Lakeview Cemetery

My friend Shannon Applegate manages a country cemetery (she's the "sexton," to use the English name) in Oregon that has been in her family for over 100 years. She wrote a wonderful book about her experiences and got a bunch of us hooked on cemeteries.

Lakeview Cemetery is one of the oldest in Seattle. I hadn't been there for years but I stopped today to take some photos.

One thing you can say about cemeteries as old as Lakeview: Not much changes. The graves stretch back to hold the founders of the city and there isn't much room for new arrivals. Bruce Lee is supposed to be there, as are Doc Maynard and Princess Angeline. The cemetery is popular with Asian Americans. Their red tombstones are a colorful contrast to the usual somber grays and blacks.

Unlike modern cemeteries where the markers are kept flat to facilitate mowing, Lakeview has upright monuments, some of them truly monumental. Whole mountains of granite and marble have been exhumed and carved and deposited here.

It's an interesting place and usually you'll be the only living person there. Volunteer Park is next door as is a Grand Army of the Republic cemetery from the Civil War era.

There are a few more photos from this morning on my Flickr feed.

A map to Lakeview Cemetery is here.

And HistoryLink has an article on the cemetery here.


Origami, beyond the fold

Check out Susan Orlean's fascinating New Yorker profile of origami artist Robert J. Lang in the current edition. This origami is way beyond the simple cranes and goldfish of your childhood.

Lang is a physicist who developed an intense interest in origami as a child. He has since used his math and science skills to develop computer software that enables him to fold incredibly complex creatures and objects. The level of detail is astounding (look for the fish that comes complete with scales on his web site). As he says in the article, the software allows him to pretty much make any creature he wants, even people.

And he does it all with only one sheet of paper per creation.

And it isn't all just fun. Lang puts his skills to work in areas of medicine and industrial design, finding ways to fold a heart implant so it could be inserted through a small tube but unfold to encompass the heart. He was also contracted to figure out how to fold a telescope so it could be transported into space.

I wanted to post images of his creations (the one element missing from the New Yorker profile) but Lang is understandably restrictive about copyrighting his work, so you'll have to check out his web site to see his astonishing work.


Downtown sky

I wandered around downtown Seattle at lunch time Thursday as a wind storm approached. I liked the threatening sky trapped between the big buildings (although I always feel like the small-town hick I am when I shoot photos of the big buildings that everyone else is doing their best to ignore).

More photos here and here.



Went to Ikea yesterday. I had to have one of these cool lights (look in the children's department). They come in three colors/shapes: blue, red and green.

Spoka glows from a light emitting diode. It will run indefinitely when plugged in or 4-6 hours on the rechargeable battery.

The light has a sense of whimsy that you find in lots of Scandinavian design, especially items designed for children. It's fun, it's practical, it's safe (doesn't get warm and uses low voltage) and it's functional (it even comes with a carrying bag that closes with a cloth ribbon). Very cool!


Hitchcock's music

There was a terrific piece on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday this morning about Alfred Hitchcock's use of music in his films. American Studies professor Jack Sullivan has a new book out on the subject, "Hitchcock's Music."

Hitchcock believed that music could reveal his characters' motives and souls in a way that words never could. Often, Sullivan points out, the music is telling us things about the characters that the characters haven't even figured out.

Hitchcock worked with some of the greatest film composers of his day, Bernard Hermann and Miklos Rozsa being the two most famous. Hermann's greatest work was done for Hitchcock on films such as "Vertigo," "North By Northwest" and "Psycho" (a rare all-string score).

In "The Birds," the score consists almost entirely of electronic bird noises. The sole exception is a scene where Tippi Hedron waits outside the school as the children sing inside and the birds gather menacingly in the background. Hitchcock loved the contradiction between the innocent singing and the gathering terror. Sullivan notes that it creates an almost unbearable tension. It's one of the most frightening scenes in the film.

In another score for a Hitchcock movie, for "Spellbound," the Theremin, with all its spooky humming and moaning, was first used in a film.

My favorite: Hermann's score for "North By Northwest" (Sullivan praises it also). It's big and dynamic and perfectly sets the mood for one of Hitchcock's best entertainments. Watch the opening to see how the theme perfectly connects with Saul Bass's dramatic credit sequence to set up the whole mood and tone of the film.

You can listen to the NPR interview here as well as selections from several scores for Hitchcock pictures and read a sample chapter from Sullivan's book.


Suzan-Lori Parks

I want to be Suzan-Lori Parks. She's smart, she's funny, she's talented and she just has that aura of coolness about her.

Maybe she'll adopt me.

Parks is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama (for "Topdog/Underdog"). She spoke last night at the Seattle Arts and Lectures Series.

