Local Art News
Good nonfiction about the Puget Sound has never been more necessary — the stuff that digs in, adds context and has a voice. The tools to make it have never been more accessible. When it comes to interesting or important stories to tell, this place is going through huge changes, and there’s an embarrassment of riches.
Yet the time has never seemed better for writers to dabble with substantive drinking habits. Print reporting is ranked, quite literally, the worst job in America. It falls below sewage plant operator, advertising salesperson and lumberjack. Let that sink in: Lumberjacks have it better.
Lumberjacking is awful work, of course. If pay, career prospects, respect from the community and one’s peers, and “do more with less” newsroom strategies were all out the window, reporting would rank among the best jobs out there. But to use a strained Northwestern metaphor, the local media is a lone bear in a teeming salmon stream. There’s a lot to digest these days, and limited capacity to do so.The valiant Joel Connelly of the Seattle PI, long may he reign.
We became a one newspaper town six years back, and that paper is still unsure of its long-term survival, same as everyone. The Seattle PI is a skeleton crew, largely buoyed by prolific columnist Joel Connelly, who nobly refuses the cost of a copy editor (sorry, Joel, I love you). The Times’ print edition seems to get skinnier by the year. Seattle’s weeklies host some of the area’s most energetic writing, but have a hard time keeping their staff around. Outlets across the region lose their talent to greener media pastures, to the “professional communications” ranks, or to the call of politics. I’ve tried all three routes, and don’t judge.
Then we come to Crosscut. Launched by Seattle Weekly founder David Brewster in 2007, it was designed as a sort of writer’s club where activists, elected officials, and CEOs could exist side-by-side on the page with solid beat reporters or insightful commentators like Knute Berger.
At its best, Crosscut is the most writer-friendly publication in Seattle. And for the sake of the region’s readers and its ink-stained wretches, that is how it must reassert itself.
Let’s cut to the chase. No one reads journalism online because it’s more compelling than the other options. It’s not. There are videos of narwhals out there, after all. They’re basically sea unicorns. You read outlets like Crosscut because you want to be informed, and maybe exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking.
That takes good writers. At this point, no one starts writing because they think it’s a good career move. They do it because it calls to them. They want to knock out some good work, and have it find a good home and readership. And maybe earn enough money to feed their pets, if that isn’t asking too much. With limited media budgets, sometimes it is. I miss you, Bowser.Limited media budgets killed this dog, is what I’m saying.
With the editorial ranks thinned, good work is still published regularly, but overall there’s less research, less experimentation. Content quality loses out to quantity pretty often. Civic leaders and involved citizens also have less of a forum.
My editorial focus is in three wheelhouses: tech, science, and education. All three topics factor seriously into our future, and could use more coverage. What, for example, is tech journalism? For many, it’s a subgenre of business journalism, a run-down of who’s hiring, who’s firing, who’s acquiring, and so forth. Some of it is well done, and valuable in presenting the underlying issues and trends in our new economy. Some of it is basically reheated press releases.
There’s undoubtedly a place and audience for all that. But if more writers are encouraged to approach the beat differently, it may help us navigate Seattle’s latest chapter more intelligently.
The income gap in this area is expanding rapidly, for example. Because of our booming tech and science sectors, we also recruit way more advanced degree holders from out-of-state than from our own education system. What’s the relationship between those two facts, and how might it inform the region’s workforce development?
Women in tech was a hot topic for a few months, especially after Microsoft’s CEO advised women not to request a raise. Stories were filed, women in the industry were quoted noting their unequal treatment, there were a few good think pieces, and the media mostly moved on. But that issue shouldn’t fizzle out. Rather than play out a news cycle, why not speak to female tech leaders about the stories they believe should be told? What is it like starting a company or rising through the ranks, and how can the industry become more equitable?Mad man Paul Allen.
Lastly, some borderline mad scientists are working at University of Washington. Renegade billionaire Paul Allen is throwing money at artificial intelligence. This work must be exposed, before it destroys us all.
It’s a cliche at this point, but the coming years will shape our coming decades in the Puget Sound. There are a ton of ways to get this wrong, and great stories that are being missed. So this is a call to the writers and thinkers of the area: As a new editor here, my priority is to make Crosscut a place where you can do your best work. Where you can break away from stale formulas and do some experimenting, whether it be with your writing and voice, with data and visuals, or anything else. It’s a place to allow civic-oriented thinkers to speak their minds, address their top issues, and maybe get a bit of guidance along the way.
When things are barely changing, they’re not that interesting. It’s when all is in flux that you should keep a closer eye on the ball. Let’s do so together.
Even on his worst day Michael Mann can run circles around nearly every other director working today. His frenetic set pieces and gorgeously fluid camera movements; his spacious framing and brilliantly choreographed editing rhythms; his ability to wring tension from subtle shifts in point-of-view and to establish relationships through an exchange of glances; these are the trademarks of a long-running career resulting in two of the great films of the 1980s (Thief and Manhunter); two more in the ‘90s (Heat and The Insider); and then, in 2001, Ali, whose stunning opening sequence continues to thrill.
Since he began working in high-definition video with Collateral, his last three films — Miami Vice, Public Enemies and now Blackhat, finally out on DVD and VOD after a throwaway theatrical release in early January — have attempted to synthesize an almost meta-obsession with the medium’s glassine textures into a pulse-pounding, good guy vs. bad guy format. The emotional range of these films has thinned, but the action scenes continue to pack a mercurial jolt.
Blackhat, like Mann’s last four pictures, will play better on a second viewing. At first this tale of high-stakes cyber-terrorism comes across as daft. Characters seem to be talking in code, the jargon spewing past meaning into a stew of gibberish. A brilliant hacker, played with eye-candied stoicism by Chris Hemsworth, is paroled from prison to help foil the nefarious world domination plans — or something like that — of a Goldfinger-esque villain. His mission takes him into exotic Southeast Asian locales where chases, shoot-outs, and rapid typing on keyboards ensue. The dialogue is either mumbled or buried under a soundscape of electronica, gunfire, explosions and crowd noise.
It all seems like nonsense except for the fact that the film looks fantastic, with its inky streaks of black, smears of gold, flashes of primary blues, reds and greens; its dazzling strokes of handheld camera pans and tilts; its jostled, packed frames injected with odd, arresting angles that look like they’re shot with a Go Pro strapped to the cameraman’s torso. Everything that happens on screen feels spontaneous, as if the camera is reacting to a world run amok with high-tech sabotage, a world answering only to the binary abstractions of cyberspace.
Michael Mann is like a cinematic action painter, attempting to express a purely physical response to an uncontainable reality. Blackhat is his splattered canvas. Look at it twice, three times; turn it upside down; stand back and then get close. After awhile, it starts to makes sense, even though you don’t know what you’re looking at.
