Thursday, May 31, 2012

SEATTLE SHOOTINGS AT CAFE RACER

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Maybe you saw it on the news, another brutal rampage sandwiched between stories as a mentally ill gunman leaves a bloody trail before killing himself.  It's a horrific scene, but such a common story there is a formula by now: the crime scene; the police briefing; stunned witnesses; the newscaster's concern; and then on to sports and the weather.  But for those of us in Seattle, particularly those of us in the arts community, particularly those of us that frequent a friendly neighborhood bar hospitable to artists and musicians, this tragedy hits close to home. 


The day after, we're still shocked by the shootings at the Cafe Racer.  The community is reeling and no one will ever forget this terrible moment.  Like many others, I've been going to this neighborhood cafe for years, where Kurt Geissel and his crew provided an hospitable hangout for artists and musicians. The Racer was the official clubhouse of our art collective, The Friends of the Nib, as well as it's offshoot, the Bureau of Drawers, and home of the Museum of Bad Art.  We met at the cafe at least once a week, and it's hard to imagine how many nights we spent drawing and drinking, staging art shows, hatching crazy plans and enjoying rolicking live music.  Even harder to imagine is how this neighborhood cafe has turned into a crime scene where so many lost their lives.


One life lost yesterday was that of Drew Keriakedes, otherwise known as Shmootzi, a gonzo cabaret musician and circus performer right out of a Fellini movie who swallowed swords and sang the blues.  Anyone who knew him--or even just crossed his path--recognized his genuine creativity and humor and big heart.  Drew played wild music with a crazy band, God's Favorite Beefcake, which also included his bandmate, Joe "Vito" Albanese, who also died in the same senseless rampage. Two others shot at the cafe, Kimberly Layfield and Don Largen, died later at Harborview Medical Center.  A fifth victim, Leonard Meuse, is still fighting for his life.  Yet another victim, Gloria Leonidas, was killed a half an hour later across town by the same killer who then stole her SUV to escape to West Seattle where, finally cornered, he turns his gun on himself.


The gunman, who had been 86ed from the cafe for his erratic behavior, is shown here on a surveillance camera as he approaches the bar in the cafe where he will shoot five people execution style.  According to the Seattle Times, one man in the bar, whose brother had been killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and had vowed he "would never hide under a table," in the event of a deadly threat, threw a stool at the shooter and possibly saved lives of others in the cafe.  "The hero, he says, was Leonard Meuse, the barista at the cafe who, even after being shot several times, got on the phone and made a call for help."  The shooter takes off on foot, heading north on Roosevelt, sparking a huge police manhunt.  All afternoon helicopters pass overhead and police move door to door with dogs.  Roosevelt High School is locked down, and people are advised to stay indoors while the search continues.  Eventually the police link the Leonidas killing to the cafe murders, and track down the killer. 

 

The Cafe Racer during happier times: a rollicking musical night courtesy of God's Favorite Beefcake, featuring Drew and Joe who died yesterday.  Rest in Peace. 

 Remembering the fallen.  From the left, Joe and Drew, bandmates. The third person pictured is Kimberly Layfield, an aspiring actress, also killed at the Cafe Racer. The fourth person is Gloria Leonidas, mother of two, killed by the same shooter a half an hour later in a parking lot near Town Hall and robbed of her SUV, which the shooter used to escape. The final picture is Donald Largen, an urban planner and sax player, also killed at the cafe. Not shown is Leonard Meuse, the chef at racer, who is still in recovery.

Monday, May 28, 2012

MEMORIAL DAY


2/Lt. Albert A. Albino--my Uncle Albert--was an actor, a dancer, a champion swimmer and a fighter pilot who was shot down over Occupied Holland in November of 1943. Memorial Day, our family remembers my mom's brother Albert, an exceptional individual who gave his life fighting against a madman who wanted to destroy Jews, radicals, intellectuals, people with special needs--a just war if ever there was one. Graveyards are full of soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought Hitler, and they all had families, hometowns, and dreams for the future they never realized. Mom keeps a picture on the mantel of her brother Albert, who was listed as Missing in Action for many years until they found his remains in the late seventies in the town of Hoogeveen, Netherlands. He was finally brought home for a proper burial after more than forty years. These are the words of fellow pilot Bob Sands, who also flew with the 55th Fighter Group and 38th Fighter Squadron. His words might help you appreciate this man who died so many years ago.