She mostly talked about how she became a writer. Her message is similar to Joseph Campbell's famous exhortation to "follow your bliss." Parks talked about being open to ideas when they come, no matter how weird they may seem, and then acting on them.

Parks began writing in the fourth grade. After a brief diversion into science in college (a high school teacher discouraged her from literature because she was a poor speller), she returned to her first love: writing. James Baldwin was one of her teachers and an important mentor.

When she heard voices talking to her and telling her stories, she wrote down what they said ("They come from that way," she said, gesturing to her left). She was afraid to turn around and look at the source of the voices for fear they would leave.

August Wilson described a similar experience. His plays began with a character coming to him and speaking. He would write the play to find out what the character was talking about.

One of the most important lessons Parks learned from Baldwin was to "honor the spirit" when it makes an appearance. When those voices come, when the spirit moves her to write, she embraces it and doesn't turn away. It takes guts and perseverance.

"Every morning when I wake up I tell myself; 'I want to be a writer today,'" she said. It's never too late to try something new, she said. The important thing is to follow what your gut tells you to do and then just do it.

One of Parks most recent ideas was to write a play every day for a year. She told her husband about it and he said: "That's cool." She immediately went upstairs and began to write. No matter where she was or what she was doing, she made sure to write a play every day. Most are short. The final play is all stage directions and no dialogue.

The resulting works -- "365 Days/365 Plays" -- are being produced by theaters all over the country, including Seattle.

It's all about faith, she told Hilton Als from The New Yorker:

“The writer has two kinds of faith: actual writing and sitting openly. Have faith in your personal effort or sweat. And faith in God, or whatever you want to call it. Then the voices will come.” She paused. “Faith is the big deal,” she said.
Suzan-Lori Parks links:

'Big Love' Poster

Kim Carney, a friend and former co-worker, has a terrific blog where she shows off all the cool art she does. Her work is a constant inspiration to me. I'm not in Kim's league, but I thought I'd show one example of my own work and talk a little about the process.

A good friend, Mary Martin, is directing a production of "Big Love" (definitely
not the HBO series) by Charles Mee. It opens tonight (Feb. 8) at UACT in Roseburg, Oregon.

Mee's "Big Love" is based on an ancient Greek play, "The Danaids," by Aeschylus. In it, 50 brides (all sisters) are betrothed to 50 grooms (their cousins), but the brides run away before the wedding, landing in a large villa on the coast of Italy. The grooms swoop in by helicopter and all hell breaks out. Soon, people are tossing saw blades at each other and dropping tomatoes and throwing themselves on the ground over and over. And 49 of the bridges kill their grooms, leaving only one couple to fall in love.

"About the same odds as today," Mee writes.

Mee's subject is the nature of love and identity. Can anyone retain their identity when love and marriage consume them? Can a modern woman be true to her ideals in love? Must love end with marriage? Does everyone even
have to fall in love?

Whew! How to convey all that in a simple poster?

A group of us retired to our cabin in the mountains to read the play and help Mary with her directing plans. There were lots of visual possibilities here: mangled wedding invitations, a bride and bashed-up groom from atop a wedding cake, blood, knives ... whatever. My initial idea was a simple type treatment: the words
BIG LOVE with the LOVE all scratched out, as if one of the angry brides had gotten her revenge on the poster.

Not great but it was an idea. At least it gave us something to fall back on. I had even prepared copy for the poster:

50 brides.
50 grooms.
49 murders.
Can't we all just get along?

Not bad but ... not the greatest. I always say: You have to get the bad ideas out of the way before the good ones arrive.

During a second reading of the play a light dawned: one of the characters (a gay man) has a collection of Barbie and Ken dolls. Ah-ha! The original romantic couple! People would quickly grasp the idea that this is a play about love and relationships (or maybe they would think it was sponsored by Mattel).

I decided that a simple photo of Barbie and Ken just staring straight out from the poster would be the art. And I would play the name of the show large across their chests (it's southern Oregon; we have to cover of Barbie's bare breasts somehow).

It's cheesy but I substituted a heart for the "o" in "love." After finishing a version I decided that the heart made it look too happy and cute. God forbid, people might think it was a romantic comedy (it's funny, but dark).

Back to the original, all-type poster. I made some scratches in Illustrator and put them over the heart. It's just enough to let you know that there's something askew in this show and that it isn't all flowers and happy endings. If I'd have had time, it would have been fun to actually scribble and cut each poster individually.

Other elements on the page were dictated by UACT's design rules. I tinkered with running the BIG LOVE vertically between Ken and Barbie or turning the poster into landscape mode and putting BIG LOVE between them. The idea was that BIG LOVE is keeping the pair apart. That might have been cool but it wouldn't meet the design criteria.

Maybe next time.


