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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Credulous, Cliched, and Worthy of Scorn: Questions to Guide Your Reading of The Stranger

Posted on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Read the whole new issue of The Stranger over here (or click on the cover)!

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1. It's been a while since we've seen a feature from BRENDAN KILEY, but here we are again, with another story about a drug dealer. Kiley has made something of a career out of defending people who have been accused of the buying and selling of drugs in long, overblown features. What do you think Kiley's endgame is here? Is he interested in putting the lie to the War on Drugs? Why not just come out and say this directly, then? Why just credulously reprint the stories of drug dealers that paint federal authorities in a bad light?

2. In the news section, newest Stranger staffer ANSEL HERZ proves he's in the running to become Brendan Kiley Jr. with his report on Waid's, a nightspot that has been perennially identified as a problem by authorities. Herz claims instead that Waid's is a victim of the nebulous terror that is gentrification. Between Kiley and his student Herz, who do you believe is the more credulous? After reading his first story as an official Stranger staffer, is there any hope, in your opinion, for Herz's career as a journalist?

3. BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT begins a piece in the chow section with a long paragraph about how terrible the restaurant's name is. She then pivots, in the saddest Shakespeare reference you'll likely ever see, with "what's in a name," before writing a mostly positive review. Why bother poisoning the well with several sentences about the awfulness of the restaurant's name when you could instead be talking about actual foodstuffs that actual diners could put into their actual mouths? Do you believe Ms. Clement would be able to identify the play from which she draws her Shakespeare reference without employing Google?

4. Which piece in the film section do you believe is most worthy of scorn?

a. CHARLES MUDEDE's turgid preview of the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival, in which he "reviews" a film solely on the merits of its trailer?

b. PAUL CONSTANT's brainlessly rhapsodic review of a documentary about a science fiction film that was never even completed?

c. DAVID SCHMADER's insipid (when not outright confusing) introduction to a festival of films created by children?

d. The piece by JEN GRAVES that begins "In the annals of ballet..." and which then goes on for several hundred words, uncaring that its reader has either fallen asleep or died of boredom?

Morning News: Bad News for Buses, Home Sales, McDonald's, and the American Middle Class

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 8:59 AM

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  • Levi Hastings
King County Voters Hate Poor Old Young Disabled People: The numbers for Metro-bus-saving Prop 1 that came in last night do not look good. It's not impossible for late ballots to make up the difference, just incredibly improbable. We will talk about this more today (and another ballot drop happens this afternoon), but for now, let's just watch the '70s video "It's All Right to Cry."

Ukraine Government Resumes Actions Against Separatists: But they can't violate last week's Geneva deal, so there may not be much they can do.

It's About Time: "Snohomish County council members are considering a moratorium on home construction within a half-mile of landslide prone areas, such as the Oso community hillside that collapsed March 22."

Boeing Profits Up: "Boeing's increased rate of commercial jet manufacturing is starting to pay off for shareholders." Just not for its own workers, who the plane company totally fucked over earlier this year. Thank god the state gave 'em $9 billion in tax breaks to get them through this difficult time.

McDonald's Sales Down: They say it's just the weather, but that's hard to believe.

American Home Sales Tanked in March: The housing market usually improves by this time each year, but right now it ain't improving, falling 14.5 percent last month.

And In Totally Unrelated News: The American middle class is no longer the richest middle class in the world. From the New York Times:

“The crisis had no effect on our lives,” Jonas Frojelin, 37, a Swedish firefighter, said, referring to the global financial crisis that began in 2007. He lives with his wife, Malin, a nurse, in a seaside town a half-hour drive from Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city.

They each have five weeks of vacation and comprehensive health benefits. They benefited from almost three years of paid leave, between them, after their children, now 3 and 6 years old, were born. Today, the children attend a subsidized child-care center that costs about 3 percent of the Frojelins’ income.

Even with a large welfare state in Sweden, per capita G.D.P. there has grown more quickly than in the United States over almost any extended recent period—a decade, 20 years, 30 years. Sharp increases in the number of college graduates in Sweden, allowing for the growth of high-skill jobs, has played an important role.

Today at 4 p.m.: There's a rally outside of City Hall, where labor activists, workers, and other $15 minimum wage supporters plan to "form a human '15'" and then a human chain around the building.

Saving Earth from Asteroids: An Apollo 8 astronaut living on Orcas Island is on the job.

The Broads Must Be Crazy: After the jump, since every video autoplays for somebody out there, I offer two Daily Show videos about ladies in politics. Weepy, emotional ladies in politics. (Wanna see Mitch McConnell, Darrell Issa, and John Boehner cry? Watch video #2.)

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Today the Mayor's Committee on Income Inequality Is Putting Together Its Recommendations

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 8:57 AM

Here's what I'm hoping to see.

They get to $15.

I hope they come to a compromise that works for low-income workers, small businesses, and non-profits.

I hope they raise the minimum wage quickly on large companies that take money out of our community and give little back.

I hope they give small businesses time to adjust, and consider tips for higher-wage employees as pay (but not benefits).

And I hope they make sure non-profits get the funding and time they need so services aren't cut for the neediest.

