Friday, March 30, 2007

Postage Stamp of the Week: Darth Maul

Darth Maul was by far the most awesome part of the recent Star Wars prequel trilogy. That's not saying a whole lot; still, he was cooly, enigmatically evil, speaking little but looking and acting like a total fucking badass. Unfortunately, he was killed off way too soon, by the saber of a rat-tailed Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the only movie in which he appeared.

Mr. Maul's stamp was unveiled Wednesday as part of the USPS's 15-stamp Star Wars pane. This stamp is too weirdly purplish, and I find the whole set kinda weesh, but I'll probably buy a sheet anyway -- after they become available on May 25 -- and stick 'em on my electric bills.

BWT, I spotted one of those R2-D2 mailboxes a couple days ago on the south side of NE Pacific Street, just outside of the UW Medical Center. I have a bad feeling about this.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Eight Movies, Eight Bands

Black Sabbath
The movie (1963). Mario Bava's Italian horror anthology starring Boris Karloff.
The band (1969-present). Ozzy & co. named their song "Black Sabbath" after the movie, then named the band after the song, and then named their debut album after, um, I guess all three.

Destroy All Monsters
The movie (1968). Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and eight other Japanese monsters attack cities around the globe.
The band (1973-1985). A Detroit "anti-rock" combo featuring songstress Niagara, Stooge Ron Asheton, and the MC5's Michael Davis, among others.

Honeymoon Killers
The movie (1970). A swarthy Romeo and his hefty Juliet scam various lonely hearted ladies.
The band (1984-1993(?)). Frontman Jerry Teel and a rotating cast of damaged-blues New Yorkers (including Jon Spencer, Russell Simins and Cristina Martinez) specialized in noisy, sloppy originals and covers of the Stones, Zeppelin, and Blue Öyster Cult's "Godzilla."

King Kong
The movie (1933). Giant ape climbs the Empire State Building.
The band (1989-present). A trio of Drag City recording artists, best-known for the 1995 album Me Hungry.

The movie (1965). Russ Meyer's rural, Depression-era boobtacular.
The band (1988-present). The best Northwest band of all time.

They Might Be Giants
The movie (1971). George C. Scott plays a guy who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes in early-'70s New York.
The band (1982-present). Cult favorites who never really did much for me, except for "Ana Ng," "Don't Let's Start" and "Hey, We're the Replacements."

Untamed Youth
The movie (1957). A Mamie Van Doren rock 'n' roll prison camp flick, later given the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment.
The band (1988-1995(?)). Highly regarded but rarely heard garage rockers from Missouri.

White Zombie
The movie (1932). Bela Lugosi stars in what is believed to be the first-ever zombie horror film.
The band (1985-1998). A horror-image-heavy metal band, whose leader was named, by astonishing coincidence, Rob Zombie. They suck.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Amazin' Seattle Mets

It was 80 years ago today: On March 27, 1917, the Seattle Metropolitans shocked the hockey world, upsetting the mighty Montreal Canadiens to become the first team outside eastern Canada to win the fabled Stanley Cup. The Mets, champions of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, faced off against Les Habitants (the National Hockey Association champs) for a best-of-five series. After losing the first contest, the Mets took the final three games, winning the deciding match at the long-gone Seattle Arena, then located on Fifth Avenue between University and Seneca Streets. The Seattle squad was led by Bernie Morris, who scored 14 goals in the series, along with goalie Harry “Happy” Holmes and coach Peter Muldoon.

The Mets and the Habs tangled again for the 1919 championship. After each team won two games and shared a tie, the sixth and deciding game was canceled due to the influenza epidemic. No winner was declared, and it'd be another sixty years before any pro team would win Seattle's second championship (the Sonics in '79). We're still waiting for our third.

Hey, that's me in this creepy 2001 photo, standing beside the circa-1893 Stanley Cup. Just below the base of the actual cup at the top, on the first tier where the trophy begins to widen, is engraved: "SEATTLE / WORLD'S CHAMPIONS / DEFEATED CANADIENS / 1917." I tried to get a pencil rubbing of it, but the engraving was too worn down over the decades to produce any legible results.


