The Weekly Wire: The Week's Recommended Events

THURSDAY 1/7Film: No Speed LimitHow many times does World War II prisoner Steve McQueen bounce the ball against his solitary-confinement cell walls in The Great Escape? That 1963 guy movie famously culminates with McQueen leaping his motorcycle over a barbed-wire fence to escape the Nazis; the role helped propel him away from his '50s teen image in The Blob into leading-man territory. Through March 11, the Thursday-night "King of Cool" series celebrates the late screen icon (1930–80) with titles including The Sand Pebbles, The Thomas Crown Affair, and—featuring my favorite car chase ever—Bullitt. His widow, Nellie McQueen Toffel, is scheduled to attend the latter screening on Feb. 18. Passes typically sell out for SAM film series, yet a dozen individual tickets or more can usually be purchased day of show. But if you should drive your vintage green 1968 Mustang GT fastback downtown to a screening, please observe all applicable traffic-safety laws. (Not that McQueen would've.) Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3121, $58–$65 (series), $7 (individual). 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLERVisual Arts: Feats of ComfortKnitting rocks. Or knitters rock. Or rockers sometimes knit. Michigan artist Mark Newport combines yarn and heavy metal in his sewn superhero suits and photographs. Life-size and meant to be worn, the multicolored costumes are a bit like Mexican luchador getups, castoffs from the dressing room of KISS, or prototypes for Marvel comic-book heroes who never made their way into print. (Behold the power of Valueman! Able to clip coupons and find great bargains at tag sales!) The suits are soft and non-threatening, like fuzzy long underwear, and also suggest old Halloween costumes from childhood—stored in a shoebox that you can't quite bear to throw away. Their loose, handmade texture isn't meant for men of steel or leaping over tall buildings, but for more domestic feats after a long day of fighting crime (or rocking out). Because even superheroes like to snuggle. (Through Feb. 13.) Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 Third Ave. S., 624-0770, Free. Reception 6 p.m. BRIAN MILLERFRIDAY 1/8Books: Color CastesFor Seattle fantasy readers, English author Jasper Fforde is always a welcome visitor. His whimsical works, including Thursday Next, aren't exactly sci-fi, aren't exactly fantasy, and Shades of Grey (Viking, $25.95) is very much a book about blurred boundaries. In its soft-Orwellian future, the world is organized chromatically into clans. Depending on what part of the color spectrum you can perceive, you are ranked in a strict social hierarchy. You daren't marry or move out of your group; some are rulers and some are ruled. Whether read as an allegory of feudalism, the English class system, religious sects, or ethnic castes, Shades is also a tale of star-crossed lovers: Fforde's young hero is a Red expected to marry within his color denomination. But naturally he falls for a girl on the other side of the color wheel; worse, she rejects the rigid distinctions of color and class. She's a rebel, possibly an anarchist, and dangerously alluring for that reason. And her color? Grey. Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., 366-3333, 6:30 p.m. T. BONDFilm: Leading With His PipeSIFF begins a Jacques Tati retrospective with Mon Oncle (1958), in which Mr. Hulot's sister keeps up appearances (and gadgets) and nudges her brother into her husband's plastics factory. The comedy confirmed Tati's modernist fascination with and tight control over color, score, and noises as idiosyncratic as voices. Following on Saturday is Playtime (1967), the culmination of Tati's interests. Hulot visits Paris' outer limits, with its International Style architecture, and ritualizes the mistake of the city newcomer: paying attention to everything, with sweetly absurd results. On Sunday, the lesser Traffic (1971) inexplicably stars Hulot as a designer of the very thingamajigs that once flummoxed him! The series concludes Jan. 15–18 with Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (1953), the international hit that established Tati's innovative stylistic armature of gags in long shot, sharply delineated sound design, and sidewalk-café observational pacing. Throughout, Tati is a joy to watch, an artist in motion: pipe, raincoat, stalking gait with a liquid lag, murmuring and awkwardly gallant. SIFF Cinema, 321 Mercer St. (McCaw Hall), 448-2186, $8–$10. 