Tim Keck is the publisher of The Stranger.

Thomas Piketty has Conquered America

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 8:44 AM

As I said in my review of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century, a big part of this book's success in the US can be found in the fact that it is written with almost no style or excitement. Lynn Stuart Parramore at Salon:

To the horror of conservatives, the public is rushing out to buy this weighty economic treatise: the book is #1 on Amazon and has hit the New York Times bestseller list. A public that not only inuits conservative economic nonsense but has the detailed information to back up that gut instinct is just too awful for words.

Piketty is scaring the right because he is a serious researcher and a calm, disciplined observer who writes in measured tones. But for conservatives who have based the last several decades of economic discussion on mythology, this dose of reality has come at them like a chillling blast of Arctic air.


Piketty's writing is plain, readable, and even repetitive. The most daring sentence in Capital, and one that a reviewer at Bloomberg, Clive Crook, was quick to pounce on, is this: "The past devours the future." That sentence, which is on the border between poetry and prose, is the heart of the book. It beats and pumps the life through the its calm and deeply researched 700 pages. The past (the rich) devour our future.

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A Better Definition of "Faithful"

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 8:36 AM

NPR take a look at the "divorce rate" among birds:

Flamingos, it turns out, are embarrassing. They break up 99 percent of the time. The divorce rate for piping plovers is 67 percent. Ducks do better than humans. Human marriages (American ones) fail at a rate of roughly 40 percent (which is about equal to Nazca boobies). Mallard marriages are 91 percent successful. The big shock was swans. Everybody, ornithologists included, figured swans would be at the top of the Most Faithful list. But they're not. They have a 5 percent divorce rate. So who's the champ? Do I need to say? Albatrosses are 100 percent faithful. That's not to say that albatross dads don't occasionally have a dalliance with ladies who aren't their mates. That happens. But the original pair stays intact—which is surprising when you consider that albatross couples can last for decades.

Unless male albatrosses are scrupulous about dallying—that's NPR for "fucking"—only with single lady albatrosses (albatri?), the female of the species is getting it elsewhere too. But the albatross may have a more workable definition of "faithful" than the one humans have been saddled with: a lasting partner bond with the occasional dalliance, aka social monogamy, not sexual monogamy. Another thing albatrosses seem to do right: they spend a lot of time apart—sometimes months alone. Research shows that human couples who do the same are happier and have stronger relationships.

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Police Beat: Drinking In Public Should Not Be a Crime

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 8:34 AM

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  • cm

In this police report, we see a police officer making contact with a man on the street ("Hey, you there!") because of a law that is useless and should be abandoned by all big cities: The law that criminalizes drinking in public.

I contacted suspect/Gray for drinking from an open container of a 24 oz can of Modelo at Broadway and East Pine Street. A routine records check via patrol car MDT returned the above listed warrant...


Let's ignore the warrant and focus instead on the reason why the officer contacted the man on the street in the first place—he was seen to be holding an open can (or bottle) of Modelo beer. Prohibitions of this nature are just inappropriate for a big city. We can expect the wholesome folks of a small town to be worried about who is drinking in the woods or the side of the road or where ever they might chance to see other humans behaving in ways that offend their sensibilities and customs. But not the inhabitants of Seattle. We are dense, we are busy, we have other things to worry about.

Also, this regulation against public boozing has a bad smell that was blown to us from the tiresome country of Christian morality. We should freshen our city air by bringing an end to these odious and unhelpful regulations. Parks love drinkers.

Dantalian's Chariot: Chariot's Rising Reissued

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 7:05 AM

This '60s English group, Dantalian's Chariot, was Hammond R&B band leader Zoot Money and guitarist Andy Somers, AKA Andy Summers (later with the Animals and the Police) outfitted in technicolor and paisley. The group played well known London clubs, the Middle Earth and the UFO, obviously they were sussed, but they never saw the charts. In fact, they only made a single 45, "Madman Running Through the Fields" b/w "Sun Came Bursting Through My Cloud," a single which is now highly regarded among 'heads.

After the 45, they recorded an album's worth of material, but were dropped from their label Columbia, so it went unissued at the time; it wasn't until the mid-'90s that their unreleased material was issued by Tenth Planet as Chariot's Rising.

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Lucky for me, I just happened to see the Tenth Planet album has been reissued by Spain's Wah Wah label. I'M STOKED YOU GUYS. See, I somehow missed buying the album the FIRST time and even with teh internet it's been tough to track down an affordable copy. Uh... sure I DO have the CD, but like... owning a CD of an LP that I want don't really COUNT for shit to this record nerd!! Too, this reissue looks fancier than the '90s issue, as it has a proper English '60s flip back sleeve!! (nerd swoon)

Why Raising the Minimum Wage Is Not Enough

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 6:00 AM

The minimum wage debate is really all about people. It’s about the guy who works at your neighborhood store, and the woman who takes care of your kids. It’s about making sure that our neighbors, friends, and employees have enough to live on. Ultimately, that will require much more than just raising the minimum wage, but increasing take home pay for low-wage workers is a great place to start.

