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Wondermark » Archive » #1357; Revisit, Revise, Revile, Return

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In my back yard, there used to be a giant tree.

It was a Brazilian pepper tree, about thirty feet tall, with a trunk you couldn’t fit your arms around and a canopy that shaded the entire yard.

Branches had even grown around and encased the telephone wire that ran past the house.

Its roots were giant. They could be seen snaking throughout the entire yard, crowning and diving like loops of the Loch Ness Monster in a field that the tree’s immense shade had rendered brown and barren.

Their growth was even starting to crack and buckle the concrete foundation of the garage from underneath.

The tree had stood there for a decade or more, tolerated by the house’s previous residents.

When we moved in, the tree was the first thing to go. Three guys with chainsaws spent three days chopping it up, grinding its stump, and pulling out a few other baby pepper trees (“only” 6 feet tall) growing elsewhere on the property.

We were warned by the arborist that it was an invasive species, and that we would likely see the remaining roots still in the ground try to regenerate little shoots (“suckers”).

His words proved prophetic. A week after the tree was cut down, I found one little red-leafed bundle of nothing, poking its head through the dust in the middle of the yard…

I sprayed it with herbicide and watched its little fronds shrivel.

The following week, there were two new suckers. I sprayed them as well.

Two weeks later, seven more had popped up, and they too got the spray.

Pretty soon I had to stop keeping count.

When the herbicide ran out, I decided to dig some of the roots instead, to pull out the things actually sending the suckers to the surface.

I knew there were a million root structures buried in the earth, and I’d never be able to get them all. But just grabbing the ones that came up easily would be a start.

Here’s one little sucker and the root he rode in on. Pretty big root for just a little guy.

That root connected to another, which connected to another, which forked off to another, which crossed paths with another, until finally, just in the extraction of that one little jerk, I’d pulled up the ground six feet on either side of the original spot where the sucker had arisen.

Some of the roots were as thick as baseball bats.

The suckers look so innocuous on the surface, lush and excited to be here, ready to join the big wide biosphere.

Below, you can see one that looks pretty small on the surface, but that quickly revealed itself to be part of a gigantic root structure — in fact, the very root that had snaked underneath the garage and cracked the concrete pad!

After hours of excavating around this giant root blob — all revealed thanks to the tiny clutch of sky-seeking stems pictured above — the best we could do was chop up what we could see, apply herbicide to the cut ends, and fill in the hole again.

There is a metaphor here, I’m sure.

Maybe it’s something about not being able to judge people from what they reveal on the surface — sometimes they are connected to other things, other people and parts of life, in ways you can’t perceive. You never know who knows whom, that sort of thing.

It also brings to mind my conversation with the makers of counterinsurgency-themed board games. These war games attempt to simulate combat between the traditional military and insurgent or guerrilla forces, which can strike from hidden positions and then melt back into society. Terrorist cells are surely connected in ways that these roots are dramatizing.

Perhaps the roots can teach a lesson about patience — by which I mean, although there are more suckers every day, the more I tear out huge swaths of roots, surely the fewer roots remain in the ground. Isolated root segments might be sending up gasping shoots en masse because, various chunks having been removed by me, they can no longer draw nutrients from the entire network. A huge show of suckers, then, may be a death bloom.

All I know is that I walked through the yard yesterday and counted TWENTY-FIVE tiny new sprouts.

Please. Send help.

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ridingsloth
33 days ago
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Takashi Miike’s 100th Film Blade of the Immortal Is Riotously Excessive

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by Andrew Wright

Heads and pretty much every other conceivable body part are about to roll.
Heads and pretty much every other conceivable body part are about to roll.

Takashi Miike has pinballed from genre to genre during his singular career, with results ranging from the WTF psychosexual horror of Audition, the world destroying cop saga Dead or Alive, and seemingly everywhere between. (In the mood for a musical about cannibals featuring stop-motion claymation? Happiness of the Katakuris has you covered!) Blade of the Immortal, Miike’s 100th film (nope, not a typo), finds the director in something approaching traditionalist mode, using his penchant for splattery weirdness to bolster the story, rather than careen entirely off the rails. While the swordplay here isn’t as crisp as in his previous Thirteen Assassins, it more than compensates with sheer riotous excess. Critically speaking, this thing’s a hoot.

