NFT Radar: Upper Playground

Used to be it was a Portland or San Fran destination. But now Seattle’s got our very own Upper Playground. This distinctive clothing store features contemporary graphic design by urban artists on casual apparel. The artists on their roster include Sam Flores, Jeremy Fish, David Choe, Estevan Oriol and Alex Pardee. Printed on high-quality, robust tees and hoodies, these are clothes that will stay with you for the long haul. They’ll certainly survive even the most intense urban lifestyle whether it’s skateboard wipeouts or DJing a Lohan party. Who couldn’t love their t-shirts that incorporate classic metal band logos with the U.P. walrus? Even if t-shirts and hoodies aren’t your thing you can still enjoy the clever and unique art in book form and on bags, mugs, pillows, shower curtains and accessories. They also have an art gallery, which occasionally holds shows and openings. At the very least, it’s a great place to find your next tattoo idea. Be sure to check out their website for more information about the artists and upcoming gallery shows, plus some pretty funny videos.

4730 University Way NE 98105

X-posted from Not For Tourists.


SXSW Film Review: Grace

The horror genre is a mixed bag. You have your intentionally humorous horror (Evil Dead II), your unintentionally humorous horror (Leeches) and your unintentionally, irredeemably horrible horror (Cabin Fever). But there’s a smaller sub-genre which is, in my opinion, superior: The Dramatic Horror film. Included in this sub-genre are films like Rosemary’s Baby, 28 Weeks Later, Repulsion, King of the Ants, and the Devil’s Rejects. These are films which, while sometimes containing supernatural elements, are rooted very strongly in reality. They are devoid of cliches and often feel completely plausible. And that is why they are so damned scary.

Grace falls into the latter category. Unfortunately for the film (and the unsuspecting audience), most people won’t know that going in. This is not a campy horror film. There are no cheesy one-liners (Save one at the end…Which I’m convinced a producer insisted on including). This is a seriously, utterly horrifying film. And I absolutely loved it.

It tells the story of a woman named Madeline who, after losing both her unborn baby and her husband in a car accident, decides to carry her dead fetus to full term. Miraculously, her stillborn child comes back to life. But Madeline soon learns that breast milk will not sustain her special child. She needs blood…human blood. A zombie baby! Sounds hilarious, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not.

The antagonist of this film is Madeline’s mother-in-law, Vivian. She is a closed-minded control freak who blames Madeline for the death of her son and is determined to take Grace away. When we meet Vivian at the beginning of the film, she is picking at the vegan dinner which Madeline has made and asking if tofu can provide enough nutrition for a gestating baby. Everything she says to her daughter-in-law is condescending and/or insulting. Madeline gracefully ignores her. She knows what her baby needs. She doesn’t trust doctors, opting for natural home-birth. Her husband complies with his wife’s decisions but never defends Madeline to his mother either. So it’s no wonder that Madeline feels she needs to carry Grace to term. She needs to meet the only person who would love her unconditionally. Even if that person is dead.

I became intimately aware of the horrors of miscarriage after watching Lynn Shelton’s revelatory documentary The Clouds That Touch Us Out of Clear Skies. She tells the very personal and detailed stories of the miscarriages of several women including her own. It’s profoundly devastating. And it’s not exactly over quickly. After the child dies in utero, the mother still must give birth. The first time they meet their child, it is dead. This is a real-life horror. And it happens more often than you think.

Grace is filmed from that perspective. The most intense scene comes when Madeline gives birth with the aid of her midwife and doula. The pain of childbirth is usually countered with purpose. At the end of the pain will come the joy of a new life. But not this time. No one in that birthing pool expects the pain to end. The professionals can’t offer any words of encouragement. Tears stream down everyone’s faces.

The midwife pulls the blue baby out of the bloody water and hesitates when Madeline asks to hold her. But she complies and leaves the mother to say goodbye to her child. However, there is no goodbye. Madeline nurses her newborn and the blue cheeks turn to pink. Grace is alive. Everything is fine.

But everything is not fine. The baby is sick. Though she is hungry, she can’t keep breast milk down. Madeline soon learns what the baby really needs. There are no cheesy zombie prosthetics on little Grace. She is a normal, pink baby. Who needs to drink blood. And though Madeline is a vegan, she is willing to comply.

