Decorating for Communists!

The Seattle Weekly combines politics and home and garden advice; Baltimore reporters explore the origins of movie trailers.

By Jenn Shreve
Published April 30, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Seattle Weekly, April 29-May 5

"So you want to be a Communist ..." by Geov Parrish

While it's possible that the editors of the Seattle Weekly took temporary leave of their senses last week, I want to believe that they are aware of the irony in running a package titled "So you want to be a Communist ..." alongside their annual Home and Garden issue. On the one page are lists of volunteer-starved lefty organizations, essays bemoaning the demise of socialism in the Pacific Northwest and a report on local teamsters. On the other is the sort of editorial mix Martha Stewart would produce if someone had dropped her some E and pierced her labia early in life: artist loft decor, a tell-all by a floral school dropout, the quest for the perfect bean bag chair and a dismal story about an underpaid writer's visit to one of those upscale, minimalist furniture stores with $10,000 wardrobes and couches shaped like kidney beans.

Both packages are a little off. The Home and Garden coverage can't decide whether it's catering to soon-to-be yuppies or anti-Ikea thrift-shoppers. And what becoming a Communist means exactly is never clearly defined. According to writer Geov Parrish, it has something to do with volunteering for one of Seattle's "more than 1,000 environmental groups, peace groups, social justice groups, church committees, unions, community councils, radical art groups, queer groups, women's groups, PTSAs, human rights groups, alternative media groups, campus groups, and, of course, revolutionary sects in our area, trying to influence public or corporate policy."

While I won't go into why Mr. Parrish needs to go back and read his Communist Manifesto, I would like to suggest that next year the Seattle Weekly combine these editorial offerings to create the first ever Pinko Home and Garden issue. Here are some story ideas to get things started:

  • How to garden like a true proletariat
  • Profiles of five ACLU lawyers' office decor
  • Bourgeois comfort and Stalinist style -- you CAN have it all
  • The ashcan of history: Wire, wicker or painted paper?
  • Coffee-table books you can proselytize with
  • Lenin in your living room: a guide to the couch-coordinated statuary

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"How Gates Got Game" by Mike Romano

With the growing success of Microsoft Network's Gaming Zone site, Bill Gates is following the money into the online gaming market. But before he can plunge wholeheartedly into the fun and games, he must grapple with the concept that not everyone uses computers for office management purposes -- a belief that runs contrary to his own vision. Mike Romano's reporting on Microsoft is consistently fresh and intelligent.

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The Stranger (Seattle), April 28-May 4

"Ex-Gay Conventioneers!" by Dan Savage and David Schmader

On May 1, Seattle is hosting a one-day conference called "Love Won Out," devoted to the prevention and overcoming of homosexuality through Juheeezus. Wickedly funny columnist Dan Savage and David Schmader take aim at their easy targets, kindly supplying a city guide customized for ex-gays. All the recommended restaurants serve fried chicken; the hotels selected are meant to test the determination of former homos to remain straight. They even provide a list of places for newly born-again gays and lesbians to backslide.

"The Art of the Crime" by Charles Mudede

An analysis of police crime scene sketches as art, launched from the Proustian premise that "the purpose of art ... is to permit one person access to the soul of another." Mudede looks at why some cops represent suicide victims as stick figures, while others draw them as gingerbread men. Someone, turn this story into a coffee-table book to sell at Urban Outfitters pronto!

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Baltimore City Paper, April 28-May 4

"Two-minute warning" by Heather Joslyn and Jack Purdy

Once, while shopping in Seattle, I was lured into a booth by a strange woman, shown two trailers for "Mr. Holland's Opus" and asked to give my valued consumer opinion. "I would rather die than see that movie," I muttered as I fled the scene in search of a Brita filter. I found the "Phantom Menace" trailer boring, and I'd like to strangle whoever is responsible for shoving that annoying, Offspring-blaring "Idle Hands" preview down my throat every five minutes on WB. Previews used to be fun, flirty invites to see a movie. Now they're mini-epics that lay out every pivot in the plot in full stereo voice-over so there's no need to see the damn film. Heather Joslyn and Jack Purdy take on this phenomenon and others as they plunge into a fascinating look at how previews are made and how they've become an art form (I use the a-word loosely) unto themselves.

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Willamette Week, April 28-May 4

"Under Fire" by Patty Wentz

In the wake of Littleton, the National Rifle Association is facing an uphill public relations battle. Patty Wentz files a balanced report on the struggles of several Oregon Second Amendment fans as they grapple with an increasingly hostile public.

