Friday, August 23, 2013

2013 Seahawks Cheat Sheet

Welcome, friends, to football season in Seahawk country. Maybe you're a new transplant. Maybe you just joined your office's fantasy football league and have decided you should actually watch a game or two. Maybe you heard that the 'Hawks are big-time Super Bowl contenders, and have decided that it's about time to become a fan. However you've landed in Seattle football fandom, it's important that you have a few facts handy. After all, you don't want to be embarrassed in casual bar conversation about your new favorite team. In the interest of ensuring well-informed discourse, I have compiled here a few of the most important nuggets:
  • First, did you know that the Seattle quarterback, Russell Wilson, is short? It's true! Listed at 5'11", a mere single inch above the national male average, Wilson is known as the Peter Dinklage of NFL QBs: talented, classy, miniature. He is considered a "mobile quarterback," primarily because he has to run back and forth to see around the linemen.
  • Similarly, it is also news to many that the defensive secondary is large. While the average NFL cornerback is built for speed and agility at 5'11"--or one Wilson, in official measurements--star cover man, and official team spokesman, Richard Sherman, measures in at a staggering 1.056 Wilsons. In the interest of sportsmanship, however, Sherman and his similarly gargantuan teammates have elected to play their positions as normal, rather than simply standing in front of the opposing quarterback with their arms in the air.
  • One significant advantage the Seahawks enjoy is perhaps the loudest home stadium in the NFL. Powered by deliberate architectural decisions and the notorious "12th Man" (a guy named Dave), QwestCenturyLink Field has induced so many visiting false start penalties that numerous teams have accused Seattle management of deliberately haunting the facility with wailing banshees. However, official NFL paranormal investigators have never confirmed these accusations.
  • The final key to the team's recent success is star running back Marshawn Lynch. Nicknamed "Beast Mode," for his intense childhood love of the Transformers: Beast Wars cartoon, Lynch is actually the product of a series of genetic experiments, designed to produce a human being fueled exclusively by Starburst candy. Unfortunately, Lynch was only able to process Skittles, was deemed a failure, and exiled to Buffalo, NY by his creators.
So remember: quarterback short, cornerbacks tall, stadium loud, Lynch likes Skittles. Congratulations! By repeating each of these facts once per quarter, you now have all the information you need to enjoy a year as a Seattle Seahawks fan, OR a long career as an NFL color commentator.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bike Blurbs: Parkland to Lakewood

A year or so ago I attended Pacific Lutheran University's Academic Festival. All the graduating seniors, some alumni and a few underclassmen in the maths and sciences get together and present their year-ending projects.

I mentioned to a former professor of mine that I needed to ride to Lakewood Town Center (no, I don't care how the signs spell it, I'm not putting an 'e' on Town) for some wedding registry shenanigans, and he pointed me at this little gem:
Distance: 4.5 miles
Hills: Easy
Traffic: Easy/moderate

Part 1: Right on Ainsworth Ave; Left on 112th St

My specific route is from the Morken Center, where AcFest was, and makes its way to Ainsworth for a start. However, 112th is fully bike-friendly up to C Street, so once you're in the neighborhood any northbound street between C and Ainsworth will be low-traffic enough to get you over.

Part 2: Cross Steele; Right on South Tacoma Way

The formal bike lake ends just before Steele, but the 112th remains an easy ride past the North edge of the base. The stretch on S. Tacoma Way, crossing I-5, is the closest to difficulty you'll find along the way. A short climb with limited shoulder (there is a little-used sidewalk if you prefer), and you will have to be comfortable enough around cars to get to the left turn lane when you hit the main road, just past the 512 Park and Ride.

Part 3: Left on Pacific Highway; Right on 108th St; Right on Davisson Rd

After that it's smooth sailing. Pacific Hwy sports a bike lane over to 108th, and you'll roll comfortably on down to Davisson. Don't make the mistake I always make of turning right off 108th as soon as your lane ends, because you'll end up turning left into the main Town Center entrance off Bridgeport, which is no kind of fun.

