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In Tuesday’s MISCmedia MAIL: Belltown’s last cool stretch is threatened with doom; Seattle teachers prepare to strike; labor organizers picket following a gruesome dairy-farm death.
At MISCmedia MAIL today: Some local lights still aren’t on; two Legislative bigwigs are on the move; has the 1% taken over Burning Man (and does it matter)?
We’ve been doing weekday morning e-mail newsletters for almost 13 weeks now.
And apparently, some of you still haven’t signed up for them.
Here’s what you’re missing.
In today’s letter, you can read about the wind-blown trees and power lines, the fires, a major attempt to enhance wild salmon runs, and a kink-oriented sex shop that’s closing after its landlord applied some “discipline.”
Read it now.
Then come back to this home page and subscribe at the box in the left-hand column.
It’s that simple.
When I was trying to fix my WordPress theme, to try to resolve the comments crashing, I ended up making everything look wrong.
At least the site still works.
Help, somebody, help!
SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE:
The look of the site is still putrid. May need to install a totally different design “theme.”
And comments still won’t save to the site. No idea why.
I tried to fix both of these on Saturday, only to end up knocking the entire site out of commission for a couple of hours. Fortunately I knew everything I’d done and was able to undo them.
And two kind readers have offered to help me parse what might be going wrong. Thanks in advance.
MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE:
By re-hand-coding my “style.css” file, I’ve got the type sizes back closer to how I want them.
Still have to tweak some of the colors.
And comments STILL aren’t working.
MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE #2:
Turned out my “wp_comments” table file was corrupt. Got it repaired using tools at my cloud server provider.
(Oy, hard to believe there are people who actually get excited by these kinds of code-bug-stomping activities!)
THURSDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE
Made some more hand-coding changes to the WP files, and finally got the color scheme back, more or less, to what it was. May still make some tweaks.
Don’t know why the sidebar doesn’t have its own background color, or why it doesn’t “slide” in and out of view like it used to.
Still don’t have the comment functions repaired.
Still don’t have an online menu of past newsletters.
Still don’t have printed flyers to help you spread the word about our scrumptious morning email newsletter.
But I DO now have a lovely icon for our site.
It’s the same logo you’ve loved for almost six years now, in handy self-contained form.
On a phone or tablet, you can use the “Add to Home Screen” function to instantly come here. (Handy, no?)
Or, if you’re on a regular ol’ computer, you can just include this in any social-media links back here.
photo by arthur s. aubry (who himself passed on earlier this year), via earl brooks
We all knew he was going.
He’d had chronic COPD for many years. At his last Seattle public appearance, in early 2013, he’d looked frail, and had trouble talking for long periods of time.
But it was still a total bitch to learn that he’d died this last Monday morning.
Like many people commonly grouped as “’60s generation kids,”Rolon Bert Garner was already past his teens before the Beatles came to our shores. He’d grown up in Eugene to parents from Oklahoma. In Portland he’d cofounded Artech (a long-running regional art-supply and framing chain) before he came here to work for the Seattle Art Museum, circa 1969.
He was one of the original instigators of Bumbershoot in 1971, and one of the creators of its visual-art component (then a much bigger part of the festival than it is now).
He was involved with the multi-disciplinary arts center and/or (1974-84).
He curated and designed exhibits, installations, and temporary “pop-up spaces.”
He installed exhibits (choosing which pieces went where) at the Frye Museum and many local galleries.
He helped produce private events, including fashion shows for Nordstrom.
With Virginia Inn owner Patrice Demombynes, Garner pioneered the idea of art exhibits in local bars. (He and Demombynes had their own gallery space on Dexter Avenue for a couple of years.)
He continued to curate art on barroom walls as a co-owner of the Two Bells Tavern (with wife Patricia Ryan, who passed in 2001). He’d been a bartender there before Ryan bought the place circa 1982, then married her in 1984. Under Ryan and Garner, the the rundown little bar on a low-foot-traffic stretch of Fourth Avenue became the virtual living room for the then-burgeoning Denny Regrade arts community. When Ryan’s cancer got too bad for her to continue running it, they sold it and retired to the country.
Garner was also an artist in his own right.
