The Weekly Wire: The Week’s Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 4/14Food: Eat at Your Own RiskAt our Voracious Tasting & Food Awards tonight, there will be food, alcohol, and live music. The alcohol will no doubt be very good: Bartenders from Tavern Law and Zig Zag (among others) will be mixing drinks. The food will be very, very good: Pretty much all my favorite places to eat will be represented. There will be live music, but I doubt they hired The Black Dahlia Murder to play, so I'm pretty sure I don't give a shit about the music. But what I DO want to see is the Iron Chef–style culinary battle royale between Emmer & Rye chef Seth Caswell and Spinasse's boy genius in residence, Jason Stratton. There will be a secret ingredient. Also, awards will be given out, but no one has yet mentioned what exactly the prizes are. So I remain EXTREMELY suspicious. And if you want to see a bunch of drunken writers and culinary types, be sure to get in early. It's going to be like a symposium of people who don't have health insurance! Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., 682-1414, (Sold out.) 7 p.m. THE SURLY GOURMANDTHURSDAY 4/15Stage: Hell of a TownLeonard Bernstein wasn't Jerome Robbins' first choice to write the music for his one-act ballet Fancy Free (Morton Gould was), but the piece was a hit, which persuaded the pair to make a full-length musical out of it. They reused the premise—three sailors find luv and laffs on a 24-hour shore leave—but Bernstein turned out a brand-new score, not recycling a bar of the ballet, and the piece got a new name, On the Town. Premiered at the end of 1944, the musical was a smash, a pick-me-up for war-weary New Yorkers. Bernstein's brash, jazzy, exhilaratingly fresh music puts On the Town right up there with Show Boat and Oklahoma! as a game-changing milestone in the genre. Opening tonight, this revival begins the Seattle Celebrates Bernstein Festival, in which practically every local performing-arts group this side of the Early Music Guild will participate. Judging by Sarah Rudinoff's turn as wisecracking cab driver Hildy, showcased at a Festival kick-off revue a couple weeks ago, this production should be a corker. (Through May 2). 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., 625-1900, $22.50–$93.50. 8 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERTBooks: Sale or No Sale?After all the anguish and analysis about why venerable Elliott Bay Book Co. left Pioneer Square, let's not lose sight of some retail fundamentals. If a bookstore can't pay the rent, its customers—meaning the lack thereof—are to blame. Not the lack of parking, not the panhandlers, not Amazon or its Kindle (or Apple's iPad). I'm looking at you, readers of Seattle. You can buy your books online, grab them while grocery shopping at Costco, download them in electronic form, or you can patronize our city's dwindling indie booksellers. But if you instead go to merely browse, or hear a visiting author without buying the book, or only purchase a muffin in the cafe, don't go whining about beloved cultural institutions dying. Bookstores aren't museums. They're not libraries. They're only as viable as their sales. And those who attend today's free block party, to celebrate EBB's reopening, should bear that in mind. In addition to the food and music, Anchee Min will read at 7:30 p.m. from her new novel Pearl of China, which imagines a friendship between Pearl S. Buck and a young Chinese woman that spans the late imperial period through the revolution. It costs $24 in hardcover. Because everything has a price. Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., 624-6600, Free. 4–7 p.m. BRIAN MILLERSATURDAY 4/17Film: Warm ColorsThis year's Langston Hughes African American Film Festival begins with Nurse. Fighter. Boy, an affecting little Canadian drama that infuses its archetypes with Caribbean mysticism, folklore, and music. A Jamaican immigrant nurse is the single parent of a 13-year-old boy, a latchkey kid left alone to contemplate the paternal and spiritual void in his life. The film is color-coded: Mother and son live in a warm, reddish voodoo cocoon. Out in the cold blue world, a boxer (TV veteran Clark Johnson of The Wire and Homicide) fights for cash in the street until the three characters intersect. Later in the week are documentaries on interracial families, the early civil-rights struggle, jump-roping, and the festival-closing Still Bill, a profile of '70s hit songwriter Bill Withers, who wrote "Lean on Me" and other radio staples. (Through April 25 at Central Cinema and MoHaI; regular screenings $8.) Cinerama, 2100 Fourth Ave., $75 (series), $20 (individual). 