Bad Dad

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The Father’s Day gift industry perpetuates the myth that society is saturated of men as beer-swilling, boobs-obsessed, barbecue-burning, football-crazy, homoerotic, emotionally illiterate, single-tasking, hypochondriacal, belly-slapping, belching power tool airheads.  In other words: open season on the idiotic male stereotype, with the deluge of products designed as Father’s Day “gifts”.

 

But, hey! What sort of dad doesn’t enjoy these sort of Father’s Day gifts? What they don’t want is a “Bad Dad” gift or message, such as this one someone daubed on the exit of the downtown Alaskan Way Viaduct – and placed deliberately there for someone to see the message. This is definitely not a Hallmark Card Father’s Day type message. It could be worse, though: like playing baseball with this Bad Dad.

 

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No, nothing at all to do with Thamsanqa Jantjie, the guy who gained infamy around the world for his horribly wrong sign language at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. This one has to do with the “other” sign language, where few things amuse and appeal as much as the abuse, misuse, mistranslation and outright mangling of the English language as seen on a signpost or printed material.

 

Many newspapers run weekly features invariably called “Sign Language“, inviting members of the public to send in photographs of menus, health and safety warnings, road signs, adverts, headlines and personals columns from around the world – anything in which the language has gone egregiously, hilariously and, usually, unintentionally wrong.  

 

And today’s photo, from the very retro-looking tiled toilets at Pike’s Place Market, suggesting to men to do something they usually never would need any instructions to do so,  fits the bill of being a category for a sign language call out.

 

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A year has spun around since the last Record Store Day, so stores, labels, and enthusiasts around the globe are gearing up for another celebration of the collision of music and vinyl that takes place on Saturday 19 April. And today’s photo, taken at Holy Cow Records, located underneath the Market at Pike Place Hillclimbwalk, being one of the many RSD venues from around the globe that will be holding events at their store on the day. 

 

Although the digital revolution certainly has stymied the survival of record stores worldwide, it never managed to completely eradicate their influence. In fact, vinyl sales are storming up the charts for the sixth year in a row, with more than six million sold in 2013, according to multiple industry reports. That’s not too much of a shocker, given that vinyl’s skyward trend has been accompanied by the seven-year run of RSD, the annual April event geared toward getting music fans off their smartphones and into brick-and-mortar shops – that look a lot like the one John Cusack had in High Fidelity – to pick up limited and special edition LPs.

 

As I said in an earlier blog entry, Vinyl Tap, that celebrated the 65th anniversary of the 45 rpm single back in March, Scottish popsters Sally Carr with Middle of the Road was one of my musical guilty pleasures when I was growing up in the 1970s. Part of the reason – actually a lot of the reason – had to do with leggy blonde lead singer Sally and her extremely short and very tight hot pants. She was the epitome of early Seventies style and fashion. And her voice was pretty good too!

 

I well record the day back in 1971 when I used all of my pocket-money to buy my first vinyl single –  Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Sally Carr and Middle of the Road – at my local record shop, Sound Developments, in Kirkintilloch. Ah, dear old Kirky, where they even had a dedicated record shop in the town before they had a pub!

 

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It’s often said that you have to love the old Moore Theatre like you have to love your grandma who always seems to have that strange old people odour about her. Built in 1907, The Moore, located at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Virginia Street, two blocks from Pike Place Market, is Seattle oldest operating theatre.  It has seen better days, and sure, like grandma, it does have a pungent smell about it, but its still a grandiose old theatre.

 

Not many know that The Who’s rock opera Tommy was first produced at the Moore as a full stage production in 1971 by Seattle Opera, and included Bette Midler in the roles of the Acid Queen and Mrs. Walker. And I’ve seen some great US debut concerts there by emerging British stars, such as David Gray, James Blunt and KT Tunstall.

 

And showing that although you can take the boy out of Glasgow, you can never quite remove Glasgow from the boy, Billy Connolly performed there recently – but I decided to give it a miss, as I’d much rather remember the ‘Big Yin’ of the Parkinson era of the late 70s, when he was a raw and very dangerous Glasgow export than now, being treated for prostate cancer and early symptom’s of Parkinson’s.

 

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No, not the latest Seattle fish dish, as the title would suggest.  Like so many big cities, Seattle has its share of graffiti. Leave a wall bare for any length of time and then someone who thinks he/she is a budding Banksy is bound to tag it with something less than desirable. Fortunately, there is a number of talented artists who got to some of those walls first – one such being the wonderful Orca mural by James Crespinel, painted on the Seattle Steam Company plant, located behind Pike’s Place Market at the corner of Western Avenue and Union Street.

 

And forget solar and wind, because steam power may be an old solution to new problems. Founded in 1893, Seattle Steam is the original sustainable energy company. The privately-owned public utility provides a cost-effective, reliable and environmentally-friendly heat source for use in heating buildings, generating hot water, humidity control and sterilization. The energy is distributed through 18 miles of pipe under one-square mile of downtown Seattle to many of the city’s office buildings, hospitals, hotels and college campuses.

