The Weekly Wire: The Week's Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 8/17 Books/Visual Arts: Wife Swap Traveling by rail, trail, horseback, and steamship, New York painter Albert Bierstadt first visited the Pacific Northwest in 1863 in search of new scenery. Yosemite and Yellowstone were already claimed. The frontier—soon bridged by transcontinental railroad—was closing. He wanted something spectacular to paint. And his companion, journalist Fitz Hugh Ludlow, was also in search of stories to sell. The latter is now forgotten, while Bierstadt is at the center of SAM's ongoing "Beauty & Bounty" landscape show. Today the museum's curator Patricia Junker, author of Albert Bierstadt: Puget Sound on the Puget Coast: A Superb View of Dreamland (SAM/UW Press, $19.95), will likely mention their divergent fortunes. Bierstadt would go on to paint the SAM show's mammoth centerpiece, unveiled in 1870. Ludlow died that year, aged 34, when his book about their seven-month journey together also was published. Curiously, he omitted the name of his intimate traveling companion. That was because Bierstadt had in the interim stolen his wife, married her, and enjoyed national acclaim for his depiction of a very fanciful Puget Sound. Ludlow, a bohemian, abolitionist, and drug addict, was also given to ecstatic visions, but no one reads his stories anymore. A friend of Whitman and Twain, he died poor and obscure, while Bierstadt lived long enough (1830–1902) to savor his own obsolescence. Somewhere today, a playwright is considering their voyage together . . . Al and Fitz in a Canoe, anyone? Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com. Free. 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLER FRIDAY 8/19 Film: Inside the Cow "The war is over. The traitors will be hunted down relentlessly. If necessary, we will kill half the country. ¡Viva la muerte!" Imagine Forbidden Games set amid the carnage following the Spanish Civil War, with an undercurrent of guilt and sexual hysteria. The 1971 Viva la Muerte (aka Long Live Death) is a surreal portrait of a child trying to come to grips with his Republican father's arrest after his mother betrayed him to the Fascists. Young Fando's lessons emerge in violent childhood games and obscure fantasy sequences (shot on blurry videotape, then transferred to film through color filters), the distorted reflections of a fucked-up culture of betrayal and paranoia. And the adults are, if anything, even more twisted by guilt and denial. Director Fernando Arrabal comes from the same well source as Alejandro Jodorowsky (who directed the film version of Arrabal's play Fando and Lis), and he similarly paints his film in blunt allegorical images of sexual anxiety, destructive madness, and violent fantasy. (See a man sewn into a cow's carcass!) It's provocative rather than poetic, but Arrabal gets his point across. (Through Thurs.) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 523-3935, grandillusioncinema.org. $5–$7. 7 and 9 p.m. SEAN AXMAKER SUNDAY 8/21 Comedy: Hometown Return Reggie Watts is one of a kind. Literally. With a massive afro and bushy beard, he simply looks unique. With his impressive vocal range and mad beat-boxing skills, his music is distinct, too. (Though his band Maktub is on extended hiatus.) But what really makes Watts a true original is that every performance of his is unlike the others. The man thrives on improvisation, using just a looping machine, his buttery voice, and his absurd sense of humor to create new material each time he takes the stage. This itself is a feat, but what makes Watts' performances even more impressive is that he manages to be unendingly hilarious with his perpetual ad-libbing. Need proof? Last year he was the opening act on Conan O'Brien's Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television tour and starred in his own Comedy Central special, Why Shit So Crazy? Tonight's show is a homecoming of sorts for the Seattle-to-Brooklyn transplant; it'll be part concert, part stand-up, and entirely unpredictable. Neptune, 1303 N.E. 45th St., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org. $19. 8 p.m. KEEGAN HAMILTON MONDAY 8/22 Happy Hours: Out of the Sun On the rare sunny day this unseasonable summer, you can expect to wait at least 20 minutes to be seated on the patio at Kirkland's popular waterfront eatery Olive You. During happy hour (11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sun.–Mon. and 3–7 p.m. Tues.–Sat.), the cute and charming Mediterranean restaurant serves $3 beer and $5 house wine, as well as half-price appetizers like garlic-feta fries and pita bread with five (!) types of hummus. But what many patrons fail to realize is that the restaurant's adjacent room, Tervelli Ultralounge, offers the same deals, typically sans the crowd and wait. It's cozier, too: Chandeliers and a fireplace provide a warm glow, and the couches are covered with a generous supply of throw pillows. So skip the patio, get comfy in the lounge, and be careful not to spill—red wine pairs terribly with suede. Olive You, 89 Kirkland Ave., 425-250-1555, olive-you.com. ERIKA HOBART TUESDAY 8/23 Books: Fear in the Hole Before Aron Ralston cut his arm off in a Utah canyon, before Jon Krakauer survived the Death Zone on Everest, Jim Davidson began slogging up Mount Rainier on what he thought would be an ordinary weekend climb. He and his buddy Mike Price, both from Colorado, were visiting in 1992 to bag Liberty Ridge, one of the classic routes in North America. And they made it to the top just fine, safe and sound. What The Ledge (Ballantine, $26) recounts instead is the way down. That's when most climbing accidents occur—when you're tired, victorious, your guard lowered. Descending near the standard Emmons Glacier route, Davidson stepped onto a snow bridge over a crevasse. The span collapsed, and both men fell in. Everything outside the crevasse is extraneous to Davidson's self-rescue tale (co-authored by Kevin Vaughan, expanded from his 2008 Denver Post serial). What matters is inside, slotted within a frozen coffin, determining how to escape up 80 feet of sheer ice. The technical aspects of self-belay and dwindling ice screws will be more meaningful to climbers than lay readers, but the essence of The Ledge has broader resonance. Survival, whether in economic recession or glacial crevasse, depends on calmly contemplating the worst outcome, then acting despite your fears. Davidson admits to panic in the darkness, recovers, thinks of his family, then climbs up toward the light. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, bookstore.washington.edu. Free. 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLER Film/Etc.: Everyone's an Artist By now, after diverse adult roles from Mysterious Skin to Inception to Hesher, it's hard to remember that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was ever a child actor on TV. And he's grown into more than just a movie star. He's touring with a live/film-clip show called hitRECord at the Movies, derived from the website he founded, hitrecord.org. It's a bit like that YouTube film (Life in a Day), whereby users crowd-source and collaborate with one another online to create music, art, and movies—some of which will be screened tonight. The road show, like a tent revival, is also meant to convert new artists and bring them into the fold (more than 47,000 people are considered active members). Past shows at SXSW and Sundance have included live music and even poetry. Any proceeds from these multimedia collaborations are divided among participating artists and the website. So if Gordon-Levitt tonight acts as salesman and host, those are roles he'll perform with his usual grace. Neptune, 1303 N.E. 45th St., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org. $26–$28. 8:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

 
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