The Weekly Wire: The Week’s Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 2/24Books: Two-Way StreetA fluent Mandarin speaker, The New Yorker's Peter Hessler has lived for more than a decade among Beijing's booming towers and China's rural hamlets. The latter are emptying, as we've read in books including his River Town and Oracle Bones. All the young have departed for factories in the south. During his time in the village of Sancha, Hessler notes, most residents are aging peasants unable to own their tiny plots. But an exploding network of highways (and cars) means that commerce works both ways, and there are unexpected developments in Country Driving: A Journey Through China From Farm to Factory (HarperCollins, $27.99). Tourists, driving in new cars, start flocking to Sancha, located on a hill overlooking the Great Wall. Suddenly it's a tourist destination. (In another section of the book, Hessler follows the wall to Mongolia.) And the downcast Sancha peasants whom Hessler befriends prove to be remarkably resourceful: They may not be able to purchase their land, controlled by the Communist Party, but they can improve it with restaurants and guesthouses that provide enough money to send their kids down to the city for an education. It's the paradox of modern China, our largest trading partner (and creditor). Beneath the economic upheaval, Hessler finds a stoic people who, after millennia of change, may be adapting to globalization better than we are. Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St., 624-6600, Free. 7 p.m. (Also Thurs.: noon at University Book Store, 7 p.m. at Third Place Books.) BRIAN MILLERBooks: Man Bites RealityJonathan Raban may be the city's most esteemed author and Garth Stein its most commercially successful, but David Shields is arguably its most consistently engaging. He's drawn to the big, discomforting questions, in life and literature, and his latest, Reality Hunger (Knopf, $24.95), is in the current "manifesto" genre. (Pollan, Gawande, Lanier—did somebody write a manifesto calling for manifestos?) Celebrating authorship as, unavoidably, an act of pastiche, Shields proudly enacts the idea by constructing his book almost entirely out of quotations from others. (The guy has a true gift for assemblage—the scores of recollected bumper stickers in his previous book were awe-inspiring.) While Hunger is polemical, sometimes it's hard to know who the enemy is. Surely everyone at the MLA conference already believes that truth is constructed and unique authorial voice is a myth. But the fact that Shields has to plead with the reader not to look over his list of sources at the end only proves what we instinctively know—that even in an age of Retweets and mashups, it still matters who said something. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, Free. 7 p.m. MARK D. FEFERFRIDAY 2/26Classical: Europe on $18 a DayThough the Seattle Symphony's done a decent job as American-music advocates, you'd be forgiven for thinking, after a few seasons in attendance, that no Europeans have written anything since 1945. That's where the Seattle Chamber Players (Paul Taub and SSO members Mikhail Schmidt, Laura DeLuca, and David Sabee) take over. New music's counterpart to Rick Steves, their semi-regular "Icebreaker" festivals immerse audiences in novelty, exploring music from Iceland to the Urals and beyond, in various permutations with lots of guest musicians, including staged works. This first weekend will include music from the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, and Russia. The centerpiece (8 p.m. Sat.) is a 1986 mini-opera by György Kurtág, a composer of music of a concentrated, even relentless intimacy; his Kafka Fragments sets, yes, text fragments by Kafka for soprano (here Agata Zubel) and violin. Next week brings a collaboration with Pacific Musicworks, devoted to innovative presentations of renaissance and baroque repertory. Heiner Goebbels' Songs of Wars I Have Seen, based on Gertrude Stein's post-WWII memoir, itself combines modern and period instruments and styles; it's paired with Monteverdi's dramatic Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, in which the battle between the sexes becomes literal. (Also 5:30 & 8 p.m. Sat. & Sun.; 8 p.m. Thurs., March 4–Sat., March 6.) On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., 217-9888, $18. 