Sunday, December 24, 2006

From today's Seattle Times: Putting an end to homelessness "can be done"


By Sharon Pian Chan, Seattle Times staff reporter

After lunch, Bill Block was crossing Fourth Avenue downtown when someone he knew brushed past.

"Hey, have you ended homelessness yet?" the man asked.

"Yeah, yesterday," Block said.

"Yesterday" is the punch line. But ending homelessness — Block is dead serious about that.

Not shelter it, feed it or clothe it. End it.

An intractable social problem — created by the economy, drug addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, the justice system, lack of health care — can be solved, he says.

That's his job. Until recently, Block was a high-powered attorney — responsible for negotiating some of the city's biggest real-estate deals. He is a former Sonics part owner and adept political player who decided to give up his law-firm partnership to head the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in King County.

The county has an estimated 8,000 homeless people, and Block is charged with finding a home for all of them.

Homelessness will end, the plan says, when we build a roof over every bed.

"It can be done," Block said. "We see it all over the country."

At its worst, the Ten-Year Plan is a naive campaign that gives false hope to society's most downtrodden and will inevitably end in failure. At its best, it is wildly idealistic and maybe crazy enough to work.

To accomplish its goal, the Committee to End Homelessness in King County, an alliance of government, business and nonprofits, must create 9,500 units of housing. Its members — who include King County Executive Ron Sims and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels — have given themselves a deadline of 2015.


Friday, December 22, 2006

"Q: Would you give us a peek into the future and reveal the next great Colbert-ism? A: Colbertainment."

Stephen Colbert accepts accolades as one of Entertainment Weekly's "Entertainter of the Year":

"For the first time ever, there's a lot going on in the world. I'm so lucky that this year was the year something happened in the world. Years before, this show wouldn't have worked. The world was just phoning it in."


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Also: Fat Jokes Linked to Douchebaggery

Last year I interviewed someone who views himself as assiduously indie and progressive, so I was surprised when he made fat jokes from the stage after our conversation. (My tip off that he's a bit of a douche should have been when he kept asking about Ben G., as if I would tell one interview subject stories about another interview subject. Of course, I don't.)

It's always struck me as obvious that obesity, like most major health problems, is complex in its origins. Research continues to bear this out. From the Associated Press:

Bacteria May Contribute to Obesity

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The size of your gut may be partly shaped by which microbes call it home, according to new research linking obesity to types of digestive bacteria.

Both obese mice -- and people -- had more of one type of bacteria and less of another kind, according to two studies published Thursday in the journal Nature.

A "microbial component" appears to contribute to obesity, said study lead author Jeffrey Gordon, director of Washington University's Center for Genome Sciences.

Obese humans and mice had a lower percentage of a family of bacteria called Bacteroidetes and more of a type of bacteria called Firmicutes, Gordon and his colleagues found.

The researchers aren't sure whether more Firmicutes makes you fat or if people who are obese grow more of that type of bacteria.

But growing evidence of this link gives scientists a potentially new and still distant way of fighting obesity: Change the bacteria in the intestines and stomach. It also may lead to a way of fighting malnutrition in the developing world.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Living Off Rats to Survive in Zimbabwe

My father grew up under Nazi occupation in Greece and remembers villagers being so hungry and desperate that they picked lice out of their hair and ate them in order stay alive.

Jeff Koinange is a prescient journalist--his reports from the African continent are among the finest aired in our country--and he bravely and consistently works to impart attention to the poorest regions of the world. Countries afflicted with "stupid poverty", as Bono calls it.

In his latest piece for CNN, Koinange unveils how citizens of Zimbabwe are eating rats because their food supply has evaporated:

Living Off Rats to Survive in Zimbabwe

By Jeff Koinange

(CNN) -- Twelve-year-old Beatrice returns from the fields with small animals she's caught for dinner.

Her mother, Elizabeth, prepares the meat and cooks it on a grill made of three stones supporting a wood fire. It's just enough food, she says, to feed her starving family of six.

Tonight, they dine on rats.

"Look what we've been reduced to eating?" she said. "How can my children eat rats in a country that used to export food? This is a tragedy."

This is a story about how Zimbabwe, once dubbed southern Africa's bread basket, has in six short years become a basket case. It is about a country that once exported surplus food now apparently falling apart, with many residents scrounging for rodents to survive.


Jeff Koinage's CNN bio:

Monday, December 18, 2006

And now, the estimable Mr. Estey:

My friend, Chris Estey, has two crackling pieces out now.

In his Three Imaginary Girls review of the Decemberists' The Crane Wife, he wisely observes:

"Both of these comments are just angles hacks take to avoid spending more time with the music, absorbing the admittedly convoluted but compelling storytelling of bandleader Colin Meloy, in language not all that much more 'literary' than anything on a Bob Dylan or an Elvis Costello album. Okay, so the combination of more obscure words and faintly archaic musical forms may suggest some sort of complicated nostalgic aesthetic on the band's part, but to me it's no less organic than the Pogues. There's just a little less male prostitution and getting kicked in the nards by the cops."

In his Shorthand for Epic profile in the Stranger, he elicits my new favorite music-related quote:

"Beau, my roommate, who took the picture, and brought Larry into the band, is against that idea of four rogues smoking, leaning up against the wall of the building. You know what? You're not a street gang. Unless you're scary motherfuckers like Suicidal Tendencies, stop looking like it! And you're not fashion models. You're playing music."

Bravo, Chris!

Keep readin':

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball."

Jeff Stein's Congressional Quarterly piece on U.S. governmental and systemic ignorance of Sunni and Shiite beliefs and alliances is journalism at its most useful:

Dec. 8, 2006 – 7:43 p.m.
Democrats’ New Intelligence Chairman Needs a Crash Course on al Qaeda

Forty years ago, Sgt. Silvestre Reyes was a helicopter crew chief flying dangerous combat missions in South Vietnam from the top of a soaring rocky outcrop near the sea called Marble Mountain.

After the war, it turned out that the communist Viet Cong had tunneled into the hill and built a combat hospital right beneath the skids of Reyes’ UH-1 Huey gunship.

Now the five-term Texas Democrat, 62, is facing similar unpleasant surprises about the enemy, this time as the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

That’s because, like a number of his colleagues and top counterterrorism officials that I’ve interviewed over the past several months, Reyes can’t answer some fundamental questions about the powerful forces arrayed against us in the Middle East.

It begs the question, of course: How can the Intelligence Committee do effective oversight of U.S. spy agencies when its leaders don’t know basics about the battlefield?

To his credit, Reyes, a kindly, thoughtful man who also sits on the Armed Service Committee, does see the undertows drawing the region into chaos.

For example, he knows that the 1,400- year-old split in Islam between Sunnis and Shiites not only fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq, it drives the competition for supremacy across the Middle East between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.

That’s more than two key Republicans on the Intelligence Committee knew when I interviewed them last summer. Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and Terry Everett, R-Ala., both back for another term, were flummoxed by such basic questions, as were several top counterterrorism officials at the FBI.

I thought it only right now to pose the same questions to a Democrat, especially one who will take charge of the Intelligence panel come January. The former border patrol agent also sits on the Armed Services Committee.

Reyes stumbled when I asked him a simple question about al Qaeda at the end of a 40-minute interview in his office last week. Members of the Intelligence Committee, mind you, are paid $165,200 a year to know more than basic facts about our foes in the Middle East.

We warmed up with a long discussion about intelligence issues and Iraq. And then we veered into terrorism’s major players.

To me, it’s like asking about Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland: Who’s on what side?

The dialogue went like this:

Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?

“Al Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Predominantly — probably Shiite,” he ventured.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.

That’s because the extremist Sunnis who make up a l Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.

Al Qaeda’s Sunni roots account for its very existence. Osama bin Laden and his followers believe the Saudi Royal family besmirched the true faith through their corruption and alliance with the United States, particularly allowing U.S. troops on Saudi soil.

It’s been five years since these Muslim extremists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center.

Is it too much to ask that our intelligence overseers know who they are?

