Seattle postsWednesday September 26, 2012
A Walk in Seattle
Last night I was going to meet my friend Vinny at the Grand Illusion Theater in the U district for a showing of Ozu Yasujiro's “Tokyo Story” (1953), which was recently named the third-greatest movie of all time by critics worldwide, and the greatest movie of all time by directors worldwide. Both groups were polled by “Sight & Sound” magazine, which does this kind of thing every 10 years.
I usually bike to work in lower Queen Anne, so I could've done that, then biked over, then biked home at 10. For some reason, maybe the late-night ride, I decided against. I decided to walk to work, walk to the U district, then catch a ride with Vinny after the movie.
It was a nice day for a walk, and I needed it. Last fall I was diagnosed with subacute thyroiditis, which messes with the thyroid hormones released into the body. First you're in a hyperthyroid stage (too much), then the thyroid shuts down and you go into a hypothyroid stage (too little), then you stabilize eventually. If you're one of the 85% who stabilizes. Apparently I'm one of the 15% who doesn't. So last week I began taking levothyroxine, a supplement, and yesterday, in the middle of the day, I developed symptoms that I associate with hyperthyroid: I got cold, my heartrate went up, and I felt a huge bout of anxiety, for no reason, about nothing.
So a late afternoon walk felt like a blessing. I stopped in my bank, stopped at Cinema Books, the best movie-bookstore in the world, owned by Stephanie Ogle, where I bought two books, then at Scarecrow Video, where I checked out its vast Criterion Collection. Then I met Vinny at Thai Tom on the Ave.
Some iPhone photos from the walk:
Mercer Mess, 4:15 pm. When I bike, I weave through this like the centipede in the old video game.
South Lake Union.
The I-5 bridge from the University bridge, late afternoon.
I'm interested in the lesser-known names in and on our public places. Here's Ms. Hagy's Seattle Times obituary.
Cinema Books, on Roosevelt Way, which is always packed in this manner. It's owned by Stephanie Ogle, who is always a delight.
The wall behind the cash register at Cinema Books. Ms. Ogle's photo (with ...?) is between and to the left of Marilyn Monroe's and Catherine Deneuve's.
The Grand Illusion was sold out for “Tokyo Story.” The movie fit my mood. But ... third-greatest ever? Greatest ever? No movie should have to live up to that.
What Seattle Means to Me
What is America to me
A name, a map, or a flag I see
A certain word, democracy
What is America to me
--Frank Sinatra singing “The House I Live In,” with lyrics by Abel Meeropol and music by Earl Robinson
What does Seattle mean to me?
Yesterday after work, I was biking home to First Hill from lower Queen Anne but was having brake problems. I'd had the brakes replaced about a month ago at Velo Bike Shop on Capitol Hill, and ever since the front brakes stuttered, and now they were squeaking noisily. Screeching almost. So I biked over to Velo, they fixed them on the spot, then I biked a bit around Capitol Hill before coming back via Madison. I was at the corner of Madison and Boren, first in line in the left-turn-only lane, with a motorcycle behind me, revving its engine, both of us waiting on the green arrow. But it didn't come. We waited out the cars traveling south on Boren, and north on Boren, and the moment before the east-west traffic moved, the moment we were supposed to get the green arrow ... didn't arrive. Because the system didn't register a car there. Because there wasn't a car there: there was just a bike, followed by a motorcycle, followed by a car. The system mostly registers cars. The motorcycle began to creep forward and we had this conversation.
Me: You should get closer. It's not registering me.
He: Yeah, sometimes it doesn't register me, either.
Me: Great, what do we do?
Then I saw what he was doing. He was going anyway. He was waiting for the eastbound traffic to dissipate, then he turned left against the red arrow. “Oh, right,” I thought. “We can do that.” I did the same.
That happens a few times a year, by the way, and it's not what Seattle means to me. Here's what Seattle means to me.
As we were turning, I heard a horn honking. Insistently. The motorcyclist's? To warn people what we were doing?
No, it was the car behind us. Admonishing us because we were doing something bad.
And that's what Seattle means to me.
The system is set up in a way to screw you over; and when you improvise, there's always someone there, someone who wouldn't normally talk to you, scolding you for it.
