Friday, July 11, 2008

Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More

Unless you have been sleeping under a rock, re-living The Wackness, or endlessly obsessing on the veepstakes, you have probably heard that Sub Pop Records is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week. Friends and readers of this blog will recall that I am interested in the history, character and characters of the Northwest, and Sub Pop embodies that just as much as old Hank Yesler or Tiny Freeman or the Skid Road, or the houses of ill repute below it. Apparently, see above, there is actually a Sub Pop logo flag flying at the top of the Space Needle, which is painted to look like the their 7" record labels. I could go on, but instead I recommend pointing your browser toward the General Bonks for Sub Pop-related stories, videos, and unfettered genius in blog form. Here are a few choice quotes:

"I always liked that Bruce assigned a catalog number to his daughter Iris when she was born. It really stymied all the completists."

"The crazy economics of the time, economics that allowed penthouse space for a couple of self-proclaimed losers, were a big part of putting Seattle on the cultural map."

"Lots of hungry crazies would come in, mistaking the SUB POP for SUB SHOP. It was fun."

Happy birthday, Losers.

Mudhoney Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More mp3

The Dopeness

Emily and I also saw The Wackness last weekend (we saw a lot of movies last weekend).

I don't think it's going to go down as one of the most memorable films ever, but it's a great summer movie and worth seeing. Olivia Thirlby and Ben Kingsley are particularly good. Method Man shows his, um, range as a Jamaican drug dealer, but his accent is a little too perfect, and things get a little matchy-matchy when he pops in a tape of "The What," his own real-life collab with Biggie. Still, I was very entertained for two hours and The Wackness does a nice job of capturing the feeling of New York in 1994.

June of that year was the first time I ever came to New York City. I was really into hip-hop and I was dying to go to the New Music Seminar that summer—so for my graduation present, my parents pooled their money and bought me a plane ticket, an NMS badge, and a room at the YMCA on the Upper West Side for a week. I would very happily stay there again. The room was $38 a night, the showers down the hall were clean, I pretty much had the whole floor to myself, and it was fully air conditioned. That came in particularly handy, considering it was over 100º the entire time I was here. I saw a lady faint on the Second Avenue F platform, it was so hot.

I got to see tons of shows—the Gravediggaz' first release party, the infamous Supermen DJ and freestyle battles, Jeru with Group Home and Premier, a big showcase with KRS-One and a bunch of other people where Ol' Dirt McGirt kept rushing the stage—and best of all, the Rocksteady Crew's anniversary party up at Rocksteady Park, where among tons of other good performances, Mad Skillz reprised his legendary freestyle from Stretch & Bobbito's radio show, and the crowd went freaking NUTS. I went to Fat Beats on the first day it opened on East 9th Street and maxed my credit card, picking up tons of stuff that was impossible to find in Seattle. I ate breakfast at the Carnegie Deli almost every day, on my way to the Seminar. I walked everywhere and when I couldn't take the heat anymore, I rode the subway to different parts of Brooklyn or Queens or Uptown, and walked around more. It was mind-blowing and I knew I would have to live here someday.

KRS-One Hip Hop Vs. Rap MP3
Mad Skillz & Q-Tip Freestyle (from WKCR 89-tek-9, April 94) MP3

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Straight Six

Wooooo no.6 is on the way! We're about to copy edit the last interviews, and Andre is designing the magazine as I type. I don't know how ol' Crombie does it—every issue outdoes the one before it. I can't disclose the contents at this time but suffice it to say that they will make you feel free, like the wind, like you want to get on your steed and just ride, like the young warrior pictured above. Stay tuned right here and to for updates.

Unrelated clever blog title reference no.98997:
The Mountain Goats Straight Six mp3
(Sub Pop Singles Club, November 2001)

Party and Bullsh*t

My bud Byron has a new band and they're playing their first show tonight—quickly, loudly, and with questionable ability. It's on at 8pm, at Club Europa...must be Polish. 98 Meserole Ave at Manhattan Avenue. I will not be in attendance as my dad is getting into town today, but I guarantee it will kick ace and I recommend it. Also on the bill is Pink Reason, Talibam, and Seattle's own PWRFL POWER, who is to music as Eagle vs. Shark is to movies.