8 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERTDance: Private DancersEver wish you could custom-order a dance performance, like a double skinny latte with no foam? KT Niehoff and her Lingo Dance troupe have read your mind and created A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light, a three-month performance-art piece. Its first installment treats 30 lucky winners to a personalized one-on-one performance, choreographed based on e-mail correspondence between winner and dancer, then staged in a public place (March 1–31). Chance bystanders are welcome to watch, but it might feel like voyeurism, since performer and patron are asked to "exchange their personal histories and desires." OK, then. But for those who prefer the safety of an audience, Niehoff will tonight deploy her dancers among the Calders at this very public "SAM Next" event (repeating March 18 and 25 and April 1). Her company then takes residence at ACT's Central Heating Lab for more traditional shows (April 22–May 15). Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., 654-3121, $5–$10. 8 p.m. MARGARET FRIEDMANSUNDAY 2/28Sports: Roll Into SpringIn our presently El Niño–impacted winter, this year's Chilly Hilly may be a misnomer. Hilly, yes. Chilly, not so likely. Yet for the 3,000-plus cyclists who pedal the 33 miles counterclockwise around Bainbridge Island, the annual event signals the arrival of spring. Not a race, the untimed ride begins for most entrants after a leisurely ferry crossing from downtown Seattle. On a recent mild-weather preview circuit, the first discouraging hill came at Miller Road (13 miles in), shortly before the Battle Point Park rest stop. At mile 20, just past a free cider station, comes the dreaded Baker Hill, which climbs about 300 feet at a very steep grade. This is where, with rusty legs and few winter training miles behind them, some cyclists will be wishing for a third chain ring. Worse, a few may dismount and push their bikes, despite spectators' cheering and encouragement. Try to persevere, because the descent back down to Point White is a gas—nearly 40 mph on smooth pavement. At 31 miles, Wyatt Avenue throws in some unwelcome late rollers, but the smell of finish-line chili should get you back to Winslow. The ferry ride home is free, so stay for the food stands and beer gardens. You might even get a tan. Bainbridge Island Ferry (Pier 52), 801 Alaskan Way, $27–$35 (includes ferry ticket). 7:55, 8:45, 9:35, and 10:40 a.m. BRIAN MILLERStage: Dumb, Dumber, DumbestFor a truer picture of contemporary Canada, the Winter Olympics' opening ceremonies should have ditched those kilt-stomping alt-grunge fiddlers in favor of the Trailer Park Boys. The addictive Canadian comedy series, set in the outskirts of Halifax, Nova Scotia, presents in vérité style the aimless lives and backfiring schemes of the world's whitest trash. The three leads, in diminishing order of idiocy: belligerent, pot-growing redneck Ricky; ladies'-man Julian, never without his black T-shirt and glass of rum and Coke; and the decent, hapless, thick-lensed Bubbles. (Keeping the illusion alive, the actors, Robb Wells, John Paul Tremblay, and Mike Smith, generally appear in public only in character—like that Borat fellow.) The series launched in 2001 and ran seven seasons (see before branching into stage shows and movies. (Countdown to Liquor Day is on DVD this week.) How does their stage routine work? The premise is that the trio, in trouble with the law, was ordered to perform community service: a variety show warning audiences off drugs and alcohol. The Boys may seem to be mining the same cultural vein as Larry the Cable Guy et al., but there's none of that crowd's mean-spirited, self-righteous us-vs.-them-ism. And that's probably the most Canadian thing about them. Moore Theater, 1932 Second Ave., 877-STG-4TIX, $33. 7 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERTMONDAY 3/1Science: Before the QuakeJared Diamond has adapted his 2005 book Collapse into a forthcoming National Geographic TV documentary, and tonight he'll discuss both with sad, particular application to Haiti. Which, even before the earthquake, was a case study in deforestation and in population growth that outstripped the meager natural resources available on its unhappy half of the Caribbean island. As the author of the Pulitzer-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel observes of Haiti, it gets less rain that the lush Dominican Republic, whose mountains drain the east-moving storm clouds. Then, after its colonial French rulers employed slave labor to produce tobacco, sugar, and cotton, Haiti's agricultural boom depleted the soil. Trees were felled for timber or charcoal, nothing was left to export, and today Haiti is the poorest country in the region. The island's carrying capacity is now insufficient for a population approaching 10 million; and, unlike in ancient days, its people are constrained by national borders—they can't just pack up and leave. As Diamond told NPR last month, "Haitians will rebuild Haiti. We won't rebuild Haiti. The most we will do is help Haitians to rebuild Haiti. With a little help, they'll go a long way." Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., 215-4747, $35. 7:30 p.m. (Repeats Tues.) BRIAN MILLER

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow