Monthly Archives: March 2010

Seattle exhibits opening in April

Talk about living in your head. Gala Bent’s Matrix for Praxis (Graphite and gouache, 30″ x 22″) conjures an animal that has freed itself from animal nature. Its head is celestial, its body vestigial.  

Bent is in Transubstantial  at Catherine Person, along with Colleen Hayward, Renee Zettle-Sterling and Heidi Schwegler, opening Thursday night as part of Pioneer Square’s First Thursday Gallery Walk, 6-8.

Also opening Thursday night in the Square: (more)



See all exhibits here at Another Bouncing Ball


Art House Beat: Brighton Rock, The Man From London, Lourdes, Chastity, The Exploding Girl

Brighton Rock (SIFF Cinema, April 2-8)

Dallow, Spicer, Pinkie, Cubitt…If those names seem familiar, it may be that you heard them cited in the Morrissey song, “Now My Heart is Full,” which goes on to say “Rush to danger / Wind up nowhere,”  a fair summation of the 1948 British gangster picture, “Brighton Rock,”  in which the aforementioned characters run about on  Brighton Beach until finding their personal nowheres.

Blur’s Damon Albarn wrote of Morrissey in his song “Charmless Man” that “he would like to have been Ronnie Kray / But nature didn’t make him that way.”  It is typical of British working class kids to manufacture fantasies of their lineage, which is most often Royal but sometimes criminal or, in the case of Brett Anderson, who imagines in his song “Daddy’s Speeding” that he is the son of James Dean, just about any celebrity figure.   Morrissey could imagine himself friends with the four central characters of “Brighton Rock,” and Richard Attenborough’s Pinkie mght even be said to share the fashion sense of his current band members.

Based on a novel by Graham Greene, “Brighton Rock” was among the first British pictures to deal exclusively with gangsters, and one of the few taking a serious approach to the subject. The fifties saw plenty of  gangster comedies, such as “The Lavender Hill Mob” and The Ladykillers,” but it wasn’t until the early sixties that  hardboiled syndicate pictures  came into their  own.  The genre picked up steam  with “Performance (1970) and Get Carter (1971), and, in subsequent  years,  yielded classics  such as   “The Long Good Friday (1980) and  “Layer Cake (2004).   All this is meant to suggest that the British, unlike the Americans, never took their gangster pictures for granted, and the effect of the few that  were available to lads such as Morrissey who reached adolescence in the 1970’s cannot be underestimated.

The film’s prolog informs us that Brighton, while  today a jolly seaside town, was, between the two world wars, a festering slum.  The producers must have felt it necessary to remind the audience    that this gangster-ridden Brighton was a thing of the past in order to assure the government that the picture would not threaten the tourist economy of the town. Whether or not this was necessary, the prolog succeeded in emphasizing the importance of the location to the story. The entire drama is played out  in various Brighton locales, from the seedy hotels and clubs to the amusement park and piers. To imagine it taking place any where else is to imagine a different story.

It is  difficult to imagine a better cast.  Attenborough’s Pinkie is a teenage scarface who never loses his cool, especially when he is about to murder somebody. He was 24 when the picture was made, and the fact that he is supposed to be only 19 makes him even more of a freak. The  other men are perfect, although their roles are somewhat underwritten.  The underdog stars of the picture are the two women, Hermione Baddeley as the tenacious Ida, who knows the police are missing something in their investigation of a man who supposedly died of cardiac arrest although we all know he was murdered, and Carol Marsh, an innocent flower in the garden of sin who is ready to march off into eternity with a gun in her mouth just to be with the man she loves.

“Brighton Rock” is as good a crime picture as you are likely to find anywhere.  The dialogue, the suspense, and the location cinematography are  all first rate. No matter how many noirs you have stuffed your head with, there are scenes here that will shock and surprise you.   The story may not amount to much, and the plot is not the kind that whisks you along from one peak to the next, but the attention to detail in character and place, the shifting loyalties and betrayals between people whose motivations are known to themselves alone, and the overall sense of a world in which the foundations of human decency have collapsed from absolute rottenness place “Brighton Rock”   among the elite of gangster pictures.

The Man From London (NWFF, April 5-8)

“The Man From London” is the picture David Lynch has tried but failed to make this past decade.  Bella Tarr’s remake of Henri Decoin’s  1943 “L’Homme de Londres,” from the novel by Georges Simenon, is what Lynch was going for in “Mulholland Dr.” and “Inland Empire,” and one needs only see the perfection of Tarr’s accomplishment to  understand where Lynch fails.  Tarr not only deconstructs and re-contextualizes the crime picture of the forties, but introduces and integrates   the language of post-modern cinema into the equation.

