Category Archives: Seattle

Interview: David Schmader on Literacy, Neighborhoods, LGBTQ, and Cannabis

David Schmader

David Schmader

David Schmader is an American writer known for his solo plays, his writing for the Seattle newsweekly The Stranger, and his annotated screenings of Paul Verhoeven’s “Showgirls.” He is the author of the 2016 book “Weed: The User’s Guide.” And he is the Creative Director of the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a literary arts center offering free programs for youth ages 6 to 18. I had the opportunity to interview David and discuss better approaches to community and seeking common ground. Locally, for those of us who are a part of the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle, we have been undergoing a recharge, a rallying around, after a gas leak explosion that tore into the fabric of everyday life. With BFI preparing to return to its original Greenwood site this month, it seemed to me a good time to check in with a thoughtful leader in our community. I begin our interview going back to that March 9th gas leak explosion in the middle of the night. Fueled with cups of coffee, we settled in at Couth Buzzard Books for this interview.

HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: What were your reactions to the Greenwood gas leak explosion when you found out about it?

DAVID SCHMADER: I was at home in bed. And it didn’t affect me directly as I live in Beacon Hill. I got a call really early in the morning asking if I’d go look at what had happened. I got here not too far from where we are now. And it looked like the Gaza Strip. There was a doorframe in a tree. It was insane. BFI wasn’t torn up a lot visually but it’s an old enough building that the blast unearthed all sorts of things like toxic dust and foundation issues. So we had to move out right away. We had to clear out and we’ve been out since then. We’ll be coming back in July.

Investigators stand amid rubble from Greenwood neighborhood explosion. 9 March 2016.  (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

Investigators stand amid rubble from Greenwood neighborhood explosion. 9 March 2016. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

HC: I see the Phinney-Greenwood neighborhood as strong. The Phinney Neighborhood Association, our local community center, stepped in to help coordinate donations with the Greenwood Relief Fund. And the Bureau of Fearless Ideas stepped in with its special gift to its neighbors. Would you share with us this opportunity for community-building?

DS: Yes, it was like that phrase from The Simpsons. We had a “crisitunity.” We were working on this book, “Encyclopedia Greenwoodia,” which is half adult writers and half young student writers. It was writing stories about Greenwood, interviewing business owners, writing mystery stories set in local businesses, and really taking a dive imaginatively into our neighborhood. Before the explosion, this was going to be a cute little boutique item for parents of our students and gifts to donors. We had just sent the book to the publisher; and, after the explosion, it became something much different. All of a sudden, some of the places that kids had set stories in were now gone, like Mr. Gyros and Neptune Coffee. So, we doubled the print run and made everything benefit the Greenwood Relief Fund. It was an unusual opportunity. We couldn’t bring this out and just pretend nothing had happened in the neighborhood.

BIF at its home in Greenwood.

The Bureau of Fearless Ideas at its home in Greenwood.

HC: Reading “Encyclopedia Greenwoodia,” I find an uncanny relevance. I love all the work. And I have some favorites. We’re here in Couth Buzzard Books Cafe and that makes me think of 9-year-old Meghan Doyle’s essay on this landmark bookstore cafe and the smell of fresh apple pie for sale here. Another 9-year-old, Maya Mullaney, reports on the Phinney Neighborhood Association’s director, Lee Harper, and her dog training adventures. Then there’s really marvelous stuff like Paul Constant’s essay on the poetry mailbox. And there’s your piece on being freaked out by taxidermy in Greenwood.

DS: Yeah, my first job in Seattle was on a house cleaning team in Greenwood. I was a vegetarian and having to dust these taxidermied animal eyes was a crisis moment. And I got to write about it for this book.

Local Flavor: Couth Buzzard Books Espresso Buono Cafe

Local Flavor: Couth Buzzard Books & Espresso Buono Cafe

HC: We both moved to Seattle around the same time, the early ’90s. And I was just wondering about what led you here. I’m guessing part of it had to do with Seattle ranking high as a livable city and our love for the arts.

DS: My training was in being a professional actor, conservatory training. Everyone I graduated with went to New York. And I didn’t want to go to New York. I love to visit. But I’d have to be a bazillionaire to live happily there. I had a friend who had graduated a year earlier who had come out to Seattle and she told me that Seattle had a great and accessible theater scene and a great and accessible gay scene. This was still the “bad ole days” when you lived life in the closet and eventually found a way to come out. It left you with this totally bifurcated experience. There was this thing when training as an actor, before I came out, where I was doing this double layer, this facade. I didn’t have this exportable personality product yet. I was still this under construction semi-closeted wannabe writer. So, I found everything I wanted in Seattle. But I hated going on auditions so I stopped being an actor and I started writing and it worked out.

