Arts & Culture

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017 Spokane is Reading book is A Land More Kind Than Home

Posted By on Tue, May 23, 2017 at 4:57 PM

With the summer months stretching ahead, and hopefully plenty of time for beach or backyard reading, bookworms of all stripes are already working on their extensive summer reading lists. Here's another title to add to the mix, this year's Spokane is Reading selection, A Land More Kind Than Home, by Wiley Cash.

Published in 2012 as Cash's debut, the bestselling title is narrated by three main characters living in rural Appalachia. On its website, Spokane is Reading describes the book as "a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all."

In a review by the Washington Post, the novel is described as a harrowing tale about the a community whose main moral compass is a fundamentalist church leader who uses his congregation's blind faith as a weapon against them.

Spokane author Jess Walter has said of the book: “Wiley Cash knows how to grab his reader on page one and hang on for dear life as he presents brilliant portraits of desperate people caught up in an underworld where danger, damage, drugs, and fractured families are all clasped in the tight fist of poverty.”

Though not sequels, Cash's bestselling second novel This Dark Road to Mercy has a somewhat similar tone,  examining the limits of love, family bonds, atonement and vengeance. His third novel, The Last Ballad, comes out about a month before Cash's visit to Spokane for two community events on Thursday, Nov. 9.

The 16th annual Spokane is Reading community reading event, sponsored and organized by the Spokane Public Library, the Spokane County Library District and Auntie's Bookstore, includes two free readings and talks with Cash, in Spokane Valley and downtown Spokane. Leading up to the November event, the community can engage with Cash's works through book discussions and other programming at Spokane libraries and Auntie's.
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SIFF 2017: Seattle's biggest film fest kicked off last weekend; we were there to check it out

Posted By on Tue, May 23, 2017 at 3:42 PM

Kyle Mooney in Brigsby Bear.
  • Kyle Mooney in Brigsby Bear.

The 43rd annual Seattle International Film Festival kicked off last weekend, boasting a program that features more than 400 titles from 80 countries. If the recent Spokane International Film Festival sparked your taste for bold, provocative world cinema, seriously consider making the pilgrimage to SIFF. It’s worth the trip.

I drove across the state last week for the occasion, and, as is always the case, the schedule boasted more interesting movies than I could conceivably get to. I plan on going back for more before the festival ends on June 11. Here are some of the biggest titles I managed to see; all of these films appear to have distribution deals, so expect them to show up in theaters or on demand in the coming months.

Beatriz at Dinner

Racism, classism and cultural elitism come to a boil in the newest dark comedy from director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White (The Good Girl, the TV series Enlightened). Salma Hayek stars as the title character, a masseuse who is invited to an intimate dinner party at a wealthy client’s home and goes toe-to-toe with a real estate mogul (John Lithgow) who represents the opposite of everything she believes in. It’s occasionally biting, and the performances are good, but the characters feel more like representations of ideas than real people.

Brigsby Bear

Saturday Night Live cast member Kyle Mooney plays James, an awkward guy who suffers two rude awakenings: Not only does he learn that he was abducted as a child and raised in an underground bunker, but the only TV show he’s ever seen, an educational program called Brigsby Bear Adventures, was merely the creation of his captor (Mark Hamill). After being returned to his biological family in suburban Utah, James sets out to finish Brigsby’s decades-long saga himself. Despite its premise, this is a deceptively sweet, if majorly formulaic, comedy.

The Force

Documentarian Peter Nicks spent two years following the inner workings of the Oakland Police Department, and he brilliantly captures an organization that publicly presents itself as trustworthy, even as corruption and violence destroy it from within. This was easily the best film I saw all weekend, an unblinking, evenhanded portrait of a city in turmoil, and how people on either side of the thin blue line are impacted.

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in The Trip to Spain.
  • Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in The Trip to Spain.

The Trip to Spain
If you’ve seen the first two Trip movies, you won’t find any surprises here: British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, playing slightly fictionalized versions of themselves, travel through the Spanish countryside, eating amazing food and trying to outshine one another in endless improv routines. A little of their act goes a long way for me (like its predecessors, this feels like a solid 90-minute feature stretched to two hours), but there’s still some funny stuff in here, including Coogan and Brydon’s dueling Mick Jagger impressions.