If the opening sequence takes fifteen minutes to show what a film from the forties could  establish in twenty seconds, it is because  Tarr has put that much more material into the shot, and the audience needs the time to see it all.  The rotating perspectives of  the actions on a platform between a boat and a train move slowly from  pane to pane with little change in each composition seen by the man on the other side of the windows.  By inviting the audience to discover along with the protagonist the nature of the distant actions, Tarr makes the audience accomplice to the   unraveling of the events.

 Although the action in each scene is limited,  there is  always   a propulsive element, be it the music of an accordian, the sound of ocean waves, or the knocking of balls on a billiard table, to keep the scene from becoming static.  It is a slow build, to be sure, but after the first challenging hour, the story elements begin to dislodge the ambiguity of internalized character.   Eventually, the suspense becomes unbearable with a scene that takes place entirely behind a closed door.   Although everything comes to a conventional resolution, Tarr goes beyond that resolution to the thing that can never be resolved:  the human face.  It is a place he has alit on throughout the film, and his final landing there  admits to an  impenetrable mystery that is yet to be addressed.

 Lourdes (NWFF, April 2-8)

Those planning a trip to Lourdes should see this movie before finalizing their vacation plans. Sylvie Testud plays the wheelchair-bound Christine, who travels  to Lourdes, a village set in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains where the spring water is said to have healing powers,  with her mother in hopes of being cured of the paralysis that resulted from her multiple sclerosis.   The environment  is a cross between a carnival sideshow and a USO canteen, where the “helpers,” nun-like creatures  in red and white, plan the days activities for the pilgrims, as well as sing  karaoke and dance with the men.   In this dark miasma of holiness and tourist ennui, activity options are limited to confessing ones sins, having the healing spring water poured over your head, debasing  yourself  in front of a  statue, listening to prayers and hymns, or simply sitting with the  rest of the infirm, waiting for a miracle to come.  Jessica Hausner’s film invites us on  a  disconcerting descent into the gloom of ancient superstitions that, in some parts of the world, prevail to this day.

Chastity (NWFF, April 8)

If you have ever liked Cher, even just a little bit, and haven’t seen the 1969 picture “Chastity,” written for her and produced by Sonny Bono, then don’t miss this chance to see it. But don’t expect anything campy or glitzy.  This is a adventurous piece of indie film-making that  stands head to head with such contemporary pictures about single women as “Wendy and Lucy” or “We Go Way Back.”  Cher plays an incest victim who runs away from home and has some non-adventures with men, a gentle encounter with the Madame of a Mexican cathouse, and  a constant buzz of voices in her head that seem to have escaped from the parent tapes of a   Transactional Analysis session. Most of the music is by Bono, although there is the surprising use of “Walk on Guilded Splinters,” from the first Dr. John album, in the brothel sequence. Appropriately enough, the last picture’s final scene is scored to a piece of music that sounds like Riz Ortolani’s theme for the doomed sea turtles in “Mondo Cane.”  


The Exploding Girl (Varsity, April 2-8)

“The Exploding Girl” is a different kind of Spring Break movie.   A modest story of a college girl whose repressed emotions cause her stomach to cramp and sometimes trigger epileptic fits, it is a high cut above the repulsive antics of Seth Rogen’s wack pack. Ivy (Zoe Kazen) is a medium-cute wallflower whose off-screen boyfriend  dumps her in order to resume a previous relationship.   Eventually she decides she likes her best friend Al (Mark Rendall) better than her ex-boyfriend.  By the end of the movie they are holding hands.   Writer/director Bradley Rust Gray uses the subtle vacillations of intimacy between Ivy and Al to explore the tenuous differences between friendship and love in post-adolescent relationships. The first half of the picture gets by on the sweetly quiet appeal of its sparkle-eyed leads.  Then Gray  succumbs to the stasis of several pretentiously composed tableaus in which cell phones   figure prominently. By the time Ivy and Al are stroking newborn pigeons on a New York City rooftop, we are more  than ready for the Spring break to end and classes to resume.

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Anacortes to bask in glow of sailing’s biggest prize, the America’s Cup

Anacortes is a world away from the glitz and glamor of Valencia, Spain, where two of the world’s richest men recently pitted their deep pockets against each other in two of the fastest and most advanced sailboats ever built to claim sailing’s biggest prize—the America’s Cup.

But the decidedly blue collar, old-salt town can claim its fair share of the glory for BMW Oracle Racing team’s victory. After all, the stunning trimaran that set a new standard in sailing was built within a stone’s throw of the rusty shipyards and oil refinery that define this town’s shoreline.

And next Saturday, the town will finally get to bask in its share of the spotlight, when the winning BMW Oracle team brings the America’s Cup trophy to town for a public celebration.