HC: Not too long after moving to Seattle you became a staff writer at The Stranger.

DS: This is going back to the first thing I wrote. I was a performer during the time of of the “NEA Four”, Karen Finley, punk rock performance artists. I was coming out and I was obsessed with Guns N’ Roses, the most homophobic band in the world. So, I wrote a show about that called, “Letter to Axl.” The Stranger gave it such a good review that it prompted me to tour it around the country. They ran the show as an essay. And now I was an essayist! Dan Savage started directing my shows and they started giving me assignments through that. And then I got that column, Last Days. Sean Nelson had written it for about six months and then his band, Harvey Danger, took off. I took over and wrote the column for the next 18 years.

HC: Let’s talk about your book, “Weed: The Users Guide.” I see it as such a positive thing. I see you exercising your role as a leader in the community and an educator. You take a very balanced approach.

DS: Thanks for pointing that out in your review.

HC: Yes, you’re welcome. It’s such a distinctive thing you do. Would you share that with us?

DS: I don’t care if anyone smokes weed. I’m not a proselytizer for it. I wanted the book to be sort of like a book about a guy and his scotch. But even with scotch, not everyone likes scotch.

HC: No full support on scotch. Scotch is harsh.

DS: Yeah, and apparently gin turns some people into monsters. So, the idea is that not everyone is going to like weed; and don’t think there’s anything wrong with you if you don’t like weed. Because it’s all about your system and what kind of feelings you enjoy. In your review, you quoted that chunk about why people don’t like weed. And I thought that was great as most people had not focused on that.

HC: This book seems to be an ideal resource for young people asking questions about weed.

DS: I don’t condone people under twenty-one using weed.

HC: Yes, certainly, that makes sense because of brain development.

DS: I hope that legalization creates this normal channel that, if you wait this long, you can get your weed. It used to be that, with alcohol, kids knew to be patient; but, with weed, there was no legal route to use it so why not smoke it in the 8th grade. Smoke it when you can get it because they’re trying to keep it from you. Now, the idea is to get rid of that counterculture mystique and see it as a grown-up pleasure that you can enjoy when you’re a grown-up.

HC: When it’s a completely new mindset, when you get rid of that mystique, things will change. How long do you think before we get there? Another generation?

DS: I guess. I can see having a drink in front of your kids but not weed because of that weird lingering shadow of it. I think it will just be a matter of time when you can see that they’re both the same. Although, it does stink up a room so that’s not the same as having a beer.

HC: Yeah, weed is a different animal.

DS: Sure, I’m just thinking of how it will be treated by society, not inside the human system. I’m thinking in terms of something that adults do.

"Weed: A User's Guide" by David Schmader

“Weed: A User’s Guide” by David Schmader

HC: Washington state is like an experiment for the rest of the country on cannabis. What do you think of how we’re treating medical marijuana? The state is focused on the greater tax revenue from recreational marijuana and have virtually pushed out all the dispensaries. Do you think that might correct itself?

DS: I think that will change. You’re still dealing with something that is medicine for a lot of people.

HC: From my research, I see that the current situation raises the price on legal marijuana, limits the selection, and cuts out the advice from the budtenders.

DS: It seemed to me, from my experience, that the budtenders are always helpful.

HC: Up to a point. They’re restricted on what they can say in a recreational shop.

DS: Okay, I got it, because of the medical advice. I took a tour of the Zoots factory, its edible marijuana. And we talked about how they need to use precise language. They could use such terms as “refreshing” and “rejuvenating,” but nothing specifically medical.

HC: We’re right in the middle of reworking a lot of things.

DS: Yeah, it’s pretty disruptive to mess with people’s medicine.

HC: What can you tell us, as we wrap up, about your experience with Greenwood? What would you tell the world about this neighborhood?

DS: Well, I’m still getting to know it. I’m coming up on my first year at BFI. The explosion definitely brought out the Greenwood spirit. People talk about it. The PNA definitely brings out that spirit. That’s where we go for the Farmer’s Market. That’s where I go for the dog training in the Brick Building. People are really proud of this neighborhood. Before the explosion, the thing I kept hearing was that people did not want to see anything cookie cutter coming into the neighborhood. We don’t do cookie cutter brew pubs. We have funky brew pubs that has been here for forty years, those are the kinds we like. I see a high density of people with social personalities. It reminds me a lot of what I saw in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood in the ’90s.