Civil War

And Hezbollah? I asked him. What are they?

“Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah...”

He laughed again, shifting in his seat.

“Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?”

“Poquito,” I said—a little.

“Poquito?! “ He laughed again.

“Go ahead,” I said, talk to me about Sunnis and Shia in Spanish.

Reyes: “Well, I, uh....”

I apologized for putting him “on the spot a little.” But I reminded him that the people who have killed thousands of Americans on U.S. soil and in the Middle East have been front page news for a long time now.

It’s been 23 years since a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed over 200 U.S. military personnel in Beirut, mostly Marines.

Hezbollah, a creature of Iran, is close to taking over in Lebanon. Reports say they are helping train Iraqi Shiites to kill Sunnis in the spiralling civil war.

“Yeah,” Reyes said, rightly observing, “but . . . it’s not like the Hatfields and the McCoys. It’s a heck of a lot more complex.

“And I agree with you — we ought to expend some effort into understanding them. But speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Reyes is not alone.

The best argument for needing to understand who’s what in the Middle East is probably the mistaken invasion itself, despite the preponderance of expert opinion that it was a terrible idea — including that of Bush’s father and his advisers. On the day in 2003 when Iraqi mobs toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Bush was said to be unaware of the possibility that a Sunni-Shia civil war could fill the power vacuum, according to a reliable source with good White House connections.

If President Bush and some of his closest associates, not to mention top counterterrorism officials, have demonstrated their own ignorance about who the players are in the Middle East, why should we expect the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee to get it right?

Trent Lott, the veteran Republican senator from Mississippi, said only last September that “It’s hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what’s wrong with these people.”

“Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion?” wondered Lott, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after a meeting with Bush.

“Why do they hate the Israelis and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference?

“They all look the same to me,” Lott said.


The administration’s disinterest in the Arab world has rattled down the chain of command.

Only six people in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad are fluent in Arabic, according to last week’s report of the Iraq Study Group. Only about two dozen of the embassy’s thousand employees have some familiarity with the language, the report said.

The Iraq Study Group was amazed to find that, despite spending $2 billion on Iraq in 2006, more wasn’t being done to try “to understand the people who fabricate, plant and explode roadside bombs.”

Rare is the military unit with an American soldier who can read a captured document or interrogate a prisoner, my own sources tell me.

It was that way in Vietnam, too, Reyes says, which “haunts us.”

“If you substitute Arabization for Vietnamization, if you substitute . . . our guys going in and taking over a place then leaving it and the bad guys come back in. . . .”

He trails off, despairing.

“I could draw many more analogies.”

Yet Reyes says he favors sending more troops there.

“If it’s going to target the militias and eliminate them, I think that’s a worthwhile investment,” he said.

It’s hard to find anybody in Iraq who thinks the U.S. can do that.

On “a temporary basis, I’m willing to ramp them up by twenty or thirty thousand . . . for, I don’t know, two months, four months, six months — but certainly that would be an exception,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, the killing is going on below decks, too, within Sunni and Shiite groups and factions.

Anybody who pays serious attention to Iraq knows that.

Reyes says his first hearings come January will focus on how U.S. intelligence can do a better job helping the troops in Iraq.

It may be way too late for that.

“Stop giving me tests!” Reyes exclaimed, half kidding.

“I’m not going to talk to you any more!”

Next: More on intelligence topics from my interview with Rep. Reyes.

Jeff Stein can be reached at


Sunday, December 10, 2006

As my dad calls them, "those fellows in the Cab you wrote about"

Two of my guy friends once challenged themselves to come up with one thousand synonyms for "penis" during the course of a forty-eight hour road trip. (Both of them had recently become engaged to their longtime girlfriends. When I asked if they'd interrupted the cock talk to discuss said relationships, they totally cracked up.)

Anyway, last night's DCfC show at the Key Arena blazed so fucking brilliantly, that if I were so inclined, I could concoct one thousand synonyms for "awesome" and it would still be insufficient. And I saw it with C and T, two of my closest friends for the past twenty years. I'm holiday-neutral, but last night felt like a celebration.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Power to the people and all that

Ballots for sundry year-end music polls are out now. Unless maggots have crunched through your skull, you can guess my top two picks. And it's worth reminding everyone, especially the children, that R.E.M.'s And I Feel Fine: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987 warrants accolades.

Three Imaginary Girls:



Tales, booze, yam fries

The Seattle Art Museum is hosting a series of smaller events around town to build momentum for the opening of their Olympic Sculpture Park next month. Tonight they're teaming with the story-telling salon, A Guide to Visitors, for a "Best of 2006" night at the Rendezvous. I've been asked to tell the story of a friend who was exposed as a literary hoax. The show starts at 7:30 and I'm on second.

The Seattle Times AGTV piece from a few years back by the lovely Brangien Davis:

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"If I could open my arms/ and span the length of the island Manhattan..."

I have two extra tickets to Death Cab's December 9 Seattle show at the Key Arena. I'm going with my friend, C, but the rest of our horde has a scheduling conflict.

Tickets are:

Section 113, row 26, face value. (These aren't comps.)

Email me at if you're interested. (And if you're not, you should have that looked at: perhaps it's glandular.)

Okay, I have some corduroys to press.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Because everything I write eventually gets linked to porn

My essay, "The Great Cookie Offering", appears in the upcoming Seal Press anthology, Single State of the Union, alongside work from compadre Michelle Goodman and the unfettered Margaret Cho.

You can pre-order it on Amazon:

Or check out the full line-up on Rachel Kramer Bussel's delightfully smutty blog, The Lusty Lady:

Mad props to editor Diane Mapes for galvanizing us all.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bunnies: now more than ever

Logically and morally, I'm in a specious position--I ate a turkey sandwich for lunch--and I know cultures are somewhat arbitrary in choosing which animals to protect or to kill, but I would be pleased if rabbits were more widely viewed as companion animals. I'm glad the European Union is proposing a ban on the sale of dog and cat fur, but rabbits should be added to the list. (Yes, I know I've written about bunnies and rainbows today. Email me if you'd like to hear about the Capitol Records publicist who should be tazed.)

From the Associated Press via MSNBC:

EU proposes ban on sale of cat, dog fur
New law would extend to 25 nations in bloc; fur found in clothing, kids toys

Updated: 8:50 a.m. PT Nov 20, 2006

(AP) BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union’s executive commission proposed Monday to extend a ban on the sale, import and production of dog and cat fur to all 25 EU nations, saying the measure was taken a response to an overwhelming public outcry.

The European Commission said it found cat and dog fur in some clothing, personal accessories and soft toys for children being sold on the European market, either falsely labeled as another kind of fur, or hidden within the product.

“Just the idea of young children playing with toys which have been made with dog and cat fur is really something we cannot accept,” said Markos Kyprianou, the commission’s consumer protection commissioner. “In Europe, as you know, cats and dogs are considered companion animals and nothing else.”

Kyprianou said Europeans were shocked by “images of cats and dogs being kept in cages and slaughtered in cruel and shocking conditions for their fur.” He noted that 15 EU member states already have bans in place, but that an EU-wide ban — which he expected to be approved quickly — serves to bring clear guidelines for all member nations.

'People are disgusted'

Because of the fur trade’s secretive nature, he said, it was hard to estimate how much dog and cat fur finds its way onto the market or pinpoint its source.

However, a December 2005 investigation by the Australian animal-rights group Humane Society International showed dog and cat fur production had taken place in the Czech Republic and other Eastern European states.

“People are disgusted when they find out that cats and dogs are killed every year for their fur,” said HSI Director Mark Glover.

HSI estimates around 2 million cats and dogs are killed for fur each year, with an estimated 5,400 cats and dogs killed in China each day.

© 2006 The Associated Press.


The imagery has been bastardized...

...and the symbolism is obvious, but there's a rainbow outside my window and I'm smiling: it's impossible to ignore a Popsicle-striped sky.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"And under the boughs unbowed/ All clothed in a snowy shroud..."

