Our Top Picks for SIFF 2013: Music and Books Edition

The Seattle Film Festival is in full swing and, as anything book or music related is always on our radar, we’ve rounded up our favorite films that deal with both subjects. Bring out your calendar and make sure you don’t miss Bushwick Seattle’s SIFF picks:

1)   Twenty Feet from Stardom

June 1 and 2 at the Egyptian

This documentary glimpses into the lives of a handful of gifted backup singers—including Merry Clayton, who is famous for her recording of “Gimme Shelter” with Mick Jagger—and features interviews with fronting musicians Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Wonder, among others.Lillian Gish

  2)   The Wind

If you’re wondering why this 1928 silent film starring Lillian Gish is back in theaters, the answer is because Seattle’s The Maldives have composed a brand new score. The band will perform two shows live at the Triple Door on June 7.Macklemore_The_Heist_Tour_1_cropped

3)   The Otherside

May 31 and June 2 at SIFF Cinema Uptown

Seattle’s underground hip-hop scene is the subject of this documentary, featuring Macklemore, Shabazz Palaces, Blue Scholars, and others.

4)   Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story

May 30 at the Harvard Exit and June 3 at SIFF Cinema Uptown

The story of Tomi Ungerer, children’s book author and illustrator, is revealed in this documentary that chronicles the artist’s immigration to the US from the Nazi occupation.

5)   A Band Called Death

May 28 at SIFF Cinema Uptown (Tonight. Don’t miss!)

This rockumentary recognizes 1970s Detroit punk band Death for their place as the first black punk band and follows their pioneering journey in Afro-punk.

6)   All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

May 31, midnight at the Egyptian

Not about music or books, I just had to throw this in the mix because it has teenagers who think they are just out for an innocent weekend party, but end up either covered in blood, or dead. What’s not to love?

My introduction to Oz and the art of W.W. Denslow

One of the most meaningful times in my childhood was when my mom would read to me. We would visit the library for story time and I would check out new books every week. Both my parents placed great importance on books and reading and it was easy for me to convince them to buy me a new book when we went shopping. So it was no surprise that on one trip to Costco my mom relented to my pleas and bought me a special edition of The Wizard of Oz.

This book was incredible. It had a green fabric hard cover with a full color illustration of Dorothy and her friends in the center. On our drive home, I ran my fingers up and down the smooth gold-rimmed pages and fidgeted with green ribbon bookmark that was sewn into the spine. I flipped through the pages to look at the lush and realistic illustrations. Pictures of Scarecrow, with his tall pointy blue hat, were my favorite. I was very excited for my mom to start reading me the book.

During the next few days, Mom and I spent time reading the book. Introduced to the story of Oz through the movie, I was surprised to hear all the differences between the book and the screenplay. I enjoyed some of the new characters and adventures. We were about halfway through the book, when Mom turned the page and found a section of blank pages. There was no text! Part of the story was missing! One page ended in the middle of the sentence and the book picked up in an entirely different chapter at the end of the blank signature. I was devastated and my beautiful book was ruined and useless. I kept the now stupid copy on my bookshelf for years just so I could review the amazing illustrations. What never wavered was my interest in and love of the pictures in this edition.

A few years later, I purchased a paperback of the book so I could finally finish the story. This copy included the original illustrations from the first printing of L. Frank Baum‘s book. My love of the story and the characters was reborn while viewing W. W. Denslow‘s delightful pictures that were sprinkled liberally throughout the pages. I was more interested in these pictures than in Baum’s text.

When choosing an edition to reread in preparation for Bushwick Book Club Seattle’s big show at Folklife, my only qualification was that it included Denslow’s work. Even as a crotchety adult, I find these drawings to be enchanting.