HC: Tell more about the Bureau of Fearless Ideas.

DS: It’s a writing and tutoring center for kids all over the Puget Sound region. We do after school tutoring and these crazy theatrical field trips where they write chapbooks. There’s a lot of kids leaving with books in their hands which they wrote. And it’s all free for any kids from any socio-economic class. We have a ton of volunteers and very generous supporters which is so great. You know, I think this is the first time that I’ve talked about both BFI and “Weed: The User’s Guide.”

HC: It makes sense.

DS: I don’t think the kids know that I wrote a book. My bios are totally separate. All my side stuff is for adults: Showgirls, The Stranger, Weed.

HC: It all makes total sense. With kids, you don’t want to be dishonest with them. There’s an adult world and things that are appropriate for adults. And, kids, if you’re listening, you know what I’m talking about. Marijuana is for twenty-one and up and there are reasons for that.

DS: Actually, I did a podcast in Portland for KBOO and that was the only other time I spoke about both BFI and Weed. There’s been a lot of talk about conquering addiction through community. The idea is that, through community, you can find solutions to replace self-medicating. The moderator for the podcast got excited about my working at BFI and said that what I was doing was helping with drug prevention. A big thing about BFI is showing kids that adults care about them. This is a place where you are welcome and you can show your voice and there are grown-ups here, who are not related to you, who want you to do well.

It does sound a little grandiose to say that what we’re doing at BFI is drug prevention but the moderator was convinced of that. I hadn’t thought of it like that before. And, of course, there’s a whole chapter in the Weed book about keeping weed away from kids. Okay, there are so many monster myths we’ve heard about marijuana and the one that is closest to being true is what’s been said about kids and weed. All that other stuff about marijuana being a gateway drug, it having no medical benefits, so much of what the government has said about marijuana is a lie or has been a lie. The one that is unfortunately true is that weed is bad for developing brains. It can be an onramp to mental illness, foggy thinking, and weird problem-solving skills. No fun. Save your brain.

HC: What do you look forward to for the re-openng of BFI back at its original Greenwood location?

DS: The good thing about something like this is that the building is brought up to current codes. Some new-fangled stuff. New lighting. We’ll have air-conditioning and heat. Lots of new staff.

HC: It all sounds very exciting! Thanks so much, David!

DS: You’re welcome, Henry!

You can listen to the podcast interview by clicking the link below:

You can always visit the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas right here.

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Filed under Cannabis, Education, Gay, LGBTQ, Literacy, Marijuana, Seattle, The Stranger, Youth

Book Review: ENCYCLOPEDIA GREENWOODIA

ENCYCLOPEDIA GREENWOODIA

ENCYCLOPEDIA GREENWOODIA

On March 9, 2016, around 1:30 a.m. Pacific time, there was a gas leak explosion in the Greenwood area of Seattle. Businesses were destroyed and people were displaced. The crisis also brought people together. The community center, the Phinney Neighborhood Association (PNA), stepped up to co-ordinate the Greenwood Relief Fund. And the literary center for youth, the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas (BFI), chose to donate all proceeds from their newly-created book to the relief effort. The book, “Encyclopedia Greenwoodia,” begun a year before the explosion, took on a greater significance after the explosion, and has an uncanny relevance to community-building.

Firefighters work at the scene of a building explosion in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood. March 9, 2016 Reuters

Firefighters at the scene of explosion in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood. March 9, 2016 Reuters

The explosion took place right across the street from BFI’s storefront, Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. All tolled, the blast damaged more than fifty establishments, destroying Neptune Coffee, Mr. Gyros, Greenwood Quick Stop grocery, and much of G&O Family Cyclery. So much disruption. So much to rebuild. In fact, as of this writing, BFI’s operations are currently housed at the PNA. A reopening of BFI at its original Greenwood site is set for this July.

"ENCYCLOPEDIA GREENWOODIA: A Compendium of Writing About Our Neighborhood by Famous Adult Writers and BFI Kids"

“ENCYCLOPEDIA GREENWOODIA: A Compendium of Writing About Our Neighborhood by Famous Adult Writers and BFI Kids”

It is essential to be aware of and to care about your neighborhood. Fortunately, no one died or was severely injured. But this crisis did spur on renewed energy and commitment. One of the things that makes Phinney-Greenwood unique is the activity going on at the Bureau of Fearless Ideas. Originally part of Dave Eggers’s 826 network of literacy centers, BFI still remains loyal to 826 but has also branched off on its own. That added freedom is what allowed BFI the flexibility to respond to the Greenwood explosion by donating the sales of its latest book. And it is this book that is a testimony to what makes this neighborhood so vital.