My Decemberists feature for the Seattle Weekly is here and my world is tasty as milkshakes:

One of our sister publications, The Cleveland Scene, ran it, too. Please note it bears little resemblance to the Seattle Weekly version, i.e. the version I actually wrote:

My Seattle Weekly editor, Brian Barr, is a Believer compadre and if you haven't already, you should partake in his interview with the author, Padgett Powell:

See you at the Paramount Friday night!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

For those scoring at home

1) In the past few weeks, I've been asked to write for two of my favorite publications and had a short story accepted to a lit journal I admire.

2) One of my editors has tucked his dick so far between his legs, it is now wedged up his own ass.

3) I interviewed singer/songwriter/pianist Annie Stela for Filter this morning and she was as engaging as her songs:

4) Way up his ass.

5) More so than anything, I feel grateful that I get to do what I love.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ed Bradley 1941-2006

This makes me inexorably sad. Good night and god bless, Mr. Bradley. From today's New York Times:

Ed Bradley, Veteran CBS Newsman, Dies

Published: November 9, 2006

Ed Bradley, a pioneering black journalist who was a fixture in American living rooms on Sunday nights for more than a quarter century on “60 Minutes,” died today. He was 65.

Mr. Bradley died at Mt. Sinai Medical Center of complications from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, said Dr. Valentin Fuster, his cardiologist and the director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Mt. Sinai. Mr. Bradley, who underwent a quintuple bypass operation on his heart in 2003, was diagnosed with leukemia "many years ago,” Dr. Fuster said, but it had not posed a threat to his life until recently, when he contracted an infection.

His most recent segments on “60 Minutes” had been on Oct. 15 (on the rape case involving Duke University lacrosse players) and on Oct. 29 (an investigation of an oil refinery explosion in Texas). Even many close colleagues had not known that his health had been deteriorating precipitously for several weeks. On the day that last segment was broadcast, he was admitted to Mt. Sinai. He remained there until his death. “This has been a long battle which he fought silently and courageously,” said Charlayne Hunter-Gault of the “News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” who was one of several close friends at Mr. Bradley’s side when he died this morning. “He didn’t want people to know that this was a part of his struggle. He didn’t want people feeling sorry for him. And for a good part of his life, he managed it.”

To generations of television viewers, Mr. Bradley was a sober presence — albeit one who occasionally wore a stud in one ear — whose reporting across four decades ranged from the Vietnam War and Cambodian refugee crisis to the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and the Oklahoma City bombing (his was the only television interview with Timothy McVeigh). He won 19 Emmy awards, including one for “lifetime achievement” in 2003.

But Mr. Bradley’s life off camera was often as rich and compelling as the one in the studio. Having begun his broadcast career as a disc jockey in Philadelphia, Mr. Bradley was an enormous fan of many forms of music — particularly jazz and gospel — who counted the musicians Wynton Marsalis, George Wien and Aaron Neville among his many friends and made a regular pilgrimage to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

“I made the mistake once of letting him get onstage with my band, and he never stopped doing it,” the singer Jimmy Buffett, a friend of Mr. Bradley’s for 30 years who was also with him when he died, said in a telephone interview today. Mr. Bradley had many nicknames throughout his life — including “Big Daddy,” when he played football in the 1960’s at Cheyney State College in Pennsylvania — but his favorite, according to Ms. Hunter-Gault and Mr. Buffett, was “Teddy Badly,” which Mr. Buffett bestowed on him on stage the first time Mr. Bradley played tambourine at his side.

“Everybody in my opinion needs a little Mardi Gras in their life,” Mr. Buffett said, “and he liked to have a little more than the average person on occasion.”

“He was such a great journalist,” Mr. Buffett added, “but he still knew how to have a good time.”

Mr. Bradley, who grew up in Philadelphia, broke into broadcasting as a news reporter for WDAS-FM radio in his hometown. Following that job, he was hired in 1967 as a reporter for WCBS radio in New York.

In 1971, he joined CBS News as a stringer in its Paris bureau and then a year later was transferred to the Saigon bureau. He became a CBS News correspondent in April 1973 and, shortly thereafter, was wounded while on assignment in Cambodia. Mr. Bradley joined 60 Minutes during the 1981-82 season. Among the Emmys he won throughout his career was one for a report on the reopening of the 50-year-old racial murder case of Emmett Till.

Last fall, the National Association of Black Journalists honored Mr. Bradley, who was among the first wave of African Americans to break into network television news, with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I grew up in Philadelphia rather protected from life in the South,” Mr. Bradley said at the association’s awards ceremony in Washington. “Emmitt Till and I were the same age when he was killed, and that was my introduction to the reality of life in this country for a black person in the mid 50’s. When we were awarded an Emmy earlier this year for this story, I said it was the most important Emmy I had ever received. I would say the same thing about your recognition tonight.”

Mr. Bradley is survived by his wife, Patricia Blanchet.

Maria Newman contributed reporting.


Despite the Northface parkas

I've been working at the Zeitgeist off Pioneer Square for the past two hours. Earlier in the day, I attended a Viva Voce show at the Gibson Showroom down the block--ScreenPlay was filming it, hence the unusual hour--and the band cracked skulls and bricks. Sundry friends, editors, and combinations thereof partook, also, and it was a cheered and raucous gathering.

Now Zeitgeist is piping the "Until the End of the World" soundtrack.

Sometimes this city gets it just right.

Dear Howard Dean,

I voted mostly for the DNC ticket. Now could you please stay off the airwaves until all of us are dead?

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


Litsa Dremousis

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Re the election, I think it's wise not to get cocky:

This was a vote against the Republicans as much as it was a vote for the Democrats. And the Democrats have yet to elucidate a new policy for Iraq. Still, I'm pleased that the D's have gained majority in the House for the first time in twelve years, that they might regain the Senate, that Maria Cantwell handily won her second term, and, of course, that Donald Rumsfeld has resigned.

Re the fact Nancy Pelosi will probably be the first female Speaker of the House and third in line to the the presidency, I cede the floor to Chris Rock:

"As long as you live you will never see a black vice president, you know why? Because some black guy would just kill the president. I'd do it. If Colin Powell was vice president, I'd kill the president and tell his mother about it. What would happen to me? What would they do? Put me in jail with a bunch of black guys that would treat me like a king for the rest of my life? I would be the biggest star in jail, alright, people would be coming up to me and I'd be signing autographs: '97-KY, here you go.' Guys would be going: 'You're the brother that shot Bush. And you told his mother about it huh? I hope my children turn out to be just like you. Man, you know I was getting ready to rape you until I realized who you were.' And even if they had a death penalty, what would happen? I'd just be pardoned by the black president."

[Note: it's an old quote. He's actually discussing #41, not #43. The more things change, etc.]

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Centers for Disease Control announces that CFIDS (aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) is real

I've had a fever for most of the past fifteen months. I welcome the following news:

Excerpt from NBC Nightly News, November 2, 2006:

But now the top federal public heath agency is declaring that it is real, and that it affects more than 1 million Americans — four times as many women as men.

"People genuinely are suffering and there are things we can do to genuinely help them," says Dr. Julie Gerberding, who heads the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). "And we need to take this seriously as a real illness for a lot of people."


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

From today's BBC: From Weapons of War to Great Coffee

From weapons of war to great coffee
By Amber Henshaw
BBC News, Mekele

Azmeraw Zekele begins with a burnt-out shell...

In biblical times they said "turn your swords into ploughshares", now in northern Ethiopia a tradesman is bringing the saying into the 21st Century.

In his workshop in Mekele, just 200km from Ethiopia's border with Eritrea, Azmeraw Zekele is turning burnt-out shells into cylinders used in coffee machines.

Most of the shells are left over from the 1998-2000 war between the two countries.

The workshop is made up of three quite small ramshackle rooms that lead from one to another with sunlight coming through the gaps, but it is a hive of activity for Mr Azmeraw and his six staff.


Monday, October 30, 2006

"The story was about coming back from the war...

