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Friday, October 24, 2008

"Krumping You Can Believe In"

posted by on October 24 at 11:04 AM

The presidential dance-battle I didn't know I'd been waiting for until I saw it.

Thank you, World of Wonder, which is also hosting an exhibition of political art in its storefront gallery. Two samples: Sarah Fawcett Majors and Condoleeza Rice.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

When Arts Donation Starts to Look Like Bribery

posted by on October 23 at 4:02 PM

This story is a couple of days old, but worth reviving—Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and other defense-industry heavyweights have been dumping disproportionate sums into the symphony in Johnstown, PA (pop 24,000).

Why lil' ol' Johnsontown? Because, the New York Times article suggests, Representative John Murtha's wife is a major booster for that symphony and Rep Murtha (D-PA) heads a Congressional committee that "hands out lucrative defense contracts."

“She [Ms. Murtha] just loves knowing that we have an orchestra that is the quality of a larger city orchestra,” the symphony executive director, Patricia Hofscher, said of Mrs. Murtha. “Her friends have come here and been impressed by the quality of the orchestra in a geographic and economic region that, let’s face it, are not on the beaten path.”

For the first time, corporations and their lobbyists are being required to disclose donations they make to the favorite causes of House and Senate members, and a review of thousands of pages of records shows the extent — and lavishness — of this once hidden practice.

During the first six months of 2008, lobbyists, corporations and interest groups gave approximately $13 million to charities and nonprofit organizations in honor of more than 200 members of the House and Senate. The donations came from firms with numerous interests before the Congress, such as Wal-Mart, the Ford Motor Company, Kraft Foods and Pfizer, and were received by charities including prominent organizations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, as well as local groups controlled by members of Congress or those close to them.

This kind of corporate giving is actually an investment in the business's future profits—I wonder how the new disclosure laws, coupled with the flailing economy (and, for Seattle, Boeing's plunging stock prices) will put the screws to Seattle arts organizations?

(Read the rest at the NYT.)

Bravo, Humanity!

posted by on October 23 at 3:47 PM


Is there a Nobel prize for dressing up your pet for Halloween yet? Because whoever's responsible for the costume above should win it.

Runners-up here, here, and here.

Thank you, Slog tipper Grace.

Being the Skyline

posted by on October 23 at 10:10 AM

Something special appears in the pages of Graham Harman's short essay on the ideas of Bruno Latour and Manuel DeLanda:

To use one of DeLanda’s own examples, a city has a certain infrastructure that can be viewed as material, but also has facades and skylines, an excessive surface unnecessary for their current functions. The term “skyline” is so nice that it ought to be made into a technical term in philosophy: objects are not just hidden material strata, but each has a skyline with which it greets the others.

How does one turn this...
...into a term like "ontology" or "hauntology" or "ontic"? What could a science or theory of the skyline do for us?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Criticism and its Future

posted by on October 22 at 3:59 PM

The missing component from this post I made just over a year ago (September, 28, 2007):

If art criticism is to become invulnerable it must be grounded not in economics but in the body, the head, the physical brain itself. The critic must argue that this or that thing is good because the biological processes that made it happen are good processes. But how does one do this? Neurology offers the critic a solution.

What I lacked at the moment of presenting this solution was any knowledge of mirror neurons. I learned about them by accident on July 16, 2008. I was surfing cyberspace when I came across the enchanting (almost Borgesian) words “mirror neurons” (I would also have been enchanted by the words “maze neurons” or “haze neurons” or “twilight neurons”). And what are mirror neurons (which can also be called echo/dub neurons—but that’s for another post)? This is how I described them in a recent book review:

Mirror neurons are neurons in the brain that fire when a primate sees another primate perform an action. Meaning, the action (grabbing a cup, caressing a nipple, making a face) is not simply seen, it is also experienced within the head of the perceiver. Furthermore, it is experienced as if the primate had committed the action him/herself. Ultimately, learning, talking, acting are the products of direct, even crude, imitation, or, to use the language of Iacoboni, simulation. We not only learn from others, we are others.

In another post, The Future of Criticism, I wrote:

Mirror neurons in the brain fire when, for example, your finger caresses the tip of someone’s nipple. Mirror neurons also fire in the same way if you happen to see another person’s finger caressing the tip of someone’s nipple. This means the inside is no different from the outside. How you experience your own body is also how you see another human experience their own body.

My point: Discovered a decade or so ago in Parma, Italy, mirror neurons are the gateway between to two socials (or associations): the human body and human culture. With mirror neurons we can finally connect cultural processes to biological ones. Cultural developments are no longer something special or exceptional or independent but continuous with organic developments. Not only that, culture impacts its base, the body. The whole Marxist edifice of superstructure and base crumbles. The movement between the body (bios, base, production of life) and culture (ideology, superstructure, production of codes) is not one-way—it’s both ways. Culture changes the brain; changes in the brain change culture, and what binds the social of the body to the social of a community are mirror neurons. Language is not just language and art is not just art. These are the productions of natural imitation, and must be understood as having that point of departure and point of return.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sarah Silverman Bombs in London

posted by on October 21 at 1:14 PM


On Sunday night, Sarah Silverman made her London debut with a show at the Hammersmith Apollo. It lasted 40 minutes, consisted of almost entirely recycled material, and ended with Silverman being forced to "give a Q&A session as an encore after admitting she had no other material prepared."

