Thursday/ the fastest mouse in Mexico

From Wikipedia:
Speedy Gonzales is an animated cartoon character in the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. He is portrayed as “The Fastest Mouse in all Mexico” with his major traits being the ability to run extremely fast, speaking English with an exaggerated Mexican accent, and also speaking Spanish. He usually wears a yellow sombrero, white shirt and trousers (which was a common traditional outfit worn by men and boys of rural Mexican villages), and a red kerchief, similar to that of some traditional Mexican attires.

Cartoons featuring Speedy Gonzales were removed from the Cartoon Network TV channel in 1999— due to concerns that the little mouse’s sombrero and heavy accent insulted Mexicans. Speedy Gonzales fans were mightily upset, though, and successfully petitioned for his return to Cartoon Network three years later.

LEGO’s Speedy Gonzales minifigure, another one of the 12 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes characters in the set from LEGO.  The character first appeared in 1953 in  ‘Cat-Tails for Two’ (as an early version) and officially debuted in ‘Speedy Gonzales’ in 1955.

Tuesday/ a wily coyote

wil·y
/ˈwīlē/

adjective
skilled at gaining an advantage, especially deceitfully.


[Description taken from Wikipedia] Here’s Wile E. Coyote, the cunning, devious and constantly hungry Coyote that  repeatedly attempts to catch and subsequently eat the Road Runner.

Instead of his animal instincts, the Coyote uses absurdly complex contraptions (sometimes in the manner of Rube Goldberg) to try to catch his prey, which comically backfire, with the Coyote often getting injured in slapstick fashion. Many of the items for these contrivances are mail-ordered from a variety of companies that are all named Acme Corporation.

One running gag involves the Coyote trying (in vain) to shield himself with a little parasol against a great falling boulder that is about to crush him. Another running gag involves the Coyote falling from a high cliff. After he goes over the edge, the rest of the scene, shot from a bird’s-eye view, shows him falling into a canyon so deep, that his figure is eventually lost to sight. This is followed, a second or two later, by the rising of a dust cloud from the canyon floor as the Coyote hits.

The LEGO minifigure depiction of the Looney Tunes character Wile E. Coyote. He made his first appearance in 1949 with Road Runner. As his contraptions go (to take out Road Runner), this anvil is a pretty simple one.
P.S. Seattle residents report real coyote spottings from time to time, right here in the city.

Monday/ walking up along Pine Street

I took my rental car back this morning. The plan is to go carless for a week or so, and then get another one. There is still a good number of weeks to go before I get my new car.

It was a pleasant day, and I could walk up, up along Pine Street to get to the other side of Interstate 5, and to Capitol Hill where my house is.
It’s about 30 mins of walking with no stopping, but I took my time, and took some pictures as I went.