My Evening with Sissy Spacek
I noticed the movie first. “Hey!” I thought. “Terrence Malick's 'Badlands' is playing at SIFF!”
Only when I bought tickets (for $35/$40) did I learn that “Badlands” was an afterthought to one of the major events at the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival: “An Evening with Sissy Spacek,” in which the Oscar-winning actress accepted SIFF's lifetime achievement award and sat down for a two-hour Q&A with Time magazine's Richard Corliss. The screening of “Badlands,” which starred Spacek and a young Martin Sheen, came later, and, by the time it did, a third of the audience had left. Sad.
I had a good time at the event but questions arise. Why Corliss? Why not a local critic, like John Hartl or Moira MacDonald? One of the best, most entertaining interviewers I've seen is both local and a movie critic: Warren Etheredge of the Warren Report. Why not him?
The audience portion of the Q&A can be a drag—particularly in Seattle. The people raising their hands are generally the people who shouldn't be raising their hands: folks who don't want to ask anything but want to pontificate and blab and unenlighten and waste our time. Thankfully, we didn't get many of those. We got oddities: geeks bearing gifts. They spoke tentatively, then brought out some odd, hand-made doo-dad—a ceramic flying pig dangling on a string, for one—then brought it up to Ms. Spacek, who, to her credit, acted more graciously accepting these things than I do accepting a gift I want from someone I love. She showed her chops right there. She deserved her lifetime achievement award right there.
Did you know, under the name “Spackle,” that she sang a late '60s bubble-gum song called “John You've Gone Too Far This Time,” about how John Lennon in 1969 was no longer the mop-top we all loved? I didn't. Someone menioned that the song is hard to find online but it's actually pretty easy. And pretty awful. It should as least be catchy.
More catchy was this clip we saw as part of her career retrospective:
After the Q&A, but before the “Badlands” screening, Michael Upchurch, who, with John Hartl, has been covering SIFF for The Seattle Times, came up and mock-chastised me: “Where was your present for Sissy?” he asked. Exactly.
Here's a portion of the Q&A. Apologies, but we were sitting halfway back so the volume isn't the best and the hand-held jumpiness is like out of a Lars von Trier film. Hope no one gets nauseous.
Apologies, too, Sissy, for not bringing you a gift. Next time.
(TURN UP THE VOLUME FOR THIS ONE...)
I saw 10 movies at the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival and was pretty tired by the end of it. SIFF is billed as the longest film fest in the world, 25 days now, 450+ movies, but there are times, particularly when you're caught in the middle of it, when “longest film fest” seems less boast than threat. You want to wave the white flag. You want to go climb a mountain. If you going to the movies you want to see something loud and stupid and with supheroes.
Here are the rankings of the movies I saw, from first to worst, with links to reviews:
- Starbuck: Must-see French-Canadian comedy
- Under African Skies: Documentary on Paul Simon's “Graceland”
- Goodbye: Iran today
- The Revisionaries: Texas today
- Lola Versus: Girls today
- The Revolutionary: The Marxist yesterday
- Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Heroines: Doc on feminism and boobs
- Hello I Must Be Going: A mopey 35-year-old's big adventure
- A Checkout Girl's Big Adventure: Insipid French fairytale
I'd recommend the first three. Plus half of the fourth. “Checkout Girl” was physically painful.
My 10th film, in case you're wondering, was Terrence Malick's “Badlands” during “An Evening with Sissy Spacek.” More on that later.
None of my movies won any awards. Here's the rundown from the audience and the cognescenti:
2012 SIFF Audience awards
- Best film: “Any Day Now”
- Best documentary: “The Invisible War”
- Best director: Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
- Best actor: Alan Cumming, “Any Day Now”
- Best actress: Jamie Chung, “Eden”
- Best short film: “Catcam”
2012 SIFF Juried awards
- Best new director: Nicolas Provost, “The Invader”
- Best documentary: “Five Star Existence”
- Best narrative short: “The Extraordinary Life of Rocky”
- Best animated short: “Zergut”
- Best documentary short: “Paradise”
- FIPRESCI Prize for Best New American Film: “Welcome to Pine Hill”
I also heard good things about “Chasing Ice,” “Your Sister’s Sister,” “My Brother the Devil,” “The Fourth State” and “The Intouchables.”