This picture is not even close to Michael Mann on his best day. The movie’s plot is preposterous as well as incomprehensible, the acting is serviceable at best and Mann seems to have lost interest in relationships, in articulating the grace notes that bond men of action together or force them to leave the women in their lives (one of the many pleasures of Heat). But to watch this filmmaker flex his conceptual muscles, even on a bizarre experiment like Blackhat, is to realize that there is still one big time American director refusing to play it safe.
This review originally appeared on The Restless Critic.
An old colleague and friend recently sent out an appeal for help. Due to health and financial problems, he and his partner were struggling to make ends meet, and just before Christmas, they became homeless. He set up a PayPal account to receive donations.
At the same time, my extended family was working to make low-rent shelter possible for a homeless, working single mother and her children in North Seattle.
Another family member recently lost his job when the cafe cooperative where he worked was forced out of its space on Capitol Hill because of rising rents in the booming Pike/Pine corridor. They have not yet been able to find another location to set up shop.
This issue of affordability in Seattle hits home.
We are booming economically, but lots of us don’t feel it in our paychecks. We might feel it in our rent checks, however. The Seattle Times reported that we’ve been hit by “runaway rent growth” in King and Snohomish counties, a “surge” with newly leased apartment rents rising 8 percent — four times the rate of inflation — in 2014. Some relief could be in the offing with new rental housing coming online in 2015 (the result of all those cranes), but how much more affordable rents will be — if at all — is unknown.
A city report by former City Council member Peter Steinbrueck checked on the health and progress of 10 of the city’s designated urban villages, a representative sample. Released in January, the report found that the housing cost burden — when residents have to pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing — was moderate to high, and affected between 37 percent and 62 percent of all households in the neighborhoods studied. Especially hard hit were Rainier Beach, the University District and downtown, neighborhoods with a large share of low-income residents. Rents and home prices are rising, and incomes aren’t keeping up.
Interestingly, another recent study on gentrification by a Portland think tank called City Observatory found that Seattle has turned very few poor neighborhoods into rich ones and concluded that gentrification in that sense was not an issue here, despite what we’ve seen, say, in the Central District.
But City Observatory did spotlight a trend that should be of real concern. Seattle had six areas of high poverty in 1970, and four of those neighborhoods are still poor 45 years later. Worse yet, we’ve added eight new poverty pockets in that time. In other words, from the depths of the Boeing “Turn the Lights Out” recession of the early ’70s until now, we’ve actually doubled the number of high-poverty areas in the city from six to 12. The good times are not rolling for everyone.
The picture that emerges is of a city where housing is becoming less affordable to the middle class and where poorer areas are being squeezed the hardest by high housing costs. Downtown rent for a one-bedroom was coming in at $1,785 per month recently, and you won’t pay much less in Bellevue. You can save $1,000 a month by moving to Burien, if you don’t mind the commute and can find a vacancy.
I feel these changes keenly as a family man, wondering how my grown children will ever be able to afford a home in this city, let alone my grandkids. I can sense a generational sag in expectations: renting instead of owning, “apodments” instead of apartments, rich or poor instead of the Goldilocks spot of being “just right.” Seattle was once a more egalitarian city, a city of bungalows and inconspicuous consumption among its elite.
It’s a harsher city today as tent encampments flourish, even amid Amazon’s hiring boom. Those encampments for the homeless take on poignancy, even a mild sense of menace, not only because they serve as a measure of the intractability of the housing problem, but because, with the slow grind on the middle class, they no longer seem rare and exceptional, but like a permanent feature and a future that could happen to anyone, and does. Are we all a PayPal appeal away from Nickelsville?
I wonder about my family’s survival in Seattle for the long term. Five generations have lived in the shadow of the Space Needle. That residential longevity has not made us rich — we didn’t buy Microsoft stock when we should have — but we didn’t have to be rich to live well here. Now, the housing burden and rising cost of living make me question our resilience: Will we be able to stay and thrive without being programmers, bankers or public employees with generous pensions?
Making the city more livable and affordable will involve public policy — perhaps controlling rents and scaling up subsidies for truly affordable housing. It will involve charity and putting social good ahead of maximizing profit (thank goodness this city has some very benevolent landlords). And it will involve reversing trends that are expanding poverty in the face of prosperity. Bertha has an easier job.
If nothing else, the toll that some are paying makes me aware of the importance of family, of finding our way collectively through the challenges of life in modern Seattle.
This article originally appeared in Seattle Magazine.
Ron Sher uses books to help build vital communities. As founder and CEO of Sher Partners, his work ranges from redeveloping Crossroads Shopping Center to leading efforts on behalf of the Cascade Bicycle Club. As the majority owner of Third Place Company, Sher has a special interest in books. His Third Place Books stores are located in Lake Forest Park and Ravenna.
What books are on your nightstand at the moment?
Cowed by Gail Boyer Hayes and Denis Hayes. I know Denis, am interested in both agriculture and the environment, and have a place on Whidbey Island where cattle have been run in the past. Also The Yiddish Policeman’s Union,by Michael Chabon, which a friend recommended as a really fun read, and the premise seemed outlandish and intriguing.
A conversation reminded me of The Worm in the Apple, a wonderful short story by John Cheever. A re-read moved his collection, The Best Short Stories of John Cheever, from bookshelf to nightstand. Then there are four bicycle books that I’ve been intending to glance through before passing them on to the Cascade Bicycle Club for their new clubhouse. And then there’s A Chinaman’s Chance, by Eric Liu, a gift from Eric which I would have bought anyway. He writes beautifully and this book is giving remarkable context and insight into the influences on first generation Americans of Chinese descent.
Any book you’ve read lately that caught your imagination or changed how you look at the world?
I just finished The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kohler. I wouldn’t say that I was surprised at the impact man is having on our planet, but the speed at which irreversible change is happening is downright scary.
Why and when did you start your first bookstore?
It’s been about 15 years now since Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park opened. It is the first bookstore I’ve owned, although I’ve had several as tenants. I felt that locating a new and used bookstore, a coffee shop, and the restaurants and cafes along with other services and amenities would attract customers and enrich a community. I figured if I could bring all these elements together and open simultaneously, it would greatly improve the store’s chance of success.
Why the new/used books model of bookstore?
I like to see books passed on. It’s recycling, and it makes books more affordable. And I think it makes a bookstore even more interesting.
Any more Third Place Books in the works?
We are planning to open a new Third Place Books along with a restaurant at the site of the Seward Park PCC. They’re moving to Columbia City in July, and we hope to open in November.
Have you read a great book lately that you’d unhesitatingly recommend to friends?
Two really powerful books I’ve read recently are Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, by Karl Marlantes, and Nelson Mandella’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.
What were your most cherished childhood books?
As a 10-year-old, I loved the adventure books by the English writer Enid Blyton. In my teens I remember Annapurna by Maurice Herzog, Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
Do you have a book or two you’ve re-read over the years?
