Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"The trouble with blaming powerless people is that although it's not nearly as scary as blaming the powerful, it does miss the point..."

"...Poor people do not shut down factories ... Poor people didn't decide to use 'contract employees' because they cost less and don't get any benefits."--Molly Ivins, 1997

I remember reading this piece when it first ran and it was hugely influential. When I first became ill, there were times her work made me laugh when little else could. Ms. Ivins wrote with a brio and intelligence sorely lacking on both ends of the ideological spectrum. Today she died of breast cancer at 62. God fucking damnit.

Molly Ivins R.I.P.:

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Stuff you need to know right now

1) CNN's Jeff Greenfield looks way too happy to be trotted out for pre-election commentary. As I write this, I swear, in his tete a tete with Wolf Blitzer, he looks a bit hard.

2) Hey, music publicists! The next one of you who practically humps my leg in order to get me to review your act and I show up at the club and my name is not on the list, I will hunt you down and shank you. Then teach you to write a press release without referencing Karen O. or Sonic Youth.

3) The Pernice Brothers' "Somerville" was the second best song of 2006. (The first, of course, was the LWs' "Hindsight". You can fight me on this. You will lose.)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Keep in mind I've seen "Grey Gardens" on Broadway

STW's production of Arthur Miller's adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" is one of the most powerful shows I've seen in years. Like most writers, I inadvertantly spend half my night in a theater dissecting the script and the production. By the second or third scene, though, I was so engrossed, that the critical portion of my brain relented and I absorbed the play strictly as an audience member. (Of course, if the script weren't seemless, this would have been impossible.) And I cried. In public. Which is something I almost never do. (Yes, I have a friend in the show. But, obviously, that's not why I'm writing about it.)


January 18 - February 17, 2007 $20

7:30 pm Thurs - Fri - Sat
Special! purchase 4 tickets for the price of 3!
click here to purchase tickets online BrownPaperTickets
or telephone (800) 838-3006

Richard Hugo House
1634 11th Avenue on Seattle's Capitol Hill


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Totally awesome unless they opt for indie bangs, too

Published: January 28, 2007

WHEN Douglas Martin first saw the video for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as a teenager in High Point, N.C., “it blew my mind,” he said. Like many young people who soothe their angst with the balm of alternative rock, Mr. Martin was happy to discover music he enjoyed and a subculture where he belonged.

Except, as it turned out, he didn’t really belong, because he is black.

“For a long time I was laughed at by both black and white people about being the only black person in my school that liked Nirvana and bands like that,” said Mr. Martin, now 23, who lives in Seattle, where he is recording a folk-rock album.

But 40 years after black musicians laid down the foundations of rock, then largely left the genre to white artists and fans, some blacks are again looking to reconnect with the rock music scene.

The Internet has made it easier for black fans to find one another, some are adopting rock clothing styles, and a handful of bands with black members have growing followings in colleges and on the alternative or indie radio station circuit. It is not the first time there has been a black presence in modern rock. But some fans and musicians say they feel that a multiethnic rock scene is gathering momentum.

“There’s a level of progress in New York in particular,” said Daphne Brooks, an associate professor of African-American studies at Princeton. She was heartened last summer by the number of children of color in a class she taught at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, where kids learn to play punk-rock standards.

There is even a new word for black fans of indie rock: “blipster,” which was added to UrbanDictionary .com last summer, defined as “a person who is black and also can be stereotyped by appearance, musical taste, and/or social scene as a hipster.”

Bahr Brown, an East Harlem resident whose Converse sneakers could be considered blipster attire, opened a skateboard and clothing boutique, Everything Must Go, in the neighborhood in October, to cater to consumers who, like himself, want to dress with the accouterments of indie rock: “young people who wear tight jeans and Vans and skateboard through the projects,” he said.

“And all the kids listen to indie rock,” he said. “If you ask them what’s on their iPod, its Death Cab for Cutie, the Killers.”

A 2003 documentary, “Afropunk,” featured black punk fans and musicians talking about music, race and identity issues, and it has since turned into a movement, said James Spooner, its director. Thousands of black rock fans use's message boards to discuss bands, commiserate about their outsider status and share tips on how to maintain their frohawk hairstyles.

“They walk outside and they’re different,” Mr. Spooner said of the Web site’s regulars. “But they know they can connect with someone who’s feeling the same way on the Internet.”


Friday, January 26, 2007

Great moments in self-control

I did not laugh--or stick my hand through the partition and break his goddamned clavicle--when my Seattle cab driver told me, "I know a lot about New York. I watch 'Regis and Kelly' every morning."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

For Papou

Next week makes seventeen years since my grandfather died. If he were alive now, he'd be ninety-nine and today would be his saint's day. He was a captain in the Greek navy, fluent in four languages, and the depth of his knowledge was staggering. He was well-versed in all things Homeric and I think he would have been intrigued by the following.

From the BBC:

Drilling 'boosts Homeric theory'

The Mediterranean island of Kefalonia was probably once two separate islands, new geophysical studies suggest.

A British-led team is amassing evidence that indicates Kefalonia's western peninsula, Paliki, was only recently joined to the main landmass.

The team believes a huge in-fall of rock in the last 3,000 years may have built a land-bridge between the two.

If correct, the researchers say, it would support their view that Paliki was the real site for Homer's Ithaca.

The location was supposedly home to Odysseus, whose mythical 10-year journey back from the Trojan War was chronicled in the Greek poet's epic tale The Odyssey.

New results from a test borehole and other survey work in the region lend support to the Paliki hypothesis, the team claims.


Friday, January 12, 2007

From today's New York Times: Skull Supports Theory of Human Migration

Published: January 12, 2007

From a new analysis of a human skull discovered in South Africa more than 50 years ago, scientists say they have obtained the first fossil evidence establishing the relatively recent time for the dispersal of modern Homo sapiens out of Africa.

[State University of New York at Stony Brook Scientists used radiation absorbed by sand in this skull to find its age.]

The migrants appeared to have arrived at their new homes in Asia and Europe with the distinct and unmodified heads of Africans.

An international team of researchers reported yesterday that the age of the South African skull, which they dated at about 36,000 years old, coincided with the age of the skulls of humans then living in Europe and the far eastern parts of Asia, even Australia. The skull also closely resembled skulls of those humans.

The timing, the scientists and other experts said, introduced independent evidence supporting archaeological finds and recent genetic studies showing that modern humans left sub-Saharan Africa for Eurasia between 65,000 and 25,000 years ago; probably closer to 45,000 to 35,000 years ago for Europe.

Until now, however, paleontologists had been frustrated by the absence of fossils to test the hypothesis of most geneticists that the people of sub-Saharan Africa and in Eurasia at that time were one and the same — modern humans. The human fossil record in Africa from 70,000 to 15,000 years ago had been virtually blank.

Some scientists, on the other hand, have contended that the migration could have begun as early as 100,000 years ago and that in the intervening time, contact with more archaic populations like the Neanderthals could have produced recognizable changes in what became the modern humans of Eurasia. But no scientists in the migration debate have disputed that ancestors of the human species originated in Africa.

In a report in today’s issue of the journal Science, a research team led by Frederick E. Grine of the State University of New York at Stony Brook concluded that the South African skull provided critical corroboration of the archaeological and genetic evidence indicating that humans in fully modern form originated in sub-Saharan Africa and migrated, almost unchanged, to populate Europe and Asia.

Dr. Grine and his colleagues said in an announcement by Stony Brook that the skull was the first fossil evidence “in agreement with the out-of-Africa theory, which predicts that humans like those that inhabited Eurasia should be found in sub-Saharan Africa around 36,000 years ago.”

Ted Goebel, an anthropologist at Texas A&M University who was not connected to the research, said the skull opened the way to important insights about “the missing years of modern humans.”

Writing in an accompanying commentary in the journal, Dr. Goebel said, “Here is the first skull of an adult modern human from sub-Saharan Africa that dates to the critical period, and one that can speak to the relationship of early moderns from Africa and Europe.”

The new findings pivoted on fixing the skull’s age. When it was uncovered in 1952 near the town of Hofmeyr, South Africa, the cranium was almost complete, but the bone was degraded. Not enough carbon remained for scientists at the time to extract a radiocarbon date.

Using new technology, Richard Bailey and other researchers at the University of Oxford measured the amount of radiation that had been absorbed by sand grains that had filled the braincase since its burial. They calculated the yearly rate at which radiation had collected in the sand and checked this with data from a CT scan of the bone. In this way, they determined that the Hofmeyr skull belonged to a human who lived 36,000 years ago, plus or minus 3,000 years.

Another member of the team, Katerina Harvati of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, made a detailed examination of the shapes, sizes and contours of all parts of the skull. She compared these three-dimensional measurements with those of early human skulls from Europe and with skulls of living humans in Eurasia and southern Africa, including the Khoe-San, commonly known as the Bushmen.

Because the Bushmen are well represented in the more recent archaeological record, Dr. Harvati said, they were expected to bear a close resemblance to the Hofmeyr skull. Instead, the skull was found to be quite distinct from all recent Africans, including the Bushmen, she said, and it has “a very close affinity” with fossil specimens of Europeans living in the Upper Paleolithic, the period best known for advanced stone tools and cave art.

“Much to my amazement,” Dr. Grine said in an interview, “the skull linked very closely with those from Europe at the time and not with South African remains 15,000 years on.”

Dr. Grine said these modern humans probably originated in East Africa, which is rich in fossils of ancestors of the species, and moved into Eurasia and also south to the tip of Africa.

“It would be nice,” he conceded, “if we had more than one specimen.”

Another report in Science describes one of the earliest occupation sites of modern humans in Europe, at Kostenki on the Don River, 250 miles south of Moscow. Its stone and bone tools and a human figurine appeared to have been made about 45,000 years ago, perhaps earlier than human sites to the west.

The lead author of the report was Michael Anikovich of the Russian Academy of Sciences. John Hoffecker of the University of Colorado, a team member, said the small figurine might be “the oldest example of figurative art ever discovered.”

Dr. Goebel said the new research, archaeology, genetics and the Hofmeyr skull should help explain when and how modern humans leaving Africa spread out to different environments, which, he added, “is one of the greatest untold stories in the history of humankind.”


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Did I miss a meeting?

When did all of us vote to bequeath ubiquity upon Justin Timberlake?

If someone could get back to me on this, I'd appreciate it.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Indie kids, what the fuck?

I'm not on MySpace so it's a moot point, but it would be super-cool if some lame-o band out of Tustin, California didn't have my name:

Also, it would be a different world today if whomever spearheaded Boat's campaign had run Gore's or Kerry's:

Thursday, January 04, 2007

And if ten Greeks say you're talking too much, shut up

"When I'm working, I have this little card over my desk that says, 'If nine Russians tell you you're drunk, lie down.' Because especially if you write and direct your own work, there's a danger that you have absolutely no perspective. For me, I feel quite clear and strong when I'm working, and then when I've made the film, I just desperately hope it will communicate something to someone else. [Laughs.] It's like you're a monk in the cutting room and a whore in the cinema."

--director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Breaking and Entering) to Entertainment Weekly

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

"Charlie Watts is my drum god!"

Years ago in Seattle, the independently owned record store chain, Cellophane Square, was much like Sonic Boom or Easy Street is today: a delicious place to lose yourself on a slate gray afternoon and staffed with true believers. (The last time I shopped at the University Avenue CS, I was perhaps the only individual on the premises not on work furlough.)

In college, my girl friends didn't care to hunt for a decent used cassette of Celluloid Heroes or an unscratched copy of Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy, but my guy friends and I spent hours perusing Cellophane Square and other nearby music shops and knew our lives were richer for it. (I still have the NRBQ on vinyl my friend, Tony, bought for me during one of these expeditions.)

CS employees frequently wrote reviews or comments on the placards between CDs and albums and during a search for a zippered copy of Sticky Fingers, I discovered "Charlie Watts is my drum god!" scrawled on such a divider. The fellas adopted this as a not infrequent drunken rallying cry, so it is with great joy that I relay the following from the "Ask Blender" feature on p. 40 of the Jan/Feb 2007 issue:

Did Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones drummer, really once beat the crap out of Mick Jagger?
Dominic Roth, Lincoln, Nebraska

Delightfully, yes. It happened in October 1984. The Stones had gathered in Amsterdam to discuss their next album and tour; Jagger, though, was more concerned with his solo career and was acting like a bit of a bastard. One night Keith Richards took Jagger out for some carousing--and by the time they stumbled back to their hotel at five in the morning, the singer was absolutely plastered. He called up to Watts, fast asleep in his own room, and started shouting into the phone. "Izzat my drummer, then? Where's my fucking drummer?"

What happened next is one of the most remarkable moments in Stones history. The mild-mannered Watts, always the quiet one in the group, crawled out of bed. He shaved, put on a crisp white shirt and impeccably tailored suit, knotted his tie and slipped on some shoes. Then he calmly walked downstairs, opened the door, grabbed Jagger--and cold-cocked him right in the kisser. "Don't ever call me your drummer again," Watts sneered. "You're my fucking singer."

It must have been quite a scene. "Charlie punched him into a plateful of smoked salmon," Richards recalled in a 1989 Playboy magazine interview. "Mick almost floated out the window into a canal. I grabbed his leg and saved him." Jagger has tried to play down the incident: "He pushed me, but I don't think he actually punched me." But Watts, while discreet, has implicitly confirmed it. "It's not something I'm proud of," he said in 1997. "I was really pissed off."

Monday, January 01, 2007


It began with two awful surprises and ended with two great ones.

I learned a lot and it was never dull.

On to 2007!

Best to you and yours,