Monday, November 30, 2009


Ten years ago today, Seattle was filled with protesters opposing a meeting of the World Trade Organization. Seattle was also filled with teargas, rubber bullets, and broken glass.

They called it "N30," and "the Battle in Seattle." Did you protest and get teargassed? Did you support the WTO? Were you woefully ignorant of the issues like most startled television viewers?

Why were so many people willing to risk life and limb to protest the WTO? Why did the city become a war zone? Why did the mayor outlaw protest downtown? What's the big deal with the WTO?

American intellectual and longtime dissident Noam Chomsky explains the WTO. Watch the clip.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Sarah Palin, dumb as a mud fence, has been touring with her ghost-written blame-ography, "Going Rogue." At a recent book-signing stop, the clueless former governor was punked by a Canadian comedian. Palin told the fake newsperson that Canada should do away with its health care system, and she reached out to the imaginary prisoners of universal health care in the Great White North.

"Keep the faith," she said, "because common sense conservatism can be plugged in there in Canada too. In fact, Canada needs to reform its health care system and let the private sector take over some of what the government has absorbed."

What a dumb ass.

Trouble is, Palin got it all wrong. Ninety percent of Canadians support universal, single-payer health care, and in spite of some complaints about the wait, polls show 82 % believe their health care system is preferable to the US system.

Who punked Palin? Mary Walsh, the star of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, a Daily Show type news parody program in Canada. In Sarah's defense, we should mention that parody is a fairly sophisticated form of humor that requires at least a modicum of intelligence to appreciate. Less intelligence, however, than running the most powerful nation on earth.

Sarah has been punked by Canadians before. A year ago, a Montreal comedian convinced the former governor of Alaska that she was speaking with French President Sarkozy, with equally hilarious--and revealing--results.

Palin, unofficial ambassador of dumb

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


A vintage Thanksgiving card--for some, a turkey isn't enough!

Thanksgiving is a wonderful feast, and anticipation makes it even tastier. All that time waiting for the turkey the smells in the kitchen waft through the house. Then finally the stuffing and mashed potatoes and candied yams are placed in the table, and then finally the star of the show, as the golden bird appears! It's a feast to satisfy anybody!

Well, almost. Vegetarians will huddle around a gelatinous tofurkey. Yawn. Sure, it beats the hell out of tofu dogs, but that's not saying much. And there's another renegade group, a certain breed of Southern American that embraces the other extreme, adding even more meat! Here's an old favorite film clip:

Paula Deen, the Queen of Carnage, "builds" a turducken. Wild turduckens used to roam freely but nowadays they must be assembled like Frankenstein's monster. A chicken is put inside a duck, which in turn is stuffed into a turkey. Vegetarians may want to leave out an animal or two.

Forget the tofurkey!

If the turducken seems gross and extreme, remember that the ancient Romans might look at this unholy beast as just the beginning, and stuff it inside a sheep, then a pig, and finally a cow. They would call it a Turduckasheeporkow, and slice it like a jellyroll. Some say it brought down the empire.

Ancient Romans killing time while awaiting the arrival of the Turduckasheeporkow

One more Paula Deen moment, and a warning to us all. Even cooking professionals must be alert and aware in the kitchen:

Paula Deen being hit in the face by a ham. Evidently, she didn't know it was being thrown.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


"30 Rock" creator and star Tina Fey hosted the Ad Council Annual Dinner Wednesday night, and brought back her famous impersonation of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. We prefer Tina Fey,"the fake Palin," to the real and equally fake Sarah Palin. The original clip above was "removed by user," so here is Tina speaking about "the Palin persona."

"One more thing!"

Meanwhile, Palin's ghostwritten autobiography, "Going Rogue," has struck readers as self-serving poop that plays the blame game for all her failings and shortcomings. In the book, Palin blamed McCain and his people for holding her back and ruining her shot at Vice President. She blamed Katie Couric for asking her tough questions. She blamed the liberal media, and all the usual bugaboos. She blamed Obama for his "socialist policies." In an Oprah interview this week, she rated Obama a "4" on a scale of 1 to 10. Too bad we can't use negative numbers, or we could rate Sarah Palin.