An enduring favorite of mine that I would strongly recommend is The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914, by David McCullough. It is the story of the Panama Canal, but also so much more. I am also a great Horatio Hornblower fan. I’ve reread them all.
Can you speculate on the future of the book, and what that means for stores like yours?
The book as we now know it will be with us for a very long time. Other forms of reading and listening will most likely continue to grow as a percentage of sales, but I feel growth will be much slower than in the past. It will be interesting to see what happens when my generation passes on. Will we be replaced by book readers or digital readers? For me, browsing in a book store will always be much more thrilling than browsing on line.
What Val’s Reading This Week: The Words and Wisdom of Charles Johnson, a big, fat collection of eclectic short pieces. Johnson is an award-winning novelist, Buddhist and longtime University of Washington fiction professor who lives in Seattle. His voice is casual, even conversational in these bits-and-pieces on subjects ranging from what inspires his writings to his study of the martial arts and his daily habits and writing routines.
The Weekend List, Festival Edition: NW Folklife, Black Box 2.0, Sasquatch! – and Bettye LaVette at Jazz Alley
* Denotes items that are $15 or less
ShortsFest at SIFF *
Looking at the SIFF schedule can be overwhelming but ShortsFest is always a good bet. These short films, spanning cultures and genres, are collected into one weekend of fast-paced, original programming that provides an excellent snapshot of the entire 25-day festival. I always love the choice of themes: “Saved by the Bell” (how a life can be changed by a single moment); “Animation4Adults”; “Shoot to Thrill” (films driven by tension). This year, there’s also a sampling of films about the unique history and evolution of Yesler Terrace. Discover a new artist and a new appreciation for the short film art form.
If you go: ShortsFest at SIFF, Check schedule for venues, May 21 through May 25 ($13) — N.C.
Black Box 2.0 *
Ok, so here’s another festival if SIFF, Folklife and/or Sasquatch don’t already have you booked solid — and if the words “digital culture” send you to your secret happy place. The nice thing about the Black Box 2.0 festival is that it’s not limited to Memorial Day weekend. It started on May 6 and continues through June 7.
So what’s Black Box? It’s a showcase for experimental film, video and new media art by a group of international artists. Seattle-based Aktionart is the organizer; the festival debuted last year. The videos are screened in somewhat alternative Seattle venues like a shipping container in Ballard. If you’re a traditionalist, how about a screening of “Waves” at Cornish’s Raisbeck Performance Hall. The 19-minute video is about geology and meteorology and Virginia Woolf and invisible jellyfish and a painting by Courbet and, well, just go see it.
If you go: Black Box 2.0, Seven venues throughout Seattle; check schedule for details. Through June 7 (free) — F.D.
She’s the Joe Cocker of soul music: a woman who has mastered the art of the cover in a way few artists can. Honestly, that comparison might be unfair because unlike Cocker, LaVette has scads of original material. LaVette, now 69, has made music for decades, but she was a bit of a late bloomer on the commercial scene. She didn’t achieve widespread recognition until she hit her 50s. Her 2012 album, “Thankful N’ Thoughtful” showcases her talent for interpreting the work of other artists, including covers Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” Bob Dylan’s “I’m Not There” and The Black Keys’ “I’m Not The One.”
About that Black Keys’ cover: “I find it interesting,” she said, “and thoroughly entertaining to add age and experience to young writers’ songs and inhabit them myself … I’m not sure what he (The Keys’ Dan Auerbach) was talking about, but I’m saying ‘Don’t fuck with me.’ ” LaVette’s voice, like other contemporary greats Sharon Jones and Mavis Staples, has a smokiness and gravely quality that easily lends itself to soul, blues and rock. She’s doing a four-day stint at Jazz Alley this week, so there are ample opportunities to catch her live.
If you go: Bettye LaVette, Jazz Alley, May 21-24 ($30.50). All ages — J.S.H.Credit: paulkuniholmpauper
Garden Party Theatre Sculpture Pop Up *
Ok, this looks fun: It’s Garden Party Theatre by Seattle artist Paul Kuniholm Pauper, who creates wearable artwork while championing the takeover of public spaces for the purpose of art. As if (some) folks on Capitol Hill don’t already demand a double take; expect to stare respectfully or participate yourself.
If you go: Garden Party Theatre, Cal Anderson Park in Seattle, 6 p.m. May 22 (Free) — F.D.
Northwest Folklife *
Japanese Taiko drumming, break dancing, funk music, artists from all over the globe and, of course, more “string” bands than you can shake a gnarled walking stick at. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Folklife 2015!
The festival turns 44 this year and still takes place at Seattle Center. Wikipedia calls it the “largest festival of its kind” in North America, but that’s sort of an empty claim; there are no other festivals quite like Northwest Folklife. Simply showing up and walking around exposes you to a potpourri of music, dancing, food, etc. that almost defies explanation. You may find yourself wandering around for a while before you find something that truly piques your interest, but that’s all part of the fun. A few musical acts worth noting this year: Funky 2 Death (Friday), Pickled Okra (Saturday), Otieno Terry (Saturday), Baby Gramps (Saturday), Tomo Nakayama (Sunday) Low Hums (Monday) and Magical Strings (Monday).
If you go: Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle Center, May 22-25 (Free). All ages — J.S.H.
This festival has an awe-inspiring lineup this time around, and this is the first time in recent memory that Sasquatch! has not sold out (as of May 20). If you like blazingly hip pop music and can handle rowdy, debaucherous crowds, Sasquatch is an incredible opportunity to see a ton of musicians in one place.
Many artists appearing here charge $30-$60 a ticket for exclusive performances the rest of the year, so as long as you keep moving from stage to stage, these tickets are a screaming deal at $350 for four days of music. It is true that music festivals feature shorter band sets and (sometimes) questionable audio quality. The trick is to get lost in the experience and accept it. Where else can you see Chromeo, Modest Mouse and Spoon all in one day? Here’s a quick, day-by-day breakdown of (non-conflicting) acts worth catching:
Friday: Ayron Jones and the Way, Jungle, Slow Bird, Gogol Bordello, Little Dragon, Sleater-Kinney, Flume
Saturday: Murder Vibes, Acapulco Lips, The Budos Band, The War on Drugs, Chromeo, Glass Animals, Fuzz, Father John Misty, Modest Mouse, Spoon
Sunday: The Maldives, Kinski, Strand of Oaks, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Shaprece, St. Vincent, Jose Gonzalez, James Blake, SBTRKT
Monday: THEESatisfaction, Courtney Barnett, Broncho, Future Islands, Schoolboy Q, Tame Impala, Run The Jewels, Kendrick Lamar, Hot Chip
If you go: Sasquatch! The Gorge Amphitheatre, May 22-25 ($350). All ages — J.S.H.