It sounds uniquely squirmy, and I look forward to YouTube evidence. In the meantime, here are reviews from the BBC and the Times.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Your Cultural Bill of Rights

posted by on October 16 at 2:51 PM

For weeks I've been soaking up Bill Ivey's new book Arts, Inc.: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights.

Cultural rights, you say? What are those?

Exactly. It's a book you want to pick up (and at Powell's it's only $16.95). I've written about it here.

For more natural linkage between art and politics, see Modern Art Notes's series this week on contemporary art and the American flag, which also has its own gallery (that you can add to) on BuzzFeed.

My favorite of the images up now is by photojournalist Todd Heisler. Remember this one?


Monday, October 13, 2008

As If You Needed Another Reason to Loathe Tim Eyman

posted by on October 13 at 2:18 PM

His new initiative (I-985) doesn't just propose to open carpool lanes to all drivers—he's also after public funding for the arts.

From page 18 of I-985 (.pdf of it here):

Dedicates revenue previous allocated to art to the "reduce traffic congestion account."

Basically, he's after the Washington State Arts Commission, which receives a fraction of a percent of money allocated for public building projects. With it, they give grants to organizations like Intiman Theater and the Spokane Symphony.

(Hey all you theater people who worked yourselves into a foaming, gnashing lather over this week's theater section—how about you summon a little of that energy and help fight I-985. Because if you think The Stranger is an enemy of theater, you haven't met Tim Eyman yet.)

UPDATE: I'm wrong, wrong, wrong. Apparently, the arts verbiage quoted above is a red herring and wouldn't actually change local public-arts funding. See more at and the Municipal League.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"Gonna Stop Smoke Today"

posted by on October 1 at 11:54 AM

Well, Frizzelle, I think I've found your Alaskan man of letters, a latter-day Robert Service who wrote a couple of poems during a standoff with the police:


Poem number one:

Boy I could use a smoke.
"Scarey" very noise bullets.
Fucking scrary.
My, my maybe
the holy father
would help
wish someone would
pray for me

And the story, from a friend who works as a detective up there:

The guy, who was in his 50s and has no criminal history, just went nuts. The day before he flipped he used a backhoe to tear up his son's septic system because he was mad at his son. Then the next day he grabbed a bunch of his guns, went to a Texaco, and had a standoff with cops for hours. At one point he yelled "I'm coming out" and came out with two guns on his shoulders and two small vases in his hands with a flower in each vase. He walks out half way to the nearest SWAT team cop and says "these are for you," puts the vases down, then goes back to his hideout spot.

Eventually the cops tricked him with cigarettes

Poem number two:

Out a cigs
shit o dear
"He expects me to walk down and get some."
Shit o dear NO WAY
shit o dear
gonna stop smoke today

And more from the cop:

He came out and they tazed him.

At arraignment he told the judge his name wasn't his name on the charging documents because "that name is all in capitol letters, and all caps is reserved for DEAD PEOPLE."

And yesterday, from jail, he wrote a very polite and lucid letter to me asking to have his guns returned ASAP because he needs them.

I bet he needs them.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Just Curious

posted by on September 26 at 2:16 PM

Alaska doesn't seem to be a--um, how do you say?--culture of ideas. Has any writer/thinker/artist of distinction ever come from Alaska?

UPDATE: Brendan Kiley was born in Alaska. The question stands.

UPDATE 2: Jen posted about this yesterday. (Not even The Stranger's own staff can keep up with Slog.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ornery and Brilliant

posted by on September 25 at 11:57 AM


Twyla Tharp is the world's most famous living choreographer. She is also famously cranky. In person, she is almost the caricature of prickly genius.

She likes talking about her self-help book, but dislikes talking about her autobiography. She parries any question about her most recent Broadway production—a critically lambasted evening of dance set to Bob Dylan songs—with flat refusal: "This is not a subject for this conversation."

She is curt and evasive when talking about any dance other than her own, but witheringly loquacious about why it's a good thing that theater and dance critics are being fired wholesale from American newspapers:

"Very few journalists, critics, or writers in any arena of the arts have the depth of information to give any fodder for thought."

For any thought?

"For healthy thought."

Listen to the rest of the tense interview—her being sharp and ornery, me being occasionally flustered—here:

(Highlights: Minute 2:10, Tharp cracks wise. Minute 7:40, Tharp politely explains that young dancers ain't what they used to be. Minute 15:14, we discuss the reemergence of burlesque. Minute 21:56, we argue about criticism and philosophy—and she gives her thumbs-up to the death of my profession.)

But the 67-year-old dancer and choreographer, who has come to Seattle this month to make two world-premiere ballets for PNB, has earned the right to be ornery. She is not only the most famous living choreographer—she may be the most influential.

Tharp structurally rearranged the dance world in the early 1970s with her ménage à trois of classicism (ballet), avant-garde (minimalism), and pop (rock 'n' roll and jazz).

Read more about her in this week's theater section.

Plain Dealing? I Don't Think So: A Tough Critic Silenced in Cleveland

posted by on September 25 at 8:57 AM

Donald Rosenberg, the Cleveland Plain Dealer classical music critic who has been covering the venerable Cleveland Orchestra for 28 years, has been removed from his beat.

Removing a critic from his beat after 28 years is tantamount to firing him. He's been reassigned to general "arts and entertainment reporter" and the paper is refusing to explain itself, though in Rosenberg's account, he was called into the editor's office and summarily "reassigned" after she accused him of "attacking" the orchestra.

