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Thursday, July 31, 2008

The 2008 Genius Awards: The Cake Episode

posted by on July 31 at 13:26 PM

Every fall since 2003, The Stranger has given a check for $5,000 and an obscene amount of attention to a filmmaker, a writer, a visual artist, a theater artist, and an arts organization making startling, original work. There is no application process. A panel of Stranger editors and critics descends into a cave and conducts their deliberations by candlelight.

Winners are notified via cake.

Yesterday, the winners were notified. Caroline Dodge, Regina Hackett of the P-I, and I drove around town, delivering white QFC cakes with red icing that read “You Are a Genius.” (Regina wrote about yesterday’s cake deliveries here.)

The winners are:

THEATER. Paul Mullin, playwright.


Mullin works at Amgen, which is several high-security buildings and lawns north of the city, with a nice view of Puget Sound. We told security that we wanted to see Mullin. Security called Mullin and told us to put our camera away. Mullin walked through the door into the lobby and looked at the cake quietly and blinked. “Wow,” he said softly. “Five thousand dollars? Wow.” He said his young sons would love the cake—and that his wife would help him decide how to spend the money. Maybe, he said, they’d take a trip to Italy.

ORGANIZATION. Implied Violence, theater collective.


Ryan and Mandie, the two people at the core of Implied Violence, were at their warehouse space in South Lake Union. Mandie was hand-washing fake blood from their most recent show (BarleyGirl) out of their costumes and—she admitted later—arguing with Ryan about whether or not they could afford to rent a piano for their next show (Eat Fight Fuck). When they saw the cake, they did a little dance, hugged each other, hugged me, and shouted “we can have a piano!”

VISUAL ART. Wynne Greenwood, video artist, musician, thinker.


Wynne teaches art to kids (who’ve been convicted of crimes) at Southeast Youth and Family Services in Columbia City. Jen Graves texted her, she came outside, saw the cake, turned away, then turned back with tears in her eyes and hugged Jen. “You have no idea what this means,” she said. “Now I can make art again.”

LITERATURE. Sherman Alexie, novelist, poet, essayist.


Christopher Frizzelle and Alexie were sitting in a playground in the Central District, finishing up some Ezell’s chicken. When Alexie saw the cake, he laughed—not a surprised/nervous chuckle, but a celebratory laugh, a laugh so big and loud and warm it felt like you could crawl inside it. Frizzelle said we gave him the award despite ourselves—we didn’t want it to be a conflict of interest since he, you know, writes for us and all. “Oh, don’t worry about that,” Alexie said. “I do it contemptuously.” Then he laughed again.

FILM. Lynn Shelton, director, writer, editor.


Shelton and Annie Wagner sat in Uptown Espresso in Belltown. Lynn saw the cake, squealed, and waved her arms around at shoulder height like a very excited child. “I never thought I’d win this,” she said. “I’m so—” Whatever it was, she was too it to finish her sentence. When we left Uptown, she was smiling and smiling.

You can come and meet all the geniuses on Saturday, September 13, at the Moore Theater: that big, beautiful monument to antique opulence.

Dyme Def will play, as will Daedelus and Spokane hip-hop/funk wunderkind James Pants.

There will be food. There will be drink. (There might even be a basketball hoop.)

You are invited.

RSS icon Comments


More suckoff to Implied Vile-lence
More suckoff to Alexie

Posted by Non | July 31, 2008 1:35 PM


Posted by MR. POE | July 31, 2008 1:41 PM


Strangeways LOOOOOOOOVES Wynne Greenwood!!!

And all but ONE of your choices was brilliant!

So, I'm guessing that Alexie wrote those idiotic Sonics pieces in exchange for the Genius Award?

Posted by michael strangeways | July 31, 2008 1:47 PM

Great choices! I love Mr. Alexie. Great reactions, too; it's always good when you can make people cry. Or laugh.

Posted by Fnarf | July 31, 2008 1:51 PM

It's about damn time you gave it to Alexie. He's deserved it for years.

Posted by Jessica | July 31, 2008 2:01 PM

Congratulations to all.

Posted by Bub | July 31, 2008 2:09 PM

what do we need to do to get Matt Ruff one of those cakes?

Posted by ironymaiden | July 31, 2008 2:14 PM

@7: Ruff was shortlisted last year, the first year I was involved in the Literature portion of the Genius Awards, for Bad Monkeys. But he hasn't published anything this year. He's definitely someone I always keep an eye on. Set This House in Order is one of my favorite-ever books by a local author.

Posted by Paul Constant | July 31, 2008 2:21 PM

everyone should have a piano.

Posted by paulus | July 31, 2008 2:21 PM

No cake for you, Non.


And congrats to all, but especially to Paul and Lynn!

Annex Theatre/Caution Zero Network - represent!

Posted by COMTE | July 31, 2008 2:24 PM

Congrats all!

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | July 31, 2008 2:25 PM

Grats, Sherm! You deserve it!

Can't say much about the rest, never heard of them, but I guess they're good choices.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 31, 2008 2:36 PM

oh, for fucks sake...quit crawling up the "famous" guy's tired old ass.

And what the fuck does Sherman Alexie need with $5k? He lines his litter box with $50 bills.