What you can expect from this quirky “encyclopedia” is an anthology of wonderful writing from all ages and backgrounds, from professional writers all the way to kids just starting out. Flip through and you’ll land on some gem. We start with former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s lively essay recounting the local effort to save Pluto’s status as a planet. Look further, and there’s BFI’s own anthology editor, Bill Thorness, sharing the story of Seattle’s first Ferris wheel, part of the Woodland Park Pavilion, operating from 1919 to 1934. The kids from BFI provide joyful and insightful work too. There’s the report from 9-year-old Maya Mullaney about the director of the Phinney Neighborhood Association, Lee Harper, and her being a professional service dog trainer. Another story comes from 9-year-old Meghan Doyle. She recounts the sensory experience of visiting the venerable Couth Buzzard Books with its great selection of books…and brownies.

Getting deeper into the quirky and literary side of Greenwood is Paul Constant’s piece about a mysterious mailbox in Greenwood that promises each visitor a touch of poetry. Such a dazzling prospect! Paul is a co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. He has written for The Progressive, Newsweek, Re/Code, the Utne Reader, and many North American alternative weeklies. He proves to be the perfect person to consider the merits of this poetry-delivery mechanism. Does it work? You’ll have to buy the book to find out!

Reading David Schmader's "Cleaning Greenwood"

Reading David Schmader’s “Cleaning Greenwood”

I’ll leave you with one more from this impressive collection. David Schmader is a writer known for his essays and one-person plays and is now the Creative Director for BFI. When David first arrived in Seattle in 1991, fresh out of school and looking for a job, he worked for a time in Greenwood as part of a house cleaning team. As he describes in his own inimitable way, this wasn’t anything like being a chummy part of the family like on “The Brady Bunch.” No, this was like a military operation, mission-focused. David attacks his tasks with precision until one fateful day when he’s ordered to dust these massive mounted busts of wild game. That’s a challenge that a devout vegetarian must face one way or another.

“Encyclopedia Greenwoodia” proves to be a timely book on neighborhood goodwill in so many ways. It is a 200-page paperback, with photos and a local map, priced at $10 (US) plus shipping. Consider picking up a copy for yourself. All proceeds go to the Greenwood Relief Fund. Find this book right here.

You may also consider a donation to Bureau of Fearless Ideas. Your tax-deductible donation to BFI supports the only program in Seattle created solely for and dedicated to improving the communication skills of Seattle youth through a wide range of free writing and tutoring opportunities. For more information, visit BFI right here.

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Filed under Bureau of Fearless Ideas, Dave Eggers, David Schmader, Literacy, Paul Constant, Phinney Neighborhood Association, Seattle, Seattle Review of Books

Movie Review: DE PALMA by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow

Jake Paltrow, Brian De Palma and Noah Baumbach

Jake Paltrow, Brian De Palma and Noah Baumbach

Brian De Palma is a wonderful conversationalist. In this new documentary, “De Palma,” which appears to have taken place in one sit-down interview, De Palma shares with you everything about his career and, by extension, his life. You feel a great director is passing his hand over it all, setting the record straight. This is Brian De Palma, after all, and he has had to endure a formidable amount of attack on his work. Either he was ridiculed for daring to reference Alfred Hitchcock, or his films were deemed to have too much sex, too much violence, and too much blood. The key to what makes this documentary truly worthwhile is that De Palma is a great storyteller and he sure wasn’t going to hold back on his own life’s story. He doesn’t control as much as he reveals.

What you learn about Brian De Palma in this documentary will undoubtedly enrich your viewing of his work. Let the master confess to you. As it turns out, the much discussed voyeurism in De Palma’s films is quite personal. There is certainly the Hitchcock influence, which De Palma addresses early on. How often does “Vertigo” alone get referenced in his work? Well, a lot. That is involved with a fascination in what the viewer gets to see. Later, we find out a deeper motivation. De Palma, as a young boy, was outraged to discover his father’s infidelity. He took it upon himself to follow his father and document on film his activities. De Palma, detective, gathering evidence. Finally, he confronts his father and flushes out his mistress who was attempting to hide in a closet. De Palma furiously chastises his father. De Palma, avenger, administering punishment.

