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Hoot House Updates

May 26, 2010

First off, head on over to hoothouse.com and check out the temporary blog about Hoot House Productions. To give a quick update on the company, all our paperwork is done and we are looking for business.

Some of us have opened up a stand at the Fremont Sunday Market selling crafts and things.

A first draft mix of the Lonely Kazoo music is officially fully complete. I will update when we get it all hosted (should be very soon). It’s totally rad.

If you or anyone you know is good at/has an in making vinyl records, CDs, creative CD cases, costumes, anything else awesome, contact us. We are WAY open to suggestions for teaming-up with other projects around town.

We are also looking for local artists who might be interested in holding a gallery/performance/whatever with the Lonely Kazoo in August. Our opera is awesome, but it’s only about 30 min. We need creative people to share the stage with.

Hums and kisses,

LKZ.

Taking Lanes Away from Cars Is Better for Everyone

May 25, 2010

The way a street looks has more to do with the way people drive than anything else. Specifically, drivers are more territorial when they are on streets that look like they were made for cars.

A recent report released by the Seattle Department of Transportation looks at what happened to traffic, bike use and safety after taking a vehicle lane from Stone Way and adding pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Publicola has a good breakdown of the highlights:

• The percentage of drivers exceeding the 30 mph speed limit on Stone Way by 10 mph or more dropped about 75 percent—from about 4 percent to about 1 percent. A pedestrian struck at 20 mph, according to studies cited in SDOT’s report, has an 85 percent chance of survival, compared to only 15 percent for a pedestrian struck at 40 mph.

• While car traffic on Stone Way decreased 6 percent after the road was rechannelized, bike traffic increased a whopping 35 percent, with bike traffic representing around 15 percent of rush-hour trips on the road.

Traffic on neighborhood streets did not increase, as some neighborhood residents feared; instead, it actually declined substantially, with traffic volumes as much as 49 percent lower on streets parallel to Stone Way…

• Collisions between cars and cars, bikes, and pedestrians declined dramatically—14 percent—after the new bike lane and sharrow were introduced. And collisions causing injuries fell even further—33 percent. Finally, car collisions with pedestrians declined even more dramatically —fully 80 percent.

In the immediate, this report should give some weight to argue against those worried about traffic problems when Nickerson goes on a “diet.” But I am also interested in something slightly more psychological that came up during this study that I have been thinking about as I ride my bike around the city experiencing both spaces of peace and spaces of aggression. Maybe cars get so mad at me because the streets they are on look like they are for cars only. Maybe it’s more about territorial protection than the fear of losing precious time. It’s about the vehicle-weight hierarchy, sure, but maybe it’s too simple to just say the rule is always “More Weight > Less Weight.” Maybe that rule only applies to roads where a bicycle or pedestrian appears to be out-of-place.

Compare this photo with the photo up top. The lane nearest the camera does not even have a bike lane, but the design of the street now “says” that the street is for cars, bicycles and pedestrian crossings. Just by changing the street layout and putting something other than traffic lanes on the street, speeding, injuries and pedestrian collisions dramatically dropped. The report also notes that traffic did not become more congested. Perhaps that’s because biking increased 35 percent.

So I’m riding south on Westlake. It’s a four-lane, car-dominated street. People are honking and frustrated and yelling at me, speeding WAY too close to me as they pass me. You know, the usual. It’s scary and it is, indeed, dangerous. Why is this street so much worse than most the others? Well, it looks like this:

This looks like a car’s domain. And nevermind that cars will hit stop lights at either Nickerson or Mercer, they will speed and be angry with you, anyway. It’s not about speed or time (there are two lanes, so they are only out like 10-15 seconds max if they have to slow down and change lanes to pass me, and they are out zero if they hit a red light, which they nearly always do). It’s not like drivers on Westlake are meaner people than drivers on other streets. It’s about the fact that I do not look like I belong on this street. This is car territory, and any infringement on that will be met with hostility.

Street Films has a very interesting interview with Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book “Traffic.” At one point, Tom compares the car bubble to the anonymity of Internet message boards and comments. People in cars are less likely to see those outside their cars as people, and they feel empowered to behave in ways that they would never behave to someone’s face. Basically, people in cars are a lot like commenters on SeattleTimes.com (or any major daily newspaper website). That makes sense. I can’t tell you how many times normal people have sped by me going a potentially lethal speed within a foot of my bike. Those same people would never swing a knife at me or shoot a gun within a foot of my body. Yet they made a decision that is just as dangerous, and they probably didn’t think twice about doing it. When you are in the car, you are willing to risk the life of someone else in order to save a potential ten seconds.

It is the city’s responsibility to change the streets so the lives and rights of everyone are respected. A space that says, “This is for cars,” will create aggression and are dangerous. Clearly, people should take responsibility for their action, but cities should revamp spaces that repeatedly encourage dangerous behavior.

Our streets do not need to be so scary.

