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The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper

Seattle's #1 Weekly Newspaper. Covering Seattle news, politics, music, film, and arts; plus movie times, club calendars, restaurant listings, forums, blogs, and Savage Love.

Published: Thu, 25 May 2017 00:00:01 -0700

Last Build Date: Thu, 25 May 2017 11:45:00 -0700

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Girlpool’s Powerplant Is an Album of Uncommon Depth

Thu, 25 May 2017 10:50:00 -0700

by Nathan Tucker

GIRLPOOL The band that eats strawberries together stays together. KACIE TOMITA

There’s a moment in the middle of “123”—the stunning opening track from Girlpool’s new record, Powerplant—that crystallizes the 28 minutes to come. As the second verse draws to a close, crashing drums announce an ambitious step forward for the formerly percussion-less duo. But Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker still sing with their signature abandon: “Keep on walking back outside to see a sigh under nice light.”

GIRLPOOL The band that eats strawberries together stays together.

Media Files:

Americans Overvalue Work, and That's a Problem

Thu, 25 May 2017 09:55:00 -0700

by Rich Smith

The Problem with Work author Kathi Weeks takes part in a panel, "Time. Work. Domination.," this Sunday at Seattle University.

You work too much, and your free time really only functions as the recovery time you need in order to be productive at work. Worse, you don't complain because you're afraid of getting fired and you know you're replaceable. Worse still, you're aware that your employer is taking advantage of your insane work ethic, but your job is such a core part of your identity that you secretly derive pleasure from being such a selfless worker. You are your job, after all. It's not selfless if you're doing it for your own good.

If any of that rings true—and if your situation is even worse than all that—you'll find some refreshment in The Problem with Work, a newish book by Duke professor Kathi Weeks. In the book, and in general, Weeks helpfully uses feminist arguments to illuminate the many ways our employers take advantage of our labor.

Media Files:

Donald Trump Shoves NATO Ally Aside So He Can Be In the Front Row for a Picture

Wed, 24 May 2017 08:24:10 -0700

by Dan Savage Did Trump just shove another NATO leader to be in the front of the group?— Steve Kopack (@SteveKopack) May 25, 2017 Here's Trump on the Manchester Bomber and Co.: "I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term," Trump said from Bethlehem on Tuesday. "They would think that’s a great name. I will call them from now on losers, because that’s what they are. They’re losers. And we’ll have more of them. But they’re losers. Just remember that." Manchester Police Arrest 3 in Connection to Bombing: The police haven't released the names of the arrested, nor the charges. The arrests came after British Prime Minister raised the terror threat level to its highest setting. Officials Say That Manchester Bomber May Have Had Help: Law enforcement is looking for the "factory" where Salman Abedi, the 22-year-old British citizen who set off a bomb at an Ariana Grande concert full of teenage girls and killed 22, sourced his weapon. Trump's Austerity Budget Will Slam Rural Poor: The budget would strip $800 billion from Medicaid over the next decade, eliminate an Appalachian set of anti-poverty programs, reduce food stamp funding by $200 billion (over 10 years), and, in even the Daily Caller's words, "gut farm subsidies." Our worst nuclear crisis may not be North Korea. Mike Force The Proposed Budget Also Takes $120 Million Away from Hanford: Even after proposing steep, existing cuts to the EPA program that oversees the Hanford cleanup. In the last two weeks alone, a tunnel collapsed at the nuclear cleanup site and one of Hanford's infamous double-walled storage tanks may have sprung a leak. A Human Leg in a Fishing Boot Washed up on a Beach in Alaska: Officials haven't been able to determine race or gender. Juneau Police Lt. David Campbell says "bodies show up in Juneau every few years." Washington Legislature Launches into Second Special Session: Governor Jay Inslee says that state lawmakers still haven't reached a deal to fully fund K-12 education, but "showed signs of compromise with Senate Republicans," the Seattle Times reports. Part of that compromise likely means eliminating a capital gains tax proposal from the budget. According to cultural practice, usually tribal members would not allow use of this photo or speak of the dead for a year. In this case, they're making an exception because they want people to know who Renee Davis was. Courtesy of Danielle Bargala Renee Davis Inquest Continues Today: Eight King County jurors are hearing testimony from the Sheriff's Office deputies who shot and killed 23-year-old Davis during a welfare check. She was five months pregnant. Yesterday, the father of Davis' unborn child and her boyfriend gave an emotional testimony about the day she died and how he found out. (Even) the Seattle Times Editorial Board Thinks Banning Masks Is Dumb: "A proposal to prohibit protesters from wearing masks or hoods during demonstrations is so obviously unconstitutional, it’s a wonder state Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, thought it was a good idea," they write. [ Comment on this story ] [ Subscribe to the comments on this story ] [...]Can't imagine the Popemobile will be to Trump's liking. Or maybe it will!