His last show of paintings, a career retrospective at the Virginia Inn two and a half years ago, was full of bright colors, underground-comix-esque lines and curves, and an old hippie’s lifelong interest in semi-abstracted nudes.
And he was a conceptual artist. With Ken Leback, he created the public-art piece Equality (a grid of Monopoly-style houses) on north Beacon Hill.
I’d been going to the VI since 1981, and to the Bells since at least 1985.
I knew Garner as a smart, soft spoken, often funny presence.
After I started MISC as a column in the old ArtsFocus paper, he supported and encouraged my work. (It took me years, though, to convince him I wasn’t just making up the things I wrote about in it.)
He did so many things, in so many places, that it was hard to imagine a local arts scene without him.
And it still is.
bloomberg.com called amazon’s under-construction hq complex a ‘geek zone, cursed by dullness’ (sean airhart/nbbj via bloomberg)
A few months back, I gave a presentation to a group of retired teachers about my 2006 book Vanishing Seattle.
At the talk, I mentioned how, at the time the book came out, the city seemed to be losing its most beloved people, places, and things at a rapid rate.
These disappearances have only accelerated since then. (Most recently, the Harvard Exit on Capitol Hill, one of the city’s pioneer “art house” cinemas, which closed forever following this year’s SIFF.)
Everywhere you look, funky old buildings are giving way to enormous new buildings.
And it’s all to be blamed, if you believe some wags, on a company that’s more interested in incessant growth than in such business-world niceties as, you know, actually turning a profit.
Late last year, Jeff Reifman posted an essay on GeekWire.com claiming everything we now know and/or love about Seattle could quickly become lost to what he calls “Amageddon,” the total takeover of the city by Amazon.com’s self-styled “code ninjas.” Reifman warns that, unless Amazon’s corporate culture (or its rampant growth in town) is stemmed, the result could be “an unaffordable, traffic-filled metropolis dominated by white males and devoid of independent culture.”
Reifman claims there are three things Amazon could do (other than crashing in a WaMu-like stock bubble) to become a better corporate citizen. It could “advocate for an appropriate tax system in Seattle and Washington state,” commit to hiring more women and minorities, and support programs to help “lower income, lower skilled Seattleites” stay in the city.
But those moves, as noble (and unlikely) as they are, would not change the trend of Amazon (and many smaller dotcoms) importing waves of hyper-aggressive “brogrammers” from out of state, with no knowledge of or affinity toward Seattle’s heritage, only to replace them after an average of one or two years.
(The NYT recently described Amazon as “a bruising workplace,” where “code ninja” programmers are worked into the ground, maternity and illness are treated as treason to the corporate cause, and a hyper-aggressive atmosphere makes it nearly impossible for women to advance.) (A high-ranking Amazonian wrote a long rebuttal to the NYT piece at GeekWire.)
No, what we need is a training program. A crash course in why this city, this place, is something to be celebrated, cherished, nurtured. To encourage our newer citizens to care about more than just their own narrow cliques and their own material existences.
With enough people taking a more active part toward making things here better, we can still be the city that rose from challenge after challenge.
A city that respects its heritage, in its highest and lowest aspects.
A city that could create great things.
Whose engineers and deal-makers brought about the Jet Age, and later “de-fragmented” the chaotic early home-computer business.
Whose progeny have repeatedly pushed the boundaries of art, music, and performance.
A city that’s constantly remade itself; that moved mountains (well, hills), raised streets, lowered lakes, created islands, and planted parks in the most improbable spots.
A city that pioneered in public power (City Light) and public health care (Group Health).
A city that can both love and laugh at itself, creating great comedians and cartoonists along the way.
A city that comes together, not apart, in moments of sadness (the public rallies after 9/11) and sweet triumph (the first day of gay weddings at City Hall).
A city that always took pride in its buildings and other structures, whether sublime (the Olympic Hotel), playful (the Hat n’ Boots), tasteful (the many Craftsman bungalows), or both spectacular AND populist (the Central Library).
Indeed, the library building is a great example of Seattle at its best. Yes, the building qualifies for that hoary overused expression, “world class.” But it’s also a place that simply works. It invites everyone to relax, read, listen, and learn.
