Saturday, November 15, 2008

256 Colors

The color in this new Louis Vuitton campaign is intense. Things don't really look like that in real life, but in this case I think the lighting and post-production are so well done that it inspires a sort of heightened awareness of color, which I think is useful in real life. Photographers Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott (who I have mentioned previously here, here, and here) continue to revisit this theme.

Black Moth Super Rainbow:
I Think That It Is Beautiful That You Are 256 Colors Too mp3

Friday, November 14, 2008

Your Weekly Mr. Littlejeans

I'm not trying to pimp my cat or something but it has become clear he is far more popular than me or anything I could ever write on this here blog. So in the words of Miss Edie Brickell, "I give up." I will post a picture of him every Friday from now on until his furry, sweet, generous, slightly self-centered, taxed little heart gives out, or until mine does (with all of the same qualifiers before it).

Have a good weekend.

The Rap World

I saw Large Professor at S.O.B.'s one time, I think it was around 2001 or so – one of the stranger, better hip-hop shows I've ever seen. He headlined, following a couple other people, most notably Mad Skillz. At the time, the Extra P, as Large Professor is also known, was in the middle of what seemed like a crisis of direction, having been one of the greatest architects of the greatest era of hip-hop, but failing to transform that success into a banner career as a solo artist (even after, or maybe in part because of, a massive advance from Geffen). When it was his turn to take the stage, he was a little awkward – it was like he had crawled up there after a couple years making beats in his basement, and didn't quite know what to do.

What made the show great was that he didn't really care. He was alone – no DJ, no hype men – and to do his songs, he'd walk back and pull up a new beat or put an instrumental on the turntable, and then go back to the front of the stage and bust his rhyme. When the song was over, he'd walk back and switch the record, sometimes pausing between songs to play a couple bars of a new beat he was working on, or some old records he had just found. He'd say things like 'Yo, check out this loop I just found…prob'ly flip that some time. Check this out....'

It was weird but it was one of the more intimate shows I've been to, and as a hip-hop nerd, totally gratifying. I ran into Premier at the bar and I remember thinking it was cool to see these two genius producers in the same room – that they probably had a common understanding of the trials and tribulations of hip-hop that few other people could understand.

I bring this all up because Large Professor is in Seattle tonight, playing a show at Nectar. (Or is it Nektar. I hope it's just Nectar.) I don't think I'm gonna go – one show a week is enough for me, I have other plans, and honestly I'm pretty sure my current mood will also require sustained activity at one of the city's finer dive bars. But if you ever do get a chance to see him, I recommend it – whatever happens, you can be sure that he will stay real.

A couple semi-obscure Large Pro gems for good measure:

Large Professor & OC freestyle from Stretch & Bobbito's show, 11/93
Large Professor & Pete Rock
The Rap World mp3
Organized Konfusion
Stress (Large Professor Remix) mp3
Gang Starr
Gotta Get Over (Large Professor Remix Instrumental) mp3

New Store:

Following the success of the website, the new Totokaelo brick-and-mortar store opens tomorrow in a beautifully remodeled space in the Maritime Building. Fitting right in amidst the design stores and architects on Western Avenue, Totokaelo will feature selections from Rick Owens, Junya Watanabe/Comme des Garçons, MM6 by Maison Martin Margiela, Zero + Maria Cornejo, Isabel Marant, Y's by Yohji Yamamoto, Stella McCartney, Vanessa Bruno, United Bamboo, Rachel Comey, Opening Ceremony, Acne, and others. Stop by and check it out at 913 Western Avenue (between Madison & Marion) in beautiful Seattle WA.

A Frontier Story

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fleet Foxes on La Blogotheque

"Sun Giant" and "Blue Ridge Mountains," Paris, May 2008

"What were you before you were a wizard?"

I recently came across this book in the family collection that I absolutely loved as a kid. It was published in 1967 but seems very current, kind of along these lines in a weird psychedelic sorcerous magic sort of way. Here's a small selection of spreads – it's worth clicking-to-enlarge so you can see the illustrations close up and read the text.

