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Monday, April 16, 2007

The First-Ever De-Suggests

posted by on April 16 at 13:58 PM

Sometimes, we fuck up our Stranger Suggests. Sometimes there’s an event that looks good—good concept, good players—but turns out it isn’t. Turns out it blows. And we owe you a mea culpa for steering you wrong. So here it is, the first edition of The Stranger De-Suggests:

Clear Cut Press Potlatch
This event has trouble describing itself. According to the invitation, it is a “maelstrom” in “a cathedralesque barn of a space” with a “steaming sulfuric acid bath.” Matthew McCormick plays a new music and video piece. Matthijs Bouw gives a slide talk, Michael Brophy’s paintings are auctioned, DJ Masa mixes, and the few who made reservations eat dinner. (Chateaux Duwamps, 207 S Horton St. Dinner at 7, register at Auction/party at 8, no registration required. The invitation says: “Money will be recycled at the door.” We’re not sure what that means.) Jen Graves

“Money will be recycled at the door” made me hope they’d do something crazy and pot-latchy. Like put your money through a shredder. Or randomly redistribute it. (“This lady gets fifty bucks! This dude gets a nickel!”) Or something fun. But “money will be recycled at the door” was actually just a sly way of saying, “we’ll just take your money and stick it in our pockets.” It’s a small complaint, but that kind of cute dishonesty was indicative of all the problems that night.

The dinner, by One Pot’s Michael Hebberoy, was actually $35. And BYOB (which, actually, was a nice touch because everyone was expected to share so it turned into a giant tasting with a sip of prosecco here, a sip of white rioja there, a sip of Miller Genuine Draft way over there). The food was fine, but not $35-fine: mixed greens you could’ve bought in a bag at the store, some beets. Then a significant wait for the second course: Long-simmered pork and asparagus on a bed of croutons. There was a vegetarian option (artichoke with asparagus, I think) somebody described as: “a vegetarian meal made by someone who doesn’t know any vegetarians.” (To Mr. Hebberoy’s credit, he said up front that he had relatively little control over this night’s event. Other people say he has hosted some excellent dinners.)

The paintings, by Michael Brophy, were small and romantically sad and good. The table they were on seemed sort of remote in the room’s arrangement, so they didn’t have much presence. But here is one:


The “steaming sulfuric acid bath” was not steaming.

The announcement from Clear Cut Press seemed to take hours to say two simple things: (1) Matthew Stadler is leaving, ceding editorial duties to his partner Rich Jensen who, at one point, said something humbling, self-effacing, and disconcerting for the new editorial duty-doer, something like: “I don’t know much about books.” And (2) something to the effect: “give us your money because we’re awesome and you might get some good books from us.” Which, if we take Mr. Jensen’s word for it, seems unlikely. Plus, Clear Cut Press is not a kid to whom we should give an allowance just because. Plus, it’s unwise to treat your prospective patrons like ignorant sacks of money who need you to tell them when a book is good. Because that doesn’t make me want to give you anything. It makes me want to say: Fuck off. And still they kept talking.

The tablecloth was bubble-wrap, which was nice and fun to pop. And when people got bored with the blah-blah-blah, they’d announce their displeasure by popping some. Great idea, right? Give your audience an anonymous, easy way to communicate when it’s bored and encourage you to hurry the fuck up. But no such luck. Instead, the speakers, when confronted by the snap-snap of the bubble wrap, glared and smiled tensely, as if to say: “You all are not using that in the way we intended you not to.”

After the blah-blah-blah, I left.

The movie, by Matthew McCormick, was reportedly very good.

The slide talk by Matthijs Bouw was canceled due to indifference. (Update: Sorry, that was bad information—the Bouw lecture was merely postponed until 11:30 pm. I’m sorry I missed it.)

The atmosphere, the major selling point, was thin. It never became a party. Hebberoy kicked off the evening by making it sound like a whatever-make-your-own-party-free-for-all, but there was a real program: “now eat,” “now listen to me,” “now watch this.” Either tell us what to do or let us have a free-for-all. Either one is fine. But to pretend everything is permitted when that is not, in fact, the case, is another cute lie.

