Sunday, July 31, 2011


Click to enlarge

Come see my artwork this week at the Gage Academy of Art
. I'm in a show with Jim Woodring, David Chelsea and several other excellent artists whose work "displays exceptional technical skill and creative narrative story lines." Sounds good to me. (Check out more of my artwork at Bob Rini Makes Art).

The Gage Academy is an independent art school in the tradition of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Art Students League in New York. It offers the technical foundations of an artist's training, as well as programs that nature's vision and creative potential.
"Our goal is simple," they say in their literature, "to engage you." It's an honor to show at such a well-respected institution, so come and see our artwork. Click in the poster above to enlarge.

Steele Gallery at Gage
Daily 10:00am to 6:00pm

Gage Academy of Art
1501 10th Ave. East, #101
Seattle, WA 98102
Tel: 206 323-GAGE

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Suddenly I turned around and she was standing there--with silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair. Janis Joplin was a blues singer in the tradition of Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday but transplanted to another time. Like Smith and Holiday, she didn't have a "perfect voice" in the traditional sense. Her voice was rough and weathered but she used it as an expressive instrument that carried her soul. She was steel-edged but somehow soft inside, as Nat Hentoff once described Billie Holiday. Summertime was a natural for her. Of course the song had been done many times before, from stage productions of Porgy and Bess to jazz clubs, but it was blues at heart, and Janis sang the hell out of it. She sang it for our time. This clip was recorded in Stockholm in 1969, a year of turbulent change around the world, the year that Nixon was elected by a landslide, the year of Woodstock and the first moon landing, the year of the Manson killings and the Stonewall riots and the first massive demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. Janis captured the heart and soul of the time, just as much as Hendrix playing The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock with snarling feedback and bombs bursting in air that same summer.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


So sorry to hear that Amy Winehouse passed away today. The talented, troubled singer had obvious problems with alcohol and drugs, and it's tragic she didn't get the help she needed. We will miss her soulful music. No easy sermons, no snap judgments, no smug attitudes, just sadness today. Here are some softer moments of Amy singing offstage.

Friday, July 22, 2011


"The Classic Lean"

Summer is here, and you're probably enjoying the sunshine, drinking gin and tonics and making out. Sure you are. This is prime make-out season. If you're not, this instructional video might come in handy. For laughs, anyway. This self-described flirting expert is preying upon your insecurities--a time-tested means of making money--and offering her advice. For a fee, she'll tell you that eye-contact is important, and give you a plethora of irresistible flirting moves such as batting your eyelashes, casually touching your hair, making suggestive smiles, giggling, stretching, cooing, teasing, flattering, playing footsie and using "The Lean" (pictured above).

Follow this advice and you will look like an complete idiot. You need a little sugar but you'll probably get slapped with a restraining order. Don't giggle, stretch, lean, bat your eyelashes or zero in for the kill. Talk. Smile. Learn to relax and be yourself. Then--if that proves hopeless--fork over some hard-earned cash for this video and a classy Polyester pantsuit. Stand up straight and take a deep breath. See that chick over there by the salad bar? She is so into you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Agustina Woodgate sews poetry into clothing tags. She calls it Poetry Bombing.

"For the past month," according to the Miami New Times, "the artist has been sewing verse by Sylvia Plath and Li Po into jackets, pants, and dresses on thrift store shelves all over the county. We caught up with her at Flamingo Plaza in Hialeah to document her work."

"The intrusive nature of guerrilla art can be problematic sometimes," says stodgy uncle Time magazine, "especially in the case of poetry storming because clothes are for sale. Luckily for the artist, the stores, don't seem to care much, even though she had fair amount of coverage in the local media."

From the Situationists to Banksy, guerrilla artists have challenged our expectations with subversive messages, stencils, street theater, graffiti, billboard remixing, flash mobs, wheatpasting, stickers and poetry bombing. They have taken art off the gallery walls and poetry off the shelves and put it out in the streets. They have stormed the reality studios and left no place safe for the mundane and humdrum. They've reduced our Comfort Zone to the circumference of an easy chair in our living room and then stolen our favorite slippers.

Or they would like to think so.