I grew up in Seattle, and I have seen massive changes in those four decades. I think we can all agree that Seattle is not the working-class city it once was. This city is prosperous. Construction is booming, buildings are going up and we have a greater concentration of wealth than many other regions. But not everyone is benefiting. Simply put, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is getting squeezed. Many people I grew up with can no longer afford to live here, raise their children here, and grow the city. And that hurts all of us.

The cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle has an average rent of about $1,500 a month, depending on the neighborhood. That’s far more than a full-time worker making $9.32 an hour can afford, especially when you consider other high costs it takes to live here like food, child care, and transportation.

Any policy changes to the minimum wage should be mindful of the impact on small businesses and human services. But we shouldn’t let that stop us from doing what is right and makes sense for our city, state, and our community. Because the biggest impact will be improved economic security which translates into less demand for social services and more customers for our small businesses.

Of course, there are a lot of claims floating around about increasing it and what it would do. In the spirit of moving forward thoughtfully, let’s take them one by one and look at the facts:

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Election Results: Metro-Funding Proposition 1 Is Losing In Early Ballots

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 8:27 PM

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  • Levi Hastings

But, these are the early ballots so maaaybe things could change as late-arriving ballots are tallied. It doesn't seem likely, though. The present split:

YES 44.72% (162,508 votes)

NO 55.28% (200,887 votes)

There's a 38,000-vote difference to be made up if Metro is to receive funding meant to keep it alive and working as we know it. According to King County Elections Director Sherril Huff, tonight's count represents "more than 94 percent of all ballots received by today. We are anticipating thousands more ballots to arrive in the mail tomorrow as well as in our ballot drop boxes that close[d] at 8 p.m. tonight.”

The next tally is likely to arrive tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.

Today in Hashtag Activism: #MyNYPD Backfires On Police

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 5:58 PM

As much as I cringe at the phrase hashtag activism, we're all glued to our phones and the Internet these days, and it definitely is a thing. It's been what, two weeks since activists trended #CancelColbert and prompted a national dialogue around racism? Today, Twitterers hijacked the New York City Police Department's #MyNYPD hashtag to showcase the police department's brutality, with images like this:


And this:


It's now trending nationally. There's much, much more here, NYPD issued a statement, and now #MyLAPD is taking off.

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In Culture News: Here Comes SIFF, There Goes Mein Kampf, and Welcome to the Space Needle Planet

Posted by , , and on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 5:33 PM

Welcome to Planet Seattle: It's Earth Day! The day we celebrate the planet we live on. The day we realize that the earth is all there fucking is. The coolest picture you will see of Seattle today (and probably the whole year) is related to the whole Earth Day thing: Our planet from the top of the Space Needle:


Stand Up and Be Counted: Have you taken part in the Office of Arts & Culture's cultural space inventory yet? Please do! It'll only take a minute, and you'll be helping the city understand how creative Seattle is.

I Can’t Believe This Didn’t Work: The New York Police Department invited people to take photos of themselves with NYPD officers, and it backfired gloriously when everyone sent in pictures of their arrests or general violence.

Hitler's Copyright Is Expiring: Mein Kampf is entering the public domain next year, and there's an argument about how to handle the situation.

Remember the Milk: You can now pre-order Harvey Milk stamps at USPS.com.

Full Tilt: Amazon's 3D smartphone is rumored to involve lots of tilting gestures.

SIFF Trailer Released: See the just-released trailer for the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival below!

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SL Letter of the Day: The Wedding Party

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 5:19 PM

I'm newly married to a disgustingly sexy blond, blue-eyed hunk. Every day I wonder how lucky I am—excuse me. How lucky I was. He's absolutely great and I don't wish to trade him for anything in the world. Except for a few faults I believed us to be pretty happy and comfortable with our relationship.

Until this past week.

I found out last minute my husband's family had paid for a week's holiday in Mexico and a lot of my husband's family was going as his step-sister was getting married. Yet my husband was asked to keep the trip a secret from me. I found out and told him he could go, if he wanted to go without me, but he would be returning to divorce papers. My husband then called his mom and said he would not be going unless his wife was sitting next to him. Honestly, I told him I would of rather not go, seeing as I wasn't invited. But once I learned that my ticket had been purchased and that we were leaving a few days later I tried to repress my anger. When I arrived with my husband in Mexico I was told that I had to be on my "best behavour" as any outbursts or verbal disagreements we've had in our relationship of two years had been shared with his immediate family and everyone was scared that I would ruin my step-sister-in-law's wedding! I waited until I was in a closed room with my husband and freaked out. I demanded to know what the hell they were talking about!

The rest of this epic question—and my response—after the jump...

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Currently Hanging: Annie Marie Musselman's Photographic Book of Nursing the Wild

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 4:53 PM

A GREAT BLUE HERON But nothing casts a shadow on the sky.
  • Courtesy of the artist, Annie Marie Musselman
  • A GREAT BLUE HERON But nothing casts a shadow on the sky.