We Hardly Knew Ye: Bill the Beerman

Like the John 3:16 guy and Richard Petersen, Bill the Beerman was an amusing fixture on the Seattle sports scene in the '70s and '80s. The booming voice of the bearded, chunky, sweaty vendor regularly bellowed through the Kingdome during Seahawks, Sonics and Mariners games: while running through the stands hawking watery suds -- which likely fueled his antics -- he led the crowd in simple but enthusiastic cheers. His signature creation was, after a hearty "One! Two! Three!", getting one side of the stadium to yell "Go!", and the other side would holler back, "Seahawks!" Not exactly The Wave, though he did adopt the Huskies cheer to get the Kingdome swirling on a regular basis.

Bill died on Sunday at age 58. In his memory, please freeze your teeth and give your tongue a sleigh ride.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Bart Cobain

Recently I stumbled across what appears to be a macabre Simpsons reference, one I haven't heard of elsewhere...

This lurid photo was taken on April 8, 1994, the day Kurt Cobain's corpse was discovered in his home, and it appeared on the front page of the next day's Seattle Times. Photographer Tom Reese supposedly climbed a tree in the park just outside the house to capture the image, with police investigating the suicide.

Less than three years later, on March 2, 1997, came the Simpsons episode My Sister, My Sitter, in which Lisa is assigned to babysit Bart. After Lisa accidentally breaks Bart's arm, the rebellious Bart locks himself in his bedroom and pounds his head on the door until he knocks himself out. Lisa climbs a tree outside Bart's window and finds him prone on the floor, in the same position as Cobain, as seen from the same through-the-window angle, with the same foliage in the foreground.

Too bad it wasn't Courtney Hole.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Postage Stamp of the Week: Giraffe

I'm kinda pressed for time right now; I'll write more about this commemorative giraffe later...

It's now later, Monday night, March 26: When I was a kid my favorite animal was the Giraffa camelopardalis, probably after seeing one at the Woodland Park Zoo. These days I still like giraffes, as well as dogs and cats and goldfish and lemurs, pretty much anything other than rats and snakes. That's it.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

We Hardly Knew Ye: Larry "Bud" Melman

I'll miss Calvert DeForest, a regular from NBC's Late Night with David Letterman, who passed away last week at 85. His finest moment was the night in 1983 when he handed out hot towels to weary travelers at the New York Port Authority bus station.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sixty-Nine Flight Rock

This morning I ascended the second-tallest building on the West Coast -- the hard way!

It was the Big Climb for Leukemia, a sort of vertical fun-run up the stairs of the 76-story, 967-foot Columbia Center. Upon its 1985 completion, it was the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi (likewise, the Smith Tower held the same distinction from its 1914 opening 'til 1931). Columbia Center has since fallen in rank -- it's now the west's fourth-tallest building, and the twelfth- tallest in the US... I didn't train much, only climbing the Volunteer Park Water Tower several times in the last week. Still, it took me just 19 minutes to hike up Columbia Center's 69 flights (1,311 steps, 788 feet of vertical elevation) from its Fifth Avenue lobby to the 73rd floor observation deck. The view was pretty amazing (I love observation decks!), though I too pooped to fully take it in.

As for the event's fundraising aspect, I'm not big on hitting people up for pledges, but if anyone wants to make a donation, it'll be gratefully accepted here.


Animal Wild Life!

My eight-year-old pal Caleb made this awesome stop-motion video one rainy afternoon -- it inspires me to make my own.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Captain Bananas Report

It was six months ago today that we brought home Matt Hasselbeck and Captain Bananas. Matt didn't last a week (we couldn't revive him with Ick Clear Tank Buddies), but Bananas is still with us. Eliza and I discussed replacing Matt with another fish (to be named Seneca Wallace, of course), but decided that since Bananas seems happy and healthy on his own, why rock the tank?

Captain Bananas Fun Facts™

· He's a Ryukin goldfish.

· His tank is decorated with dark blue rocks, three plastic plants, and a Penn-Plax treasure chest and "Action Skeleton."