Vandalism? Guerrilla art? Maybe it's best that poetry remains safe on the shelf, out of sight and unread. Maybe art should be locked in a vault and only interpreted by experts in bite-size wall-text. Maybe the marketplace--where serious business is conducted--should be completely off limits to the artist, a roped-off area where art isn't permitted and the only permissible flash comes from advertising, unalloyed with the ambiguous, the challenging, the unsettling. Then again, since the marketplace has expanded to include most of our world, and the art world has painted itself into a corner, maybe some unexpected creativity would come as a welcome surprise. We think so. And we think Agustina Woodgate's high energy artistic antics add a splash of color to a field of grey.


For years now one of my favorite eateries in PDX has been Pok Pok. The food is great every time, and every time the place is jammed with a long line out the door. Now I'm worried it will be even more crowded since annoying food hound Guy Fieri spilled the beans on national TV. Sure, the sticky sweet Southeast Asian street food will always be sublime, and the wings...ah, the wings...will always be worth waiting for, but now I'm afraid Pok Pok will be overrun by arrogant blowhards from LA with bad hairdos. Let's hope not. Then again, maybe it's time to let go. The cognoscenti have already moved on to trendier digs, and the wealthy foodies who once slummed for street food have grazed their way to more toney holes-in-the-wall, but my heart will always pang for Pok Pok's skewers of whole baby octopus and coconut-milk marinated pork loin, for their Tamarind Whiskey Soda cocktails, for Ike's brilliant hot and sweet Vietnamese wings marinated in caramelized Phu Quou fish sauce. The stuff of dreams. Sadly, we may have lost the place forever to raspy-voiced Californians in ironic bowling shirts, but we'll always have the memories.


Grizzly Mom is back. Once again, Sarah Palin, the defeated vice-presidential candidate, has rewritten history--this time her own--in a self-glorifying hagiography, "Undefeated," now playing in a theater near you. What are the critics saying about the film?

"A troop-rallying campaign infomercial as imagined by Michael Bay: hero-worshipping, crescendo-edited at a dizzying pace, thunderously repetitive and its own worst enemy as a two-hour, talking-points briefing."
- Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

"Less a documentary than a glowing two-hour infomercial for Sarah Palin, Presidential Candidate To-Be."
- Anna Merlan, Village Voice

"Slickly produced and blatantly manipulative, Bannon's hagiographic tribute is a celebratory cavalcade of career highlights and glowing testimonials that doubtless will please Palin's devoted followers, appall her fiercest critics -- and, perhaps, occasionally surprise the undecided."
- Joe Leydon, Variety

"Once you realize the film is just going to be a string of encomiums against a backdrop of frantically edited archival material in which few shots are allowed to stay onscreen longer than three seconds, it's clear that no meaningful analysis of the woman's career or political agenda will be forthcoming."
- Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

"The film adopts one of Palin’s favorite points of view: that throughout her political career she has been the victim of vicious attacks from political enemies and the media. Among other melodramatic imagery, the movie shows frothing attack dogs and a lion killing a beautiful zebra to symbolize the way Palin has been treated at the hands of the press."
- Gardner and Rucker, The Washington Post

Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a zero percent rating.

No matter. In Sarah Palin's hermetically-sealed world view, critics are probably a liberal plot anyway. For fans who can't get enough of the "mavericky" maybe-candidate, the reviews won't affect them, either, and they can be expected to buy tickets and fill the megaplexes with their hoots and hollers. Well, maybe. This was opening weekend and turnout was dismal even among the True Believers. Are you going?

We're unrepentant liberals so we're going to skip this idiotic mess, but don't let us influence your decision. Watch the trailer and decide for yourself. From the looks of it, this movie would make Leni Riefenstahl blush. But, hey, it's your money.

Monday, July 18, 2011


He asked for it.

Marlon Baker, a black man in his mid-forties, was just trying to get a drink at JD's Resort in Bayview, Idaho, when he was approached by this self-described "skinhead," Darren Christopher Abbey, 28, who told him blacks weren't welcome in the bar. Baker left the bar to avoid a fight.

Abbey followed him outside, hurling racial slurs at Baker, who continued walking. Abbey, according to the Spokesman-Review, "has several neo-Nazi tattoos and told Coeur d'Alene police in 2004 that he was an 'independent skinhead' who didn't like minorities."