It ended, someone said, with “people huddled around being cold.”

For those of you who might have attended it because we suggested it—we’re really, really sorry.

RSS icon Comments


Kudos the the Stranger for desuggesting this dismal event. It should be added, in support of the desuggesting, that for those of us in attendance to the party who did not pay for the dinner, there was another EGREGIOUS BIT OF TACKINESS:

Though I arrived at the party around 9 pm, the people who payed for dinner were STILL EATING and DRINKING thier BYOB's in their comfy seats while the handful of us who had shown up at the suggested hour for non-eaters had to STAND AROUND LIKE IMPOVERISHED LEPERS and watch everyone eat and drink. After being cutely lied to about the cost of admission, I had to hand over another five bucks to the "bartender" to get a dixie cup full of sickly rum punch just so I would have something to do.

The only thing to snack on was a pile of MAN HANDLED BEEF JERKY, which, while tasty, did no favors for the impoverished leper vegetarians around me.


Posted by Northern Flicker | April 16, 2007 2:39 PM

what about the dj? does he advertise for sex on craigslist?

Posted by blabbermouth | April 16, 2007 2:59 PM

while you're at it, you should de-suggest last night's modest mouse show. i was really looking forward to seeing them, but the sound was awful and the performance lackluster. no one was into it, though everyone clearly wanted to be into it. lame.

Posted by dna | April 16, 2007 3:13 PM

I took up my colleagues, the Stranger arts staff on this event. Mainly, I went to see McCormick's piece—which featured outstanding, super competent guitar pyschedelics like Brian Eno's 1973 Heavenly Music Corporation meets gorgeou-ioso elderly Sonic Youth. I didn't "get" or identify with McCormick's film images, but his musical composition was so good that I found myself enjoying/thinking about every new image as it glowed up on the screen.

As for Clear Cut's meandering (Rich Jensen) poetic, yet empty (Matthew Stadler's) announcements: I felt like I was witnessing the halting, inconclusive, vague conversations that they themselves must have been having privately (over way too many drinks?) that lacked mission or meaning on conclusion. Keep it private, guys. It was painful to watch because I respect both men for their past work. It seemed a humbling disintegration.

I too showed up mid-dinner, and was playfully/annoyingly "challenged" by Michael Hebberoy to "do whatever I want." I guess I should have gone and sat down and eaten the dinner I didn't pay for, but that would have felt like a slap to several of my friends who were there and had paid for the meal. I didn't want to insult my friends, who after all, had tipped me on the movie etc, but I wouldn't have cared less about offending the lame evening's curators.

Posted by Josh Feit | April 16, 2007 3:14 PM

You big babies! The pork-stuffed-pork, the vast array of delicious wine, and the amazing setting were easily worth $35. How many meals do you eat with accompaniment by DJ Masa? How often do you get to see a performance by one of the Northwest's best artists without leaving the dinner table? The company was fantastic, too. The talking was a little long and late (the architecture lecture wasn't actually cancelled, it happened around 11:30)and the "auction" was a little disorganized and poorly lit but, geesh. I agree that Clear Cut doesn't deserve an allowance "just because," but they've given us nine really good books. I'm willing to cross my fingers and take my chances on nine more, at least. Sure, dinner took too long, and it sounds like the folks who came and thought it would be over weren't treated so graciously - but you've got to give Clear Cut and Hebberoy some credit. Good or bad -it was a really special evening.

Posted by Betsey | April 16, 2007 3:27 PM

Just FYI, Matthijs Bouw did give a slide-talk, about his work in Tblisi, Georgia, that was very good. Of course, you might have hated it, had you stayed, but Matthijs described the attempts to plan a future in a 1700-year old city that has recently been taken over by Bush/Cheney-backed neo-liberals. Matthijs works there as a city planning consultant.

He discovered that the real site of civic discourse outside this hegemonic, culture-devouring economic machine, is at community dinners, powered by far too much drink and songs and toasts of the sort that might not scan well to the sober gate-keepers of Georgie's political future. These dinners can be a mess.