You couldn't have found a deserving local talent who could use the cash to finish a work in progress? I'd rather see you give it to Dina Martina so she can complete her autobiography, "Camel Toes and Cantinas: My 40 Years in Show Bidness"

Posted by michael strangeways | July 31, 2008 3:06 PM

Nice picks, esp. Lynn Shelton. congrats to all! Has anyone sent the Stranger a cake for this running feature?

Posted by josh | July 31, 2008 3:09 PM

A box of cupcakes would be a better choice, josh.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 31, 2008 3:25 PM

That Lynn Shelton is a very attractive young man.

Posted by ftm | July 31, 2008 4:04 PM

Keep crying, strangeways. Alexie is a genius.

Posted by Nick | July 31, 2008 4:04 PM

Thank you michael @13, my thoughts exactly. After reading the "article" Alexie wrote last week, it becomes glaringly obvious that this award will do little more then stroke his already grotesquely over-inflated ego... and at best, the money will supply him with 50 more sheets of toilet paper.

What a waste.

Posted by mojo mojito | July 31, 2008 4:18 PM

I should remind everyone that Genius is a merit-based (not a need-based) award. Otherwise we'd call it the Pretty Talented but Financially Insolvent Awards.

The Genius net is big enough to catch people poor and rich, famous and unknown, early-career and late-career. The only requirements are that the winners live in Seattle and that the Genius Committee—Dave Schmader, Jen Graves, Charles Mudede, Paul Constant, Annie Wagner, Christopher Frizzelle, and me—agrees that their work is genius.

Each of the winners meets that criteria.

Posted by Brendan Kiley | July 31, 2008 4:25 PM

Savage isn't on the committee?

Posted by Tiny Dancer | July 31, 2008 4:31 PM

@19 hahahaha. Best first paragraph. Also, has it really been a >year since the last ones? That is insane. I remember that night so vividly - not that we made it INTO the party.

Posted by Callie | July 31, 2008 4:58 PM

Cake or Death!

Posted by Y.F. | July 31, 2008 8:21 PM

yay!!!! Congratulations to everyone!!! Wynne and Sherman are so deserving. Both have reduced me to tears at one time or another. Will have to go read up on the others... What great picks!

Posted by abomb | July 31, 2008 8:37 PM

The Stranger is the coolest weekly paper evar. Notification via cake? THAT RULES!

Posted by Fe Man | August 1, 2008 7:12 AM

In that case, Ann Rule would be a better choice than Alexi...

Posted by michael strangeways | August 1, 2008 9:19 AM

Brendan @19: you've a right to your criteria. But as someone who's actually paid attention to your Genius awards over the years, giving one to Sherman Alexie is a big eye roller, and it adds to an image of The Stranger as losing its place at the forefront of culture in Seattle. I look forward to the awards announcement each year because it tells me about someone, or some organization, I've nevever heard of. Or - better - it reminds me to check out someone I've just begun to hear buzz about.

I and the rest of the world don't need you to bring Sherman Alexie to our attention. We already know who the hell he is.

Posted by Will in 98103 | August 1, 2008 9:24 AM

And the Alexie Suckfest continues...

Any little credibility the Genius Awards have just went swirling down the drain...

Posted by dr. thompkins | August 1, 2008 9:48 AM

Yuck. I'd have rather seen Paul Mullin get a cake in the face for that ridiculous piece of crap The Ten Thousand Things.

Posted by brueso | August 1, 2008 9:59 AM

@28 Couldn't agree more. That was by far the worst piece of theatre I have EVER seen in Seattle. Never have I been so angry coming out of a play. Angry at the total bullshit I just had to witness and that a group which I respect (WET) would subject it's audience to such drek.

Posted by woodsea | August 1, 2008 10:26 AM

lynn shelton is awesome

Posted by dave | August 1, 2008 10:32 AM

@28&29: God, you guys have not been seeing enough Seattle theater. That's the worst thing you have EVER seen? Guess you missed the bodyBODY Project.

Posted by annie | August 1, 2008 10:48 AM

Oh, god...not another go-round of the Talentless Hipster Circle-Jerk Awards!

Next year, just be honest with yourselves, and throw a big fucking party for your friends. Either that, or do something honorable by donating the money to charity.

(Incidentally? Including Sherman Alexie in the list doesn't make the rest of the panel more talented. Nice try, though.)

Posted by A Non Imus | August 1, 2008 11:40 AM

Hey A Non Imus:

If giving $25,000 in no-strings-attached grants to Seattle artists doesn't count as charity in your book, stay tuned for Strangercrombie in December, when we raise more than twice that amount for the hungry and homeless.

That counts as charity, right?

Posted by Brendan Kiley | August 1, 2008 1:16 PM

uh, doesn't the money come from a corporate sponsor?

Posted by michael strangeways | August 1, 2008 4:11 PM

Since Lucky Strike blew town, Genius money has come from a lot of places—some of it from sponsors, a lot of it from our own pockets.

Posted by Brendan Kiley | August 1, 2008 4:35 PM

Congrats to all the winners - especially Paul. Darn those photo consent forms! At least they didn't search your cake.

Posted by Darian | August 4, 2008 9:53 AM

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