Sunday, December 31, 2006

Movies of the Year! Movies of the Year!

In 2006 I watched 129 movies that I hadn't seen before -- 18 in the theater, 111 on video. Only 21 of 'em were 2006 releases, but none really blew me away (rated 9 or 10 stars on my scale of ten). However, I liked these 7- and 8-star movies a lot:

1. Borat: Culural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
2. Wordplay
3. Jackass Number Two
4. An Inconvenient Truth
5. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
6. Friends with Money
7. Little Children
8. Strangers with Candy
9. V for Vendetta
10. This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Alright, so a top-ten list doesn't mean a whole lot when drawn from a field of only 21 -- that's like the 30-team NHL playing a seven-month regular season to determine which 16 teams make the playoffs -- but still... Other promising-sounding 2006 movies that I haven't yet seen: Brick, The Departed, Half Nelson, Idiocracy, Letters from Iwo Jima, Running with Scissors, Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny, United 93, Volver, and probably many others... Of these, the one I'm most excited to see is Mike Judge's Idiocracy -- it never screened in Seattle but it's due on DVD January 9 -- 'cause I'm a big fan of Judge's other stuff (Beavis & Butt-Head, Office Space, and especially King of the Hill)... I never did see Snakes on a Plane, and at this point have lost what meager interest I had.

Biggest disappointments: For Your Consideration was sorta funny, but a far cry from Christopher Guest's last three comedy knockouts... Art School Confidential had lots of Ghost World/Bad Santa-type potential, but it just fell flat.

Most hated movie of 2006: Little Miss Sunshine. I give this one an "Oh, brother" and a "Ghaa."

Most awesome pre-2006 movie that I only saw for the first time this year: The Beaver Trilogy (2001).

Most anticipated movies of 2007: Spider-Man 3, Reno 911!: Miami.

For those keeping score, here's my 2006 mid-term report.



Saturday, December 30, 2006

Music of the Year! Music of the Year!

It seems my enthusiasm for new music (that is, music new to me), which had been in various stages of dormancy for most of this century, came back with a vengeance in 2006. Three big reasons:

1. Nashville. A March trip to Music City sparked an interest a genre I'd largely ignored, country. Sure, I dig Johnny Cash and that Jack White-produced Loretta Lynn album, and I dig when rock bands make country detours (the Stones, Zeppelin, X (as the Knitters), etc.). On the other hand, I never really got into my Uncle Tupelo or Flying Burrito Brothers anthologies... Still, in Nashville I bought what I figured was an appropriate souvenir: a Hank Williams CD picked up at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, which I greatly enjoyed while sightseeing in my rental car. I've since gotten into my new Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings anthologies, as well as songs skimmed from CDs by Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Gram Parsons, Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt... And because I'm pretty much sick of every other musical format on the radio, I started listening to country stations in the car. It's pretty lame, but I still get a kick from learning about a different format -- who the stars are, what songs they sing, etc. I even watched the Douchebag of the Year Country Music Association Awards show on TV... Here's me in front of Nashville's Parthenon replica, as seen in the finale of Robert Altman's Nashville:

2. Bob Dylan. I pretty much covered that already, but I've since added another 67 songs to my iPod's Dylan playlist, which now includes nine full-length albums, plus at least one track from every other official studio, live, anthology and Bootleg Series CD. Not only is the music (mostly) great, but as with the country genre above, I love exploring this vast, decades-old body of work for the first time -- picking out favorite songs and albums, piecing together the history, identifying high points and low points, etc.

3. My iPod. All this new music -- country, Dylan, and lots, lots more -- has become far more accessible (and affordable) due to my beloved new iPod (here are results from my August "Random Rules" experiment). I've ripped lotsa music from friends' and public libraries' CDs, and have bought lotsa songs from iTunes at 99 cents a pop -- unheard originals of covers that I love, unheard covers of originals that I love, samplings of newer bands that sound promising, and older favorites I haven't heard in ages. (Funny how some of those sound better than I remember -- like Bruce Springsteen in the '80s -- and how some sound much worse -- pretty much anything by Robert Plant.) Not only has my collection grown substantially in size, but also in scope -- now I have lotsa '60s French pop, New Orleans R&B, song-poems and other cool stuff that's largely new to my ears.

Anyway, here are my favorite albums of 2006...

Bob Dylan, Modern Times
Wolfmother, Wolfmother
Beck, The Information
Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones
Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers
The Strokes, First Impressions of Earth
New York Dolls, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This
Radio Birdman, Zeno Beach
Mudhoney, Under a Billion Suns

And here are favorite songs from other albums...

