Saturday, November 8, 2008

Beauty through a Cracked Windshield

In this morning's New York Times Manohla Dargis previews the 10-film Robert Frank retrospective playing this weekend at the Anthology Film Archives. In case you don't want to read the whole thing, here's my favorite part [spoiler alert]:
The critic Amy Taubin has described The Americans as a road movie, an observation that underscores the rootless, searching quality of so many of [Robert Frank's] images, still and moving. This sensibility is even there in a lovely, understated 2002 short video, Paper Route, that finds him riding shotgun with a newspaper delivery man through Mr. Frank’s adopted hometown of Mabou, Nova Scotia. For 23 minutes he keeps his eye on this world’s barren beauty through a cracked windshield, which is about as perfect a metaphor for his persistence of vision as I can imagine.
Click here to visit the Anthology Film Archives.

Several beautifully packaged DVD sets of Robert Frank's films are available from Steidl. That's what they look like right there on the left.

Read a short review of Robert Frank's infamous Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues and watch a clip at Wooooo.

Friday, November 7, 2008

One Picture of One Picture

William Eggleston: Democratic Camera (Photographs and Video, 1961–2008) opens today at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. It is perhaps lucky for those of us who will miss it that Eggleston's work reads very well on the web—the backlighting of a computer monitor provides some semblance of the intense color in his dye-transfer prints.

Color photography can be considered in the realm of "art" almost singlehandedly because of William Eggleston's one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1976, curated by John Szarkowski. This show the Whitney is only his second one-man show in the United States.

It presents a huge survey of his work, including a recent re-edit of his film Stranded in Canton, shot in the early '70s. As the Times critic Holland Cotter puts it, "road trips and craziness were cool, and Mr. Eggleston set out on some hard-drinking picture-taking excursions. He also embarked on repeated shorter expeditions closer to home in the form of epic bar crawls…Mr. Eggleston would show up with friends at favorite bars, turn on his Sony Portapak, push the camera into people’s faces and encourage them to carry on."

Here are some clips:

There was also a documentary a few years ago called William Eggleston in the Real World. (Forgive me if you already know all this stuff, I'm just trying to, you know, surround the story.)

Here's the trailer:

Many more photos, film clips, writings, etc. can be found at

Click here to read the New York Times review and here to read a story on Eggleston from W Magazine, which includes this Juergen Teller portrait of the man:

More info on the Whitney exhibition, which runs now through January 25, 2009, can be found at

The Wide World of Mr. Littlejeans

There was a request recently for more posts featuring the cats.

Sometimes Jeans looks like a baby seal.

Our other cat, Inez, is beautiful and sweet too – but she is a stray and she will always be a stray. She was rescued as a kitten, along with her mom, brother, and sister, from a Brooklyn backyard on the block of Dean Street where Fortress of Solitude takes place (just to give you a little context, in case you know the block or the book, or both). The rescuers kept the mom, someone else got her brother and sister, and we got Inez. She could fit in the palm of my hand, she was so small.

The photo above perfectly expresses the relationship between our two cats. Jeans is gigantic (lay off, it's glandular) and rules the house. Inez worships him but he pays little attention, except to swat at her if she gets too close, or to occasionally lick her face if he's feeling charitable. We're glad to provide Inez a place to live and steady meal service ("three hots and a cot" as Emily puts it) but it's not really like having a regular cat – she's more of a roommate who we see every once in awhile.

And Jeans is just Jeans, the cat who thinks he's a little man.

PS - I have been instructed to inform the reader that in the above photo, Emily is watching TV, not looking wistfully away from the camera in some posey way.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Frontier Story

At Rachel Comey's Fall/Winter 2008 show earlier this year (held at the venerable Salmagundi Club), she showed some shoes with handwriting painted on the platforms—book titles like Séance on a Wet Afternoon, and if I remember correctly there was some Ouija board and Houdini stuff on there too.

For the special Northwest edition, sold only at Totokaelo and Impulse (36th North at Fremont Ave) I suggested using the title of Carol Ryrie Brink's 1935 book Caddie Woodlawn: A Frontier Story – and here they are. I love it when a plan comes together.

I should mention that Carol Ryrie Brink (1895–1981) was a resident of Moscow, Idaho, where Emily grew up. I remember a Caddie Woodlawn craze when I was in elementary school and Emily has a nice old copy:

Ryrie Brink wrote a bunch of other books but the only one I've read is Buffalo Coat (1944), which Emily bought me a few years back:

I highly recommend it for young and old dudes and ladies alike, as it is just a good old intrigue-filled pioneer story about the early days of Moscow.

I think some of Carol Ryrie Brink's books are still in print but you can also search for them at

Streets of Fire

I don't remember the color being so good in Seattle. Every time I walk by it, this tree around the corner blows my mind.