It's true that Rosenberg was deeply critical of the orchestra's current conductor, Franz Welser-Möst.

It's also true that the editor who fired Rosenberg has been at the helm of the paper a single year—and the publisher is on the board of trustees of the orchestra.


Stop, stop, stop.

Just about every critic worth anything has a long list of people lining up at the editor or publisher's door requesting their removal.

In this case, even the orchestra's executive director tells the New York Times: "I’ve never read anything in a Rosenberg review that was nonmusical." He says he didn't ask for Rosenberg's removal.

Probably he didn't have to. When the publisher is on the board of the orchestra, the critic is the one on the outside from the beginning.

I can't describe how wrong this is.

Welser-Möst has received mixed reviews from other critics as well. On tour in Europe, he gets good response. In New York, so-so. But these reviews are from critics who don't have to listen to his work every single week. What is a critic supposed to do when he believes, as Rosenberg told the New York Times, that "this is a case of an extraordinary orchestra with an ordinary conductor"? Be quiet about it? Who's best serving the city, the organization, and the art form then?

Repeated criticisms of the same subject by the same critic can begin to sound shrill. Readers often begin to accuse critics of having ulterior motivations. Critics have to watch out for this—and judging by Rosenberg's writings, he stayed well on the safe side of this dynamic.

But what is a critic to do when he or she disagrees with the artistic philosophy or doubts the abilities of a conductor, or a museum director, or the head of a theater?

The last time I was in a situation not unlike Rosenberg's (before his "reassignment," that is), a colleague who has been in the business far longer than I have pointed out: Editors and publishers don't mind if you write that this concert was boring and that concert was boring. But if you string it together into institutional critique—hey, everything that director does is boring, and wait, that's keeping the institution back—then you, the critic, are seen as "on the attack."

I fear that something like this happened to Don Rosenberg, when he was simply trying to do his job.

At this moment, I'm just glad I don't work for the Plain Dealer. The paper has embarrassed itself and its city.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Goddess, Art, and Me

posted by on September 22 at 12:52 PM


This weekend brought a most exciting email to my in-box, from the one and only Goddess Kring:

it's nice that you mentioned my art gallery exhibit in your "last days" write up for sept 5th 2008. thank you for spelling my name and the title of my show, and the art gallery name correctly! ha!

it's however creepy and bizarre to me that you didn't talk about my actual photography or artwork and instead mentioned some strange and negative conversation two people had i don't even know who drank too much wine at the opening. what a lack of actual substance in your words about the opening i had. i spoke with quite a number of intelligent and interesting people that night about my work and art in general and what it means to do self portraits etc. the snide snotty style of the stranger always shocks me! ...but then again the only bad publicity is no publicity. i'd love it if the stranger had more sincere substance in their articles.

First, being called "creepy and bizarre" by the Goddess Kring feels like winning a trophy.

Second, Kringen shouldn't take Last Days' lack of substantive comment on her photography exhibit personally—the column regularly focuses on smaller happenings at official events. For instance: Instead of writing a review of the Sex and the City movie, I'll share the report of the Sex and the City audience member who watched a drunk frat girl try to pee in her purse on opening night.

Regarding her art, Ms. Kringen supplied me with her "statement about the meaning of my gallery exhibit" (sic throughout, bolds are mine, and special props to Shannon for capitalizing Myself):

Self Portal: Amplified Chameleon photographs by Shannon Kringen

I tend towards being an introspective person. I use my camera to create Self Portraits that amplify and exaggerate different aspects of Myself that would otherwise remain hidden within and silent.

A chameleon like variety of Passionate Self Portrait Photographs capturing very different facets. From black and white high contrast to full color in natural light with face paint to the distorted face reflected in chrome. Images that symbolize the paradox of being one person and yet having many different sides to oneself simultaneously. The Self Portrait could be seen as a metaphor using the I to represent the Macrocasm of how many different cultures we have on the planet yet it's all one humankind.


In other news, when I shared this email with my fella Jake, he brought up the fascinating fact that Shannon Kringen has been one of the most prolific life models for Seattle art students for over a decade. (Her only competition: the man they call Naked Santa.) And while an exhibit of Shannon Kringen photos of Shannon Kringen sounds less than interesting, an exhibit of 10 years of Seattle artists' renderings of Shannon Kringen sounds potentially interesting, or at least more interesting than Self Portal: Amplified Chameleon. Heck, I'll curate this exhibit myself....Got a drawing of Shannon Kringen in your portfolio you want to share? Scan it and send it to! If the results are interesting, maybe I'll share them here!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Salon of Shame! Tonight!

posted by on September 16 at 11:30 AM

I have something very important to tell you. But before I go on, promise me that you'll save me a spot. Okay? You promise? Okay.

Salon of Shame is tonight, at their newish location Theater Off Jackson, which means it's not far from the delicious Vegetarian Bistro (which, a commenter claims, is closed on Tuesdays... sigh... so you'll have to go somewhere else). It's $8. The show starts at 7:30 8 pm, but doors (and the ticket booth) open at 6:30 pm. You will want to be there early because it always, always, always sells out.

One of these days I'll get up enough courage to read some of my own 8th grade poetry, but for now I'm completely content sitting in the audience, mocking the adolescent pain of others. I can't wait.