My favorite illustration in the book is that of the Hammerhead attacking the poor Scarecrow while his Hammerhead friends watch in the background. The picture captures the action of the Hammerhead slamming Scarecrow in the back without using any comic book style lines denoting movement or action. Scarecrow’s expression shows frustration at being knocked to the ground, while the offending Hammerhead is gleeful. Denslow captures the creepiness of the armless Hammerhead gang and the detail in the illustration is well thought. Each of the background Hammerheads look the same, but bear different bow ties and expressions . They are easily identifiable as a species and although not main characters to the picture, Denslow took the time to differentiate them as individuals.

monkeys and lion Another image that illustrates these same themes is that of the Winged Monkeys capturing the Cowardly Lion. Again, Denslow pays particular attention to individualizing some of the monkeys by differentiating facial features and giving the leader a hat. The picture shows action with additional monkeys flying in from the background and also that of a monkey securing the rope around the Lion’s front paws. I also find it interesting that Dorothy is so small here. With Judy Garland in the iconic role of Dorothy, it is easy to forget that the Dorothy in the book is a young child and not a demurely dressed naïve teenager.

After rereading the book this past week, my interest in Denslow was piqued and I decided to do a little research on the man and his work. I read that Denslow was quite a character with a large mustache. Always capturing dramatic flair, Denslow penned a special signature in each illustration. A stylized seahorse is found next to DEN somewhere in almost every picture in Oz and other works. He started his career asDenslow signature a poster artist and also illustrated a number of other stories for children. Married and divorced three times, he made enough money from Wizard of Oz and other projects to buy a small island in Bermuda and crown himself King Denslow I. He worked with L. Frank Baum on two other books before their professional relationship was ruined by an argument over the royalties for the 1902 stage adaptation of Oz. He shared copyright of the original edition with Baum because of the extensive illustrations and money he spent towards the printing costs.

humpty dumptyHis most notable non-Oz work was a collection of nursery rhymes and picture books including Denslow’s Mother Goose. His style in these later works is much the same as seen in Oz. A favorite from these collections is his depiction of Humpty Dumpty after his great fall. Dumpty’s yolk face is full of anguish and his egg white body is splatted on the ground.

Another picture deep with details is one that accompanies Old King Cole. The King is relaxed and happy waiting for his bowl and presumably listening to his fiddlers three. (Sidenote: Smoking in a book for kids?! When was the last time that happened?) His manservant looks glad to bring the King his food, so the reader can surmise that Cole is a benevolent ruler. Even old king colehis footstool has a happy face. The grand expressions seen here are typical of Denslow’s work.

Perhaps because it never really evolved, Denslow’s style unfortunately went out of favor and his popularity waned. By 1910, he had trouble finding work and turned to alcohol. He died of pneumonia in 1915. His gravestone has images of both the Tinman and the Scarecrow and his seahorse signature.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, even after this second rereading, I still think the Wizard of Oz movie is better than the book (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. I know it’s sacrilege to appreciate the movie adaptation more than the book.) Baum’s adventure drags on a little too long for me and I prefer the screenplay. The illustrations Denslow originally penned more than 100 years ago will always be my favorite depiction of these iconic characters trumping even Judy Garland and my misprinted special edition that my mom bought for me back in 1985.


I Never Learned to Fish, and the Power of a Book

Over at Powell’s blog recently, Josh Hanagarne wrote about books that have the power to change lives. He mused over all the people he had encountered who claimed that a book had changed their life, but when questioned gave such a dissatisfying answer:

“How?” I said. Meaning, how did it change your life?

“Because it was amazing!” she said.

This is a pretty typical response, and I know I do it sometimes as well.

“Because it was just so good!”

“It was incredible!”

“I loved it!”

These are all great to hear, but none of them indicate any clues about how a life might have been changed…

Here at Bushwick Seattle, we are all book lovers. Saying what we love about a book is what we do. At every show our musicians articulate this sometimes intangible, mysterious force that weds us to the page. Whether it’s Del Ray’s love of Lydia Bennett’s particular brand of silliness (or rather, as Jane Austen says, the ability to be “ungovernable”) or Tai Shan’s empathy with Wendy Torrance in The Shining, the whole night is about the “why?” of what makes a book one that you love.

A life-changing book, however, is quite another thing. There have only been a few books that I can give life-changing status, and even then I’m not exactly sure if I could pass Hanagarne’s test. The closest that I can get is this:

In graduate school I signed up for a seminar on Ernest Hemingway. I never thought I’d like it. I was a feminist and Hemingway was perhaps the most famous alpha male of the literary world, and notoriously unable to write women characters. I was at a point in my life where I was purposefully ignoring literary greats (the dusty, old male-dominated canon) to read contemporary writers of the female variety.