The spotted fawn on the cover of Finding Trust casts a wary eye at the camera. The fawn is not in a meadow. The closest thing to a green meadow is the mussed mint-green bedsheet the fawn sits on, convalescing. Two pages into the book there's another snapshot, this time of a great blue heron. The heron casts a long shadow on a wall the exact blue of blue skies, but nothing leaves a shadow on the actual sky, so I immediately feel the cognitive dissonance between this creature that has a wingspan the size of me, and whatever homo sapiens interior I'm looking at. Yet the bird is not trapped. It is calm and the photographer is close.

The heron and fawn are injured and have been brought to the place where all the book's photographs were taken, at Sarvey Wildlife Center, a sanctuary and hospital for wild animals outside Arlington, Washington. Sarvey seems like an amazing place. In 2013, Sarvey counted 2,951 wildlife patients. It's the only center of its kind in the state, according to its web site.

STILL ROYAL Eagle in the med room at Sarvey.
  • Courtesy of the artist, Annie Marie Musselman
  • STILL ROYAL Eagle in "the med room" at Sarvey.

Photographer Annie Marie Musselman volunteered for seven years of Thursdays at Sarvey, starting in 2003. She discovered it one night after a Sonics game, when she noticed a badly bloated pigeon on the ground, called 911, and got a call back immediately. The man on the other end of the line said, "Whaddya got?" He arrived to rescue the pigeon in 45 minutes. (Arlington is 47 miles away.) Moved, Musselman asked whether Sarvey needed volunteers. "Are you kidding?" he said.

Musselman had recently nursed her sick mother, then seen her mother die. In her grief, working with injured animals turned out to be the only thing that felt worth doing.

"It gave me a life," she said in an interview at a Seattle coffee shop back in September, when the book was released in Europe. (The publisher is Kehrer Verlag, a German house specializing in art photography.) Finding Trust was released this month in the U.S., and Musselman, a Tacoma native now based in Seattle who also shoots for publications like Newsweek and The Stranger (she got her start shooting De La Soul for The Rocket), will give a talk tomorrow at 5 at Elliott Bay.

Musselman worked at Sarvey for several years before she started taking photographs, bringing her own lights and collaborating with the workers there. While she was there, her father also fell ill with an undiagnosed disease. He'd been a painter all his life. The illness left him blind.

After that, Musselman met a raven that would never fly again, meaning she was allowed to imprint. They called her Angel, and there's an unmistakable mutual love between Angel and Musselman in the photographs. Musselman knows it sounds weird, but she came to see in Angel her mother's departed spirit. Angel and Musselman had two years together, until Angel's painful bumblefoot advanced too far. On the morning Angel died, Musselman saw an eagle appear outside the window just beforehand, then fly away the moment after.

"It is said that if someone or something endures pain, the eagle signals a new beginning, providing the stamina and resilience to endure," Musselman wrote in the book. "That day, I believe the eagle came for both Angel and me."

Like Sarvey, Finding Trust is extraordinary. It's more than 100 pages, telling many different stories, of love and trust, yes, but also loneliness, longing, surgery, and death. The photos are unfussy. This was not an experiment in moving animals around so they could pose for pictures. There's another kind of majesty from the usual wild-animal photography, where the animals' full powers bloom in the context of their world. Here they're suspended between worlds. The humans look to be, too. It seems possible that in a crazy way, they've actually met in the middle.

Did You Forget Something Today? Like Voting?

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 4:45 PM

Hi there! We've been harping on it all day and we'll stop soon, but this is your last friendly li'l reminder to VOTE OHMYGOD PLEASE VOTE YES ON PROP 1 if you live in King County. A lot of Metro bus service is at stake—for kids in high school, for people who are elderly or disabled, for commuters, for people who like to bus home from the bar instead of driving drunk, for all sorts of people. Even if you don't use the bus, if you use roads, they'll be so much more fucked if there are fewer buses.

If you have your ballot handy, go fill it out (YES on Prop 1) and mail it in!

This is what a ballot drop box looks like
  • King County
  • This is what a ballot drop box looks like!
BUT I DON'T HAVE A STAMP. That's okay! You can drop it off at one of the locations on this mobile-device-friendly map. For example:

• The drop box outside the Ballard library (5614 22nd Ave NW)
• The downtown drop box (500 Fourth Ave)
• The van parked in Red Square on the UW campus (4000 15th Ave NE)
• The van parked outside Rainier Community Center (4600 38th Ave S)

And there's way more locations! But you have to drop it off by 8 p.m. tonight.

I DON'T EVEN HAVE MY BALLOT. That is, miraculously, not even a problem! You can fill out a ballot online, print it out, and then mail, fax, or e-mail it to King County Elections. Wanna do that? Start here. Note: If you do choose to fax or e-mail it, you'll still have to send your printed-out ballot packet in afterward.

I NEED AUDIO/VISUAL HELP VOTING (or I want/need to do it in person). Cool! There are "accessible voting centers" in Bellevue, Renton, and at Seattle's Union Station (401 S Jackson St). Bring photo ID. Open till 8 p.m.

I STILL HAVE MORE QUESTIONS. Try King County Elections' website. Or, and I recommend this because they're friendly and helpful, call (206) 296-VOTE. That's (206) 296-8683.

There's three hours left. Even Macklemore wants you to vote yes on Prop 1. So does everyone in local politics ever. DO IT.