Gastropod’s Chef Replacement Pop Up
In the not-too-distant future, my favorite Seattle restaurant — the Gastropod, food companion to Epic Ales — will be expanding to South Lake Union with its new curry and brew house, Mollusk. While the folks at Gastropod prepare for Chef Travis Kukull to move over to Mollusk, they’ll be hosting a couple of new chefs in their tiny, wonderful SoDo spot. If you sit at the counter, you can watch the chef bake Hama Hama oysters, salmon and Crème brûlée in just one small oven, putting the finishing touches on dishes with a torch, and harvesting a few microgreens from their perch in the window. Chef Sasha Rosenfeld (Artusi, Spinasse) stands in the weekend of May 19th, followed by Kim Sturts (of the former Carmelita) on Memorial Day weekend. The magic is always in the details (and imagination) at this micro-eatery — think sous vide beet egg, honey jalapeno kewpie mayo and carrot peach mostarda — and it will be fun to see how each guest chef plays.
If you go: Gastropod’s Chef Replacement Pop Up, Sasha Rosenfeld from May 19 to 23; Kim Sturts from May 25 to 29. — N.C.
You might recognize Kathy Najimy as the goofy brunette witch in Hocus Pocus or chipper Sister Mary Patrick in Sister Act. Or perhaps you wouldn’t, given all the weight she’s gained and lost since then. Tuesday (May 19), Najimy will deliver a speech titled “Women and Body Image,” the grand finale of the UW Graduate School’s Weight and Wellness Speaker Series, following acclaimed food author Michael Pollan in April.
Najimy’s weight has fluctuated — from losing 160 pounds, to putting on pregnancy weight and then losing another 50 pounds in 2012. However, the amount which she cares about weight loss, and thinks about her body image, is as complicated for her as it is for many women.
I met Najimy at her Seattle hotel to discuss depictions of body image in the media, my own experiences with weight loss, and her own internal debate on the merits of getting skinny. The talk has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How did you become interested in body image? What interests you?
A: I’m a feminist, and under the umbrella of feminism comes all of the things that have to do with respect and self-esteem and the future of women and girls. Certainly body image is right up there at the top. I think that we spend so much time thinking and worrying about our weight. Whether we’re too thin or too fat or what we just ate. How we look in our clothes. What we are compared to other people. What upsets me about that is not only that it’s unhealthy and unfair (and not good for the spirit) but also that it stops women from doing all the things we could be doing, which is changing the world.
Q: I read you lost 160 pounds, gained weight after your pregnancy and lost again. Can you talk a little about that?
A: My experiences with weight aren’t really that extraordinary. You know, like a lot of women I’d gain weight, go to the gym, get pregnant, not have time to work out, and so my weight would fluctuate. I really don’t think it’s all that extraordinary or different from a lot of women. … It’s not that I’m successfully getting rid of it, but I feel like I’m successfully ignoring it sometimes. It still lives there, just like in every other woman… With some women, it shows itself in being super thin or having an eating disorder, workout addiction. In others it’s people like me who go up and down in their weight all the time.
Q: I actually lost 150 pounds in college and I know for me, losing weight wasn’t the hard part — it was the mental part and understanding who I saw in the mirror. Did you experience that?
A: I think no matter how much weight you lose you are still taught to not like things about yourself. I remember there was this magazine cover and it had two headlines, two pictures — one had Kristie Alley: too fat. Under it (was the) Olsen twins, too thin. And it hit me — it’s the same thing. It’s really not about losing weight, gaining weight, or anything other than us recognizing that no matter what we do, we are in the category of wrong. That is what I’m interested in looking at. What could we do with our lives and in the world if we weren’t so preoccupied with how we looked? I don’t think we would get as fat as we get and I don’t think we would get as skinny as we get. We would just be living.
Q: What needs to change for that to happen, for us to think that way?
A: I think we would have to be in partnership with men and boys to really authentically, not just lip service, value women of different sizes and see the beauty. This whole skinny thing is very new. Just 50 years ago, size 14-16 was very sexy. Now that would be considered almost obese, which is ridiculous. Like I say all the time, Marilyn Monroe would be up for the “fat best friend” without a doubt. If you look on TV, the star of every single drama is a very very thin woman, unless it is about a very very big woman. There is no in between. You can get work if you are Melissa McCarthy, or if you’re everyone else on TV. There are few women, I’m one of them, who look like everybody else on the street.
Q: Was your weight a factor in your movies like Hocus Pocus and Sister Act?
A: I’ve done 25 films, but in those there were no body-type descriptions. For both of those, the women who I was up against for the role were thin women. So I got it because I was the funniest one, not because I was overweight. I’ve never gone out for a role that had the word fat or overweight in the description.
Q: Why did you decide to lose weight?
I guess I could say health reasons, but I don’t really think that is the reason anyone loses weight. I think people lose weight because they are told they aren’t worthy unless they are thinner, right? It does help with health and it might start out like that, but I think the mechanism that has been inserted into our mind is about how we need to be thin. For a woman, we are told it is the most important thing. For men, it is how smart and successful you are, talented, good at things. For girls, you’re taught your worth is your size. It’s hard to battle that.
Q: I know for me in losing weight, it was a lot about body image. And once I lost that weight it was oh, now I hate my saggy skin. Now I hate my legs. It was never good enough for me. Why are a lot of women never happy with our bodies?
A: That’s isn’t you, or indicative of you or any fault you have — that is something you’ve been told…. Those aren’t natural, organic feelings. It has nothing to do with you and it’s not a fault of yours. It is something you’ve been taught since you were born, so there is no way to escape it. Our body shame wasn’t there before the world told us it should be and that’s interesting to me.
Q: What kind of advice would you give to women to help them combat body shame?
A: When they called me to do this gig, I thought maybe I’m not the right one to do this because I sure haven’t conquered it. I think what I would tell people is to identify the body shame, realize it is not of you, and then move on anyway. It’s there, it’s that rock sitting there, and you just have to go up over the rock and move on. It doesn’t mean the rock goes away. I’m just advocating getting up and going over the rock and living your life and riding horses and having sex and going to the beach and ruling the world and running for president and whatever it is that makes you happy and is in your spirit — just do it anyway.
Q: How are you raising your teenage daughter with all of this focus on body and weight?
A: We never used the word fat in our family ever… We would say, “Suzie is round and Hope is straight.” We wouldn’t say thin or fat and we would give value to everything. And I remember there was this book we were reading, and it “a big fat leaf fell” and it was so funny because it was a big fat leaf. I’m not perfect and I’m struggling in this world, but I hope to have fashioned an environment where she saw it wasn’t an issue in our family. But you still have billboards, music videos, kids at school, boyfriends and twitter.
Q: Speaking of, how do you think social media plays a role?
A: Social media is horrible for body issues! It’s much harder for you guys than it was for us. We just had all of the people in our neighborhoods and they all looked like us. I wish people would post pictures of themselves sad because people only post photos of them having fun with friends and then they go home and drink or are depressed and we never see those pictures. It is so fake. ‘Look how many friends I have! Look at me in a bathing suit!’ I tell my daughter that it seems like your generation is showing fun, not having fun.