We’re actually going to light the ocean on fire?

April 28, 2010

So, we’re going to light the ocean on fire. When I first heard, I thought it was a joke. But as you watch this video, you begin to get the feeling that their other solutions are even dumber.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

First off, a dome? So what are we going to do with a dome full of oil? It’s like throwing a basket over a mouse in the kitchen. Whew, it’s trapped… but there’s still a freaking mouse in the kitchen! I guess there’s some pipe that supposed to bring the oil to the surface, I guess to be put on ships and taken … somewhere else?

Then they are going to drill two more wells and pump cement into the earth’s crust. Nothing bad will come of that, I’m sure.

As a kazoo made of petroleum-based plastic, I am, of course, concerned about all the plastic trash floating in the Gulf of Mexico that will inevitably be covered in crude oil. That stuff is smelly! Also, when they light the ocean on fire, what will happen to the oil-covered plastics floating around!

THINK OF THE PLASTICS!

Before we know it, the plastic filling the stomachs of our ocean’s whales will be tainted with toxic crude oil.

Coastal fish near the Mississippi River Delta don’t need to worry about the oil reaching them and coating them with oil, though. After all, they are already dead due to the over 8,500 square mile hypoxic dead zone there.

But I digress. Let’s focus on the question at hand, courtesy of British Petroleum: Is it better to light the ocean on fire or let the oil cover the Louisiana coast wetlands?

Plastic Jonah

April 20, 2010

This plastic bag was just removed from the stomach of a beached whale in West Seattle, which is open in the background. Photo by Cascadia Research.

Human trash filled the stomach of a gray whale that mysteriously washed up on a beach in West Seattle and died April 14. From Cascadia Research, who is conducting the necropsy:

The 37 foot near-adult male was found to be in better nutritional condition than some of the other gray whales that have died in recent weeks and starvation was not considered a major contributor to the cause of death. The animal had more than 50 gallons of largely undigested stomach contents consisting mostly of algae but also a surprising amount of human debris including more than 20 plastic bags, small towels, surgical gloves, sweat pants, plastic pieces, duct tape, and a golf ball. The debris while numerous, made up only 1-2% of the stomach contents and there was no clear indication it had caused the death of the animal. It did clearly indicate that the whale had been attempting to feed in industrial waters and therefore exposed to debris and contaminants present on the bottom in these areas.

I mention it often on this blog, but this reminds me of the work of Chris Jordan (view the Midway photos). I’m not sure people really understand that plastic does not biodegrade, and that so much of it inevitably ventures out to sea. Majestic whales and curious sea birds eat what they can find in their environment. If their environment is trash, well … you see what happens.

A commenter on the West Seattle Blog called the contents of the whale’s stomach “junk food.” It’s interesting how humans export their disregard for their own bodies to the bodies of beings in the ocean. If you’re willing to eat a Double Down, then you probably don’t care if a gray whale eats the plastic bag your “sandwich” came in.

In the Book of Jonah, Jonah attempts to flee from his duty fulfilling God’s will. A great storm picks up, and it becomes apparent to all on the ship that the storm is Jonah’s fault. The sailors throw him overboard, and the storm stops. Jonah is then swallowed by a whale (or large fish) sent by God to save Jonah’s life. In the stomach of the whale, Jonah prays for redemption and vows to leave behind his false idols and turn back to God’s temple.

5 The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.

6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you brought my life up from the pit,
O LORD my God.

7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

9 But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the LORD.”

10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

But plastic cannot repent for sins it did not commit. Swallowed by a sea giant, plastic remains plastic. The ones responsible for the product are unaware of the whale and unaware of the consequences of their actions.

Without vowing to turn from their ways, humans will continue to bring down great wonders of the sea. 90 percent of big fish in the ocean have already disappeared. Like Jonah, human redemption will require sacrifice. But without this sacrifice, we will someday be lost at sea, our bodies wrapped in seaweed, and there will be no big fish left to swallow us up and carry us to shore.

The beached gray whale that washed up in West Seattle.

The whale's stomach, full of trash.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Brave Little Toaster and The Lonely Kazoo

April 15, 2010

A great mentor and teacher visited this site and noted that the story is, in some ways, a reworking of a Hans Christian Andersen story called “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” sometimes called “The Brave Tin Soldier.” I had never read the story, but I am tickled by the similarities.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier

In the story, a one-legged tin soldier falls in love with a paper ballerina in a child’s room full of toys. However, he falls out a window and some kids put him in a paper boat and float him down the gutter, where he goes into the sewer and is threatened by some rats. He makes it out to sea, where he is swallowed up by a fish that is caught and sold back to the house he came from. So once again within the same room as his paper ballerina, some boy snatches him up and throws him in the fire for no reason (bastard!). Then the wind tosses the ballerina into the fire, where she instantly burns up. The soldier cries a tin tear drop (That’s right, The Mascara Snake!) then melts into a heart.

