The Weekly Wire: This Week’s Recommended Events

THURSDAY 12/3Music: Hard Times on VinylHarry Smith was crazy as catshit. The Portland-born, Bellingham-raised eccentric (1923–91) couldn't comprehend paying bills. He would talk to people about things like "bioelectromagnetics," even if they weren't listening. And if he ever had money (which was rare), he would buy books and records, not food. But in 1952 he assembled a collection of "race" and "hillbilly" 78s that became a landmark—The Anthology of American Folk Music. Tonight, KEXP's resident Americana historian, Greg Vandy (who hosts "The Roadhouse" every Wednesday at 6 p.m.), presents an evening of talk, music, and film about Smith and his legacy. (It's a sidebar to the Frye's ongoing "Old, Weird America" show.) Though it served as the template for the folk revival (Dylan, Baez, etc.), the Anthology was much more than that. With tracks arranged into three groups (ballads, social music, and songs), Smith's collection summarized the American folk narrative—from our roots in the British Isles and Africa to "contemporary" issues such as the boll-weevil plague. Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave., 622-9250, Free. 7 p.m. BRIAN J. BARRTelevision: The VCR ArchivesThere's a strong current of '80s nostalgia running through the clips included in the Found Footage Festival; that decade is a VHS gold mine of infomercials, workout videos, big hair, spandex, and worthless dating advice. It's a period that curators Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett—who don't appear with the traveling show—treat with equal parts affection and mockery. (No surprise, they list The Onion and Letterman show on their résumés.) With bad cartoons, ESL instructional videos, and heavy-metal home movies on the program, these artifacts scream sincerity. They lack the irony and self-awareness of our YouTube age, when everyone from the age of 3 realizes their behavior might be recorded on camera. We weren't always acting. Remember when dating was so much simpler—before Craigslist casual encounters or David Cross provides the narration for video personal ads from 1987, and their lack of guile is almost touching—more honest than anyone you'd meet today on the Web. Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 686-6684, $10. 7, 9, and 11 p.m. BRIAN MILLERFRIDAY 12/4Opera: Hothouse FlowersEven the blood-and-thunder melodrama of Verdi was not intense enough for the generation of Italian opera composers that followed him. Men like Ruggero Leoncavallo, Umberto Giordano, and Riccardo Zandonai dialed everything up, until a dramatic moment was a shocking backhand to the face and a romantic moment was a warm, sensual caress on your tessitura. Even so, they were no match for Puccini's peerless theatrical savvy. And when he came along, he elbowed their operas to the edges of the repertory—almost literally, in one case: Hearing that Leoncavallo was working on a La bohème, Puccini rushed his own setting into production and scooped him, and guess whose became the world's most popular opera? But Renée Fleming, whose creamily opulent soprano is coupled with a restless curiosity about music, explores these semi-forgotten composers on her new CD, Verismo, and is including a few bonbons from the disc on tonight's recital program. Here's your chance to sample Leoncavallo's eclipsed Bohème (unjustly? your call), Giordano's Siberia, and Zandonai's Conchita. Also on the concert: more products from music's gilded age by Massenet and Strauss, plus Messiaen's 1937 Poèmes pour Mi, which she sang in September on PBS to open the New York Phil's season. Benaroya Hall, Third Ave. and Union St., 215-4747, $35–$160. 8 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERTTheater: More Cakes, More AleShakespeare's most reliable crowd-pleaser, Twelfth Night shakes up a charming blizzard of misunderstandings, mistaken identities, gender bendings, and status reversals for the purpose, ironically, of maintaining order. As in other seasonal festivals, like Saturnalia or Carnival, the titular post-Christmas celebration gives brief license to our raucous desires. Thus, in this presentation by Seattle Shakespeare Company, servants get uppity, masters get lowly (and lusty), girls get boyish, fools are wise, relatives sunder and rejoin, and pranks proliferate before love sorts it all out and we dutifully return to our cubicles. Not that they had cubicles in Elizabethan England, nor bosses as fun as Sir Toby Belch, who memorably reproaches Malvolio thus: "Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" Stephanie Shine directs. (Through Dec. 27.) Center House Theatre (Seattle Center), 733-8222, seattle $22–$36. 7:30 p.m. MARGARET FRIEDMANSATURDAY 12/5Beer: Baby, It's Warm InsideToday and Saturday, the annual Winter Beer Festival presents 30 local breweries and their most comforting seasonal ales. (Lagers are invited, too.) It's like a barn dance, but with far, far superior alcohol. Big Time Brewing will bring its Malaprop 8, a melting pot of sugar, malt, oats, and wheat that defies description. If you've previously only had the chance to sample brand-new Fremont Brewing Company's flagship Universale, the brewery will also showcase its small-batch brews, including a hop-spiked dark, chocolaty winter ale. Malt-rich, spicy, or barrel-aged, these "winter warmers" have at least two things in common: They pack a lot of flavor, and they add a little more alcohol. (Hence the warming part.) And if you need to put something solid in your stomach, local confectioner Chocolate Box will be offering sweets, or you can order from the regular Hale's pub menu. (21 and over.) Hale's Palladium, 4301 Leary Way N.W., 706-1544, $23–$25. 5–10 p.m. MAGGIE SAVARINOVisual Arts: Ceramic StrangersSeattle artist Akio Takamori went to Denmark and returned with a bunch of vacation photos. Well, not exactly. The double portraits in Europeans are of Continental types ranging from teachers to queens, poets to princesses. One iteration is small and ceramic, a lumpy, thumb-pressed, imperfectly proportioned tabletop replica of some Average Johan you might meet on a Copenhagen street. But each solemn figure is paired with a larger formal portrait; these photos loom above like billboards. The two different scales give these porcelain characters a bit more dignity, even grandeur. On the gallery shelf, they could be mistaken for dolls. Portrayed larger, these clay citizens demand your respect. Also on view: Takamori's medium-sized renditions of women in Renaissance dress, bulb-bottomed and with a certain Botero influence. Through Dec. 22. James Harris Gallery, 309 Third Ave. S., 903-6220, Free. 11 a.m.–5 p.m. BRIAN MILLERHoliday Shopping: Rebel BellsFor the fifth year in a row, Urban Craft Uprising is sticking it to the Man by means of coasters, refrigerator magnets, funky handbags, vegan soaps, and letter-press-printed greeting cards. Honestly, the Man doesn't stand a chance. This weekend offers a cavalcade of Etsy all-stars, including UglyBaby's waterproof shower art, Kimmi's fringed and festive skirts, DownToTheWire's beautiful metal jewelry, and dozens more handmade originals, many of them created from reclaimed materials. The aisles are always packed, the mood is upbeat, and everyone actually feels good about shopping—which is exactly why the Man hates this event so much. Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, Free. 11 a.m.–5 p.m. MARK D. FEFERTUESDAY 12/8Cycling/Books: Tour de CowCanada is big, but Africa is even bigger, and Joe Kurmaskie has pedaled across both. First he took his family—three sons, wife, various tow-along attachments—across the Great White North, as he documents in Mud, Sweat, and Gears (Breakaway Books, $23.95). It's the kind of 4,000-mile odyssey where a dad has to change as many diapers as flat tires. And if the kids demand to stop and look at the cows, you stop and look at the cows. And there are a lot of cows in Canada. But the Portland journalist and author, known by his nom de bike "The Metal Cowboy," relates it all with good humor. Tonight he'll discuss and show slides from that journey and from a trek across Africa, where bikes are critical to the rural economy—carrying goods to market on dirt roads where most of us wouldn't risk our fancy carbon fiber. R.E.I., 222 Yale Ave. N., 223-1944, $5. 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

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