If I'd known about this route in my college years, you can bet I'd have seen a lot more movies, and spent a lot more at Barnes & Noble.

Bike Blurbs is a twice-weekly exploration of modular cycling in Tacoma, WA, covering the popular trails of the area, and the city routes that connect them into a broader cycling experience.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On Shivering Sands, Etc.

I started reading Warren Ellis's Shivering Sands this morning. Between a couple bus rides and a lunch break I'm a little more than a quarter of the way through it (that's 50 pages or so). I had every intention of reading the whole thing and then writing a proper review (you know, wherein someone actually reads something front to back before passing judgements).

But then I found myself thinking Thoughts a couple chapters (essays? braindumps? thingums?) ago, and so I wanted to get them out there, in case I accidentally start thinking different Things fifty pages from now and forget what I cooked up the first go round.

Shivering Sands is interesting for a couple reasons. One is the use of Print On Demand (namely Lulu.com), but I'll have more on that further down the hole. The other is what is being accomplished (so far, anyway) with the choice of articles. The various pieces (I guess I'll call them pieces) are theoretically utterly disconnected; they were written at different times, for different outlets, and none but the Afterword were spawned with any notion that they'd all be bound in one volume, or indeed even printed to page at all. Shivering Sands is a greatest hits package of Uncle Warren's online output over the last seven years (may have just made that number up, but it sounds right to my brain-box).

I just (meaning yesterday) finished reading Eating The Dinosaur, the newest book by Chuck Klosterman. Eating The Dinosaur is similar to Shivering Sands in that it is a set of short (though not as short) essays on a wide range of topics, and different in that they were (as far as I know) written for the book, and as such, and more relevantly, for each other.

The irony here is that Ellis, with his editor/publisher/creator-of-things-what-work-and-such Ariana Osborne, is more thoroughly achieving by vague accident what Klosterman was attempting deliberately: to build an at least partially coherent point from fabric woven of fundamentally disparate rambles.

"Accident" is probably the wrong word here. I'm sure there was plenty of thought put into choosing pieces that made sense together, rather than random disparate essays on purely individual merits. It seems like the kind of thing they do. But on some level my point still stands.

As best I can tell, this works because on some level Ellis is always making the same point, or at least acting within the same parameters. He says as much, in ratStar (p. 42, 2004):
For as long as I can remember, the primary goal of my work has been to force outbreaks of the future.
So far this book has described a city better designed for machines than man (modern Los Angeles); publishers who were ahead of their time in a time before now (Savoy); an unwillingness to let failure of progress stand in the way of attempts at progress; parallel worlds an infinity away where progress is more satisfactory; two-way collapse of the fictional fourth wall; the beginning of the end of Big Media as we know it; and now, in ratStar, the deliberate action of inventing the future in fiction.

Different pieces. Different topics. But they all strike the same chord, at least in me. It's the same chord struck by the chatter surrounding the publication of the book itself: the desire to Get Excited And Make Things. To invent the future by living in the increasingly astonishing present we spend so much time ignoring. Shivering Sands was published largely because Ellis and Osborne got tired of watching something happen and talking about something happening and decided to make it happen a little for themselves.

Ellis has been writing about POD, reading about POD, pushing his friends' POD, encouraging people to try their own POD, for as long as I've been following him in bloggery and message boarditude (admittedly only about a year). And the end result of this was inevitably creation. He says as much in the introduction (of sorts), titled How It Works:
Here's the deal. I flood my poor ageing head with information. Any information. Lots of it. And I let it all slosh around in the back of my brain, in the part normal people use for remembering bills, thinking about sex and making appointments to wash the dishes.

Eventually, you get a critical mass of information. Datum 1 plugs into Datum 2 which connects to Datum 3 and Data 4 and 5 stick to it and you've got a chain reaction. A bunch of stuff knits together and lights up and you've got what's called "an idea".
With enough of the same stuff rattling around, something's going to come out of it. In this case it was a book, and since he has a genuine creator-of-things-what-work-and-such close at hand it's a pretty and well-constructed and sensible book. It's fun to read because Warren Ellis is the sort of guy who thinks smart thoughts and writes well about them. But largely it's about building the future he lives in. Being a part of the evolution of his own medium in a very real and tangible way. And the content echoes this throughout, whether that's intentional, or colored by form of publication, or just because it's what he's doing every single time he sits down to write.