This is the Hertz rental car center on the 6th floor of a garage on 8th Ave in downtown. There’s the counter in the distance where I had dropped my car’s keys. These are basically all the cars they have; the five floors below are eerily empty. (Hard to know if all the floors had been filled with cars pre-pandemic, though). There’s definitely a shortage of rental cars right now, with people starting to travel again. In places like Hawaii, the fee for a small sedan is $195/ day. That is crazy, and 4 times or 5 times the ‘normal’ rate.
I like the signage in the elevator lobby. I was tempted to stop at every floor to see what 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 looked like, and what colors, then thought, no! just go all the way down.
The upscale Grand Hyatt hotel on Pine Street is still closed. Many years ago, I had cocktails with friends in the lobby bar. One of them was from Houston, and he could not stop talking about his Continental Airlines frequent flyer miles. (Continental Airlines is no more. It merged with United Airlines in 2010).
Corner of Pine St & 9th Ave, looking northeast. Dough Zone dumpling house Chinese restaurant on the right, Washington State Convention Center expansion construction zone on the left. That’s the No 10 bus from Capitol Hill, coming into downtown.
The Paramount Theater is still shuttered as well, of course. 
‘Justice for Daunte Wright’ says the sign, the 20-yr-old African-American man that was fatally shot on Apr. 11 by police officer Kimberly Potter during a traffic stop & attempted arrest for an outstanding arrest warrant, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
The US Treasury Department was “taking steps to resume efforts” to put the abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill (left of the picture), but nothing new has been announced of late.
Ticket booths at the main entrance of the Paramount Theater. The theater has 2,807 seats for the performing arts, and opened in March 1928 as the Seattle Theatre.
Looking back at the Washington State Convention Center expansion, from the Pine Street overpass over Interstate 5. Maybe there is a little money left in the budget to also fix up that rusty lamp post on the far right.
The Baltic Room nightclub & bar with its art deco ironwork is still boarded up, but not permanently closed, as far as I can tell.
This space at 300 East Pine St houses attorney’s offices now, but some 15 years ago it was called The Chapel, a fancy wine & cocktail bar, filled with beautiful people on a Friday night, and a place for which one would dress up a little (in a city that had made grunge bands and grunge wear famous).
The artwork on the alley side of the Sugar Hill eatery & bar at 400 East Pine has been there for a while, but is holding up. Sugar Hill bills itself as a ‘loungey, vinyl-fueled eatery/ bar for craft cocktails, Thai street food & late-night DJs’.
I had left Pine St, and made my way to the new apartment buildings on Broadway by the Capitol Hill light rail station. This is the brand new plaza on the inside. I love the pastel colors of the art installation, with the brighter yellow & orange in there as well. I really hope it stays like this for a while: clean and graffiti-free.

Tuesday/ the art of deception

‘You need only two rich people to want to buy something they can exclusively own for it to become very expensive’.
– Sebastian Smee, art critic for Washington Post


Here’s the instantly infamous digital work of art ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’ by an artist from North Carolina called Beeple (Mike Winkelmann). It’s a collage of 5,000 digital images. Each one took one day to create. The buyer was a Singapore-based founder and financer of the cryptofund Metapurse who goes by the name Metakovan. That says it all right there, in my humble opinion.
An image from ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’, by Beeple. (Christie’s Images Limited 2020)

The recent sale of the digital thing (it’s a .jpg file) called ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days‘ with its non-fungible token* attached, has caused a stir in the art world. It went for $69.3 million.

*Essentially a digital certificate of authenticity that is a string of characters connected to a blockchain: the same concept that powers cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. (The blockchain means the characters sit in different physical places around the internet, and have to be combined to verify authenticity).

Is it art? I don’t know, I guess so — but it cannot possibly be worth $69.3 million. Just as the Rabbit, the Pool with Two Figures, or that duct-taped banana, cannot possibly be worth $91.1 million, $90.3 million or $125,000, respectively.

(Just for the record, Guinness World Records lists Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as having the highest-ever insurance value for a painting. On permanent display at the Louvre in Paris, the Mona Lisa was assessed at US $100 million on Dec. 14, 1962. Taking inflation into account, the 1962 value would be around US $870 million today).

Here is David Hockney’s ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)‘ that went for $90.3 million in Nov. 2018.
Rabbit by Jeff Koons was sold for more than $91 million at Christie’s in New York in May 2019. It set a new record for the most expensive work by a living artist to be sold at auction after the Pool with Two Figures.
The ‘Art Basel Banana’ was a stunt, and not a work of art (my opinion). It was created by Maurizio Cattelan, and he titled the ‘art work’ Comedian. Mr. Cattelan’s bananas were offered in a limited edition of three with one artist’s proof, sold at a cost of $120,000 apiece at the Art Basel show in Miami Beach in Dec. 2019. Maybe the bananas were special? No. At least one of the bananas reportedly came from a local Miami supermarket.

 

Friday/ a thousand-and-one nights

My used book with Arabian fairy tales arrived at last, shipped from Germany with snail mail.
I could not find the Afrikaans edition online — the one that had I read in bed fifty years ago as a youngster! — but I found the German translation that offers the same gorgeous water paint illustrations, on Abebooks.com.