Palin's book, with minor changes. It could use a few more.

At a November 18th book-signing in Noblesville, Illinois, Palin walked away from signing books for an estimated 300 families that had waited more than three hours to see their hero. The crowd grew angry and booed Palin.

"We gave up our entire workday, stayed in the cold, my kids were crying," one man was quoted saying. "They went home with my wife. She was out here in the freezing cold all day. I feel like I don't want to support Sarah."

Angry crowd boos Palin at book-signing

Recently, her report of the Exxon Valdez disaster was called into question by David Oesting, the lead plaintiff attorney in the private litigant's civil case against Exxon. "This is the most cockamamie bullshit," said Oesting. "She didn't have a damn thing to do with it, and she didn't know what it was about."

For more of the story, click here.

Since it's nearly Thanksgiving, we thought it would be appropriate to show this clip of mindless Sarah Palin pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey while turkeys all around her are being slaughtered. Oops!

Friday, November 20, 2009


Vorrei prenotare un tavola per due...

We love Thanksgiving. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, the whole nine yards. We gorge ourselves to celebrate the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, and surviving the winter with the help of God--and a few Native Americans. They had a feast, and being English they probably boiled the hell out of it.

Today, we all celebrate a golden-glowing Norman Rockwell holiday. Or do we? My guess is that every ethnic group puts a little local spin on it. In our household, we had an Italian American take on the feast.

As you know, Italians in Italy don't celebrate Thanksgiving. They celebrate La Festa del Ringraziamento (Festival of Thanks) which is similar in spirit, and also includes food and drink, but no pilgrims. They also celebrate many autumn harvest festivals, as they have since well before the time of Christ. In this country, Italian Americans celebrate their own Thanksgiving traditions, and the food is very good. Unlike those austere, pinched-mouthed, black-wearing pilgrims, Italians love life--and food is a major part of life. The feast might start with an antipasto, jump into a lasagna for a first course (prima piatta), and get around to the turkey and stuffing as the main course.

Thomas Craughwell, in an article entitled, "If Only the Pilgrims Had Been Italian," had this to say:

"I would be willing to bet serious money that right now in your kitchen you have olive oil, garlic, pasta, Parmesan cheese, and dried basil (maybe even fresh basil!). Nothing exotic there, right? They're ingredients we take for granted. But their appearance in our kitchens is a relatively recent phenomenon. Believe me, those big-flavor items did not come over on the Mayflower. It took generations, even centuries, for Americans to expand their culinary horizons to the point where just about everybody cooks Italian and orders Chinese take-out."

Read the rest of the story here.

Italian pilgrims

On the Sicilian Culture website, an Italian American Thanksgiving is decribed in detail:

"In the fine pilgrim tradition, my ancestors (grandparents) came over here to the New World, America, and they celebrated and gave thanks for their new fortune, freedom and prosperiety. However, they were very reluctant to give up the traditions of their own, that is why they still serve manicotti, lasagna or stuffed shells prior to the turkey. If you are ever invited to a real Italian Thanksgiving Dinner, do not eat beforehand, and bring your appetite, and plan on staying for a while or even sleeping over. You see, they start off with the antipasto: salami, pepperoni, tomatoes, olives, anchovies, sweet roasted peppers, assorted cheeses like mozzarella, provolone, and even the American cheddar, etc. Then comes the salad, next the pasta, and of course nexts comes the turkey, complete with stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes, gravy and anything else you might expect. Afterward, you of course have the fine Italian pastries, and that is always the hightlight, the conversation then consists of where you got them, how long you waited on line, and who has the best. This final course includes black coffee done in the double boiler, better known as demitasse or espresso, with the usual cordials, amaretto, sambuca and/or anisette."

This Thanksgiving, try an Italian stuffing with the help of Giada De Laurenteiis

Sounds good to me. In case you get lucky, and get invited to Thanksgiving with Italians, these words may be helpful:

Comedian Joe DeVito talks about an Italian American Thanksgiving in his stand-up routine. Here he was filmed at Stress Factory, on October 16, 2008

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


This is some crazy stuff...if this doesn't put you in the holiday spirit you're hopeless.