But then there was In Our Time, Hemingway’s first short story collection. The collection is good, yes, but not life-changing…until I hit the final two stories: Big Two-Hearted River, Parts I and II.

These stories feature Hemingway’s Nick Adams character alone in the countryside. He hikes, sits on a stump and smokes, naps, opens a can of beans, boils water for coffee, fishes. He thinks. He sleeps.

ernest hemingway with fish

…Nick felt happy. He felt he had left everything behind, the need for thinking, the need to write, other needs. It was all back of him.

Not much happens. The stories are descriptive, not plot-driven. Nick speaks only three times: once to a grasshopper, once out loud to himself, and once with his mouth full of food (“’Chrise,’ Nick said, ‘Geezus Chrise,’ he said happily.”).

The stories are about the aftermath of war. They are about being alone. Maybe a bit about healing, reconciling the past and present. The stories made me want to fish, to be alone for a while and eat what I caught. This might seem funny to anyone who knows me, but it’s true.

It’s been at least six years since I read about that big two-hearted river, and I haven’t yet been fishing. So maybe that means that my life hasn’t changed in any tangible way after all, but there are many times when things get crazy and I’m yearning for escape and I think about that river, those grasshoppers to which Nick says “Go on, hopper…Fly away somewhere.”

I still plan to fish, someday.


What about you, Seattle? What books have changed your life? Why? How? Tell us about them.

Tweet your answers #lifechangingbooks @iReadandSing

Poster Design for Michael Pollan at The Crocodile

Thinking Big and Banging It Out – Poster Design for Michael Pollan at The Crocodile

TONIGHT – Thursday, May 16th at the Crocodile, we have a super-tasty show covering a few of the acclaimed Michael Pollan’s best known books. You should go to it. And now…

If you’ve been to any Bushwick Book Club Seattle event in the last 3 years, what you probably haven’t heard us ask you as much as we should is: how did you hear about the show? Maybe you heard Geoff on the radio. Maybe you know one of the songwriters, musicians, or performers. Maybe you got a Facebook invite from a trusted friend. Maybe you wrote the book.

From now on, whatever the motivations for gathering your book loving butts up from your comfy armchairs actually are, when anyone asks why – you say, “Because of that F’ing Rad Poster.” That will make me feel awesome. Or it will make Michael Wallenfels feel awesome. It’s not important who gets to feel awesome as long as it’s one of us. The performers get to feel awesome all the time either by leaving the stage to a raucous applause, or by leaving the stage without having died of anxiety, or by getting all the chicks, etc. – c’mon, they will be fine.

I know that sounds like a designer saying, “Waaah! We don’t get anything!” Yes, but that would also be what we call “roping you in to a blog post.”

So actually, to be honest, we designers get all kinds of respect and recognition, and a ridiculous amount of praise, especially when like-minded artistic types are involved. But I had to find a way to start writing about the idea of a gig poster as something integral to a successful show. Really, it is very important, but its importance is intrinsic – it’s built in. You can’t not have a poster, or at least it’s not wise not to. Years of experience has taught me the only thing truly impactful about gig posters is whether or not you have one (and also if you distribute any).

Obviously that is simplifying things a bit – there is a wonderfully intricate landscape of gig poster history, from uncommonly awful to absolute works of art. But, The Bushwick book Club Seattle shows are a special kind of opportunity for everyone involved – the grand ambitions vs. reality tug-of-war of putting together something so quickly is not much different than the process all Bushwick performers know so well – a pressure cooker of great ideas and limited time.

Each event brings its own unique experiences for both performers and volunteers and audiences, so today we’re kicking off a regular segment meant to share a little more of that with you. In my case it’s the agony and ecstasy of show poster design, Bushwick style.

Follow along after the break with the (somewhat) less verbose story of the Michael Pollan poster.

Read more

GiveBig to Bushwick. Today is the day!

giveBig_side_v02Today is the day of The Seattle Foundation’s giveBig event. In case you don’t know by now, this is a one-day, online charitable giving event to inspire people to give generously to nonprofit organizations like The Bushwick Book Club Seattle. Every dollar donated will be partially matched by The Seattle Foundation’s sponsors.

