Local Art News
Backcountry expresses a novel way of getting rid of a partner who has become a drag in your relationship. Go on a backpacking trip together and hope he or she is eaten by a bear. That’s the only real surprise in this effective, but effectively predictable, backwoods thriller from director Adam MacDonald, which requires that an REI ad-ready pair named Jenn and Alex must make a lot of stupid mistakes in order to become potential bear chow. Claw past the clichés and you’ll find decent performances and several tense moments, but more often than not you’ll be rooting for the bear.
Any reasonably experienced Northwest hiker will spot the idiocies early on. Alex (Jeff Roop), hoping to impress Jenn (Missy Peregrym) with his knowledge of a trail he’s hiked many times before (the first of his many fibs), refuses a map from the park ranger. The ranger, disregarding the cost to taxpayers if this couple ends up missing, doesn’t insist on them taking a map or registering their destination. Alex scoffs at Jenn’s bear spray and cell phone. They don’t carry enough water, nor do they stay on the established main trail. Alex wants to show his girlfriend a lake he remembers as a teenager, but the surrounding forest–spindly and monotonous–is uninspiring. As they make camp their first night, Jenn invites a handsome and competent, but also vaguely menacing, stranger to dinner around the campfire. Here we learn that Jenn is a successful lawyer and Alex is a struggling landscape assistant. He’s also insecure, arrogant, judgmental, and perhaps just the right portion size for a hairy, huge, hungry mammal.
Jenn is no picnic either. Flirty, superior, and dismissive, she finally tells Alex what she really thinks of him after they discover they’re hopelessly lost. This is the best scene in the film, a moment when the odds of survival decrease in direct proportion to the compatibility of the partners in crisis. The marauding bear emerges as a symbol of their dysfunction and for the literal end of their relationship. It doesn’t seem fair that either should become Salisbury steak for this ursine intruder, but if one has to go, why not surprise us with the least convenient choice?
Backcountry is similar in plot and structure to last year’s little-seen but far more satisfying found-footage thriller Willow Creek. The comparison is technical as well as conceptual. Willow Creek, stripped of music and commercial story beats, possessed a chilling authenticity, aided by the rough beauty of nature captured almost by accident via the handheld camera. Backcountry is as sparkly clean as a sunlit stream, so bright and pretty and calculated it feels like countless other calling card movies designed to show off the director’s HD-ready skillset.
This doesn’t mean the movie fails to get freaky. Backpackers with even a remote fear of encountering a bear in the wilderness will either want to avoid this film or cleanse their memory banks of having ever seen it before venturing into the woods again. And, I can’t say this with any first-hand experience, but the sight of a bear feasting on a human body certainly looked real enough, not to mention the screams that reminded me of the scene in Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man when he, but not us, listened to the taped howls of a man and woman being eaten alive. MacDonald based Backcountry on a true story, but the relationship distress was his invention, as were the fictional final scenes, including a shot indicating that maybe, just maybe, one of the characters got what they wanted all along.
This review first appeared on The Restless Critic blog.
The post Now Showing: ‘Backcountry’, another way to lose your lover appeared first on Crosscut.
A Few Words With Abstract and Street Artist, Mrshmr, As We Speak About Process, Imagery and life on the streets!
* Denotes items that are $15 or less
Native Art Weekend *
The Burke is hosting a weekend-long celebration of Northwest Native art, in conjunction with its “Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired” exhibit. Scholars as well as artists will be part of a free symposium Friday evening and all day Saturday that looks at 50 years of Northwest Coast art. And on Sunday, the Northwest Native Art Market offers visitors a chance to buy original works from 13 emerging and established artists themselves.
If you go: Native Art Weekend, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Symposium is March 27 and 28; Art Market is March 29 ($10) — F.D.
Black is the Color of My Voice
A one-woman show, written and performed by Apphia Campbell, explores the life of a fictional American jazz singer in the wake of her father’s death. Inspired by Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. The Shanghai-based theater company Play the Spotlight initially produced the show in 2013. Now it lands at Langston Hughes. A co-presentation with the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas.