I'm banking on reason three, which is why I feel like I can write this now. Because I could be way off base. I could get a few pages deeper and find a piece with no connection to anything at all. I could get to the bit with the recipes (I hear it has recipes) and realize I was full of crap from word one. But I doubt it.

I may or may not have a point in all this, but if I do, it's probably something like: help Warren Ellis. Help Ariana Osborne. Help build some future. That doesn't just mean Give Them Money Buy This Book And Read It Yes (although that, too). It means make stuff. Cause objects to be. Take advantage of these spikes in technology that take away the barriers between you and what you want to do, that shred your excuses and give you an outlet for every ridiculous new idea and urge.

You might not make lots of money at it, whether because you're Not Warren Ellis or because that's not what you're going for or any number of reasons. But you'll be living your own present, and building tomorrow's framework yourself, which beats the living hell out of sitting around staring at the less-interesting parts of the past.

I'm still fighting my own excuses, my own apathy. But I'm getting there.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cold Fusion

Like music? Like vegetables? Like freezing your tuches off? Then you, my imaginary internet friend, are in luck. Oh yes!

Mr. Fusion (that's me and a guy named Erich Sachs) will be serenading the early-bird attendees of the Proctor Farmer's Market tomorrow, Saturday the 10th, from 9-11 A.M. Two guys. Two acoustic guitars. Two percussion instruments. Two things that are shaped like pianos but aren't pianos.

My handy dandy weather widget currently predicts a starting low for the day of 28°F. So by the time we start it will be what, 35? With luck (and direct sunlight) by the end of the set we may sneak toward 50. But look on the bright side: your vegetables will come pre-refrigerated, and your Pig Lady meat packs won't thaw while you stand and listen to the music for a bit.

Come watch us play, and tune, and sing, and re-tune, and drum, and tune some more (cold weather + guitars = adventures in tuning).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Post Artwalk Rock Out

Looking for something to cap off an evening that is surely filled with Artwalk goodness in downtown Tacoma? Why not hop the Link down to Freighthouse Square and take a two block stroll to the New Frontier Lounge to catch:
  • Mr. Fusion - Original acoustic music by longtime songwriting partners Joe Izenman (hmm, sounds familiar...) and Erich Sachs, featuring the debut of some of our latest material.
  • Sordid Sentinels - balls-out (not literally) rock music from front to back, and one of my favorite local bands. The Sentinels are nearing completion on their debut EP, so keep an eye out.
  • Shotgun Kitchen - making the Tacoma debut of their recently overhauled and expanded lineup, Shotgun's blues-laced rock includes, among other things, that Izenman guy on keyboards and keyboard-shaped items (even an accordion).
The New Frontier is 21+, and located on E 25th and C Street in the Dome District. Show starts at 9PM and will I believe cost $3 at the door, with money going directly to the bands.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Star-Spangled Girl: Conventionally Funny Is Still Funny



Tell most people who've been doing theatre for awhile that someone is doing a Neil Simon play, and a lot of the responses you'll get back are "Again?" There is a perception that, as classics, his work has gotten overdone, between Lost In Yonkers, the Odd Couple, his Bbbbbbb series, Barefoot In The Park, and on and on and on. And on some level this is valid. They get done a lot. They are easy, recognizable fallback comedies, neither challenging nor confusing to the audience. And without the risk and challenge of producing something new and innovative, people eventually get bored of doing the same works by the same writers.

But here's the thing: there is a reason Simon's plays get produced repeatedly. There is a reason why they are classics, household names, studied in literature courses and made into films. There is a reason, and it is this: they are really damn well-written, and they are really damn funny. Not absurdist comedy or avant garde comedy or black comedy; just, "Hey, that person said/did something funny. I will laugh at it."