Q: So I’ve been dying to ask, any talks of a Hocus Pocus 2?
A: I just came from Orlando and they were obsessed with that and I said, you have to write Disney! I think we would do it. We are all so busy with other things, I’m producing a series for HBO, other projects and raising a kid. But I would love to see if I could make time for it. It would be so much fun.
Q: What can we expect to hear from you tonight?
A: Um, I’m going to talk shit about everyone in Hollywood. No, I’m going to tell my story, a few funny Hollywood stories (everybody loves those), and then I’ll talk about what we’ve been talking about. You know, I think I’m going to go up and change it a little bit based on the questions that you’ve had. I realize there are things that I’m passionate about that I want to put in.
Musician Maiah Manser is a bit of a conundrum. The Seattle-based, Oregon transplant is simultaneously serious and light-hearted. On stage she’s a dynamo with a voice that thunders out of her like a freight train. Away from the microphone, she’s witty and self-deprecating, a talented perfectionist who’s not afraid to chuckle at herself. Before discussing her life-long devotion to musicianship at a Greenwood coffee shop, she spends 10 minutes showing me Instagram pictures of extravagant fingernail art. She rarely paints her nails, she says, and then only black, but she appreciates the work of a skilled manicurist.
Manser is the frontwoman of a band who also works feverishly behind the scenes. When you watch the video (below) of her exquisite single, “Hold Your Head Up,” you’ll notice a line of text revealing that Manser co-directed the film. She’s also a multi-instrumentalist who writes her own music and lyrics and self-produces many of her songs. As the inspired micro manager of her own destiny, she has the intelligence and complexity to produce intriguing music for years to come.
When did you start singing?
I was around three when I started messing around with it. I realized in preschool that I could get out of nap time by singing to other classes. It became my little magical weapon (chuckles). I didn’t have to do nap time … I could never sleep. It was impossible.
It escalated of course … When I was six, I won a school talent show. I sung “Edelweiss” (from The Sound of Music) and everyone else was singing Spice Girls. That really tipped me off that I loved performing. I never stopped after that.
Take us a few years down the road from that time.
By then I was also in orchestra, and I did a lot of multimedia art as well. Simultaneously, as much as I did singing, I was also doing visual art and dancing. I was doing all the artsy things that a kid could do, so there was no time for any sports. That was a little strange in the town I grew up in: Bend, Oregon.
I started playing violin when I was eight, and switched over to viola five years later, so that the orchestra could have a viola player. I was actually playing it last night. I was recording a string arrangement. I miss playing it, but I had to quit for the most part. It destroyed my back. Not violin, but viola, because they’re so heavy.
I’m really sorry to hear that.
It’s okay. I’ve always been this kind of frail thing. When I switched over [from violin], I didn’t know how to handle it, so I slouched.
Did you start playing other instruments after that?
I started playing piano then. I also had this tiny Yamaha keyboard with like 49 keys or so. One of the ones where you can press a button and it plays these really cheesy backing tracks. I would make up my own lyrics to those.
Do any of these instruments factor into your live performances these days?
How I see violin and viola is that I use them to compose. In my room. I don’t necessarily want to play them live, because they’re such fickle instruments. I could play it and it would sound pretty okay, but I could also hire a professional or a prodigy that practices for three hours every day.
You went to see the new Kurt Cobain documentary, Montage of Heck. What did you think of it?
Something about Kurt Cobain — this is why so many people loved him — is that you can connect with him. As fascinating as that is, it’s also terrifying. The way he went about living his life was kind of tragic. Here was this extremely talented person who kind of didn’t love himself. That’s what the documentary seemed to be alluding to, anyway. It really didn’t focus on Nirvana too much, which was nice actually. They had so much footage.
Apparently he used to get these horrible stomach aches, and he would use heroin to manage them. And there I am, thinking, “I get horrible stomach aches too.” I could connect with some of his diary entries too. It was kind of freaking me out, but it’s still fascinating.
That’s what drugs will do. I’ve had some friends that got heavy into it. It’s hard to watch. But there’s not much you can do, except to be a good friend.
I had a friend a couple years back who died, but he was a wild card. He was always trying to rebel, but at the same time be the kindest person in the world. Any time you saw this person, he would come hug you and be so sweet. But he was so dark inside. After watching the documentary especially it made me think about my friend again.
You mentioned making string arrangements in your room earlier. Can you tell me more about your songwriting process?
I’ve actually been inspired to start working with my friend Jason Cairati recently. He’s been helping me a lot, especially in getting things moving because I can take forever. I’ll take a year to write one song. It’s better to have someone there saying, ‘Maiah, stop. Don’t overthink this. It sounds good. Let’s move on.’ Just that one song, “Hold Your Head Up,” took a year to make. It turned out to be a masterpiece, but there’s ways to attain that without taking a year.
Mainly, I’ll just write lyrics that come to my mind and then go play piano and see how they fit. I don’t like to stick to one specific mode of composing, because when I do that I get bored. There’s so many different ways to write a song.
That’s good to hear. One of the biggest cliches in the music industry is an artist who claims to be really eclectic and versatile, but in fact all their work sounds very similar.
For a long time, I was struggling to accept that my sound is all over the place. I felt like I was writing all these different things that don’t quite go together. But recently I’ve accepted that this is how I write. Maybe I write some weird, different songs, but they’ll still go together because they’re all me. It’s about accepting your art.
You said that sometimes you start with your lyrics and move forward from there. Could you discuss some of the themes you like to develop in your songwriting? Maybe talk about “Hold Your Head Up”?
“Hold Your Head Up,” goes deep. It’s actually about somebody else, and their relationship with another person. It’s not actually about me. I had someone thinking I wrote it about my situation with them, and I was like, “Nope!”
That reminds of a certain song… [singing] “You’re so vain…” [laughs].
What I like about [“Hold Your Head Up”] is that it’s not so lyrically detailed. It can be up for interpretation for a lot of people. A lot of the songs I’ve been writing more recently are very detailed. There’s a lot of words fit into one small little four bar section. It’s almost like I’m rapping, but I’m not [chuckles]. I feel even more connected to those songs, because it’s like here’s everything I feel!
Lately, I’ve gotten into this mode of writing lyrics where I just spew it all out and cut things later. When I write that way, I don’t even know what my brain was just thinking. I have to go back and figure out what I meant by all of that. It’s fun.
You write your music, arrange, it, sing it and produce it. But you have a band you play with live. Could you talk about how you translate your songs to a live setting, and what it’s like working with other musicians?
I love my band, and I can’t wait for the day when I can pay them a million dollars. Jason Cairati plays synthesizers and presses all kinds of buttons. James Squires is hitting big buttons, and we just incorporated more real drums too, which I’m really happy about. The more real instruments I can include, the better. I can’t wait until the day I can have a string orchestra playing with me. That would complete me.