Media Files:

Girlpool’s Powerplant Is an Album of Uncommon Depth

Wed, 24 May 2017 04:00:00 -0700

On their new album, Girlpool takes risks without losing their radical vulnerability. by Nathan Tucker

There’s a moment in the middle of “123”—the stunning opening track from Girlpool’s new record, Powerplant—that crystallizes the 28 minutes to come. As the second verse draws to a close, crashing drums announce an ambitious step forward for the formerly percussion-less duo. But Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker still sing with their signature abandon: “Keep on walking back outside to see a sigh under nice light.”

This line broadcasts Girlpool’s maturing voice, and nestles their sophomore effort firmly between feelings of awe and disappointment. The band’s coming-of-age studio debut, Before the World Was Big, centers on the realization that age is perhaps the only thing you’ll ever have to show for getting older. Powerplant pries open this sentiment, and burrows inside to seek comfort.

Crucial to Girlpool’s charm is the obvious bond between Tividad and Tucker, who met as teenagers in Los Angeles. Now 21 and 20, respectively, their songwriting, performances, and public personas are bolstered by this strong friendship.

“We have a really special relationship,” Tividad tells me. “Cleo is my life, my music soul mate, definitely my best friend.” Before the World Was Big sounds like two close friends playing music for each other, and that’s no surprise. “We’re sending each other our music constantly,” Tucker adds.

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It’s easy to see how the decision to add new elements (like drums by Miles Wintner) to the group’s sound—and new members to the live band—might’ve been difficult. “I was nervous, because I love our relationship and us being in control of everything and how intense it is with just us,” Tividad says.

But taking the risk yielded an album of uncommon depth. Girlpool’s evolving sonic palette works in tandem with their maturing songwriting voice, and Powerplant finds the pair exploring their inspirations—the melancholic pacing of Duster, the minimalist restraint of Arthur Russell, and the intricate harmony of Elliott Smith.

Smith’s presence looms heavily over Girlpool’s emerging lyric-writing sensibilities. Powerplant trades their debut’s almost startling directness for his cagey metaphors without sacrificing the radical vulnerability that resonated with so many listeners. And for a record with so many nooks and crannies, Powerplant finds Girlpool completely exposed.

But the album isn’t merely the result of a shifting set of influences. Before the World Was Big demanded attention in part because it defied easy categorization, which is still true on their inscrutable yet inviting follow-up. Besides, for a band coming into its own as quickly as Girlpool, collating influences is a thankless task: “It’s like when you see your parents and they say you look taller,” Tucker says. “It’s your day-to-day, so you don’t notice it.”

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Men Without Women’s Dick Lit

Wed, 24 May 2017 04:00:00 -0700

Men’s insecurities are exposed in Murakami’s latest. by Suzette Smith

Author Haruki Murakami is a Beatle-loving, Beatle-scale-famous fixture in contemporary fiction. It’s a rare home I walk into that doesn’t have a worn copy of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle on a bookcase gathering dust (but still facing out).

Murakami’s best known for his specific brand of magical realism rooted in a recognizable world: Characters slip into extremely similar alternate dimensions or find themselves mildly altered by supernatural forces. But I’m more drawn to his nonfiction (Underground, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running), so I’m happy to report that the author’s new short-story collection Men Without Women contains a terrific waltz between the surreal and the ordinary.

At one end of the spectrum, there’s “Samsa in Love,” in which Murakami tells a complete reversal of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. At the other extreme, there’s the titular “Men Without Women,” with first-person narration that seems to resemble Murakami’s own, and relays the narrator’s jumble of thoughts following a phone call in the night informing him of a former girlfriend’s suicide.

It should say something about Murakami that I am no longer surprised when his dick shows up in his writing. “I was a healthy 14-year-old boy, so much so that all it took was a warm west wind for my cock to snap to attention,” Murakami writes in “Men Without Women,” recalling his former girlfriend handing him an eraser at that age. It’s incredible to me that a person could get a boner from an act of generosity, but I love it and I identify with it. I like reading about Murakami’s dick. There are a lot of erections in this collection.

But there’s also a downside to that level of honesty. One shows up in “An Independent Organ,” a more surreal story about an unmarried plastic surgeon who maintains a series of affairs with married women (for sensitive Murakami characters, this is unlikely to end well). In the story, the character of Mr. Tokai claims that “Women are all born with a special, independent organ that allows them to lie.” Now I’m shocked. Is this locker-room talk? Does even Beatle-famous, international bestseller Haruki Murakami think “women in general” have a gift for lies? It’s so vague it could never be true. But I don’t think its being true is as important to the story as the two friends’ shared insecurities about women. And if this collection is going to be honest about dicks, it follows that it will also speak honestly about men’s fears.

