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"Before you know it as the years go by, you're just like other people you have seen, with all those peculiar human ailments. Just another vehicle for temper and vanity and rashness and all the rest. Who wants it? Who needs it? These things occupy the place where a man's soul should be." -- Henderson the Rain King

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Naked Pictures of Famous People

I'm halfway done with my 50 book challenge! Book #25 was Naked Pictures of Famous People by Jon Stewart. I'm a big fan of Stewart's work on The Daily Show and really enjoyed America (The Book), so I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately I found Naked Pictures to be a fairly disappointing collection. It's not that the pieces in the book aren't funny, but on the whole they fall short of what I'd expect from a comedian of Stewart's caliber. Part of it could be that the book was originally published in 1998 and many of the stories in the book deal with topics that now seem dated (e.g. Taco Bell chihuahua, Hanson), but even some of the more general ones fall flat. The good news is that the nineteen essays in the book make for a quick read, so sifting through for the five or six good ones may still be worth the work as long as you keep your expectations in check. In other words, don't fall for Entertainment Weekly's "On a par with Woody Allen's Without Feathers and Steve Martin's Cruel Shoes." review.

To learn more about the book I recommend CNN's review. Harper Collins has also posted an excerpt from one of the funnier stories titled "Adolph Hitler: The Larry King Interview".

Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling

Tonight we saw Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling as part of the Seattle International Film Festival. The film was created by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner, who've previously worked together on the acclaimed HBO documentaries Jockey and Southern Comfort.

Pucker Up follows a handful of competitive whistlers as they prepare to to compete at the 31st annual National Whistling Competition in Louisburg, North Carolina. The competitors include "Whistling" Tom Bryant, Dutch social worker and first time competitor Geert Chatrou, ex-champ and Joe Torre look-alike Steve Herbst, and four-time champ/Carlyle Group employee Chris Ullman.

In addition to following the actual competition, the film dives into the history of whistling from its hey days in the early 20th century to its subsequent decline as people turned to other entertainment options such as radio and TV. I found it very interesting to learn just how popular whistling was back in the day and how at the time whistlers were highly respected as musicians. In the 1920's there was even a school, founded by Agnes Woodward, where students would go to study whistling much like you would study any other musical instrument. In the film one of the whistlers (I believe it was Chris Ullman) alludes to the fact that a whistler today is more likely to be on David Letterman's Stupid Human Tricks than he is to be invited as a musical guest.

Steve Herbst, one of the stars of the film and America's only full-time professional whistler, flew in from New York and was present to introduce the film and answer questions at the end. Herbst's goal is to bring whistling back into the main stream culture saying 'Whistling is an idea whose time has returned'. At the end of the Q&A period, Herbst provides us with a special treat by performing a piece called "Whistler's Blues" for us.

While Pucker Up definitely has its faults (the lighting during the competition is weird and some of the musical pieces drag a bit), I found it quite educational and entertaining and would definitely recommend it.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Stranger Than Fiction

"If you haven't noticed, all my books are about a lonely person looking for some way to connect with other people," so begins Chuck Palahniuk's Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories a.k.a. book #24 of my 2005 50 book challenge. Palaniuk's new collection of short non-fiction essays uses this theme again, this time weaving it through 23 different stories spanning a wide array of topics. Here's a quick look at the main subject of each of the stories:

As with most essay collections, Stranger Than Fiction is hit and miss at times, but on the whole I found it to be an enjoyable read. There are reviews aplenty posted online if you'd like to learn more about the book, or you can even listen to Chuck being interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Gorge - Sasquatch

This is a picture of the Gorge from yesterday's Sasquatch Festival. It was 95 degrees and clear, but somehow I miraculously escaped sunburn free. The festival itself was a bit of a let down ($4.50 for bottled water?!), but I'd pay the $55 ticket price just to see the Arcade Fire play again.

Danny Almonte

Ever wonder what happened to Danny Almonte, the Little League pitcher from the Dominican Republic who dominated the 2001 Little League World Series only to find out later that he was actually 14 and not 12? I did, so I Googled him to see what I could find. Turns out he's recently relocated to Miami's American High School and is now playing for the Florida Bombers, an 18-and-under Connie Mack team which boasts alumni such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Manny Ramirez. Before moving, Almonte pitched at NYC's James Monroe High School dominating NY high school baseball, going 8-0 with 77 strikeouts and an ERA below 1.40 in 2004. To top that off he also hit near .500 with five home runs. Almonte's is hoping to be picked in next year's MLB draft, so we may yet see him in a major league uniform one day.