At age 75, Brian De Palma has earned many times over a re-evaluation. This is a guy who definitely knows how to push buttons. Arguably, he has painted himself into something of a corner smeared in blood, mostly women’s blood. His level of suspense can be said to be over the top. However, it is something else when you have him there on the screen thoughtfully articulating his work alternating with various compelling clips and footage from a lifetime in cinema. He’s not there to persuade you. He’s there to let you in on things. You end up feeling that, yes, it is really in your best interest to put away any past preconceived ideas and listen. As for the relaxed candor running throughout, we can also give a lot of credit to the film’s directors, Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow.

SIFF Cinema Uptown in Seattle showing "De Palma"

SIFF Cinema Uptown in Seattle showing “De Palma”

Ultimately, this is a master class in filmmaking. De Palma does not say anything without it having a reason, followed by other reasons. At one point, he claims to not care for car chases. He says that “The French Connection” put that to rest with the greatest car chase ever. Besides, he’s not a car guy. Later, he admits he really prefers walking scenes as they lend themselves to great nuance and mystery. He loves the way a woman moves. And, more to the point, constructing a walking scene plays into his need for pictorial structure. And don’t get him started on his split-screen technique. Well, actually, do and you get some fascinating observations. For one thing, yes, it can be overdone and it won’t work for an action sequence. But allow someone with vision to modulate it, and it works. Brian De Palma was part of a golden age and contributed too much to ever be dismissed. This documentary proves to be a great companion to his work.

“De Palma” is currently enjoying a limited run. Catch it in theaters while you can. I had the pleasure of viewing it at one of our Seattle International Film Festival theaters that provide SIFF members and the general public with quality content year-round. “De Palma” is showing at SIFF Cinema Uptown along with a selection of De Palma films. Find out more about SIFF right here.

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Filed under Brian De Palma, Documentaries, Movie Reviews, movies, Seattle, Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF

Preview: MACK STUCKEY’S GUIDE TO THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE

MACK STUCKEY’S GUIDE TO THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE

MACK STUCKEY’S GUIDE TO THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE

MACK STUCKEY’S GUIDE TO THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE is a new project that I want to share with you. It is an illustrated novel by Jennifer Daydreamer and Henry Chamberlain. This is a dark comedy about Seattle that will be coming out later this year. More details to follow. Here is a synopsis along with an excerpt.

What It’s About:

Seattle, 2014. Mack Stuckey is stuck in a rut. He’s twenty-three-years-old, still lives at home, hates his job and has no girlfriend.

Mack is a blue collar type with a penchant for books. He’s from a family of fishermen and lives in a neighborhood called Ballard. He has to work in Fremont, a tech hub, where he’s a lowly security guard at the giant game conglomerate, Game Needle.

Mack stumbles into a friendship with the suave Devon Rush, one of the high-powered suits at Game Needle. Things are looking up in his life until he realizes Devon’s new romantic conquest is the girl he’s falling for, none other than the beautiful Jupiter Fellows.

Jupiter is one of Fremont’s most alluring hippies. As the two guys compete for her, Mack’s life becomes a roller coaster. Before they know it, Jupiter cajoles Mack and Devon to partake in a threesome.

Mack Stuckey’s Guide to the Center of the Universe is a dark comedy exploring the new realities in our economic times. There’s plenty of sex and foul language, therefore, FOR MATURE READERS ONLY.

Mack Stuckey stuck in a rut.

Mack Stuckey stuck in a rut.

Excerpt:

The siren sounds. I stare at the bridge. The skies, the mountains, the waters, are all a thick painted grey. I run, head down, as if the clouds are pressing against me. Shadows descend. My vision darkens. I know a storm will hit.

Washington State is a tease. The truth is it does not rain much here; we are just taunted with pregnant skies for months on end. And, yes, you will hear this fact about the weather in every Tom and Dick book out there about Seattle. But most of you don’t read, so I’m filling you in.

It’s grey most of the year and when the rain decides to happen it happens in annoying spurts as its usually polite fucking rain. Like it will start to rain in the evening when most people are lucky enough to be home from work. Or it will rain like hell in the middle of the night, where you are warm and dry and can hear the motherfucker lighting and all, from the safety of your home.