Abbey yelled that blacks didn't belong in Bayview. He followed Baker to a marina 300 yards away, where he threatened to stab him. That's when Baker knocked him unconscious with one punch.

Evidently, Abbey didn't read the writing on Baker's T-shirt, “Spokane Boxing Club champion.”

“If he had been able to read that maybe he wouldn't have done that,” Lt. Stu Miller said.

According to the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, Abbey was booked on malicious harassment charges after being treated at a hospital for facial fractures.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I love movies. Since time began (well, nearly) summer has been a time of movies, and I have many sepia-toned memories of childhood that begin with parting heavy, velvet drapes and making my way to my seat in the darkness clutching a box of Raisinets. Or memories of drive-in movies---that's a summer experience we will have to explain to subsequent generations ("Yes, you watched the movie in your car!") but that's another summer movie memory. Cast your memory back. Adjust the speaker on your car window. Twilight descends and suddenly Woody Woodpecker pops up on a giant screen towering over your Ford. Remember? How about double bills with a corny advert sandwiched in between features extolling the virtues of the snack bar, watered-down soft drinks and warm wienies rotating under a heat lamp?

That's all gone now. Nowadays summer releases are screened in cinderblock bunkers, multi-screen megaplexes at the mall, and the movies tend to be silly teen comedies, blockbuster adventures, animated kid stuff and lightweight rom-coms. Popcorn movies. (They save the serious Oscar contenders for the holiday season). Summertime is when all those comic books they've turned into movies, and all those sequels flood the multiplexes and squeeze out those hard-earned allowances across the land.

There are only a couple of these summer movies we want to see this year. One is "Cowboys and Aliens" (The title says it all). Another movie that would have been released in the summer if not for the big name attached to it is "Hugo," with Martin Scorsese directing. "Hugo" sounds like a real departure for Marty. The film is being shot in 3D, for one thing. We're really not sure what it's about, but this synopsis is from the press packet:

Hugo tells the story of an orphan boy living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station. With the help of an eccentric girl, he searches for the answer to a mystery linking the father he recently lost, the ill-tempered toy shop owner living below him and a heart shaped lock, seemingly without a key. Based on Brian Selznick’s award winning and imaginative New York Times bestseller, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, this magical tale is Academy Award(R)-winner Martin Scorsese’s first film shot in 3D.

Okay, so now we know. It doesn't matter. They had us with "Scorsese."

"Hugo" opens November 23, and stars Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, Ray Winstone and Christopher Lee.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I and LOVE and YOU

The Avett Brothers have an old timey feel and they kind of look like The Band circa Music from Big Pink, who in turn looked like scroungy deserters from the Civil War. At any rate, these grizzled purveyors of Americana can write a good song. This one is pure as branchwater. It tells a little story, and you know how we like stories. Take off your shoes and sit a spell and give this a listen. Here they are live at Bonnaroo, singing a song dedicated to Wendy Lu from Kalamazoo.

Distant cousins, once removed: The Band in all their ragged glory in this clip from a hard to find documentary (ignore the foreign subtitles) on the making of the second Band album, the classic "Brown Album."

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Michelle Bachmann was the first Republican candidate to sign a very special loyalty pledge to the Tea Party. As you can imagine, the pledge is loaded with bullets of the conservative agenda, the boilerplate message that is staunchly pro-marriage, anti-choice, anti-porn, and anti-gay--but here's a new twist--overtly racist. We know racism has incited some fearful Tea Partiers to fight against President Obama--their picket signs alone prove that--but this document makes it official. And downright creepy. Decipher this passage:

...sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President.

In other words, slavery helped keep families TOGETHER. So much for "family values." Even if you're ignorant of history, even if you've never read a history book on the era (or watched the television mini-series,"Roots," for godsakes) you know that slavery ripped families apart regulalry and that rape by slavemasters was common. Not exactly the "good old days."