BMW Oracle’s victory against Swiss defender Alinghi brought the trophy back to the United States for the first time since 1995. The cup’s appearance holds special significance for Anacortes, where much of USA-17, the 90-foot by 90-foot trimaran that won the 33rd America’s Cup competition in February was built.

“The community is thrilled,” said Anacortes Mayor Dean Maxwell. “This is big stuff. I don’t think the America’s Cup has ever been to Anacortes before, nor do I expect it will ever be back in Anacortes again. It’s history, for sure.”

For the past two years, a team of international workers toiled under a cloak of secrecy in Anacortes, building the various pieces of the boat in a large industrial building in a fenced lot at the corner of R Avenue and 28th Street. Some 150,000 hours of work went into the trimaran’s construction, which involved extensive involvement from Janicki Industries, a Sedro Woolley-based company specializing in high-precision fabrication.

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Salmon vs. boats: No easy answers in quest for eco-friendly bottom paints

Copper has been used for centuries to keep boat bottoms free from marine growth. But in the Northwest and across the nation, the threat of lawsuits and stricter environmental regulations are leading boaters, boatyards and paint manufacturers to seek more environmentally friendly alternatives for keeping growth at bay.

In the Northwest, the topic has taken on a particular significance following recent threats by an environmental group to sue five boatyards over water-borne pollutants, and new water standards the state Department of Ecology is expected to release next month. (more)

Read full story here at Three Sheets Northwest

Further reading:

Getting the copper out: Even at very low levels, copper is bad for salmon

Washington approves first copper brake-pad ban

Progress slow in Puget Sound cleanup

Reports: Puget Sound getting sicker; Obama budget slashes money for Sound cleanup by 60%

Governor schools lawmakers on sausage making

It’s been said that watching a bill make its way through the legislative process is akin to watching sausage being made.

Unfortunately for the sausage makers in Olympia, the Governor doesn’t have to eat what they make and can cut out any section of a bill she doesn’t like.

As with any good chef who would take offense at such a partial rejection of their masterpiece, lawmakers attempted to leave the Governor with a take it or leave it option on HB 2893: Changing school levy provisions.

Here is what the last section of the bill said:

Sec. 12. The legislature finds that the sections contained in this act constitute a single integrated plan for revising the laws relating to school district maintenance and operations levies. If each provision of this act as passed by the senate and house of representatives is not enacted into law, the entire act is null and void. If by June 30, 2010, the superintendent of public instruction does not certify to the legislature that full funding has been appropriated in the 2010 omnibus operating appropriations act for the local effort assistance rates specified in sections 5 and 6 of this act, the entire act is null and void. If any provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the act shall be considered invalid in its entirety, and the act and the application of any provision of the act to any person or circumstance shall be considered null and void and of no effect.

When signing HB 2893, the Governor vetoed that section of the bill. Here is what she said

Section 12 provides in part: “If each provision of this act as passed by the senate and house of representatives is not enacted into law, the entire act is null and void.” The only action that could prevent any provision of the bill from being enacted into law is the veto power of the Governor. The Washington Constitution provides the Governor with the power to object to one or more sections of a bill while approving other sections of the bill. Section 12 purports to provide that the veto of any section of this bill is a veto of the entire bill. This attempt to constrain the Governor’s veto power is inconsistent with our state constitution.

As noted by the Washington Supreme Court in Washington State Legislature v. Lowry, 131 Wn.2d 309, 320 (1997), “[o]ur constitution condones neither artful legislative drafting nor crafty gubernatorial vetoes.” Neither the Legislature in its bill drafting nor the Governor in exercising the veto should deprive the other of the fair opportunity to exercise its constitutional prerogatives. A veto of Section 12 will cause “the act … to be considered now just as it would have been if the vetoed provisions had never been written into the bill at any stage of the proceedings.” State ex rel. Stiner v. Yelle, 174 Wash. 402, 408 (1933).

Let that be a lesson to legislative cooks who may hold their nose at some of the ingredients being added to a bill for the promise of the finished product. There’s no guarantee that the parts you like will survive the Governor’s review which means you could be left with only the parts of the sausage you didn’t like.

Jason Mercier is the director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center. He serves on the Executive Committee of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force and is a contributing editor of the Heartland Institute’s Budget & Tax News.

Child care ranks up there with retail and tourism as boon to economic development

With the U.S. economy finally getting back on track, a report says child care ranks up there with retail and tourism as a boon to economic development.

While building roads and easing credit for businesses have been seen as classic ways to bolster the economy, spending on child care often was left off the list, even though evidence showed it offered long-term benefits, according to Child Care Multipliers: Stimulus for the States.