Friday, September 12, 2008


posted by on September 12 at 4:53 PM

From the Washington Post:

Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts since March 2003, plans to announce today that in January he will leave the federal agency he is credited with helping revitalize.

Yeah, he revitalized it by turning it into the most cowering, deferential source of government arts funding this side of Syria.

Which was, arguably, his job. Once Bush got elected, everybody in the arts world knew—or should've known—that the NEA was in serious fucking trouble. An evangelical businessman (whose favorite philosopher is Jesus) needs to do some cutting to make good on his small-government campaign promises? The NEA had to put on its body armor.

Or cower in a corner. Which is precisely what it did, with an adult literacy program, some eduction stuff (particularly jazz), lots of "Shakespeare in the heartland programs."

Those are all virtuous activities, but not the NEA's jobs—the first two should be coming from education budgets and if there is a single goddamned playwright in the whole goddamned world who doesn't need the NEA's help, it's Shakespeare.

The NEA doesn't have to hang Tim Miller from his testicles with a rope made of $20 bills to prove its art-street cred, but it should at least spend American arts money promoting American playwrights: would it kill us to see a little more Tennessee Williams or August Wilson?


Gioia—and his immediate predecessors—deferred to social conservatives, put a muzzle on the NEA, and saw its budget rise a little bit to $144.7 million. (Up from $99 million in 1996.) Which is, perhaps, what he had to do to save his ass and his agency. But we won't be sorry to see him go, along with the era he represents.

I sat in on a group interview with Gioia in Los Angeles last February. Somebody asked if he would resign at the end of Bush's second term. He gave a non-answer that seemed like a yes.

He, at least, is a man of his non-word.

I've Said It Before, I'll Say It Again

posted by on September 12 at 11:48 AM


Dolly Parton is the greatest celebrity in the history of the world.

From my beloved WoW Report:

Last night, at the Ahmanson Theatre in LA, we saw the first ever public performance of 9 to 5: The Musical. There'd been anxious chatter about the show after previous previews were canned at the last minute. But the show was a feel-good scream-a-thon: fabulous Allison Janney, fabulous sets flying about, and fabulous songs from Dolly Parton. The only hitch proved to be a huge bonus: at one point the hyperkinetic set jammed and they had to stop the show, lower the curtain, and start banging away.

"Uh-oh!" shouted a familiar voice from the audience. Dolly Parton was right there, and she jumped up and entertained everyone for a good 20 minutes, tossing off a quick performance of "I Will Always Love You." "OK, so I don't sound as good as Whitney, but I make more money off that song than she does," she quipped.

The rest of the show went off without a hitch and a standing ovation deservedly followed. Don't worry if you can't get tickets to the fab musical – you can always come see the art show in her honor opening this Friday at the World of Wonder Storefront Gallery.

Here's some footage of the impromptu Dolly show.

Goddamn I love her. Speaking of goddamn love: My fella Jake and I will be seeing Dolly Parton's 9 to 5: The Musical on September 27 in LA—the day after we get married. (Here's a story I wrote about it for this year's Queer Issue. To those who've already read it, I'm happy to report that Jake's dad will be coming to LA to conduct the ceremony, which makes me so happy I can hardly stand it.)

Dear God: Please let something go wrong at the show so Dolly can appear. Also, please defeat Proposition 8. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


posted by on September 10 at 2:33 PM

From the Times:

After more than two decades at the helm of Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz announced today that he will step down when his contract expires in 2011.

Schwarz, 61, is among the longest-tenured musical directors in America and has been a towering figure on the Seattle arts scene during a period of unprecedented growth.

That's right, Seattle Times, give him that goodbye blow job.


Fact is, Schwarz is one of the more reviled conductors/musical directors in the country. And while his charm with the richie-riches basically built Benaroya Hall, his massive ego and death-grip on his baton have hurt the city's music culture.

He should've stuck around as a fundraiser, conducted every once in a great while, and handed the reins to younger, more capable hands many, many years ago.

But don't take my word for it. Trust the New York Times, which did a little more reporting on the story:

“I’m ecstatic,” John Weller, a violinist, said minutes after Mr. Schwarz made the announcement to the players at the end of a recording session. “I’m on top of a cloud right now.”

“There is a God,” he added, saying that it felt like a “crushing burden” had been lifted.


The players’ leadership committee carried out a survey of the musicians that amounted to a resounding vote of no confidence in Mr. Schwarz. They voted 61-8 in favor of new artistic leadership, and 61-12 for the formation of a search committee.

I can't imagine why the Seattle Times wouldn't print that well-known fact. What've they got to lose?

But whatever. Schwarz is leaving. We get a new conductor/music director in a couple of years.

If Seattle isn't under water by then.


I just remembered why the Seattle Times is doing a half-assed job with this story: Because their classical music critic took a buyout six months ago and they didn't replace her.

This is what you get when you don't have dedicated critics: crappy coverage.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Win Tickets to Miss Coco Peru!

posted by on September 4 at 12:10 PM


This weekend, Re-bar hosts the one and only Miss Coco Peru, the internationally beloved drag diva who'll perform her greatest-hits show both Friday and Saturday nights.

Even better, The Stranger is giving away a pair of tickets, to whoever can solve the Miss Coco Peru-flavored brain twister below. Ready? Good.

In the camp classic Girls Will Be Girls, Coco confesses to her friend Evie that while in college, she became "with child" and underwent "a procedure." To comfort Coco, Evie tells her that she's "had more kids pulled out of her than _________!"