...but there was no mention of the war in it." p. 76 A Moveable Feast

Check out Paul Devlin's insightful piece on Matthew J. Bruccoli's book, Hemingway and the Mechanism of Fame: Statements, Public Letters, Introductions, Forewards, Prefaces, Blurbs, Reviews, and Endorsements:

Sunday, October 29, 2006

In a week strewn w/ pencil-chewing half-wits...

...this knowing response totally cracked me up. From the lit journal, Pindeldyboz:

this is an autoresponder.

We got your submission. Thanks! Now, good heavens, go outside and play or something while we read it--you're looking pasty.

rock on,


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Stronger women build stronger nations"--Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International

I've considered myself a feminist since I was in the seventh grade. (Decades later, I could still flay certain individuals who disparaged my mom when she went back to school.) But I long for the day when being a woman isn't considered an exceptional state. As I've often said, we're 52% of the population. We are the goddamned norm and it would behoove us to act accordingly.

Until then, I'm buoyed by the following piece from CNN:

By Elizabeth Yuan

(CNN) -- In Africa, 40 first ladies have banded together to use their positions to fight HIV and AIDS.

In Kandahar, Afghanistan, an American former reporter is running a cooperative that employs both women and men to produce a line of soaps and bath oils that will eventually wind up in U.S. and Canadian stores.

Similar efforts to empower female survivors of wars and genocide are under way in dozens of other countries, thanks to organizations like the U.S.-based Women for Women International.

"Stronger women build stronger nations," Zainab Salbi, the founder of Women for Women International, has said. Last month the group won the $1.5 million Conrad Hilton Humanitarian Prize for its work in providing emotional support, financial aid, skills training and business services to women in war-torn regions.

On Tuesday, Salbi will join Rwanda's first lady Jeannette Kagame, Sarah Chayes, founder of the Afghan soap cooperative, Arghand, and other women to discuss -- among other topics -- how women can gain influence in the economic and political power structures of developing countries. They will meet at a CNN-hosted conference, the Inspire Women Summit, in New York City.


Monday, October 23, 2006

So Many Dynamos' Guitars Stolen at the Paradox

From Barsuk’s message board yesterday:

Last night at their Seattle show, 3 guitars a wallet and a cell phone were stolen from So Many Dynamos. The show was at the Paradox and the stuff was stolen from the back room during the 3rd bands set.

If anyone has any information at all, please email me at

Here are the details on the guitars:

1978 Gibson SG-tobacco sunburst with a repaired headstock, many dings and chips and a Smokey the Bear sticker on the case.

G&L ASAT Classic Tribute Series (looks like a telecaster) - sunburst semi-hollow body (has an f-hole) in a black gator case with "Griffen Kay's" name and address on the case. This guitar has lots of rust.

Squire Supersonic-black with white pickguard in a Gibson gig bag. The guitar has a “Anyone Can Do This” sticker on the back.

All guitars are pretty dinged up but loved dearly.

Thank you

Posted 2006-10-22 18:01:54 by Robbie [Urbandale, USA]

I have friends who stole in their twenties. They regret it deeply and learned from it. So I don't think theft marks someone for life as an evil person. That said, stealing a band's gear is evil. I can think of no better punishment than the one laid out in the Decemberists' "Mariner's Revenge Song":

"Find him
Bind him
Tie him to a pole and break
his fingers to splinters
Drag him to a hole until he
wakes up naked
clawing at the ceiling
of his grave"

And while we're (again) on the topic of the indie rock: certain music blogs are a joy to peruse. They burst with love and appreciation for their favorite acts and they champion art that impacts their lives. Cheek kisses and licorice whips all around.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who snipe unprovoked and are certain--for reasons unapparent--that they understand an artist's motivation and influences and allegories. Then they misspell everything. To those I say: a keyboard won't make you a writer. And when you assert that one band is "following in another's footsteps" based solely on geography, I must resist the urge to poke you with a stick.

Less bang maintenance and more fact-checking, please.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Searching For Jacob: "60 Minutes"' Scott Pelley Reports on the Genocide in Darfur

October 22, 2006

(CBS) It hardly seems possible, but the genocide in Darfur is taking a turn for the worse. The government in Sudan has launched a new offensive, maybe trying to finish what it started three years ago. As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, more than 300,000 people are dead and more than two million are refugees in the Sahara.

To understand what is happening in Darfur, 60 Minutes came upon on the story of a boy named Jacob. We know him only because his name is on schoolbooks found in the ashes of his home. Jacob's village was wiped out. Our team saw his books in a museum. We didn't know whether Jacob was alive or whether we could find him. But we decided to try. Our search turned into a remarkable journey into a place we were forbidden to travel looking for a boy swept up in the 21st century's first genocide.

The search for Jacob began at the United States Holocaust Memorial in Washington D.C. Dedicated to never letting genocide happen again, it now finds itself with fresh evidence in a new exhibit.

John Prendergast brought the remains from Jacob’s village to Washington and to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. In the Clinton White House, he led a team that imposed economic sanctions on Sudan. Now, he’s with the private, International Crisis Group, pressing for action in Darfur.

"We found in a book bag, a series of notebooks," Prendergast explains. "Clearly the kid who was doing math and spelling homework and the teacher has corrected it with a red pen."

The kid, Jacob, must have been 16 when his village was destroyed. 60 Minutes packed his books and left on a 7,000-mile journey.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Say it with dead flowers at my wedding/ and I won't forget to put roses on your grave..."

For the past two plus years, by choice and by circumstance, I've been immersed in all things indie rock. I've mostly enjoyed myself and there have been some magical times, but the problem is that, too often, indie does not rock. My favorites in the genre bring an unfettered energy as well as an accomplished artistry to their work. They are the exceptions. I listen to KEXP constantly--at this point, it's a job requirement--and some of what I hear is mesmeric and inspiring and on. But over half of today's crop leaves me screaming, "Oh my god. Wake up, you monkeys."

Thurston Moore said recently that the Rolling Stones have sucked longer than they were great (prompting, in my mind, the phrase, "glass houses", but anyway) and maybe that's true. But Let it Bleed, Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main St. have been staples of my adult life and are medicinal. (Three years ago, I was in an NIH study on Fibromyalgia and CFIDS and named those four records as part of my health regimen. The doctor thought I was joking. I insisted she write them down.)

So I was amazed when I quoted the headline lyric to a friend last week and he had no idea what I was talking about. How can a highly intelligent, creatively gifted thirty-nine year old male not know the lyrics to "Dead Flowers"? How did we arrive at this point in history? How can we stem the tide?

I'm ever the optimist. Perhaps if more folks are exposed to these seminal discs (don't say Exile is overrated or I will cut you), aesthetics will morph and listeners will seek music with more blood and wit. Perhaps not. But if I must live in an era wherein the Fruit Bats are taken seriously and Illinoise is heralded as a masterwork, I won't stand by in protracted mute horror.

My love is not in vain.

Friday, October 13, 2006

In answer to Mr. Schierling's question: yes, the dicks who burst with talent do, in fact, comprise a separate list:

Recently, I was asked to write for Seattle Metropolitan Magazine ( An SMM editor read my pieces in The Believer and Googled me. This is a delectable way to get work.

Said awesome editor is new to town and I asked him if I could recommend certain writers and photographers. Several of my other editors read this blog, so I'm posting the list below. As I told my compadres: each of them bursts with talent. And none of them are dicks.


Brian Barr: The Believer, The Seattle Weekly, Harp, The Stranger,+brian+j.

