Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Political Desk: Primary One-Shot Division

OK, I'm going to have to make this brief (OK, as brief as I can). I've been in LA for a week for a recording session, and I have a lot of other stuff going on in my life, so this time the Political Desk gets a single entry.

Yes, it is a primary, and yes, it is in bloody August, to give the victors plenty of time to bore you to tears with their platforms and fliers before November. And there IS a big fight shaping up in Seattle itself, as the Chamber of Commerce (under the guise of political action committees like CASE and (extremely wealthy) Moms for Seattle) is trying to unseat City Councilpeople who fail to take the knee and tug the forelock to big business, but those races are NOT in my purview (NOTE TO SELF: Remember to insert a picture of Kermit the Frog drinking iced tea). And people are ALREADY talking about the next year's presidential elections and trying to learn how to pronounce all the Democratic candidate's names.

But still, I have obligations, so I'm doing a quick and dirty version. First off, just want to agree with you that its a boring ballot, but you really should vote anyway. Heck, you can even drop the ballot in the mail this time without postage. Go ahead, you know you want to . But really? Boring. The candidates on my ballot, from their write-ups in the Voters Guide, all seem ... sane. Not a wacky concept or freestyle punctuation or lathered rage in the lot. The various levy proposals? Also silent on the "People who think this is a bad idea" space in the Voters Guide. What the heck, people?

There are also no listed Republicans on my ballot. There are no Democrats, either, since all the offices are non-partisan, so you'll have to do a little more digging - looking at supporters, endorsements, and stated policies. Pro-tip: If endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, take a good hard look at them before tossing a vote their way.

And, as a public service, here are other people's recommendations: If you live closer to Seattle, here's the Stranger's take. Fairly sound, but they don't ever venture south of Boeing Field. Here's the Seattle Times, which you should take with the proverbial and rather large grain of salt. The Municipal League has not updated its site since two years back, and the stalwart Voting for Judges is inactive because, well, no judges on my ballot. The Chamber of Commerce site is down for maintenance as I write this, but their sock puppet political action committee, Citizens Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) recommends these guys, just so you know who is buttering their bread. A response group, called Civic Alliance for a Progressive Economy (CAPE) has their line-up here. Progressive Voter's Guide for my neighborhood is here., but poke around for your elections. The  Seattle Transit Blog has their findings scattered through their site (come on, folks, put them in one location for lazy stalwart bloggers).

All that said and done, let's move to the ballot itself:

King County Proposition No. 1 Parks, Recreation, Trails, and Open Space Levy. It is what it says on the tin. Replaces a previous levy that is elapsing. It covers a LOT, and costs, well, a small bit more. No one argues with it, though King County Councilman Reagan Dunn did sniff that things are getting more expensive these days - APPROVED.

Port of Seattle, Position No. 2. Let me take a moment out to say that the Port of Seattle has been my go-to for jokes about graft and corruption for years. Now they have let me down by actually staying out of the scandal sheets. Talk about making my job tough. Plus.a lot of sane candidates for this open seat. While I like Preeti Shridhar from previous campaigns, I have to admit the provenance of Sam Cho (working for Obama and Bob Hasegawa) gives him the edge. Go with Sam Cho.

Port of Seattle, Position NO. 5. Fred Felleman. Incumbent. Didn't give the nod last time, but he's done a good job. So, yeah.

City of Kent Council Positions - Gosh, these are good people, based on their Voter's Guide descriptions. Not all of them are professionals, some are first-timers, but they practically shine from the inner glow of public service. Hate to pick one, and reserve the right to change my mind, but I am going with:
Position 1: Marli Larimer
Position 3: Hira Singh Bhullar (Note to self - make fun of his yard signs after he wins).
Position 7: Awale A. Farah

Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority Proposition No. 1 Levy for Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Services. This is about restoring an earlier tax levy. Yep, hate taxes. Yep, realize it is for the greater good. APPROVED.

Soos Creak Water and Sew District Commissioner Position No. 2 - Alan Eades is the incumbent. That's nice.

Public Hospital Disctrict No. 1 Commissioner Position No. 5 - FINALLY, we get some controversy. Valley Medical Hospital does a damned fine job, but has been plagued with all sorts of political deal-making, shenanigans, and opacity. The latest big kerfuffle was when UW Medicine took over the board of directors by outnumbering the elected officials. The current incumbent ran on fighting that, but didn't fight that much once she got in. Let's look at Carol Barber and see this get into more discussion when the final election shows up in the Fall.

And that's it for the moment. Get you votes in, people, postmarked before August 6 (Did I mention that you can mail it without a stamp?)