If you’re lucky and your roof doesn’t leak, you can enjoy thinking of all the greenery and how the rain is, you know, a supernatural phenomenon, because the pounding on your rooftop and on the ground, is FUCK YEAH UNBELIVABLE.

It gets your mind spinning at night, a rain to meet head on with in a forest, like you’re Indiana Jones. But you’re not Indiana Jones. You’re a fat lazy twenty-three-year-old fuck, a bear, lying in bed, in your mom’s old faded blue home, fantasizing about Indiana fucking Jones, running and slipping and jumping in the jungle and the rain and all. You’re wide awake from drinking too much coffee that day and therefore you’re an irresponsible lazy ass northern bear not getting enough sleep for the job you gotta go to tomorrow.

But, right here, right now, on top of the Aurora Bridge while I frantically blow my whistle as uncaring cars drive by puffing exhaust into my face, the rain turns the oil on the road into nasty slick circles which makes me slip.

I go down.

The cops descend on me, lift me up off the ground, chide me that I’m not one of them and then nudge me along back to my job. I’m not one of them alright.

I’m a lousy security guard. Deflated, I walk back to work in a downpour.

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Filed under Books, Henry Chamberlain, Humor, Jennifer Daydreamer, Satire, Seattle

Seattle Focus: The Crocodile’s 25th Year

What we can always use is more love. Here is something special put together by cartoonist Noel Franklin that touches the heart of all us Seattle locals. This is Noel’s tribute to one of our great landmarks, one of the best music venues in town, The Crocodile nightclub. Here is a link back to where it appears at Seattle Weekly.

Noel Franklin's tribute to The Crocodile in Seattle Weekly

Noel Franklin’s tribute to The Crocodile in Seattle Weekly

And be sure to keep up with Noel Franklin right here.

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Filed under Comics, Music, Noel Franklin, Seattle, The Crocodile

Interview: Brian Christian and ALGORITHMS TO LIVE BY

Brian Christian at Elliot Bay Book Company, Seattle, Washington

Brian Christian at Elliot Bay Book Company, Seattle, Washington

Science writer and poet Brian Christian (author of “The Most Human Human,” a New Yorker Favorite Book of the Year) read at Elliott Bay Book Company, here in Seattle, over the weekend. It was my pleasure to sit down with Brian and discuss his latest book, co-authored with Tom Griffiths, “ALGORITHMS TO LIVE BY: The Computer Science of Human Decisions,” published by Henry Holt and Company.

Algorithms to Live By Henry Holt 2016

I begin our conversation my relating the work of Malcolm Gladwell to what this new book has to offer: opportunities to help people reach their eureka moments. You can read my review here.

You can watch the video to the interview below:

“ALGORITHMS TO LIVE BY: The Computer Science of Human Decisions” is a 368-page book available in hardcover, paperback, and as an e-book. For more details, visit Henry Holt and Company.

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Filed under Brian Christian, Computer Science, Elliot Bay Book Company, Interviews, Seattle

Review: WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? by Andrea Tsurumi

WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? by Andrea Tsurumi

WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? by Andrea Tsurumi

Andrea Tsurumi is a cartoonist with an unusual preoccupation with poodles, bras, swimming pools, and various comfort foods like cake, pie, ice cream, and Ramen noodles. This all adds up to a lot of fun for readers. You can enjoy her highly inventive work in her new book, a collection of comics, “Why Would You Do That?” published by Hic & Hoc Publications.

Reading WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?

Reading WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?

A good rule of thumb for life in general is to go with your first thought. Sure, that could get you into trouble but still. Let’s focus in terms of creativity, okay? You can think of what Tsurumi does as akin to improvisational jazz or comedy improv. Consider a page entitled, “Ghost Bra,” about a bra that, when you least expect it, creeps up on you and provides…support. Not the sort of thing you overthink from the get-go. No, you let that impulse about a haunting bra fly.

An usual obsession with poodles

An usual obsession with poodles

Other segments take an initial thought and refine it, mine it for all its worth, such as Tsurumi’s examination of poodles. We discover that poodles are far more than man’s best friend. That would hardly cover their accomplishments over the ages. However, there is only so far such a brilliant creature can go with such a bizarre haircut that leaves it wide open to ridicule! As Tsurumi does throughout, the artwork here has an elegant light touch. It is not too light either. There is an organic quality to it. Tsurumi is happy to add as much detail as needed. But, even with her crosshatching, in the end, she maintains a crisp line and a pleasing clarity.