The Unknown Girl

Known for sparse but intense dramas like Le Enfant and Two Days, One Night, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are among my favorite living filmmakers. Their latest, however, is a bit of a letdown, the story of a young doctor (Adèle Haenel) who seeks to uncover the identity of a young woman whose death she feels somehow responsible for. It’s got moments of terrific tension, but the Dardennes’ methodical, fly-on-the-wall approach doesn’t really jive with a plot that sometimes resembles a Law and Order episode.

The Seattle International Film Festival continues through June 11; see a full schedule and purchase tickets here.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Author Jess Walter to receive Humanities Washington Award this fall

Posted By on Mon, May 22, 2017 at 3:44 PM

Spokane author Jess Walter will receive a Humanities Washington Award in October.
  • Spokane author Jess Walter will receive a Humanities Washington Award in October.

The state's vital overseer of all things arts-related has picked the recipients of its two annual Humanities Washington Awards, and one of them is Spokane's own Jess Walter.

The awards honor achievements in public humanities for both "Philanthropy and Leadership" and "Scholarship and Service." Walter is receiving the latter for his various works promoting literature and the arts. Among the reasons given by Humanities Washington are his co-founding of Spark Central in Spokane, his regularly participation in the Get Lit! literary festival and his work for the awarding organization, including serving on the awards' selection committee in 2009.

Walter will receive his honor at Humanities Washington's Bedtime Stories fundraiser in Spokane on Oct. 27. His fellow recipient is Seattle philanthropist Martha Kongsgaard, who has worked as a volunteer and organizer for various arts and environment-related groups for decades on the west side of the state.

"Our two honorees exemplify the most positive aspects of the humanities," said Humanities Washington Executive Director Julie Ziegler at today's announcement. "Jess is one of our state's most popular authors and Martha is deeply involved in so many charitable causes, yet each works tirelessly to ensure programs exist to help communities think critically, express openness to a variety of perspectives and nurture creativity."

Walter, the best-selling author of Beautiful Ruins and several other books, is a former Spokesman-Review reporter. He joins current state poet laureate and Gonzaga professor Tod Marshall as Spokane residents who have won Humanities Washington Awards in recent years.
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Downtown nightclub Stray has closed its doors for good

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 9:15 AM

The downtown Spokane nightclub Stray and its 509 Ultra Lounge are no more.

The gay/alternative lifestyle bar at 415 W. Sprague 
Stray, which was located at 415 W. Sprague, is gone after less then 15 months.
  • Stray, which was located at 415 W. Sprague, is gone after less then 15 months.
was open less than 15 months after launching last February, moving into the space formerly occupied by one of the city's most legendary nightspots, the gay bar Irv's.

Stray, adjacent to the Satellite Diner & Lounge, was known for its drag shows, DJs, karaoke and dance parties — it made the top three among area dance clubs, as voted upon by Inlander readers earlier this year — as well as a dress code that generally left it up to bartenders what they wore at work: usually, that resulted in the bar staff wearing only underwear; bras and booty shorts for female bartenders, and boxer shorts for the bare-chested males.

While Stray catered to Spokane's LGBTQ community, its clientele certainly was not exclusively gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, and it was known as a place where anyone who respected other patrons was welcome. A big draw was the thrice-weekly drag shows featuring the ensemble Le Gurlz, led by Spokane's best-known drag queen, Nova Kaine (aka Jason Johnson).

The following statement, which appeared on Nova Kaine's Facebook page earlier this week, was shared on the pages of both Stray and the 509 Ultra Lounge, which opened last June:

"It is with great sadness that I have to confirm the closure of Stray Nightclub. After pouring blood, sweat, and tears into that Building for the last 12+ years I had to pack my wigs, dresses, and shoes out of a dressing room we built. Turning off the lights for the last time was hard. But I have been here before. The closure of Dempsey's, Hollyrock, Spotlight, and 412, Le Gurlz has survived them all. Just another closed chapter of this Epic Adventure. Time to open a new Chapter."

In addition, Stray posted this short message on its Facebook page:

"It is with regret we must announce that Stray/509 Ultra Lounge is now closed. We want to thank all you who have supported us and enjoyed our shows and hope that you have a great  Summer!" — Stray/509 Management

Calls to Stray's telephone number (624-4450) were not answered. Co-owners Brenton Holland and Tyler Newman, who ran the business and own two similar bars in Everett, were not available for comment.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

2017-18 Best of Broadway Spokane show lineup announced

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 3:17 PM

The 20th anniversary tour of Rent is one of the 2017-18 season's big gets.
  • The 20th anniversary tour of Rent is one of the 2017-18 season's big gets.

