The Ruffled Crow

Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things

Tag Archives: Seattle

Vikram Madan – Seattle Artist

just be yourself lil reaper vikram madan

Lil’ Grim Reaper. Who knew Death Itself could be so cute?

I don’t recall where on the internets I came across the Lil’ Grim Reaper, but I recognized it immediately when I read an article on local Seattle artist Vikram Madan. I also recognized one of his Mini-Murals I’d seen on the back of a street sign here in Seattle.

To describe his work as whimsical is correct, however would be off by a magnitude or three. Mr Madan’s work makes you want to invite the monster under the bed and the skeletons in your closet out for a spot of tea and a heart to heart chat.

invasion of the happy dancing robots

Happy Dancing Robots. Probably my favorite of Mr Madan’s work.

Granted, some of the character models do remind me a bit of the “Love is…” comics of the 1970s, but the situations and stylish rendering absolves all. And Mr Madan really pushes the limits of his style, including in materials and venues.

One of those venues is Public Art. Park murals, utility boxes, poles and pianos. Even the edge of the stairs to a dance studio. Mr Madan has brightened up a lot of things and places around the greater-Seattle area.

Attack of the Space Needles. Fell in love with it and picked up this print. I will never look at the Needle the same way again, and I see it almost every day.

I have a love for street art. In planning for my upcoming trip to the UK this summer, I’ve got a full day in Bristol (home of Banksy) and a half-day scouting London’s street art. Mr Madan’s public art is a great addition to Seattle’s flourishing art culture.

Mr Madan’s public stuff is close enough to me that I can just stop by when I’m in the area and cover them all pretty easily after a fashion. I’m looking forward to it.

To learn more about Seattle artist Vikram Madan, check out the great article by Lisa Edge over at RealChange, or stop off at Mr Madan’s website. If you do that, I warn you, expect to spend some time. Trust me, it’s worth it.

The Song for Rain

In celebration of the rain’s return, a wonderful little short by Zheng Yawen.

I grew up here in Seattle and, like many of my fellow damp and mildewed citizens, I tend to get kind of squirrely if we go a couple weeks without even a drizzle. We are the “Rain City” after all.

Through yesterday Seattle had been adding to the record for the longest dry(ish) stretch in recorded weather history. Over 82 days we collected a mere 3/100ths of an inch (0.03″) of measurable rain. Until last night. Finally.

Welcome back, rain, I missed you!

Miscellaneous Shiny Things

This has been a very full week around the Crow household and the next few days are going to be non-stop. Generally, when Mrs Crow is gone (in this case to dog-sit for one of the kids until Saturday) my starvation is a definate possibility, or at best, a vitamin deficiency from a diet consisting of raman-based products and candy bars.

Oh Boy Oberto/Miss Madison

This time, however, I’ll be smack in the middle of dozens of food booths down at Stan Sayres pits, and, provided I can climb my way out of the space in the middle of the broadcast tower scaffolding, there is a possibility of my feeding myself. I forsee a diet of skewers and coffee so I may still be in poor shape by Sunday night…

Anyways, the point of this post is to note that I’m volunteering at the Seafair Hydroplane races this year and I won’t have much, if any, time to check the blog here. I have scheduled posts through Sunday, but nothing beyond that. Considering we’ll be tearing down the network late into Sunday night, Monday’s animation is in question at the moment.

And if that isn’t enough to make my year, one other spot of news is the proverbial cherry on top: my post about J P Patches has been linked to by none other than the official JP Patches website! (a big thanks to Super Patches Pal and Webmaster over there Bob Alexander!) It’s quite an honor!

I’ll put together a post of pictures and such sometime next week once I recover.

Thanks JP. Signed, A Patches Pal

With apologies to the folks that are stopping in for a daily animation, but in addition to a full weekend working on Seafair stuff (more on that next week, perhaps) a Seattle icon died yesterday.