If you can fill in the blank, email your answer to The first respondent with the right answer wins two tickets to Saturday night's Coco show.

Good luck, and may God have mercy on your soul.

UPDATE: The tickets have been won! Thank you all for playing!

As for the "correct answer," it's "I've had more kids pulled out of me than a burning orphanage!"

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The 50 Greatest Arts Videos on YouTube

posted by on August 31 at 3:47 PM

Yesterday Metafilter linked to The Guardian's list of the 50 greatest arts videos on YouTube—and I just disappeared into it for about three hours. Go ahead: let it swallow your Memorial Day weekend. It's so worth your time.

My favorites so far:

1. A screen test for East of Eden wherein James Dean tells Paul Newman to kiss him, and Newman responds, "Can't here."

2. Billie Holiday singing "Strange Fruit" not long before her death.

3. Jackson Pollock, filmed by Hans Namuth, saying pretty much everything that needs to be said about Pollock's painting, including that he got the idea from Native American sand painters.

4. Samuel Beckett's only film project, running in two parts (although like me, you may have to go three parts to piece together the whole thing, because of the original linkage) at about 15 minutes long, starring an old, wrinkly, terrifying, and still hilarious Buster Keaton. It's silent. Do watch it through to the end.

5. Kurt Russell trying to get the part of Han Solo.

There is also far, far more. I have to get back there. Now go!

Friday, August 29, 2008


posted by on August 29 at 10:28 PM


Who would've thought a one-off post about arts criticism would've kicked off such a shitstorm?

A sampling of the comments:

Brendan you are fucking dick: go die you talentless vulture of a journalist.
Thoughtful criticism is all very well, but personally I prefer praise.
Whether or not it's hurtful, becoming morally pious about your work just because you put a lot of effort into it is still a counterproductive mindset. Effort is not a coupon for freedom from criticism.
kiley's absolutely correct in everything he points out and he's made it clear to me why i despise his brand of 'criticism' so..

But I would like to draw your attention to comment #73 on said post, a successful parody of this small joke—note to over-literal readers: a joke! not a real review!—in our Bumbershoot guide:


Click here to see the parody.

I salute you, Rudnik Nelson, wherever you are. Just one correction: We write on computers in Tim Keck's basement "on beanbag chairs." Most of our parents changed the locks on us long ago.

(p.s. It's muggier than a newlywed's bed in St. Paul this evening, and police have already arrested two protestors setting up an encampment in a city park. Sixty cops showed up, one of them a sniper type with an assault rifle. These people are not fucking around.

My host here—a friend of a friend who happens to be a National Guardsman studying to be a police officer—says his law-enforcement school will be shut down during the convention because they need every human they can find for security and riot alert. If any city is going to "recreate '68" this year—and really, why would you?—it'll be this one.)

We've Been Served

posted by on August 29 at 6:03 PM

This just in from "a concerned fan of the Seattle art scene":

To the Stranger, the biggest bullies in town,

Hello all you leaders of the hipster nation! How is it in the capitol of cool? It must get exhausting deciding how to insult things relentlessly.

I think you do a great job! However, as cultural attaches I believe you end up letting certain art forms fall by the way side. You and the rest of Seattle, is about to bully contemporary dance out of town.

As you know, Velocity dance center is losing it's home in the Odd Fellows hall. Your recent comparison of the improv vs. the children in the fountain is exactly the type of mockery that does not help us, as a community feel welcome at what is advertised as Seattle's biggest arts festival.

Other newspapers elsewhere, less concerned with being hip, write about dance describing the artist, their lives, hopes, visions, background (things you write about musicians). Instead you focus on witty digs (how children are less self involved/ cuter, or how it would be better to watch if you were drunk). How does this help the general pubic understand what we do? Your goal may not be to be an accurate resource but your approach is discouraging. When you write about hot poop/ hip bands you talk about what they drink, if they have a cute dog, random banter they carry on about. They are featured with high esteem, for having very little to say. The dance community is represented as naïve, self indulgent and foolish (which is accurate for some but there are many incredible artist in our community). I think you owe us!

So either I call you out, for a Stranger vs. Dancers: Modern Dance off (the terms and conditions of which have yet to be thought through). Or you do a feature on the kick ass members of our community: Amy Oneil, Wade Madsen, Left Field Revival, Zoe Schofield, Ricki Mason, Maki Mori… just to name a few. These are intelligent, multi-tasking, fascinating artist you could write small features about.

As our community heads towards an uncertain future of displacement it would be awesome if you Hipster Dictators of Cool could, for once, be on our side and wake Seattle up to it's contemporary dance scene.

She (how do I know it's a she? I just do) makes some good points, and I'd love to see profiles (mini or not) about all those name-checked dancers. But the prospect of a modern dance-off is too enticing. Please continue thinking through the details.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Letter of the Day

posted by on August 28 at 11:56 AM


I have lived in Seattle off and on for about 8 years now. And have read The Stranger constantly throughout this time. I am a professional modern dancer here in town (yeah, I know, what's that?). Time and again I have read hurtful, insulting write-ups of the many performances that people have worked their asses off to produce.

I know that The Stranger's voice is a ha-ha-isn't-it-so-funny-the-way-we-tore-that-person/act/film(but rarely, if ever, musical act)-to-shreds...