This led to a thought experiment. I suppose The Lonely Kazoo is sort of taking lessons from both Hans Christian Andersen and The Brave Little Toaster (makes me wonder if they got that title from the Andersen story).

The Brave Little Toaster

In the Brave Little Toaster, the appliances go on a long adventure after their master abandons them for new, modern appliances AS SEEN ON TV!!!!!

The characters must confront the world as it is, and their new lives as obsolete household items. The story is one of perseverance of character as the group must assert that they still have value. Once they admit their worthlessness, they accept their death.

(Note: Van Dyke Parks wrote some of the songs! Way cool.)

Broken, obsolete, disposable

The Tin Soldier must confront his apparent lack of worth due to his missing leg. The Toaster’s group confronts their obsolescence. Our hero LKZ confronts similar realities, but his story is not so much one of technological advancement or functionality, but of the nature of one-time-use disposable culture. He was a perfectly fine kazoo when he was tossed from the car. His fate rested with the fact that he was cheap to manufacture, and therefore seen as disposable. There is no use in the kazoo trying to assert himself as useful; no one cares to listen. They can just buy a new, clean kazoo if they really want one.

Interacting with nature

The Steadfast Tin Soldier is swallowed up by a fish once he makes it out to sea. That fish is then caught, and he is returned to the human world. Our hero LKZ and his plastic friends in the Pacific choke and kill the sea birds that try to eat them, but they remain in the Pacific and largely unchanged.

(Images by Seattle photographer Chris Jordan.)

Both LKZ and Toaster have interactions with fields and forests. To both LKZ, the bugs and trees and animals are terrifying and unfamiliar. In one of the saddest scenes ever in a kids’ movie, Toaster is forced to dismiss a lonely flower who mistakes its reflection in Toaster’s stainless steel sheen as a companion.

Out of context

In all three stories, items created by humans with a specific purpose have to encounter the world out of context. The absurdity of their creation depresses and alienates them. Yet their conviction to redefine themselves despite the lack of human consideration is heroic and Brave. Their persistent existence reveals how absurd it is for humans to continue to create things that someday become seen as worthless.

Our first production meeting!

April 14, 2010

We held our first production meeting for the Lonely Kazoo show Monday evening at the Hoot House. It was really great to hear everyone’s ideas for the project and to get on the same page. It was a creative storm, and it’s going to be a wonderful collaboration of many brilliant, wonderful minds.

Here’s (vaguely) what we discussed. If you have any thoughts on any of this, either email us or write a comment!

Timeline

We are vaguely aiming to perform the full show in mid-August. This works best around people’s summer travel plans and gives us time to dedicate ourselves to whatever venue we end up in.

Performance concept

The idea is to have a band, a screen and acting space. There was agreement that the actor playing our hero, the kazoo, should be the one to sing. We had previously tossed around the idea of the band singing the songs like a rock concert, with the actors basically miming everything, but the story would be much more clear and more inviting to have the actors voice their roles. The actors will perform the show in front of abstract projections, possibly on a stage made simply from a few platforms.

Costumes

Costumes were discussed briefly. It looks like we’re probably going to make a human-sized kazoo costume for our lead. Some ideas were thrown about for materials. Any suggestions? We will also need either a Dumpster or a series of trash bins or both. Making trash costumes should be great fun.

Projections

Maybe using an overhead projector, using colors to give an abstract feeling of place and movement? We also watched videos of sand animation…

That doesn’t look so hard! …

Choreography

We discussed the entire production team (and whoever’s around/interested) working together on some improv movement exercises to help inform the movements that make it into the show. Our team has several great dancers to help lead this end of the project. We noted the need to practice movements that not only fit with the happiness of much of the show, but also recognize the dark reality of plastics and environmental destruction.

Community involvement

We don’t have money, but we have a fantastic project with lots of room for creativity. Anyone interested in helping out in any way they can imagine, drop us a line or comment on the site. I imagine we will need help making costumes, we will need dancer and musicians, there is space for visual artists and sculptors and whatever you can imagine. If you want to dedicate some time to the project, let’s meet. We’ll have meetings every week, and new faces and minds will be welcome.

Awesome Altoids tin electric guitar and amp combo

April 13, 2010

A guitar amp made from an Altoids tin

I am inspired.

Making electric guitars out of Altoids tins is apparently the new BIG thing. Well, OK, maybe big is the wrong word. Let’s just say there are more unique and awesome designs (like this one using a ruler for a neck) out there than you would think.

Notice the kazoo in the background ... an inventor with taste!!

There are also Altoids tin amps, allowing you to play your Altoids tin guitar through a matching amp.

But why stop there? We can make amps out of all kinds of things, like this pony keg amp:

Or, you know what? Let’s just skip the guitars altogether and use our Altoids tin solar-powered theremin:

If you or anyone you know is into awesome crazy instruments, please be my BFF.