My son was almost apologetic when he brought me the news that Chris Wedes had succumed to the blood cancer that had plagued him for the last five or so years. Like many of my generation that grew up here, I had to sit down for a few moments and I will admit to tearing up again as I write this.

I wrote about J P Patches last year just after he retired from public appearances. During the 1960’s and 1970’s every kid I knew (including me, of course) watched JP’s show. We loved JP, and that’s not exaggeration.

Anyways, today I offer you a video of the clown’s last public appearance as well as one of Chris Wedes’ last interviews

Thanks, JP. It was our priviledge to have grown up with you, or rather, thanks for being a kid’s best friend whatever our ages.

Curling: The Art of Throwing Rocks

I’ve been a big fan of Curling for a long time. Even living relatively close to the Canadian border, not alot of Curling is shown on TV except during the Winter Olympics, and even then it’s often at odd times of the day or night. Now, I could moan and snark my way through a complaint or three, but the truth is that I’m actually quite fortunate and it’s my own damn fault for not getting my fill of the sport.

I live just over a mile from the only dedicated Curling rink on the west coast.

Granite Curling Club in Seattle

Granite Curling Club has been around since I was a kid (1961 per their website) and is housed in a rather nondescript building a block off Highway 99 in north Seattle. Bounded by a City Light storage yard and miscellaneous light industrial buildings you’d hardly know it was there were it not for the usually-packed parking lot.

Not the Granite Curling Club in Seattle. (probably 19th century britain)

The rink has a tightly packed calendar during Curling season, which runs about October to March, and includes leagues and ‘Bonspiels’ (competitions between curling clubs) as well as private events and open-houses.

Aunt Bee and I have stopped by to watch a few spiels (huddling against a convenient surface; there’s a lot going on and we have yet to venture upstairs) and I keep toying with the idea of attending an open house. I’m not sure either them nor I are ready to put me on the ice, but eventually I’ll probably work up the courage to grab a broom and throw a rock.

Winter Landscape With a Bird Trap by Pieter Bruegel (1565)

The sport of Curling has been around since at least the 16th century, and leave it to the ‘whack-a-tiny-ball-with-a-stick-into-a-hole’ Scots to create a ‘push-a-rock-around-on-a-frozen-pond’ game. Often called “The Roaring Game” for the sound the rock makes passing over the pebbled ice, the name “Curling” comes from the word “Cur” or “to grumble”. (although there is a bit of dispute here with some claiming that the name comes from the ‘curl’; the movement of the rock at the end of a throw. i don’t think so, however, as in early games the rock sizes were highly variable and the thrower had control over little more than the ‘weight’ of the throw. but i digress…)

2010 Winter Olympics - Cheryl Barnard, Skip

Two teams, each of four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, also called “rocks”, across the ice curling sheet towards the house, a circular target marked on the ice. Each team has eight stones. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game; points are scored for the stones resting closest to the centre of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones. A game may consist of ten or eight ends.

The curler can induce a curved path by causing the stone to slowly turn as it slides, and the path of the rock may be further influenced by two sweepers with brooms who accompany it as it slides down the sheet, using the brooms to alter the state of the ice in front of the stone. A great deal of strategy and teamwork goes into choosing the ideal path and placement of a stone for each situation


Yelling at the rock is an important part of a proper throw

To learn more about the game that literally rocks the house is a great place to start. It’s heavy with Flash animations showing basic shots and strategies as well as rules and club links. To find ice and rink locations around the US check into Kansas City club’s Locator map. Their website’s worth a browse as well.

And if you can’t get enough Curling, you can always play online!

Be sure to check out my previous post on Curling. It includes a How It’s Made episode on Curling rocks!

Thunder on the Lake – Seattle Hydroplane Racing

Around our house the first weekend in August is our All-Star weekend, the annual game seven of our World Series. On Sunday, no plans are made, the big screen is turned on and turned up and only one program is on. The Hydros.