L. Suzanne Stockman: Monkeybicycle, Spin, Nylon, Pindeldyboz

Ryan Boudinot: author of "The Littlest Hitler" ("Ryan Boudinot is some kind of new and dangerous cross between Vonnegut and Barthelme."--Dave Eggers), McSweeney's, BlackBook, Monkeybicycle

Michelle Goodman: Seattle Times, Bust, Salon, Seal Press

Sean Nelson: editor emeritus at The Stranger, music editor at MSN, on-air at KEXP, Harvey Fucking Danger

Diane Mapes: Seattle Times, Washington Post, Seal Press

Chris Estey: The Stranger, Seattle Sound, Paste, Three Imaginary Girls

Leah Baltus: Seattle P-I, Rivet

Angela Fountas (Monkeybicycle, Seal Press, Syntax)

Brangien Davis (Seattle Times, Swivel)


Amanda Koster: Newsweek, Fortune, "AIDS is Knocking", United Nations

Ryan Schierling: Paste, Seattle Sound, Barsuk

Laura Musselman: Paste: Seattle Sound

Gregory Perez: KEXP, scads of others, I'm sure, but I couldn't access his site content

And an extra-special shout-out to the crackling Ms. Dana at Three Imaginary Girls ( who recently linked The Slippery Fish to TIG's Indie RSS Blogroll. Continued cheek kisses to you and the Girls!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

And occasionally, get fall-down drunk:

Lately, I've been asked, "If the CFIDS treatment works, what will you do?"

It seems obvious, but in case it's not:

  1. Travel.
  2. Travel.
  3. Never look back.
And in answer to the oft-asked follow-up, "Really, you wouldn't have kids?"

Are you high? Are you David-Crosby-circa-1971 high? My reasons for not wanting kids have little to do with my health. And perhaps a reliable treatment or cure for CFIDS will never be developed. But if I were to receive the gift of physical autonomy (as opposed to intellectual and creative autonomy, both of which remain intact), why in the name of god would I dispose of it to drive the carpool?

Seriously, stop asking.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

No woodchips?

Is it me or does this sound like a seventh grade science project?

Excerpt from today's BBC article on the mechanics of underground nuclear testing:

"The nuclear device is placed into a drilled hole or tunnel usually between 200-800 metres below the surface, and several metres wide.

A lead-lined canister containing monitoring equipment is lowered into the shaft above the chamber. The hole is then plugged with gravel, sand, gypsum and other fine materials to contain the explosion and fallout underground."


"Fuck the salmon!"

Ten years ago this fall, I assistant directed, co-produced and acted in a stage adaptation of Charles Bukowski's short story collection, Hot Water Music. (The above line is taken from HWM's "Scum Grief", Bukowski's skewering of bad poets and those who fuck them. I'm often tempted to yell it at readings, just to see who gets the joke.)

During our seven week run at the Showbox, the director fell off the wagon; two actors pummelled each other bloody; and a third declared he wanted to introduce me to his pet rat, Jasmine, whip up some Hamburger Helper, then spoon on the couch and watch "Deep Space Nine".

Still, I remember the production fondly. To commemorate, I suggest partaking in all things Buk:

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ignorance was bliss:

[With a tip of the hat to E.]

I recently upgraded from my beloved but ancient tangerine iBook and Blogger now offers spiffy features in their new Beta program, so I reconfigured things here. And three days ago, I added a Sitemeter.

I always enjoyed not knowing who arrived here or why, but increasingly, strangers have emailed me regarding my work and curiosity got the best of me.

Certain findings are gratifying, if prosaic: many click directly to this site or arrive here after searching for my name. Others find me after searching for companies monikered "Slippery Fish". But some of what I've discovered leaves me nostalgic for four days ago, a time when I didn't know that an individual in Melbourne--hey, mate!--found me after searching for "'suck me off' comedy song".

More that carry a whiff of skeev:
  • "sodomized video" (Circle, Montana): Presumably, said person craves a portal to the back door, not ass sex with a video. I hope. (I think.)
  • "lysol douche cancer" (undetermined city, United States): I cannot, nor do I want to fathom, the inner monologue that preceded the typing of these words.
  • "Amy Sedaris in pantyhose" (Waterville, Maine and Willowgrove, Pennsylvania): I'm not sure which notion is more disconcerting, that two different individuals are seeking out the lovely Ms. Sedaris adorned in taupe nylon, or that the same guy (or girl) is on the road and really needs to release to images of one of our funniest scribes dolled up in mom-ware.
I'll let you know when the inevitable "ample-chested writer" search occurs.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A tiny respite:

Between yesterday's horrific Amish school shooting--can you get the gunman's checklist out of your head?--and reports of Representative Mark Foley's pedophilia, I think most sentient beings are dismayed and sickened.

So I'm in no way being glib when I say I'm looking forward to the Decemberists' appearance on Conan O'Brien tonight. Their lovely new album, "The Crane Wife"--out today--is shot through with songs that envelop you like fine brocade. My fave tracks so far are "The Crane Wife 3", "O, Valencia" and "The Perfect Crime 2".

Beauty exists and sometimes it's embraced.

So there's that.

Monday, October 02, 2006

From today's New York Times:

2 Americans Win Nobel Prize in Medicine

Published: October 2, 2006
Filed at 11:21 a.m. ET

Michael Probst/The Associated Press

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- Americans Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello won the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday for discovering a powerful way to turn off the effect of specific genes, opening a potential new avenue for fighting diseases as diverse as cancer and AIDS.

The process, called RNA interference, also is being studied for treating such conditions as hepatitis virus infection and heart disease. It is already widely used in basic science as a method to study the function of genes.

Fire, 47, of Stanford University, and Mello, 45, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, published their seminal work in a 1998 paper.

RNA interference occurs naturally in plants, animals and humans. The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, which awarded the $1.4 million prize, said it is important for regulating the activity of genes and helps defend against viral infection. The two scientists will share the prize money.

''This year's Nobel laureates have discovered a fundamental mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information,'' the institute said.

Erna Moller, a member of the Nobel committee, said their research helped shed new light on a complicated process that had confused researchers for years.

''It was like opening the blinds in the morning,'' she said. ''Suddenly you can see everything clearly.''

Jeremy M. Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences in Bethesda, Md., which has funded work by Fire and Mello for years, said he predicted the two men would win this year.

''It's an example of a discovery of a fundamental biological process that has an almost unlimited number of implications,'' Berg said. ''The impact has just been steadily growing.''

Genes produce their effect by sending molecules called messenger RNA to the protein-making machinery of a cell. In RNA interference, certain molecules trigger the destruction or inactivation of RNA from a particular gene, so that no protein is produced. Thus the gene is effectively silenced.

For instance, a gene causing high blood cholesterol levels was recently shown to be silenced in animals through RNA interference.

''This has been such a revolution in biomedicine, everybody is using it,'' said Thomas Cech, president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, for which Mello is an investigator.

''It's so important that people almost take it for granted already, even though it was discovered fairly recently,'' he said.

The prize for Mello and Fire did come remarkably quickly after they did the work. Nobels are generally given decades after the research they honor.

Mello, reached at his home in Shrewsbury, Mass., said the award came as a ''big surprise.''

''I knew it was a possibility, but I didn't really expect it for perhaps a few more years. Both Andrew and I are fairly young, 40 or so, and it's only been about eight years since the discovery.''

He said he would try to get to work Monday but expected to accomplish ''not a lot.''

Fire, reached in California, said he was awakened by a call from the Nobel committee.

`At first I was very excited.... Then I thought I must be dreaming or maybe it was the wrong number,'' he said. But then he confirmed the good news by checking the Nobel Web site.

''It makes me feel great. It makes me feel incredibly indebted at the same time,'' he said. ''You realize how many other people have been major parts of our efforts.''

Fire conducted his research while at the Washington-based Carnegie Institution.

The announcement opened this year's series of prize announcements. It will be followed by Nobel prizes for physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics.

Last year's medicine prize went to Australians Barry J. Marshall and Robin Warren for discovering that bacteria, not stress, causes ulcers.

Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in his will in the categories of literature, peace, medicine, physics and chemistry. The economics prize is technically not a Nobel but a 1968 creation of Sweden's central bank.

