Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.

In a way, it’s like he’s been dead for a long time. Isn’t that what a recluse wants? For the world to act as if he’s dead? But he wasn’t dead until now. And I already miss his crazy ass.

Like nearly every American teenager, I first became familiar with J.D. Salinger when I read “Catcher in the Rye” in 9th grade English class. And like many American teenagers, it absolutely spoke to me. It was even more profound considering that most of the other kids in my class were completely unaffected. Some were bored by the book. Some just thought Holden was a jerk. Some probably didn’t actually read it at all. I was in private school and many of the characters in the book that Holden called “phonies” reminded me of the people I begrudgingly spent every day with. I wrote two papers about the book. One was a typical literary analysis and one was a “diary entry” written in Holden’s voice. The latter came to me very easily. I got an A+ on both papers. I felt that I had never completely understood a book better than I understood that one. And with that, “Catcher in the Rye” became my favorite book.

What really knocks me out is a book, when you’re all done reading it, you wished the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.

Later, I voluntarily took an AP English class over the summer which was all about Salinger. We read every book that he’d published that summer. I had never had so much fun in school. “Nine Stories” blew me away even more profoundly than “Catcher”. I was so moved by “For Esme with Love and Squalor”. I don’t think a book had ever made me cry before. We also learned a bit about J.D. Salinger, the man. He was crazy. He was a recluse. His family hated him. He’d been accused of inappropriate relationships with young girls. It was fairly obvious that everything he wrote was at least semi-autobiographical. This did not bode well for his mental state. But I fully understood how one could let the world get to him. And that’s what had happened. He was better off in hiding.

I re-read “Catcher in the Rye” and “Nine Stories” yearly. In college, I once spent an entire Saturday in the downtown Tacoma library (remember libraries, kids?) seeking out his uncollected works: short stories which had been published in literary journals and magazines and then forgotten. I exhaustively searched through the microfiche and spent dime after dime photocopying everything I could. I didn’t find everything, but what I did manage to collect felt like a treasure. I later devoured those stories and thought this was an author who was incapable of writing a bad sentence.

He does have that vault full of unpublished works. He has said that what’s in there is vaulted for a reason. He thinks it’s terrible and he never wants the world to see it. I don’t know who is in charge of his estate or what will become of those stories now. Part of me wants to read them, of course. But considering the quality of what he allowed to be published, I also trust his judgment. And I never want to read a Salinger story that I don’t love.

Speaking of which, it’s been a while since I re-read “Nine Stories”.

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NFT Radar: Blue Dog Kitchen

Living in the UD, I sometimes miss the old IHOP and pancakes at my beck and call. But then I remember the Blue Dog Kitchen and I remember just how much I was slumming it with those nasty gut-bombs and sugary syrups. Blue Dog does “build-your-own pancakes” with an extensive array of bases (like buttermilk, oat bran, blue cornmeal, and poppy seed) and toppings. Fruits, nuts, chocolate chips and syrups combined any way your little heart desires. They’re even available wheat-free for more delicate digestive systems. If pancakes aren’t your thing, they’ll also do an omelet for you, and throw in a piece of fresh bread for good measure. Cafe D’arte supplies the coffee but the Dogs brew their own chai in 10 different varieties, including ginger spice and lavender. If you prefer lunch, they’ve got that too: Deli-style sandwiches in 20 different varieties. The dog may be blue, but your stomach won’t be. The only downside to this place is that the pancake service is limited to the mornings. But I suppose an adult has to adhere to a meal schedule sometime.


5247 University Way NE 98105
206-632-5132
www.bluedogkitchen.com

X-posted from Not For Tourists.

Plate-O-Chick

I know that Alex Cox has been wanting to make a sequel to “Repo Man” for years and, due to legal rights with the original studio, no longer owns his own characters from that movie. That’s why he penned a comic book with “parallel universe” characters to tell the story of what happened to Otto after the original film. But that still didn’t scratch his sequel itch, so he came up with the idea for “Repo Chick”. Now, I’m not opposed to the idea of another “Repo” story, nor am I against the gender swap. The title, however, is just terrible. I get that Cox wants fans to recall the original without being able to reference it specifically. But there has to be a better way.

And now there’s a trailer:

I’m not really sure what to think. The story and unusual use of green screen (making it look like an Aqua video) are weird and campy enough that I’d probably see it Cox or no Cox. I also approve of the idea of Rosanna Arquette in the Harry Dean Stanton mentor role. But it’s hard not to be skeptical about the finished product. Since he was never able to make the sequel he wanted, this sounds more like a consolation prize than a dream realized. Hopefully the finished product won’t come off that way. And given the fact that he’s behind one of my all time favorite movies, in addition to my affinity for the original “Repo Man”, I have no choice but to give “Repo Chick” a shot. We shall see…