I love to read clever writing. I love cutting humor that plays with what we are and are not supposed to say. However, I have repeatedly felt actually hurt by what I have read in your paper. Honestly, I am close to tears after reading yet another disrespectful, humiliating passage in this week's paper.

So here's my question:
Why do you print such hurtful stuff?

If anyone has an actual response I truly would love to hear it. If people do not realize the impact of their "witticisms," please pass my opinion along.

Thank you

Great questions, Monica.

And I wish Slog were a TV show, so I could invite you for a friendly fireside chat—imagine us in gigantic old chairs by a glowing hearth, with a couple glasses of brandy and some pipes and a loyal hound curled up at our feet.

Real Masterpiece Theater shit.



There are several reasons we don't pull punches in our arts criticism. And we talk about those reasons with embarrassing frequency, because your complaint—that we're gratuitously cruel jerks—is not, shall we say, hen's teeth.

A few of those reasons:

1. We take our jobs seriously. Our first duty is to you, our readers—we're your advocates, and we slog through a lot of crap on your behalf. As critics, we are occupationally obliged to call out nonsense when we see it. And, sometimes, aggressively bad nonsense demands aggressive criticism.

2. As critics, we don't have the luxury of white lies. Most people can tell their artist friends, to their faces: "Hey great job!" And then whisper, in private: "Man, that show sucked." We can't. Which means lots of people get their feelings hurt and get mad at us. Occupational hazard.

3. It doesn't really matter how much ass people have busted to make their shows. Effort counts for something, but results count for more.

4. Art-making is not kindergarten. Not everyone gets a gold star just for showing up.

5. Tough criticism can actually build and strengthen your audience. We have to be trustworthy. Even if you disagree with us, you have to trust us to be honest. Imagine this scenario: We soft-pedal a review of a bad play. Somebody who doesn't go to theater often reads that soft-pedaled review and buys a ticket. That somebody then thinks: "Huh. That was supposedly a good play. And I thought it was a waste of money. I guess I don't like theater." You just lost that somebody—a potential audience member and theater-lover—forever. And that somebody won't take her kids to theater, won't donate to theaters, won't support her tax dollars going to theaters. Then you, as an artist, have lost.

6. Jokes—sometimes cutting jokes—are an efficient, strong way to make an argument. Witness the oeuvre of Lindy West. Or just this opening gambit:

Back in the salad days of the early-to-mid-to-late 19th or 20th century sometime, one bitchy suffragette (let's call her Susan B. Anthony) was on her period, as usual. "I tire of childcare!" she screeched, "Why can a man not care for a child? Surely a mister can be a mom! A cop can manage a kindergarten! Three men can scrape feces from the buttocks of a baby, and a fat uncle can cook a very, very large pancake, and these things are not beyond the ken of a just and decent society! Also, hand over the chocolate and no one gets hurt." Then she died.

Now, when the president of Hollywood (let's call him Louis B. Mayer) heard Susan B. Anthony's idea, he leaned back in his chair and cracked his knuckles. "$$$$$$$$$," he said to no one in particular, "$$$$ $$$$$$$$ $$ $$$$$$." And lo, the mother-man genre of cinema was born.

7. Sometimes a joke is just a joke. I'm curious what has nearly brought you to tears in this week's issue, Monica. I'm guessing that, since you're a modern dancer, it might've been this:


That—well, there's no excuse for that. That's just mean.

The Best 9/11 Joke I've Ever Heard...

posted by on August 28 at 10:47 AM #23 in the comments to this post.

There is no runner-up.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wind in the Writing

posted by on August 7 at 2:03 PM


About the new play of Wind in the Willows, this is what Paul Constant has to say:

The timing of this new adaptation of Wind in the Willows seems downright mischievous. This is an entire play about a man (or rather a "boastful and conceited" toad named Toad) who falls in love with automobiles the moment he first sees one, and continues to drive his beloved "motorcars" even though it's costing every last penny he has and his joyrides endanger both himself and everyone around him. It's a good thing that Toad is so loveable.

About the book Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, this is what I have to say: It's filled with wonderful English turns and passages.

A good example, the Badger to the Mole:

"...I see you don't understand, and I must explain it to you. Well, very long ago, on the spot where the Wild Wood waves now, before ever it had planted itself and grown up to what it now is, there was a city-- a city of people, you know. Here, where we are standing, they lived, and walked, and talked, and slept, and carried on their business. Here they stabled their horses and feasted, from here they rode out to fight or drove out to trade. They were a powerful people, and rich, and great builders. They built to last, for they thought their city would last for ever.'

And just listen to this music:

He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before- this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh ...

It's a music that's almost as beautiful as this music:

His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

And one more for my baby, one more for the road:

A fire of sticks was burning near by, and over the fire hung an iron pot, and out of that pot came forth bubblings and gurglings, and a vague suggestive steaminess. Also smells - warm, rich, and varied smells - that twined and twisted and wreathed themselves at last into one complete, voluptuous, perfect smell that seemed like the very soul of Nature taking form and appearing to her children, a true Goddess, a mother of solace and comfort.

All art aspires to the condition of music.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Coney Island of the Mindfuck

posted by on August 6 at 4:10 PM

New on Coney Island, as reported in the New York Times:

It looks at first like any other shuttered storefront near the boardwalk: some garish lettering and a cartoonish invitation to a delight or a scam — in this case there’s SpongeBob SquarePants saying, “It don’t Gitmo better!”


