey Igor, how was your Halloween? Many, many people. I tell them that it was fantastic, I was in Edmonds and my friend Kris was in town and so forth, but for you, sweet people, I have the chance to show you with pumpkins. I carved (most of) them. Here they are by day:

OK, so ho-hum. But by night, it's a different story. Observe:

Yeah, so this turned out to be very nice. There was a lot of gory stuff in the yard, but I kind of missed all that. We had a very nice time, scared many kids and basked in the satisfaction of a job well done.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Your Sunday Squirrel

Exciting news for squirrel calendar fans! In about a week, I'll be done with my brand-new Sunday Squirrel calendar for 2012! It will feature all your favorite squirrels from the last year, many of them engaging in such squirrel-like activities as eating peanuts, climbing trees and waiting for me to give them more peanuts. If you enjoyed this year's calendar, you're very likely enjoy next year's even more - although I guarantee nothing. One thing's for sure: the Denny Park squirrels haven't gotten any uglier over the past year. Anyhow, it's so much fun to have a local squirrel tell you what day it is. And this year, you can get in on that action! Just gimme a few days to throw it all together. And by "throw it all together" I mean: "create it with all the care and skill I'm capable of mustering." So you have been warned!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beyond the Mammoth Site

I just want to say again how very nice the mammoth site was. The great thing about it is that you can drop by every few years and there will be all kinds of new discoveries. So with that done, I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone: catch some older bones and visit a state I'd never been to.

So I went to Nebraska. Let me tell you, there's a whole lot of nothing in the western part of the state. And that's how people like it. If you like grasslands, then you should definitely visit. My objective was the Agate Fossil Beds.

In the 19th century, a rancher noticed a bunch of weird bones on his land and wired some university-guy for help identifying them. The result was pretty stunning. They uncovered a vast array of species from around 19 million years ago. The most numerous of all were at least 30 pony-sized rhino skeletons. They also found 6-foot tall carnivorous pigs, bear-dogs and strange horse-ancestors that had three massive claws on their front hooves. Here some photos:

That's a carnivorous pig and below is the strange horse-ancestor:

And of course, a bear-dog:

One of the bigger mysteries in the area were these spiral formations all over the place. They looked like this:

At first, the experts thought these were left by plants, but soon figured out that they were the burrows of ancient land-beavers known as palaeocastor. It lived some 22 million years ago. These formations were at one time all over the place and were dubbed "the devil's corkscrew" because why not? Here's a picture of an old-timey guy looking at one:

This is what a lot of western Nebraska looks like:

It's all pretty scenic/desolate. Speaking of that, I went back to Hot Spring via South Dakota's Badlands. That's also known as "taking the long way home." The Badlands are these fairly dramatic volcanic(?) formations that rise up all over the place in a large area of SD. At the time I took these, I thought they were pretty awesome, but on further review, they just look like countryside. Well, you be the judge:

So that was the rest of the day. Thanks to another wrong turn, I had to go through Rapid City, otherwise known as "the big city." All in all, it had been a very good foray. There were many bones as well as a healthy dose of Badlands.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Mammoth Site

OK, this place was the prime attraction for me. Sure, Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore are majestic and make us all swell with national pride, but this place is super-interesting. And it was practically right next to where I was staying in Hot Springs. See, 27,000 years ago, there was a tiny seismic event that caused hot water to bubble up and form a pond. The local animals quite enjoyed that, it being an ice age and whatnot. Mammoths dropped by to eat the thick grass that grew around the pond and take a dip. Sometimes they couldn't get out. It was a bad way to go. They would starve to death while predators waited nearby. This pond was around for around 700 years. To date, they've found all kinds of bones (including predators), but most notably, they've unearthed 59 mammoth skeletons. So far, they've identified three woolly and 56 Columbian mammoths. Yes, there was more than one kind of mammoth. I didn't know that either before I visited the site. Apparently, the Columbia mammoth looked a lot like this:

And this is what one looks like without any skin or guts:

They were pretty massive; something like two feet taller than an African elephant, which is about as large as a woolly mammoth. Of course, what they call the "ancestral mammoth" was bigger than the Columbian mammoth by another three feet. So that was one very large creature. Anyhow, the place kind of looks like a bankrupt church from the outside:

But on the inside, it's an active dig. They give you a tour and it's really quite unforgettable, because, y'know, there are tons of bones everywhere. Some are immaculately preserved; others are just a jumble. This is what it looks like:

The thing about mammoths is that they had really weird teeth. Here's the story and an example:

So they've found 59 skeletons. Funny thing, they're all male. It seems that mammoth society was exactly like elephants are now: the females travel together and the males go off on their own. So they would just wander into the warm pond and never come out. Poor guys. Well, it was 27,000 years ago.

They've drilled down to see how much farther the site goes. It's pretty staggering. So far, they've excavated 22 feet down. The drilling indicates that there are bones for another 45 feet. Who knows, they might even find a mastodon. They haven't yet. Anyhow, there's an exhibit about mammoths off to the side. This is what it looks like:

They were also really big on miniature mammoths. There's this phenomenon that happens when animals get stranded on islands. They get smaller. It happened to dinosaurs. It happened to horses on the Shetland Islands. And it happened to mammoths. This fellow's bones were found on Catalina Island in California:

When they originally found him, they thought they'd unearthed a one-year-old baby, but his bones and teeth revealed that he was quite old. So presto, mini-mammoth! They've also found similarly-sized guys on Wrangel Island in Russia and on some other island that I can't remember.

This place was simply stunning. I highly recommend it. You know, if you're feeling paleontological, you can volunteer to help excavate. I'm seriously thinking about it.

OK, so that was just the beginning of the day. There is more to follow tomorrow.