In other news:

Gov. Gregoire signs early-learning bills

John Mayer brings his “Battle Studies” to KeyArena

Despite a mouth that often gets him into trouble, John Mayer has won seven Grammy Awards, sold more than 12 million albums and earned a reputation as an extraordinary musical artist.

Several years ago, Time Magazine included Mayer on its “Time 100″ list of the most influential artists, entertainers, thinkers and cultural icons of our time.

The singer, guitarist and songwriter apologized for using the “N-word” in a interview in the March issue of Playboy in which he talked about his penis, his love of porn and his relationships with Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson. He described Simpson as “sexual napalm.” You can read the Playboy interview here.

Mayer’s current tour include songs from the “Battle Studies,” his fourth album.

Mayer and Michael Franti & Spearhead perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday (March 31) at KeyArena. Tickets are $36.00, $51.00 and $76.00 at Ticketmaster or by phone at 800-745-3000.


more here at

Community comes to the aid of boater

Boaters are known as a loosely knit geographic group—and a tight community always willing to help one of their own.

So when Seattle Sail and Power Squadron member Brad Peterson recently lost his leg due to an infection, fellow boaters came to his aid. Squadron members joined forces with Peterson’s friends from church and the Knights […]

Full Story

CONCERT REVIEW: George Strait plays deep in the heart of Tacoma

An exciting appointment to head the federal Medicaid & Medicare agency

Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said: “If you’ve been in government a long time, as I have been, then the most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence. Why is this exciting? Because it’s rare.” When I read the quote, even today, I can hear the late New York senator’s voice booming, his last word full with extra punctuation.

 Today I’m excited for the government. Health care reform should bring nutrition to a starving Indian health system. And, if the next test for health care reform is execution, then the government might be on the right course. The New York Times reported Sunday that Dr. Donald Berwick is the president’s choice to head the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

 This is a choice that exceeds Moynihan’s rareness of competency. Berwick represents the ideal, the one person you think could help the government, the people and the medical profession come together and a coalesce around the idea of excellent health care. Last December at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement conference I watched hundreds of professionals cheer on Berwick as they would a rock star. This is a doctor who’s willing to talk about what’s really important to people. “Health care has no intrinsic value at all. None, Health does. Joy does. Peace does,” he said in December. “The best hospital bed is empty. The best CT scan is the one we don’t need. The best doctor’s visit is the one we don’t need.”

Imagine that. Doctors we don’t need.

Berwick’s appointment is not official yet – and then the Senate would have to confirm him before he takes office. But I wanted to write about this now because Medicaid, Medicare and Children’s Health Insurance Program all play a key (and growing) role in funding the Indian health system.

The most important thing to know about CMS funding is that it’s an entitlement: If a person is eligible, the money is supposed to be there. That’s not true for Indian health because the system is based on annual appropriations. Every time IHS, a tribal program or an urban clinic can bill CMS for patient care, it adds money to the system.

This is also the way to improve the idea of “don’t get sick after June.” If a patient is eligible for Medicaid, the money is supposed to be there. It doesn’t require passing the life or limb test.

Berwick already has a working knowledge of the Indian health system. The Harvard professor wrote a book, Escaping Fire: Designs for the Future of Health Care, that cites the work of Southcentral Foundation and the Alaska Native Medical Center as a model of a quality, locally managed facility. Southcentral, the nonprofit affiliate of Cook Inlet Region, Inc., operates the outpatient facility with self-determination funding from the IHS, other grants, and money from Medicaid and Medicare.

Medicaid is especially complicated. The program is officially a partnership with between the federal and state governments. That means there are fifty different regimes, policies and procedures. Eligibility varies state by state. There’s often a split in the state mechanism for behavioral health and other services.

And then there’s the money. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation:  The funding shortfall for state budgets could top $350 billion by next year.

Indian Country isn’t supposed to be hit by these shortages; there’s a 100 percent federal reimbursement for eligible patients in the Indian health system (a process that’s supposed to be improved by the new health care reform law).

But nothing is simple when it comes to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. States aren’t keen to see these rolls expand even when there’s a federal guarantee. It’s even more complicated when you factor in those reservations that cross state lines. Utah would set the rules for Navajos living on that portion of the reservation, New Mexico another set, and Arizona with still another situation. I would love to see CMS rules that supersede state versions, treating Indian Country as a 51st state. Someday.

But there are other, more practical innovations that could happen at CMS immediately. There could be more experiments (requiring waivers) from providers about how health care is delivered. There could be less complicated paperwork to enroll in Medicaid as part of the implementation of health care reform.

 Berwick is not a manager who will make the system we have work better. No, he’s the kind of leader who will help us invent something better – and the Indian health system will be a beneficiary.

 Mark Trahant is a Kaiser Media Fellow examining the Indian Health Service and its relevance to the national health care reform debate. He is a member of Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Comment at