Winners receive a check, handshakes with Scandinavian royalty, and a banquet on Dec. 10 -- the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896. All prizes are handed out in Stockholm except for the peace prize, which is presented in Oslo.

link and photos:

2 Americans Win Nobel Prize in Medicine - New York Times

Saturday, September 23, 2006

To the Greenpeace volunteer I encountered yesterday in front of Jai Thai in Fremont:

You are the rudest, most imbecilic person I've met in a long time. And you demonstrate a point I've made for years: intelligent, thoughtful individuals work for the common good on both sides of the fence, but each camp is littered with douchebags, too.

Avoid me.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Relax. I'm kidding (mostly):

I've been in pain all day, my legs are numb and I'm nauseous. The Centers for Disease Control announced in April that a treatment for CFIDS probably will be available within three to five years. This is the first time such an announcement has been made and it is good news indeed.

However, it would be nice if we could expedite things. Medical research is often conducted on morally innocent animals whose immune systems are similar, but not identical, to those of humans. So how about if said research was conducted on Holocaust deniers instead?

Get it?

Sometimes I do my best thinking when my lymph nodes feel like pincushions.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Like Christmas in September:

From Barsuk's web site today:

"Death Cab for Cutie will be the musical guest on an upcoming episode of NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Air date is scheduled for September 25th, but check your local listings."

I could affect a blase veneer, but the truth is that I'm happier than a hypoglycemic with a bag of Skittles.

Sometimes the world is a very good place.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

NARAL's voter recommendations for Washington State Supreme Court:

Supreme Court Position 2
Justice Owens has more than 25 years experience as a judge, with a strong record of protecting Constitutional rights. She is endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, former Governor Gary Locke, WA State Democrats, WA State Labor Council, the Sierra Club and more than 100 judges, and is rated "Exceptionally Well Qualified" by Washington Women Lawyers.

Supreme Court Position 8
Justice Gerry Alexander is the longest serving Chief Justice in our state's history, with more than 30 years experience at all court levels. He has earned a lifetime achievement award from the Ninth Circuit for his character and integrity. The King County Bar Association has rated him "Exceptionally Well Qualified" and he is recommended by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.

Supreme Court Position 9
Justice Tom Chambers has six years of experience as a Supreme Court Justice and practiced law for 30 years. He is endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, rated "Exceptionally Well Qualified" by the King County Bar Association, and received an "Outstanding Judge of the Year" Award from Washington Women Lawyers.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I suspect it won't be the final lawsuit they incur:

From the New York Times archives:

Published: August 18, 2006

The fictitious author J T Leroy has enmeshed his publisher, his manager and the San Francisco woman identified as the actual author of his works in a lawsuit brought by a production company that optioned the film rights to the J T Leroy novel ''Sarah.'' Saying it was a victim of an elaborate literary hoax, Antidote Films, an independent film company run by the producers Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Mary Jane Skalski, filed the suit against Bloomsbury Publishers; Laura Albert, the author; and Judi Farkas, J T Leroy's Hollywood manager, on Aug. 11 in District Court in Manhattan. The company is seeking to recover $45,000 in option payments, along with an additional $60,000 in development costs. In the complaint the producers wrote that they thought that they were buying the rights to the story of a real-life ''talented, anguished artist, androgynous ingénue and recluse.'' Following revelations of the hoax, they charged, the book they optioned was ''discredited and a joke in the eyes of many.'' They said in court papers that they had abandoned the project. The defendants were not immediately available for comment. WARREN ST. JOHN

Thursday, September 14, 2006

For ____:

I know this is the second time in two weeks that I'm quoting Ray Davies, but there are times Ray Davies should be oft-quoted.

The Kinks' "Better Things":

Here's wishing you the bluest sky,
And hoping something better comes tomorrow.
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness.
I know that better things are on the way.

Here's hoping all the days ahead
Won't be as bitter as the ones behind you.
Be an optimist instead,
And somehow happiness will find you.
Forget what happened yesterday,
I know that better things are on the way.

It's really good to see you rocking out
And having fun,
Living like you just begun.
Accept your life and what it brings.
I hope tomorrow you'll find better things.
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.

Here's wishing you the bluest sky,
And hoping something better comes tomorrow.
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the drudge and sadness.
I know that better things are on the way.

I know you've got a lot of good things happening up ahead.
The past is gone it's all been said.
So here's to what the future brings,
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Five years later, Larry King remains unchanged:

Yesterday's bit of unexpected levity: when Mr. King, reporting from Ground Zero, asked a WTC survivor, "On a day like today, do you think about it a lot?"

Friday, September 08, 2006

"When you're going through hell, keep going."--Winston Churchill

My essay, "New York Will Have to Wait", is in the current issue of Seattle Sound Magazine:

Seattle Sound Magazine

Note: I didn't write the (somewhat erroneous) blurb.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"I haven't seen the Mount Sinai study...

...but I don't believe that you can say specifically a particular problem came from this particular event."--New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Bloomberg has spent his entire political career decrying the evils of second-hand smoke, but apparently, cannot comprehend that inhaling the charred remnants of skyscraper, airplane, and human flesh is *bad for you, too*.

More: - Most WTC recovery workers have lung problems - Sep 5, 2006

Friday, September 01, 2006

"I was very outspoken."

"My parents looked at me like a little time bomb. Whenever they had guests come over, they would ship me off to my grandparents because they had no idea what I was going to say."

My Believer interview with Wanda Sykes is here (yea!):

The Believer - Interview with Wanda Sykes

Thursday, August 31, 2006

"If my friends could see me now...

...dressing up in my bow-tie,
Prancing round the room like some outrageous poove,
They would tell me that I'm just being used
They would ask me what I'm trying to prove.
They would see me in my hotel,
Watching late shows till the morning,
Writing songs for old time vaudeville revues.
All my friends would ask me what it's all leading to..."--Ray Davies, The Kinks, "Sitting in My Hotel"

Yesterday's pleasant surprise: On E. John St. between Broadway and 10th Ave. in the alley on the north side of the street, someone has spraypainted "The Kinks" in big black letters. I usually think graffitti is ass, but the only thing that could have made me giddier is if the kids had scrawled "Quadrophenia".

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I don't know, maybe whomever provided the semen:

I write from home and I keep CNN on in the background while I do admin work (email, etc.). Today I have been bombarded by that One-a-Day for Women ad that shows a woman frolicking on the beach with two small children while the voiceover asks, "Without strong shoulders, who will support them?"

I love kids, but I'm not going to have children and I never intended to. To borrow David Mamet's line from "State and Main", "I just don't see the point." And like many sentient beings, I'd be delighted if certain coffeehouses and red-eye flights were designated tyke-free zones. (Whenever I'm on deadline and trying to obtain a completely necessary soy mocha, I'm stuck behind a child--female or male--named "Ashley" who is devolving because Mom insists s/he can get the blueberry muffin, not the chocolate chip cookie. I sympathize--muffins are ridiculous--but parents should teach their Ashleys that it's unwise to present impediments to writers seeking caffeine.)

This One-a-Day ad grates for several reasons. First off, as previously mentioned, not all women want to procreate. Secondly, those who do have ample incentive to take care of themselves for reasons that have nothing to do with their offspring. (We can agree that it behooves everyone--regardless of gender or parental status--to maintain their health. Right?) Lastly, why do certain marketing directors still assume that parenting is soley a woman's responsibility? Obviously, there are plenty of single mothers--and I have enormous respect for them--but I bet they would appreciate a little goddamned help.

Fuck you, One-a-Day. You make me want to grow a penis.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I've never really listened to Jody Watley's music, but this is one of the smarter interviews I've read in awhile:

"You see some artists — and no disrespect to any of them — but you can see they're really grasping, trying to appeal to this small group of people that only like this stuff that sounds like 50 other records. Instead of being fearless."


Entertainment Weekly's | Interview: Catching up with Jody Watley

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Oh, for fuck's sake:

I don't smoke, but this made me laugh for a number of reasons:

"Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards may have flouted Scotland's smoking ban when he played to thousands fans [sic] at
Glasgow's Hampden Park."


BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Glasgow and West | Stone rolls into smoking ban row

Monday, August 07, 2006

More than a snafu, less than an imbroglio:

It was to this that I was referring in my previous post:

The Stranger | Seattle | Line Out: The Stranger's Music Blog | Harvey Danger… You Know, They Had That One Song

A bit of noise has surrounded my Seattle Sound Harvey Danger piece and neither Sean nor I are enamored of the full-page fishstick version that hit the stands last week. (Check out p. 42 and feast, as it were.)

On a more cheerful note, Steve's Fremont News features the current SN/LD-sporting Seattle Sound in their display window and next door at Sonic Boom, gi-normous posters of "PtDtB" and "Plans" greet sidewalk revellers. Today: Fremont. Tomorrow: the world.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Brief sundry missives:

To my friend who skipped yoga this week to buy vibrators: I think you're onto something.

To the guy at the bus stop near my place who both danced and disrobed this afternoon: please don't.

To my editors who made this week great: thankee kindly.

To those who didn't: well, you made it interesting.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

It'll be the ubiquitous indie rock bangs that push me over the edge...

...(seriously, the entire crowd *cannot* sport the same fucking haircut at each goddamned show) but I know what he's talking about:

From today's McSweeney's, by Brian Beatty:

So Emo.

Next time I'm at a concert and the hipster standing next to me lifts his lighter into the air during his favorite song, I'm going to ask to borrow that lighter. Then I'm going to set that hipster on fire. As he rolls on the ground trying to extinguish the highly combustible blend of cotton and polyester that just moments earlier was a ringer T-shirt decorated with an Air Supply silk-screen that's suddenly even more ironic, I'm going to ask, 'Why aren't you yelling ''Freebird'!' now?' "

Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Jokes by Brian Beatty.:

Monday, July 31, 2006

Total disonnance:

Most of the news in my world this week was off-the-charts, stratospherically good, but the Middle East is literally on fire as I write this and on Friday, a gunman killed a woman and injured several others at the Jewish Federation in Seattle. People aren't safe to worship in Belltown? What the hell?

And on a far, *far* less important note, today I ran into someone I think is an utter ass, but for the sake of the family, I was nice to him. He's balding and unemployed again, so at least there's that.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Seattle's temperature dropped last night and I'm delighted. (Mad sympathy to my New York and California friends who are still baking like pie.) As I await the return of cognitive function, go ahead and look at pretty things:

enokiworld : vintage clothing for modern women

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It's here:

The Long Winters' third LP, "Putting the Days to Bed" is out today. As previously mentioned, it is a big ball of wonderful. And if you don't think the fourth track, "Hindsight", is one of the most lyrically evocative songs of the past several years, well, you're dead to me.

You can purchase "PtDtB" pretty much everywhere, but if you live in Seattle, your experience will be augmented by several degrees of rockitude if you snag it here:

Sonic Boom Records

Or, of course, you can order it directly from the label (what? who?):

Barsuk Records specials

Now, on to the rock!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"Everyone knows someone who needs this bill."--Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY

President Bush just vetoed HR 810, the stem cell research bill that passed the House and Senate by large measures and found support from Republicans as conservative as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

HR 810 can still become a law if the House overrides the veto with a 2/3 majority. If inclined, you can urge your congressional representative to vote accordingly. House contact information can be found at

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Like everyone...

...I've found the news of the past few weeks (in particular) to be gut-churning. So if you're seeking a reminder that, as a species, we do get it right sometimes, I recommend Jeffrey Kluger's enthralling "Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio":

Powell's Books - Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine by Jeffrey Kluger

Today I'm just glad for clean water on tap and the fact that the ceaseless noise on my street comes from traffic, not armory.

Friday, July 07, 2006

My new best friend:

From Magnet's current cover story on Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch, p.68 (print only):

"'I love reading biographies about creative processes, whether they're artistic or scientific,' says Murdoch. 'You see people's lives documented and what they have gone through. But the whole time, things are sometimes working out for them, something is brewing, something is simmering to the top.'

This is subject extremely close to Murdoch's heart. Prior to forming Belle and Sebastian, he suffered through a long bout of chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a debilitating illness that basically shut down his waking life. During the process of emerging from this fog, he found new strength through making music.

'I wouldn't be a songwriter if I hadn't gotten sick,' says Murdoch. 'I had an extended period of seven years when I was out of the game, when I gave up all aspects of normal life, and the songwriting was a crutch. I was absolutely hanging onto these songs with a drowning person's grip, they being the only productive thing that I did at all. I realized as soon as I sat down at the piano three years into this thing that I could put words together with melody and create something. It's almost like the first minute doing this, I saw it all stretching ahead and realized that it was something I could feel worthwhile doing; I could document how I was feeling in this vacuum.

'What doesn't kill you makes you,' Murdoch chuckles. 'It was the biggest thing that happened in my life. No question, no doubt. I don't mean to be macabre, but it's often those transient periods that are sometimes the most interesting things to write about when it comes to characters in songs.'"

Thursday, July 06, 2006

On par with rabbits, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem"...

...vintage Eisenberg jewelry, the Chrysler Building lit at night, and Sea Garden's sweet and sour pork:

Stream the Long Winters' upcoming disc, "Putting the Days to Bed", at

Mammoth Press

Monday, June 26, 2006

"I was starting to get worn out, but after a few minutes lying on a picnic table I realized that it would be all too easy in the warm Tennessee...

...night to just doze off, and the last time I passed out around this many hippies I woke up two days later on the Green Tortoise outside of Redding, California carrying a briefcase full of blueberry pancakes. That was NOT going to happen again."

Part Three of JR's CMJ Bonnaroo report: | new music first

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Disparate times call for disparate measures:

Aforementioned cancer was caught, basically, at the instant it developed. Said friend, who sports the immune system of an alpha male mountain goat, should be a-okay. Knock on wood.

Best line this week, from the barrista who accidentally undercharged me by fifty cents: "Go ahead and keep it. It's not like you're Joseph Stalin or anything."

And my friend, the oft-mentioned E, whose talent is matched only by his ability to vex, has launched a new blog, Vonnegut's Asshole. Show him the love he so richly deserves:

Vonnegut's Asshole

Off to the wedding!

Friday, June 23, 2006


Yesterday I discovered someone I love has cancer and tonight I attended a rehearsal dinner for someone I also love very much.

There is too much I will never understand.

Friday, June 16, 2006

We're doing this with Scotch tape and mirrors:

After a delightful seven day streak at 98.6, this morning the fever returned with a vengeance and by afternoon, I felt like I was walking underwater. The silver lining, if one must search for it, is that the pre-deadline cacaphony is momentarily silenced. I can only hear one voice, because I'm too out of sorts to hear the rest.

Sleep beckons.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

From the deadline cave:

Can anything compare to the quiet mournful beauty of the 1:00 a.m. sky? The still and enveloping grace of the sweet nocturnal visage?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Sometimes this is so much fun:

1) My Seattle Sound cover story on Elvis Costello is out now:

Seattle Sound

2) And my friend, E, is writing his debut feature for Vanity Fair.

Awesomeosity with compound interest.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Do not go gentle into that good night:

For the past few days, the air has felt like a solid and Seattle has experienced alternating bouts of flypaper stickiness and alacritous showers.

My hair has responded accordingly.

When I'm in New York in the summer, I know the rules. My hair might resemble kudzu by 3pm, but there are beef franks at Green Papaya and beet salads at Babbo and long(ish) walks through Central Park. There are contemplative afternoons in St. Patrick's Cathedral and journeys through the Met and luggage-altering trips to the Strand. Shows at Park Slope's Southpaw (preceded by iced soy mochas at the nearby Gorilla Coffee), grasshoppers at the Algonquin, the candy shop at the Plaza, Piano's followed by Katz's, the jewelry counter at Barney's flagship store, 1am jaunts through Times Square, and so many boutiques in the West Village, SoHo and NoHo that my heart dances at the thought. (No, obviously, I don't live this way. I save to splurge when I'm over there.)

So my hair occasionally looks like Brillo. There are trade-offs and no one gets everything they want. But here's the thing: I've come to love Seattle in the past eighteen months or so in a way I didn't think was possible. It finally got interesting again and for the first time, I feel as much at home in my home as I do in New York.