Click HERE to donate to the Bushwick Book Club Seattle


Why giveBig to The Bushwick Book Club Seattle?

We have worked with over 100 musicians in the past 3 years.

giveGigDebbieThe Bushwick Book Club Seattle creates a platform for musicians to write and perform original music from a source outside of themselves, a process which is both challenging and fun. But wait… that is not all!  Our book inspired events also provide the audience (that’s you guys!) the chance to experience the source material in a way that’s far different than just sitting in a coffee shop reading alone. We can all join together as one big book reading music listening community. How cool is that?! The answer – it is super cool!

We offer free studio recording time to our Bushwick musicians.

albumArtOne of Bushwick’s goals is to support our artists in as many ways as possible and this doesn’t stop at filling a room with people who would not normally hear these wonderful performers. By offering our artists free studio recording time we give them the opportunity to create professional recordings of their book inspired tunes. But of course, it is free to them only because Bushwick pays for the whole operation. This is something that we are more than happy to do, however, as you probably already know studio time is not cheap and your donations will help go towards fitting our giant sized recording bills.

You can hear all of these book inspired songs over on our bandcamp page.

The Bushwick Podcast

We want to create podcasts of our live events for everyone to enjoy. This will certainly take a lot of time, effort and Bushwick dollars. To record the performances themselves, edit my voice out of everything (for the love of God), and mix down all of those musicians is quite a bit of work… and it will be well worth it! Your donations will make it possible.

Kids Programs
We love working with kids teaching critical thinking and songwriting skills. Our educational workshops in schools are very important to us. We have created our new program  to help encourage and educate students (future Bushwick artists!) in Seattle area schools. If you think this program is a good idea give me an emphatic “HELLLLLL YEAHHHHHH!” and then go over to our donation page and drop us some major coinage.

We might do your book

I’m not gonna lie folks, we would love to write and perform music inspired by everyone’s favorite book but I’m telling you right now, that is pretty much an impossible feat. I know, I know… I’m sad about it too, however, I’ve got some good news for you. If you donate $3000 or more to Bushwick we can and will put on an event inspired by YOUR favorite book. How amazing would that be? Any book you want… just let that sink in to your noggin for a second. I know you want to. Let me make it easy for you,  click here to donate.



The Bushwick Book Club Seattle is more than just the best book club in town. It is also an amazing community of musicians, artists, book lovers, music lovers, actors, comedians, sound engineers, designers, chefs, writers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, baristas… all coming together to help make Seattle one of the best places to live. I am honored to have worked with and gotten to know so many amazing people over the past few years.

This Guy….

He’s working hard to make this a success… but not without the help of the over 150 artists, actors, volunteers, and incredible Bushwick fans. Thank you all for everything. Please donate if you can.  We have a good thing here, let’s keep it going.

GiveBIG_CallToActionBushwickBring it folks!

Click HERE to donate


A Diet and Music Evolution

Today I was preparing for two upcoming events: rehearsing my song for the Bushwick Book Club Seattle’s performance of songs inspired by Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire and Omnivore’s Dilemma; and removing old music from my iPod so I can replace it with new music for my upcoming trip to the Netherlands to visit my wife’s family. In the process of my preparations, I found myself reflecting upon my personal evolution with my diet, as well as my music.

First to the diet…

nutty_bars_bushwick_v02When I was a kid I thought that I was healthier than other kids. I knew because my mom had my brother and I mix our Cocoa Puffs with Kix, our Cocoa Krispies with Rice Krispies, and our Frosted MiniWheats with regular MiniWheats. So rather than allowing us to have just the sugary cereals, we balanced the sweets with the “healthy” stuff. Moving forward into my teens I matured on a diet of what my mom called “plain” bologna sandwiches: bologna, a Kraft Singles cheese and Kraft yellow mustard on white bread, as well as a seemingly never ending supply of Little Debbie snacks cakes of all varieties: Nutty Butter Bars, Oatmeal Cookies, Twinkies and Ding Dongs. Needless to say, all of my high school friends never objected when I suggested we hang out at my house. Then, to the peak of my past dietary quirks, when on my first trip to Europe with my high school world history teacher and a group of students I was named Testa di Carne (“meathead” in Italian), due to my singular diet of meat and complete aversion to vegetables.

