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.
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…
When 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.
I 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.
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:
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,