It’s a building that’s more than “world class.” It’s Seattle class.
And it’s what we need more of.
Not just in our buildings and construction projects, but in our people, our attitudes, our ambitions.
More than half a century ago, the Century 21 Exposition depicted a Seattle on the move toward a great tomorrow.
Our real life Century 21 might never have flying cars; but it can still become an age built on wonder, optimism, high art, low kitsch, and shared joys.
Reifman has since gone beyond merely complaining about the Big A.
He and artist Kali Snowden have just started a site called Flee the Jungle.
It’s got short essays reiterating Reifman’s complaints about the company, and about its actions (or lack of same) as a local corporate citizen:
“…Amazon’s run by a wealthy libertarian who’s shown only modest concern for his home community as his company’s growth has dramatically impacted the city—good in some ways, but largely problematically in many…”
And it has dozens of links to other e-commerce sites, in many of the umpteen product and service categories in which Amazon’s now involved.
The thing about “disruptive” companies is that someone else can always come along to disrupt them.
To date, Amazon’s been able to crush (or at least hold its own against) the competition in all these lines on its sheer size and muscle, and on its ability to operate unprofitably thanks to loyal shareholders.
But none of those advantages are necessarily permanent or exclusive.
Is there an endgame to all this?
Of course there is.
As I always say, things that are hot now just don’t keep getting even hotter forever. (Except, perhaps, actual climate-related hotness.)
Financial/accounting exec John Spaid, writing at GeekWire, believes Amazon will eventually have to change itself to become profitable, and that those changes will likely include lotsa layoffs in Seattle.
And when that happens, a lot of locals (merchants, landowners, homeowners, etc.) will get burned.
(Cross-posed with City Living Seattle.)
Since this entry is all about a program that’s all about “learning,” let’s start with the facts.
Starting this next season, and for at least the next five years, new episodes of Sesame Street will appear first on HBO and its online streaming service, along with selected old episodes.
Street reruns will still appear on PBS, in hour and half-hour formats. After a nine-month HBO exclusive “window,” the new episodes will appear on PBS also.
Up to this point, Sesame Workshop (née Children’s Television Workshop), the indie nonprofit that’s made the show these 46 years, has relied on two main streams of funding:
With the industrywide collapse of CD/DVD sales, the latter has been a less reliable source of money.
And with more PBS Kids shows on the daily schedule vying for the same corporate/government bucks, the former has also been less lucrative.
As production money got harder to get, the Street got fewer and fewer episodes every season. But with HBO’s money, the show will produce 35 episodes next season, up from 18 the year before. (In its early days, the show produced 130 hours a year.)
At the network’s 1970 launch, Sesame Street was essentially PBS’s first hit. It was one of three series (the others were Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and The French Chef) that continued on from PBS’s even more-underfunded predecessor, NET (National Educational Television).
It’s not hard to say there would have been no Nova, no Frontline, no Masterpiece Theatre without the Street’s initial popularity, drawing audiences to the previously little-watched local “educational” channels.
While its ratings, its episode orders, and its merch sales have shrank in recent years, it remains the third longest running “scripted” show on American TV. (Only General Hospital and Days of Our Lives, among currently in-production shows, have lasted longer.)
You can now make up your own “Sesame Street on HBO” joke here. Many already have. About Carrie Bradshaw and the gang turning Bert and Ernie’s tenement into a ritzy condo; or about Elmo facing a Game of Thrones surprise slaying; or about Big Bird and Oscar as Tony Soprano’s newest henchmen.
Just remember that, along with the “naughty” sitcoms and the “artistic violence” dramas, HBO’s also the channel that gave you Fairie Tale Theatre, Little Lulu, and Fraggle Rock (another Jim Henson co-creation).
But without the Street having its exclusive home on the nonprofit network, what will PBS’s defenders invoke when the Republicans next threaten to cut off its (relatively paltry and very incomplete) federal funding?
Time says HBO pursued the Street because it really wanted to get more young viewers hooked on its on-demand and streaming platforms.