So, looking back, one might see that it has been quite an evolution for this bologna loving meathead to turn into the current pro-organic, semi-localvore, vegetarian writing this. While I don’t talk about my personal dietary choices (honestly I don’t, ask my friends), reading Omnivore’s Dilemma and then the writing of my Book Club song for the upcoming show made me think about why I’ve made the changes to my diet and I feel that it was as good of a time as any to talk from my little music soap box about my choices.

tofu_bushwickI first stopped eating meat in the summer of 2004 when one of my oldest and best friends John and I happened to both live in the same city for the summer. John, was at the time a new and, unlike me currently, a very vocal vegetarian. Every time we would go out to eat he couldn’t help but berate me about my selection of the chicken option in my Pad See Ew. As an attempt to move on to another subject, I eventually caved and ordered the tofu in the hopes of keeping him quiet. I had two realizations:

1.) The meal ended up being cheaper than my chicken version, saving a few bucks, and

2.) It tasted fine to me (remember I was fine with the taste of bologna).

So in order to save some money that summer and to shut John up for once, I decided to try out “vegetarianism” (it was actually pescetarianism). I ended up living by an “eat what you can kill” mentality, unsure to this day how I exactly decided to live by that motto. I still ate sushi, remembering all of the fishing trips I took with my dad and grandfather when I was little and the numerous rainbow trout my grandmother fried up after we gutted them. I eventually decided that I in fact would not feel comfortable killing fish anymore and a year later became a full veggie. Voilà!: A vegetarian evolution.

Since then, I’ve added on a strict preference for organic for the health reasons, both my own and the animals and the soil, and I do my best to buy local, which has been relatively easy being spoiled with the Northwest’s abundance. The environmental impacts of the food industry have also influenced many of my life choices as meat, non-organic, and non-local foods all have much higher levels of fossil fuel energy consumption than vegetables, organic and local foods (my main job and passion is around reducing fossil fuel consumption in the Building Sector).

So what does all of this have to do with music?

Well, beside my song being about my personal hope that we as humans will evolve beyond our basic instinct to kill other animals to sustain ourselves, this story of my dietary transformation has some parallels to my musical evolution.

I started out listening to the Oldies and Country, mostly Garth Brooks. It wasn’t until I hit high school and met John (my now vegan friend mentioned above) that I was introduced to what started with pop punk and morphed into indie rock. John was my first connection to the music of what would become my future home, Seattle, introducing me to the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Pedro the Lion, and Modest Mouse, all in their pre-national sensation state. I helped to buy John his first guitar and he helped me join the local music scene in our hometown and inspired me to play my first show. John was again responsible for a first major step in personal evolution, this time in music.

From there I largely took out on my own and have since headed back to some of my country western roots. What I found interesting as I was replacing music on my now increasing small 30 GB iPod for my upcoming trip is that most of my new music, just like my food, is local. Not just Seattle “local”, big time names like Fleet Foxes and the Cave Singers (those are on their too), but more personal local. My music selection, and preference, is now largely local Seattle musicians, mostly other singer songwriters and Americana acts that I’ve meet in the community, which includes the Bushwick Book Club Seattle. Like my food, I feel more enriched, knowing where my music comes from, the emotion put behind it, and the genuine purpose it serves.

So, thanks John, thanks Seattle and thanks Bushwick. I look forward to the next evolution.

Give Big to Bushwick on Wednesday, May 15th

Geoff Larson here. For those of you who don’t know me (and I sincerely hope by now that most of you do) I am the Creator and Program Director for The Bushwick Book Club Seattle. I have some very important news to share.

GiveBIG2013_BushwickBookClubSeattle_v01The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBig is coming up on Wednesday May 15th, 2013!

This is a one-day, online charitable giving event to inspire people to give generously to nonprofit organizations like The Bushwick Book Club Seattle that make our region a healthier and more vital place to live.

Each donation made to the more than 1,400 nonprofit organizations profiled on The Seattle Foundation’s website on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 will receive a prorated portion of the matching funds (or “stretch”) pool. The amount of the “stretch” depends on the size of the stretch pool and how much is raised in total donations on GiveBIG day.