It does become difficult to translate some of my songs, to include all the instruments we actually use. We have to put some things on back tracks at the moment. I worked for a pop artist for a while, and they do that. Some more than others.
It’s super common these days. It’s amazing what you can sneak into the sound mix sometimes.
It’s a little too far for me. I want to make it as real as possible. I love the organic. I like to make electronic music organic, that’s what I strive to do. The live shows inherently have more energy than a recorded track, just because it’s live. So there’s room to cut things, and [the sound] feels just as big.
There’s something to be said for choosing a stripped-down rock ‘n roll aesthetic for live shows.
Sometimes I wish we could eliminate some of the [live] computer work that we do, because it can really disrupt our performance. Computers aren’t always reliable. It’s just so much nicer to have a real instrument being played.
Have you fallen prey to glitches?
Absolutely. But what’s awesome about them is that you learn to improvise with electronics … It keeps you on your toes.
It can take some serious time to learn not to show that you just messed up like crazy. At my last show, I played with Allen Stone at the Triple Door. Two hours before that, I lost part of my range. I was having a really hard time hitting my mid range. It kind of sounded like Chewbacca … It was this rumbly, weird sound. I was left with no choice; I had to sing with it, and my voice was going to pop out on many of my songs. So whenever it did, instead of being like “oh no!” I acted like I was crying. [laughs] I was a little upset after the show, but I did the best I could.
You’ve mentioned the EP a couple times. What can you tell me about it?
It’s big — as in orchestral. It’s very lush. It’s dark. I’m composing an intro and some interludes as well. I can tell you that my next single will be [a cover of Screamin Jay Hawkins’] “I Put a Spell on You.” I’m in the process of writing one more song. I’m not even sure we can sell, “I Put a Spell on You” because of the royalties.
Are you signed to a record label, and if not, do you want to be?
It depends. I’ve seen a lot of the repulsive side of the major label industry. It’s all about the money. It’s like you’re taking away a musician’s artistry, and forcing them to become this marketable object. I might sign to an indie label. It would have to be so particular. I would really have to feel like I wasn’t being taken advantage of. My plan has really been to create my own team. I have a hard time trusting a label.
Someone I always look at is Janelle Monae, who created the Wondaland record label around her as she rose to fame. I really admire that form of action. It keeps the art alive. It keeps the artist’s intention very true and genuine. I think that gets lost a lot in pop culture.
You left music school to pursue your career as a musician. Why did you decide to do that, and how did it turn out?
I’m very happy with my decision. At the time I did it I was not. A lot of the reason I left was money issues, but there was a part of me that didn’t feel okay with being told what art is. I was going to school as a jazz vocal major, but switched over to composition in my final year. That was eye-opening for me, because it was like, wait, you’re telling me this song I wrote isn’t good enough? I could have taken it more with a grain of salt, but it was good for me to leave because I was almost starting to hate music. I was analyzing art too much. I’m all for thinking about what you’re making, but for me it can really take away the magic.
It’s not just about popcorn anymore, say Seattle International Film Festival programmers. This year, SIFF debuts the Culinary Cinema program, which pairs films with food in unique ways — and it all starts next week.
The program is built around the festival’s 11 food-related films (most are documentaries), and the Seattle restaurants with connections (some slight) to the films’ subject matter that have agreed o host pre- or post-screening meals. Here are a few highlights from the film-food menu …
The documentary, Cooking up a Tribute, whets your appetite with scrumptious dishes onscreen for 90 minutes, then lets you satisfy it at Poppy, Capitol Hill’s self-described “northwest mashup” small plate restaurant. The film, directed by Andrea Gómez and Luis González, follows El Celler de Can Roca, a Spanish eatery voted world’s best restaurant by Restaurant magazine. The owners closed for five weeks last year to travel the world with their staff, sampling local cuisine and concocting their own variations to bring back to Catalonia. In the end, the El Celler crew created 57 new dishes, completely revamping the menu. Quite the daring move for a restaurant that’s menu was already so well-received. (Cooking Up a Table is showing on June 2 and June 6 at the Harvard Exit, just down the street from Poppy.)
King Georges, directed by Erika Frankel, tells a tale from the opposite end of the spectrum, giving us a peek at a restaurant’s slow demise. George Perrier, owner of elegant Philadelphia-based Le Bec-Fin, was in a quandary. After 40 years, he decided it was time to sell his venerable business, but having chosen a successor chef, he suddenly changed his mind. For the next three years, the director filmed Perrier’s attempts to reinvigorate Le Bec-Fin’s menu, remodel its dining room, and just keep on with a restaurant that had been the center of his life for so long. The website of the now-shuttered Le-Bec-Fin reminds visitors that “All good things must come to an end.” But Seattle’s Loulay is alive and well in downtown, and planning to host a $125 “chef’s menu” to accompany the King Georges screening: May 20 at AMC Pacific Place.
For those more interested in eating food than watching movies about it there is Messi. This film by director Álex de la Iglesia tells the story of Argentinian soccer star Leo Messi, and it comes with three eating options for culinary enthusiasts. All at VUDE (Velvet Underground Dining Experience) in South lake Union. Moviegoers can opt for pre-screening empanadas with wine, late-night dessert or a full-on dinner. The VUDE dinner option is exclusive, though. Only 20 seats available.
The invisible in Margaret Brown’s documentary The Great Invisible (available on Netflix and online on PBS’s Independent Lens until May 21) refers to both the damage done to the lives and landscape of the Gulf Coast following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (the largest in U.S. history), and the free pass awarded to BP in the years after the disaster. Sure, they paid billions of dollars in fines and fees to clean up the spill, but the amount will add up to a drop in their endless bucket of oil profits.
The company continues to drill new offshore wells, hidden from view and unscathed by government regulations, while the devastation from the accident resulted in both a human and environmental post-traumatic stress that neither BP, the United States government, the media, nor the rest of us care to think about. Out of sight, out of mind.
The 2010 Deepwater explosion killed 11 workers and leaked 210 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf. It ruined the coastline, killed countless birds, fish and other sea life, and put thousands of people out of work. Brown spends considerable time recounting the explosion and the leaking underwater well. She takes us inside the huge drilling rig, thanks to home movie footage shot by one of the surviving workers, and parallels the unfolding disaster with the story of oil rig survivors, relatives of the dead and the fishermen and families directly affected by the spill.
Roosevelt Harris, a volunteer at an Alabama church soup kitchen, is one central character. He comes across as a post-apocalyptic Good Samaritan, roaming the muddy backroads delivering food and supplies, resolved to make the best of this new world created in the aftermath of the crisis, but unable to hide an air of defeated resignation. Sometimes, The Great Invisible feels defeated as well. Brown is a rigorous and intelligent filmmaker (and a native of Alabama). Her film is patient, objective, respectful and measured. But it fails to ignite. In tackling a story that is as much about big oil as it is about the little people left behind, she seems resigned to pessimism. She neither challenges the oil company nor asks her other characters, such as the out-of-work shrimpers hired by BP to help cleanup the spill or the locals who work onshore for the company, to explain why they continue to support an industry that ruins their lives.