 Albert Albino hitchiking between Aberdeen and Los Angeles

"I have very fond memories of this most likeable young man. I think every­one liked him, and I know he was a special favorite of the enlisted men. He had a sunny, effervescent personality, and always had something going. At one of our bases, perhaps Pendleton, OR, or Carys Kilmer, N.J., it was spread around that he was going to harangue the troops a la Adolph Hitler. We all assembled on the grass at one end of the barracks, and at the dramatic moment he stalked out onto the little second-story balcony, with hair slicked down as Hitler's was, and one hand holding a black comb with just enough showing to pass for Hitler's mustache. For quite a long time he capered and strutted, raged and sputtered gutteral, almost understandable German. He had us almost hysterical. It was a wonderful performance, and a great morale booster for a bunch of guys about to cross the ocean to an uncertain future. We were lucky, but he was not. He was lost on that sad day that C.O. Major Joel and three others (including Albino) were lost. But it was easy to remember the always-smiling face of Albert Albino, and I was sorry he was gone."
-- Robert Sands, via 55th FG Newsletter

Saturday, May 26, 2012

MONTREAL POTS AND PANS



This is from Montreal, where people of all ages protested emergency law Bill 78. The bill is a repressive attempt to quell the massive student protests that have filled Quebec streets for the past three months. It would limit protests by requiring police approval for demonstrations and restrict movement to certain designated areas. They say this video has gone viral, but we're not nearly viral enough to notice. At any rate, protest is worldwide and repressive laws won't stop it. The powers that be may have the media, the weaponry, immense power and wealth, but the people have the pots and pans.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BOB DYLAN




Bob Dylan was born May 24, 1941. He had a profound impact on popular music and broadened the horizons of what was possible in songwriting. Dylan launched a generation toward introspection, questioning authority and conventional wisdom, and escaping the boundaries of conventional attitudes.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

FOR ART'S SAKE



The life of a world-class artist John Baldessari jammed into six minutes and narrated by Tom Waits. This odd little documentary was commissioned by LACMA for their first annual "Art + Film Gala." Visit John's website at http://www.baldessari.org/

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

HUNTER THOMPSON:GONZO GOES HOLLYWOOD


Beloved gonzo madman Hunter Thompson (July 18, 1937 – February 20, 2005), American journalist, author and drug-addled provocateur, still enjoys a cult following seven years after his death.  His gonzo journalism and snarky quips, often muttered or slurred, still delight the devoted like chum to sharks. This documentary will satisfy fans in the proper headspace, and while we don't necessarily condone Wild Turkey and illicit substances, they may enhance your viewing pleasure.  As Hunter once said, “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.” 
“Like most others, I was a seeker, a mover, a malcontent, and at times a stupid hell-raiser. I was never idle long enough to do much thinking, but I felt somehow that some of us were making real progress, that we had taken an honest road, and that the best of us would inevitably make it over the top. At the same time, I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between these two poles - a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other - that kept me going.” ― Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary

Monday, May 14, 2012

MOUNTAIN GIRL AND BEAR



Stop me if you've heard this. In 1964, Ken Kesey, the famed author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," set off on a legendary, LSD-fuelled cross-country road trip with "The Merry Band of Pranksters," a renegade group of free spirits and weirdos on the prototypical psychedelic Magic Bus. It was a crazy, silly, sunshine daydream, and what becomes of a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Does it turn into an anecdote dropped by an amped-up DJ during morning drive-time? Apparently so. Ignore the clueless talk-jock and listen to Mountain Girl calling from the wilds of Oregon. One of the original Pranksters (and Jerry's wife) Carolyn Garcia has stories to tell. Then, for an added treat, there's a tribute to the crazy psychedelic age, with cameos from Janis, Jimi Hendrix and Augustus Owsley Stanley III, otherwise known as Bear, chemist and sound man extraordinaire, legendary counter culture hero of song and story who recently passed away. Why dig out these archival clippings? Why look in the rearview mirror? In spite of the weirdly repressive political climate we live in, there are still a handful of far-flung freaks who never recanted, who never became Big Chilled, who drank the Kool-Aid but refused the hemlock. Just for fun, take a long strange trip down memory lane.  Peace!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