7:30 p.m. NICOLAS RAPOLDStage: Write, Rehearse, PerformUnlike most plays, which are long-incubated, rewritten, and endlessly workshopped, those in the biannual 14/48 theater festival have a lifecycle of precisely two days. Fertilized with an idea, 14 playwrights run off on an overnight script bender, whereafter casting, directing, set designing, rehearsals, and music composition funnel into the magical sausage machine of artistic production, culminating in 10-minute plays of wide-ranging quality and subject matter. My funny money's on prolific local bard Scot Augustson, whose recent Penguins, Episode One at Annex served up some of the wittiest ecclesiastical drollery since Molière. Augustson's kooky, melodramatic "Sgt. Rigsby" silhouette puppet sagas are great preparation for big storytelling packed into tight external constraints. 14/48 participants include a mix of event veterans and virgins. Forged in this frantic cauldron, their short works are unlikely to bubble forth again. (Repeats Saturday; 14 new plays will be performed Fri., Jan. 15–Sat., Jan. 16.) ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., 292-7676, $20. 8 and 10:30 p.m. MARGARET FRIEDMANSUNDAY 1/10Books: Not Killed by KindleTroubled Elliott Bay Book Co. is moving to Capitol Hill; other indie booksellers have succumbed to Amazon and Wal-Mart; but University Book Store is doing just fine where it is. Owning its own building, with subsidized parking, a lucrative (captive) textbook market, and privileged status as a co-op, the store has been thriving since 1900. Today's 110th-anniversary party will be celebrated at all locations (Bellevue, Mill Creek, etc.), but the flagship store on the Ave is still where most readers love to browse. Long before the current book-sales slump, the store diversified into stationery, stuffed animals, Husky logo sweatshirts, gifts, and music. For a while, it even sold computers and electronics; and this month the store is launching an on-demand printing kiosk (the Espresso Book Machine), in recognition of changing consumer habits. And for today's celebration, the store has published an historical volume, 110/110, with shopping recollections penned by Tom Robbins, Ivan Doig, Garth Stein, David Guterson, Jim Woodring, Paul Dorpat, and others. (The collection is free with the purchase of a contributor's book.) Cake and cider are also part of the festivities. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, Free. Noon–5 p.m. BRIAN MILLERVisual Arts: Ancient Beacons"The New Old" showcases recent acquisitions at SAAM, most of them Chinese scrolls and pastoral scenes, some dating back to the 17th century. A few cause I-must-be-in-the-wrong-gallery confusion, since "The New New" is displayed on the other side of the museum entryway. In Sightseeing at Lake Tai (1962), for instance, it takes a few minutes to spot the icon of modernity in a traditional landscape—a tiny radio tower in an otherwise rural, bucolic setting. (The Cultural Revolution is only four years off.) Another small vista from 1924 also requires some pondering: Why is it unlike the other works in the room? It's framed, Western style, reflecting China's sudden opening to the outside world after the imperial era. But some things never change. A 17th-century calligraphy scroll illustrates a "Letter on the controversy over seating protocol" at some forgotten imperial outpost; the hierarchies of who sits where will be familiar to anyone accustomed to maneuvering toward the donut box at their weekly office staff meeting. (Through Nov. 28, opposite "The New New.") Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 E. Prospect St. (Volunteer Park), 654-3100, $7. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. BRIAN MILLERTUESDAY 1/12Food: The Gravy TrailBack in the mid-'70s, Jane and Michael Stern drove cross-country to document roadside Mom-and-Pop restaurants, worried that these independently run eateries were nearing extinction. Their first book, Roadfood, came out in 1977 and is now in its sixth edition. You can also regularly hear the couple on public radio, still telling charming stories of obscure, wonderful, sometimes hole-in-the-wall food finds. They celebrate barbecue joints and lobster shacks, giving equal love to diners and truck stops. Tonight, presented by Seattle Arts & Lectures, they'll share tales from their greasy-spoon itinerary—so you can start planning your own. (Monday, for $75 a head, you can also enjoy wine and a multicourse dinner with the Sterns at Tom Douglas' Palace Ballroom.) Benaroya Hall, Third Ave. & Union St., 621-2230, $10–$75. 7:30 p.m. ADRIANA GRANT

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