Inside, artist Steve Powers has designed a "Waterboard Thrill Ride" where you stuff a dollar into a slot and watch animatronic figures torture each other.

The whole recreational waterboarding thing is as old as the hills, whether for the purposes of kink (hello, ancient Japanese porn) or publicity (hello, Christopher Hitchens). Just a few weeks ago, Jen Graves wrote about Jon Haddock, an artist from Arizona who makes animatronic torture figures.

But that's the point—torture is nothing shocking.

Remember the days—circa Halloween, 2004—when people got all worked up about this?


Those days are done.

Back to the Coney Island article:

“I love it,” said Ricki Rosen, the mother of the family. “Hilarious!” Her daughter asked what it was all about, and Ms. Rosen responded: “Waterboarding, Sweetie, is a kind of torture where they pour water on people’s faces so they feel like they’re drowning. But then there was a big controversy because a lot of Americans are saying you shouldn’t torture people even if they are terrorists.” She paused. “The baby is hilarious!”

"Waterboarding, Sweetie, is a kind of torture."

That phrase is now burned on my brain.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Attention Jonah and Jen

posted by on August 2 at 7:28 PM


This, and so many more, are at's Star Wars Classic Art Photoshop contest.

(Via DarthMojo.)

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Gr8 Am. Txt Stry Contest

posted by on August 1 at 5:09 PM

Text-messaging meets literature (or a literature-like substance) meets a year's supply of chocolate—this has Paul Constant written all over it.

Tap into your imagination, flex your literary muscle—and don't forget to stretch your thumbs. Simply submit your Great American Story, txt-style. Create your masterpiece of 1500 words (one text message at a time) and incorporate ALL 11 NEWTREE chocolate names: PLEASURE, VIGOR, RENEW, REFRESH, FORGIVENESS, SEXY, BLUSH, TRANQUILITY, COCOON, REJOICE and CRAVE.

Forgiveness in a wrapper! The end is nigh.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Notes On Some Images: For Amy Kate Horn

posted by on July 31 at 2:53 PM

Let's begin with this image:

We see two things. One: its continuity with this image, from the middle of Blade Runner.
unicorn-toy-1.jpg Walle-E the robot (his place, his look, his habits) is related to J. F. Sebastian, a genetic designer for Tyrell Corporation. Both are lonely, and both have a weakness for beautiful women. So, there is a connection, but not a continuity, between Pris (a sexy replicant) and EVE (a superior robot).

The second thing we see in the initial image is EVE's continuity. Unlike Wall-E, but like the iRobot, her continuity is located outside (and not inside) of cinema. She is a part of the ipodization of commodities.

The cultural area of ipodization has recently expanded to the automobile industry.
toyota_iq_sq2.jpg This is Toyota's iQ. Like the iPod, and EVE, the notion expressed by this design is "clean technology"--micro and yet powerful, this is the aesthetic that replaces the vulgar age of the SUV. The will of this aesthetic, like the will of any potent concept, is total realization. If ipodization reaches its final moment, the world will look like this:

But this image brings us back to robots, back to Wall-E.

To open his book on the psychological effects of colonialism, Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon asks: What does a black man want? If one were to write a book about the psychology of thinking machines, the first question they should ask is: What does a robot want? For the black man, his want is still a mystery to all and himself; as for the robot, there's no mystery, no ambiguity: it wants to be like humans. Because they have this impossible desire, they suffer from an absurd (or perverted) mode of nostalgia. Wall-E watches an old musical religiously; the robot in Moby's song "Whisper in the Wind" is filled with memories of a happy and healthy world; replicants in Blade Runner cling onto fake memories; and the robot in this advertisement:

The sorrows of a robot.

The 2008 Genius Awards: The Cake Episode

posted by on July 31 at 1:26 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.


posted by on July 31 at 6:00 AM


In this week's Stranger, the media's love affair with Barack gets explicit.

Episode 1: Chicago at Night

The sleek black limo picked me up at the corner of Randolph and Halsted. I climbed inside to find my sleek black man lying there wearing nothing but a grin and a copy of the Sun Times. “This is on the D.L., right?” said Barry in his velvet baritone, a wry smile on his face. He knows my answer before I say it: Yes. Yes to anything, just take me….

“I’m going to teach you about the audacity of grope,” Barry chortled as tossed his unfiltered Pall Mall to the limousine floor and lunged at me, his hungry hands snapping like crab’s claws, grabbing me in a way that I knew would leave bruises. He turned me over, popping the buttons off my shirt. “Say it!” he bellowed, snapping the band on my underwear. “You know you want to.”

“Y-yes,” I moaned. “Yes…we…can…” as he sank deep into me…

Got your own dose of Obamarotica? Send 200-word submissions to The best entries will be published in The Stranger's glamorous print edition. The worst entries will be published right here on Slog.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Today in Political Art

posted by on July 30 at 9:59 AM

First, Slog tipper Brian directed me to one of the (homemade?) videos circulating with the new Obama-praising/Hillary-McCain-Jesse Jackson-dissing track by Ludacris.

Then Slog Tipper Gary directed me to the professionally made, Karl Rove-bashing video from comic Harry Shearer.

Shearer is a Simpsons and Spinal Tap MVP, Ludacris is a rapper who co-starred in the deeply unfunny Crash. Nevertheless, on the evidence presented here, Ludacris (who's represented only through his lyrics) is 10,000 times funnier than Harry Shearer.