Why Did You Do This To Us, Avril Lavigne?

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Avril Lavigne has never been an icon of artistic integrity. At her best, she sang relentlessly catchy mall-pop. At her worst...well, at her worst, there's the video for her new song, "Hello Kitty."

Avril Lavigne is turning 30 this year. That's all I could think as I watched this video and listened to this atrocious song which, if you listen carefully, is layered on top of a keening whine of apathy. She's turning 30 and she's dancing and singing in a video for a pop song that is, if anything, a regression from her 2007 single "Girlfriend." "Girlfriend" was at least confident about the kind of song it was—a pop perversion of punk, an adoption of the imagery, stance, and sound of punk music with all the edges shaved off.

"Hello Kitty" is every bad decision of the last ten years, all wrapped up in one video: The thoughtless appropriation of popular Japanese culture a lá Gwen Stefani and, later, Katy Perry; the half-baked dubstep drop; the lame "OMFG" in the lyrics; and the sad autotuned chorus. The shameless handling of race and culture is the worst offense, of course: The random shouting of Japanese words; the scene where Lavigne goes to eat sushi and drink sake; her crew of silent, emotionless backup dancers, all dressed exactly alike, who follow her everywhere; the weak kung fu moves integrated into the dance.

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Re-Occupying Westlake (Maybe)

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 4:11 PM

Lizzi Duff goes camping.
  • bk
  • Lizzi Duff goes camping.

From today (Earth Day) to May Day, activists plan a re-Occupation of Westlake Plaza. At the very least, they intend to serve a free, vegan dinner every night at 5 pm and hold a general assembly at 7 pm. And how many people will stay the night?

"We don't know," said Lizzi Duff, an activist with Occupy and Rising Tide.

After the first general assembly of Occupy Seattle in 2011, Duff said, a few people gathered beneath a tree and talked about who wanted to stay. Duff laid out their (Duff's preferred pronoun) sleeping bag and went to sleep in a light rain. When they woke up at 3 am, 15 tents had appeared. When they woke again around 7 am, the number had doubled. "They mushroomed through the pavement," they said. "By the fourth night, we had 150 to 200 tents, sheltering and taking care of 300 to 400 people."

Duff points at the spot where they think the first sleeping bag was laid out for Occupy Seattle.
  • bk
  • Duff points at the spot where they think the first sleeping bag was laid out for Occupy Seattle.

"Are we lighting another fuse for another fire of resistance and protest?" they asked. "Nobody knows."

The re-Occupation is part of the Global Climate Convergence, a series of protests and actions in 50 US cities planned between now and May Day. The Convergence, Duff said, is "a response to objective conditions getting worse in terms of economic disparity and ecological collapse. If we don't radically change now, mass death is certain. This is endgame stuff."

Tonight is also a permitted, night-long event for a coalition of homeless folks and homeless allies from the various tent cities, Nickelsville, and some of the indoor shelters. "It's nice to be able to leave your bag here and not worry about it," said Andreas, who's ben homeless for several years. Sometimes downtown coffee shops will also let him leave a bag for awhile if he's going somewhere to shower or take care of personal business. "It's nice to have a community."

"It's hard work being homeless!" added Terry Jenkins. "But we're taking all comers tonight—the more the merrier."

Continue reading »

Simon Townshend Could Be in a Real (Pearl) Jam Wednesday Night at Triple Door

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 3:48 PM

According to a post on his blog, Simon Townshend will be joined by Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder for a few songs at the former's April 23 show at Triple Door. Townshend, you may know, is the younger brother of the Who's Pete Townshend. (I bet Simon really hates when people mention that.) The younger Townshend bro has the distinction of singing on the Who's Tommy when he was 9 years old.

More info on tomorrow's show here.

New York Times Rebukes Obama Administration's "Dangerous" Free Trade Secrecy

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 3:22 PM

The New York Times editorial board devoted a lengthy Sunday editorial to discussing the merits and demerits of free trade, and being good liberals, they don't discuss how 1994's North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) screwed over Mexico (1, 2, 3). When it comes, however, to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sprawling free trade pact currently being negotiated between 12 countries in secret, they are unsparing:

The Obama administration has revealed so few details about the negotiations, even to members of Congress and their staffs, that it is impossible to fully analyze the Pacific partnership. Negotiators have argued that it’s impossible to conduct trade talks in public because opponents to the deal would try to derail them.

But the administration’s rationale for secrecy seems to apply only to the public. Big corporations are playing an active role in shaping the American position because they are on industry advisory committees to the United States trade representative, Michael Froman. By contrast, public interest groups have seats on only a handful of committees that negotiators do not consult closely.

That lopsided influence is dangerous, because companies are using trade agreements to get special benefits that they would find much more difficult to get through the standard legislative process.

Capitalism is a bizarro world, isn't it? Why is something that concentrates power in the hands of corporate bosses behind a veil and does an end run around democracy commonly described as "free" trade?

In Rarefied Air: Q's Ambient/New Age Night Returns

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 2:58 PM

Courtesy of Christian Petersen

There's a delightfully surreal quality to walking into Q, a cavernous, beautifully furnished nightclub on Capitol Hill, and seeing people sitting on picnic blankets in the middle of the dance floor, staring at hypnotic visualizations displayed on the wall. That's probably the sight you can expect tonight if you hit up Rare Air, the new ambient/New Age night that turned people on and tuned them out in February. Put together by DJs Explorateur and Veins, the night promises rare, eclectic cuts that explore the trippier, pupil-widening side of electronic and alternative music, often evolving from noisier and more improvised sounds to the glacial, beatific best of ambient.

The show will include a guest DJ set from Struggle (Shawn Kralicek) and a live show by Gel-Sol, whose clanky, ominous new album Zetaworld buzzes with a particularly sludgy palette of menacing beats and zonked-out synth work.

If this sounds like your cup of (weed?) tea, hit up this refreshing (and free) evening of experimental blissout.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 Episode 10 RuCap: Drag My Wedding!

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 2:53 PM

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Episode 10! Already! Watch it here.

The time has flown like a stone pelican. Let us pause for a teensy little instant to remember all the queens who have bravely fallen in their quest for the crown: Vivacious and her many heads, LaGanja and her many tears, Gia and whatever the hell she was about, and um…that's all I remember. Moving along!

We are down to six queens and the tension is tighter than a frog's vagina: Adore (who came within inches of biting it hard last week), Darienne (skank), Bianca (of course), Courtney (whatever), Joslyn (so cute!), and, thank you Sheesus, our girl Ben DeLaCreme, who remains a consummate ass-kicker (#teamdelacreme! Wooohooo!).

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How Did Hollywood's Leading Men Get So Ripped?

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Logan Hill wrote a very interesting piece for Men's Journal about how unnatural the male physique has become in movies over the last decade-and-a-half. (Consider the physical difference between Harrison Ford in Star Wars and Ryan Reynolds in, well, anything.) You should go read the whole piece, but here's a little taste:

thewolverine.jpg
Since 5 percent body fat is nobody's natural condition, fitness plans are geared to peak on the days of the sex scenes or shirtless moments. To prep for these days, trainers will dehydrate a client like a boxing manager sweats a fighter down to weight. They often switch him to a low- or no-sodium diet three or four days in advance, fade out the carbohydrates, brew up diuretics like herbal teas, and then push cardio to sweat out water – all to accentuate muscle definition for the key scenes.

The last-minute pump comes right before the cameras roll. Philip Winchester, the hero of Cinemax's action series Strike Back, recalls seeing the technique for the first time on the set of Snatch: "Hundreds of extras were standing around," he recalls, "and Brad Pitt would drop down and do 25 push-ups before each scene. I thought, 'Why is he showing off?' " Then Winchester figured it out. "I realized he was just jacking himself up: getting blood flowing to the muscles. I'd always wondered, 'How do actors look so jacked all the time?' Well, they don't. Now we ask: Is it a push-up scene? When I shot that Strike Back poster, I was doing push-ups like a madman, saying, 'Take the picture now! Take it now!' "

And yes, I know that movies represent an idealized version of reality and blah blah blah. And yes, I know that women have had to live with this kind of thing for a whole lot longer than men, and women definitely still have it way worse. But I'm betting we're on the cusp of a generation of young men with a whole new range of body image issues, and I'm also betting we're not far away from Hollywood's first real steroid scandal.

The Terrifying White Squirrels of Transylvania County

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 2:14 PM

The face of certain evil.
  • GAH!

Yes, yes, there is a county in North Carolina called Transylvania. But not to worry! Transylvania just means "through the woods" or "across the forest" and definitely doesn't mean, like, "Most certainly filled with vampires" or anything. I was in Transylvania County last week, in the town of Brevard, visiting family, and I didn't see a single vampire except maybe that one guy at Arby's. But! I did see a lot of other crazy things, like churches, and purple trees in the early blush of spring, and, um, hey, um, guys? What's that little white ghost running through that tree right there? And bounding down the tree and running across the lawn? It looks like a... oh my god it's flying through the air!

OHMYFUCKINGGOD! A flying* white squirrel. As you know if you follow me on Twitter, I recently died of a panic attack caused by this little colorless little agent of evil. Two of them, actually; my mom has a skinny one in her front yard and a fat one in the back yard. Thankfully, I died in Transylvania, where there's life after death. Since dying, I've been doing some googling, and legend has it these white squirrels arrived in this town by way of an overturned circus truck. Take it away, random website I found:

It all started with Mrs. W.E. (Barbara) Mull, a long time resident of Brevard, North Carolina. Her brother-in-law, H.H. Mull, was given two white squirrels by a Mr. Black of Madison, Florida way back in 1949. The pair of white squirrels had been squirreling around in Mr. Black’s pecan grove ever since a circus truck had overturned near his home. H.H. Mull then gave the little white critters to his niece Barbara Mull up in North Carolina. She kept them inside and hoped they might even breed, but alas, no such luck.

In 1951, Barbara Mull got married and went her way. In her absence, one of the white squirrels escaped outdoors. Not long afterwards, Mr. Mull (Barbara’s father) let the other heart broken and love stricken white squirrel go free. A short time later, little white squirrels began appearing in various parts of town—apparent direct or indirect off springs of this “Adam and Eve” pair.