That said, I'm unwilling to deal w/ this stuff on my head just so I can see one more show at Hugo House.

Elements, you've been warned: I call bullshit.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I stumbled across both of these in Patricia Bosworth's engaging biography of Diane Arbus:

I'm not sure if I agree with the former--I know I want to--but the latter resonates:

"Every form seen correctly is beautiful."--Goethe

"Love involves a peculiar unfathomable combination of understanding and misunderstanding."--Diane Arbus

Thursday, May 25, 2006

If I have to walk, crawl, or hitch hike, I'll be there. From today's New York Times:

Vanessa Redgrave and Joan Didion, Working on a Merger

Published: May 26, 2006

SOON after the announcement was made last December that Joan Didion would be writing a one-woman play based on her autobiographical book, "The Year of Magical Thinking," Ms. Didion had a meeting with Scott Rudin, the Broadway producer who first proposed the idea, and David Hare, the British playwright who will be directing the production.

One of the topics was casting. It was not a long conversation.

Vanessa Redgrave, said Mr. Rudin, "was the only person we ever talked about. There was no one else ever discussed."


Joan Didion - Vanessa Redgrave - Theater - New York Times

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


My Paste review of John Vanderslice's recent Seattle show is finally up. My editor cut the final paragraph, but I like it, so I've included it after the link:

Paste Magazine :: Review :: John Vanderslice :: Neumo's, Seattle, Wash. 4/7/06 (Page 1)

"Sub Pop's Kelley Stoltz and Suicide Squeeze's Crystal Skulls kicked off the evening with sets that were antic and fresh. The latter celebrated the official release of their new disc, Outgoing Behavior and drew a sizeable portion of the crowd. The night's only snafu came after the house lights went up and Vanderslice suggested playing Ghostface Killah's Fishscales over the sound system. These, the indiest of kids, called bullshit on that."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Because we were running low on beav talk:

Eric Spitznagel, my Believer editor and the only writer (so far) to thank me alongside Ron Jeremy, is touring with his book, "Fast Forward: Confessions of a Porn Screenwriter". You can hear Der Spitznagel read at Seattle's Elliot Bay Book Company on Saturday, May 13 at 7:30 pm. And you can read Playboy's "Fast Forward" excerpt here:

Fast Forward: Confessions of a Porn Screenwriter

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Worth noting:

"Still and all, why bother? Here's my answer: Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people don't care about them. You are not alone.'" --Kurt Vonnegut

"More obscene than anything is inertia."--Henry Miller

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The word "shank" springs to mind, too:

Today I spoke with two Island Records employees who had never heard of Elvis Costello. I explained to one, then the other, that Mr. Costello is, in fact, an artist on their label. Neither believed me until I insisted that each look it up on Island's web site. One actually tried to convince me that Island didn't know "who Elvis Costiello [sic] has for a publis [sic]."

I don't have a larger point. I just want to cock-punch them.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

From yesterday's Washington Post: Chronic Fatigue's Genetic Component

Chronic Fatigue's Genetic Component

Chronic Fatigue's Genetic Component
Study Clarifies Predisposition to Syndrome

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 21, 2006; Page A08

An intense battery of medical and psychological tests of people with chronic fatigue syndrome has strengthened the idea that the mysterious ailment is actually a collection of five or more conditions with varying genetic and environmental causes, scientists reported yesterday.

But though the syndrome comes in many flavors, these experts said, the new work also points to an important common feature: The brains and immune systems of affected people do not respond normally to physical and psychological stresses.

The researchers predicted that continued clarification of the precise genes and hormones involved will lead to better diagnostic tests and therapies for the ailment, which may affect close to 1 million Americans.

"This is a very important step forward in the field of chronic fatigue syndrome research," said Julie L. Gerberding, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which sponsored the project.

The new findings come from the largest clinical trial ever to focus on people with the syndrome, a debilitating condition accompanied by unexplained extreme fatigue, memory and concentration problems, sleep disorders and chronic pain.

Taking a multidisciplinary approach that agency officials said represents the future of public health, the CDC recruited 20 physicians, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, computational biologists -- even physicists and mathematicians -- to collaborate in an effort to tease apart the syndrome.

The results, published in more than a dozen reports and commentaries in the April issue of the journal Pharmacogenomics, released yesterday, suggest that many cases of chronic fatigue have links to a handful of brain- and immune system-related genes that either harbor small mutations or are working abnormally for other reasons.

That finding strengthens the case that some people are born with a predisposition to the condition. But those genetic links remain weak and incomplete, researchers conceded, leaving most of the syndrome's roots hidden in a fog of poorly understood physiological, neurological, psychological and behavioral factors.

"Chronic fatigue syndrome is very heterogeneous. It's not just one thing," said William C. Reeves, who oversaw the project with CDC co-worker Suzanne D. Vernon. It will take time to identify all the biological pathways involved, Reeves said, but the growing evidence of genetic links should put to rest the idea that the syndrome is a made-up diagnosis for "a bunch of hysterical, upper-class white women."

The new study involved 227 residents of Wichita, Kan., who spent two full days in a hospital undergoing a series of blood tests, hormone studies, psychological exams and sleep studies.

About one-quarter of them met the formal definition of chronic fatigue syndrome. A similar number proportion had chronic fatigue but did not rank as having the full-blown syndrome -- in many cases because their fatigue was not severe enough. A third group met all of the requirements of the syndrome but also had melancholic depression, which does not fit the current diagnostic guidelines for chronic fatigue syndrome. And a fourth group, for comparison purposes, was healthy.

The CDC, which invested about $2 million in the testing, then made blood-test results and other data available to researchers, who performed a wide variety of analyses.

In one set of studies, scientists looked at the activity levels of 20,000 genes known to be involved in the body's response to such stresses as infections, injuries or emotional trauma. Several hundred were found to be over- or under-active in various subgroups of fatigued patients.

Most of those correlations were weak -- that is, the gene expression patterns alone could not accurately distinguish those whose symptoms had been diagnosed as the syndrome from those whose symptoms had not. But in one analysis, the activity of just 26 genes did accurately predict which of six categories of chronic fatigue a patient had on the basis of symptoms and other clinical tests. That is a powerful hint that those genes -- many of them involved in immune system regulation, the adrenal gland and the brain's hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which are involved in the body's response to stress -- may hold clues to the disease variants.

In other analyses, involving 50 genes that some people inherit with seemingly minor "misspellings," five of the 500 genetic glitches that were tracked repeatedly correlated with an apparent susceptibility to chronic fatigue. Those five include genes that affect levels of serotonin -- the neurotransmitter whose levels are tweaked by many antidepressant drugs -- and glutamate, a chemical that excites certain brain pathways in response to stress.

The specific implications remain uncertain for now, said Vernon, a CDC molecular biologist. "But everybody's finding the same five genes to be involved, which is pretty cool."

Several other studies on the Wichita samples found abnormal levels of various hormones relating to stress and mood -- additional evidence that chronic fatigue syndrome patients are genetically and neurologically "wired" to respond to stress abnormally.

It is already known, Vernon said, that the brain can literally rewire itself -- breaking old connections between neurons while building new ones -- in response to various physical or emotional events. Chronic fatigue syndrome may be the result of a bad rewiring job, she said, in people genetically predisposed to handle stress poorly.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Various and sundry:

Thanks, everyone, who celebrated my deliberately-belated birthday with me on Saturday. While the annual soiree no longer involves "S & M Office Boy", blow up dolls, or white Russians spilled on and imbibed directly from tables in the back of the Frontier Room, it does, however, include some mighty fine steaks. Much love to all.

Also, for the second consecutive year, The Believer is a finalist for a National Magazine Award in the category of General Excellence. I've joked that I will be eighty and accosting strangers in Tompkins Square Park with "I was in the Music Issue!", but the Music Issue (June/July) was one of the three issues singled out, so take that, bitches:

Winners and Finalists