If you go: Black is the Color of My Voice, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, March 27 and 28 ($20) — F.D.
Here’s a world premiere by playwright Laura Schellhardt about three womenKeiko Green and Cheyenne Casebier in Seattle Repertory Theatre’s The Comparables (2015). Photo: Alabastro Photography.
navigating the high stakes world of Manhattan real estate. Bette (Linda Gehringer) is an Aikido-loving, 50something-ish woman about to launch a reality TV series about herself. (To be honest, she needs way better clothes.) Monica (Cheyenne Casebier) is oh, in her 40s, and she wants to be Bette’s successor. She wears slacks and flats and yes, the wardrobe telegraphs her personality. And then there’s 20something Iris (Keiko Green), who struts in on a pair of stilettos like, you know, she’s ready to kill. The three women form alliances and rip one another apart and shirk their own long-held morals in order to Play the Game of being a woman who wants to get ahead. I seriously coveted those shoes. And that set, designed by Carey Wong who must seriously never sleep because his work is everywhere, is just plain fab.
If you go: The Comparables, Seattle Rep, Through March 29 (Tickets start at $22) — F.D.
Plate of Nations
Rainier Valley is home to an array of immigrants, and naturally, an array of independently owned, unpretentious, and delicious ethnic restaurants. Each year, these restaurants (from Huarachitos Cocina Mexicana to Huong Dong Vietnamese to Momona Café) offer set menus for $15 and $25 (often with a special vegetarian option), allowing patrons a glimpse of what makes each cuisine so unique. Personally, I can’t wait to try all the Eritrean and Ethiopian food (lamb tibs, lentils, cabbage all sopped up by injera) I can get my hands on, and try the Lao dinner at Thai Savon. Bring a friend or loved one because each meal is enough to be shared between two. Also, fill up your Plate of Nations passport along your journeys, and win a prize!
If you go: Plate of Nations, Various restaurants all along Martin Luther King Jr. Way South in Seattle, March 27 through April 12, All ages ($15 and $25 menus) — N.C.
Rodeo Donut Pop-up *
The people behind Cupcake Royale introduce Rodeo Donut Pop-up – inventive flavor combos and locally sourced ingredients all on BRIOCHE dough (I didn’t even know that was an option!) – which make this confectionary treasure stand out. While there’s a lot left to be revealed, the website shows enough to get my mouth watering; pickled lemon perched atop a lemon curd-filled donut; vanilla cream covered with chocolate caviar; and “The Bonanza,” banana custard with chocolate glaze. Each comes with a free 12 oz. Stumptown coffee (on Saturday morning only). Let’s hope this is a temp-to-permanent situation.
If you go: Rodeo Donut Pop-up, Ballard Cupcake Royale, starting at 7 a.m. March 28 — N.C.
Caspar Babypants *
In an interview with KCTS, Chris Ballew, who performs as Caspar Babypants, claims that he doesn’t make music for kids, but for families. “I’m thinking about a family in a car, stuck in traffic. They’re hungry, they’re tired, they’re mad at each other … you should be able to put in a CD and have it transform the atmosphere,” he said. “I get a lot of feedback from actual families stuck in actual cars that it works.” Ballew, who enjoyed decades of acclaim as the front man of indie rock group The Presidents of the United States of America, has discovered his truest self as Caspar Babypants, and has seven albums of “family” music to prove it. In that same interview, he claims his music under the new moniker is not a far cry sonically from his work with the Presidents. The same energetic, guitar-driven, bouncy playfulness is present in both projects. In retrospect, this transition in genres makes a lot of sense.
Chastity Belt *
Chastity Belt’s music has, from the beginning, been reminiscent of director Richard Linklater’s 1991 cult classic Slacker. Both the film and the band in question involve jaded youth in their 20s, and exude a sort of chic apathy on the surface — Chastity Belt’s brand new album Time to Go Home even has a song called “Why Try.” But both Chastity Belt’s music and Slacker are beautifully composed and quite thoughtful. The all-female group’s song “Cool Slut” is an act of musical word reclamation with a heartfelt feminist message. Formed in Walla Walla, Chastity Belt is a “joke” band that’s always sarcastic, but cunningly so. With a sunny/drony garage sound that never gets boring to hear live. Joining them at the Highline is pop rock hook machine Dude York and the rootsy/bluesy rock group Cool Ghouls, who are in from San Francisco for the night.