The tales inside are as follows:
How the Story of the Thousand-and-one Nights Started
Little Kadi
Sinbad the Sailor
Prince Sayn Al Asnam and the King of Spirits
Aladdin and the Wonder Lamp
Ali Baba and the Forty Robbers
The Magic Horse
The Envious Sisters
How the Story of the Thousand-and-one Nights Ends

Sinbad the Sailor This is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Big trouble for Sinbad and his mates on their third voyage, ship-wrecked on an island with one-eyed man-eating giants. The captain was eaten first because he was the fattest! I bet he could not run as fast as his crew. Yikes. (I don’t believe these are technically Cyclopes. The Cyclopes come from Greek mythology. Arabians were students of Greek literature, and Homer’s epic poem Odyssey probably inspired this fairy tale). [Illustration by Janusz Grabianski].
The Magic Horse Ah yes: the prince undoubtedly proposing to the princess with some servants looking on. (I confess that I don’t recall the details of this fairy tale. I will have to read the German, and report back). Got to love those lovely light blue veils worn by the servants, looking exactly like 2021 pandemic surgical masks! [Illustration by Janusz Grabianski].

Friday/ Anton Goosen turns 75

South African folk singer Anton Goosen turned 75 today.

He sings mostly in Afrikaans, but also in English.
I love his song called Magalies, O Magaliesberg — a song that (somewhat) romanticises the hardships of the 1830s Great Trek of the Voortrekkers (pioneers).
Some of these pioneers ended up in what would become the Transvaal Colony, and is today called Gauteng Province.

The Magaliesberg is a modest but well-defined mountain range north of Pretoria, with ancient origins. It was formed some 2 billion years ago.
The area around the range has seen occupation by humans dating back at least 2 million years, to the earliest hominin species (such as Mrs Ples). The Sterkfontein Caves, which lie at the World Heritage Site called the Cradle of Humankind, are close by. [From Wikipedia].

Ox wagons during the Great Trek in South Africa (1835-1838).
[Picture from Wikimedia Commons, from p209 of the book ‘The Voortrekkers’ by J.S. Skelton, 1909].
Voor op die wa sit my hoepelbeenpa,
agter op die wa sit my vaalhaarma
Waai die wind, waai my jas,
knoop my Sannie haar sydoek vas
Veertien rooies voor aan die wa,
sewe van my en sewe van my pa
Die hotagter, die Afrikaan,
hy en sy maat moet die disselboom dra

(Front of the wa1 sits my hoop-legged pa,
back of the wa sits my drab-haired ma
Blows the wind, blow our coats,
ties my Tammy her silk cloth close
Fourteen red ones front of the wa,
seven of mine & seven of my pa’s
The left back, the Afrikaan2,
he and his mate, must bear the bar)

1Short for wagon, we say v-ahh in Afrikaans
2A breed of cattle indigenous to South Africa

Lyrics from ‘Magalies, O Magaliesberg‘ from the Anton Goosen album ‘Liedjieboer Innie Stad’ (1986), with my own rough translation into English.

Sunday/ an unknown Van Gogh

This painting of Van Gogh has been in the hands of a French family for more than 100 years. It will be auctioned in March and is expected to fetch from €5m to €8m ($6.1m to $9.8m).

Auction of an unknown Van Gogh.
Paris A painting of Vincent Van Gogh (1853- 1890) that has been in the possession of a French family for more than a 100 years, never exhibited in public, will be auctioned in Paris on March 25 by Sotheby’s and Mirabaud Mercier. Van Gogh painted this canvas in the spring of 1887 in Paris, called Scène de rue à Montmartre. (Van Gogh lived there at the time, at 54 Rue Lepic, with his brother Theo). It depicts a street scene with the Moulin de la Galette, a windmill, and businesses near the top of the district of Montmartre in Paris. It is believed to be one of the last paintings of Van Gogh’s Montmartre works in private ownership. The painting is oil on canvas, size 46 x 63 cm (18 x 25 in). The auctioneers hope the final bid will be between €5m and €8m ($6.1m and $9.8m).
[Image & text from Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad].

