Wednesday, Nov. 19
Those who read our recent cover excerpt from the local writer’s My Heart Is a Broken Compass (Lyons Press, $26.95) might be forgiven for thinking his memoir is all about karate. The selection was a somewhat misleading choice on our part, since we didn’t want to give away any spoilers about his follow-up to The Boy Kings of Texas, which naturally had a more Lone Star focus. The first third of Martinez’s new book is actually Texas-set, relating the woes of his younger brother—a medical crisis the author, with much guilt, mostly avoided from his safe remove in Seattle. But then, because karma’s a bitch, another medical crisis hits Martinez here in Seattle; and that, essentially a love story interrupted, forms the bulk of his affecting and very self-lacerating narrative.
Part of what I like about both these memoirs by Martinez, a former colleague, is his refusal to wallow in self-pity during hardship. His first response to suffering tends to be humor—both in describing his family’s resilience and his own shortcomings. How do they bear up to calamity? How does Martinez turn himself into a best-selling writer (his second career, entirely self-taught) even while his first great romance is going down the tubes? Regarding his little brother’s downfall, he defines the notion of “verguenza, the Mexican Catholic depiction of pride and shame that forced oneself to have a sense of dignity enough to do better for oneself, for those who loved you, for your family.” Verguenza is what Martinez brought with him from Brownsville, almost 20 years ago, and it’s what saved him here in Seattle. Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com. Free. 7 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 20
O’Connor is one of the most thoughtful choreographers working today, combining emotionally evocative movement with rigorous structural exploration—and through all that, making dances that touch the people who watch them. He’s in Seattle for an intense residency, with his dancers performing the group work BLEED (tonight and Friday), the short pieces poem and Secret Mary (8 p.m. Saturday), and Sister (5:30 p.m. Sunday, Velocity Dance Center, $12). So you can dip in for a quick look, or sign on for the full experience. On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., 217-9888, ontheboards.org. $23–$25. 8 p.m.
Piacenza always seems ready to go out on a limb, conceptual or physical. As a dancer in other people’s work, she’s the one who dives in, whatever the challenge. In her own choreography, she’s usually got multiple ideas running simultaneously, and her newest work, Touch Me Here, is no exception. Working live with cellist Scott Bell, she’s exploring Indian mystics, American pole dancers, and Federico Fellini, looking for the love that connects them all. (Through Sat.) Washington Hall, 153 14th Ave., strangertickets.com. $15–$20. 8 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 21
No Turning Back
Warren Miller has long retired from the ski-movie company that bears his name, but the globe-trotting, episodic formula remains essentially unchanged. No Turning Back draws on the grainy old film library for interstitial montages (those ’80s ski-parka colors!), while the emphasis is on the season ahead. More than resorts or products, enthusiasm is being sold here, as we travel from Alaska to Chamonix to Mt. Olympus in Greece. For this skier, at least, the more remote the location, the higher it goes on the if-I-won-the-lottery wish list. Taking a small boat to a Norwegian fishing village north of the Arctic Circle, for instance, yields a bevy of short, steep lines straight down to the fjords. There are no lifts or helicopters here, so the turns are strictly earned in Lofoten, where the sport’s history supposedly dates back 3,000 years. (Archaeologists may differ with narrator Jonny Moseley in that regard.)
Then there’s a snowboarding visit to the gentle gladed slopes of Hokkaido, Japan, where the powder is generated prodigiously by virtue of its position in the North Pacific. It’s all tree skiing here, augmented by local beer and excellent transportation links. Though in that regard, Northwest skiers will find the most to envy in the film’s final stop in the Swiss Alps. From the plane to the train to the tram to snow: no winter driving involved. Think about that the next time you’re stuck on Highway 2 behind a guy who forgot to pack his chains. McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St. (Seattle Center), warrenmiller.com. $21. 8 p.m. (Repeats Sat.)
Saturday, Nov. 22
Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-Pop
Mr. is his name, which makes the post-Takashi Murakami art of its creator sound more formal than it is. A candy-colored, anime-saturated explosion of shallow surfaces and Hello Kitty kawaii, the work on view here will mostly be paintings, some quite large. Video games and cartoon characters are obvious points of departure for Mr., yet they’re objects of nostalgia—not tokens of an optimistic, technology-augmented future. Mr. was born in 1969 and came of age during Japan’s 1980s economic boom. (Remember those American fears of the period, repeated in books and movies, that Japan would supplant our might?) Then Japan basically collapsed into its ongoing economic slump, giving rise to the no-hope generation known as otaku: depressed, geeky shut-ins with no prospects for real jobs, who live at home—even into their unmarried, asexual 30s—and find succor in comic books, cell phones, computer games, and the Internet. Live On isn’t necessarily a celebration of such malaise; it’s an expression of yearning for bygone times and childish pleasures. The movement is sometimes called moe (literally “budding,” or coming of age), and Mr. also creates assemblages from the talismans and scraps of his youth. His art is equal parts sugar and sadness. (Ends April 5.) Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 E. Prospect St. (Volunteer Park), 654-3100, seattleartmuseum.org. $5–$7. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 23
One of the most exciting developments in live classical music in recent decades is the move into nontraditional venues like bars and coffeehouses—ideal for the intimacy that enhances solo and chamber performances. One of the most irritating ones is the tone of breathless incredulity that still marks media coverage of this phenomenon—20 years after I heard the Degenerate Art Ensemble play at the OK Hotel—which only perpetuates the stereotypes the musicians in question are trying to counteract. (“OMG, you can listen to Bach and drink beer! But you thought classical music was stuffy! IS YOUR BRAIN EXPLODING YET?!?”)
There is some genuine novelty, though, in the launch of the North Corner Chamber Orchestra—a larger-than-usual group for The Royal Room, their planned home base—which will bring the deep focus of chamber music to some exciting repertory like Shostakovich’s boisterous Piano Concerto no. 1 (with soloists Mark Salman and Brian Chin). Also on the debut concert for NOCCO, made up of some of the area’s best freelancers: Handel, Britten, and a commissioned premiere by Roupen Shakarian. (Also 7:30 p.m. Mon., Nov. 24 at University Christian Church, 4731 15th Ave. N.E.) The Royal Room, 5000 Rainier Ave. S., nocco.org. $15–$25. 7:30 p.m.
By odd coincidence, Rosewater—the film Jon Stewart made on hiatus from The Daily Show last year, giving Oliver his big break—is in theaters right now. Stewart is back in his accustomed chair, and Oliver has moved on to HBO, where his Last Week Tonight is racking up still more acclaim. In truth, though, he’s not really a stand-up-comedy sort of entertainer. Now an American citizen, he’s more of the Oxbridge revue tradition: putting on a show, making an argument, pointing out the follies of a society that it always wants to ignore. If Stewart tends toward lacerating irony, Oliver no less intelligently deploys his ire. He runs a little hotter in his satire (which the English accent helps to soften . . . to American ears, at least). But it’s not all politics for the guy. You can expect a local shout-out to his recent discovery of the salmon cannon employed in this state to get those fish past our dams. Naturally he built his own cannon for his show and fired fish at various celebrities (Stewart included). Let’s hope he brings the device with him tonight; if so, you might want to keep your rain jacket on. The Paramount, 911 Pine St., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org. $41. 7 & 9:30 p.m.