The Weekly Wire: The Week’s Recommended Events

THURSDAY 8/13Books: Desert ProphetIt's a good thing that William T. Vollmann will explain his latest book tonight, so you don't have to read it. Or at least not all of it. Not that we endorse such slacking, but the 1,344-page Imperial (Viking, $55) makes his Europe Central look like a skinny in-flight paperback. This gargantuan new nonfiction work is based on Vollmann's typically prodigious ground-level reporting and research—an immersion into one of the two California counties that border Mexico, from whence much of our produce is grown and tended by immigrants legal and otherwise. His decade-long project surveys water rights, pollution, agriculture, the Salton Sea, folk music, hookers and strip clubs (always that perennial Vollmann obsession), those crazy border-watch militia people, Catholicism, California state history...should we stop here and take a breather? The author can't possibly summarize for you, in a single evening, what he's written. But all should be awed by the scale of his feat. Oh, by the way: You can also buy a smaller, 200-page companion photo volume shot by Vollmann—also called Imperial (powerHouse, $55), guaranteed to be an easier introduction to his weighty subject. Barnes & Noble, 2675 N.E. University Village St., 517-4107, Free. 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLERDog Racing: Wieners on a LeashFor 13 years, lovers of short, stubby-legged dogs have been gathering at Seattle Center for STAR 101.5's annual Wiener Dog Rally. This morning, onlookers will laugh while the poor dogs trip over their adorable little legs. Meanwhile, owners will smile proudly as they reassure themselves that their dachshunds are, despite all evidence, actually dogs and not elongated rats. The top two mutts in this rally will then compete Friday evening at Emerald Downs, a big deal in the small world of these little guys. Owners and fans who attend the race: Please keep your mini-dogs on a leash—or better yet, hold them. Those horses are at least a million times larger and faster, and we don't want to see anyone trampled under hoof. Seattle Center, Fisher Pavilion lawn, Free. 11 a.m. BRITT THORSONFRIDAY 8/14Poetry: Verse ConventionLocal publisher Wave Books, which previously launched the transcontinental Poetry Bus project, is now instigating a three-day residency at the Henry: Wave Poetry Weekend. New work and live readings are promised from more than a dozen local and visiting poets (including Wave editor Joshua Beckman), with the James Turrell Skyspace used as a very cool performance venue. Film screenings will include vintage clips of John Ashbery, Denise Levertov, Frank O'Hara, and others. Books will be exhibited and sold at discount. And your weekend ticket—the event's limited to 150 visitors—naturally includes the full roster of ongoing Henry exhibits, including Jasper Johns' Light Bulb series, which might itself inspire a poem or two. Henry Art Gallery, 4100 15th Ave. N.E., 543-2281, $25 (daily), $50–$75 (pass). 11 a.m.–4 p.m. BRIAN MILLERClassical: Striking InnovationsAllen Otte, percussion guru and driving force behind pioneering ensembles Blackearth Percussion Group and Percussion Group Cincinnati, once told me he'd assumed he'd spend his career playing in orchestras (his favorite composer: Berlioz), but that he came to a point where he'd learned to play the triangle part in Brahms' Fourth as perfectly as it could possibly be played. And then what? This drive to explore beyond the classical standard rep's limited opportunities turns percussionists into any school or city's most enthusiastic new-music advocates: the Seattle Percussion Collective, for example. In fact, percussionists' willingness to explore often goes beyond just playing—speaking and moving are frequent requirements in the meta-musical works by composers like Mauricio Kagel ("instrumental theater" was his term) and John Cage, both on tonight's program. Kagel's Pas de cinq calls for sounds to be made not only by hitting things, but by walking on them: paper, metal, wood, and bubble wrap. Also on the bill is a piece by Keiko Abe, who's done for the marimba what Chopin did for the piano, and a premiere for vibraphone and cymbals by Stuart Saunders Smith. Chapel Performance Space, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., 4th floor, $5–$15. 8 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERTFilm: Leather BoysThis Friday-night screening series (through Aug. 28) is meant as a companion to SAM's ongoing "Target Practice" show; thus "The Rebel Spirit in Post–World War II Film," which is a wordy way of saying motorcycles, hot guys, and black leather jackets. Those being the totemic images from The Wild One and Scorpio Rising. The former stars Marlon Brando, of course, as the quintessential "Whaddya got?" rebel of the '50s—all sex and menace, a slouching rebuke to white-picket-fence probity. He's the anti-Ike. The latter is Kenneth Anger's 1963 short film that incorporates bits of The Wild One, along with pop music of the day, in a homoerotic tribute to biker culture. It's both an underground movie and an art film, cut into a montage—barely narrative—that's by turns surreal, arousing, and disturbing. Years later, its influence would extend to the Village People and Tom of Finland. Somehow you suspect Brando would've approved. Next week: Antonioni's rarely screened hippie debacle/allegory Zabriskie Point. The week following: James Taylor races Dennis Wilson all the way to Zen in Two-Lane Blacktop. Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3121, $7 (individual), $17–$19 (series). 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLERSATURDAY 8/15Stage: One Way OutThelma and Louise meet on opposite ends of the barrel in Criminal Hearts, a remarkable collision between Ata, a whiny, delusional socialite (Andrea Nelson), and the bungling burglar, Bo (Devin Rodger), who bitch-slaps her back to reality. Thrown out on her Gucci-clad ass by her womanizing husband (Martyn Krouse), agoraphobic Ata self-medicates with Dr. Pepper and various OCDs until Bo furnishes the ninny with that potent symbol of female empowerment: the handgun. Don't let the clichéd title fool you—this is actually a play with a brain. Almost too much, at points, as playwright Jane Martin occasionally stumbles into proselytizing against egocentric Western capitalism. Nelson brings a pulse to the top-heavy monologues with comic flair, while Rodger's reinvention of the lone gunslinger as a street thug in a skirt (complete with a Brooklyn-ish accent) is a beautiful foil for Ata's relentless TMI. Under Liz Moisan's direction, the cast layers Martin's dense, brutally lyrical dialogues with a raw believability. The production's claustrophobic staging also forces the audience into uncomfortable proximity with Ata's suffocating mental cage. (Ends today; also plays Friday.) VoxBox, 1205 E. Pike St., 905-9835, $12–$14. 8 p.m. JENNA NANDSUNDAY 8/16Sports: Mile, Oh MileThe Kentucky Derby and its Triple Crown brethren, the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, get all the attention, but it's the Breeders' Cup, as Ron Burgundy would say, that's the balls. Held in October or November at a different track each year, the Breeders' Cup, unlike its Triple Crown counterparts (which only include 3-year-old horses), features a full slate of Grade 1 races open to horses of all ages in races of all distances. For the six NBA fans left in Seattle, it's essentially the All-Star Game to the Derby's Rookie-Sophomore Challenge. So the fact that the winner of today's Longacres Mile automatically qualifies for the Breeders' Cup Mile is also, as Burgundy would put it, kind of a big deal. Local runners such as 2008 champ Wasserman (who's nominated again this year) have staved off carpetbagging competition for the past four years. This year, Mt. Rainier Handicap champ Assessment, whom Wasserman has never defeated, looks primed to keep the title in Auburn. But he'll face plenty of steep out-of-state competition, especially if the California-based Awesome Gem, who finished third to Curlin and Hard Spun in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile, runs (he's nominated, but at press time wasn't certain to be in the final field). But regardless of which steed crosses the wire first, this will far and away be the highest-caliber horse race at Emerald this year, one even the casual bettor is sure to be wowed by. Emerald Downs, 2300 Emerald Downs Dr., Auburn, 888-931-8400, $7. First race: 2 p.m. MIKE SEELYMONDAY 8/17Visual Arts: Dark FuturesSeattle City Light's Portable Works Collection here displays new acquisitions from two dozen Northwest Emerging Artists, as the show is called. One large, standout work is Justin Beckman's ominous triptych Friend or Foe: two giant coyotes staring at a kid holding a deer faun (this a still from The Yearling). You can't tell if the cheerful kid is defending his pet or preparing to feed it to the hunters. In the forlorn street scenes of Scott Kolba, rendered as intaglio prints, Japanese monster-parade floats crowd the sky next to abandoned overhead monorails—the latter being remnants from the 1974 Spokane World's Fair. Below on the bricks, the fair's promise of a bountiful future is contradicted by the urban poor and dispossessed. Similarly, Gabriel Brown's photo collage is called Homeless Shopping Carts—found and photographed in varying degrees of disuse and abandonment. Filled with tarps or trash, broken or embedded in the ground, they've served their purpose to (unseen) transient users. They provided mobility for those in need, who then moved on—perhaps to better days, but more likely not. Through September 29. Seattle Municipal Tower Gallery, 700 Fifth Ave., 684-7171, Free. 5 a.m.–7 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

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