Friday/ the Year of the Ox is here

Happy Lunar New Year! The Year of the Ox* starts today.
In Asian cultures people wear red to celebrate the arrival of the lunar new year, the color that symbolizes luck and prosperity.
Married couples hand out red packets with cash inside to children and unmarried adults.

*Read: bovine creature. The zodiacal ox could be construed as male, female, neutered, hermaphroditic, and either singular or plural.

From my porcelain display case: a child holding the ‘newly born’ Ox, symbolizing the start of The Year of the Ox. I bought the item at a souvenir shop at Hong Kong International Airport in 2010 or 2011. At this point, I am really not sure when I will make it out to Hong Kong again.

Monday/ around Westlake Avenue

I went to the dentist this morning. At 7.30 am on a Monday morning, there was virtually no traffic on the way in. That explains why local TV stations are still not bothering with providing traffic updates like they used to.

After my appointment, I walked around Westlake Avenue, to take a few pictures of the deserted street blocks and offices and store fronts.

The two-story Streamline Moderne-styled building of the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library is at Ninth Ave. & Lenora St. It was previously a Dodge dealership, the anchor of Westlake Avenue’s long-departed auto row. Streamline Moderne is an international style of Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s.
Westlake Ave. & Seventh Ave. Here comes the South Lake Union Streetcar. It’s empty. ‘Experience the virtual world of Minecraft like never before‘, says the lettering on the side. Hey, that’s OK. I’ll pass. Wild enough to experience the pandemic world of Covid-19, like never before.
I like the inside-outside seating area that had been set up across from the Amazon biospheres. There is an impressive extraction fan system in the green enclosure, for sucking out wayward SARS-CoV-2 virus that may be suspended in the air.
This brown office building on Eighth Ave. off Westlake Ave. is now called Amazon The Summit. The lights are on in a few offices in the middle, but the rest is dark.
This self-reflecting tower next door to The Summit is called Amazon re:Invent (520 ft tall, 37 floors, completed 2019). That’s the Cirrus Apartment building reflected in the bottom of the picture (440 ft tall, 41 floors, completed 2015).
Another view of the Cirrus apartment building on the left, and the Amazon re: Invent on the right.
Here’s Urban Triangle Park, with one of several 6-ft high aluminum Holding Hope signs, a new art installation now on display in several locations throughout downtown Seattle.
I was supposed to take a selfie there, and post a picture with the tag #HoldingHopeSeattle on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I guess my blog does not count. For every post, the Downtown Seattle Association will make a $10 donation to the Pike Place Market Foundation.

Friday/ wishing us a Happy New Year

I drove down to the Space Needle last night, to take a few pictures of it in pink. There were no crowds this year, but the monorail was still running to Westlake Park and back, with a few souls inside. Likewise, the Space Needle elevator took a few people at a time up to the viewing deck.

I had to wait until midnight to see the virtual Space Needle celebrations on TV, sponsored by T-Mobile and produced by Terry D. Morgan.

The wait was worth it. The creators used sky-mapping technology and video footage to create a spectacle accompanied by dramatic music. Below are a few stills from the video that was posted afterwards.

 

Sunday/ the St. Ingbert apartments

There were beautiful soft grays and pinks in the blue sky today at sunset.
I made my way down all along Harrison Street, towards the Interstate 5 overlook by Melrose Avenue.
The St. Ingbert apartments is right there by Harrison and Melrose.

The St. Ingbert apartment building was constructed in 1928 with Art Deco detail. The architect is not known. St. Ingbert is a reference to the hometown of the builder (Ludwig J. Hellenthal), a town named Sankt Ingbert in Saarland, Germany. Sankt Ingbert is very close to the French border.
Look for the Space Needle in the distance, and the blue spires of Saint Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral to its right, just above Interstate 5.
Art Deco detail at an entrance to the St. Ingbert apartments. I should have taken a closer picture of the very cool lettering on the glass, at the very bottom of the picture. I will do that when I walk by there again.