As Madeline struggles to keep her baby healthy, Vivian plots to have Grace taken away so that she can raise her. At the post film Q&A, an audience member asked about the “clear anti-vegetarian message” of the film. The director corrected him. He said he had no political message. He was just showing different perspectives. I wonder how someone can interpret the film as anti-vegetarian when we see the nefarious lengths that Vivian, a staunch meat-and-potatoes proponent, will go to in order to steal her grandchild. If there is a message it’s that every child is different. There’s no one correct parenting ideology. If the mother listens to her baby, she will learn what the baby needs and it will thrive.

But mostly, Grace parallels one of the greatest horror films of all time, Rosemary’s Baby. At its core, it’s about how a mother will do anything to preserve the life of her child, even if she suspects what she is doing is wrong. Even at the cost of her own well-being. Like parenthood, Grace is all at once frightening and beautiful. And it’s not for the faint of heart.

Hotter with a Beard: SXSW Edition

Thanks to beard prevalence, SXSW 09 was much sexier than in past years. 2009 is definitely the Year of the Beard.

Not a full beard, but it has potential. And a rock star to boot!

Beard vs. beard.

And a snazzy dresser!

Hands off, ladies. This one’s all mine.

SXSW 09 – The Aftermath

It was, as per usual, amazing. Though it has gotten a lot harder to get into the night shows without an exorbitantly priced pass or impossible to acquire wristband, we still saw a lot of great bands. Such as:

*The Shaky Hands
*The Paper Chase
*Hey Marseilles
*The Rosebuds
*Juliette and the New Romantiques
*Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head
*The Red Verse

We saw comedy! The likes of Eugene Mirman, Doug Benson, Todd Barry and Janeane Garofolo.

We hit karaoke at Ego’s, which is a bar inside a parking garage. I laid eyes on the most incredible book I’ve ever seen. They had EVERYTHING. It put the old Sunset Bowl system to shame.

We ate. A lot. Queso! Tacos! Vegan tamales! More queso! I can never tire of tex mex, apparently. The street food rocks. Serrano’s has the best happy hour and a lovely patio. Stubb’s Legendary BBQ is just OK.

We found ourselves at a house party in the suburbs and had quite the adventure getting back to our hotel.

Free beer was rampant. I drank my fill of Shiner Bock.

We saw a terrific movie (Grace) and an awful movie (My Suicide – reviews to come).

The weather was OUTSTANDING. My tan lines are back.

See it in pictures here.

Really, BSG? REALLY?

Part one of the Battlestar Galactica series finale was gripping and ended with a cliffhanger. I couldn’t wait for part 2. Continue reading

NFT Radar: China Harbor

I’ve been obsessed with China Harbor ever since I first drove past its majestic black exterior many years ago. The whole thing smacked of Chinese Mafia. The waterfront location, lack of front-facing windows and the fact that the restaurant only takes up a quarter of the massive building, abetted my suspicions. I’m happy to report that China Harbor did not disappoint. We shared the otherwise empty dining room with an elderly couple on a Sunday evening and had a terrific time eavesdropping on the dance classes taking place in the adjacent banquet room. We buzzed on complimentary tea and speculated about the people who lived in the houseboats we could see from our table. The food was outstanding. The menu is fairly typical but every dish is cooked to delicious perfection. For dessert we couldn’t resist the “8 Treasures Rice Pudding”: a mound of sticky rice filled with red bean paste, topped with orange sauce and a bevy of dried fruits. The waitress tried to talk us out of it, saying it was for Chinese people. But we assured her we knew what we were getting into, and earned brownie points for happily scarfing it down. Best of all, we left with a bag full of leftovers and all of our thumbs in tact.

2040 Westlake Ave N 98109

X-posted from Not For Tourists.

Dollhouse! It’s About To Get Interesting

I know who Alpha is. Or rather, the actor who will be portraying him. And I’m very very happy about it. If you also want to know click here. If you care enough to have read this far, I’m sure you recognize the man in that picture. Perhaps my dreams are prophetic.