TIME IS TIGHT--SO LONG, DUCK



Rest in peace, Donald "Duck" Dunn. Rock solid bass player and part of the amazing instrumental group Booker T and the MGs, as well as the house band for so many Stax/Volt classics, Duck will be missed by music fans. Longtime friend, guitar player and fellow MG Steve Cropper, posted this on his Facebook: "Today I lost my best friend, the World has lost the best guy and bass player to ever live. Duck Dunn died in his sleep Sunday morning May 13 in Tokyo Japan after finishing 2 shows at the Blue Note Night Club." The MGs were a shit-hot instrumental R&B band that layed down some irresistible grooves back in the day, and they were unique in every way--not the least of which was being a mixed race band from the Deep South. Booker T. Jones played keyboards, Steve Cropper played guitar, Duck Dunn played bass, and Al Jackson Jr. played drums. They played their own infectious hits (such as "Time is Tight," and "Green Onions," shown here) as well as backing up all the classic Stax/Volt acts such as Otis Redding, Wilson Picket, Sam & Dave, Bill Withers and Carla Thomas.

Friday, May 11, 2012

SUMMERTIME RADIO SAY YEAH!

Summer music on a tinny little transistor radio long ago might have been The Beach Boys or Jan and Dean, California sounds that filtered through the mesh speaker into the foggy Pacific Northwest carrying promises of cookouts and glassy waves and bikini-clad girls. Songs were simple those summers. They told tales of cars and girls--that's all--at least until Dylan came along with his magic bag and the Beatles tried on their Rubber Souls, and The Beach Boys left the beach for the sandbox and the petting zoo--and Brian Wilson composed his "Teenage Symphonies to God," or something to that effect--but before the cornucopia spilled forth artsy complications during the psychedelic era, this is what you heard on a transistor radio one fine summer day long ago.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

SACRED WHITE BUFFALO KILLED

A White Buffalo, which is considered sacred by several Native American religions, was killed and slaughtered by rustlers on the Lakota ranch, near Greenville, Texas.  This picture was taken in June by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Crime, "Lightning Medicine Cloud and his mother, Buffalo Woman, were killed just shy of the white buffalo's first birthday. Arby Little Soldier, great-great-great grandson of Sitting Bull and owner/operator of the Lakota Ranch, said Monday that he found the calf slaughtered and skinned April 30 after returning to the North Texas town from an out-of-town trip to Oklahoma City." Buffalo Woman died a day later. Little Soldier suspects she was poisoned.

According to the ranch website: "The Native Americans see the birth of a white buffalo calf as the most significant of prophetic signs, equivalent to the weeping statues, bleeding icons, and crosses of light that are becoming prevalent within the Christian churches today. Where the Christian faithful who visit these signs see them as a renewal of God's ongoing relationship with humanity, so do the Native Americans see the white buffalo calf as the sign to begin life's sacred hoop."

-report from the Two-way, the NPR blog, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Monday, May 7, 2012

WOMEN AT WAR IN THE WORKPLACE


Women in the Workplace, an educational film from 1944


Women building the B-24 in 1943

Change is tough for some people, as evidenced by these workplace films from the Forties. With men overseas fighting in World War II, women filled the ranks in the workplace, and Rose the Riveter became a national hero.  This unintentionally sexist film tries to guide the old foreman through the difficulties of working with sensitive, jealous females on the job. Don't worry, the war was over the following year and the social order was promptly restored. Many women still worked, of course, but you wouldn't know it from television which dutifully presided over the status quo in shows and advertisements. Decades passed, but time seemed to stand still in the workplace and the American home--or even go backward, if you believed TV.   Check out the Folgers' ads below.  Social change was inevitable, and, comfortable or not, the white male foreman in the first clip would soon have to deal with others not like him, as movements for feminism, civil rights and labor fairness took hold and changed the face of the land, not to mention the workplace.  TV was the last to know.  Programmers didn't want to offend anyone (conservatives, the Deep South, advertisers) with portrayals of minorities or women who bucked the system, and they certainly wouldn't give airtime to those critical of the "our American way of life."  Some people still live in that old TV land--"the good old days," if you believe the conservatives who are trying to turn back the clock to a simpler time when people "knew their place." 