 

In 2009, Seattle Steam began its conversion to renewable energy by installing a new boiler that can burn clean urban waste wood, making it possible to use renewable biomass as its primary source of fuel. Renewable energies, cleaner environment and urban art all in one – now that’s the sort of utility company you can support.

 

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“I took a speed-reading course where you run your finger down the middle of the page and was able to read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It’s about Russia,” once quipped Woody Allen. The Allen quote says much better than I ever could about why I’ve never taken a speed-reading course, despite my frustration over never reading all the books I want.  

 

But now social media and tech blogs have been ablaze with hype about a new speed-reading app called Spritz, that claims to be able to increase users’ reading speed to as much as 1,000 words a minute — that’s more than three times the average adult reading speed of 300 words a minute.

 

So just like Woody, I might also finally be able to read Tolstoy’s masterpiece in a day. Alternatively, I could save myself even more time by just reading the shortened version of War and Peace by Sarah Pallin’s favourite author, Cliff Notes.

 

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The wonderful BBC sketch show, The Fast Show, brought to the small screen many memorable characters. My particular favourite was Louis Balfour, the presenter of late-night TV’s Jazz Club, played by John Thompson. He had one of the best haircuts with a sartorial style to match; and mein host was a parody pastiche on the BBC’s ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris of the Old Grey Whistle Test, and artsy late night music show Later with Jools Holland.

 

“Jazz is a constantly progressing, constantly evolving, musical art form,” Louis once informed us. “Ragtime. Dixieland. Swing. Bebop. Cool jazz. Fusion. Murder. Third string. Acid dinner jazz. And, of course, Acker Bilk…” This was a man whose mission was to bring you all that’s best in the world of jazz, as he introduces terrible jazz musicians in a terribly sycophantic way. Every obscure and bizarrely named jazz combo who join him in the studio was greeted with Louis’ particular brand of cool reverence; his highest accolade being an aside to the camera – ‘Nice!’ or ‘Grrrreat’.

 

It’s because of this that, when I get asked to go around the corner to that great Pacific Northwest jazz institute, Dimitriu’s Jazz Alley, or indeed I spot a jazz section in a vinyl record shop (such as this one in Georgetown), I invariable say ‘Jazz – Nice!’ All of which is sadly lost on our American cousins, who look at me with even more puzzlement than they usual do.  Louis Balfour has a lot to answer for. 

 

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In an era when the latest releases are downloaded digitally at the touch of a button, the idea of music recorded on to a groove in a piece of vinyl (as shown in this photo of an antique vinyl recorder I discovered recently in a Georgetown record shop) may seem archaic, but records were crucial in the development of pop music and popular culture through the new portable record players.

 

Sixty-five years ago this week, RCA Victor launched a small, round, plastic disc that we all fondly remember as the ‘single’ – and thus begun the people’s love affair with the 45rpm single. Everyone remembers buying their first single: mine was Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Middle of the Road back in 1971 – ah, Sally Carr and her really, really short & very tight hot pants!

 

For decades they have been thought as a dying breed – but the amazing thing is that vinyl has tapped into a new market and making a comeback, with its popularity last year boosting the fortunes of all those remaining independent record shops. And I heard the amusing story of a friend who got his young niece one of those small portable record player and an album last Christmas. She was tickled pink with her Crimbo pressie – so much so that all day she repeatedly played the A side of her first and only vinyl album. But after a few hours, her father asked why she didn’t turn it over to also listen to the B side. The puzzled teenager replied: “What do you mean ‘turn it over’?” – yes, correct, she didn’t realise you could do this with vinyl!

 

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While everyone seems to be making their uninvited way into other people’s photos these days, it’s rare to actually see a celebrity-on-celebrity photobomb — but recently there was  a top-notch one of the highest ranking, coming from Benedict Cumberbatch, who red carpet-bombed Irish supergroup U2 at the Oscars earlier this month.

 

The Sherlock star was tracked on camera like a shark in a tux, moving through a sea of A-listers before leaping in the air twice behind the backs of Bono, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr. and The Edge as they posed for the paparazzi. YouTuber Max Clendaniel set the short and now viral video to the iconic Jaws theme music, capturing each of Cumberbatch’s darts into the air that comes off like a great white strike.

 

And today’s photo, taken in Georgetown, is the anarchist’ version of a photobomb!

 

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The three R’s refers to that well-known basic schooling principle: reading, writing and arithmetic. But for mental and spiritual stimulation, the ultimate is the three C’s: cigar, coffee and chess. The early origins of chess clubs can be directly traced back to coffee houses in the town; the most famous being in London, opened in 1828 by Samuel Reiss, originally called ‘The Grand Cigar Divan’, now known as Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, and regarded as the ‘spiritual home of chess’.

 

And the Westlake Park ‘Grandmaster of the three C’s’ is Peter Kinev, who can often be observed doing all three by playing street chess, while smoking his cigar and drinking a cup of coffee. When Peter was a kid back home in mother Russia, in the good-old-bad-old Soviet days, he went to a Pioneer School to be trained in chess.  I don’t qualify as a Grandmaster of the three C’s – cigars and chess I can easily and readily do, but I have a lifelong distaste for coffee.

 

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