*OK, OK, they don't actually fly. Except in animated gifs and in my nightmares and from tree branch to tree branch.

Now then, to the polls!

Tonight's Recommended Show: Mobb Deep's Gangster Cathedral

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 2:07 PM

(Crocodile) Mobb Deep’s peak moment was in the middle of the ’90s—a time that represented hiphop’s peak, as well. What they brought to the form was an attitude that was at once beautiful, melancholy, and violent. “Hit you in the face so hard that your nosebone goes into your brain,” claimed one line in the classic “Shook Ones Part II.” Also on that track: “When the slugs penetrate you feel a burning sensation/Getting closer to God in a tight situation.” On the album Hell on Earth (1996), Mobb Deep’s most important contribution to the history of hiphop, something like a cathedral of violent imagery, street life, gangster ethos is meticulously presented. You enter the album and hear a world where guns and masculine aggression are the sole means of survival. If you are soft, if you think twice, you are finished. But these violent visions were matched by an aesthetic program that showed great care and intelligence. The beats had lots space, and the piano loops and stabs of orchestral strings were drawn primarily from classical music. Mobb Deep’s work was indeed like a Tommy gun in a violin case.
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And here's all our recommended music events—tonight, tomorrow, this weekend, and beyond!

Is It Okay to Bring a Big Gulp to a Fancy Restaurant?

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 1:55 PM

Art of the Table chef Dustin Ronspies, not pouring Coke.
  • Eliza Truitt/The Stranger
  • Art of the Table chef Dustin Ronspies, not pouring Coke.

What if the fancy restaurant actually gives you directions to the 7-Eleven? But then the chef shames you on social media for it? That's the weird story over at Nosh Pit: A woman from Mercer Island and her family went to Wallingford's acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant Art of the Table. They'd been there before, and having tried the nonalcoholic drinks and not liked them, been allowed to bring Coke on a subsequent visit. This time, they forgot, and they asked a server, who gave them directions to the 7-Eleven. Then they went and got Cokes, came back, ate, and paid their $414 bill (with, kindly, extra for the tip because they don't drink).

That night, Art of the Table chef Dustin Ronspies posted to Facebook:

"While dining at AOTT is ask [sic] that you please refrain from bringing 48 oz Big Gulps to dinner. It just looks bad. #nogmo #nohfcs”

And, later:

“It also makes chefd really irritated.”

Ronspies later took the posts down and apologized; he explains that he was stressed and freaked out, and would've really preferred to pour Cokes for these people rather than have "these Big Gulps sitting around the place sweating and melting!"

This particular situation is obviously quite complicated, but for the sake of all future fancy-restaurant-goers (and chefs) everywhere, let's make the legally binding Slog poll nice and simple, shall we?

Matthew Coolidge's Landscape Research Art at Seattle University Tonight Only

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 1:47 PM

YOURE HERE This sign is how youre sure that youre at the Center for Land Use Interpretation complex in Wendover, Utah.
  • JG
  • YOU'RE HERE This sign is how you're sure that you're at the Center for Land Use Interpretation complex in Wendover, Utah.

I wrote in 2010 and still say that the most unbelievable work of land art anywhere is the Center for Land Use Interpretation's base in Wendover, Utah.

The man who created it, Matt Coolidge, is speaking at Seattle University tonight at 6. (Note to SU's PR department: This talk is a big deal. I've been told it was organized at least a couple weeks ago. Releasing the news yesterday was not cool.)

This is my description of Wendover from 2010:

At one point in my year of traveling the country, I find myself at the Center for Land Use Interpretation's base in Wendover, Utah, walking into an abandoned house full of bullet holes—bullet holes in the walls, in the flung-open door of the microwave, in the needlepoint duck on the wall, and all through the mannequin sitting on a destroyed couch. Rows of torsos stand out in the sun, ready for target practice.

CLUI (pronounced "klouie") was founded in 1994 by Matthew Coolidge as an ongoing research and education project, under the belief "that the manmade landscape is a cultural inscription that can be read to better understand who we are, and what we are doing," and Wendover is patently one of the craziest places in the world. Here, U.S. soldiers practice busting into homes for their tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. At its height, during World War II, it was one of the largest military bases in the world, surrounded by millions of acres of secret test sites, gigantic mines, and hazardous-waste dumping grounds. It's not far from the Bonneville Salt Flats; the earth crackles like ice underfoot, and next to the base, in the middle of the desert, acres of ground are covered by sparkling, aquamarine ponds created for industrial mineral collection.

The town of Wendover is a half-Mexican, half-Anglican casino town with a line drawn down the middle of its main street—the border with Nevada. This is where Utahans come to give up their money. Coolidge tells me the fanciest hotel is Montego Bay, and it stands like Valhalla, white and flashing with neon and dark mirrored glass. Inside Montego Bay is the perpetual night of every casino. The restaurant is wallpapered with great big glowing light-box transparencies of tropical-beach photographs. I ask at the front desk if they know about CLUI. They have never heard of it. It is across the street.