Compressing Hiroaki Samura’s long-running manga series, the story follows a grumpily honorable swordsman (Takuya Kimura) rendered unkillable after being infected with sacred bloodworms. After half a century of wandering, he finds himself entrusted with helping a young girl avenge her family. Heads soon roll, along with pretty much every other conceivable body part.

Few movies can deliver the primal goods like a samurai picture, and one of the joys for genre fans here is in watching the filmmaker both honor and goof on the standard trappings, mixing the traditional pre-duel staredowns and serious discussions about honor with increasingly bizarre weaponry, oddball characters, and just plain strangeness. (Only Miike would have someone complain about how a sword smells of innards.) For all that, though, Blade of the Immortal’s best element proves to be its main character, whose deadpan, long-suffering demeanor gives the film its final touch of welcome absurdity. Whether fighting a woman armed with a lethal musical instrument, or facing off against what may literally be a zillion goons during the hallucinatorily gooshy finale, for him it’s still somehow just one damned thing after another.

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ridingsloth
37 days ago
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With staff become owners, Capitol Hill’s Liberty Bar carries on

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As Capitol Hill craft cocktail bar Liberty transfers over to new, younger hands, founder Andrew Friedman plans on starting a new company allowing restaurants and bars to brand their own drinks. It’s called Industry Spirits.

“It’s very difficult for them to legally own their own brands,” Friedman said. “We’d work with them for brand identity and sell and distribute for them…  it’s never been done before.”

Last year, CHS reported on the changes as Friedman worked on a plan for Liberty Bar to be cooperatively purchased and operated by the staff. After working out the details, though, it turned out only two staffers wanted the responsibility: Andrew Dalan and Brandon Paul Weaver.

New Liberty manager Dalan said the hardest part about the transition has been paperwork.

“The Seattle process took a long time and some people’s life goals changed,” Dalan said. “We messed up [the paperwork] at least one time, which took about six extra months out of our timeline. It’s been a learning process for me and the other owner. There’s an awful lot of sitting around and waiting.”

Dalan received a lot of congratulatory texts but hopes to have a more formal party after all the paperwork is done, ideally, by next week.

“We’re not changing the concept. It’s going to be the same but with more attention paid to it,” Dalan said. “I don’t have a four-year-old daughter so I can be here a lot more often, particularly later at night.”

Liberty Bar — a community spot of sushi, espresso, and craft cocktails — remains open 365 days a year, an 11.5-year streak the new owners don’t intend on breaking. Dalan began as Liberty’s bar back and became a main stay due to his constant presence. Friedman described Dalan as “a very hospitable, good fellow.”

Brandon Paul Weaver, meanwhile, joined Liberty six years ago and transitioned from barista to bartender. These days, he’s something of a Seattle celebrity mixologist.

In 2016, CHS wrote about Liberty’s first decade. The craft cocktail craze was still a few years off in Seattle when Friedman opened Liberty in 2006. “I knew I wanted to open a bar … I was dreaming of being on Capitol Hill,” he told CHS at the time.

As the new owners move forward, Friedman said he’s going in on Industry Spirits with Ba Bar manager Michael Chu. Friedman explained well spirits have limited profit so restaurants and bars sometimes struggle to take their cocktail business to a higher level. One way might be for restaurants and bars to build on their craft cocktail reputation and sell their branded drinks in a retail environment. The establishments can also offer their branded bottles of pre-mixed drinks on the menu.

Friedman will also continue his now year-old business Scout, which helps alcohol brands and related products find distribution in Washington.

Friedman opened his first Capitol Hill business back in 1995 called CapitolHill.Net Internet Cafe on Broadway.

At one point, Friedman worked on a concept of related neighborhood bars across the city but that idea dried up when a partner left the business. Earlier this year, his E Olive Way venture Good Citizen shuttered to make way for the expansion of the upstairs pre-school.

Through it all, the bar entrepreneur has also grown a reputation as a political maverick in Seattle, especially regarding the minimum wage. Seattle Magazine wrote Friedman attributed Liberty’s turnover to Seattle’s $15 minimum wage. Friedman says the magazine got the story wrong.