The show has been getting a little better each week. Every episode, no matter how silly the mission, has still had one or two REALLY good moments. The allegedly mind-blowing first great episode is next week. It’s directed by Joss and Patton Oswalt guest stars. The promise of that episode plus the identity of the man behind Alpha equals me having a hard time not being positively giddy about this whole shebang.

Hard Times

Yep, we’re in a depression. And I am freelancing so that means that while I am basically just making lunch money, I am making too much money to qualify for unemployment. So I keep the house clean and I cook dinner every night to try and earn my keep. I’ve always been a quasi-feminist so I never had designs to become a full time housewife. But my husband is the only person who will hire me right now so that is what I am. If we had children, I wouldn’t mind so much. I would feel like I was at least contributing to the development of the future of the human race. But we have only cats. I’m trying not to get too depressed about it.

I’m also trying to not be such a financial drain on my wonderful, patient, hard-working and fortunately still gainfully employed husband. So I’ve made a decision. It’s a small gesture in the grand scheme of things but a pretty huge one in my world. But I feel it’s an important one. I’ve decided to stop cranking up the thermostat. I will put on a damn sweater and socks. I may even invest in a snuggie. Energy isn’t cheap. And as long as I am barely contributing monetarily to the family pot, I should stop being so indulgent.

America’s Next Top Production Assistant

My dream last night was obviously influenced by what I was watching before bed.

In it, I was a P.A. on America’s Next Top Model. I’d just finished fetching a runaway raft, a prop in the photo shoot of the day, in a slimy body of water. When I got back, Tyra called a dinner break and everyone went off to eat.

She took me aside and said that, as a reward for my dedicated work, she was going to give me the chance of a lifetime. I was to give one of the models a haircut and make a set of cloth boots using some light pink plaid fabric (remarkably similar to the color of the tacky-ass limo the girls rode in on the actual show this week). If I did everything right, I would get a promotion. She didn’t say what would happen if I screwed up but I knew it meant I was canned.

I tried to calmly explain to my crazy, whimsical boss that I’d never cut anyone’s hair before and I’d only ever sewed buttons. These boots looked remarkably complicated. They had several seams and straps. Tyra said not to worry. She’d done the first boot for me. I just needed to copy the finished product. As for the haircut, she found a magazine picture for me to copy. NO PROBLEM! Any idiot could do this. Well, crap.

The model whose hair I was cutting and whose boots I was sewing had been on two other cycles. She was a very sweet girl so I was thankful it was her. But that was the very reason (besides getting the axe) that I didn’t want to screw up. I sat down to dinner with the models and contemplated my fate over pizza.

One of the other models, who also happened to be film and television actor Alan Tudyk, saw the worry in my face and asked me what the problem was. I told him my plight. He offered me some help. He also worked at Scarecrow Video. I should come to his store that evening and he would rent me a movie which would give me the knowledge I need to successfully complete the job.

Flash forward. I made my way through the store looking for Alan. On my way, I saw a copy of Trainspotting. I hadn’t seen it in a long time and felt it was time to give it another viewing. I saw Alan at the back of the store and approached. He told me to wait there. A few minuted later, he returned with an unlabeled VHS tape. Fortunately, I thought, I still have a VCR. (This is true). I paid the man for the two movies, thanked him, and was on my way.

It was then that I awoke, so I have no idea what was on the video tape or whether or not I completed the tasks to Tyra’s satisfaction. But I do know I felt pretty confident when I left the store.

Tales from a Newly Blue State

I just learned that (Democratic) Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, along with the Republican house leaders, introduced a bill that would ban smoking in public bars and restaurants. Of course, California started this and the rest of the world has been following suit. Washington did so several years ago and even though I opposed it at the time, (based on the 30-foot doorway rule) I have come to like it. But I have often said that Virginia will be the last state to do something like this. They have tried this before and it hasn’t passed. It may not pass this time either. But I am happy to hear that it might. Still, a quote in this article explains, besides the fact that Virginia and Philip Morris are synonymous, the reason why this thing will not be easy to pass.

You’re going to tell a guy who fought in the Battle of the Bulge that he can’t have a cigarette with his coffee at the VFW? You can’t do that.

Ah, Dixie. Still, if France can do it, Virginia has a chance. Good luck to Kaine and this bill!