I found a bit of info on the author. According to The New York Times, Philip Ressner (1922–2006) authored half a dozen successful children's books, starting in 1965 with August Explains, "the tale of a wise old bear who is very good at magic." Ressner was originally from Brooklyn and went to Brooklyn College and the University of Wyoming. Before his career as a writer and editor, he served in the Army in Europe in World War II, and worked as a New York City subway motorman while attending New York University. He would later work at Scientific American. In the 1980's, Ressner worked for the Metro-North Railroad as writer-editor of Mileposts, a monthly newsletter for commuters. Seems like an interesting dude.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Green Lake, White House

I love this house in the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle. (Actually it's right across the street from the lake.)

It reminds me a little of this 1930 Mies van der Rohe house:

That is all.

Update: Jess from Vintage Seattle was kind enough to do a little research, and found out that the Green Lake house was built in 1948.

The Ones that's True

The members of Digable Planets are re-uniting for a show in Seattle tonight. Here's the video for the first single from their second album – which, when I saw it, made me want to move to Brooklyn and walk around for a few years…

…and here's a lesser-known b-side of the last single from that record. More of a long interlude than a fully delineated song, "Dedicated" was one of my favorite cuts Digable Planets ever recorded. The group had followed the Grammy-laden whirlwind of its first record with a much more underground-sounding album, Blowout Comb, which was not exactly loved by critics (it has since gained much more respect, and I find myself appreciating its lyrical and musical complexity more in recent years than I did when it first came out). This non-album cut seemed like an artist's statement of sorts – an explanation of where they were coming from, regardless of Grammies or critical response.

Digable Planets Dedicated mp3

Veterans Day

I meant to mark Veterans Day yesterday by posting an excerpt from the stories my Grandpa Don wrote down before he died. He was a Marine guarding the US Embassy in Beijing in the 1930s, and was the night guard on duty there who first saw the flash of gunfire in the distance when the Japanese invaded. He had some amazing stories, and many photos to go with them…but of course all of that stuff is in storage right now and I couldn't get to it. When I can, I think I might start posting some of his stories, maybe once a week. After he got back from China, he tried selling vacuums in Seattle, but the depression made that just about impossible – so he hopped a fishing boat and homesteaded in Alaska, before joining up with the Navy and constructing the base at Sitka. He would go on to build a big chicken farm on Vashon Island, a bunch of houses, cattle ranches and a bull test in Ellensburg, Moses Lake, and Whidbey Island, and…anyway, the stories go on and on. More on that later.

For now, here's a photo of our President-elect from the Times this morning. This struck me as an extraordinarily quiet, moving image.

President-elect Barack Obama marked Veterans Day by laying a wreath at the Bronze Soldiers Memorial in Chicago. He was joined by Tammy Duckworth, Illinois’s director of veterans’ affairs, who served in the war in Iraq and lost both of her legs there.

It's Not a Game

First there was Visionaire 51 Harmony, a limited-edition set of puzzles featuring the photography and artwork of Maurizio Cattelan, Vik Muniz, Yayoi Kusama, and others. Now Art+Commerce gets into the puzzle game ("the puzzle game?" seriously? what is my problem?! i hate it when people call things the [fill in the blank] game, and here i am doing it. the absolute worst is in that Cadillac commercial where the girl from E.R. says "In today's luxury game...." ugh, the worst. maybe it's okay for a puzzle though)…anyway…gets into the puzzle game with this new 1000-piece, signed-and-numbered offering featuring a classic Steven Meisel photo. My puzzle-obsessed friends—they know who they are—know what they're getting next time I have a spare $750.

More info at Art+Commerce.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One More Climb Up Indian John Hill

This weekend we got in the ol' jeep and headed out once again for a trip across the mountains – Emily's grandma Lillian was turning 90 and the fam threw a big party at her house in Yakima.

On the way back, we stopped through Ellensburg, where the skies are not cloudy all day, gas is $2.04 a gallon, and it would be very, very easy to spend a lot of money in antique stores.

We showed considerable restraint in picking up only the following:

An odd little metal bookshelf with a horse on it. There's a coil on the back that holds the books in place.

A children's record with music by Dick Hyman, and a cover illustraton by Leo and Diane Dillon. They illustrated a bunch of children's books my brother and I loved as kids, as well as this beautiful cover for Lalo Schifrin's The Fox soundtrack, among other things:

I also snapped up a 1904 wax cylinder recording for the truly low low price of $3.00. This is what records looked like before they were flat:

The song is called "I May Be Crazy but I Ain't No Fool." The Library of Congress has a listing for it here.