“The minimum wage issue was not a main factor,” Friedman said. “The main factor was about helping someone else start their career. They’re still friends and I still go in there all the time to do work and will help them if they have questions or issues related to operation.”

He said that small businesses aren’t paying the frequently attributed Seattle minimum of $13 an hour because they don’t have to yet. Right now, small businesses pay $11.50 per hour. Even still, Friedman said that’s a big new chunk of change going toward small business expenses.

“Hopefully when restaurants and bars are finding that the profit motive is no longer enough to keep them open, Liberty is an example for how they can turn over their business to their staff,” Friedman said, “to allow their staff to continue to have a job as more and more small businesses close, which I expect to happen as minimum wage goes up.”

Friedman said he’s working with Lionhead’s bar manager to create a spreadsheet documenting the impacts. They hope to help businesses recognize where they’re going to be at as payroll increases so they can plan for it. The data are based on predictive measures, however, from other cities.

As for saying goodbye to his first bar, Friedman says Liberty is good hands.

“I have no question both of them feel very strongly about accumulating the nature of liberty and improving on where we already do pretty well,” Friedman said, “which is provide a place for our neighbors to come hang.”

Liberty is located at 517 15th Ave E. You can learn more at libertybars.com.

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ridingsloth
47 days ago
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Neat!
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Nike Imoru Is So Good, She'll Make You Love the Tyrant in Shakespeare's Coriolanus

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Bonus: lots of excellent and undersung insults in this one. by Rich Smith

Tfw when you win but you still have to keep fighting because no one will acknowledge your accomplishments.
TFW when you win but you still have to keep fighting because no one will acknowledge your accomplishments. John Ulman

In this criminally underproduced Shakespearean tragedy, Caius Martius, aka Coriolanus, is an unbeatable Roman general who rises to the empire's highest office on the basis of her—at least in Rebel Kat's all-woman production, which runs through November 13 at 12th Ave Arts—military prowess.

Though she's a natural on the battlefield, she's not the best public speaker, afraid she might be caught "blushing in her acting." She fights all day for Rome, but it's never enough for the other senators, or for the tribunes (sort of like members of congress), who project all their problems onto her. But her public loathes her just as much as she loathes them for a good reason. They're starving, and she won't release reserve corn from the granary for fear of instilling laziness within the population. In response, the tribunes rise up and call for her banishment. A lot.

My brain told me to side with the tribunes representing the people who were being callously starved to death, but because director Emily Penick didn't emphasize their suffering, because they behaved like a mob, and because Nike Imoru's portrayal of Coriolanus was so complex, my sympathies were on the side of the dictator.

This is what Coriolanus thinks of your precious voices.
This is what Coriolanus thinks of her peoples' precious voices. John Ulman

Imoru finds humor, elegance, amiable anxiety, and a sort of magnetic relentlessness in her Caius Martius, and so it's hard not to root for her over the shouting tribunes (who were, I should note, played with admirable fire and fury by ensemble members Corinne Magin, Ayo Tushinde, and Kyle Boatwright).

In one of those humorous moments, Imoru can't verbally roll her eyes hard enough when she says the word "voices" in this classic passage, wherein the people choose Coriolanus to be head consul somewhat against her will:

Here come more voices.

Your voices: for your voices I have fought;
Watch'd for your voices; for your voices bear
Of wounds two dozen odd; battles thrice six
I have seen and heard of; for your voices have
Done many things, some less, some more your voices:
Indeed I would be consul.

These are the subtle jabs of a leader whose ample accomplishments go unacknowledged by a largely ungrateful population she's fighting for, people whose "voices" seem to cut her worse than the wounds she endured while defending them.

As with many of Shakespeare's plays, there are tons of great insults and five-star rants for the characters to work with. Imoru doesn't disappoint here either, managing to project more rage in a whisper than most actors do in an overdetermined stage bellow when she lays out semi-hilarious burns like "You souls of geese / That bear the shapes of men, how have you run / From slaves that apes would beat!"