If you go: Chastity Belt, The Highline, March 28 ($8) 21+ — J.S.H.
Seattleite Shaprece, like an R&B version of Purity Ring, uses her refined voice (and lots of vocal effects) to build soulful sonic sculptures humming with electronica’s influence. Her songs are rife with vocal loops, swelling strings and heart-pounding programmed basslines. Shaprece’s live shows feature electronic beat programming on sample pads alongside various live strings like cello and harp. This setup, set against Shaprece’s spine-tingling singing, is a captivating mixture of a modern DJ/rapper two-person act with a more traditional lead singer and backing band combination. Opening for her is another local, the wonderfully contemplative Bryan John Appleby. It will just be him and an acoustic guitar for this performance, but his timelessly intimate folk ballads sound amazing when performed in such a minimalist fashion.
An Evening with Ann Hamilton *
Ann Hamilton’s exhibit the common S E N S E has filled UW’s Henry Art Gallery for the last six months. For the exhibit (continuing through April 26), Hamilton took over the entire museum, unblocking the skylights and covering the walls in pictures, printed on newsprint, of dead animals (many from the Burke Museum’s collection). As the exhibit has gone on, exhibit-goers have taken home copies of the prints themselves, and as Hamilton hoped, it’s taken on new meaning as layers of images have been torn off the walls. In conjunction with the exhibit, celebrated for the inventiveness and intimacy that’s synonymous withArtist Ann Hamilton will appear at Seattle’s Town Hall on Monday as part of Seattle Arts & Lectures series.
Hamilton’s name, she’ll be speaking at Town Hall as a part of Seattle Arts & Lectures series. People have said a lot about Hamilton, but one of my favorite snippets is from radio journalist Krista Tippett, who said, “She uses her hands to create installations that are both visually astounding and surprisingly inmate, and meet a longing many of us share, as [Hamilton] puts it, to be alone together.”
If you go: An Evening with Ann Hamilton, Town Hall, 7:30 p.m. on March 30 ($15) — N.C.
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The post The Weekend List: Native art weekend. Plate of Nations. Shaprece. Caspar Babypants. appeared first on Crosscut.
A few questions with Imps and Monsters artist–Justin Hillgrove! Check out Hillgrove and Jesse Link at Piranha Shop on April 2nd Artwalk!
When Mayor Murray announced two weeks ago that a delegation from the renowned Urban Land Institute (ULI) would visit and advise on what to do with Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood, it alarmed some wary Southeast Seattleites, for two reasons.
First, because of the ULI’s history. It was created by the real estate industry in 1938 to advocate “urban renewal,” which all too often translated into urban removal. And it has more recently endorsed the use of eminent domain for private redevelopment, a very fraught subject in Southeast Seattle following the Nickels Administration’s efforts to deploy it there.
And second because of the announced goal of the year-long consultation that the Land Institute would provide the city: “To review and comment on plans for transit oriented development and job growth in Rainier Beach.”
Transit-oriented development (TOD) is another fraught subject down here; one stop up the light-rail line at Othello Station, it neglected neighborhood needs and went bust. Patricia Paschal, a longtime Othello activist, summed up the apprehension: “Light rail has been operating for six years and none of the promised prosperity has materialized. How much of our tax money will this review cost? Maybe the City should take the focus off transit-oriented [development] and put it on strengthening the existing community.”
Paschal wasn’t among the dozens of citizens and officials the Land Institute delegation interviewed last week. But aside from the question of city funds (the Land Institute pays its way and covers the city’s costs to participate), her critique was prophetic. After three days exploring Rainier Beach, the delegation of design and development experts and officials from other cities came to exactly the same conclusion: Forget, for now anyway, about trying to lure developers to put up Othello Station-style midrise TOD. Concentrate on what the neighborhood needs and wants now. Which means (what a concept!) listening to it.