More later,

Monday, July 15, 2019

Is Cthulhu REALLY a Great Old One?

Here's something that has always bothered me. In H.P.Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu", there's the following passage:
They worshipped, so they said, the Great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any men, and who came to the young world out of the sky. Those Old Ones were gone now, inside the earth and under the sea; but their dead bodies had told their secrets in dreams to the first men, who formed a cult which had never died. This was that cult, and the prisoners said it had always existed and always would exist, hidden in distant wastes and dark places all over the world until the time when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in the mighty city of R’lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again beneath his sway. Some day he would call, when the stars were ready, and the secret cult would always be waiting to liberate him
Boldface and underlines are mine.Cthulhu, who in later texts is recognized as a one of the Great Old Ones, is referred to here as being a "great priest". Does this mean that Cthulhu is a priest OF these Great Ones, or is he one of the Great Old Ones, and his position among them is that of a Priest (i.e. - he's the cleric of the party)?

Either way, it is is an interesting take on things. If he's a priest who venerates these Great Old Ones, he's subordinate to and separate from them, and the Great Old Ones (of which later writers have constructed an entire pantheon) are unknowable, godish beings who we have never really met. If is a priest among the Great Old Ones, what do these Great Old Ones worship?

Hang on, it gets even more interesting in the next paragraph.

     Meanwhile no more must be told. There was a secret which even torture could not extract. Mankind was not absolutely alone among the conscious things of earth, for shapes came out of the dark to visit the faithful few. But these were not the Great Old Ones. No man had ever seen the Old Ones. The carven idol was great Cthulhu, but none might say whether or not the others were precisely like him. No one could read the old writing now, but things were told by word of mouth. The chanted ritual was not the secret—that was never spoken aloud, only whispered. The chant meant only this: “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.
So no one has ever seen the Old Ones, but here's a statue of Cthulhu, which we know from the later in the story is a pretty fair representation of his titanic majesty.

So it seems, from this reading, that the entire later industry of Great Cthulhu as one of a pantheon of elder eldritch beings may be off. His fictional worshipers, as well as later real-world chroniclers, have confused and conflated the two, promoting the priest to the godhood itself. Of course, all of this is from a highly unreliable narrator, a mad and degenerate worshiper of these Great Old Ones, On the other hand this is a primary source, THE primary source, of Cthulhu lore.

Anyone have an theory on this?

More later,

Sunday, July 07, 2019

MADness Takes Its Toll

There are other, more important things going on in the world, but I'm going to talk about the demise of MAD Magazine.

And yeah, it's a demise. Death. Pushing up daises. Cue the Choir Celestial. It is an ex-Magazine. As the news hit and people reacted badly, the spin control engaged - it wasn't QUITE dead. It would do some reprint stuff. And a yearly annual. And the reprints would be in the direct sale trade, and the chain bookstores - those that are left.

Look. LIFE Magazine died in 1972 as a weekly magazine, but it still shows up at the grocery check-outs with special issues on the latest film or some ancient anniversary. But LIFE is dead. Ditto MAD.

And I've taken the news with the stoicism of a hearing of the passing of some old friend from high school that you haven't talked to in three decades. As a kid, MAD magazine was a staple in the tree fort in the backyard, and the smell of the slightly moldy, aging paper stock stays with me to this day. And we got the paperbacks that reprinted stuff from the fifties and early sixties as well. Nostalgia is strong, but not strong enough to continue support over the years.

MAD defined for me what New York was like, along with its native New Yorkers. It was hip, sophisticated, cynical, urban, multi-cultural. It was sarcastic and sardonic. It was smart and infantile at the same time. It was definitely left of center (though it out time to lash liberal hypocrisies as well as conservative ones) and any commercial. It was educated. I knew a lot more about Broadway musicals and current films from the Mad satires. And the music parodies, mostly written by Frank Jacobs.Those I can still remember better than the last book I read.

A favorite Broadway parody - "My Fair Ad-Man", with Cary Grant trying to turn a beatnik Frank Sinatra into a proper grey-flannel suit. A favorite song - "Hello, Deli".( Hello, Deli. This is Joe, Deli, Will you please send up a hot corned beef on rye).

And the talent. Names to conjure with like Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Dave Berg, and Don Martin (When naming Asura for GW, I always recommended their names sound like Don Martin's sound affects). Sergio Aragonnes and his marginals. Al Jaffee and his fold-ins Even the tags at the top of the page held a chuckle.There was a lot of depth going on in the page, a lot of stuff all happening at once. It was really, really good.