· He usually eats TetraFin Goldfish Flakes, but also enjoys TetraFin Goldfish Crisps, Hikari Oranda Gold pellets, and freeze-dried tubifex worms. He also likes to gobble rocks and spit them back out.

· Around the first of each month, his tank gets a thorough cleaning: I stir up the rocks to loosen up the poop and stuff and I rinse off all the decorations. Then I replace the filter and about half the water, and finally I scrub the inside of the glass. His water's nitrate level is usually a safe 10-to-20 ppm, and I keep an eye on the pH level too, adding proper chemicals as necessary.

· One time I found him floating upside-down. Sometimes he seems bloated and, when not fighting to swim downward, he helplessly bobs to the surface. That one time I think he fell asleep while bloated and turned belly-up, but luckily I was there to waken him and snatch him back from the abyss. This concerns us, and we're not sure why it happens -- most likely it has to do with what we're feeding him (and/or how much), or the water's composition, or global warming.

· He has two theme songs: the first is sung to the tune of "Yes, We Have No Bananas": "Yes, it's Captain Bananas/ He is the best fish in the world!" The other one is set to the tune of "Frosty the Snowman": "Captain Bananas/ Is the best fish in the world!"

· I submitted a photo of his tank to the TetraCare Aquarium Showcase, but they haven't posted it yet (I'm guessing it'll appear someplace after #67, where they've been stalled for awhile).

Captain Bananas photo by Eliza Truitt Photography.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Postage Stamp of the Week: Harry Houdini

This past week I finished reading the Michael Chabon novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which was pretty killer. Josef Kavalier and Sam Clay are teenage cousins who create the Escapist, a comic-book superhero inspired by the subject of this week's stamp, Harry Houdini.

Houdini started out as a late-19th century magician, doing card tricks and a vanishing act, and in the early 20th century he specialized in daring feats of escape, freeing himself from handcuffs and chains and straitjackets, often while dangling upside-down and submerged in water. A sort of Evel Knievel of his day, Houdini makes douchewad David Blaine look like a total amateur.

Reading about Kavalier's magic prowess brought to mind my own short-lived career as a magician. As a kid I had this store-bought starter kit, which I probably got from my Grandpa Jennings (he was into kooky stuff like that). It came in a cardboard box, about the size of a large board game, and contained playing cards, plastic beads, a little fake plastic thumb, a velvet baggie with rings in it and some other stuff. I'd do my routine when elderly relatives visited, setting up my gear on a card table and wearing this Dracula cape that my godmother sewed me for Halloween (it was black, with shiny red lining). However, the only trick I actually remember performing was pouring a glass of milk into a rolled-up newspaper, making the milk disappear... Also, I regularly watched this Sunday-night TV show in which Bill Bixby introduced various magic acts, before ABC replaced it with The Muppet Show.

Besides appearing on this 2002 stamp (which is actually pretty dull), Houdini inspired the title of this kickass Melvins album.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

"I'm Ridin' in Your Car/ You Turn on KJR"

That's how I usually heard the opening line of the Pointer Sisters' "Fire" when I was a kid, because I usually listened to Seattle's KJR (AM 950, with the then-ubiquitous window decal seen here, now an all-sports station). Being the impressionable sort, I thought, "Wow, that's cool that my favorite station is so famous!" Shortly thereafter, when I heard the song rival Top-40 station KING (AM 1090, now a "progressive talk" station), the otherwise identical tune clumsily began: "I'm ridin' in your car/ You turn on Eleven-King." Being the skeptical sort, I thought, "Wow, what a lame marketing ploy, tampering with a song in such a cheap manner, something Bruce Springsteen probably never intended when he wrote the song."

Okay, so maybe that's not exactly what I thought back then, but that's pretty much what I think now. I've read on the internets that "Fire" was similarly customized for San Francisco's KFRC, Washington's WPGC, Boston's WRKO, Portland's KGW, WHBQ in Memphis and K-Earth in Los Angeles. There were probably other versions too, no doubt helping "Fire" become a #2 hit in 1979. I don't know if this regional song-editing was cooked up by the stations or the record label, or if the Pointers themselves sang the alternate lyrics, but to my young ears, the "KJR" edit sounded seamless.