Leon Knows Baseball

Nigel Thatch, the actor who plays Terrell Owens...I mean Leon in the excellent Budweiser ads recently signed a contract to play minor league baseball with the Schaumburg Flyers of the independent Northern League. According to the Flyers web site, Thatch was a pitcher at the University of Florida, but according to the Gators athletic department they haven't ever heard of the guy.

While this has all of the ringings of a publicity stunt, it appear Thatch does actually have some talent. On May 22nd he made his debut appearance against the St. Paul Saints pitching an inning of scoreless relief, striking out one and allowing only a 'wind-aided' double. Then again, the Saints are letting ESPN2's Cold Pizza host Jay Crawford pitch for them, so I guess the whole league can't be taken too seriously.

World Naked Bike Ride

We saw a poster for this today while we were walking through Wallingford. Naked Bicycle People Power!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Sasquatch Festival

Tomorrow we're going to the Sasquatch Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre in, I kid you not, George, Washington. I'm very excited as my two most favoritest bands will be playing: The Pixies (Viva La Black Francis!) and Wilco (Viva La Tweedy!). The rest of the line-up is also strong featuring Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse, Kanye West, Ray Lamontagne, Bobby Bare Jr., Joanna Newsom, Math and Physics Club and several other excellent bands. It should be an excellent way to kick off the three day weekend!

Rock School and Punk:Attitude

It was 87 degrees today in Seattle, so what better way to spend the afternoon than sitting in the EMP's air-conditioned JBL theater catching up on SIFF films?

The first film we saw this evening was Rock School (not to be confused with School of Rock). Rock School is a documentary about Paul Green's Pennsylvania music school where he coaches kids from age 9 to 17 on the finer points of being a rock star. The film follows Green's students as they prepare for a big gig at Zappanale, a Frank Zappa tribute festival held in Germany. The star of the film is Green who's verbally abrasive, tough love, Lean on Me-esque teaching style at times seems like genius and at other times seems like insanity. In addition to Green, keep an eye out for young guitar virtuoso C.J., and twin 9-year olds Asa and Tucker who rock out to Black Sabbath. I definitely enjoyed this one and would recommend seeing it if you get a chance. If you'd like to learn more about the film, I'd recommend checking out the press kit or the NYT review.

The second film we saw was Punk: Attitude, by famous DJ/music documentary director Don Letts. Punk:Attitude could be called Punk Rock 101: Intro To Punk as it provides an excellent survey course of the history of punk rock. The documentary begins with the roots of the punk movement, moves on to the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, spends the bulk of the film chronicling the New York and London punk explosions, and then moves on to the Washington D.C. hardcore scene, Nirvana, and modern 'punk' music. The film features lots of great live footage of punk bands throughout the years and interviews with Henry Rollins, Jim Jarmusch, Thurston Moore, Chrissie Hynde, Jello Biafra, Tommy Ramone, Legs McNeil, Siouxsie Sioux and former members of bands such as The Clash and The Slits . This film should be required watching for all Rock School applicants and every 13-year old kid out there wearing their freshly printed Ramones shirt. You can find a more detailed review on MovieWeb.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ichiro Is Number One

USS Mariner has a good post on Ichiro the anti-celebrity today. The post includes a link to a nice long article about him that was recently published in The Washington Post.

"Americans liked Ichiro because, for one thing, he was a throwback to another time. He had introduced them to a style of offense that many fans, accustomed to andro-induced sluggers and tape-measure home runs, had forgotten-- an attack based on the single, the hit and run and intrepid base running that had once defined the game." -- Robert Whiting

Monday, May 23, 2005

Get Behind Me Satan

Scenestars has a radio.blog stream of the new White Stripes album Get Behind Me Satan due out June 7th. The sound on the stream isn't great, but it's good enough to get a good taste of the album -- which by the way sounds much different from anything the Stripes have previously done. While you're at it, be sure to also check out the video for the first single "Blue Orchid".