UL-Class Racing on Green Lake ca 1975

These were the monster trucks and sports heroes of my childhood. With a bit of board, maybe a few nails, and a yard or two of twine we had a Thunderboat trailing behind our bike. Spike nails on the back edge and we had a roostertail made of sparks.

Growing up in the north end of Seattle I could hear the growl of the engines from Green Lake, three miles away. Often-times friends and I would walk down to the lake to watch, or we’d cage a ride from one of our parents.

Green Lake is a natural race course; roundish, Duck Island in the middle, and ringed by nice open areas to spread your blanket and watch the rooster-tails go by.

On July 20, 1929, at a time when water sports are becoming the fastest growing sport in the country, the hydroplane craze hits Green Lake. For the next half century, hydroplanes hurl their roostertails around the lake.


The Green Lake area has always been a nightmare to drive around, and it’s a considerably deeper level of hell if you want to actually park.

Unfortunately, that attendant traffic, parking, and noise, didn’t sit well with the Green Lake neighborhood folks and with the death of a baby Snow Leopard at nearby Woodland Park Zoo attributed to the engine noise, the hydroplanes were banned from the lake in 1984.

But the big boats, the U-boats, they were on Lake Washington.

Read more of this post

Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn – Evelyn Evelyn

This video has it all; unique animation, a snappy 30’s-style tune, and a twisted, satirical bent.

From their bio:

EVELYN and EVELYN NEVILLE are a songwriting duo performing original compositions on piano, ukulele, guitar and accordion. The sisters are parapagus tripus dibrachius twins, sharing three legs, two arms, three lungs, two hearts and a single liver.

Born September 11, 1985 on a small farm on the Kansas-Colorado border, the Evelyns have traveled the greater part of North America performing with “Dillard & Fullerton’s Illusive Traveling Show”. Their unique musical style is inspired by their many eclectic influences – from 80’s music to showtunes, Joy Division to the Andrews Sisters.

via Evelyn Evelyn

The story is detailed within the Tragic Events tracks on their album. They were discovered by Amanda Palmer (of Dresden Dolls fame) and Jason Webley (a long-time Seattle busker) who invited them to record an album. (which they did. it’s most excellent)

Others insist that Evelyn Evelyn are actually Palmer and Webley dressed in connected garments.

There is also a book, which led me into a whole new digression into the art and artist that deserves a post of it’s own. (which is in the works)

J P Patches – Not Your Ordinary Clown

[Update, July 22nd, 2012; Chris Wedes died today at the age of 84. There are nice obituaries in both local papers; the Seattle Times and Post-Intelligencer. He meant a lot to a generation of folks around here and he will be missed a great deal.]

[Update, July 23rd; I just posted a video of JP’s last public appearance, and a video of one of Chris Wedes’ last interviews.]

JP Patches – 1963

Julius Pierpont Patches, the Mayor of the City Dump, made his last public appearance at Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal September 17th capping a run of more than 50 years as an important part of Seattle culture.

If you don’t know who JP is then you aren’t from here and can’t call yourself a real “Seattleite” no matter how many Lattes you’ve drank at Starbucks. (at best you’re a ‘tourist’, at worst, a ‘transplant’)

In 1958, KIRO TV began airing the JP Patches show, which ran until 1981, marking it as the longest running locally produced children’s show in the country. Joined by Gertrude and a cast of thousands, JP showed cartoons, announced birthdays, joked with folks from the community, dinged extraordinary numbers of pigtails and braids, and basically improvised his way through tens of thousands of hours of live television to the delight of local kids. If you were the member of a local Cub Scout pack or Brownie troop at the time, then you probably visited JP on his show.

JP Patches and Gertrude

And not to worry, parents weren’t ignored. JP could throw a double entendre so fast that it whizzed well over little Johnny’s head faster than you could say “Geoduck“. There are a few shows available on video and watching them years later I was amazed and delighted at the amount of spice JP and Gertrude added to the cheese.