TV on the Radio, "Wolf Like Me"
Replacements, "Message to the Boys"
Willie Nelson, "You Don't Know Me"
Teddybears "Punkrocker"
Sonic Youth, "Incinerate"
Johnny Cash, "If You Could Read My Mind"

Now that's what I call music!

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Friday, December 29, 2006

♫ W! A-S-H! I-N-G! T-O-N, baby, D-C! ♫

Last night Eliza and I returned from a week at her parents’ in the other Washington. Among the touristy highlights: the construction site of the new Nationals ballpark, Mexican food in Adams Morgan, a stroll along the C&O canal, the National Portrait Gallery, Ben’s Chili Bowl, and Butterstick. Also, I attended my second-ever NHL game (the Habs beat the Caps, 4-1), I got a haircut at my favorite barbershop, and I read The Corrections. We flew through Minneapolis both ways, upping my states-I’ve-been-to count to 32.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Book of the Year! Book of the Year!

Fans of Seattle's history -- especially its pop-culture past -- will dig Clark Humphrey's fantastic new photo book, Vanishing Seattle. Humphrey's an expert on such stuff, as he's previously demonstrated in the definitive Loser: The Real Seattle Music Story, and currently in his long-running blog,

For me, Vanishing Seattle fondly brings to mind my dad and I eating at Dag's (not the one on the cover, but the one on Fourth Avenue South) following Mariner games at the Kingdome (p. 96). I've also eaten at Pizza Haven (p. 46), Herfy's and Sea Galley (both p. 42), and the Admiral Benbow (p. 58). I've worn Britannia jeans purchased at the Squire Shop (p. 19), gone through many pairs of Converse All-Stars purchased at Chubby & Tubby (p. 28), and had my picture taken with Santa at Frederick & Nelson (p. 10-12). In 1959 or so, my parents had their first official date at the Coliseum Theater (p. 105); in 1977 they took me to see Star Wars at the UA 150 (p. 106). I also rode the Bubbleator (p. 110), shopped with my family at both Jafco (p. 33) and Pay 'n' Save (p. 21), watched J.P. Patches on TV (p. 116-117), and bought records at Fallout (p. 26).

Here are a few other such places I've visited (and photographed) on my own...

Though Humprhey's book includes a '60s photo of the Seattle Center's Flight to Mars (p. 113), animatronic monster gargoyles were added to the ride's facade sometime in the '70s. They used to scare the crap out of me.

Humprhey's book also includes a daytime photo of Food Giant (p. 31); here's how its awesome neon sign looked at night.

This place was on Aurora near 50th (just south of Woodland Park) before it was demolished to make way for condos. It had already closed when I took this picture around 1992 or '93, though it still had menus and speakerboxes positioned at each parking spot.

Unfortunately, I never ate at Chuckwagon Bar-B-Q; I also regret the places Humphrey mentions that I could've visited but sadly didn't: the Dog House (p. 34-35), the Copper Kitchen (p. 37), Trader Vic's (p. 54), and Longacres (p. 97). Though my family did shop at the Kent Wigwam (p. 22), I'm especially bummed that I never ate at the Twin Teepees (p. 36).

Vanishing Seattle was released last week by Arcadia, the publisher responsible for those cool books lovingly filled with historic photos of specific regions around the country. (Two other local favorites are Jeff Obermeyer's Hockey in Seattle and David D. Williams's Hydroplane Racing in Seattle.) I bought mine at the Walgreen's on 15th Avenue East; it's also available at a couple other not-yet-vanished Seattle institutions, Ye Olde Curiousity Shop and

Only eight more shopping days...

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Seattle's Scenic Drive to Nowhere

If you exit the Alaska Way Viaduct's northbound lanes at Seneca Street, you'll see this sign just before the First Avenue stoplight. Then, if you turn right on First (as the sign indicates), five blocks down you'll see another such sign, at Cherry Street.

Continuing south, you won't see any more of these signs before hitting Tierra del Fuego.

Obviously they're signposts for a self-guided scenic drive, I'm guessing for a route laid out in the '60s or '70s (judging by the signs' design and font), perhaps an imitation of the more popular San Francisco 49-mile Scenic Drive. I'm also guessing that most of Seattle's other scenic drive signs were phased out/removed/stolen/whatever over time, as the two here seem to be obsolete relics.

But I'm curious. Does the "4" on these signs mean there were at least four designated scenic drives around town? Was there a corresponding map to go along with the drive(s), published by the city or county? Do the cool, trident-shaped blue arrows pointing through the iconic evergreens represent alternate routes? I'd love to reconstruct the route(s) and drive it/them myself -- I'll see what I can dig up at the library, and post my findings at a later date.