This is not a cute analogy to the evening you and I just spent together, but, really, I have never made anything that I meant to be cute. I hope those who stayed and talked to each other, or to me, got something out of the evening, and I hope those who read Clear Cut's books get something valuable out of them.

Posted by Matthew Stadler | April 16, 2007 3:31 PM


This is why you'll always be in promotions and never in curating.

Posted by Just Sayin | April 16, 2007 3:36 PM

I had a good time. It was a long evening. Matthijs Bouw did give his great, albeit somewhat jet-addled talk, pretty late. But, I plan on using bubble wrap as tablecloth from now on. Save for Annie Wagner, The Stranger posse kept to themselves and finished huddling in the cold, somewhere. I think though that I may have abused myself of too much of the BYOB that I didn't bring. I also have a fondness for parties in the Duwamish mud. An admirable feat, nonetheless, commendable to be the first ever The First-Ever De-Suggests!

Posted by Matt Briggs | April 16, 2007 3:52 PM

I'm sorry I missed Mr. Bouw's lecture! (I'm also sorry it was bumped until 11:30 pm.)

Posted by Brendan Kiley | April 16, 2007 3:54 PM

"Just Sayin" @ 7--if you're going to stoop to a nasty little ad hominem comment on a commenter (my wife, as it happens) have the guts to sign your name so you can discredit yourself in the bargain.

Posted by Eric F | April 16, 2007 4:04 PM

Oooooh... "Just Sayin," you've been served!

It looks like the friends of the folks that put this on had a good time. Others, not so much.

Posted by EXTC | April 16, 2007 4:14 PM

Yes, I know, 11:30 is late for a Friday night, especially when you have to go home and write down your opinions. Didn’t you have any opinion there, then? Things were pretty open, to say the least. I remember taking a couple questions and then I went to the bar and gave away champagne to whoever wanted it. Neither you nor the disappointed Josh Feit bothered to say or ask anything.

I love a good conversation, which is why I bother to say things in public, or stick around. Its dispiriting to deal with intelligent people, like you and Josh, who care enough to write these dismissals, but sit in silence and then leave. I guess you got what you needed.

Posted by Matthew Stadler | April 16, 2007 4:24 PM

"The show was a great success but the audience was a disaster."

Posted by Quoting Oscar Wilde | April 16, 2007 4:33 PM

I did not go to this event, but why should I believe The Stranger when in reality it's so insulated.

The Stranger bashes lots of events. This is not unique. The only uniqueness here is that they are sort of cutely un-suggesting it. But that's not really unique. It's still the same old pattern of insularity, along with the unwillingness to make contact, which is what, I believe, a fucking paper is supposed to do.

Okay, maybe it really wasn't that great. But nothing in the negative report explains that. What I want to know: was it warm? Were people being fucking fed? Did they have nice alcohol to put in their bellies? Did they have people to talk to? Did they get to see lectures? Did they get to see a film, and art?

What are you complaining about? I mean if it was fucking cold, I would understand, but to a fucking homeless person it sounds like everything that is right.

Posted by Justin Dobbs | April 16, 2007 4:48 PM

This is petty to "de-suggest" something. Maybe not everything was to your liking, but the evening had a lot of good things about it. The space was great, cool DJ, the food was yummy (the $35 also had to include setting up a dinner in a raw space, not just the food), and I enjoyed the film and the musical performance that went with it.

They were trying to do something different and unusual, sorry it wasn't cool enough for you.

Posted by Phil | April 16, 2007 5:20 PM

How often do you go to an event in Seattle where complete strangers sit down and behave like friends before they're even drunk? (and i'm a native - not one of those bitter transplants who complain about Seattle ice because they can't get a girl's phone number). One thing is for sure, though -- after draining each other's bottles of wine, i forgot to listen to a goddamn thing those Clear Cut guys said.

Posted by cody | April 16, 2007 5:24 PM

Hey, whoa. This event was eh, and spendy. This is not our fault. This does not mean we hate anyone. This does not mean we all have the same opinions.