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Village Voice, April 28-May 4

"School's Been Blown to Pieces" by Frank Kogan

Frank Kogan makes an interesting point in his reflection on the Littleton tragedy and the state of present-day adolescence:

"The two killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, did do something useful, inadvertently. They talked about the normal terror of school life (not the terror they were committing but the terror they were claiming to avenge), and they talked about social divisions in suburbia, and they mentioned the name of a social class -- jocks! -- and said they were deliberately targeting that class and wanted to kill it." While this observation is true and worthy of pursuing deeper, it still baffles me and should baffle us all how this everyday terror translates into mass murder. Hint: Marilyn Manson has nothing to do with it.

"The King of the URLs" by Donna Ladd

The Voice puts an amusing spin on its weekly Giuliani-bashing with this amusing piece on how Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been buying up domain names galore -- from to -- clearly hoping to steal the Internet, if not votes, from would-be opponents. Alas, he's a little late for this gem I dug up after doing a little additional reporting:

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Minneapolis City Pages

"Here Comes the Sun" by Terri Sutton

This is the touching and wonderful story of an annual parade, told by its participants. It began with the Powerderhorn Puppet Theater, a troupe that told stories through large-scale puppets. In celebration of spring and the end of the Vietnam War, on May 1, 1975, they marched into the street carrying their gigantic papier mbchi creations. Minneapolis' quirky May Day Parade was born, and it's good to know such things still exist. Throw in the city's beer festival and the resident with a tatooed face who has created something called a "hellivision," and you might start to think that Minneapolis could just be the coolest place on earth, cooler than Austin even.

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Austin Chronicle, April 28-May 4

"Billy Shakes, Superstar" by Rober Faires

Now, I in no way wish to diminish Austin's reputation as the country's current arbiters of cool. But Shakespeare is hip? Come on, people! When was he not? The Bard -- whether you call him Will or Oxford -- has style eternal. He is the new black. Shakespeare nailed unchanging currents in human nature in language so precise and perfect there's nothing else to do but fall at his feet and start kissing. What actually is in vogue at the moment is writing indulgent little articles like this one about all the other articles discussing how damn cool and controversial that crazy Stratford chap is these days. Everyone from Harper's to podunk literary zines for punk rockers have weighed in, presumably hoping to ride on the success of "Shakespeare in Love." And, my God, I'm doing it now. Aigh! I feel so dirty!

"An Eye for History" by Sam Martin

A fascinating interview with combat photographer and photojournalist David Douglas Duncan. You can't really go wrong with a guy who knew Picasso, witnessed Japan's surrender in World War II, photographed multiple presidents and movie stars and has traveled all over the world.

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Phoenix New Times, April 28-May 4

"Dead Dog Day Afternoon" by Matthew Doig

As an intern for the Washington Post, a college friend of mine was forced to follow the road kill clean-up crew in the hot stink of a D.C. August. As I read Matthew Doig's article on the same topic, this time in sizzling hot Phoenix, I paused to think nice thoughts about all the young eager reporters, sent out to make the most of this lousy assigment. Doig makes his mark on the genre with this line, describing a collarless canine corpse: "Another Dog Doe." Oh, the humanity.

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Miami New Times, April 28-May 4

"Daddy Dearest" by Tristram Korten

Man has three kids with wife. Man and wife split. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, man does a little DNA testing on himself and his youngest daughter and discovers -- uh-oh -- his wife had been doing a little hanky-panky on the side. He then petitions the court to lower his child support payments. The courts decide that he not only has to pay the child support even though the girl is not his daughter, but he's not allowed to tell her. Whereupon he calls this 10-year-old on the phone and tells her he's not her father, which lands him six months in jail. It's a disturbing story, well told by Tristram Korten.

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Becoming a Communist is boring, I don't care how retro-Soviet your pad is decorated. The real fun is in becoming a counter-counterculturalist. Here are a few Web sites and articles to get you on your way.

What (the fuck) is Burning Man

An anti-Burning Man guide to the annual desert festival, featuring a guide to lawsuit opportunities for lawyers and an illustrated guide to preventing STDs while screwing strangers in the dessert.

"Confessions of a lapsed leftist"

Our heroine makes the startling discovery that some lefties are as closed-minded as the evil capitalists they seek to destroy through protest and campfire songs!

"Passing Gas"

A compelling argument against participating in the so-called "Great American Gas-Out."

The Nightly Noose

"Supreme Court Rules Against Postmodernism: 'Let's just end this nonsense.'"

Jenn Shreve

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

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