Kate Witt perfectly conveys the dark, comedic loneliness of the sensible person living in a chaotic world.
As Menenius Agrippa, Kate Witt perfectly conveys the dark, comedic loneliness of the sensible person living in a chaotic world. She delivers Shakespeare as if she were a character on The Office, and it's great. John Ulman

Under a Hillary Clinton presidency, this play, in its casting choices and in Imoru's sympathetic portrait of a tyrannical leader, would endorse Clinton's struggle to break the country's highest glass ceiling while also tacitly critiquing all the hammering she had to do to get there. Though Hillary didn't personally flatten villages and kill entire families like Coriolanus did, Hillary's harsh rhetoric about black kids in the 1990s, her treatment of Barack Obama during the 2008 primaries, her warmongering as secretary of state, and her coziness with Wall Street weren't forgotten by voters in the 2016 election, which contributed—along with sexism and racism and rampant vote suppression, of course—to her downfall. "Strengths by strengths do fail," as Shakespeare has it.

But under Trump, I'm just grateful to see a real smart adaptation of a Shakespeare with some real good actors in this world where American citizens are sipping water from toxic waste dumps and trying not to die all the time.

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ridingsloth
49 days ago
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No way I'll get the chance to get down there, but this sounds like a great production of a pretty good play. :)
rclatterbuck
49 days ago
Criminally underproduced is right. But unlike many other Shakespeare plays, Coriolanus somewhat lacks the rhetorical flourishes, soliloquies, and asides that make other plays so memorable. Instead, it is driven by the characters interactions and actor delivery. As such, I think it is one of the hardest to perform well.
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Bless This Light Rail Angel for Helpfully Vandalizing the Elevators In the Capitol Hill Station

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To all my OCD crafters with label makers: I call upon you to help Sound Transit out the way this vandal has helped them out. by Rich Smith

Somebody loves us.
Somebody loves us. HG

I've been vocal about my signage-related transit issues since May of this year. I could go on at length about the system's flaws, but, in short: the signs are bad. After I wrote a Slog post saying as much, Sound Transit promised me via Twitter that they would fix their wayfinding problem. And yet here we are, smack in the middle of dour October, and they haven't done a thing about it.

Luckily for us, one citizen took time out of their difficult and challenging life to right one of the many wrongs about the light rail signage system: its elevator button label thingies. Citizen, let me count the ways I love thee.

Somebody loves us.
This is porn to me. HG

First, I like the way you're working with what you got. "S" is for "street" and not "station" or "'S' floor, whatever that is," or anything else. Without this very accurate label, I just have to trust that the top button is going to take me above ground, but not too far above ground or to some other place in the station. And what the fuck is with the star? Sometimes I want to go to the street. Sometimes I want to go to the trains. Both of them are my go-to places, and so both kinda deserve the star. The word "street" tells me right where I'm headed, and that soothes me.

I also appreciate the "Middle" label. Though the word "Middle" isn't as precise as I'd like, after you've been through the station a few times you'll understand that "Middle" is that weird little area above the trains but below the entrance. It's certainly better than using "M" for "Mezzanine."

MEZZANINE.

Mezzanine, which kinda rhymes with Byzantine, which means "all fucked up like a maze," which is too closely describes the labyrinthine underworld Sound Transit is forcing everyone to navigate.

Three cheers for that question mark where "B" is. I've never touched that button, nor will I. (Except, I suppose now that I am writing an article I must do it for Journalism. I'll head to the station and update this post once I know where "B" truly takes me. My hunch right now is that it will take me to "bones.")

"Trains" is the perfect label. "P" for "Platform" is so dumb. So dumb! Intuitively, it's weird to descend to a platform, so even if you know that "platform" means "where the trains are," you question whether you should push the "P." And you don't want to be questioning yourself in a crowded elevator when people are trying to catch the dang train.

In sum, I approve these labels. To all my OCD crafters with label makers: I call upon you to help Sound Transit out the way this vandal has helped them out.

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ridingsloth
62 days ago
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This is amazing.
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Comic: Bifurcator

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New Comic: Bifurcator
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ridingsloth
63 days ago
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Really, the fundamental problem with this game...
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