This does mean, for me, the following:

I do not like paying $35 for asparagus, lettuce, artichokes, and croutons. (True, I could have had beets, but I hate beets. It is a shortcoming of mine.)

I also do not like being told that everything will unfold in a communal way, and then being held hostage by organizers who, for whatever reason, on that particular night seem to have no sense of timing.

To the fools who weren't there: We brought our own wine. It was BYOB. Yes, it was delicious. My wine that I brought and other people's wines that they brought -- all delicious, and all not part of the $35 cover charge.

Now. Had I not paid $35, I might have been more willing to give money to Clear Cut Press. That also would have been more likely if the person behind Clear Cut Press, Matthew Stadler, hadn't just resigned in front of me. In what was, I might add, a very long and rambling section of the program.

In general, I like hearing Matthew talk (I especially like his questions and interjections about events while they are going on; anyone who was at the Vancouver lecture at the Henry a few weeks ago will know what I mean). I am sorry I grew tired after 11:30; this is my own weakness. I also must admit that at that point, I worried that any future speeches/lectures/whatevers would be of approximately the same value as the $35 artichoke-lettuce-asparagus-beets serving, or as a rambling announcement with a somewhat sad ending.

I loved Matt McCormick's performance. Adored it. I loved the atmosphere in the building. I loved the people who sat on my right and across from me, neither of whom work at this publication. They were great. The conversation was great. Everything not controlled by the event's several organizers was great. The bubble wrap tablecloth was a lovely idea, but I didn't like being scolded for doing with it what seemed to be meant to be done. But that is a minor quibble.

The fact is, nobody is taking to the streets. But Brendan--who is editor of Suggests, it should be added, and therefore feels responsible for it and accountable--is absolutely right that this party never quite took off. And I am out 35 bucks, which might just piss off a homeless person, Justin Dobbs.

Posted by Jen Graves | April 16, 2007 5:30 PM

Hey, and I met Cody at the dinner. What a friendly native. No phone number, but then, as I think I mentioned, I'm married.

Posted by Eric F | April 16, 2007 5:34 PM

And I also had nice conversations with strangers—but people have nice conversations with strangers all the time. At hundreds of parties and bars and street corners across the city. That doesn't require (or justify) a special event.

Also: The point of the whole De-Suggests thing is apologize to readers, like the first commenter and explain why we're apologizing—not to slap anybody. Every week when we edit Suggests, we have to cut some events to make room for others. If I could go back in time and re-edit Suggests, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have let this event stand.

Posted by Brendan Kiley | April 16, 2007 6:11 PM

#7 and #10: We have a problem -- SHE'S MY WIFE TOO!

Posted by greggy nickels | April 16, 2007 6:44 PM

you are all a bunch of bores who should never be invited to a dinner party in the first place. You would've spent the 35 bucks on bad pot, and sat on your beanbag chairs, talking about the opera you are going to write.

And believe me, that opera is gonna be BAD.

Posted by Emily White | April 16, 2007 7:26 PM

Uh, oh, not Emily White. You don't want to get her started. . . . .

I just feel lucky you guys haven't been to a REALLY bad Clear Cut event.

And to Brendan, I don't know what made you think we'd do a bunch of weird arty shit with your money, I mean, any weirder and artier than use it to publish [really good] books.

Posted by Rich Jensen | April 16, 2007 7:48 PM

Can we quit with the insults? I'm not a baby, I don't smoke pot, don't own a beanbag chair, don't plan to write an opera (though, ahem, I think Josh Feit has already done that, and if you think it's bad you should just deliver that irrelevant opinion to his face). I also didn't need an event to learn Clear Cut was changing hands--a press release would have done quite adequately--but I wouldn't have wanted to miss Matt McCormick's movie, which I've been wanting to see since it premiered in Portland a month or two ago. The event was not perfectly executed, and we all know it. Pipe down.

Posted by annie | April 16, 2007 7:49 PM

What? A Slog with no insults? Are you MAD?!