NFT Radar: The Counter

So it’s not a mom and pop burger joint. It started in California with franchises springing up in some unlikely places across the country (and the world). And maybe I’m just falling for the glamor of an evil empire on the rise. But when a place boasts 312,120 different possible burger combinations (any mathematicians want to contest this figure?) how can you not? Because of the insane array of choices, their Build-Your-Own-Burger forms can be a little overwhelming. I find it’s best to start with a sauce and go from there. You can be simple as you please (beef burger, American cheese, lettuce, regular bun) or highly experimental (turkey burger, soft ripened brie, hard boiled eggs, ginger soy glaze, dried cranberries on English muffin). It’s all up to you. They just provide the high-quality ingredients. Especially impressive are their house-made veggie patties, an ingenious combination of grains and veggies mashed together and fried to a golden brown. Don’t miss their Wednesday happy hour, which pairs 4 sliders with 4 microbrew samples for $4. Save room for a milkshake, which can also be combined however you please. It doesn’t get any more “have it your way” than this.


4609 14th Ave NW 98107
206-706-0311
www.thecounterburger.com

X-posted from Not For Tourists.

Review: “UB40 – Food For Thought”

2009
Unrated
81 minutes

***

Apart from actual taste, there is nothing more subjective than musical taste. One man’s auditory honey is the most annoying sound in the world to someone else. In the mid-eighties, I thought I hated UB40. I cringed whenever they came on the radio. That said, sometimes a band, known primarily for their album of covers, can surprise you.

UB40 formed in Birmingham, England in 1978. Named after a document issued to people filing for unemployment benefits, they were among a number of pasty white Brit musicians getting into reggae at that point. They were drawn to the political messages, feeling a kinship to the problems of unemployment in Jamaica and, yes, they were probably also smoking some ganja.

Shot on a hot summer night in Cologne, Germany in 1981, “Food For Thought” captures the early days of the band, just after the release of their second album. Like their first record, it was a hit in their native country. They were riding high on success (and other things), spreading their appropriation of the reggae sound to guilty white folks across Europe. They weren’t exactly the Clash, but they weren’t incomparable. They wouldn’t be noticed by the Yanks for another 3 years. And sadly their original work would never chart in the U.S.

For that reason, it’s hard for a Yank like me to watch “Food For Thought” without that American stigma attached to it. The “Sliver” soundtrack doesn’t even exist yet in this snapshot of UB40’s career, but it was always in the back of my mind as I watched the Campbell brothers sweat and bop on stage among a bevy of trumpet players and a real live, bona fide Jamaican called Astro. It doesn’t help that the audience consists of mostly white, mustachioed Germans with dubious hair. These people take songs like “The Earth Dies Screaming” very seriously. They also recall the inevitable future: Republicans blasting “Red Red Wine” from their Ferraris.

But in 1981, it’s all about the politics and the Sinsemilla. Back then there was nothing ironic about a ginger man in sunglasses and a tucked-in baseball jersey, playing sax under lyrics like “the poor can scream but no-one hears/the concrete jungle sings the blues”. “Don’t Let it Pass You By” is about how life is short and there’s nothing beyond so you might as well get high. In “Burden of Shame” the band apologizes to South Africa for being British.

UB40’s origins won’t be news to pre-existing longtime fans. Thus, this DVD will be a huge treat for them: An earnest and flawless performance of the band’s first two records. Bleeding hearts like me, without the aid of a certain herb, may still be bored by the droning ska rhythms, but they have to respect the band’s message. The only audiences I can imagine being truly disappointed by this performance are those cheesy dudes who only ever owned “Labour of Love”. They’ll be waiting for that one song that, thankfully, will never be played.

 

Originally published on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

Hotter With a Beard: Jon Hamm Edition

Hamm’s hairy potential is hinted at on “Mad Men” with his occasional five o’clock shadow and glorious chest hair. But here is Hamm’s face in full bearded glory.

Fantastic. I’m also a fan of the sexy crow’s feet. This is what a man looks like, people.

NFT Radar: Chiang’s Gourmet

It certainly looks sketchy from the outside and its proximity to the dodginess of Lake City Way certainly doesn’t help. But if you can put look beyond appearances and venture inside, you most certainly won’t regret it. With three different menus (American, Chinese, and Vegetarian) it’s difficult not to find something you like. The house-made noodles are the perfect combination of chewy and salty and come in a number of different dishes. The vegetarian sweet and sour ribs are a saucy bit of fried heaven. If you’re feeling adventurous, order something off one of the colorful signs by the register. Those are the owner’s suggestions and are sure to be amazing. Don’t miss the weekend brunch with eggy pastry delights and some dim-sum type items. The steamed bun selection (apart from the lackluster vegetarian bun) is outstanding. However, be prepared for spotty service. Depending on how busy they are, (and often, it’s VERY) you may wait a long time for your food. Fortunately, there’s always take-out. Trust me, it’s worth the hassle. This is some of the most authentic (and delicious) Chinese food you will find in Seattle. Just ask the authentic Chinese families who crowd the dining room!


7845 Lake City Way NE 98115
206-527-8888
www.chiangesgourmet.com

X-posted from Not For Tourists.