Though its current season has yet to wrap up — still on the calendar is Cinderella (May 11-13) and this summer's blockbuster season finale, The Phantom of the Opera (June 28-July 9) — the musicals and stage shows coming to the INB Performing Arts Center starting this fall were just announced today. The 2017-18 season is now to be known as STCU Best of Broadway, as the Spokane Teachers Credit Union takes on a title sponsorship agreement.

Here are the shows to budget tickets for in the next season. (Season ticket packages are available now; individual tickets for each show will be released at a later date, to be announced.)

Broadway touring shows:
Something Rotten, Oct. 3-7
Rent (20th Anniversary Tour), Nov. 30-Dec. 3
Motown: The Musical, Jan 24-28, 2018
The Sound of Music, March 22-25, 2018
Dirty Dancing, April 26-29, 2018

Special engagements:
A Night With Janis Joplin, Oct. 15
Tuesdays with Morrie: The Play, Nov. 14
New York Voices, The Pedrito Martinez Group (EWU Jazz Dialogue Festival), Nov. 17
Mannheim Steamroller by Chip Davis, Nov. 18
Wizard of Oz, Dec. 5-6
Darlene Love, Dec. 13
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Do you DIY, upcycle or craft? Get free materials Saturday at ZeroLandfill Spokane

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 12:35 PM

If your sewing machine never gets tucked away, your toolbox, glue and scissors are always ready for the next project, or you're just looking for some creative inspiration, ZeroLandfill Spokane has you covered.

This Saturday, April 22 (Earth Day!), people can come get free materials from the Inland Northwest City Center (a chapter of the International Interior Design Association) and save things from going to the dump.

Some of the things you might find include "fabric, carpet, wall covering, wood, tile, stone, glass, rubber, vinyl, laminate and much more," according to the event page, and there will be free activities for the kids.

"The Interior Design & Architecture community will collect expired and unwanted material samples for reuse and creative upcycling by educators, artists, DIY-ers, and crafters," says the event page. "Last year we diverted several tons of material from the waste stream."

The event goes from 9 am to 2 pm at FloForm, 5320 E. Sprague Ave., #400.

NOTE: If you want first dibs, you've got to register by 5 pm today to get in the door 30 minutes early. It's free, so what are you waiting for?

Don't forget, the event is also BYOB — bring your own bag or box to carry your finds home.

More information and pictures with crafting ideas can be found on the ZeroLandfill Facebook page:

  • IIDA Inland Northwest City Center's poster for ZeroLandfill Spokane

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

What We've Been... Watching

From nature docs to comedy, and superheroes to cinematic masters

Posted By on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 12:25 PM

Welcome back to the Inlander staff's semi-regular rundown of the cool and worthwhile things we've been into lately: words we've been reading, shows we've been watching, music/podcasts we've been listening to, games we've been high-scoring, and tasty treats we've been drinking/eating. This week, we're nerdin' out about some of the best moving pictures — a range of genres — to binge watch:

Find past installments of "What We've Been..." here.

Legion embeds an effective commentary about stigmas of mental illness.
  • Legion embeds an effective commentary about stigmas of mental illness.
In this age of endless superhero mega-franchise reboots/prequels/sequels, it can be hard to stand out. Especially so if general audiences are not well-versed in the intricately nuanced universes of said franchises. But with Legion, the latest episodic installment in the Marvel cinematic universe, you really don't have to know a darn thing about the X-Men to understand and to enjoy the show. In fact, not knowing anything, or very little, about the mutants may just be what makes Legion so good. (It's better, for sure, than its ongoing Marvel universe counterparts on Netflix telling the origins of the Defenders: Luke Cage, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist.)