The grooves are on the inside of the tube. When my friend Mike and I were at Joe Bussard's house a few years back, he had a bunch of these and a machine on which to play them. Obviously I will probably never be able to listen to this one but it's a cool little thing to have on a shelf.

[Click here for a little more info on Joe Bussard, including a short audio documentary; I think I've recommended this before, but the film on Bussard entitled Desperate Man Blues is a must-see.]

It was nice to get out of town for a minute.

Roy Last Climb Up Indian John Hill mp3

Monday, November 10, 2008

Maps of the World

On the advice of the excellent mostly-art blog Best Of, we checked out the current show at Vermillion: Ryan Molenkamp's The San Juans. It's very good—it evokes the otherworldly quality of the San Juan Islands without being overly reverential or literal.

There's something about Molenkamp's technique that reminds me of a cross between this Peter Doig painting, which I clipped out of Harper's magazine long ago and look at all the time…

…and the drawings of BMX tracks they used to have in Bicycle Motocross Action magazine when I was a kid, where they had these hatch marks showing the angle and elevation of the berms:

Also showing right now is Cheryl Gilge's Spatial Transgressions series.

The two shows kind of bleed together, both being topography-related, and I think both artists' work is good enough that it might have been better to give them each their own exhibition. But no matter really – there's lots of interesting things to look at either way. I recommend checking it out and then having some drinks and delicious snacky foods in Vermillion's lovely back bar room while you're at it. More info and images at

The next day we went to Punch Gallery (on Prefontaine just South of Yesler), which is currently showing Justin Colt Beckman's Honky Tonk.

The Ellensburg-based artist has transformed a modern space into a convincing honky-tonk bar, complete with sawdust on the floor, cans of peanuts in shells, and a metal tub of Busch beer on ice, which he offered us as we walked in. "The show's about to begin," he told us. "Grab a bench."

For the show, Beckman appears on stage in video-projection form, lip-synching classic country songs ("There's a tear in my beer / 'cause I'm crying for you deer / you were on my lonely mind") to an enthusiastic audience (that would be us, plus an applause track). You might think it was one of those one-man show kind of deals where you're not sure when it's okay to leave, but you would be wrong – the whole thing was oddly captivating and we stayed right up through the encore-with-banjo.

Honky Tonk is a really unusual idea, executed just about perfectly. The thing is, a lot of actual bars have adopted this kind of decorative scheme in real life, and it would have been easy for Beckman to simply echo that explosion of nostalgia (which actually does often succeed in being relaxing, fun, etc.—who doesn't like to kick back and listen to tunes in the comfort of old stuff while they drink some beers?) Instead, Honky Tonk is a thought-provoking meditation on city vs. country, high-tech vs. digital, and real vs. not real. In other words, it goes beyond the decorative surface appeal and addresses the impulse behind it…or something. I enjoyed the gallery's description of the show, so maybe it's best if I re-print it here in full and leave it at that:

Inspired by music variety shows, karaoke, and childhood lip-sync concerts, Justin Colt Beckman’s Honky Tonk transforms PUNCH Gallery into a full-scale country bar for three weeks during the month of November. Combining video projection and sound, with found materials he's dragging over from rural Washington, Beckman continues his investigation into the urban/rural dichotomy and its associated stereotypes as he explores the act of country music stardom vicariously through his art-making.

In their many manifestations, the terms hillbilly, redneck, and white trash have been used in national media representations and by Americans within and outside rural areas to both uphold and challenge the dominant trends of contemporary American life, including urbanization, the ever-expanding centrality of technology, and the resulting routinization of American life. While often used to define the benefits of advanced civilization through negative counterexample, these terms have also been used to question the legitimacy of modernity and progress. Whatever. We just want to drink some cold beer, throw our peanut shells on the floor, and watch Beckman sing a few of his favorite country tunes.

Cheers to that. I would have happily stayed for another, but we had places to be. The show is up through November 22nd; more info at

Sunday, November 9, 2008

All American

This week's episode of This American Life features excerpts from the late, great Studs Terkel's radio show, among other things. It is riveting stuff. Click here to listen.


Michael Chrichton died this past week from complications related to being an a-hole. He was responsible for a pretty great movie though, the first drive-in movie I ever saw as a kid, over by the Burgermaster off of 520 in Bellevue:

Two sequels followed: Futureworld, and a little smutfest called Sexworld that a friend of mine got a hold of in high school.

Thank you, Michael Chrichton, for making the world a little warmer.