At the end of Men Without Women, I was drawn to an uncomfortable idea: All this talk of dicks and insecurities had me really missing men, almost nostalgic for them. Murakami has once again gotten at something that is shared: He chose to name his collection Men Without Women, but from my perspective the feeling is mutual.

Men Without Women
by Haruki Murakami
(Penguin Random House)

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On the Blabbermouth Podcast: The Hypocrisy of Trump's First Official Trip Overseas

Wed, 24 May 2017 04:00:00 -0700

Dan Savage is back this week, and he talks with Amber Cortes and Eli Sanders about Donald Trump’s overseas trip. Plus: the Melania hand swat, a Fox News retraction and the mystery of Chris Cornell. by The Stranger

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Dan Savage is back this week, and he talks with Amber Cortes and Eli Sanders about Donald Trump’s hypocrisy-drenched trip through the Middle East and Europe. Also: that hand slap! What does it MEAN, Melania?

After that, a look at this week’s special election in Montana and a dive into the right-wing conspiracy theory that actually caused FOX News to issue a rare retraction this week. If Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich spread a false story on FOX News, but then FOX News retracts the story later, does it matter?

Finally, Dan and Eli are not afraid to ask: Who was Chris Cornell? Amber explains.

(Oh, and then a vacationing Rich Smith drunk dials in with some news from the millennial mind!)

Plus, as always, the music of Ahamefule J. Oluo.

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With Netflix’s War Machine, David Michôd and Brad Pitt Take on Afghanistan

Wed, 24 May 2017 04:00:00 -0700

With Netflix’s War Machine, David Michôd and Brad Pitt Take on Afghanistan by Ned Lannamann War is hell, except when it’s purgatory. General Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt) is good at war. At the start of David Michôd’s War Machine, McMahon’s just been assigned to fix the one in Afghanistan, using his years of expertise to bring an end to a seemingly intractable conflict. But the types of war he’s dealt with in the past bear little resemblance to what’s going on in Afghanistan. Indeed, the US war in Afghanistan—a 15-year-plus conflict that’s still going on today—is as purgatory-like as wars come. It’s the longest war America has ever been involved in, but most people are probably still a little foggy on the details. A gross oversimplification: On the heels of 9/11, US troops entered Afghanistan in an attempt to subdue terrorist cells—specifically, the Taliban—but found a country that, annoyingly, didn’t want to govern itself the way the US thought it should. American forces were caught in a stalemate, training a reluctant Afghan army and trying to subdue insurgents, all the while ignoring the golden rule that any foreign army’s attempt to enforce rule of law, no matter how well-intentioned, will never, ever win the natives’ favor. Although McMahon’s name is fictional, the character is based on the very real General Stanley McChrystal, who took command of the flailing Afghanistan conflict in 2009. War Machine is based on a Rolling Stone article and a book called The Operators written by the late journalist Michael Hastings—here named Sean Cullen, and played, mostly in voice-over, by Scoot McNairy. Hastings chronicled McChrystal’s command and his relationship with the men who worked under him, and although the names are changed, there’s little question this is intended to be a story that reminds one, uncomfortably, of real-life events: There’s the obvious Hillary Clinton proxy, and that’s an avuncular Anthony Michael Hall playing a stand-in for Michael Flynn, whose name was significantly less well known during War Machine’s production. Hastings’s reporting wasn’t exactly complimentary of McChrystal and his crew, and correspondingly, Michôd injects dark satire into the intense rigor of military life, depicting how it invariably degenerates into boys-will-be-boys high jinks. Pitt’s McMahon thinks of himself as a creature of monastic discipline, jogging stiff-limbed through the camp each morning and rejecting his plush quarters in favor of a windowless closet. Pitt succeeds at playing up the impotence of the character’s Spartan, muscle-bound restraint, but as with many of his other leading performances, can’t quite make McMahon human, although his granite face and goofy growl make him very watchable. The supporting cast, however, is excellent, with McNairy and Hall joined by standout Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta, Get Out) as a disillusioned soldier on the front lines, and—in what’s either an inspired or deeply uninspired bit of casting, I can’t decide—Ben Kingsley as his real-life doppelgänger, Afghan president Hamid Karzai. This ensemble of boys and men is War Machine’s greatest strength, providing tight-knit comic timing. The satire is occasionally a little toothless—it manages to be both too broad and too subtle at the same time—but the movie finds its footing in a solid third act, when the vagueness of McMahon’s plan for victory collides with the harsh reality of life in Afghanistan. The battle sequences play to Michôd’s directorial strengths, echoing the intensity of his excellent Animal Kingdom and The Rover. Even if War Machine isn’t quite the equal of those films, it has plenty to say about the embarrassing limitations of our country’s top-down military strategy, and says it smartly. [ [...]