Over the next decade or so I heard a few other similarly altered tunes, including Starship's all-time stinker "We Built This City" and Nena's "99 Luftballoons," and I've read about a dozen or so more, dating back to the late '50s. Until recently, the last time I heard such an alteration was 17 years ago: the CD version of Iggy Pop's "Candy" opens with the spoken-word line "It's a rainy afternoon in 1990," though the version I heard on some local station went "It's a rainy afternoon in Seattle."

Now, as I reluctantly confessed before, I've lately been listening to local country stations, where these market-specific edits are apparently still popular. One of the big current hits is Craig Morgan's "Little Bit of Life," which, if heard on The Wolf, contains the lyric "A little bit o' back seat/ A little bit o' moon/ A little bit o' The Wolf/ Goin' boom, boom, boom." Of course, on rival station KMPS, it goes "A little bit o' KMPS/ Goin' boom, boom, boom." (If it isn't obvious, it's the word "radio" that's substituted by the station names.)

Then there's another current song, Montgomery Gentry's "Lucky Man," also in heavy rotation. "I have days where I hate my job," it opens, "This little town and the whole world too/ Last Sunday when my Seahawks lost/ Lord it put me in a bad mood."

There's no possible way some big Nashville act is gonna embrace anything from Seattle. Turns out the band is from Kentucky, where they cheer for the nearby Cincinnati Bengals. According to this, "'Lucky Man' has been edited with 81 different college and professional sports teams in over 60 markets, and each version has been serviced to the country radio station in those cities. The second line of the song reads 'Last Sunday when my Bengals lost/ Lord it put me in a bad mood.' In the edited versions, Montgomery Gentry replaced 'Bengals' with every team in the NFL and Major League Baseball, several from the National Hockey League and numerous colleges."


Like, it's one thing to pander to individual markets or stations, but it's downright shameless to indiscriminately cast aside your supposed favorite team for 81 others...

These days, on the rare occasion I stumble across the Pointer Sisters' "Fire," the original, non-rhyming lyric always sounds weird to me: "I'm riding in your car/ You turn on the radio."

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rock 'n' Roll Reunion Record Roundup

Rock 'n' roll reunions are practically inevitable -- besides the Clash, I can't think of any big influential band that hasn't reunited in some form or other, even the Beatles. A more recent phenomenon is how these reunited bands are releasing new studio albums decades after their last one. Last week, for instance, the Stooges released their first new studio album in 34 years. Recent years have also seen similar offerings from the New York Dolls, Radio Birdman and Big Star. Common factors: besides all four bands being personal favorites of mine, each of 'em released just two or three poorly selling studio albums before breaking up at various times in the '70s. They were all under-appreciated in their day, but have since become both critical darlings and key influences on scads of subsequent bands. And now they've all reunited, first with lucrative concerts and now with new records. Each band has retained their original frontman, but have otherwise shuffled their lineups a bit... So, how are the records?

The Stooges, The Weirdness (2007)
Years since last studio album: 34
Percent of original members: 75
This Steve Albini-produced record is the Stooges's first official, full-length studio album since 1973's all-time classic Raw Power. All three original surviving members are present: Iggy, guitarist Ron Asheton and drummer Scott Asheton (the brothers also played on four songs on Iggy's 2003 album Skull Ring). Replacing long-late bassist Dave Alexander is Minuteman Mike Watt. Unfortunately, despite the Asheton's contributions, the record sounds more like one of Iggy's metallic solo albums from the last couple decades than a return to original Stooge form. And instead of Iggy howling about simple, straight-to-the-gut concepts ("No Fun," "Dirt,") he flatly sings (and occasionally croons) about "Greedy Awful People" and "The End of Christianity." Still, there are a few echoes of the old Stooges: "Mexican Guy" has that primal stomp of "1969" and "Little Doll" (albeit with Iggy's rapid-fire vocal delivery), and the final two numbers ("Passing Cloud," "I'm Fried") feature Funhouse saxman Steve McKay's jazzy freeform honking. So yeah, all the elements are there, but The Weirdness simply lacks that killer Stooges vibe... Incidentally, I've always preferred the Raw Power-era Stooges, with James Williamson on lead guitar and Scott Thurston pounding the keys, but I'm guessing the Ashetons didn't want them infringing on their turf once again.

