The Weekly Wire: This Week's Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 8/29

Books: On the Road

Bainbridge novelist Jonathan Evison owns an old RV which he uses as a mobile writing den, so it should be no surprise that a rickety van and a road trip figure in the plot of his The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (Algonquin, $23.95). Grieving, not-quite-divorced, and near-destitute, Ben finds a job as a home aide to a wheelchair-bound teenager with muscular dystrophy. Trev's dolt of a father has long since absconded to Utah and Ben takes a paternal interest in the kid, so they drive out of Bremerton to see the American West in all its tacky, motel-rific glory en route to SLC. On the road they pick up three vagabonds, one a cute goth chick who catches the eye of shy, virginal Trev. If that sounds like Little Miss Sunshine—well, it is, but in a good way. Evison has an easy fluidity with the dashed dreams and disappointments of characters who don't ask for pity. Trev is obsessed with sex (duh), but is also a student of The Weather Channel and fashionable sneakers that never touch the ground. Ben, whose narration loops back to a family tragedy, is more the aggressive pessimist. Of the Montana scenery, he grumbles, "What good is all the grandeur if it's impermanent? Who wants to live in a world where suffering is the only thing that lasts?" But naturally Trev, not long for this world, teaches his driver to look forward through the windshield—just the way Hollywood likes. Eagle Harbor Books, 157 Winslow Way E., Bainbridge Island, 842-5332, eagleharborbooks.com. Free. 7 p.m. (Also: University Bookstore, 7 p.m. Wed., Sept. 19.) BRIAN MILLER

Gaming & Beyond: Out of the Basement

Nerdy hobbies like anime watching and video gaming used to be solitary pursuits enjoyed at home, often in your parents' mildewy basement. The Internet helped end such isolation, as did Penny Arcade, the Web comic created by locals Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. To foster a healthy community of gamers, they established the PAX Prime convention in 2004, which has grown to become the largest such gathering in North America, including panels and discussions, gaming tournaments, music (a concert from The Video Game Orchestra), and lounges to play handheld and console games. Tournaments include Local Area Network play, in which multiple gamers hook up to one console to play together—with extra twists and obstacles added by the audience and commentators. And be sure to catch today's Q&A with Penny Arcade's Gabe and Tycho—aka Krahulik and Holkins—today at 11:30 a.m. (Through Sun.) Washington State Convention Center, 800 Convention Pl., prime.paxsite.com. $35–$65. 10 a.m.–2 a.m. ALLISON THOMASSEAU

Books: Uprooted

Josh Garrett-Davis has a twofold perspective on his South Dakota childhood. Born there in 1980 to a young, liberal pair of transplants who ran a record store/head shop, the author enjoyed an unconventional upbringing—particularly after his mother decamped for hippie-friendlier Portland. That divorce, and the teenage Garrett-Davis' immersion in South Dakota's punk-rock scene (yes, there is one), constitute much of Ghost Dances: Proving Up on the Great Plains (Little, Brown, $25.99), but the wide-ranging book is more than a memoir. From his subsequent Amherst- and Columbia-educated perspective in Brooklyn, Garrett-Davis revisits the plains and dredges the archives for a cultural history of the grasslands, a harsh, unforgiving place where the weather always wins. With Willa Cather as his heroine and former South Dakota governor Bill Janklow his villain, this writer asks, "Why does this semiarid country sprout (or attract) so many ornery, puffed-up visionaries and demagogues?" Into that tradition he also places populist crusader William Jennings Bryan and, more recently, the notorious Fred Phelps—leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, aka the "God hates fags" funeral picketers. Also prominent in Ghost Dances are the Indians and buffalo that depended on the grasslands we nearly destroyed with plows and railroad tracks. Unknown to the early white pioneers, Garrett-Davis explains, three-quarters of the prairie's biomass was contained in the roots of that grass. Settlers only saw what was aboveground, unaware of the rich history beneath their feet. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, bookstore.washington.edu. Free. 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

FRIDAY 8/31

Film: Blood and Water

In Roman Polanski's neo-noir Chinatown, Jack Nicholson's private eye sexes up his mediocre snooping with blithe arrogance and sarcastic machismo. It's the actor's default mode, sure, but in 1974 it hadn't yet calcified into Shtickolson. On the trail of murder, water, and incest, his Jake Gittes is dumped into the wilds of Greek tragedy. There, depravity incarnate Noah Cross (John Huston) tells him, "You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't." Of the movie's double love interest, the good and vulnerable Evelyn (Faye Dunaway), Polanski later said, "I was absolutely adamant that she has to die at the end if the film was to have any meaning." Oscar-winning scribe Robert Towne never intended to harm her so grievously, but perhaps the matter was settled when Polanski—hardly a filmmaker dispensed toward wish-fulfillment—based Evelyn's scalpeled eyebrows and gift-bow lipstick on his memories of his mother, the first woman in his life to be taken from him and butchered. And there's still more subtext: Nicholson was then beginning an affair with Huston's actual daughter, Angelica. A few years later, his home served as the scene of Polanski's enduring crime: sex with a girl younger than Evelyn was when she bore her father's child. But we'll leave the last word to Cross: "You see, Mr. Gittes," he explains, "most people never have to face the fact that, at the right time and the right place, they're capable of anything." (Through Wed.) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 686-6684, central-cinema.com. $6–$8. 9:30 p.m. JESSICA WINTER

Dance: Boy Meets Girl

Seattle is full of people who come from elsewhere, bringing their expertise and enthusiasm; one of the latest is choreographer Danielle Agami. Trained in Israel in Gaga improvisation technique and an alumna of the Batsheva Dance Company, she brings a kind of joyous intensity to her work that's mirrored by the rest of her newly minted company, Ate9. Their inaugural work is Sally Met Stu, in which multiple versions of boy-meets-girl sit alongside generous helpings of hyperkinetic play. The narration is quirky, but the dancing will knock you flat. Century Ballroom, 915 E. Pine St., 324-7263, velocity dancecenter.org. $15–$20. 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. SANDRA KURTZ

MONDAY 9/3

Film: Back to the 'Bone

"They should have been the band that went way beyond any of us who were influenced by them," says Primus' Les Claypool about the groundbreaking African-American band in Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler's love letter to the group. Packed with fantastic performance footage, their doc solidly makes the case that, throughout the '80s and early '90s, Fishbone was one of rock's best live acts ever—furiously energetic, innovative, leaping multiple genres in a single song. A slew of talking heads from Vernon Reid to Gwen Stefani (who should pay Fishbone frontman Angelo Moore royalties) sing the group's praises as Laurence Fishburne narrates a whiplash-inducing career ride: High-school friends form a punk/ska/funk/fill-in-the-blanks band, create groundbreaking music, travel the world, influence countless other bands, but crash and burn before achieving the success they deserve. The reasons for liftoff failure are familiar: record-label ineptitude and love/hate dynamics within the group that eventually gave way to alcoholism, mental breakdowns, and bitterness. And since Fishbone is playing tonight at Bumbershoot, the band will drop by NWFF first for a Q&A with fans. Buy your tickets early for both shows. Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 267-5380, nwfilmforum.org. $6–$10. 2 p.m. ERNEST HARDY

 
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