In one scene, a local man is giving a tour of a massive oil rig to a group of school kids. When he asks if they know where oil comes from and one of them answers that it’s a fossil fuel, he quickly corrects her, saying, “That’s just a theory.” Is the man just stupid or is he a shill for big oil? Brown makes a point by leaving the statement alone, but in the face of such a horrendous corporate-caused human and ecological catastrophe, perhaps a follow-up question would not have been out of line. In her efforts to maintain a respectful distance, this episode and others like it, cast a hopeless gloom over the entire picture.
Not that we need to feel unrealistically upbeat. The future of the planet is in dire straits if we don’t immediately stop emitting carbon and keep the rest of it in the ground. But The Great Invisible doesn’t tackle these pressing issues. Instead of inciting rage or protest, or even simply interrogating a population duped into participating in their own demise, the movie, in its last scene, allows the oil companies to — literally — have the last word.
Welcome to City Superheroes, a regular column that highlights the powerful figures walking among us — with the help of a (usually local) illustrator. This week’s pairing: writer and artist Amanda Manitach and visual artist Carina Simmons.
Given Name: Amanda Manitach
Other Aliases: The Platinum Widow Maker, Mandy Candy
Superpowers: Light grenades, infinite energy
First Appearance: December 2009 showing four drawings of syphilitic vaginas at one of the New Guard dinners. “That’s when I was obsessed with the historical implications of syphilis,” she explains.
Local Haunts: Bait Shop, Hedreen Gallery, Roq La Rue, The Factory, Broadway Gold’s Gym, Joe Bar, Aoki Sushi
Archenemies: Boring things, the art market
Even Heroes Have Heroes: Drake (“He’s so sensitive and sweet and makes such bad music”), Miley Cyrus’s Instagram, Derrick Ryan Claude Mitchell
Origin Story: Born in Quinter, Kansas, Amanda moved to rural Texas as a child where her father was (and still is) a non-denominational charismatic pastor. Amanda, who grew up wanting to be a missionary and later a writer, studied literature at Oral Roberts University, where she lost her religion but discovered her powers of light manipulation and energy regeneration. She later moved to Seattle where the vibrant hues and mysterious lights of the Pacific Northwest intensified her passion for color and her mastery of language.
Amanda has planted feet in both a solitary artistic life and as a documenter of Emerald City culture. Her never-ending energy allows her to be seemingly in two places at once. “I am a masochist,” she says. “I often do too much, but that’s what’s also totally energizing and exciting.” Amanda draws her powers from people, as well as other light sources. When not writing or curating, she finds herself at the studio, drawing. Some part of her, she explains, is “always in motion.” Her fate? One of the world’s restless people, fighting the good fight.
Her Philosophy: “Work hard and try to have fun before you fucking die.”
“People who take themselves too seriously in the art world tend to run into problems. At the same time, you have to work your ass off. Strive for a balance of humor and workaholism.”
What’s Next: A group art exhibit called “Plus One” at Roq La Rue that opens on June 12th. Amanda will be showing a life-sized graphite drawing of one of her infamous T-Shirt Girls.
About the Illustrator: The Seattle-based Carina Simmons began studying animation in 2006 and later worked in film production. She focuses now on 2-D animation and mixed media illustration.
To see all our City Superhero series, go here.
Carl Spence is the type of rare individual who can talk highbrow (the nuances of Polish film poster art) and lowbrow (Rose Byrne is coupled with Bobby Cannavale) in one conversation. And that’s why, if you’re a film buff, you’ll want to hang out with him. He’s got stories, trivia and, probably, loads of gossip about the film festival scene.
Spence, 45, is the artistic director of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), which opens Thursday, May 14, and will screen 450 films over 25 days. We caught up with Spence on the eve of SIFF’s 41st opening night.
How did you land at SIFF in 1994?
I started on a three month contract doing marketing and promotion. [Before that], at the UW, I ran the Arts and Entertainment office for the ASUW, [which involved] producing films, concerts and lectures. Phish, Robyn Hitchcock, Queen Latifah…I think I did a double bill of Naked Lunch and Beauty and the Beast.
The UW job was crazy, but I learned how to create and promote an event, sell tickets, book films, talk in front of people and organize volunteers – a set of skills that are useful to my current job.
What movies did you grow up with?
I grew up on Disney. I remember “Freaky Friday” with Jodie Foster. I’m of the Star Wars generation. I remember seeing that at the Tacoma Mall – that was an event.
I had a best friend whose dad ran a video store in Sumner. And I worked at another video store throughout high school. I started really branching out in college. At the UW, there were great film classes – we’d go watch all these films at the Neptune.
In this day and age, why do movie theaters matter?
I watch a lot of movies by myself, but it’s a richer experience when I see a movie not by myself. As long as we [humans] want to stay connected, we will still want to do things with other people.
Everyone thinks it’s risky to be investing in movie theaters (SIFF owns three: One at Seattle Center, one on Lower Queen Anne and one on Capitol Hill). But just three weeks ago, at a SIFF screening of “Montage of Heck,” there were 600 people. The energy was palpable. The director gave a great Q-and-A. I don’t think you’d experience that at home watching HBO.
You see between 450 and 500 films per year for work. So…what do you do in your free time?
Cook. We have a little place on Orcas Island. It’s a little cabin with no TV. I catch crab.
Do you screen mainstream movies for your kids (ages 4 and 7)?
Yes, and I’ve also screened some “Films4Families” (one of many film groupings available at this year’s SIFF).
Kevin Bacon: why are you paying tribute to him this year?
He has a remarkable range of work and he did not take the obvious path. He also hearkens back to my era. I remember “Footloose” and “Diner.”
We’re showing his latest work – “Cop Car,” a neo-noir cop film. We’re very excited.
This year’s SIFF offers 17 different mini-festivals within the festival and, if that’s not enough, you can also search for movies that match your mood (“Provoke Me” or “Make Me Laugh”).
For even more specific categories, here are Spence’s top picks.
If you’re a 7-year-old boy:
“Fiddlesticks.” A German film about kids taking over town to free their grandparents. Very imaginative and fun.
If you’re a dog lover:
“The Great Alone.” A documentary about man, the Iditarod and how the man would rather spend time with his dogs than, well, with other humans.
If the “Black Lives Matter” movement has you wanting more films about race in America:
“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.” A great documentary.
“Dope.” Described by SIFF as a coming-of-age, updated “Ferris Bueller” story about some college-bound hip-hop geeks.
