First Thursday: Art for a Cause
After the doldrums of August, when galleries trim their hours and many artists are out of town, the new fall season begins with tonight's First Thursday art walk. Besides the usual stops in Pioneer Square and at the Tashiro Kaplan Building, first hike up the hill to City Hall, where local artists Olivia Pendergast, Robert L. Horton, and Eric D. Salisbury are showing separate works in Remember Haiti. In three dozen paintings displayed on two levels (take the elevator down to L-2 to find the Anne Focke Gallery), they consider that impoverished nation and its people before and after the devastating 2010 earthquake. Pendergast offers visions of the before; Horton and Salisbury ponder the after, when one million Haitians became homeless and over 200,000 died. The artists are expected to attend. You can buy their paintings or make a donation to local nonprofit Of One Body (ofonebody.org), whose relief efforts brought Horton and Salisbury to Haiti last year. (Through Nov. 2.) City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave., 684-7171, seattle.gov/arts. Free. Reception 4-6 p.m. BRIAN MILLER
Film: Glorious Rot
Bill Morrison's short symphony of decaying celluloid is both one of the worst and best films of 2002. By worst we mean the medium's fragile physicality, as Morrison created Decasia with the archival clips from the nitrate-stock, silent-film era that were most damaged and decomposed. By best we mean the drama he's created: Instead of characters in opposition within some story, we have the very medium of film in opposition to narrative. These black-and-white snippets of story, some a century old, are disappearing right before our eyes—even as we try to make sense of whirling dervishes, dancing women, camel caravans, boxing pugilists, parachuting troops, and praying nuns. Scored by Michael Gordon in Glassian-atonal style, Decasia is a profoundly beautiful film for those who don't mind watching an image lapse into complete mottled, bubbled, blotchy abstraction. It surges and subsides from the nickelodeon to Stan Brakhage and back. The tension, which the score reflects, is how that erosional cycle becomes an analogue both to seeing and filming. Photons of light striking the retina—or a silver-halide film strip—are fundamentally impermanent; they decay and subside. Film, too, is evanescent. Just as nitrate was replaced by less flammable "safety film" in the '50s, the movies are now going digital. To watch Decasia is to watch time, to see entropy in effect. From the early blossoming of cinema to its final senescence, each rotting frame of Decasia looks like a glorious flower. (Through Wed.) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 523-3935, grandillusioncinema.org. $5–$8. 9 p.m. BRIAN MILLER
Stage: Fresh Off the Boat
If you're a fan of The Newsroom, you may know the character of Joey Phan, played by Vietnamese-American actor Trieu Tran. With his TV gig on summer hiatus, the Los Angeles actor is premiering an autobiographical one-man show here in Seattle, Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam (co-written and directed by Robert Egan). In outline, Tran's life story certainly sounds dramatic: He and his family were on the losing side when the Vietnam War ended. Fleeing by boat (and attacked by pirates), they became refugees in Thailand and Canada, where Tran's father led a violent gang. Displaced again to Boston, Tran discovered hip-hop, hung out with black kids, and listened obsessively to Michael Jackson. He resolves, "I want to be the King of Pop"—or the next best thing, an actor. (Opens Sept. 13, runs through Oct. 7.) ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., 292-7676, acttheatre.org. $15–$55. 8 p.m. BRIAN MILLER
Festivals: After the 'Shoot
The crumbs and debris of Bumbershoot have been swept away, but Seattle Center isn't yet done with our (Indian) summer. Today's Big Birthday Bash continues the 50th-anniversary commemoration of our World's Fair with a host of family and children's activities: food, entertainment, games, face-painting, and the like, with tents and stations set up all around campus. Among the attractions you shouldn't miss, all part of the Next 50 celebration, are a brick wall made of Jell-O (!) by artists Lisa Hein and Robert Seng; a special room full of vintage video games at the Center House (yes, you can play them—though your kids may be confounded by those 8-bit displays); an exhibit of work from the Pilchuck Glass School; music by jazz vocalist George A. Santino; and MOHAI's display of Century 21 memorabilia at the International Fountain Pavilion. Get to the Center early, and you can attend the celebration of J.P. Patches at McCaw Hall (11 a.m., $5). Then, after shedding a few tears, go have some fun with the kids. It's what J.P. would've wanted. Seattle Center, 684-7200, seattlecenter.com. Free. 11 a.m.–3 p.m. BRIAN MILLER
Books/Politics: What's His Number?
Now that the Republican and Democratic conventions are over, and before we swap 44 for 45 in November (or keep 44 for a second term), Robert Merry wants to crunch some other numbers. The Gig Harbor–born, UW-educated journalist casts his eye all the way back to president number 1 in Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians (Simon & Schuster, $28). Washington, Lincoln, and FDR top his list—in part because they were wartime leaders. (Say what you will about Vietnam and LBJ.) Two-termers always rate better than one-shot presidents, and a crisis tends to bring out the best in a White House occupant. (Say what you will about W and 9/11.) Having covered politics for three decades in Washington, D.C., Merry picks Reagan over Clinton among recent presidents. In general, he weights the opinion of the electorate—its collective wisdom—over that of the pundits. And the worst presidents? Merry cites James Buchanan ("a wispy weak reed") and Franklin Pierce ("a flawed character"). One wonders if Romney or Obama is bending back pages now in Where They Stand, imagining themselves near the top of the scale. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLER
Music/Film: Welcome to the Laser Dome!
R. Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983) fell out of fashion, as did his geodesic domes, with the waning of the '60s. The self-described "citizen of the world" was a futurist and optimist who naturally appealed to idealistic hippies and young boomers. But, like The Whole Earth Catalog, who reads him today? Bay Area filmmaker Sam Green went to the archives at Stanford to help make Fuller topical again, and he'll narrate his new documentary The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller while Yo La Tengo plays a score commissioned especially for the film. (Some may recall YLT's similar accompaniment to an anthology of short films by Jean Painlevé, called The Sounds of Science.) There will also be an unlikely, Seattle-specific aspect to the performance. Green discovered that a former student of Fuller's built a hemispheric "Spacearium" for our 1962 World's Fair. It was later repurposed as Pacific Science Center's Laser Dome (not coincidentally a favorite of the hallucinogenic set), and Green intends to use it somehow tonight at the Moore. The program is expected to last an hour. If we're lucky, maybe YLT will play a short set afterward—with lasers! The Moore, 1932 Second Ave., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org. $25. 8 p.m. BRIAN MILLER