The Weekly Wire: This Week's Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 10/17

Books/Food: Eating on the Cheap

Tracie McMillan's exposé of our food system has been repeatedly compared to Barbara Ehrenreich's 2001 Nickel and Dimed, another book reported from inside the low-wage workforce. But The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table (Scribner, $16) belongs on the same shelf as Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and the scant few other books that consider both the food on our plates and the people who put it there. McMillan's thickly footnoted chronicle of cooking at Applebee's and selling vegetables at Walmart deftly contextualizes how supermarkets fail inner-city residents; how few Americans manage to eat the recommended daily amount of fresh produce; and how industrial farms cheat their workers. McMillan famously irritated Rush Limbaugh by focusing on the connection between food and class; he called her an elitist ("What is it with all of these young single white women? Overeducated doesn't mean intelligent . . . "), but she was the one picking peaches in 105-degree heat. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. 7:30 p.m. HANNA RASKIN

FRIDAY 10/19

Music/Film: Still Burning

Hard to remember now, but David Byrne and Talking Heads once helped to kill album rock and transport the '70s New Wave scene from the Bowery to national prominence. They were briefly one of the big acts of the mid-'80s, just as MTV began its rise. Directed by Jonathan Demme, the excellent 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense represents the band's apotheosis on its final live tour. (Talking Heads would dissolve amid acrimony by decade's end.) "Burning Down the House," from Speaking in Tongues, was a top-10 hit at the time, and Demme's tightly edited doc puts the focus on the group's punchy, off-meter hits and Byrne's increasingly theatrical stage presentation. His oversized white suit and kabuki dance moves make Byrne the center of attention, and he begins the film alone with a tape deck to back him on "Psycho Killer." Still, the groove that informs "Once in a Lifetime" or "Take Me to the River" comes from bassist Tina Weymouth and her husband, drummer Chris Frantz, who met Byrne at RISD. Whatever the group's art-school pedigree, Talking Heads' music has a rhythmic pulse that's always directed at the dance floor. (Through Tues.) SIFF Cinema Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N., 324-9996, siff.net. $5–$10. Call for showtimes. BRIAN MILLER

Film: Twisted DNA

Frank Capra's 1944 adaptation of the hit Broadway comedy Arsenic and Old Lace concerns a pair of dotty old sisters who poison lonely old men (out of compassion, of course) and their homicidal black-sheep nephew (Raymond Massey, taking the role created onstage by Boris Karloff), who escapes prison to compete with the old ladies in the body-count department. Cary Grant gets top billing as the nice nephew whose plans to marry get thrown off track by his family's shenanigans. Worrying about this strain of hereditary insanity, he makes the most of his double-takes and wide-eyed reaction shots. But he's basically straight man to the inmates running his family asylum, often upstaged by the sweetly fussy hens (Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) and by Peter Lorre as Massey's comically creepy sidekick. Arsenic is like Capra's earlier eccentric-family comedy You Can't Take It With You, with gallows humor meeting the director's bright, plucky sensibility. It's minor Capra, but possibly the funniest serial-killer comedy ever made. (Through Thurs.) Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., 523-3935, grandillusioncinema.org. $5–$8. 6:45 p.m. SEAN AXMAKER

SATURDAY 10/20

Comics: Going Underground

Seattle-raised cartoonist Charles Burns ended his X'ed Out with a cliffhanger two years ago. Now that hallucinatory saga continues with The Hive (Pantheon, $21.95), the second part of a projected trilogy, in which amnesiac protagonist Doug finds himself working for surly lizard people, trying to remember his past from within their strange ovoid factory, where captive women work as breeders. Somewhere between dreaming and remembering, Doug is doubly confronted with bodily horrors, the repulsion of sex, the death of his father, and comic-book echoes of the story he keeps trying to recall. Burns fills his parallel tales with references to Tintin, pregnancy scares, and organic grotesquerie of the sort that pre-coma, punk-rock Doug hoped to achieve with his spoken-word performances. Perhaps it took a head wound to make him a successful artist? Coma Doug and pre-accident Doug are both intent on solving the mystery of how and where they came to be. The Hive pushes them both forward on an interior journey—like the figure of dreaming Doug on his mattress, floating down a fetid green river, covered by a pink blanket that offers no warmth or security. Burns is joined tonight by fellow artists Gabrielle Bell and Tom Kaczynski. On Sunday, from noon to 3 p.m., he'll be sampling the Blight Pumpkin Ale—inspired by his graphic novel Black Hole—at the Elysian Brewing Company on Capitol Hill. And he also appears at Town Hall on Monday with Chris Ware (8 p.m., $5.) Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, 1201 S. Vale St., 658-0110, fantagraphics.com. Free. 6 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

Arts & Beyond: Her Back Pages

After 40 years, Laurie Anderson's status in the avant-garde firmament is pretty well assured, but she's more than just a performance artist. Opening Friday in the Henry's free lobby area, her Collected Stories (through Feb. 3) exhibits the books she's produced since the early '70s. There you can sit and browse through more than 30 titles, including Baloney and Moccasins and The Language of the Future. Being performed tonight, Anderson's Dirtday! is a series of monologues, some with music, that touch on health-care reform, Darwin, religion, dogs, and love. She plays a little violin, and even, in one bit, uses a microphone that she inserts inside her mouth! Some of her signature aphorisms—"The purpose of death is the release of love"—could also be published in more of her little books. (She also appears at Kane Hall at 6:30 p.m. on Friday for a talk about technology, and participates in a panel discussion on art and civic action at Intiman Theatre, Sunday at noon.) Meany Hall, UW campus, uwworldseries.org. $20–$48. 8 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

TUESDAY 10/23

Stage: Wrecked on the Beach

Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite excels at physical extremes. Her Kidd Pivot dancers hover and fly, swooping to the floor and flipping back into the air while we blink. But the worlds they inhabit and the stories they tell are lush and terrifying. In The Tempest Replica, she starts as Shakespeare did, with a shipwreck; she uses that violence and disruption as themes to explore the playwright's enchanted island. Her dancers' kinetic daring is matched by their powerful theatrical presence and framed by ingenious visual design. The chaos of Shakespeare's ocean storm should be a perfect fit for Pite's powerful skills as a dancemaker. (Through Thurs.) On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., 217-9888, ontheboards.org. $20. 8 p.m. SANDRA KURTZ

 
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