Farewell to a newspaper

A local newspaper died two weeks ago and today the former staffers (of which I am one) got together to remember it. It should have been a sad occasion (damnit! It was a sad occasion) but we were all having too much fun to be morose. We lamented its loss but celebrated the people who made it a darned good paper while it lived.

The paper, under its last name, was the King County Journal. When I worked there, it was the Journal American, formed by joining two weeklies, the Kirkland Journal and the Bellevue American. And there was the Valley Daily News, another daily that also became part of the King County Journal papers and, so, is also gone.

The papers were the victims of the changing economics in the newspaper business: Advertising and circulation are down as readers flock to the web. Big urban papers are struggling and small suburban papers like the King County Journal are hurting even worse.

The scary thing is: this won't be the last. More newspapers will go under as publishers struggle to make the transition to the web and try to figure out what people will still pay for in print.

The amazing thing about this was the incredibly talented group of people who had worked there over the years. We filled a room at the Bellevue Hilton and overflowed into the lobby. The turnout was a testament to the commitment and love everyone had for the paper. Once you've had ink in your veins, it's hard to get it out.

An example: In the second photo above, the man on the right is Chuck Morgan. Chuck, who is approaching 95, I believe, was the publisher of the Kirkland Journal. Frank Wetzel, on the left, was a former editor of the Journal American.

For more photos, check out our Flickr group.


Spike Lee's Oscar commercial

The Academy Awards are trying to combat falling ratings by focusing this year's Oscar ceremony on the general appeal of the movies to the U.S. audience. You'd think they would focus on making better movies but that's the American way: hype over content.

Anyway, Spike Lee has created a series of TV spots for the Academy and the first one, featuring average people delivering famous movie lines, can be viewed at Oscar.com. It's a hoot and worth watching. My favorite is the woman pictured above delivering the most famous line from "Godfather III" (and just about the only good thing from that film): "Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in."

See if you can identify all the rest. I was stumped by only one: "Don't shove me Harv. I'm tired of being shoved. " The Internet Movie Database can help if you're stuck.

Too bad the Oscar broadcast (5 p.m. PT, Feb. 25) won't be as witty as this TV spot.

To see the ad, go to www.Oscar.com and click on the icon that says "The 79th Academy Awards on ABC" in the video section of the home page.


UPDATE: The ad is now online at YouTube. Hurry before they pull it down!


I-5 after dark

This is a classic example of going after one thing and coming back with something else.

The moon is full tonight (or mostly full, I think the full moon was a couple of nights ago). I'm always challenged to try to photograph it, usually with no luck. I think a tripod would be a good idea but my tripod stinks and I'm usually to lazy to drag it along.

I went out right after work, thinking I would photograph this ripe, icy moon through some tree branches. Cliche but what the hell?

The tree branch shots were poop. But this monumental sign on I-5 wasn't. Most of us only see these head-on at 70 mph on the freeway. More interesting to see it from the side and below, the traffic tucked safely out of sight.


Farewell, Molly Ivins

Molly Ivins died Wednesday. She is gone too soon.

Ivins was one of the sharpest political observers in the country and she was funny as hell. She wasn't funny just to make herself popular. Her goal was to expose the stupidity, greed and ignorance she saw in politics both in her native Texas and nationally.

Did she ever.

It was Ivins who nicknamed George W. Bush "Shrub." It was Ivins who once told her readers, as the Texas legislature was convening, that “every village is about to lose its idiot.” And it was Ivins who wrote, of a Texas congressman, “If his I.Q. slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day.”

In her last column, published as she was gravely ill with cancer, she urged readers to "raise hell" against the Iraq war. "We are the people who run this country," she wrote. "We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war."

When someone I greatly admire dies, I'm reminded of the story of a friend of George Gershwin who, when told of the composer's untimely death, is supposed to have responded: "I don't have to believe that if I don't want to."

I don't have to believe it about Molly Ivins, either.

Molly Ivins links:
  • The New York Times obit.
  • Her syndicate has the last year's columns online here, plus a tribute.
  • NPR's Fresh Air did a retrospective of interviews with Ivins on Thursday.
  • The Texas Observer has a tribute here.
  • Ken Bunting of the Seattle P-I recalls Ivins.

Olympic Sculpture Park at night

I've been driving by the new Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle since it was a couple of polluted holes in the ground. Once the lights started to come on, I noticed how cool it looked at night and I had to take some photos. More pictures of the park after dark are located on my Flickr feed.
After these photos were up for a few days I received an e-mail from Burr Rutledge. He worked on the lighting for the park but left the firm before the job was done. He says that their goal was to let the lights do their job of illuminating the artwork without calling attention to themselves. I think they were successful.
Rutledge says he's heard that the Seattle Art Museum is now planning lighting for Richard Serra's "Wake."