Mad Hot Ballroom

Today we kicked off our 2005 SIFF attendance by seeing Mad Hot Ballroom at the Harvard Exit Theater. Mad Hot Ballroom is a documentary about 5th Grade students in three New York City public schools who take part in a manditory ballroom dance program which eventually culminates in a city-wide competition for a coveted trophy. The movie has drawn a lot comparisons to Spellbound, the excellent 2002 documentary on the National Spelling Bee, as both films are about kids and their involvement in these hyper-competitive situations. While I would have to say that Spellbound is a better film, Mad Hot held up on its merit and was quite enjoyable. The film was a big hit with the SIFF crowd and got a rousing ovation as the credits came up at the end. The kids and teachers in the film are great and definitely make it worth seeing when it goes out to wider release later this month. You can check out reviews on the film here.

In the evening we headed over to the Northwest Film Forum to catch Kings of the Sky, an experimental documentary about world-famous troupe of Mongolian tightrope walkers and circus performers in Chinese Turkestan. Part of the experimental nature of the film is that it attempts to tell the story without any narration or commentary to guide you through the film's imagery. While the concept is interesting and there were some great shots of amazing tightrope feats, I found the film challenging to follow without anyone to explain what we were seeing on screen. Trying to stay engaged in the film took a lot of concentration and energy. Eventually I just burned out and ended up leaving early.

For more on SIFF, check out Tablet Magazine's SIFF Blog.

The Devil Wears Pinstripes

Book #23 of 2005 was The Devil Wears Pinstripes: George Steinbrenner, the Satans of Swat , and the Curse of A-Rod by ESPN.com senior writer and UW alum Jim Caple. This is Caple's first book, though it basically reads like compilation of short satirical articles similar to the work he does for ESPN Page 2. To give you an idea of the flavor of the book, examples of chapter names include "The Ten Yankees Who Drive Us Nuts", "Darth Steinbrenner", and "The Dump That Ruth Built". In other words if you hate the Yankees you'll gonna like this book, but if you're a Yankee fan you might want to steer clear.

I think Caple's writing style is hilarious. He has a special flare for irony and clever similes (my favorite is his comparison between A-Rod and Leave It To Beaver's Eddie Haskell). There's lots of laugh out loud worthy moments, but on the down side the book gets a bit repetitive and beyond poking fun at the Yankees it doesn't provide a whole lot of fodder for hating them more than anyone reading the book probably did before they picked it up. Then again, I did learn that in 1974 Steinbrenner was convicted for illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon's campaign resulting in a two year suspension from baseball and that in 1990 Steinbrenner was temporarily banned from MLB for paying gambler Howard Spira $40,000 to try dig up dirt on outfielder Dave Winfield to aid the club in contract negotiations.

If you're unfamiliar with Caple's work and would like to check it out, you can find an archive of his ESPN Page 2 work here. You can also read an excerpt from his book here.

Friday, May 20, 2005

David Rakoff at the Big Picture

Tonight we saw David Rakoff read at the Big Picture in downtown Seattle. Rakoff was in town as part of the Nextbook lecture series. Last year I read Fraud, Rakoff's first book, so I was very excited to see he was coming to town (and for free too!).

At tonight's reading Rakoff read 'Including One Called Hell', an excellent essay from Fraud that recounts his experiences at a seminar called "Cultivating Compassion and Clarity" in which his instructor was none other than the habitually late "martial artist"/"Tibetan monk"/"musician" Steven Seagal. The second story Rakoff read tonight was a piece about his recent experience going through the naturalization process to become a U.S. citizen (Rakoff is originally from Canada). The new essay will appear in his forthcoming book Don't Get Comfortable, which is currently set for release in September of this year.

If you're not familiar with Rakoff's work, you can check out Salon's review of Fraud here. His style is similar to that of fellow This American Life contributors David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell, so if you like their books you will probably like Rakoff too.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Star Wars Episode III

This morning I woke up early to head over to the Loews Cineplex in Woodinville to watch an early showing of Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. I'm not a Star Wars expert, so I'll leave the reviews up to the bazillion other people who've probably already posted. I will say that this one was much, much better than the last two prequels and may even be on par with the original three. There are lots of great scenes and the cringe worthy moments are kept to a minimum (Jar-Jar is only on screen for 3 or 4 seconds).