What does this mean for The Bushwick Book Club Seattle and you?

It means that Bushwick has an amazing opportunity to accept donations that will grow into even larger donations from Seattle Foundation sponsors. We have a great need of funding to continue with our programs planned for this year and beyond. These projects include:

GiveBIG_CallToActionBushwickPlease take some time to visit Bushwick’s donation page. We have grand ambitions and your gifts will enable us to continue contributing to our communityEvery dollar donated will grow into even more dollars for Bushwick and the Seattle community!!

GiveBIG to Bushwick on Wednesday, May 15th, 2013!!!

Thanks, everyone! Read on!


Kerry’s Bushwick Wish List: Five Books that would inspire amazing songs

Recently I was asked what books I would most like to see inspire The Bushwick Book Club Seattle to write and perform some original songs. So in response I began to rather selfishly list all my favorite books I’ve read over the last ten years. The list was long (too long!), but after some careful thought I managed to refine it down to just five books that, in my opinion, would make for tantalizing Bushwick shows and some amazing original songs. Now, I am not sure if the creation of this list will actually lead to an event inspired by one of my picks (it probably won’t, but my fingers are crossed), but It certainly can’t hurt and I’m all about promoting my picks in the name of great entertainment. Here are my five book selections in no particular order.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (non-fiction)

stiffAt first, I was interested in a Bushwick show inspired by Roach’s book about sex, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, but as I read I became less and less inclined to hear songs inspired by dog testicle implants and people who ejaculate pigs for a living (fun stuff!). Just the thought of hearing the Bushwick artists sing songs even vaguely about sex-toy research and development left me a tad on the squeamish side. Instead, I’d rather hear songs about the use of human cadavers by doctors practicing face lifts. Although I do question as to exactly why I find this to be less upsetting. Anyhow, the book details what happens to cadavers when they are donated to science. It’s sometimes gruesome and often funny. Roach excels at making light of a serious and perhaps morbid topic. In addition to the aforementioned plastic surgery practice, there are chapters on ammunition testing, medical school classes and bombing victims. I’m not doing a good job selling Roach’s sense of humor, but she has a knack for sarcasm that successfully transfers to the page.

Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline (fiction)

readyPlayerOneBushwickWhen I heard this book lovingly referred to as Willy Wonka meets the Matrix, I knew I had to read it. The text is dripping with 1980s pop culture and nerd references that I adore. Much of the book reads as a love letter to favorite parts of my childhood including Pac-Man, Duran Duran and John Hughes movies. There are so many references to pull from and Bushwick performers would have a field day drawing inspiration from the text. The main character Wade Watts is a big nerd and spends most of his day plugged into a virtual world called the Oasis because the real world totally sucks and has been ruined by humanity. The creator of the Oasis left clues upon his death throughout the virtual world to lead someone to his vast fortune. Watts and other competitors both good and nefarious race to solve the puzzle and win the fortune. The book is an action adventure treasure hunt ripe with hundreds of nods to pop culture making a feast for the reader.

If on a Winter’s Night a Travler by Italo Calvino (fiction)

ifonawintersnighttravelerI am so in love with this book that it is hard for me to describe it. It’s beautiful. It is one of few books that I read very slowly and savored because I didn’t want it to end. I mourned the ending as it approached. The book is avant-garde and not for everyone, but I can’t help daydreaming about the song Tai Shan in particular could write inspired by this masterpiece. I think she would devour it and pen and sing a song that would make the room explode with awesomeness. I’ll leave you with some lines from an Amazon review because it describes it much better than I could.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler is a marvel of ingenuity, an experimental text that looks longingly back to the great age of narration–“when time no longer seemed stopped and did not yet seem to have exploded.” Italo Calvino’s novel is in one sense a comedy in which the two protagonists, the Reader and the Other Reader, ultimately end up married, having almost finished If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. In another, it is a tragedy, a reflection on the difficulties of writing and the solitary nature of reading. The Reader buys a fashionable new book, which opens with an exhortation: “Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade.” Alas, after 30 or so pages, he discovers that his copy is corrupted, and consists of nothing but the first section, over and over. Returning to the bookshop, he discovers the volume, which he thought was by Calvino, is actually by the Polish writer Bazakbal. Given the choice between the two, he goes for the Pole, as does the Other Reader, Ludmilla. But this copy turns out to be by yet another writer, as does the next, and the next.

Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy by Bill Simmons (non-fiction)

bookOfBasketballNow I don’t want to hear it. Yes, this is a book about sports. I know a lot of you musician and artsy-fartsy types out there don’t like sports, but here is some advice – Go buy yourself a deck of cards and deal with it! This book is incredible. Before I started reading it, I barely watched basketball and I knew next to nothing about the game’s history. My exposure to the NBA consisted solely of a vast appreciation for David Robinson’s arms. The good news is that you don’t actually need to know anything about basketball to enjoy the book because Simmons weaves such entertaining tales in between facts and statistics. I’d love to attend a March Madness themed show where each Bushwick performer would write a song inspired by one chapter in the book (much like Bushwick’s event last February based around Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States). That way all you whiny artsy types (you know who you are) wouldn’t have to read an entire book about professional basketball and I could enjoy odes to Larry Bird and the invention of the 24-second shot clock.

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell (non-fiction)

readyPlayerOneBushwickI heard a rumor that Bushwick might be considering a cookbook for an upcoming show. Although less interested in songs devoted to split-pea soup or various uses for anchovies, I became excited about the possibility of songs inspired by one of my favorite TV chefs, Julia Child. Child led an amazing life, first working for the OSS before starting her culinary career later in life. Powell’s book covers both Child’s intriguing life and her delicious recipes as she attempts to learn more about the chef and cook every recipe from the now classic tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Originally started as a blog, Julie and Julia’s chapters rotate between the trials and tribulations that Powell faces when attempting to cook Child’s recipes including much angst surrounding the killing of a lobster and passages on Child’s life. This pick would serve especially well as a counterpoint to the current Bushwick picks by Michael Pollan as this book would illustrate how food and cooking has changed since Mastering the Art of French Cooking was first published more than 50 years ago.

Well, there you have it. And Since they’re asking, what books have you been yearning to see Bushwick perform original music inspired by? Let’s see your choices!

Michael Pollan: “Get Back in the Kitchen!”

For most of my life the only way I knew to make scrambled eggs was to microwave them. All the better if you had a paper bowl to do it in. My mother microwaved everything, even pork chops. Also, I grew up in the Midwest, where vegetables are alien objects. (I once brought a pear to show-and-tell because I thought it was “weird.”)

There is hope for people like me, says Michael Pollan, author of seven books including national bestseller The Omnivore’s Dilemma. And not just me. Pollan thinks there is hope for everyone. (Guess what? I can roast vegetables now. Pears are no longer weird!)

Pollan’s out with a new book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. Transformation, he says, because he just likes the way it sounds. Or actually, like he told Jade Chang in an interview with Goodreads:

cover of Pollan's Cooked

I realized that that was what I was dealing with: the transformation of nature into culture. I’ve always been interested in transformation….Humans are in the transformation game in a way that very few other animals are. We take what nature gives us and then make something else out of it. And cooking, by the way, is the prototype of all transformations—it’s the first one. Claude Lévi-Strauss pointed out that all these different cultures think of nature as the raw and culture as the cooked, because that’s kind of the paradigm—taking something that’s just given by the natural world and making it into something that’s more useful, more appealing, more like us.

In Cooked, Pollan breaks down the ways in which we prepare food into the four elements: fire (good ol’ BBQ), water (braising), earth (fermenting, i.e., beer, cheese, etc.,), and air (baking).

The full interview is up on Goodreads and I recommend it. Highlights include:

Pollan compares bread to penises!

…there’s the Apollonian side of things and the Dionysian side of things, and the Apollonian side is more male, more visual, more sharply edged, essentially more like a penis….I mean, men like to make things, and they like artifacts, and bread is more an artifact than a lot of other food we make. And I won’t even talk about baguettes! 

Pollan endorses communism in response to Bloomberg’s soda ban!