New York Dolls, One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This (2006)
Years since last studio album: 32
Percent of original members: 40
It seems heretical to call this outfit the New York Dolls, what with Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan long gone (imagine the Rolling Stones sans Keith Richards and Charlie Watts). Even Arthur "Killer" Kane is MIA, though he did hold on long enough for a 2004 reunion show before unexpectedly succumbing to cancer. Instead, David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain recruited a bunch of ringers for this surprisingly good record, which evokes the loose, campy sound of the classic Dolls while adding some intriguing new twists, like a truly touching ballad ("Maimed Happiness"). "Dance Like a Monkey" showcases the band's evolution, a topical number poking fun at intelligently designed yahoos, while "Runnin' Around" and "Punishing World" are fun, vintage-sounding numbers with a Stonesy crunch. Elsewhere, "Plenty of Music" threatens to turn into a cover of Johnny Lee's "Lookin' for Love." The record's only major misstep is Michael Stipe's unnecessary guest vocal on "Dancing on the Lip of a Volcano" (at least it isn't Morrissey)... Overall, the band's new blood ably channels the original Dolls spirit. And I'm glad to see the gang has the good sense to leave the band's drag-queen schtick to the '70s.

Radio Birdman, Zeno Beach (2006)
Years since last studio album: 25 (though it's been 28 years since it was recorded)
Percent of original members: 67
More than these other albums, Zeno Beach sounds less like a "hey, let's do it again!"-type project and more like the work of a serious band with unfinished business. It's a natural progression, like the band simply picked up where it left off without the quarter-century hiatus. The biggest difference is that singer Rob Younger sounds oddly, well, younger than he did in the '70s; on "Die Like April," he sounds exactly like Mark Lanegan. Of course, Deniz Tek still shreds on guitar, giving the album several tight, intense, numbers that remain true to the band's signature sound. Tek, Younger and company lighten up on the record's closer, the "More Fun"-like title track, which promises more fun indeed.

Big Star, In Space (2005)
Years since last studio album: 27 (though it's been 31 years since it was recorded)
Percent of original members: 50
This album could just as easily be credited to the Posies: not only do Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow share writing credits on all the originals, they also perform on all the songs and apparently sing lead vocals on many of 'em too. The only original Big Stars here are Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens. Granted, this record sounds more like vintage Big Star than any of Chilton's solo stuff, yet it's still just as perplexing; perhaps Chilton has strayed too far from Big Star's original spirit over his solo career to ever reclaim it again. Sure, In Space makes some half-baked stabs at early Big Star singalong powerpop classics, as well as gorgeous, spine-tingling melancholia, yet it misses both marks. The pop songs are bouncy yet somehow not catchy (unlike "Jesus Christ"), while the slower numbers are unlikely to raise any goosebumps (unlike the rest of Sister Lovers). "Dony" is sort of okay, "Mine Exclusively" is sort of amusing (it's yet another Chilton ode to underage girls), "Love Revolution" makes me wince. Overall, not quite the proverbial shit sandwich, but nothing I'd ever want to listen to again.

BWT, in the last seven years I've seen all four of these bands live (each time thinking Holy shit! I can't believe I'm actually seeing the Stooges/the New York Dolls/Radio Birdman/Big Star!!). Mixed results: the Stooges were good, but somehow disappointing (probably because my expectations were way too high); Big Star was fairly decent; Radio Birdman was pretty cool; thanks to David Johansen's awesome stage presence, the New York Dolls were great. However, all these concerts focused almost exclusively on vintage material, scarcely daring any of the new tunes on the discs above.