I also happened to be downtown last night, so I got a chance to get in some good people watching of the fans waiting in line at the Cinerama to catch the midnight showing. It was entertaining to see all of the people who'd clearly been out there waiting for weeks, including many people who were fully decked out in various Star Wars costumes. The whole thing reminded me of the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog clip where he interviews people waiting in line for Episode II. Well worth checking out sometime if you haven't seen it already.

BTW, you can now address me as Darth Jamie.


Implement Plan 66!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

MLB Blogs

Major League Baseball recently launched it's own blogging service featuring blogs by former MLB stars such as Tommy Lasorda, Brooks Robinson and Jim Deshaies (oops, did I say former *stars*?...um did I mention Brooks Robinson?...heck of a third baseman he was) as well as blogs by announcers, fans, groundskeepers and other people interested in the game.

It's cool to see baseball is once again ahead of the curve on adopting internet technologies (their streaming video service is way cool), though I'm surprised that they're charging $50 a year for the service when you can easily get similar capabilities for free from Blogger, MoveableType, etc. Competition in this space is bound to be tight, as there are already loads of great baseball blogs out there. A couple of my favorite Seattle Mariners related blogs are Lookout Landing and USS Mariner. Lookout Landing has well sorted link to blogs for other teams, so it's a good place to get started even if you're not a Mariners fan (lucky you).

Invisible Monsters

Book #22 of 2005 was Chuck Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters. The main character in Invisible Monsters is Shannon McFarland, a former super model whose jaw shot is shot off in a drive-by 'accident' leaving her horribly disfigured. While recovering in the hospital, Shannon meets "The Queen Supreme" Brandy Alexander who she joins for a wild cross-country adventure to first reinvent themselves and then discover who they really are. It's a book with tons of twists and turns all written in Palahniuk's sordid minimalistic style.

I've previously ready Choke and Lullaby. Of the three Invisible Monsters is my least favorite, but I've enjoyed each. If you're unfamiliar with Palahniuk's work (Fight Club anyone?), Random House has posted a brief extract from the first chapter which should give you a flavor for how he writes.

I seem to be on a roll with reading books that are being turned into movies, as this one was long ago picked up by Mirimax and is set to be directed by Jesse Peyronel. Rumor has it that the film will star Jessica Biel as one of the main characters.

Palahniuk will be reading at Seattle's Town Hall this Wednesday night at 7:30pm.

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

M's vs. Red Sox Series

Today we saw the Mariners knock off the Red Sox 5-4 in a game that featured Manny Ramirez going yard for his 400th career home run. Miguel Olivo was the star for the M's, collecting three hits including his first home run of the season. Lookout Landing has a nice write-up about Olivo talking with Red Sox 1B Kevin Millar before the game to get some tips on his batting stance. They also have some cool screen shots of the stance Olivo was using in the 0 for 27 slump he entered today with compared with the stance he was using when he hit his home run.

We also attended yesterday's game which the Sox won 6-3 after a 7th inning grand slam by Trot Nixon. Nixon's home run was impressive, but the most amazing feat of the day was accomplished during batting practice when David Ortiz launched a ball over the Hit It Here Cafe into the right field upper deck. According to Mariners' announcer Dave Neihaus, Ortiz is only the second person he's seen accomplish this feat at Safeco Field, the other being fellow Red Sock and David Ortiz look-alike Mo Vaughn.

Counting Friday's game, the M's took two out of the three game series with the BoSox, moving them past the A's and out of last place in the American League West. They played much better ball this series, so I'm cautiously optimistic that they may be ready to turn the corner a bit and start winning some games.

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Doom To Take Over The World

MF Doom is featured on a track called "November Has Come" on the new Gorillaz album Demon Days (due out this Tuesday). You can stream his song as well as the rest of the album from MTV Italy's site. While you're there, also be sure to check out the video for the sure to be hit of the summer "Feel Good Inc." (which features De La Soul).

In other Doom news, it looks like he's teaming up with Dangermouse (of The Grey Album fame) to collaborate on a project called Dangerdoom. The project is reported to be a concept record focused around a pair of masked cartoon mice that live in the same neighborhood as a variety of Adult Swim characters. Can't wait to hear the Master Shake and Meatwad cameos!