To understand how this change of focus came about, let’s go back to how this visitation came to be. Six years ago, with the National League of Cities lending its imprimatur, the Urban Land Institute founded the Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership. Its declared mission: “To empower leaders in the public sector to envision, build, and sustain successful 21st-century communities.” (Why mayors rather than ordinary citizens need empowering, especially in cities like Seattle with strong-mayor charters, isn’t immediately clear). But as the Rose Center’s homepage goes on to explain, it’s really about supporting “excellence in land use decision making.” You can see why some wary residents worry about this being a stalking horse for big development.
The Rose Center’s approach is however more nuanced. Each year it offer mayors and key staffers in four cities the chance to become “Rose Center fellows” and receive year-long consultation on some major development or redevelopment challenge. This consultation comes not just from house experts but from past fellows, making it a sort of on-the-ground exchange program between cities.
Many of the fellowships have gone to cities such as Detroit. Philadelphia, Hartford, and Memphis that have suffered significant economic and/or population declines. But the Rose Center had wanted from the start to come to Seattle. “We like a mix of strong and weak markets,” says Gideon Berger, the program’s senior director, “and it’s hard to find a stronger market than Seattle.” Furthermore, Berger says, “we like to work with mayors when they’re newly elected. They seem most eager to get advice when they’re new in office.”
Finally, the fellowship program looks for “stability” – i.e. mayors who will be around long enough and have enough clout to act on what they learn. “There seemed to be a lot of mayoral instability before,” Berger says diplomatically of Murray’s one-term predecessor, Mike McGinn. By contrast, “Mayor Murray has had some early successes.” Translation: this mayor seems worth the investment..
The Rainier Beach focus reflected Murray’s declared equity agenda and promise to do more for Southeast Seattle. What the visiting Rose Fellows and Land Institute experts saw at Rainier Beach was a Seattle far removed from the prevailing narrative of Shanghai-pace growth at South Lake Union and nosebleed housing prices in once-sleepy neighborhoods like Ballard. Their preliminary findings, PowerPointed last Thursday at the downtown library,[LINK PDF] were a catalog of deferred action, missed opportunities, unmade connections, and enduring potential.
One thing to defer: TOD dreams. Light rail can hardly seed new development when it hasn’t rooted in the existing neighborhood. Rainier’s Beach’s commercial and civic life lies a half-mile away on Rainier Avenue. Henderson, the street connecting them, is a dreary gauntlet of worn low-rise apartments, vacant lots, and cracked sidewalks, passing under ominous high-tension wires. Rainier Ave’s transit lifeline, the Route 7 bus, bypasses the station; other, less frequent routes from Renton do connect along Henderson Street, but that compounds commute time and trouble.
Some of the out-of-towners seemed surprised to find no park-and-ride lot, or even kiss-and-ride dropoff, at the rail station. Here, as elsewhere along the Link line, the city forbade station parking to discourage driving, even driving to take transit. (Tukwila didn’t, so suburban trainriders get 662 free parking spaces, while Seattleites who can’t walk or bike to the stations play park-and-hide on city streets, wait for connector buses (if any), or just give up and drive. And struggling restaurants and other businesses near Othello Station miss out on an influx of potential park-and-ride customers.)
At the same time, the delegation noted some important assets at Rainier Beach that have been underexploited and often unappreciated. One, the area’s rich ethnic diversity, gets much lip service. Others, less appreciated, are its natural beauty and water access, with a beachfront facing Mt. Rainier and flanked by a public high school and relatively inexpensive apartments and condos. This is one stretch of Lake Washington shoreline that hasn’t gone Gold Coast.
Surely the Seattle Parks Department and others could do more to exploit these advantages. How about kayak and paddleboard rentals, perhaps a human-powered boat fair to counter the Seafair thunderboats to the north?
It’s not fair to say that the public sector hasn’t invested in Rainier Beach. The school district installed a topflight Performing Arts Center at Rainier Beach High in 1998. Mayor McGinn persevered to fulfill a promise to replace Rainier Beach’s decrepit community center and swimming pool at Rainier and Henderson, even as he had to slash the overall city budget.