And the shenanigans didn’t end on the set. JP and Gertrude were active in the community:

One cause that Wedes supports is Children’s Hospital. Over the years, J.P. Patches has visited there quite often, cheering up those who need it the most. During J.P.’s 20th anniversary show, the hospital returned the favor by announcing that their new diagnostic play area had been named for J.P. (via HistoryLink)

I think one of the best examples of how loved JP is around this town can be illustrated with an anecdote from 1992, the height of the “Grunge” movement here in Seattle:

[A]n unruly audience was trashing the Paramount Theater while awaiting a Soundgarden Concert. Who should appear out of the wings but J.P. Patches. He quietly calmed down the audience before the band took the stage.

Yeah, a kid’s show clown calmed down a theater packed with teens and twenty-somethings. (take that, bozo!)

Bob Newman, Chris Wedes, and Joe Towey (photo from JP’s site)

Chris Wedes is the man behind the red nose, and Bob Newman was his trusty sidekick. In addition to Gertrude, Bob played almost every other character on the show. From Boris S Wort (the second meanest man in the world) and Miss Smith (of miss smith’s delivery service) to The Swami of Pastrami and Ggoorrsstt, the Friendly Frpl (who ate farm fresh frpl fodder from farmer frank from fife or farmer fred from ferndale). The man who directed the show for those years was Joe Towey, who stepped onto the show a few times and also played “The Count” who introduced horror movies late Friday nights on “Nightmare Theater”.

Since 1981, he and Gertrude continued to make appearances at parties and fairs and countless community events including a couple evenings at our local PBS stations for their pledge drives.

Late for the Interurban in Fremont

In 2008 a statue in honor of the 50th anniversary of JP’s show was erected in the Fremont area (the center of the universe and the home neighborhood of the statue of lenin and the troll under the bridge) called “Late For the Interurban” (situated a few hundred feet from the statue of folks waiting for a bus called “waiting for the interurban“, of course)

In 2002, Bob Newman retired Gertrude from public appearances due to health issues. The Seattle Times’ Sherry Stripling (i assume that’s her real name) interviewed Mr Newman just afterwards and wrote a great piece on one of the best and most beloved second bananas in the business.

J P Patches (picture from the Seattle Times)

And just a few weeks ago, the clown himself retired. Not suddenly; Mr Wedes has been fighting with blood cancer for years already. But he just can’t keep up the schedule anymore. JP Patches is a very popular guy even after being off the air for 30 years!

Myself, I spent hundreds (if not thousands) of hours watching the show and was a Patches Pal like most of my friends and even some famous people! (I was definately NOT a Boris Buddy!) When the kids were young I dragged them around Seattle when JP (and often Gertrude) made appearances. They weren’t quite sure who The Clown was, and thought Gertrude was kinda scary (he is a big guy), but sure enjoyed the videos.

For all that these silly guys mean to me, and thousands of other Patches Pals to boot, I could write hundreds of pages and devote an entire blog to these gentlemen. Fortunately folks have done that for me and probably the best resource is JP Patches’ own website. It’s full of show info, pictures (of which i’ve gleefully lifted a few for this post), and several video clips. The page hierarchy is kind of funky and there’s alot there that’s not obvious from the side menus. Besides the drop-down chapter selection, make use of the pointy hand navigators for each chapter’s sub-pages. Just be careful; I have spent hours poking around what is probably over 100 pages and nearly that many video clips and I’m not done!

Let me close with a clip of a classic moment in local live tv. (and there’s plenty more clips there!)

Our Menageries and Other Northwest Species

I grew up in a household full of animals. Sure, there was an abundance of dogs and cats – even a canary and a couple of turtles (of the red-eared variety) – but most of what padded, scrabbled, and flew through the house were not your standard issue pets.

Me and a Lion cub sitting on the stairs at the newly built Children's area of the Woodland Park Zoo. Published in the WPZ newsletter "Zoonews" ca 1967

If you go by sheer numbers, then it would be a close call between mice and squirrels. If you measure by unusualness, then the Red Fox squirrel or carnivorous beetles would fall toward the top of the list. If you include, uh, not live animals, then the 8-foot python (in the freezer) and Giant Red Kangaroo (autopsied in the garage) would take honors.