Hey, thanks for listening.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Postage Stamp of the Week: Giant Space Cat

Here we have our first international Postage Stamp of the Week, issued by the Comoro Islands in 1992. Meet Felix, a cat the French shot into space in 1963. I love the look on his face, as if he's happily reminiscing about his space adventure, despite the electrodes still implanted in his brain. And the little rocket in the foreground makes it seem like Felix's head is two hundred feet tall.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Cities on Flame with Rock 'n' Roll

1. The Presidents of the United States of America, "Cleveland Rocks" (1998).
A lively, anthemic cover of the Ian Hunter tune -- which I've never heard before -- best-known as the theme song for The Drew Carey Show... "All this energy callin' me/ Back where it comes from/ It's such a crude attitude/ It's back where it belongs/ All the little kids growin' up on the skids are goin' Cleveland Rocks! Cleveland Rocks!/ All the little chicks with the crimson lips go Cleveland Rocks! Cleveland Rocks!" Watch the show intro here.

2. Kiss, "Detroit Rock City" (1976).
Speeding through the darkness to catch KISS's midnight show in Detroit, the first-person protagonist apparently dies upon colliding head-on with a truck (unlike the teens in the disappointing movie of the same name, who unfortunately do not get killed)... "Get up, everybody's gonna move their feet/ Get down, everybody's gonna leave their seat/ You gotta lose your mind in Detroit rock city!" Link to the video above.

3. Wilbert Harrison, "Kansas City" (1959).
The number-one Lieber/Stoller hit... "I'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come/ They got some crazy little women there and I'm gonna get me one." Watch a bizarre, unofficial video here.

4. Elvis Presley, "Viva Las Vegas" (1964).
This awesome, oft-covered movie theme is about the closest any major city has to an official rock 'n' roll anthem... "Bright light city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire/ Got a whole lot of money that's ready to burn, so get those stakes up higher." Watch an edited video here.

5. Grandpaboy, "MPLS" (2003).
Paul Westerberg's alter-ego sings in swinging 12-bar-blues style about how Minneapolis, a.k.a. MPLS, is "the place that I like best"... "On the Mississippi River, I was born in '59/ Mississippi River, born in '59/ Down in Dinkytown, old Bob Dylan freezin' his behind." Sorry, no video.

6. Gary U.S. Bonds, "New Orleans" (1960).
With references to Dixieland, magnolia, and "French moss hangin' from a big oak tree," this Stooges-covered tune easily evokes the Big Easy (well, how imagine it, anyhow)... "Come on everybody take a trip with me/ Down the Mississippi down to New Orleans/ The honeysuckle bloomin' on the honeysuckle vine/ And love is bloomin' there all the time/ You know every Southern belle is a Mississippi queen/ Down the Mississippi down in New Orleans." Watch a live performance here.

7. Beastie Boys, "An Open Letter to NYC" (2004).
Stop spreadin' the news, 'cause this the superior song. Many critics found it trite, but to me it was a poignant post-9/11 tribute: "Dear New York I know a lot has changed/ Two towers down but you're still in the game." The track is built over the riff from the Dead Boys's "Sonic Reducer," while the chorus celebrates unity through diversity... "Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten/ From the Battery to the top of Manhattan/ Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin/ Black, White, New York you make it happen." The video's cool too; watch it here.

8. Loretta Lynn, "Portland, Oregon" (2004).
If you can get past the mental image of the 28-year-old Jack White gettin' down with the 70-year-old coal miner's daughter, this song's pretty cool... "Well Portland, Oregon and sloe gin fizz/ If that ain't love then tell me what is/ Well I lost my heart it didn't take no time/ But that ain't all, I lost my mind in Oregon." Watch the video here.

9. Scott McKenzie, "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" (1967).
Call me a smelly hippie, but I prefer this corny folk-pop ballad to Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart in San Francisco"... "If you're goin' to San Francisco/ You're gonna meet some gentle people there/ For those who come to San Francisco/ Summertime will be a love-in there." Watch the video here.