Maybe you heard Bob Dylan has a Christmas album. I'll give you a moment to make a joke. Okay, ready? It shouldn't be a surprise, really. Dylan's last few albums have reflected an abiding love of American music going back to the Civil War, and he's obviously a student of that great tradition of folk, blues, and oldtime music. Hell, he helped make a few traditions of his own. Anyway, the new album digs back to classic holiday music, and it's a fundraiser for the United Nations World Food Program.

A Christmas album? Don't be a Santa Hater.

Anyway, never one to fall into a rut, Dylan is constantly reinventing himself. The man behind "Blonde on Blonde" and "Blood on the Tracks" never sounded more sentimental and sincere. I love this clip, in which Dylan wears a wig that balances on his head like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine. It looks like a great party from the days before everyone got so damn serious. Give it a listen. It's good music for a good cause, and it looks like more fun than anyone's had since he toured England with the Hawks. Enjoy!!!


We love Isabella Rossellini. The daughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini, Isabella is not only a great beauty (she was the Lancôme model for years), she is also a wonderful actress. Maybe you saw her in "Blue Velvet," "Fearless," "Immortal Beloved," or "Big Night." She has wonderful comic timing, as you've seen in a couple episodes of "30 Rock," where she plays Alec Baldwin's ex-wife.

Now, Isabella Rossellini is acting and co-directing (with Jody Shapiro) a series of short two minute films called "Green Porno." You heard right. In the films, she humorously enacts the mating rituals of various animals.

Here, she shows the mating rituals of a praying mantis. Other favorites include the life of anchovies (which begins with a pizza) and the common house fly. Everyone would agree, there is nothing common about Isabella.

"The Snail"

See more of the "green porno" series on The Sundance Channel and IFC.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Chicha is a corn liquor the Incas drank before Columbus. Chicha is also the name of a South American music craze which started out in the early 70's in the Peruvian Amazon.

Chicha Libre, originally called Cumbias Amazonicas, is a musical group that is inspired by Colombian accordion-driven cumbias but incorporates "the distinctive pentatonic scales of Andean melodies, some Cuban son, and the psychedelic sounds of surf guitars, farfisa organs and moog synthesizers." They might be cousins to Os Mutantes, and the bands that play "a post-modern combination of western psychedelia, Cuban and Colombian rhythms, national melodies and idiosyncratic inventions."

Got that? In other words, you won't hear this on the radio.

Cool sounds.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I moved to Seattle in the the late summer of 1991 just when the town exploded and changed the world for one brief shining moment. I hit the Emerald City just a few weeks before Nirvana released "Nevermind" and the sounds that had been brewing for years in the Pacific Northwest finally cracked the mainstream. It was an exciting time to head to Seattle, and a million kids did the same thing. They swarmed the city, especially Capitol Hill, in a flurry of green hair and tattoos and guitar cases. They sprawled on Broadwat, ate burgers at Dick's, spare-changed shoppers leaving the QFC, and tried to squeeze into shows at the Crocodile. Right on their tail, breathing down their necks. were a thousand scouts from record companies all over trying to repeat the success of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Alice in Chains, 7 Year Bitch...not to mention Bikini Kill and those riot girrrls from Olympia. Sub Pop Records, which first signed Nirvana, Mudhoney, and Soundgarden back in the 80s, was suddenly cooler than any record company in New York or Los Angeles.

You know these guys

Before long, Paris runway models were sporting "le Grunge," Matt Dillon was wearing a longhaired wig in a Hollywood movie about Seattle grunge, sit-coms popped up with Seattle this and that--and this western outpost--long scorned by New York and LA--was suddenly cool and those trendsetting cities hopelessly outre.

Matt Dillon and Bridget Fonda play "Grunge" in a Hollywood version of Seattle in the early 90s: Seattle was suddenly "in" and there was money in it.