Destroyer Streets of Fire mp3

Look Up and Live

Some random photos...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A new day

I don't even know what to say. It feels good to be proud of our country.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tonight in Celebratory Drinking:

See you there.

James Brown Funky President mp3

Hawks & Doves

Emily found this really cool little wooden bird at D&G Antiques in Butte, Montana.

There are a bunch of good antique and vintage stores in Butte, but this is one of the best, for its sheer variety, organization, and fair prices. Guy and Delores Palmer are also probably some of the nicer people you will meet in the great state of Montana.

Down Here on the Ground

While we were on the road, Paul Newman died, and I wanted to post something about that, but it fell through the cracks. Being so late with it, I won't add another obituary to the mix…I will take the opportunity, though, to post one of the most beautiful pieces of soundtrack music I've ever heard, from one of Newman's best films.

Lalo Schifrin Ballad of Cool Hand Luke mp3

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Virginia is for Lovers

...of modern architecture:

Today's New York Times Magazine features some stunning Nikolas Koenig photos of a Frank Lloyd Wright house in McLean, VA. Constructed from cinder blocks and completed in 1959, it sits on a cliff overlooking the Potomac River.

Click here to read the article and see a slideshow.

Chilis I have loved

We had dinner Saturday night at Mike's Chili in Ballard and were served by Mike himself, whose grandfather Mike (or maybe great-grandfather Mike) built the place in 1922. (This old photo is from the website, and kind of looks Deer Hunter-era, but the place looks exactly the same nowadays.) I have been wanting to go forever and it did not disappoint. As someone whose better half orders chili just about every time we eat at a diner or bar, and as someone who then steals a good amount of that chili, I have had a lot of chili – and Mike's is very, very good. I'm not sure if it's the best I've ever had, but it would be pretty dang close. I'll have to try it again and then I'll let you know.

It's for the curious, it's for the hopeful

The other day we went to Seattle's Museum of History & Industry, something I had been looking forward to for quite awhile, having spent some days as a kid skipping school with my mom and my brother to do just this. We would go to the museum and look at all the old stuff they had on display, and then we'd ride the bus downtown to the Paul Bunyan room at Frederick & Nelson for banana splits. I remember my mom saying the bus would "turn on Pike or Pine." For a long time after that I thought there was a street in Seattle called Pikerpine.

The Museum of History & Industry has a fancy new acronym: MOHAI. Either everyone in that committee meeting was 85 years old, or this is some genius ploy to get people to smoke up and visit the museum. (Or both. Who knows, the Northwest is crawling with hippies.)

Whatever the case, sadly, the MOHAI has seen much better days. It used to be like Seattle's own Mütter Museum of junk, but in attempting to become more kid friendly it's gotten a bit schlocky. (This phenomenon is not unique to the MOHAI—I experienced the results of this trend in my stint at the Museum of Natural History in New York several years ago. I actually think kids are better off if they aren't always treated like kids. When you over-think what is kid friendly or not, it often just makes things boring.)

Writing in The Stranger a couple weeks ago after visits to both the MOHAI's storage facility and the Las Vegas Neon Museum, Erin Langner put it well:
In the process of creating a comfortable and often sterilized facility, the environment that allows objects to be explored rather than just explained can be lost. Both MOHAI's warehouse and the Neon Museum evoke the traditional wunderkammern, or "cabinets of wonder," back to which American museums trace their origins. The overpowering curiosity that comes with entering a space abounding with unlabeled artifacts is a natural inspiration to look closely and to ask questions, two tasks that mainstream museums spend large amounts of time, money, and text trying to encourage in their 21st-century audiences.
So that's that, I won't go on about it, I was disappointed overall. I'm really hoping that once the MOHAI moves to its new location at the Naval Reserve Building on South Lake Union, it will re-integrate some of the weird stuff.

That being said, there are still are some cool things to see at the current location:

People protesting the massive Boeing layoffs of the early '70s.

Boeing's first plane (the B-1, introduced in 1919) still hangs from the ceiling. Below it sits the Slo-Mo-Shun IV Hydroplane.

An early computer from Boeing. Everyone likes a good control panel.

An old dress from a couturier window in the fake circa-1889 town.

"Gradual withdrawal can mean a lifetime."
Or a hundred years or whatever, but who's counting.

The men's bathroom still has its nice old wood and metal fixtures – very nautical, aren't they? (I'm not sure why but they seem like they'd be on a boat. The Côte d'Ivoire maybe. Very much so.)

And the parking lot still has this old cannon, pointed across the lake at Kirkland.

So, basically, in conclusion, the place is worth seeing but hopefully it will be even better when they let some stuff out of storage.

Also, it's still a good idea to have a banana split after you go.

More info at