“License to Operate.” A documentary about former gang members in LA.
And if you’re looking for a good date movie:
“Good Ol’ Boy.” A fish-out-of-water tale about a boy from India in 1970s, small town America.
For more information on this year’s SIFF, go here.
* Events that are $15 or less
Somehow I’ve overlooked reading this 2008 bestselling novel by Chris Cleave about a Nigerian refugee girl named Little Bee and the harrowing way she’s connected to an English magazine editor and the editor’s columnist husband. Luckily, I have Book-It to thank for adapting Little Bee for the stage in a powerful, absorbing way. Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako is exceptional in the title role — how she makes us hurt and laugh. And Sydney Andrews is believable as Sarah, the editor whose life is upended before Little Bee even steps back into her life. I went to a matinee last weekend when the weather was sunny and you know what? At intermission, I kept thinking how perfect it felt to spend a couple of hours in the dark, watching this memorable and important story unfold. The production, a world premiere, closes this weekend. Go.
If you go: Little Bee, Book-It Repertory Theatre, Now through May 17 ($25) — F.D.
KEXP’s “Little Big Show”
This series is an incredible innovation on the local radio station’s part. Each show takes place at the Neptune, is reasonably priced and benefits a local nonprofit or charity organization. Teen Tix is the beneficiary this time around. Anyone ages 13-19 who enrolls gets a pass allowing him or her to purchase $5 day-of-show tickets from any of Teen Tix’s partner organizations, which include ACT, The EMP, MOHAI, The Seattle Symphony and many others. The program is an investment in the future of Seattle culture.
To drum up some cash for this worthy cause, KEXP has enlisted the help of three excellent rock acts. Headliner Cloud Nothings is a raw-boned indie rock group out of Cleveland. They are excellent at conveying intensity without resorting to thrashing and screaming. This rare show of calculated restraint is largely due to the excellent singing/songwriting/guitar work of frontman Dylan Baldi. Seattle mainstays Tacocat and Chastity Belt are opening. For the last year or so, these two bands have been vying for the title of Best Seattle Slacker Surf Pop Group, a category that has many, many other worthy contenders in this town.
If you go: Cloud Nothings, Tacocat, Chastity Belt, Neptune Theater, May 14 ($19). All ages — J.S.H.
Brown Derby Series: Jurassic Park
Inaugurated in 2010 with Purple Rain, Ian Bell’s Brown Derby Series continues to deliver “ridiculously staged readings of your favorite screenplays.” This weekend, Bell and a crew of actors pay homage to the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park. Relish in the chance to see this script reenacted on stage, stripped of all special effects and dino-free. If this doesn’t have the makings of a hilarious night, I don’t know what does.
If you go: Brown Derby Series: Jurassic Park, Re-Bar, May 14 to 16 ($20) — N.C.
Pierogi Fest *
Italy has ravioli, China has wontons, Argentina has empanadas and Poland has pierogi. Now a Seattle institution, the annual Pierogi Fest returns to the Polish Home Association for one day only. These wonderful little dumplings are stuffed with any number of savory fillings — cabbage, onion, beef, cheese — dropped into boiling water to cook, then sautéed to a golden perfection in butter and onion. Let professionals do the work. Just head to 18th Avenue in Capitol Hill for entertainment, Polish beer and a whole plateful of pierogi, savory or sweet.
If you go: Pierogi Fest, Polish Home Association, May 16 ($10 for adults, $5 for kids) — N.C.
Fly Moon Royalty, Tangerine, Snuff Redux
For some weeks now, I’ve been raving to everyone who would listen (and many who wouldn’t) that this Saturday’s show at Neumos is the year’s best deal on live music to date. The bill features three excellent, eclectic local acts: Headliners Fly Moon Royalty along with openers Tangerine and Snuff Redux. While all three groups are KEXP darlings with solid traction in the local scene, this lineup’s real selling point is its almost outlandish diversity. Fly Moon Royalty self-categorizes as “Electro soul” and pair funky homemade beats with sassy R&B vocals. Tangerine is equally dance-y but relies more on guitars than electronics and keys to achieve the effect. Their dayglo surf pop is both tightly orchestrated and energizing. Snuff Redux does not share the penchant for tight-knit orchestration; they are a tornado of garage rock, shoegaze and postpunk that is at once unabashedly catchy and conspicuously unique. In triplicate, these acts might well summon enough raw power to blow the roof off the place.
If you go: Fly Moon Royalty, Tangerine, Snuff Redux Neumos, May 16 ($10). 21+ — J.S.H.
Me and Earl and The Dying Girl *
Seattle International Film Festival 2015 begins! We’re lucky enough to play host to an array of films from around the world, including a good many world premieres that will screen all over the city (some even at resurrected venues like the Harvard Exit Theatre). One of the first events of note is the Seattle premier of Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, winner of the 2015 Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the festival’s Audience Award. Watching the trailer, it’s not surprising that no one’s had anything but glowing things to say about this coming-of-age tale, an homage of sorts to Harold and Maude that “feels like an instant classic.” Its young cast shines and the story comes together to make a potentially tired premise funny, authentic and resounding. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is scheduled to attend Saturday’s screening, followed by a reception catered by Il Fornaio.
If you go: Me and Earl and The Dying Girl + Party, Pacific Place, 6: 30 p.m. May 16 and 2:30 p.m. on May 17 ($13 or $25 for film and the party) — N.C.
Orchestra Seattle | Seattle Chamber Singers
The orchestra and chorus celebrate the year 1954 with music that was playing on stage, in the movie theater and on the radio from that era. Selections include music by composing greats Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein (“On the Waterfront,” which won Best Picture that year). The concert will feature a musical tribute to Boeing’s first flight, which happened in 1954, and a world premiere by Stacey Phillips, winner of the OSSCS composer competition. Phillips’ work features lyrics drawn from the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a Paul Dunbar poem “Breathe”, composed in response to the recent deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
If you go: Orchestra Seattle | Seattle Chamber Singers, First Free Methodist Church, 3 p.m. May 17 ($25) — F.D.
The great tradition of the guitar-slinging troubadour poets lives on in artists like Elvis Perkins. His lyrics, at once personal and expansive, whimsical yet insightful, hearken back to Bob Dylan, John Prine, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. Perkins’ songs are the type that remain cryptic after many listens, defying concrete understanding even as they plumb the depths of the soul. One of his earlier ballads (“While You Were Sleeping”) practically reached out of my car’s radio and grabbed my teenage self by the scruff of the neck. I could focus on nothing else when I heard him sing, “While you were sleeping, you tossed you turned / you rolled your eyes as the world burned / the heavens fell, the earth quaked / I thought you must be but you weren’t awake, No, you were dreaming.” The images he paints leave a permanent imprimatur on listeners’ minds. Don’t deny yourself that experience.
If you go: Elvis Perkins, The Triple Door, May 19 ($16). All ages — J.S.H.