"Touch Me I'm Sick" by Mudhoney

Fine. Anything great from the Northwest--microbrews, the coffee revolution, music--came about when people ignored the so-called capitols of taste (and their grip on distribution and production) and did it for themselves. This was real--sludgy and loud and not compromising to commercial tastes of the time. This was indie noise that somehow broke through the radio stations that had been playing Journey and Foghat way longer than they should have. People were suddenly "sleepless in Seattle" scurrying after contracts.

"Le Grunge" on the Paris runway. Tres chic!

Before long, the Northwest uniform of Pendleton flannel, blue jeans, and big knobby boots (which we'd been wearing in the NW forever) became the cool outfit around the world. As I mentioned, haute couture tried to cash in, and expensive designers were copying "le Grunge," the look that originally came out of thrift stores and the Goodwill.

"Alive" by Pearl Jam.

Some people hated Pearl Jam right off the bat, or felt they were in competition with the more truly "punk" Nirvana, but Pearl Jam were definitely part of the Seattle scene. I saw them for free at the park. See if you can spot me in the crowd.

And often overlooked trashy artform was reborn in the creative stewpot of Seattle in the 1990s. Fantagraphics spearheaded a movement of new, intelligent alternative comics with a crew of genre-stretching artists that included Xaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Peter Bagge, Jim Woodring and Dan Clowes, producing such notable comics as Ghost World, Hate, Frank, Eightball, and Love and Rockets.

Larry Reid, instrumental in spreading the Seattle comix revolution, reads a Peter Bagge comic, "Buddy Does Seattle," in his Fantagraphics Bookstore.

The music was the thing that hit everyone, though. And like all subcultures, the mainstream had its fun with its stereotypes and jokes--the tattoos and hair providing an easy target for square America. Copycat bands like "Stone Temple Pilots" sprung up, pretending to be from Seattle, and hardcore bands on the Lower East Side sported "Sonics" sweats and "Seattle's Best" T-shirts. And of course, some bands with good pedigrees thought they'd cater to the mainstream copying the hits, and some of the music suffered. Still, it was an exciting place for a while when even the warm-up bands were making cool, creative, formerly non-mainstream music. People knew they were in on something. And when the New York Times called Megan Jasper at Sub Pop Records for inside information on the phenomenon, Megan gave them an entirely bogus dictionary of "grunge terms" that they ran as gospel truth. She went on and on, and The Times ate it up with a spoon. The journal of record thought they had cracked the code, and they ran the piece in its entirety as "The Lexicon of Grunge."

MTV frequently visited Seattle, Here an all-star show at the pier on New Year's Eve started with The Breeders. Here they perform "Divine Hammer" and "Cannonball," two alternative hits, as they warm up the crowd for Nirvana.

The "Behind the Music" obligatory moral. Okay. Scenes come and go. Heroin and success took its toll on some of the bands, and that murky dead-eyed look became pretty common. Of course, everyone knows that kid from Aberdeen, Kurt took his final shot of smack and blew his brains out with a shotgun one rainy day in his house on Lake Washington. People come from all over to pay their respects. The end of an era.

Nirvana in concert.

Now it's all ancient history. The trend is toward fey ironic pop (listen to the popular "Juno" soundtrack and retch) and "indie" has devolved to nothing more than a marketing strategy for major corporations and dull mainstream music. Oh, there is still an underground music scene, some really creative stuff exists in a subterranean world outside the MTV spotlight, but you have to seek it out. Once again. Trade your mixtapes. Keep an eye open.

Still, after all is said and done, watching these clips makes me nostalgic. You couldn't beat these kids from the muddy banks of the Wishkaw. Under their wall of ragged noise is sheer heart and melody. Here we are now. Entertain us. Something stupid and contagious.

Friday, November 13, 2009


"Sam Stone"

John Prine is a hell of a songwriter. He can write a simple country folk song that will knock you out. Prine is a poet, really, and a short story writer, and a singer all rolled up in one. Listen to the words, and unless you're a hopelessly hard-hearted bastard you'll feel something. That's truth.