PWRFL POWER Alma Song mp3

The Battle of Evermore

We interrupt the steady barrage of design, fashion, art direction and high-speed camping to bring you this brief acknowledgment of weightier issues. In this week's New Yorker, Seymour Hersh has another ultra-informative/ultra-spooky article on the administration's secret operations against Iran. Read "Preparing the Battlefield" here and/or listen to an audio interview with Hersh here.

For a short history of our involvement in Iran (with a nice running start that gives you some background on Iranian history) I recommend Stephen Kinzer's book All the Shah's Men.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Talkin' New York

This week's issue of New York features a series of articles on the magazine's founder, Clay Felker, who passed away last week. One of them is written by Felker's first employee, Tom Wolfe. There are also comments from, among others, Felker's wife Gail Sheehy and former New York staffers Pete Hamill, Gore Vidal, and Gloria Steinem (Felker financed the first issue of Ms. magazine). Former New York editor Kurt Andersen also has an interesting piece.

I never really knew anything about Clay Felker before I read the Times' obit, but reading about him this week has been an eye-opening, fascinating crash course in how the magazine got started—how any magazine gets started—and how much New York has shaped magazine publishing since. Andersen writes that "Probably all outsiders (if they are, in [E.B.] White's genius phrase, 'willing to be lucky') mentally compile a New York City field guide and playbook when they're in their twenties and thirties, but Felker did so literally, and published it in weekly serial form." On the art direction tip, there's this little nugget from Milton Glaser, New York's founding design director: "We tried to design a magazine that you could understand completely in ten minutes just by flipping through the pages and using those overarching heads that we always had, and those subheads that sort of explained things."

I'm still kind of processing the whole thing, but it's ultra-inspiring and I recommend checking it out if you're obsessed with magazines, as I am. The whole thing is online, but do yourself a favor, head for the newsstand and pick it up as it was meant to be read.

P.S. On thinking a little more about Felker's approach—Andersen calls it a mix between the descriptive (i.e., about people) and the prescriptive (i.e., about what people should buy or see or experience)—it seems odd to me that no one mentions fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, (or even Vanity Fair, on some level) which had been publishing that mix themselves before New York. They were probably considered fluff, or with a more limited audience, though, and what Felker did was something like that approach, but mixing in "harder hitting" reportage and literary sensibilities, changing the fashion to status, and giving it some ritalin and locality.

Still processing...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Book It

At long last, this baby is headed for the printer. Should be in stores early next month.

Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful

On a lazy Fourth of July afternoon we finally had a chance to dig into our our Netflix and watch Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool (1969, trailer above, check it out). It stars Robert Forster as a cameraman in Chicago who meets a single mother, played by Verna Bloom (who you might know from such roles as the boozily scorching Mrs. Dean Wormer in Animal House). Forster's character covers various local news events and eventually the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, and the story is intertwined with actual footage of that and the riots that went with it. It's a visually beautiful film—one of those, like Easy Rider or Cool Hand Luke or Killer of Sheep that makes you love and hate your country in a really melancholic, mixed-up way. (Trying to explain things like this makes it clear I am not a writer... just trust me, it's good.)

Chicago blues-funk heroes Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield and others provide a really stellar, psychedelic-Bullitt kind of score, with one interlude from the Mothers of Invention that I'm hoping I can find on vinyl some day.

The Voluptuous Horror

Last night we watched Burnt Offerings (1976, 116 minutes) on one of the second-tier Showtime channels—which is to say, one of the eleventh-tier movie channels.

The trailer makes it look scary, but trust me, this is a film remarkable only for its ability to sustain a protracted, utterly mediocre level of terror. The second-to-last minute is thoroughly chilling, mainly because you've wanted to be scared for the previous 114 minutes, and because you knew Karen Black was a total weirdo and were wondering what the hell was going on behind her weirdo eyes. Then the credits come. You've been through a trying experience, and you feel oddly satisfied that it's over.

After that, we watched Factotum, an adaptation of the highly esteemed Charles Bukowski novel, starring Matt Dillon as the lovable Henry Chinaski, and Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei as his special lady friends.

It was good, a worthy adaptation without having the budget to be a full period piece. Seemed like a good way to end a Fourth of July weekend.