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Okkervil River Is For Real

The new Okkervil River album Black Sheep Boy is really superb. The more I listen to it the more I'm growing on love it. It's definitely on my short list for best album released this year.

Their new animated video for the song "For Real" is available here in QuickTime format. The video was animated and directed by Portland filmmaker Zak Margolis who also does the animated diary "Drowning Boy". Will Sheff's description of the video can be found on the Jagjaguwar news page.

I'm also very excited that they're coming to town next week. They'll be playing at the Crocodile Cafe with tour mates Earlimart (also an excellent band). Definitely a show I'm going to make an effort to get to.

PhotoStamps

Stamp.com has brought back custom PhotoStamps! For $16.99 you can get a single sheet (20) of official U.S. Postage stamps with your own customized photos on them. It's a little bit pricy, but a very cool idea, especially for letters to family, friends, etc.

A trial run of the program was originally rolled out last August, but was eventually shut down amidst controversy over what kinds of images could be placed on the stamps.

Ichiro on Hitting

This month's issue of The Sporting News has an interview with the amazing Ichiro in which he shares some of his secrets on the art of hitting. The Seattle PI has posted a few quotes from the article. Definitely worth checking out as a lot of what he says flys in the face of conventional baseball wisdom.

Tim's Blog

My friend Tim, the Affable American, just started a blog. Stop by and welcome him to the blog-o-sphere.

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

Reading a 500+ page book is not the easiest way to stay on pace for the 50 book challenge, but part of the challenge is to read the books you would normally read and not just pick books that'll help you make your goal. With that in mind, I recently plowed my way through book #21 of 2005, Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.

Fear and Loathing is Thompson's gonzo journalism style account of his travels with the 1972 Democratic Presidential candidates as they work their way across the country fighting to win enough delegates to become the eventual Democratic nominee. Thompson's book continues after the DNC following the Democratic winner, George McGovern, and his flawed campaign to defeat the Republican incumbent Richard Nixon. The book gives an excellent insight into what goes on behind the scenes on a campaign trail and really provides a different perspective on how the political process works in our country. For a more detailed review, you can check out Tom Seligson's review in the New York Times.

Reading this book reminded me a lot of reading Stephen Elliot's recent political journal Looking Forward To It which follows the 2004 Democratic nominees up to the Democratic National Convention. In fact the correlation between the two elections is pretty interesting. McGovern was an anti-war candidate running during a time of war which many people felt was unjust. McGovern was a liberal candidate (more Dean than Kerry) taking on an unpopular conservative President who disdained the media. Many Democrats thought Nixon was very beatable in '72, but they didn't know if they had anyone who was the right candidate to do it (basically an 'Anybody but Nixon' mantra). McGovern felt that he could win the election by securing the Democratic base and motivating a large youth vote, only to find out later that the youth vote never showed up come election time. Nixon ran a well orchestrated campaign with record setting financing, while McGovern failed to set a clear platform and was eventually written off as indecisive. With Nixon's landslide victory, many people felt the '72 election signified a dramatic swing to the right in the country's politics. It's interesting to see some of the same scenarios playing out again 32 years later. I guess the good news for Democrats is that Nixon was out of office a mere two years later and by 1976 the Dems were back in the White House.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Seattle International Film Festival

It's SIFF time again! I'm going to try to make it to eleven films this year. Here's what I'm planning to check out (movie blurbs below are all from the SIFF website).

Mad Hot Ballroom
Fun and inspiring documentary that follows New York City 5th graders as they learn to rumba, tango, foxtrot and swing dance. Emphasizing that special age between childhood and adolescence, and the cultural diversity of NYC, it grips us with tension, triumph and heartbreak as the kids compete in a citywide competition.

Rock School
Through his unique School of Rock Music, Philadelphia musician Paul Green teaches future headbangers (ages 9-17) the virtues of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, and Frank Zappa. This entertaining doc follows an entire season of classes, exposing Green’s unorthodox teaching style and introducing us to a variety of aspiring young rockers.

Punk: Attitude
Legendary DJ and filmmaker Don Letts explores the explosive creativity, rebellious attitude, and D.I.Y. ethic that came out of the ’70s punk movement. With a ton of archival performance footage and interviews, PUNK: ATTITUDE chronicles the history of the vibrant subculture—from the pioneers to punk's offshoots and continued impact.

Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling
What ever happened to whistling? This oddball doc celebrates the joyous pastime, introducing us to several passionate puckerers who journey to Louisburg, North Carolina to compete in the 31st Annual National Whistling Competition. SPELLBOUND meets BEST IN SHOW in this funny and entertaining study of competitive hobbies and simple pleasures.

Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt
Folk troubadour Townes Van Zandt is considered one of the world’s greatest songwriters. While he never achieved commercial success, his music has influenced generations of folk, country, and rock artists. This loving portrait of the southern song-poet tells the bittersweet story of his life and pursuit of the perfect tune.

The Debt
One of Argentina’s most distinguished investigative TV journalists, Jorge Lanata, pursues the corrupt forces and disinterested bureaucracies responsible for the collapse of one of the richest countries in the world. In the style of Michael Moore, his journey takes us from Buenos Aires to Switzerland and, finally, Washington.

Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley
Singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley had a tremendous impact on artists and fans across the globe, despite only completing one full-length album before his death at age 30. AMAZING GRACE explores the phenomenon of Jeff Buckley, unearthing great performance footage and talking with fellow musicians, friends, family, and fans about his life and legacy.

Drive Well, Sleep Carefully: On the Road with Death Cab For Cutie
Seattle-based emo-pop band Death Cab For Cutie has been touring relentlessly since 1998. DRIVE WELL, SLEEP CAREFULLY captures the energy of their live shows, the ups and downs of life on the road, and a band surprisingly stable in the transition from “indie” to the big leagues. Director Justin Mitchell (SONGS FOR CASSAVETES) followed the group on their 2004 US tour supporting the phenomenal TRANSATLANTICISM album. He beautifully captured on 16mm film great performances in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Austin and New Orleans. Between songs, the film finds band members musing on the growth of indie music culture, telling the stories behind some of their songs, and relating the creative process they’ve honed over their seven years together. Singer Ben Gibbard talks about how songs become personal documents of people and feelings, and how the group’s recording sessions and tours have become time-markers in their lives. Chris Walla relates his different roles as musician and producer as we visit his “Hall of Justice” recording studio. And the film touches upon their recent success and future--having traded their van for a big tour bus and signed with a major label. Death Cab has traveled a long road. DRIVE WELL, SLEEP CAREFULLY captures glimpses of the journey and catches the band doing what they do best-: playing their infectious, introspective rock music really loud.

Dreamship Surprise - Period 1
This box office smash in Germany is an irreverent spoof of the sci-fi genre from STAR TREK to STAR WARS. In the year 2304, the Martian colonies wage war upon the Earth. Our only hope against total annihilation is the prissy crew of the Dreamship Surprise. Unfortunately, they're much better suited for the Miss Waikiki beach contest than interstellar heroics.

Lonesome Jim
Jim (Casey Affleck) comes home to the small town of Goshen, Indiana, after failing to succeed in New York City and finds it’s just as drab and mundane as the day he left. But Steve Buscemi’s latest comic drama shows how small and mundane things can turn a life around.

Kings of the Sky
Acclaimed filmmaker Deborah Stratman follows a world-famous troupe of Mongolian tightrope walkers and circus performers in Chinese Turkestan. With a wry, observant eye, Stratman records their life on the road and their jaw-dropping performances, in a film filled with subtle observations about the ever-changing contemporary Chinese society in the post-9/11 world.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

Today we saw The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I had been reluctant to see this one as I was fairly sure it would be just another in the long line of disappointing blockbusters, but fortunately I ended up being pleasantly surprised. I thought the movie did a good job of bringing the books to life and preserving Douglas Adams' off-beat sense of humor. It probably helped that it's been years since I've read any of the Hitchhiker's series and thus couldn't nit-pick on all of the things that were changed, left out, etc. (though I'm fairly certain the whole love interest was wedged in...what's up with that?).

I think Salon's review sums it up pretty well when it says "You'll know right away if this kind of loopy humor is for you." For me the humor was just right. If loopy humor is not your thing don't panic, I'm sure you'll get a kick out of Marvin, the manic depressive robot (think Eeyore), played by ex-Ewok Warwick Davis. Marvin steals the show in several scenes and has got to be on the short list of best robot characters ever.