Fun the first time I saw it.
David Ishii, Seattle Bookseller (1935-2012)
These days it seems I hear the news via Facebook more than any other source. The other day it was Jim Walsh's post (and then everybody's posts) about the death of Davy Jones. Yesterday it was Knute Berger with the sad news of the death of David Ishii, a long-time used bookseller in Pioneer Square, whom I interviewed for The Grand Salami, an alternative Mariners program, in the summer of 1998.
The interview is below.
Name: David Ishii
Birthdate: April 16, 1935 in Seattle, WA.
Evacuated: along with other Japanese-Americans to the Midwest during World War II. Although technically allowed to return in 1945, Ishii's mother kept the family in Milwaukee until the summer of 1948.
Owner: since 1972, of David Ishii Bookseller in Pioneer Square, where baseball memorabilia hangs from the walls and autographed baseballs sit on a shelf above the cash register.
* * *
What are your earliest baseball memories?
When I was in high school the Seattle Rainiers won the Pacific Coast League pennant. That was really fun. Every morning in the PI they'd have a drawing of a little man. If he was smiling, the Rainiers won; and if the Rainiers lost he was sad.
I learned how to score when the Pilots came to Seattle in 1969. I wrote in to KVI—they had two-sheet instructions on how to score—and that's when I got into the game. Because to score you have to pay attention. I went to about seventeen games that year and could hardly wait until the next year. But they left town. Even after, I would open up the paper to see how some of the ex-Pilot players, like Tommy Harper, had done.
What do you remember about the early years of the M's?
On days I did not have tickets, I would walk up to the ticket office, buy a ticket, and sit in the third deck, outfield, anyplace, just to see what the game was like from different parts of the Kingdome. That was fun. I remember they had Perry's Perch: Third deck behind homeplate. Very few people bought tickets there. Now it's impossible to get a ticket there. Impossible.
Do you have a favorite Mariner moment?
During the George Argyros days when the Yankees came to Seattle and Tom Paciorek hit two game-winning homeruns on Friday and Saturday night. For the Sunday afternoon game, this big limousine comes in from left field and out pops Paciorek's family. They did it as a surprise for him.
Griffey. I go to as many games as I can mainly to see him play. Because I know that maybe ten or fifteen years down the line, when I'm an old man, I'm going to say, “I saw that play, I saw that play, and I saw that other play he made.”
I saw it when he broke his hand; I saw almost all his basket catches. What a lot of people probably don't realize—in this last catch he made—is that as soon as he caught the ball he turned around and stopped the runner from advancing. That's what made the Willie Mays catch [in the 1954 World Series] so great. Mays was way out there; and as soon as he got the ball, he threw it in so the runner on second couldn't advance. That's what Griffey did.
It was fun to watch him go for eight homeruns in a row; but it's his fielding.
What about non-Mariners? I notice the autographed picture of Lenn Sakata.
[Laughs] He's the first Japanese-American to wear a World Series ring. I met him. A friend of mine, Frank Abe, worked for KIRO, and he called up Lenn Sakata and Sakata says, “Yeah, I've got some family here, come on down.” So we went to a hotel by the airport and met him. I was really surprised. Not a tall man, but, boy, he was strong. His legs, thighs: big.
Let's talk about some of the memorabilia in your store.
Well, this is a ceramic ball. The Lenn Sakata fans—of which there were three of us—we all signed a similar one and gave it to him.
A lot of these are autographed balls. Mac Suzuki. Lou Piniella. Johnny Bench. Griffey.
That's my high school first baseman's glove. When I went to Queen Anne High School, in ... I think it was 1952 when I bought this. After I delivered all the papers on my paper route, a bunch of us would go and play catch. This is a small (glove). See how small it is? I couldn't afford a big one. And it has plastic laces. So it's a cheap mitt. It's a Reach brand mitt.
A friend of mine, Phil Gallagher, he had a big mitt and I was envious of him. But I could still dig 'em out.