I’m in favor of trying Mayor Bloomberg’s idea in New York to limit the size of cups. I just don’t think that’s trampling on people’s liberty! If you want 32 ounces of soda, you have to get two sodas instead of one….Let’s see if it works, let’s see if that pause between the first 16 ounces and the second 16 ounces just might discourage people from doing something that might really be bad for them! We need to try taxing soda and other forms of junk food. I think we need a federal definition of “What Is Food,” and we need to exclude things like soda that are not food, [that are] what I call edible, foodlike substances, and not let federal dollars support feeding those things to our children or including them in food stamps. 

We need to experiment with many, many social approaches to changing people’s diets, and we’ll see what works. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll throw it out! So I say…let a thousand strange flowers bloom

Pollan advises not to eat meat in airports!

It’s just a good rule of thumb.


If you want to hear more, head over to Goodreads.

And be sure to check out our upcoming show,

The Bushwick Book Club Seattle Presents Original music inspired by Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma & The Botany of Desire

May 16 at The Crocodile


What Will You Admit To? Bushwick Seattle’s Guiltiest Pleasures

It’s time to confess. We all have our secrets—but what haunts your playlists and bookshelves? What book do you stick on the shelf making sure the spine faces in? What songs are you embarrassed to listen to on repeat when no one else is home?

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

I’ll admit to one of mine: “All My Life” by K-Ci and JoJo. It started 15 years ago when my sister’s high school boyfriend was responsible for driving us where we needed to go. It was one of two CDs he always had playing in his car. I sat in the backseat–eighteen years old and boyfriendless–and practically wept at how romantic it was. I still love this song, even though the lyrics are the worst (e.g.,”Girl you are close to me you’re like my mother / Close to me you’re like my father”).

Here’s what a few of our Bushwick Bookclub Seattle volunteers admitted to:


I totally scoffed when you first asked this, even though I wanted to help. I thought, “Pssh. You can’t embarrass me. I own it.” And this is largely true. I still own a copy of Tiffany’s album and I don’t care who knows. Call Me Maybe… ? Love it. I was making this list in my head of all the bands I love to NOT feel guilty about, when it happened. It went like this: “There’s Glenn Medeirosthe Facts of Life theme song, Vanilla Ice, all that 90s lesbo-folk, and Debbie Gib-…oh. Fuck.” This is when I remembered that a friend had recently forced me to listen to Justin Bieber’s acoustic album…and I liked it. A lot. I feel so vulnerable right now.


Eagle Eye Cherry – “Save Tonight”

U2 – “Stuck in a Moment”



twilight_bushwickI have lots of guilty pleasures in books and music. I will share with you my biggest one: Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. Never in my life have I been so hopelessly addicted to something I knew was so terrible. Like my love of diet Dr. Pepper, the four Twilight books were a habit I just couldn’t quit despite knowing they were poisoning me from the inside out. I read page after page of nauseating descriptions of Bella’s love for Edward’s “sweet” breath even though it disgusted me. I found Edward’s stalking of Bella to be a bad example of a healthy relationship to present to tween readers and yet I read them with gusto. I digested them at a desperate pace, bringing the first on a trip with me, then buying the second and third at airport bookstores as I continued my travels. My guilt grew as I watched all five terrible movies even though viewing them made me both bored and sad. When friends started buying me movie merchandise including a horrific fleece blanket adorned with Jacob’s handsome but age-inappropriate face and I secretly liked it, I started to wonder if I could be a candidate for “My Strange Addictions.” It’s power over me was a force that I could not fight. Luckily for me, the series ended and there are no more books to co-opt my valuable reading time.


album cover for Savage Garden's AffirmationOkay… Here’s goes mine.

I secretly LOVE ridiculous/semi-trashy novels. My reigning guilty pleasures are The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. Both series completely consume me when I read them (and I don’t really want to admit how many times that has been) and let me escape!

Now for the music- again two songs since I can’t really choose. I absolutely love “Truly, Madly, Deeply” by Savage Garden. I also have an incredible fondness for “Hanging By a Moment” by Lifehouse. I used to sit upstairs and IM my high school boyfriend while listening to it blaring. Sigh.

Now it’s your turn: tell us about your secret playlists and bookshelves. Tweet us at @iReadandSing or add your comment below!