A former military Quonset hut at Wendover has sides dotted with patches over bullet holes. Not a hundred yards away is the simulated shoot-out house. Across the base, at CLUI's main exhibition building, there aren't guards or attendants. Most of the time, there's nobody at all in the converted barracks. To get in, you call a phone number listed on the door, pick up the door code, and walk in. Anyone can go, and it's free. Inside, the walls are lined with captioned photographs of every building and landmark on the base and in the area. Maps, too, and details. For artists to have a place here at all is an accomplishment. In this small, weird universe, the role of the land artist is simply to make you see what's on the land.

As the land appears, the art and the artist disappear. The word art is nowhere in CLUI's self-description, and the tone of all CLUI materials is informational. (100 Places in Washington is the opinionless title of CLUI's 1999 book made for Seattle's Center on Contemporary Art.) CLUI smuggles in politics.

There's a red-and-white 50-foot radio tower outside the exhibition hall, a piece of art made in 2004 by Deborah Stratman and called Power/Exchange. Go up to it and turn the dials, and you can hear what people in Wendover are ordering at fast-food drive-through windows, or the security guards talking at the local casinos, or the police scanner—all these are frequencies that are publicly accessible. It's land art as citizens' radio. People will tell you to go to Spiral Jetty, or The Lightning Field, or, soon, Roden Crater. But if you have to pick just one, go to CLUI Wendover. It is the most unbelievable of all earthworks, by pointing back from art into the world.

See you tonight, or just explore CLUI's Land Use Database to get a sense of the intentional and vigilantly policed objective voice of the project, and which places it emphasizes, from jails to lakes to land sculptures. A whole photo tour from my visit to CLUI Wendover is on the jump.

Continue reading »

Vagina "Plop Egg" Painting: Art or Pretension?

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Is it performance art, or a "litmus test of pretension and intellectual dishonesty?" Video censored, but may still be NSFW.

YouTube description/essay after the jump... More on artist Milo Moiré here.

Continue reading »

The Oxford English Dictionary...

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 1:21 PM

...is now out of print.

It is the world’s most definitive work on the most global language, but the Oxford English Dictionary may be disappearing from bookshelves forever.

Publishers fear the next edition will never appear in print form because its vast size means only an online version will be feasible, and affordable, for scholars.

The next edition won't be ready until 2034, at which time we'll either be burning books for warmth in a post-apocalyptic hellscape or inhaling the internet from ampules.

It's Been A Couple of Days—How Are You Feeling About That Game of Thrones Rape Scene?

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 1:08 PM

(Spoilers ahead)

I've stopped watching Game of Thrones—after three seasons of trying to turn myself into a person who gives a shit about dragons, I just have to face facts that I don't give a shit about dragons, or made-up kingdoms, or names I can neither remember or pronounce. I want you to be happy! I am glad of your fandom! But this is not my realm.

One thing that was always inexplicably weird to me was the way fans of the show justified the very obvious baseline of misogyny and sexual assault. The rape just made Khaleesi stronger! Joffrey is just a total bastard who also happens to be an abusive sexual deviant! It's different in the books! So I wasn't surprised when I saw a smattering of people on Twitter post comments about the rape of Cersei by her brother-lover Jaime this past Sunday, or when the internet exploded with thinkpieces about the scene yesterday.

Everything in me rails against rape as a narrative device. I've never seen it treated thoughtfully, and I think Game of Thrones fails women on multiple fronts (you can be queen, but only after you are sold like cattle and completely demoralized; you gain some strength, but only after you are separated from your family and then watch them all get murdered in front of you; rape, schmape, we're powerful men who just want to get down to fuckin'). So why does director Alex Graves think this, one of his "favorite scenes he's ever done," somehow end up consensual? In a rape culture where women are routinely dismissed and blamed for their part in their own rape, why does this director mimic the excuses of rapists the world over by placing the onus squarely on Cersei's shoulders, saying, "she’s largely using Jaime and he hasn’t figured it out yet," as if that's some explanation for Jaime raping her?

Police Beat: The Unpredictability of Dogs

Posted by on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 12:43 PM

In this police report, authored by Officer Nina Jones, a situation that began well ended very badly. Let's see what happened.

Officer Jones writes that a woman was walking a dog (a black Russian terrier) at a location near North 50th Street and Woodland Park Avenue. Also walking a dog (a tan golden retriever) in this area was a man. When all four were close, the two dogs began to wag their tails and "greet each other." Everything was just going great. The dogs were friendly and their owners were happy about this friendliness. This was one of the pleasures of walking this kind of animal. But then a dark unknown appeared and—just like that—exploded the friendly encounter into a vicious fight. The dogs attacked each other for no reason that the humans could understand. One moment, they were sniffing each other; the next, they were going at each other's throats. The utter violence of the animal kingdom was bared in their teeth. The man tried to separate the two but the effort cost him bites on the forearms and hands. (The victim does not know which dog bit him—it may have been both.) After the humans finally re-imposed order on their animals, the woman called 911. The Seattle Fire Department responded, bandaged the injuries on the scene, and transported the man to a hospital in Ballard. Officer Nina Jones provided both parties with business cards.

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