And Annie, besides Matt's performance, there's that painting you encountered and bought. Not a 'press release' activity. And there was that remarkably witty and cogent report on Tbilisi from Matthijs Bouw, whose How to Be an Architect in North Pacific America (or any place in the world) will be out from the press next year.

Anyhoo, the press isn't changing hands. I've been providing an equal share of rhetoric, strategy and labor from before the get-go. All the kind things said, and great expectations lofted, over the work so far have given me the whiff of confidence I need to continue despite Matthew's return to an intensive regime of writing fiction.

For me, Friday was about opening that incredible old derelict factory to new circulation, then, finding out what Heberroy was about with his One Pot, then, taking advantage of Matthew and Matthijs's being in Seattle, and doing an event with Masa (one of Seattle music's secret godparents of the last twenty years), and getting to see Matt Mc McCormick’s newest work, and maybe raising some money for the press out of what remains from the series of gouaches we commissioned from Michael Brophy in 2003. Meanwhile, it was (is) time to get going again. So we did.

The second series (of six books plus a surprise or two) is scheduled to include new books from Bruce Benderson, Stacey Doris, Emily White, Danielle Dutton, & Matthijs Bouw. Folks can subscribe to the new series in the morning at or by sending their $65 payment to Clear Cut Press PO Box 17377, Portland OR 97217.

One of the things I found peculiar about the evening was that about 10% of the attendees were Stranger writers. On the basis of that symptom alone, of course, I accept that something somewhere must have been seriously out of whack and this, historic, de-Suggestion-ing is, in fact, a gesture of exquisite institutional grace and restraint.

Posted by Rich Jensen | April 16, 2007 9:49 PM

Just a note to say that I'm posting a related comment six items up, where Annie has slogged about the bad time she had. So many broken hearts.

Posted by Matthew Stadler | April 16, 2007 11:06 PM

I feel like I did the time in 1995 when two of my friends who didn't know one another came to town at the same time - Shannon had just found Jesus, but in the most cool way possible, if a psychotic delusion (I mean that in the best sense and as one guilty no doubt of same, at least for my 14 years of Seattle-worship and probably still) can be cool. Dave was still young and hyper and too smart and tense as a whip. I had seven espressos and took them to the top of the Space Needle. Just about the time I was starting to trip and shake, Shannon looked at the moon and told us how her little nephew that week in Denver had pointed up at the moon and said, "That's the moon. God made the moon." Then Dave said, "I think that's like in the Middle Ages when they stuffed people into barrels and cut a hole in the top and shoved a sword through to see if their soul would come out the hole." Calm was only restored when I ordered that big ice cream dessert with the dry ice in the bottom that sends a veil of smoke out down the sides of the tablecloth and onto the floor.

I missed the One Pot dinner because I was as sick as I have ever been in my life. Watch your immune systems, people, because that shit nearly killed me and I am not exaggerating. And Rich Jensen is a coy and cute emcee but has probably read more books than Harold Bloom, for Pete's sake.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | April 16, 2007 11:38 PM

super exciting - so much passion.

my only question to the stranger seems to be the same thing they are presently wondering - why did you give it a pick? it was a strange strange event, advertised as such - there were no surprises - it was less warm than ideal - but it seems hyping odd freakish events like will only cause an unneccesary breakdown in the expectation vs actual experience catagory, and makes it much harder to actually in fact be in the space - present - at the event. i am just sad the critics in the audience had to be there wearing their critical hats - it seemed that most people had a kind of remarkable time...

but it seems silly to make such a big deal out of de-suggesting - it seems you guys misread the writing on the wall - your fault - not ours - no one asked for a pick - i was shocked - and then we just went ahead and did what we said we would do - and it was damn pretty and nicely surreal.

Posted by hebberoy | April 17, 2007 5:51 PM

The critics played their parts brilliantly!

Posted by Rich Jensen | April 17, 2007 8:41 PM

How about an occasional Suggests Postmortem, where Stranger staff grade the prior week's suggested events? Good excuse to expense the tickets, too..

Posted by Troy | April 17, 2007 11:25 PM

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