I saw Tacoma Little Theatre's production of Simon's The Star-Spangled Girl on Saturday. They said and did funny things, and I laughed at them.

Don't get me wrong above: when I say "unchallenging" I don't mean it can be phoned in. I've seen Simon done crappily with bad and non-actors, and it is not worthwhile. But director Elliot Weiner found a cast that has the capacity to nail every joke. Blaire York's Norman is hilariously absurdly obsessive, from his lines to his faciel expressions to his body-language, and hopelessly inept, down to his excellently ridiculous outfits, just the kind a fashion-ignorant nerd would select (and I would know). Luke Amundson fares well as the nominal straight-man Andy. He is a little weak in convincing the audience of his passion for the political cause of his magazine (though that point is also not terribly well addressed in the script), but he makes up for it in his play off the characters of Norman and Sophie, played to a neurotic, wigged-out t by Gretchen Boyt.

The play has weaknesses. The moral theme of open debate and seeing past political differences is forced already by the script, and the staging of the close just hammers. It in. To your face. With a 2x4. And on night two of week one, the inevitable technical flubs poked out. But it is still a worthy start to new Artistic Director Scott Campbell's first full season, a season populated with nothing but comedy to stab at the gloom and doom of the economy for a while. Worth the cost of admission, and, if the cost of admission is too high, tonight (Thursday, September 3) is Pay What You Can night. However you get there, I suggest that you get there. You see, there's these people up on the stage, saying and doing funny things, and you'll laugh at them.

(And if you want to balance out your common fare with something a little closer to the edge, TLT has recently announced a full slate of second-stage and late-night productions, starting with ghost story Woman In Black directed by mainstay John Munn and ending with a production of Elliot Weiner's own Brunch)

PLEASE NOTE: if you are a longtime patron of TLT, that starting this show, and presumably all season, night show curtain is at 7:30, not 8, with house opening at 7.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Minus 5 @ Hell's Kitchen

The Minus 5 can't really be accused of being conventional, or doing the expected. Listening to their last four albums in sequence reveals a broad range of genre and soundscape experimentation. One gets the sense that the group has always been a clearinghouse for its songwriters' "other" ideas, the ones that don't quite fit in with the guitar-rock core of the bands that made them legends: R.E.M. (Peter Buck) and Young Fresh Fellows (Scott McCaughey).

So when I say that their new record, last week's Killingsworth, is different, well, I'm ultimately saying very little. What Buck and McCaughey have done this time out is make an alt-country album. Sort of. Kind of. A little. In some ways, it is unique among their records in its consistency of tone and instrumentation. This is helped along by using the same crew of backup musicians for the whole of the record (the Minus 5 have a tendency to rotate to whichever of their friends are best for a song, and they have a LOT of friends. Like the whole of the Seattle music scene).

With a focus on horrible death and doom (song titles range from The Dark Hand of Contagion to I Would Rather Sacrifice You to The Disembowelers), it is appropriate that Killingsworth's auxiliary musicians be made up largely of the lineup of disturbed Portland balladeers The Decemberists. The slide guitar and banjo that fill out this record's particularly mellow sound (NOT something you'd necessarily expect out of musicians from the Decemberists) are complemented by harmonies from further Portlanders the Shee Bee Gees, ultimately pulling together as a relaxed, well-crafted record.

I'm most curious to see how this record pulls into their live show, where they have proven a consistent ability to distill the lush soundscapes and diverse lineups of their previous records into a four piece driving rock show. However they choose to perform this album, one thing is certain: it will be bitchin'. All the members of the Minus 5: Touring Edition have a long-standing and broad history of rocking the crap out of everything from tiny clubs to the largest arenas in the world.

The Minus 5 are playing Hell's Kitchen (3829 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, WA) with Canon Canyon, the Joshua Cain Band, and James Hilborne and the Painkillers, tonight at 9PM. $10, 21+, and well worth seeing on this, a rare occasion wherein a band actually stops in Tacoma between Portland and Seattle shows.