10. The Magnetic Fields, "Washington, D.C." (1999).
The chorus is a pep-rally singalong ("W, a-s-h, i-n-g, t-o-n, baby, D.C.!"), while the lovely verses explain the singer's frequent return to the Federal City... "It's not because it is the grand old seat/ Of precious freedom and democracy/ It's not the greenery turning gold in fall/ The scenery circling the Mall/ It's just that's where my baby lives that's all." Sorry, no video.

Wait -- What about Seattle!? I already covered that here, and I'll probably write about other such songs later... I probably won't write about Paradise City, Suffragette City, Surf City, Erotic City, Kill City or Fist City.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Postage Stamp of the Week: America's Libraries

Did I mention my intent to eventually visit every public library in King County?

It wasn't anything I set out to do, until I started plundering various area libraries for iPod-worthy CDs, and at a certain point realized there were only a few that I hadn't been to. So far I've visited Seattle's Central Library (natch) and 19 of the 22 Seattle branches presently open (four other branches are closed for expansion or renovation). Besides the two Renton Libraries (both of which I've visited), the other 43 libraries in the county are operated by the King County Library System (counting 'em up now, I'm surprised to find that I've been to only 15 of those -- apparently there are more than I first thought).

Besides finding plenty of cool stuff to check out (why buy a book when you can go to the library?), it's fun to compare 'n' contrast 'em all, often seeing places around the area that I wouldn't otherwise visit. In recent months Eliza and I have made a few Sunday outings to various outlying libraries, though we make a point to visit just as many unique thrift stores along the way.

My favorite library, however, is the 81-year-old Suzzallo Library on the UW campus. I've spent countless hours over the last couple decades in its cathedral-like reading room, um, you know, reading, as well as writing, studying, solving crosswords, looking at the Internet, and occasionally sleeping. I still try to spend at least an evening or two there each month.

Anyway, this stamp's from '82. Knock yourself out.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Crossword Report: February '07

Rabbit rabbit!

Compared to January, in which I solved 72 puzzles, I solved three more puzzles in February (75), in month with three fewer days (um, 28!).

Other than my annual subscription to the New York Times crossword, my main resource is scrounging newspapers discarded at area coffee shops. Unfortunately, my closest, most-regular spot has become a bit too efficient at clearing papers from their store and disposing them in areas inaccessible to customers. However, two other coffee shops within walking distance usually have ample newspapers lying around, and I keep telling myself I should patronize those places more often. Most Starbucks are fairly rich with used newspapers too, and I've also been known to rifle through the recycling bins on ferryboats and at Burgermaster. I know, I'm a cheapskate, but this is far more environmentally righteous than subscribing to several daily papers.

Crosswords in Pop Culture:

The Freshman (1924).
Eleven years after the world's first crossword appeared in the New York World, this silent classic features a scene in which Harold Lloyd helps a pretty girl with her crossword. Lloyd, seated next to the girl on a train's dining car, is drawn into her “Evening at Home Crossword Puzzle.” Like the spaghetti-eating dogs in Lady and the Tramp, they're oblivious to one another as they're both hypnotized by the puzzle, until they hit a mutual moment of recognition. A title card quotes Harold: "I think I know the word for number 19 vertical -- 'a name for one you love.'" The two toss possible answers back and forth: sweetheart, darling, dearest, precious, honeybunch. An older woman at the next table comments, "Isn't it wonderful to be in love?" An embarrassed Lloyd stampedes his way out of the car.

King of the Hill (February 17, 2002).
In the episode "Torch Song Hillogy," Hank has become a minor local celebrity after being selected to carry the Olympic torch through Arlen, and so his name appears in the Arlen Bystander's crossword. A fan asks Hank to autograph it.

The Office (2005-present).
In the series's American version, the character Stanley is often seen doing crosswords as a distraction from the workplace dysfunction surrounding him. I don't recall a British equivalent of Stanley in the original UK series, but if there was one he'd surely be doing cryptic crosswords.

Crossword Report: January '07
Total crosswords solved in February 2007: 75
Total crosswords solved in 2007: 147
On pace to solve in 2007: 909

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