Friday/ Christmas Day

Here is a giraffe from the annual Johannesburg (South Africa) Zoo’s Festival of Lights exhibit.
I bet putting one in my front yard would impress the neighbors!

Source: The Star newspaper. Photographer: Timothy Bernard/ African News Agency.

Christmas Eve

There was still a little snow on the ground, in the shady areas, here in the city today.
Does that count as a White Christmas?
Merry Christmas. Geseënde Kersfees.

A nicely decorated house here on Capitol Hill’s 15th Avenue.

 

Sunday/ birds in my Christmas tree

I’m not traveling anywhere for Christmas this year.
So: no excuse for not putting up a tree.
I retrieved the one I have from the basement, and put up some of my bird figures in it, along with a few other decorations.

In the tree from the top down: bald eagle; mute swan (white swan); a sloth hiding behind some foliage, to its right; snowy owlgriffon (Cape vulture); toucan; blue-and-yellow macaw.
Bottom: African beaded art giraffereindeerllama art made with Peruvian llama wool; African wire-and-beads art reindeer.

Wednesday/ the Tillerman, reimagined

tillerman (plural tillermen)

noun
(US) A person who steers the rear wheels of a fire truck (a tiller truck) or controls its ladder


I first heard ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ by British singer-songwriter Cat Stevens from a vinyl record in 1980. A friend of mine in Stellenbosch, South Africa, played it for us in his dorm room. The record was made in 1970, and the artist changed his name to Yusuf Islam in 1977.

Fast forward 50 years from 1970, and now there is a ‘reimagined’ Tea for the Tillerman, issued on CD. There is a clarinet to accompany the piano in ‘Wild World’. In the ‘Father And Son’ remake, the young Yusuf’s voice for the son’s lyrics was left intact, but the today-Yusuf (72) sings the lines of the father— very heartfelt.

The original Tea for the Tillerman, issued in Nov. 1970, with its whimsical vinyl record cover.
And here is the 2020 Tea for the Tillerman 2. Rumor has it that Yusuf’s son convinced him to do the remake, and it was arranged and done in a farmhouse-turned-studio in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in the south of France. I see on YouTube that the new interpretation is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea – but I like it.

Friday/ decoding street art

I walked down to the former Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone by the East Precinct police station today.

All was quiet with not much traffic on the streets – but right then three police patrol vans erupted out of the police station garage, piercing sirens going and headlights flashing.  There was an emergency somewhere that they were rushing to.

Here’s artwork on the boarded up street corner where CHOP was (Pine St & 11th Ave): a gallery of pop culture characters.
At the back, left to right: Barney Rubble from The Flintstones (first appearance 1959), Luigi from Super Mario Bros., Inspector Gadget from the namesake animated TV series (1983), Ned Flanders from The Simpsons (1989), and The Kool-Aid Man, primary mascot for Kool-Aid (1975).
In front, left to right: Rocko the wallaby from Rocko’s Modern Life (1993), Nibbler from the cartoon series Futurama (1999), Underdog from the animated movie (2007).
And this one makes one wonder what Anti-Anti-Antifa would mean. Well: Antifa is short for anti-fascist* or anti-fascism. So Anti-Antifa would presumably support a right-wing fascistic stance, and Anti-Anti-Antifa would bring us back to a reiterated Antifa. (Just as in math, where a double negative becomes a positive).
*Fascism is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, as well as strong regimentation of society and of the economy which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe [Wikipedia].

Tuesday/ landed: CD from North Carolina

My CD from a warehouse in North Carolina landed in the mailbox today (from a bare-bones website called MovieMars).

None of the CD was available on Amazon, none on Discogs.com, none on Ebay. Amazon Netherlands does not ship to the United States, and I could order one from Amazon UK, but that would have cost $36 with the shipping cost. Yikes.

The CD is a 2018 compilation of 1980s songs from the BZN/ Band Zonder Naam (‘Band Without a Name’) band from the Netherlands. Very ‘meta’ (self-referential), that band name — I like it. I import my CDs into iTunes, old school. One of these days Apple will surely kill iTunes, and then I will have to find another solution for my music collection.