Friday, May 4, 2012

REMEMBER KENT STATE, JACKSON STATE


May 4, 1970. Four dead in Ohio.  The country was divided then, too, and some cheered the backlash against the student movement President Nixon called "bums" just a few days before.  Don't forget. 

From the Zinn Education Project:  "May 4, 1970.  We remember Kent State, Jackson State (1970), and Orangeburg (1968). At Kent State University (May 4, 1970), the Ohio National Guard shot unarmed college students who were protesting the war and observers. The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others. While most people know that students were killed at Kent State in 1970, very few know about the murder of students at Jackson State and even less about South Carolina State College in Orangeburg. In Orangeburg, two years before the Kent State murders, 28 students were injured and three were killed — most shot in the back by the state police while involved in a peaceful protest." 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

JACK WHITE ON THE TRACKS

. We've been enjoying Jack White's first solo album, Blunderbuss, nearly as much as he obviously had making it. This incendiary set covers a broad range of howling heartaches and electrified blues. Jack plays a killer cover of an old Little Willie John tune, grinds out a Led Zep-style rave-up, dives into some viscous electric sludge and emerges with mandolins and fiddles for a sweet ballad. 


She's got stickers on her locker And the boy's number's there in magic marker I'm hungry and the hunger will linger I eat sixteen saltine crackers then I lick my fingers

 Someone said this is Jack's "Blood on the Tracks," and that might be so, since every song seems to be about love and loss and I'm assuming his recent divorce, but like the Dylan classic this only gives him the focus to write some of his best material yet. Rolling Stone gave this album four and a half stars out of five, and maybe it deserves five. As you can tell from these recent clips, he's in fine form. If you feel like rocking, you could do worse then put this on your platter during Attitude Adjustment Hour.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


"SEATTLE -- Downtown Seattle erupted in chaos Tuesday as black-clad May Day demonstrators marauded through the downtown shopping district, smashing plate glass windows at banks and retail outlets, spray-painting cars and slashing tires. Some arrests were reported in May Day protests in Portland, Ore., as well." - LA Times, 5/1/12 


If not actually agents provocateurs, these anarcho-hoodies were at least doing their job and working hard to discredit the movement. In their minds, they're playing glorious revolutionaries but in actuality they're serving the opposition. Nixon used to hire street thugs to hurl insults at him, one of his many documented dirty tricks, which led to some staged law and order routines that drew waves of applause from Middle America. This reminds me of the WTO protests here in Seattle in 1999, when a well-organized, broad-based coalition of labor, environmental, student and peace groups rallied peacefully and marched downtown but a few self-styled anarchists in hoodies busted windows at Niketown and played right into the hands of the opposition--cops and civic leaders and armchair TV viewers who were just dying to dismiss the entire legitimate demonstration, and of course this "justified" a massive police crackdown on everybody that included violence, teargas, pepperspray, flashbombs and an eagerly obedient mayor proclaiming downtown a "protest-free zone." Of course, the news focused on the violence ("If it bleeds, it leads") and skipped the valid concerns of the majority to "explain" the overworked, underfed policemen's behavior (couldn't deny some of those clubbing and gassing clips, after all) and dutifully interviewed sad shopowners who lamented that this would absolutely RUIN holiday shopping. Same as it ever was. In all honesty, when you organize a rally and march and tens of thousands of people show up it's exceedingly difficult to "constrain your ranks" against a few fast hit-and-run window breakers, just as it's hard to constrain a handful of violent, black-clad, baton-swinging riot police. It sounds good on paper, but even the best organized protest does not have a single mind. Everyone plays a role. Bring on the backlash.  And I should mention, in spite of some gloryhounds busting glass, I still support the aims of the Occupy movement: justice and equality for all, and no special loopholes for the top 1%.