In part, Legion stands out because, as a self-contained story, we hear nothing about the X-Men of notoriety. No one mentions Wolverine, Storm, Professor X, etc. Instead, this story, in the simplest terms, revolves around a group of specially-abled mutants who are just trying to figure out how to control their powers/abilities while hiding from a militarized government that's hellbent on destroying them, or using them to its advantage. On the surface, Legion is a story about ostracized underdogs trying to find their place in the world, yet it also serves as careful commentary on the cultural stigma of mental illness. Main character David Haller (aka Legion, though we never hear him referred to by this name; and played wonderfully here by Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey and Beauty and the Beast fame) has been told all his life that he's schizophrenic, when, in fact, his symptoms have manifested as part of his inherent mutant powers.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pullman artist's "cat power" design raises thousands for national, local nonprofits

Posted By on Sat, Mar 11, 2017 at 5:46 PM

After separate campaigns featuring this design to support Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, artist Cori Dantini is raising money for a local group. - CORI DANTINI
  • Cori Dantini
  • After separate campaigns featuring this design to support Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, artist Cori Dantini is raising money for a local group.

As the weather gets warmer with the arrival (finally!) of spring, opportunities to comfortably wear those pink, cat-ear beanies are going to become fewer for supporters of the Trump-era women's movement.

But thanks to a project by local artist Cori Dantini, feminists of all stripes can spread their message of support in the form of a tasteful T-shirt design by the Pullman artist, who's selling them via the online fundraiser platform Booster to raise money for national and local social-service nonprofits.

Dantini's T-shirt design came from this art she made for a Women's March sign.
  • Dantini's T-shirt design came from this art she made for a Women's March sign.
Dantini launched her first "cat POWER" campaign in late January, selling T-shirts with an original design she first doodled on a sign she carried in that month's Women's March. People loved her stylized drawing of a striped cat wearing a pink "pussy hat" pulled down over its eyes like a ski-mask, and with the word "power" emblazoned across its furry chest.

"People said they would wear it on a T-shirt, and I was like 'OK, I'm going to see what I can sort out,'" Dantini says.

Booster made the process easy for the busy artist, handling the product procurement, printing, shipping and payout to her chosen benefactor,  Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Supporters were able to choose from a variety of shirt colors and styles for men and women. By the campaign's end, more than 360 shirts sold, raising a total of $5,640.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Comic Margaret Cho headed to Northern Quest for June show

Posted By on Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 11:58 AM

Margaret Cho performs at Northern Quest on June. 1.
  • Margaret Cho performs at Northern Quest on June. 1.

Margaret Cho is a woman of many talents. She acts, she makes music, she's a noisy political activist and, above all else, she's funny as hell.

That's the role she'll be in — standup comedian — when she visits Northern Quest Resort & Casino on Thursday, June 1. Tickets for the show go on sale Saturday morning at 8:30 am through the Northern Quest website or by calling the box office at 877-871-6772.

Cho's comedy is informed by growing up in San Francisco in the late '60s and early '70s, as well as being the all-American daughter of Korean parents, and she mines everything from sexuality to family life to politics in her standup.

Yes, you can probably expect a lot of jokes at the current president's expense.

Most recently, Cho was nominated for a Grammy for Best Comedy Album for her set American Myth.
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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What We've Been... Playing

Anti-social-ish party games, word puzzles, bug battles and a long-awaited follow up

Posted By on Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 4:43 PM

Welcome back to the Inlander staff's semi-regular rundown of the cool and worthwhile things we've been into lately: words we've been reading, shows we've been watching, music/podcasts we've been listening to, and tasty treats we've been drinking/eating. This week, we're telling you about the coolest, nerdiest games we've been wearing down our thumbs playing.

Find past installments of "What We've Been.." here.

Every so often, I go on a hyper-focused game binge on my phone, playing the same app during every spare minute until I get completely sick of it and swear off phone games, for at least a few more weeks. When I do play, I gravitate toward games that are simple enough I can almost meditatively play them while watching TV or before I fall asleep.

Recently I came back to a solid standby that’s been on my phone for a few years: SpellTower. In a nutshell, you connect letters from a seemingly random jumble to create words. The longer and more complex the word, the more points you get. The game has a few modes — you might be trying to prevent your stacks of letters from reaching the top of the screen, or you might just be trying to get the most points from a single dwindling stack.

You’re reminded at the end of each round what your all-time best word was (for me, the elusive 880-point “quarantines”) and see how your best word this round compares. I play to beat my best scores, but you can also play someone you know in multiplayer mode. It’s simple, engaging and just right for this word nerd. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

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