For more reviews check out Rotten Tomatoes.

Ryan Adams Has A Beard

Add Ryan Adams to the indie rock beard club (you have to scroll down a little to see the pics)!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

826 Seattle - Benefit Booksale

On May 7th from 10am-6pm, I'm going to be volunteering at a booksale at the Wallingford Center. The booksale is a fundraising event to benefit 826 Seattle, a new nonprofit organization, which will be located in Greenwood. As a chapter of 826 National, 826 Seattle will provide area youth with writing programs and tutoring free of charge. The program will be modeled after Dave Eggers' (of McSweeney's fame) highly successful 826 Valencia in San Francisco. I helped set up the sale today and it looks like we're going to have some really great books at prices you can't beat. Combine that with the fact that the money is going to a great cause and it's hard to think of a better way to spend part of your Saturday afternoon!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

ACL Fest!

The Austin City Limits Festival lineup was announced today and it more than made up for yesterday's disappointing Bumbershoot announcement. The lineup for the first two years of the ACL festival were both superb, but this is looking like the best one yet! Some of the artists I'm most excited about include:
  • Wilco
  • Arcade Fire
  • Death Cab For Cutie
  • The Decemberists
  • Fiery Furnaces
  • Built To Spill
  • Lucinda Williams
  • Steve Earle
  • Bobby Bare Jr.
  • Mike Doughty
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Oasis
  • Jet
  • The Black Keys
  • The Walkmen
  • The Secret Machines
  • Ambulance LTD
  • Spoon
  • Mofro
In other news, ACL also announced that they will be reducing the capacity by 10,000 people per day to help alleviate some of the overcrowding effect people complained about last year. Smaller crowds + better overall lineup? Sign me up!

Music Videos

3 Music Videos worth checking out some time:

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Whither Thou Bumbershoot?

The preliminary Bumbershoot lineup was announced today and unfortunately it looks less than stellar. Acts lined up so far include:
  • Devo
  • Ani DiFranco
  • Son Volt
  • The Decemberists
  • Brazilian Girls
  • Tift Merritt
  • Digible Planets
  • Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
  • DeVotchKa
  • Mavis Staples

I'm excited about Son Volt, Tift Merritt and The Decemberists, but if these are really all of the headliners then this is definitely a down year compared to years past. The full line-up won't be out until July 15th, so we'll have to wait until then to see if they organizers have any surprises up their sleeve.

Ryan Adams Amazon List Updated

I just updated my Ryan Adams list on Amazon.com to include Cold Roses. Check it out to find a good discography of albums he appears on.

Pictures from Japanese Garden

A few pictures from a trip this weekend to Seattle's Japanese Garden.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Tonight I saw another excellent documentary, this one titled The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Wild Parrots is a film about Mark Bittner, a homeless man/dharma bum living in San Francisco who befriends a flock of wild parrots that live in the city. The topic may not sound super interesting at first, but the story is actually quite good and the film is extremely well done. For a good overview of the film check out the Washington Post review. Definitely recommended if you get a chance to catch this one.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room

Yesterday we saw a very good new documentary called Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. The movie is based on the well reviewed book of the same name, written by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind.

The film tells the story of Enron as a story that's less about the intricate numbers games used by the company to manipulate it's stock price, and more about the people at the center of it all. It's a story about power and its influence over people. In one startling scene, we're shown footage of a psychology study called The Milgram Experiment in which a test subject is coerced by a scientist into repeatedly shocking another man (actually an actor) as part of an experiment. Despite the fact that the test subject knows what he is doing is wrong, he continues to do it just because the scientists tells him it's okay to do so. The same sort of pyschology allowed Enron employees to continue to work in an environment where many people knew something was fishy, but were willing to believe that someone in a position authority would surely prevent anything from going wrong. It's unbelievably ironic that Enron's company motto was 'Ask Why' when it was the lack of the ability to ask this very question that ended up being their undoing.

If you've followed the Enron case at all closely, there's not a lot in the movie that will come as a shock, but the film does a good job of tying together a lot of information into a format that's entertaining and very watchable. Heck, they even manage to work in a gratuitous stripper scene and a clip from The Simpsons!

You can watch a trailer on-line here.