Reading WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? with Gelato

Reading WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? with Gelato

Andrea Tsurumi has honed a great dexterity with words and pictures. No doubt, fortified with an essential confidence and drive, Tsurumi has reached an undeniable level of mastery. Her comics appear to breathe naturally as if entities onto themselves. Her work is immersive in the best sense of the word as you get lost in it as you would a compelling piece of performance art. That’s how I felt reading her piece, “Do You Know How to Eat Ramen?” Sounds like something you might catch at an experimental theater doesn’t it? Well, it would definitely make for quite a show. We begin with a lively recitation of ingredients which includes “the part that lives inside you that has gotten small and scared.”

Ice Cream and WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?

Gelato and WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?

I also love Tsurumi’s observations on swimming pools. I can well imagine her wading in with a bunch of strangers and immediately aghast and bewildered. Swimming pools, in Tsurumi’s world are a lot of things, the least of which is a place for swimming. They are an odd place of ritual such as parents teaching their children, and anyone else caught in their crosshairs, about mortality. For someone fascinated by odd shapes, sounds, and the overall human condition, Tsurumi knows how to make the most of wherever she happens to find herself. This collection proves to be an excellent guidebook into her adventures.

Lastly, I would like to add that I recommend a nice slice of pie or perhaps some ice cream, or gelato, while you read this book. I enjoyed reading and reviewing it while visiting Fainting Goat Gelato in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. I was quite taken with the stracciatella.

“Why Would You Do That?” is a 60-page black & white trade paperback available now though Hic & Hoc Publications.

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Filed under Andrea Tsurumi, Comics, Food, Gelato, Hic & Hoc Publications, Humor, Seattle

Review: RIKKI by Norm Harper and Matthew Foltz-Gray

RIKKI by Norm Harper and Matthew Foltz-Gray

RIKKI by Norm Harper and Matthew Foltz-Gray

“Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” I sighed, caught in a thoughtful moment. I’d been reading “Rikki,” a delightful new graphic novel about a certain famous mongoose published by Karate Petshop.

“Rikki Who?” asked my friend, Roy, who had joined me for lunch at Steelhead Diner in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

“Oh, you know, the whole Rudyard Kipling thing! Hoo-ha, out in the jungle!”

“Hoo-ha, you say?”

I wanted to give Roy the benefit of the doubt. The surroundings were so nice. We were both famished. Roy, I knew to be a literary sort. He was pulling my leg or he just wasn’t paying attention.

Fishing lures on display at Steelhead Diner

Fishing lures on display at Steelhead Diner

“Okay, so there’s a reboot to ‘The Jungle Book’ that just came out starring Bill Murray. That’s by Rudyard Kipling.”

“The reboot?”

“You’re joking, right?”

“Yes, I know who Rudyard Kipling is! He wrote ‘The Jungle Book’ and he also happened to write that Rikki book. I loved his novel, ‘The Man Who Would Be King.'”

Roy had little patience just before lunch. But he was perking up. He couldn’t help noticing I had been reading a book just before he showed up. I was still holding on to it.

“That Rikki book, is that what you were reading?”

Cover art for RIKKI #1 by Christine Knopp

Cover art for RIKKI #1 by Christine Knopp

“Indeed. Oddly enough, that’s the title, simply, “Rikki.” It’s a graphic novel adaptation of the original story by you-know-who.”

“Kipling!”

“Yes, this book is a delightful comics version, as I was saying, written by Norm Harper and illustrated by Matthew Foltz-Gray.”

I proceeded to let him leaf through the book.

Reading RIKKI

Reading RIKKI

“Quite good! It has a very whimsical quality. Very animated.”

“My thoughts exactly! I think it would be fun for any age.”

“Well, sure. I know my little nephew would love it.”

Flash Fried Alaskan Rockfish Tacos

Flash Fried Alaskan Rockfish Tacos

And with that we commenced to unwind. I find that, when in doubt, a Mimosa will help smooth things out. And then the Flash Fried Alaskan Rockfish Tacos were just what I was looking for.

“Rikki” is an engaging retelling of one of Kipling’s tales from “The Jungle Book.” Given the beloved adaptation by Chuck Jones, both Harper and Foltz-Gray find interesting ways to make the story their own. You’ll find additional characters and plot that add a contemporary dynamic to this otherwise faithful rendition. You’ll also find a distinctive and playful style to the artwork. Bonus features include supplemental artwork and the original Kipling short story.

“Rikki” is a 172-page full-color trade paperback published by Karate Petshop.