A contracting snafu delayed construction, and Rainier Beach languished without swimming, basketball courts, and other activities for three years. Maybe it’s just coincidence that street shootings spiked then. Maybe not. But the new community center, with, is the snazziest in town; its excellent swimming and play pools (I hate to publicize this) attract swimmers from across town. All this, plus the rail station and beach park and a new library one block down Rainier, ought to form the armature of a vital pedestrian district. But grim sidewalks, scanty and scary pedestrian crossings, chainlink fences, and bank-branch and fast-food parking lots . As the ULI/Rose Center presentation notes, there’s no “coherent sense of place,” no there between the amenities – “lots of open space but no common ground.”
“We heard about diversity,” Rose fellow Karen Abrams, who heads Pittsburgh’s Redevelopment Authority, told Murray and the other locals assembled last Thursday. “But we didn’t feel it when we got off at the light rail stop. We wanted to see a lot more public art there.” (Other light-rail stations prominent artwork celebrating their environs.)
Rather than grand redevelopment, she (and the delegation as a whole) urged the city to go for “low-hanging fruit” and other measures that “could be implemented immediately”: art and way-finding signage, which is currently poor to nonexistent. Relocate Route 7 layovers to the rail station. Fix and maintain pedestrian infrastructure. Beautify the streetscape. “Activate open space” – say, with community cookouts on vacant lots. Encourage street food.
Here, Seattle’s already ahead of most cities; Pittsburgh’s Abrams marveled at what she called a “food bus,” a.k.a. a taco truck. After last Thursday’s presentation, I chatted with another attendee, architect and development strategist David Harmon. He thought the ULI team missed an important piece: low-cost venues for fledgling retailers who can’t afford the storefronts in conventional TOD projects. For a model, Harmon suggested, look to the Pike Place Market. At its founding 108 years ago, it provided just the sort of entrée for Italian and Japanese immigrant farmers that today’s immigrants could use.
Indeed, why not a farmer’s market in Rainier Beach? It’s farther from Columbia City’s market than the Queen Anne and Fremont farmer’s markets are from each other. And many Rainier Beach lots are actually big enough for truck gardening.
All this, plus concerted graffiti removal, would serve an essential need to, in the ULI panel’s words, “change the perception of public safety.” The panel noted receiving three environmental design plans to that end from the Seattle Neighborhood Group. They join other plans that have been thoughtfully developed and thoughtlessly neglected over the years.
Foremost among these is the well-regarded Rainier Beach Neighborhood Plan completed in 2004 and updated in 2012. It identifies many of same needs as the envisions a welcoming, tree-lined “gateway to Seattle” on MLK Way and “grand boulevard” along Henderson Street, plus downzoning Henderson to encourage neighborhood business and forestall Othello-style midrise TOD.
But as for implementation, “the plan is stuck,” the ULI panel’s co-chair Nadine Fogarty, a Berkeley-based TOD expert, told the Seattleites Thursday. “I would go further,” Murray responded. “It’s actually broken.” He noted diplomatically that while “two of the last four mayors were engaged” in neighborhoods like Rainier Beach, two (presumably Paul Schell and Greg Nickels) took a “more diffused” view. The result: “Our departments are very siloed.” Transportation doesn’t talk to Planning and Development, and so on and on. “Lack of integration is the problem we’re dealing with. We need not just a philosophical but a structural reset.”
So hizzoner gets it. Whether or not he learns anything new from this exercise, it ought to help concentrate his and his staff’s minds. But “structural reset” raises a familiar question: As City Hall sets out to fix itself, will it once again forget to help fix Rainier Beach?
The post Developers’ think tank to Seattle: Forget about redeveloping Rainier Beach. Try a little TLC. appeared first on Crosscut.
You go to a bar or outdoor concert, and listen to a cover band. Or you sing karaoke at a tavern.
In any of those spots, the live renditions of songs — “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” or “Bad to the Bone” or just about anything else – are supposed to earn royalties for the songwriters. And the venues providing the music are supposed to pay the royalties.
