The Weekly Wire: This Week's Recommended Events

THURSDAY 4/26

Books: You, a Guru?

A.J. Jacobs has a shtick, and that's OK. He knows he has a shtick, and it's served him profitably through two tongue-in-cheek self-improvement books (The Know-It-All, The Year of Living Biblically). Now comes the third and likely final installment in his makeover trilogy: Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection (Simon & Schuster, $26), which he claims to have typed while walking on a treadmill beneath his desk. It's a stunt, it's a gimmick, it's a crib from George Plimpton's first-person adventures, but so what? Jacobs is endearingly unserious about his get-in-shape regimen. A writer for Esquire, he knows how to grab a colorful anecdote or zany source, and there's no danger of his tripping on the loose shoelace of erudition. He leaves the footnotes to Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan, playing up his own persona as fitness doofus, a guy who knows nothing about the (now sagging) equipment he was born with. His zealous quest matches up with America's long mania for fitness and perfection, from Dr. Kellogg to 8-Minute Abs. As much as Drop Dead Healthy laughs at itself, it laughs at us, too. And once his tour is completed, Jacobs can return to noshing Cheetos on the couch, let his gut grow back (as they all do), and start scheming up his next book pitch—about himself, of course. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. 6 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

Film: Youth Is Served

Though it draws entries from all over the U.S. and abroad, The National Film Festival for Talented Youth (aka NFFTY) is actually a local organization, co-founded in 2007 by Jesse Harris, then a 21-year-old filmmaker himself. Thanks to hustle and good connections, he's since expanded it to a four-day affair featuring a companion Future of Film Expo (over at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall) beyond the 200-plus shorts being screened. (The age cutoff for directors is 22.) Whether because of YouTube, affordable HD video cameras, or both, there seems to be a limitless, ever-expanding supply of filmed content being produced in the world. Limited to boutique indies and Hollywood blockbusters, the traditional movie-exhibition business can't keep pace, so NFFTY serves a useful role for tyro directors—some as young as 7! Among tonight's titles, we like Shuffleboard Kings from Vancouver, B.C., college student Chris Aitken. The gentle 16-minute comedy pays cute homage to the training montages of Rocky and The Karate Kid as a 73-year-old widower prepares for a critical game of tabletop shuffleboard. And a telling Canadian detail: To his veggie shake, a teammate helpfully adds extra protein in the form of—what else?—bacon. (Continues Fri.–Sun. at SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.) Cinerama, 2100 Fourth Ave., nffty.org. $25–$35. 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

FRIDAY 4/27

Books: Pointing to the Past

It goes without saying that How to Sharpen Pencils (Melville House, $19.95) is a put-on, given the book's naggingly archaic subtitle: "A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening." Author David Rees is known as a cartoonist (Get Your War On, My New Filing Technique Is Unstoppable!), but he's no draftsman. He's a master of clip art, which is antithetical to the retro-grouchy tone he adopts in his highly illustrated guide (there are lists, footnotes, demonstration photos with the author, tables, and a faux bibliography). "Artisanal" is a keyword—one that Brooklyn resident Rees is clearly sick of hearing, just as we are here. His supposed pencil fetish is of a piece with all the Golden Age, locally sourced, pre-digital nostalgia that afflicts those urban types—and they are always urban—who would never surrender their precious iPhones or Facebook accounts. In a tone somewhere between that of Phil Hartman's old Anal Retentive Chef on SNL and BikeSnob NYC (with a descriptive touch recalling Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine), Rees gradually reveals the insanity of such atavistic work methodology. (Save those pencil shavings! They can be used as mulch, cat litter, or "Ninja-style blinding dust.") He's losing—we're all losing—the push-back against technology. It's a futile battle that Rees treats with deadpan humor—as when he, wearing smock and safety goggles, breaks into houses to surreptitiously sharpen "our cedar friends" and take a mallet to his sworn enemy, the electric pencil sharpener. Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com. Free. 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

SATURDAY 4/28

Music/Book: Music Before the G-Word

Pennsylvania history professor Stephen Tow is a fanboy—not of anime, not of comic books, but of us. As in Seattle, particularly our city's much-mythologized musical culture. Tow's such a Northwest-rock enthusiast that he went beyond collecting Sub Pop singles or making a pilgrimage to Aberdeen. Last year he wrote The Strangest Tribe: How a Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge (Sasquatch, $18.95), in which he states "Not since Liverpool and Memphis has one city so dramatically altered the course of music history." The Strangest Tribe studies the prelude to the '90s grunge explosion, burrowing into the years before Nirvana's and Pearl Jam's stardom, examining their lesser-known forerunners—punk and metal bands like The U-Men and Skin Yard who surfaced out of Roosevelt and Evergreen. (Prominent figures include Stone Gossard and SW columnist Duff McKagan.) Tow also charts the rise and demise of forgotten clubs like The Bird and the Roscoe Louie Gallery. Then there's his "hooks and looks" theory: Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains hit it big, he argues, because of their handsome singers. This left Mudhoney by the wayside, because "Mark Arm wasn't melodic enough, and, quite frankly, he wasn't cute enough." But I hope no one would say the same of Scott McCaughey, of the Young Fresh Fellows, who'll appear with Tow today and play a mini-set. Sonic Boom Records, 2209 N.W. Market St., 297-2666, sonicboomrecords.com. Free. 5 p.m. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Comedy: Great Scot

If you stay awake long enough to catch The Late Late Show (12:30 a.m. on CBS) you'll know that its host, Craig Ferguson, is among television's most unusual comic personalities. His monologues and from-the-desk commentaries are stream-of-consciousness high-wire acts (think Lenny Bruce meets a young David Letterman). Having recently taped a week of shows in his native Scotland, Ferguson is now on the road doing stand-up. Since his humor has always been rooted in his outsider perspective of America (where's he's now a citizen), he has no doubt returned armed with fresh observations from his homeland. Free from the shackles of network censors, Ferguson will also be more than happy to let his comedy run wild and bleep-free. (21 and over.) Snoqualmie Casino, 37500 S.E. North Bend Way, 425-888-1234, snocasino.com. $50–$100. 8 p.m. BRIAN J. BARR

 
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