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Filed under Comics, Food, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Pike Place Market, Seattle

Review: ‘Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods’ by David Enos, published by California Clap

"Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods" by David Enos

“Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods” by David Enos

This is a review of the comic, “Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods,” by David Enos, published by California Clap. That is mostly what we will be discussing here. However, I will bring up a few other related things. First off, I set out to write this review while I waited to see an old friend who had just gotten his nipples pierced. He’s a fairly average guy, maybe not the type to do this. But, hey, to each his own. That brings me to a theme I was working with for this review: seeing the familiar within the unfamiliar. So, here I was waiting. I began to imagine getting my own nipples pierced–or at least just one. But I keep thinking there will be issues with airport security. I know for a fact that the SEATAC TSA is prone to fumbling about. So, imagine me sporting nipple jewelry for TSA to have to process. These folks don’t process very well.

Batman and Amity

Batman and Amity

Anyway, let us proceed. Batman. Now, there’s a subject for you. Most of us out there can easily hook into Batman. What David Enos has done is play with that familiarity. His Batman taps into arguably the most accessible version, the Adam West model. The Enos Batman is a no-nonsense guy with little room for drama. The big case he’s on in this story is familiar enough too: a search for a long lost love. It’s the sort of plot that can easily be deadened by a too obvious treatment. Enos is having fun with these tropes by taking everything right up to the edge of the banal. He throws in some light humor and sets this whimsical Batman off on a surreal landscape, a mashup of grim, dark, and camp.

Reading BAT-MAN IS LOST IN A WOODS

Reading BAT-MAN IS LOST IN A WOODS

It is a rite of passage for any cartoonist to create their take on superheroes. There is a divide that will always exist between independent cartoonists and the world of mainstream genre. There is little crossover but, when it happens, it is something to study on a case by case basis. When it does happen, the big two comics publishers have found interesting ways to work with relatively indie creators. It’s pretty simple, the most popular superheroes are mega-franchises. Not just anyone is going to be handed the keys to the Batmobile. The mistake is when an indie cartoonist dismisses genre comics out of hand. As David Enos demonstrates here, there are endless possibilities to work with genre, subversive or otherwise. DC Comics and Marvel can always learn something new from alternative cartoonists.

Writing About BAT-MAN IS LOST IN A WOODS

Writing About BAT-MAN IS LOST IN A WOODS

It is a lot of fun to watch this banal Batman recalling the bittersweet days of his marriage to a pretty young woman named, Amity. Understandably, this is not a character from Batman canon. But she does make for a suitable match in the spirit of Silver St. Cloud. Amity is younger and more prone to pouting than anything else. She just wishes that Batman made more time for her and that they had more of a normal life together. Ah, isn’t that always the way with these sort of relationships? Enos deftly pulls the strings on what seems like a merely juvenile plot that unfolds into a dreamy and disturbing narrative, more like HBO’s “True Detective” but also hinting at the sinister origins of Batman going back to his debut in “Detective Comics” in 1939. There was always something weird about Batman. That’s what makes him interesting. David Enos celebrates that weirdness in this comic.

Pork Chops & Eggs at Coastal Kitchen

Pork Chops & Eggs at Coastal Kitchen

I also have to say here that I had a wonderful meal at my venue for writing this review. If you’re in Seattle, you definitely want to visit Coastal Kitchen in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. I had a delectable dish, Pork Chops and Eggs topped with an out of this world house Romesco sauce made with roasted red peppers and almonds. And, in a funny way, that sort of ties in with my theme: take a familiar meat and potatoes subject and give it a spicy twist!

“Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods,” by David Enos, is a 32-page full-color comic. You can find it at California Clap right here.

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Filed under Adam West, Alternative Comics, Batman, Comics, Food, Humor, mini-comics, Minicomics, Nipples, Piercings, Satire, Seattle, Superheroes

ECCC 2016: Dynamite Entertainment Signs Van Jensen for Six Million Dollar Man Story

Six-Million-Dollar-Man-Van-Jensen

Our friends over at Dynamite Entertainment have a fun announcement to make at Emerald City Comicon. On the first day of ECCC, it was announced that comic book writer Van Jensen (The Green Lantern Corps, The Flash) will write a new wrinkle in the Six Million Dollar Man franchise with his all-new series, “The Six Million Dollar Man: Fall of Man,” with the first issue set for release July 13th.

Press release follows:

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Filed under comic books, Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, ECCC, Emerald City Comicon, ReedPOP, Seattle