My mother was called ‘The Animal Lady’ by folks in the neighborhood. Both parents were docents (plus) at the Woodland Park Zoo for years and I got to know many of the Zoo’s denizens as well as other local “exotic” animals. I counted a cougar by the name of Loki among my friends. (He stayed with a lady who also had Servils and Civit cats.) I walked along with Bamboo the elephant when she took a walk around the Zoo. (she was ‘a toddler’ at the time and barely stood 6-foot at the shoulder.)

My parents and little sister with a Lion cub behind the scenes at WPZ

My original 2 mice (Antony and Cleopatra, btw) spawned a colony of mice of a couple hundred at any one time. (we supplied WPZ with treats for the Owls and Snakes when the colony would get too large) Through selective breeding we got albino mice with dark eyes, and dark mice with pink eyes. My mother was even able to breed a strain that got a specific skin cancer every other generation and bred true. Those went to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Now that was something around the homestead. This was back in the late 60’s and early 70’s and this showed a genetic link to a form of cancer. It wasn’t until 1980 that I finally read a paper in Scientific American about the Oncogene – something my mother had proven 10 years before, working in a little shed in the back of the garage.

I was a lucky kid.

One of the few photos of the PNW Tree Octopus

For all the Raccoons and Opossums and Squirrels that shared our domicile through the years, there were a few fascinating Northwest denizens that didn’t pass though those portals. One was the local Tree Octopus.

The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus lives in the rain forests of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Rarely leaving it’s coniferous cozy, the PNW Tree Octopus makes the arduous journey to the Hood canal only to mate, and it’s likely because of this formidable expedition (and it’s shyness) that we never took in one of the arboreal cephalopods.

Building around the greater Seattle area continues to boom and the resulting growth has effectively cut off many of the migration paths of the Octopus between the Olympic National Forest and the waters of the Hood Canal. This, coupled with predation by Cats, Eagles, and Sasquatch, has resulted in a greatly reduced breeding population and is threatening it’s extinction.


Photo detail enhanced using advanced ZPi cephalopod-image processing technology.

There is always speculation about ‘pockets’ of  PNW Tree Octopi living in or around the Seattle area proper, in fact there has been sightings reported at our neighborhood Carkeek Park. The hypothesis is that the Octopuses hitch ‘rides’ on harvested Xmas trees and, being highly intelligent, are reputed to have hidden deep within the tree’s boughs until given the chance to escape, sometimes stealing the harvester’s vehicle to hasten their departure.

Despite their seriously depleted numbers, there are still very few ways to show your support and help alleviate the plight of these cedar-sitting cephalopods. Fortunately, there is a rather direct manner in which you can help. As explained at the ZPi blog:

If you must give money to ease your conscience, donations to help the Tree Octopus should be given directly to the Tree Octopuses. Here is how to donate: Travel to the Olympic Peninsula (if you are a minor, ask your parents first). Stand in the Tree Octopuses’ forest near a tree and hold out a dollar bill. If you stand still enough, eventually a Tree Octopus will come by on a branch, reach out, and take the bill with her suckers. She will continue to return for more bills as long as you hold them out, so bring lots of singles. She will use them to line her den in the trees, as the bills will soak up rain water and keep her skin moist. Given the current value of the dollar, this is the most cost effective way to help.

Please note: don’t give them coins. While they are attracted to shiny objects and will gladly take coins, the toxic metals in coins (especially copper) can easily absorb into their skin and poison them. Paper money, checks, stock certificates, coupons, etc. are preferable and make better nesting material.

So please, do what you can for this endangered animal and, while you’re here, buy expensive things from our Washington state gift shops. In the words of Emmett Watson; Keep Washington Green – Spend Money then Go Home…

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