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLERComics: Virtual and InsecureSeattle cartoonist Peter Bagge continues the chronicles of Buddy—his bitter, aging grunge scenester—in the eighth edition of Hate, but he's also got a new graphic novel out, Other Lives (Vertigo, $24.99), which deals with weightier themes than squabbling suburbanites and '90s nostalgia. In particular, he's curious about those unhappy types who thrive as Internet avatars in virtual-reality games. Real-world neuroses and confessions keep seeping into the supposedly safe, alternative cyberworld. Misery and violence bleed through the screen in both directions. And even as one character in Other Lives scoffs at such delusional roleplaying, he himself cops to being a plagiarist and liar in his own life. Nobody's willing to be honest about themselves. True identities get lost in the clamor and posing of the Web, which Bagge depicts in a style that's less comic and rubbery than his usual linework. Tonight he's joined by former local artist James Sturm (Market Day), who also chronicled our '90s grunge heyday. Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, 1201 S. Vale St., 658-0110, Free. 6 p.m. BRIAN MILLERMONDAY 4/19Books: Narrative Is DestinySo how's that hopey, changey stuff working out for the publishing industry? Our nation's 44th president reached office in large part owing to his writing ability—presenting an unlikely biography in two best-sellers that essentially shaped his winning campaign narrative. New to the teetering stack of related political books is New Yorker editor David Remnick's generally admiring 600-page tome, The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama (Knopf, $29.95). To an extent, it adds too much to a story we already know too well. Remnick pads the book with capsule histories and mini-biographies in support of his central thesis: Obama as bridge from the civil-rights era to our less-racially fraught political present. But since the midterms are upon us, and the next general election only two years away, The Bridge reminds us how Obama's carefully cultivated temperance, the "no drama" factor, has successfully carried into the White House. The Republican/Tea Party base may be angry about health-care reform, but that's more about the legislation than the leader. A few congressional reps may lose in swing districts, but it's hard to see a Democratic rival or credible Republican opponent arising in two years. (Palin? Romney? Gingrich?) Which surely means more Obama books will follow. Tonight, UW professor and author David Domke will join Remnick onstage for a conversation expected to touch on the future president's brief residency in Seattle. In 1962, his single mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, studied here at the U and pushed her infant son around Capitol Hill in a stroller. That the sight of a white mother and black child was remarkable then, but is routine now, shows how much a country can change in a single generation. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 800-838-3006, $15–$30. 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLERVideo Art: FlasherThe name of Jennifer Campbell's show and its main video, Point No Point, refers to the North Kitsap lighthouse guarding Puget Sound. What the Canadian-born, Seattle-based artist does in the video is to clamber out in what appears to be some very cold water, climb onto a platform, and place a beacon on her head. It takes a while to watch, like two other videos on view, but they're all worth your attention. Unlike most performance art, there's a whimsical and almost comic spirit at work here. Her videos unfold slowly and wordlessly, like Jacques Tati movies. In another wall-sized video projection, two black-clad, ninja-like figures dangle from trees in a backyard, watering the greenery with lawn sprinklers affixed to their bodies. It's as if the Blue Man Group has been hired to do your yard. Then there's a huge, slow-moving video from Mount Rainier National Park. At first you think it's a still of our iconic peak, until Campbell enters the frame and reminds you of its potentially volatile, volcanic nature. (Through April 30.) Gallery4Culture, 101 Prefontaine Place S. (Tashiro Kaplan Building), 296-7580, Free. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. BRIAN MILLERMusic: Sulky but SincereEnglish electropop duo La Roux (comprising Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid) shot to superstardom in 2009, dominating the dance charts with music crammed full of synthesizers and catchy/simpering lyrics. (If their sound seems familiar, dust off the '80s shelf in your old LP collection, e.g. The Human League and Eurythmics.) On "Toy," Jackson sulks in a falsetto, "It's all false love and affection/You don't want me, you just like the attention." Sure, it's been done before, but La Roux's melancholy retro-pop now seems refreshingly sincere in a genre that's become too polished since the rise of Lady GaGa and her minions. It's dance music for the dejected—who probably need it the most anyway. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151, $16–$18 (all ages). 8 p.m. ERIKA HOBART

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