John Prine wasn't an overnight success. He joined the army, and then worked as a postman. He wrote songs at night, and he played them on open mikes in clubs. That's when he caught the attention of Kris Kristofferson, who was completely blown away. He quipped that Prine was so good "we'll have to break his thumbs."

Kris helped him get a recording contract, and the eponymous 1971 album that followed was a huge hit. The cover showed him sitting on a couple bales of hay like some farmboy. This was 1971, mind you, and way out of step with the fashion of the day, but the hippest songwriters payed close attention. Like any great new songwriter, he was called "the next Bob Dylan," but the old, original Dylan himself was a big fan, and even showed up to a gig to play harmonica with John.


Here's a younger John Prine slinking around in his old hometown of Maywood, Illinois. He sings "Paradise," a song about returning to his old Kentucky home to find it stripped away by Peabody Coal Company.

In 2009, Bob Dylan told the Huffington Post that Prine was one of his favorite writers, stating "Prine's stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs. I remember when Kris Kristofferson first brought him on the scene. All that stuff about "Sam Stone," the soldier junkie daddy, and "Donald and Lydia," where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that."

Prine is still making music, but maybe he doesn't quite fit into the standard radio format--he's not really country, not really folk--you rarely hear him in the box. I guess he sounds pretty laid back to contemporary listeners, so maybe they think he's old fashioned, but they're missing some radical songwriting. His songs have a gentle power, and he doesn't shout and scream to get your attention, and he doesn't use drum machines and synthesisers and Auto-Tune, and he doesn't try to anticipate the Next Big Thing. He just writes songs, pure and simple.

In 2005, John Prine received the Artist of the Year award at the Americana Music Awards. In 2006, he won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. That was Fair and Square, an album that gave us "Safety Joe," about a man who never took any risks in his life, and "Some Humans Ain't Human," a song that laments the sorry state of humanity and even takes a potshot at President George W. Bush. I'll say it again, Listen to the words.

"Hello in There."

John's older now--who isn't? He's had his ups and downs. It's fitting to end with his song about old age, a sweet heartrending favorite off his first album so many years ago.

post inspired by Bill Craig Jones, who posted some Prine clips on Facebook. Bill is a bay area musician and old friend who used to jam with us up on Cooper Mountain
back in the day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


This is a lecture Kurt Vonnegut gave at Albion Collage where he received an honorary doctorate in 2002. The lecture's title is "How to Get Job Like Mine." What a darkly comic, deadly serious, compassionate, pessimistic, radical, hopeful and hilarious collection of contradictions co-exist in this wise old man. A humanist who jettisoned all platitudes and phoniness, who wasn't afraid to call bullshit on false patriotism and military madness, this writer should have a statue built of him in every town square--but of course that's exactly the crap he detested. Too bad they make such boring people saints or this rumpled soul might have a chance. In this age of plastic infortainment, I miss his sense of wit and humanity. Read his books.

"Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before... He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way."

- Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


"I Got The Blues" live at the Marquee Club, London, on March 26th, 1971. Mick Taylor on lead guitar, Bobby Keys (sax) and Jim Price (trumpet).

There was a time (between Beggar's Banquet and Exile) that the Rolling Stones were unbelievably good. Dig out that old copy of "Bedsprings Symphony" and listen to Mick Taylor's lead guitar playing on Tumblin' Dice, or even Angie. Pretend you never heard of the Stones--forget your preconceptions about rockist poses and arrogant divas, and listen to that downhome, southern-fried, swampy, drug-addled, mad dog music on Exile on Main Street and tell me it's NOT the greatest rock record of all time. Somebody say amen.

"Gimme Shelter"

Monday, November 9, 2009


The original Pinocchio, illustrated by Enrico Mazzanti (1852-1910) for Carlo Collodi's "Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino."

Carlo Lorenzini (1826--1890), better known by his pen name Carlo Collodi

Who is the real Pinocchio? Carlo Collodi, an Italian writer and journalist, wrote the story in 1883 at a time of great political turmoil in Italy. His story of a puppet who dreams of being a boy has become one of the most beloved stories of all time. Could that little puppet bare some resemblance to a recently unified Italy?

Most of us are familiar with Pinocchio from the 1940's animated film by Walt Disney. It's an animation classic, possibly Disney's best film, but maybe something was lost in the translation. A new English translation by Geoffrey Brock suggests we may have missed a lot when the story crossed the pond to Disneyland.

"The Making of Pinocchio" by Walt Disney Studios. Most people think Disney thought up Pinocchio, and Walt did little to dissuade them. Blink and you'll miss the source of the story.

In The New York Review of Books, Novelist Tim Parks spoke with Andrew Palmer about Brock's new English translation of Collodi's children's classic, and he says there's more to Pinocchio than Disney put across. Click the button to hear the interview:

Francis Ford Coppola tried producing a new version of the tale in the 1990s for Warner Bros. but the project ended in a lawsuit, and Coppola was finally awarded an offer he couldn't refuse, $80 million by a jury (the figure was cut to $20 million when a trial judge tossed out punitive damages).

Guillermo del Toro, director of "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Hellboy," is developing a darker, stop-motion version of "Pinocchio" with the Jim Hensen Co. and artist Gris Grimly, who illustrated "Pinocchio" in 2002. Del Toro announced the project in an interview with, and said the film would take three years to complete. His top priority now is directing of "The Hobbit," the latest Tolkien project from Peter Jackson. He also has a deal with Universal, and is looking at remakes of "Frankenstein," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and "Slaughterhouse-Five."

Del Toro told Wired that he spends the first two hours each morning working on "The Hobbit," and the rest of the day troubleshooting his other projects. So the new "Pinocchio" may take a while. Still, with Guillermo and his gang on the case, maybe Pinocchio will finally get his due.

"Pinocchio" illustrated by Gris Grimly

By the way, the word "pinocchio" is a Tuscan word for "pine nut."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?

A timely message and killer guitar from Ry Cooder and The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces, featuring the great Flaco Jimenez on accordion. The song says it all.

Last night, the House passed an historic health care reform bill, and now it heads to the senate. Keep your fingers crossed. Unemployment tops ten percent, and people are worried about holding on to even shitty jobs. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer--it may be a cliche but it's true.

Another take on the class war--this time from The Clash, the punk rock crew that rattled the windows and shook the teacups of the ruling class. "The only band that matters," people would say. They spit in the eye of injustice before "punk" became a pose or just a style of clothes. Here they perform Willie William's reggae classic "Armagideon Time."

A lotta people won't get no supper tonight...
A lotta people won't get no justice tonight...
The battle is getting harder
In this iration, armagideon time


Elvis Perkins, "Shampoo"

Autumn music. Wooden instruments from old time America. We saw Elvis Perkins at Bumbershoot and he gave a mesmerizing performance somewhere between Dylan, The Band and the Waterboys. Onstage, Perkins and his band looked like civil war deserters, escaped convicts, hobos recording their basement tapes. Damn good show. Perkins comes from quite a lineage--he's the son of actor Anthony Perkins and photographer Berry Berenson. Tragedy and surprise marks his music, and his background; his father died of AIDs in 1992, and his mother was killed in the 9/11 attack on New York City.

This song is a favorite I keep adding to mixtapes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


It's hard to believe it's been ten years since the WTO came to Seattle and the city was rocked with protests and teargas. What happened?

This is the trailer for "Battle in Seattle," a big budget film about the WTO demonstrations. A good cast and even-handed politics made this a good film--one that hardly anybody saw.

The vast majority of protesters were peaceful, but they were gassed just the same. The newscasters lamented over and over that the police were working long shifts and they were agitated, as if to justify their indiscriminate use of tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, smoke bombs and flash-bang grenades. Shocking videos by citizens surfaced, and newscasters scrambled to explain them away. The mayor gave police a green light to clear the shopping corridor, and declared downtown Seattle a "protest free zone" in clear violation of the US Constitution and the rights of citizens to assemble and peacefully redress grievances.

The Bill of Rights: void where prohibited by law? Read it here.

This is a film of the WTO demonstrations and the police response. These are not Hollywood actors. The film was produced by IndyMedia, an independent grassroots news service clearly on the side of the activists. This is a supplement, or even an antidote to much of the alarmist broadcast news of the WTO by newscasters with studio tans and blow-dried coiffures eager to please the powers that be. How would these newspeople have covered the Boston Tea Party? The John Brown rebellion? Tienanmen Square, had they been mainstream Chinese newscasters? How did they cover the anti-war demonstrations of the 1960s and 1990s? Mainstream media tends to view events from the angle of the rich and powerful. They provide "infotainment" that helps sell advertising that encourages shopping.

Seattle riot police protect Niketown in Tiananmen Square...I mean Pioneer Square.

Shop owners and businessmen wanted the WTO mess cleaned up fast because it interferes with shopping. The mayor jumped into bed with them and put the city under the municipal equivalent of martial law. He declared a curfew and a "no-protest zone." Here in the shopping corridor, shoppers spend a fortune during the Christmas season. They pore over the sales ads, but maybe they should pore over a copy of Resistance to Civil Government, a pamphlet published by Thoreau in 1849 in which he compared the government to a machine, and said that when the machine was working injustice it was the duty of conscientious citizens to be "a counter friction" (i.e., a resistance) "to stop the machine." Even so, the spirit of civil disobedience was alive and well in the streets, and I think I saw Thoreau in a black hoodie.

Some raw footage of WTO, 1999

Monday, November 2, 2009


They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but we all know that tired old cliche often masks mockery and satire. Cover songs are tricky. The Beatles were immensely popular worldwide and spawned countless imitators covering their songs, including this horrendous Hungarian VentriloChoir. In Hungary, the rules for ventriloquists are apparently different than over here, and keeping your lips from moving is optional.

Frank Sinatra hated rock and roll in the beginning, sneered at Elvis, and said that the Beatles ruined show business. But old Blue Eyes knew a good song when he heard it, and he eventually overcame his distaste for the Liverpudlian rockers and recorded "Something," saying it was one of the finest love songs of the past fifty or a hundred years. Sure, he fudges the words a little, but he's trying. Jack. Now get the hell out of here.

It's hard to beat Shatner. Recorded during his psychedelic "lost weekend," the Shat took the Beatles' surrealistic ditty one step beyond the Milky Way. When the drugs kicked in, he found himself stranded somewhere to the left of Alpha Centauri on a planet with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. He met a girl with kaleidoscope eyes, but he was tripping balls and this alluring alien life form might have been a Klingon or a Romulan shape-shifter. Dazed and confused, the Shat needed some Thorazine and orange juice to bring him back to Earth. Even so, throughout the voyage, Captain Kirk kept his cool. This mangled Beatles cover is all that remains of his bad trip.


The world's greatest cartoonist has taken on the Bible, respectfully illustrating the entire tale with finely hatched pen and ink drawings. Some will be started that the man who brought us "Fritz the Cat" and "Big Ass Comics" now brings us The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb ($24.95, W.W. Norton), and they might expect to be dodging lightning bolts for even considering picking up a copy, but don't worry. Crumb is respectful.

"It was hard to draw God," Crumb told USA Today in a rare phone interview from his home in France.

"Should God just be a bright light? Should I use word balloons? Should God be a woman?

"I ended up with the old stereotypical Charlton Heston kind of God, long beard, very masculine. I used a lot of white-out, a lot of corrections when I tried to draw God."

An illustration from the "new" old book; click to enlarge

Even more rare than that interview with USA Today, is this conversation between Crumb and Harvey Pekar, author of American Splendor. As you know, Crumb illustrated some of the episodes in Harvey's autobiographical series, and as you know these two are famously cranky bastards. They get along like two oldtime cartoon characters, and in fact they are. Warning: the conversation contains language for intelligent adults who are not offended by the popular vernacular--in other words, the way most people speak every day. If you don't like it, don't listen.

Crumb & Pekar online