The Weekly Wire: The Week's Recommended Events

WEDNESDAY 12/22 Museums: Arboreal Fish Spawning salmon have long symbolized the cycle of life, and in photographer Amy Gulick's award-winning Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska's Tongass Rain Forest (Braided River, $29.95), she documents their contributions to the land. In 15 stunning images enlarged from her book, we see ethereal blue mountains, misty waterfalls, and streams packed with the silvery salmon. Truly, the Tongass National Forest is one of the most organically diverse ecosystems in the world, home to humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, eagles, and an unusually dense population of bears—and most of these creatures subsist on salmon. Bears can eat up to 30 salmon a day, carrying their nutrient-rich bodies into the forest, where the scraps—processed in one form or another—subsequently fertilize the tall evergreens, which then provide shade and protection for mature fish returning to the rainforest to spawn. All of which makes this a good exhibit to see before cooking some wild Alaska salmon at home for dinner—you're part of the same cycle, too. (Through Feb. 13.) Burke Museum, UW campus, 543-9681, $5–$8. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. CELINA KAREIVA FRIDAY 12/24 Visual Arts: Cracks in the Earth The large black-and-white panels in Ryan Molenkamp's latest show are grouped under the somewhat ironic name of Flood, since there's no water at all in these desiccated landscapes. The parched aerial vistas are unearthly—in a sense, a reminder of what our planet would be like with every molecule of water boiled out of it. Cracked mud curls into hardened tiles; instead of being surfaced with greenery, the land is covered in crust and scab. Trained at Western Washington University, Molencamp is a Northwest mossback who appreciates where we'd be without our rainforests and tree canopies. In a sense, he's eliminated all the life from our terrain by removing its one key component: water. You could say these new acrylic and graphite works belong to the genre of catastrophe art, like The World Without Us or The Omega Man. Stare at them long enough, and you begin to feel thirsty. (Through Dec. 30.) Gallery4Culture, 101 Prefontaine Place S. (Tashiro Kaplan Building), 296-7580, Free. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. BRIAN MILLER Film: Back to the Nest Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture is a comedy of youthful confusion that gets its kick not only for evoking a world of unromantic hookups, casual BJs, and iPhone porn, but for satirizing New York's bourgeois bohemia. Newly graduated from an artsy Midwestern college, Aura arrives at mother Siri's immaculate white-on-white Tribeca loft. Mom, a photography-artist (as opposed to a photographer), is engrossed in a shoot involving kid sister Nadine, and barely notices Aura's reappearance— precipitating the movie's first round of sibling bitchiness. That the coolly self-possessed Siri is played by Dunham's mother and the loft's owner, noted photo-artist Laurie Simmons (the movie's title refers to her props); Nadine by her actual sister Grace Dunham; and Aura by the filmmaker herself pushes Tiny Furniture even further into psychodrama than such boho-autobiographical precursors as Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale and Aza Jacobs' Momma's Man. To the degree that it has a narrative, Tiny Furniture proceeds from one Aura-humiliation to the next. It's been noted that Dunham, who is no one's idea of a Barbie and generally dresses (or undresses) to accentuate her frumpiness, has a remarkable absence of vanity—or is it a more highly evolved form of narcissism? The movie's title may refer to Mom's immaculate dollhouse world, but the world itself is Aura's. There's a built-in wink: As convincingly hapless as Aura appears, Dunham never lets you forget that she "grew up" to direct this film. Varsity, 4329 University Way N.E., 781-5755, $10. 1:15, 3:15, 5:15, & 7:15 p.m. (The movie also plays at Central Cinema beginning Sun., Dec. 26.) J. HOBERMAN SUNDAY 12/26 Music: Sacred Jazz It's hard to believe now of such an icon, but Duke Ellington once struggled to transcend his status as "just" a jazz composer and bandleader. As if it wasn't enough to have introduced "Sophisticated Lady" and "Take the 'A' Train" to the American songbook (among dozens more hits), Ellington began in 1965 a series of liturgical works set to the rhythms and idioms of jazz. In a sense, he united Saturday night and Sunday morning in the canon now called his Sacred Music, here presented for the the 22nd consecutive year by Earshot Jazz. The concert features the Northwest Chamber Chorus and Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, which recently recorded a two-disc set of the Sacred Music for Origin Records. Everett Greene and Nichol Eskridge are featured vocalists, and there'll even be tap dancing courtesy of Alex Dugdale. Tap dancing in church—isn't that blasphemy? (Town Hall was once a church, you'll recall.) Why not, if the spirit moves you? Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255, $15–$34. 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLER Dance: Sneaky Tchaikovsky Tchaikovsky was not enthusiastic about his commission to write music for Nutcracker, which Pacific Northwest Ballet is staging for the 28th holiday season in a row. In 1891, ballet composers were expected to turn out disposable oom-pah fluff, and Tchaikovsky's 1877 Swan Lake music had been criticized, essentially, for being too interesting. It didn't help that choreographer Marius Petipa gave him a pages-long, rigidly specific scenario: 16 bars of this, please, now 64 of that. But Tchaikovsky did relish the chance to scoop rival composers by using a beguiling instrument that had just been invented in Paris: the celesta, basically a glockenspiel played by a piano keyboard, which created a sensation in the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy." The ballet's fairy-tale setting let him put his skill at orchestral color to magical use. And when he conducted eight of his dances, the "Nutcracker Suite," at a symphony concert months before the ballet's premiere, they proved hugely popular (as they did a half-century later in Fantasia). But my favorite Nutcracker number is the pas de deux, in which Tchaikovsky was able to work up a simple descending scale into a full-on orchestral orgasm. And my favorite Tchaikovsky spoof: Beatles producer George Martin, realizing that the opening strain of "All My Loving" is Tchaikovsky's pas de deux melody upside-down (more or less), arranged the song, hilariously, in Nutcracker style for Magical Mystery Tour. (Ends Mon.) McCaw Hall, 301 Mercer St., Seattle Center, 441-2424, $28–$123. 1 and 5 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERT TUESDAY 12/28 Music: Juega, Poncho! That's what you'll typically hear from the bandstand as the horns drop out, the bass and piano tighten into a simmering, cycling montuno, and the Mexican American conguero moves in for a solo. It's the highlight of any set from Poncho Sanchez's endlessly touring band, which, through sheer perseverance and likability, has become the Latin-jazz standard-bearer for the club and festival scene, and has lately made an annual New Year's visit to the Alley. Sanchez and his team may not have the most cutting-edge approach to melding jazz with Afro-Cuban rhythms, but it's a solid one, and Sanchez brings out a storytelling quality in the congas that is often not heard from more complex players. (Through Friday; special New Year's Eve package is $52–$155.) Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave., 441-9729, $28.50. 7:30 & 10 p.m. MARK D. FEFER

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