Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Inappropriately Named Rivers

You've probably all heard me complain about how the name "Washington" is ill suited for our awesome state. Too many people who have lived here since the dawn of time regard Washington (George) as the land stealer, the the land killer, and of course, the man with a big sword.

However, that is beside the point. Also on my list of things that have no business, no business at all being named after some white dude that has no ties to this region, falls the Columbia River.

To quote from my moleskine, "Oh, Columbia, Yo, Columbia. That's not your real name."

Last weekend, I spent a night next to the Columbia. Frankly, that is one hell of a river. I took the opportunity to walk along side it for a mile or so and try to learn what the river had to teach me. I wish I could show you a picture, seeing as how those things are worth a thousand words, but I can't. I took none. Instead, I took a break every quarter-mile or so to scribble my thoughts into the afore mentioned moleskine.

Such as:

Along the sagebrush covered bank,
a line of trees, thirsty for a drink.
The river bank bleeds life
in a spiral. Cradle of
Flies, an ancient race,
I'm an admirer,
but I still can't figure the river.
And so it goes. I followed the river, and I got almost nowhere.
What is the river's true name? Does it matter?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

3 reasons you should watch Doctor Who

Not many people around here appreciate the glorious camp that is BBC's, and indeed the world's, longest running Science-Fiction show. When it was first conceived back in the sixties, Doctor Who was a psuedo-educational show, taking advantage of time travel to discuss in alternating episodes new science(cyber-men!) and the lessons of history(cavemen!). With the retirement of William Hartnell, the first Doctor, a clever plot device allowed them to continue the series with a new actor in the lead role. This brings me to my first argument:

1. Replay Value

Every now and then the Doctor regenerates. When he does, he takes on a new face, and a new personality. Each incarnation of the Doctor has been a refresh of the series, sometimes for good, sometimes for ill. The excitement of making a list of your favorite Doctors is equalled only by the excitement of wondering what the next Doctor will be like. With a fifty year history, and at least 11 different actors, there's a lot of variety in the show to explore. The latest Doctor, David Tennant, is seriously one of the best, but did he top the mad cap antics of Patrick Troughton, or the melancholic dispatcher of Daleks, Tom Baker? That is for you to decide.

2. Stephen Moffat

Believe it or not, I am not the last of the time-lord fans out there. Some people, some pretty old people, have been watching the show since they were a child. Stephen Moffat, who will be the head-writer for the show come 2010, is one such person. If you have doubts about his ability, look forward to his Spielberg produced script of Rin-Tin-Tin, coming soon to theaters. Having seen every episode for Doctor Who that he has penned, I can tell you he was born to write this series, kind of like a certain Doctor Who obsessed blogger you might have heard of. His previous episodes have won oodles of awards, so I'm not alone in this sentiment. Once this man gets the reins, it's going to be a whole new Who, and a damn fine one at that.

3. Being cool

Okay, last reason. I have plenty more, but I'll restrain myself for now. You know how kids from So-Cal are always complaining that their bands were cooler before they were popular? Well, Doctor Who can never be popular. No matter how many people love the show, and trust me there are a lot of us, none of them will ever take the show seriously. It's just not that kind of show. So you can be safe in the knowledge that even Doctor Who fans feel slightly uncomfortable talking about it.
(Present company excepted)

25 Random Things About Me

Lately, everybody is doing it. How are they doing it?

(Actually, nobody does any more. Too busy, I guess.)

Mostly, they post 25 random things about themselves and the rest is up to the incessant voyeurism Facebook breeds. Some people have hijacked this phenomenon and turned it into a "valid" literary form. Example: My brother's Facebook, where he parodies an SNL sketch and gives us as much if not more information about about himself as any of the rest of these things. Example: Eric McHenry, a fantastic Seattle based poet, created a cento of 25 random lines, rhymed and metered, that were drifting around in his head. The result was once again, just about as informative as a real 25 things post would be. I wish I could show you either of these examples, but when it comes to intellectual property, I guess possession is a little more than nine/tenths of the law.
So rather than show you theirs, I will shamelessly subject myself to the same experiment.