What is Bachmann saying by signing this pledge? I'm not sure, really, other than that "the dark races" are incapable of taking care of themselves, that too much freedom for these troublesome folk does them no good, and therefore that white American has nothing to be ashamed of for owning other human beings as property--just more revisionist conservative history making from the lunatic fringe. How it applies? If their lot in life is their own damn fault, then we should be less concerned about the poor, and that the system is fair and meritocratic after all and people get what they deserve, they rise to the station they have earned, and this view justifies all the pro-wealthy tax cuts and loyalty to the rich since the "good people" have naturally risen to the top (and are probably are favored by God, as well). Bachmann is one of these middle Americans who probably see black people (and other minorities, and liberals, and gays, and immigrants) as always bellyaching about the American Way of Life, so she is defending it (including slavery, apparently) against these not-real-Americans who want a piece of the pie they don't deserve.

That Bachmann is historically ignorant comes hardly as a surprise, but the fact that she eagerly supports this kind of myth in an official pledge shows how extreme and divisive she is--exactly what we don't need, here and now, when the country is more divided than ever. Don't be hoodwinked. Her deep-dish, all-American pie is made with horse apples.

Watch this video clip and you'll know more about slavery than Michele Bachmann.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Oh, for Fox Sake
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Jon Stewart was interviewed at Fox News recently (we posted the interview a few days ago, scroll down to view) and here are his post-interview comments. As usual, the ideologues at "fair & balanced" Fox thought they had Stewart against the ropes, but they weren't as clever as they thought. If only they were smart enough to appreciate how Stewart runs rings around them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


We're taking a break from politics and murder trials to listen to Adele. She's 22 years old and has a killer voice and an old school soul and R&B feel. She was born in London to a single teenage mother and she first loved the Spice Girls, but later found out about R&B singers Destiny's Child and Mary J. Blige. Wherever she came from, she can sing the hell out of a ballad. Her latest album ("21") has remained at number one on the UK charts longer than any other female solo artist in history. Back in 2008, her first album ("16") won her Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. She was barely twenty at the time. Overachievers take note: she wrote the following song, her first smash hit, "Hometown Glory," when she was just sixteen.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Rethinking "The Grapes of Wrath," the 1940 John Ford film made from John Steinbeck's classic novel. This story embodies the American spirit more than a million fireworks displays so it's fitting to post it today, on the 4th of July.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


It's the 4th of July weekend, so we're saluting an American hero, Abbie Hoffman, a former civil rights worker who organized voters in Mississippi and went on to organize protests against the Vietnam War and the Nixon war machine. In another country, we might call him a dissident. Here in America, we confuse patriotism with jingoism, conservatism and militarism, but Abbie believed in the essence of America, and not just on paper--he actually practiced our guaranteed constitutional right to protest, our right to freedom of assembly, our right to freedom of association, and our right to freedom of speech. Sure, he was a wiseacre and a smart aleck, and didn't always behave himself. Yes, he spit in Nixon's eye at the height of the president's popularity, but Tricky Dick had it coming. Sure, he was a troublemaker, but he represented American values more than all the phony flagwavers who carry teabags, more than the stuffed shirts exchanging business cards at the Chamber of Commerce luncheons, more than the gladhanders making empty promises and pocketing contributions, more than the bible-thumping hatemongers who praise Jesus but only worship power. Abbie wrapped himself in the flag, too, and was promptly arrested for it, and in the process educated us about the way power plays favorites. This weekend, as we sidle up to picnics to fill our Old Glory paper plates, let's not confuse liberty with hot dogs and sparklers and the flatulence of brass bands playing marching music on Main Street. Let's not be snookered by the accouterments. It ain't about that, bub. Maybe, just maybe the American spirit is less about bombs bursting in air and the GNP, and more about the kid--the ornery one who doesn't always mind his manners--who shouts from the back of the adoring crowd that the emperor has no clothes.

Friday, July 1, 2011


No comment on the latest gaffes from Palin and Bachmann (they seem endless), no comment on the endless churn of Tea Party revisionism, and no comment on the idiot who just wrote a book claiming John Lennon was a closet Republican (Hoover and Nixon didn't think so, and hounded him endlessly; I direct you to the film "U.S. vs. John Lennon") because the weekend is here. Independence Day means something, and not the version embraced by the mouth-breathing morons of the right wing lunatic fringe who have tirelessly attempted to shred everything the country stands for, and who would sell out our hard-won liberties to military/corporate cronies at the drop of a hat. Better to show Jon Stewart on Fox News this week. Watch the whole thing. Beautiful.