Broadcast Music Inc. and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers – known, respectively, as BMI and ASCAP — collect those royalties for the songwriters, as does a European-based counterpart. The three organizations’ agents visit bars, restaurants concerts, churches, farmers markets and other venues to check whether the royalty agreements are being complied with. The agreements are enforceable under federal law.
Bar owners complained to Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, about these agents being rude, charging high fees on the spot and not providing documentation to back up their claims.
Consequently, Van De Wege introduced a bill in the Washington House that would require the music licensing agencies to take a variety of new steps. They would have to file an electronic copy of each performing rights contract with the Washington Secretary of State’s office, provide 24 hours notice before personally visiting a business premises, provide proper identification and documents to an owner, and not use abusive or profane language in talking to the owner. The House passed the bill 92-6.
The Senate Commerce & Labor Committee held a hearing on Van De Wege’s bill Friday. Van De Wege told the committee that the bill’s intention is not to keep venue owners from paying royalties, but to ensure those owners are aware of what they are required to do and that licensing agencies don’t bully the venue owners.
“It’s very unclear to restaurant owners what their responsibilities are, and who the good actors are,” said Trent House, representing the Washington Restaurant Association.
Songwriter Branden Daniel, front man for Seattle-based Branden Daniel & The Chics, said BMI and ASCAP are making sure he can make a living. He has written roughly 50 songs, with several covered by other bands playing in the Northwest. A venue’s failure to pay royalties means he does not get paid for much of his work.
“The owner of a bar benefits when music is played,” Daniel said. “What’s the difference between paying for music usage in an establishment and paying a liquor distributor?”
He added, “I make less than those bar owners.”
BMI and ASCAP representatives Brian Case and Lisa Thatcher told the committee a cover band playing a song is no different from a person using Microsoft software when it comes to the requirement that someone somewhere along the distribution chain pay royalties. They voiced concerns about the state possibly trying to pre-empt federal copyright laws, and proposed changes to Van De Wege’s bill to ensure that does not happen. And they said that sometimes venue owners are rude and abusive to BMI and ASCAP representatives.
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John Oliver’s masterful, 360-degree, in-your-face jam of the NCAA and their money-making machine, March Madness, is an absolute must-watch. It’s a cross between a deeply ethical Harpers magazine exposé and an episode of Family Guy.
Beginning with a checklist of major advertisers branding every moment of a basketball game, from the plays-of-the-game to the cutting down of the championship nets (a commercial for Werner, a ladder company), Oliver then dips into a satirical comparison to the perennially twee filmmaker Wes Anderson, before swiveling his righteous rocket launcher toward the unctuous NCAA president Mark Emmert. (When Emmert was the University of Washington prez, I once videotaped him for an interview; his answers were classics of the patronizing, phone-it-in school of soundbites.)
Emmert’s favorite rebuttal to the idea that college athletes should be compensated for the NCAA’s exploitive practices is to state – with theatrical condescension – “athletes are not employees, they are students.” This tees up Oliver’s next barrage, an examination of how athletes are not only enslaved to the sweat-shop routine of meetings and practices (cue a helpful clip from the Seahawks’ Richard Sherman), but also how their actual education is a smokescreen of phony academics. Their only textbook seems to be the 400-plus page manual explaining what they cannot do as so-called “student athletes.”
It’s not like these universities are hurting for cash. Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari recently signed a $52 million extension on his contract. Alabama’s football coach Nick Saban is paid $7 million a year. And the skipper of the Clemson Tigers’ football team, with the ass clown name of Dabo Swinney, is guaranteed more than $3 million a year for the next eight years, during which time 98 percent of his players will never make it to the NFL. Yet Swinney claims his amateurs don’t deserve compensation because they are already awash in “entitlements” (a word Swinney probably picked up from watching Sean Hannity). It’s worth watching Oliver’s entire segment just to see how he links up Swinney’s name with the phrase “edamame farts.”
But make sure you stick around for the final bit, a fake video game featuring two ex-NCAA players with firsthand experience of how this gargantuan “non-profit” reaps billions of hypocritical dollars from the unpaid labor of their student serfs. The video game is called “March Sadness 2015.”