Friday, July 25, 2008

You Crow I'm No Good

posted by on July 25 at 12:07 PM


Ananova has the story of the (handsome) British farmer and his (hilarious) Amy Winehouse scarecrow.

"She's the best scarecrow we've ever had," says 36-year-old Marlon Brooks. "In fact she's doing a better job scaring the birds than she is singing at the moment. I'd be happy to offer her a full time job if she needs one when the singing is over."

Full story here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Footnote: The President of a Major Seattle Arts-Fund Nonprofit Is a Hard-Core Republican

posted by on July 21 at 3:58 PM

In the course of researching my column this week—an elaboration of this Slog post about PONCHO's director getting canned—I found out that Janet True, president of the board at PONCHO, is a serious W. fan.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, True has donated over $30,000 to Republican campaigns—and $0 to Democratic campaigns—in the last four years. Recent recipients of her largesse include: Bush/Cheney, Mike Huckabee, Dave Reichert, Mike McGavick, and others.

Top recipients of PONCHO's largesse: Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, the Rep, Intiman, etc.

Not that Republicans can't do right by the arts. But it is a little surprising that the president of one of the most influential arts-funding boards in the city is a Bush supporter.

"Well, yes, I am a Republican," True said when I asked her about the donations. "But the rest of my family more than makes up for it for the other side."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Executive Director of PONCHO Fired

posted by on July 18 at 5:35 PM

Gordon Hamilton, executive director of arts-funding organization PONCHO, was relieved of his duties yesterday at a board meeting.

The news has been a shock for members of the arts community—Hamilton, in the words of one local development director, is "very well thought of."

"This is stunning news," says Jim Kelly, director of 4Culture. "I always thought of Hamilton as a guy who was shaking PONCHO up in a really positive way."

Hamilton was a vice president at Safeco before applying to PONCHO four and a half years ago. Kelly recalls Hamilton telling the story of his job interview: "During the interview, they asked him 'How do you perceive PONCHO?' And he said 'I perceive it as a party for rich white people.' And they gave him the job."

In broad strokes: PONCHO is generally regarded as a deep donor to large arts institutions (a lobby in ACT Theatre is named after PONCHO) while 4Culture is generally regarded as a broad donor to organizations large and small, as well as individual artists.

"The strategic direction of PONCHO is changing," says Janet True, president of the PONCHO board, regarding Hamilton's dismissal. "PONCHO was always an events-based organization, with our annual wine and art auctions and gala event, but events aren't the most philanthropic way to raise money anymore. And auctions have changed—it's a lot harder than before to raise money with them."

True says PONCHO will continue its wine auction (projected income this year: $1 million) and art auction (projected income: $500,000—funny that the arts organization gets twice as much money from wine as art), but will discontinue its gala event.

Instead, True says, PONCHO wants to institute a city-wide awards ceremony—"like the Tonys"—at which artists will perform and press the flesh with local donors."We want the donors to connect more with arts and artists than with an event," True says.

PONCHO seems, in fact, to be drifting more towards 4Culture's profile—the philanthropic organization for artists, rather than arts institutions.

"That's fine," says Jim Kelly. "The more money for artists the better. But if you're an institution, the last thing you want to hear is 'You're too big for us to fund,' because every dollar counts. While it might be more fun to be more connected to individual artists, it's important to keep funding big institutions. Every dollar counts."

Hamilton has not (yet) been reached for comment.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Never Have I Felt More Welcome in a Jungle"

posted by on July 9 at 8:55 AM

So says Auschglitz!, the world's foremost blog devoted to high school show choirs, about Ellsville, Mississippi's South Jones Company Showchoir, whose "jungle medley" prowls from G'nR to Kool and the Gang and back again. It is 100 percent inappropriate. (However, I do like it when a show choir reminds me that I'm going to die.) Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Love This Shit

posted by on July 8 at 12:32 PM

Improv Everywhere turns an NY subway train into a hall of mirrors.

Thank you, Towleroad.

Booty Call of the Gods

posted by on July 8 at 10:18 AM

Here's Alan Cumming's big entrance in the Scottish production of The Bacchae that opened recently in NYC.


He plays the God of misrule, Dionysus. His hair is like "bunches of black grapes," to borrow the words of another decadent.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Thought No More

posted by on July 2 at 1:30 PM

A list...
richard-wright.jpg...of major projects (thought experiments) I abandoned.

1) Developing a global (universal) literary theory based on the science of narratology--Propp, Todorov, and Genette. (1994 to 2001)
2) The literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin as a whole. (1996 to 1999)
3) The Russian language. (1993 to 1995)
4) Extentialism as a theme in the black American novel--from Richard Wright to Charles Wright. (1991 to 1993)
5)Redology, or the study of the classical Chinese novel The Dream of the Red Room--Hung Lou Meng (紅樓夢). (1994 to 1997)
6) The theme of European modernity in Southern African short fiction--Bessie Head, Charles Mungoshi, and Charles Marechera. (1999 to 2002)

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This...

posted by on July 2 at 12:53 PM

Ike is in a crazy space suit, the Ikettes are looking good, and Tina cranks it up all the way:

The whole show is available on DVD.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hey Man! You Can't Leave This Giant Baby Here!

posted by on June 27 at 12:46 PM


Australian sculptor Ron Mueck made this creepy, humongous baby, among many other hyper-realistic but wrong-sized things.

Can you imagine living with this guy? There must be hyper-realistic shit everywhere.