And yeah, I know that the magazine had fallen on the hard times of not being sufficiently profitable for its corporate overhead. Bill Gaines ran it his way until he passed, and since there it has been a slow cascade of corporate decisions, each made while looking over its corporate shoulder to see if THIS would be the one that killed it. Folding it into the greater Warner Brothers empire, cutting pay rates, reduced shipping schedules, moving the whole furshlugginer operation to California. And now the zombie-like demise where the Brand survives but everyone who made it a brand is gone. Feasting off the corpse.

But as I said,. I haven't read it in decades. I can't remember the last thing I read in the magazine, the last issue I bought. I moved on to other things, as one does. I picked up a lot of National Lampoons in college (dead in 1998 (after five years of sporadic publication), and SPY magazine therefore (Also dead in 1998), and suppose my current fling with the New Yorker is that most recent engagement with the New York State of mind, of an era when Manhattan was the hub of the publishing universe, with all the intelligentsia swarming around it. And MAD was its court jester.

Farewell MAD. Farewell, Alfred E. Neuman. Farewell, those bits and bobs and punchlines that people of my age can quote and discover others get the joke. It's been real.

More later,

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Theatre: Octopuses as Elves

The Last World Octopus Wrestling Champion, Book, Music and Lyrics by Justin Hueratas, Additional Music, Arrangements, and Orchestrations by Steven Tran, Directed by Mathew Wright. Arts West, through July 28..

What a minute, didn't you say you were done for the season with plays? Well, yeah, but in the program book for the Seattle Rep there was an advert for Arts West over in West Seattle for a new musical by Justin Huertas. Mr. Huertas, in addition to acting in Tiny Beautiful Things, was the mastermind behind Lizard Boy a few year back, which was one of the Lovely Bride's favorite plays.

Let me talk about the venue for a moment, since its new to this space. Arts West is nicely situated at the Junction, a business district in West Seattle. The space is intimate without being tight. It is theater in the round for this production, which often means that the actors have to keep moving around so you don't spend the performance looking at their Captain America-level backsides. The Lovely Bride and I had front row seats, but there was enough room between us and the stage proper for the actors to move around without worrying about tripping over us.

Anyway, the play: Octopus wrestling was a thing in the Pacific Northwest at one time. Divers would hunt octopuses off the Seattle's shores, bring them up bare-handed, and the diver who brought up the biggest octopus would be the winner. Grace (Corinna Lapid Munter) won the trophy the last time it had been done, eighteen years back. She doesn't talk about it anymore, and had her son Todd (Christian Quinto) hide the trophy and never tell daughter Lee (Rachel Guyer-Mafune). who, by the way, just turned 18 and is going to be a freshman at the U-Dubb. There Lee meets Nia (Porscha Shaw), who she is immediately attracted to, and David (Tyler Rogers) a marine biologist and octopus fan.

Lee finds the trophy and wants to know more about Grace's octopus wrestling days. Grace is now plagued by the sudden incursions by the Undertow, a sea spirit, who sends starfish and bivalves to attack her. And Lee starts mutating into something more mollusk-y and discovers Nia has the same problems. And Todd and David connect. And truths are revealed and Grace understands and Lee grows.

Did I mention that it's a musical? Yeah, It's a musical, and all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza. Well, mostly singing. A lot of good dancing and choreographed conflicts. The characters switch off from their roles to become a narrative Greek chorus and representatives of the Undertow. The actors have mini-mikes on their foreheads like South Asian bindi, and the sound levels were perfect. Live musicians off-stage in perfect harmony for the space. Having had to deal with wonky sound in much bigger halls, this was great.

The actors were top-notch as well. Ms. Munter brings the necessary strength and fire, both physically and emotionally, for her character. Guyer-Mafune is a very different character than the one she portrayed in Feathers and Teeth, and just rocks the role. Porsha Shaw previously showed up in Nina Simone's Four Women, annd is excellent as Nia, both in voice and acting (Nia's a deeper character). Quinto and Rogers get to be a little broader and comedic, but they both bring a sweetness to their characters that makes everything hang together.

Ultimately, this the tale of the fae, the mystical and mythical people of the forest, transported from the Black Forest and the Brothers Grimm in to the stony beaches of of the PNW. The alien and inhuman elves and spirits are replaced with another intelligence, cool and aquatic, in the soul-drenched eyes of the cephalopod. The play is also about love in a great handful of permutation, about family, and mixed in with enough Seattle references to connect with any native Seattleite.

How good was it? The Lovely Bride is checking out next season's Art West schedule, and I'm telling you to check it out (In the first draft of this review, I thought it had closed on June 28. The management regrets ...)

More later,