25 Random Things About Me:

1. An old school bus converted into a traveling home.
2. The cascade mountains, distant, huge and blue.
3. A girl walking down the street tugging anxiously on the arm thrown around her shoulder.
4. A pair of eyelash curlers left on a wall overnight, encrusted with dew-diamonds.
5. There is also a a single pink petal.
6. A rented Cello. I hear one of the strings is about to break.
7. A cannibalized soldering iron.
8. An old slice of cheese.
9. My Friend, on a couch.
10. Because a fire was in my head.
11. The hand that whirls the water in the pool, that stirs the quicksand,
12. That ropes the blowing wind.
13. My amusingly noisy neighbors.
14. Two crows, one sleek and black, the other a little the worse for wear.
15. The piece of sandwich they are fighting over.
16. A whole stack of old editions of The Stranger. Some of them are damp.
17. A girl walks out the door. "Oh it's cold!" she says, and goes back inside, locking the door behind her.
18. A crow, diving a couple feet before flapping up to altitude again
19. Barefoot vs. Bear foot. No contest.
20. I am the doubter and the doubt.
21. Electronic mail. Music. A resume.
22. The callouses on my feet migrate seasonally.
23. The consistent buzz of technology. Radiation.
24. A piano, acoustic guitar and bass guitar, electric guitar and bass guitar, ukulele, two saxophones, a banjo, a harmonica necklace, two harmonicas, a flute, a clarinet, a guiro, a conga drum, an afuche, an udu, wine bottles tuned to different notes, shaker, triangle, tambourine. Some other things I left out.
25. The most important thing about me is my skin. People have told me I have nice skin, and that's nice, but the most important thing is that it keeps my organs from spilling all over the place. If it weren't for my skin, I' d be a mess.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


A word about the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. They are pros. No doubt about that. Know how I know? I'll tell you.

Every song has different sections. In Jazz, there's also a tendency to allow players to take solos over a certain part of the form. How long will a solo last? When do you move to the next part of the song? This could all be written down, but the important thing is communication. The band leader of the drummer can easily signal for a change at any time if everyone is paying attention. This is a mark of the pros: they are ready for anything.

For example:

On the evening I attended, their last song began with an elaborate and improvised piano solo. He began gracefully and beautifully, but as he played, one of his sheets of music started to fall from the stand. He caught it with scarcely a musical blip and was back to business. The sheet leaned forward again, and again he caught it. As his solo became more and more intense, however, the sheet finally fell fully off of the stand and drifted gracefully into the audience. Soon another sheet followed. Sheet after sheet of music peeled off of the stand until soon all of his music was scattered around and off the stage. The intrepid pianist played through to the end of his solo, and the rest of the band came in on cue. Calmly, the pianist left the stage, collected his music, and rejoined the band unobtrusively.

It was cooler to see than read about, let me assure you. You see the things you can miss out on if you don't scrounge around for free tickets once in a while?

On a side note, stuff like that always happens. Always. You want to see something cool happen? Play some music.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cross town tour

Everybody knows that the best thing about Seattle is riding the bus, right? As the most economical form of cross town travel, some efficiency is sacrificed. Also, you never know who you'll end up sitting next to. That hot girl? That old lady? The dude who is off in his own world and then pukes in his lap? Buses kick ass, but sometimes they feel a little dangerous. Everybody who is on the bus is there because they must ride the bus. In a city this large, some distances can't be practically traveled by foot. The bad hip, the blind eye, the empty pocket, these are things the average bus riders might have in common.
Enter Billy. His full/real name is unknown, but probably something patriarchal, like William James III. This guy has been places. He's seen some things. If you ask him, robbing a bank is a perfectly reasonable way to overcome financial troubles. If you want his opinions on automatic weapons you don't even need to ask. He feels as though he rides the bus by choice, even though the reason he's not on his bike is because of the DUI. If you ask Billy, though, there are very practical ways of reversing that situation that involve little more than some strategic application of the right to bear arms. Billy has been selling his time and labor for an ungrateful wage for twenty years now, and he's getting tired of it. I did not have the balls to ask Billy what he would do if he got fully tired of it. I hope Billy remembers that everyone on the bus is there for the same reasons he is.
For who do we throw our lives and wages away? Where should Billy direct his inevitable anger? Can the United States government possibly represent this poor asshole? To me, Billy is represented by his choice to get off the bus, taking his backpack with him, and go have a beer. What was his other option? It was a good choice. For all of us still on the bus, what choices do we have?
I for one enjoy catching a free concert at Benaroya Hall, gratis a The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. It was spectacular. Just watch out for weirdos on the way there!

Goodbye Xena

I think Xena, the hawk, has peaced. There was a family of starlings in a ventilation duct I can see from my apartment. There is a long streak of bird shit under it. I think these starlings have also peaced. Where do birds go in the summer? Canada? The worst part is that now I have no signal, no grasp of what's to come. Birds make good omens, but they are staggeringly fickle in the end.