Jessica Winter at Slate says the move symbolizes “the ultra-efficient sorting process of socioeconomic privilege,” and compares it to the drastic cuts faced by Head Start and other pre-K programs for non-rich kids.
And I don’t know what to do to fix them.
Apparently it’s a bug somewhere in my WordPress code and/or scripts.
Anyone here who knows what I might do, please send an email to the address at the bottom of this page.
Thanx in advance.
ap/elaine thompson via thinkprogress.org
Rumors abound about the two “Black Lives Matter” protesters who took over a political rally at Westlake Park last Saturday, preventing Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders from making one of his three scheduled Seattle speeches that day.
In social-media posts and on assorted websites, folks have alleged that the disruptors must have been secretly working for Republicans, or the CIA, or Hillary Clinton.
Marissa Jenae Johnson, one of the disrupters, turns out to be a self proclaimed “radical Christian,” whose ideological journey included past stances as an anti-gay-rights advocate and even as a Sarah Palin supporter. She’s since renounced those former stands.
What is known is that Johnson and fellow protester Mara Jacqueline acted on their own, not as part of any previously organized Black Lives Matter chapter. But Black Lives Matter isn’t a centralized, top-down organization anyway.
The two ARE part of a local group called “Outside Agitators 206.”
They’re not plants.
They’re sincere. They’re for real.
And they’re radicals.
And radicals are sometimes more directly virulent toward other leftists/liberals/progressives than toward their more polar enemies.
Some of you would call it the old People’s Front of Judea vs. Judean People’s Front syndrome.
But Washington, DC-area activist/writer Dominique Hazzard asserts that this is a strategic, and sometimes necessary, tactic toward steering left-of-center movements into a stronger direction.
It’s also to be remembered that some of the previous (scheduled) speakers at the Westlake event did bring up Black Lives Matter, to a loud and positive response from the mostly white liberal crowd.
And it’s also to be remembered that, though Sanders didn’t get to speak at Westlake, he did give versions of his current stump speech at two other places in Seattle that day. And that his campaign organization has increased its outreach to the Black community, including some Black Lives Matter activists, and ratcheted up the tone of anti-racist rhetoric in its official platform.
So: a few thousand libs at Westlake had their mellow harshed.
But that one simple act has launched a hundred or more conversations.
If all sides in this can use it to come together, and if some of the Sanders fans who previously may have cared principally about white-progressive issues (gay marriage, pot, the housing crisis) can learn to grow beyond their own ideological “bubble,” the larger movement (and hence the world) may get a lot better.
Among these conversations:
By now, everybody and her brother has said something online, in print, or on the air about the two Black Lives Matter protesters who took over a rally at Westlake Park, thus preventing Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders from making one of his three scheduled Seattle speeches this past Saturday.
My own thoughts, such as they are:
Slog has the basic story of the Bernie Sanders rally that wasn’t; plus thoughts about the event from State Sen. Pramila Jayapal.
Sanders DID get to speak at a $250 a head fundraiser at the Comet (Capitol Hill Seattle), and later to 15,000 (the biggest local political rally in five years) at Hec Ed (Joel Connelly).
Then on Sunday, Sanders spoke to 19,000 at the Portland TrailBlazers’ arena. (AP via KOIN)
I still remember Jon Stewart as the host of a consistently unfunny MTV sketch show called You Wrote It, You Watch It. He was the only memorable part of that unmemorable endeavor.
Then he had a regular ol’ talk show with a monologue and musical guests and all; first on MTV and then in syndication.
Then he took over an existing comedy-talk franchise from Craig Kilborn on a cable channel that, at the time, you couldn’t get here.
The first piece I heard from Stewart’s Daily Show was a bit replayed on KJR sports radio. He introduced a clip from the GOP rebuttal to one of Bill Clinton’s State of the Union speeches, delivered by athlete-turned-politician Steve Largent.
Largent began by telling his own rise-to-fame story, noting how “I lived out every boy’s dream, to play professional football… for the Seattle Seahawks.”
Stewart jumped in: “It’s really every boy’s dream to play professional football for any team OTHER THAN the Seattle Seahawks.” (The Seahawks, just a few years after almost moving to Anaheim, were decidedly not the powerhouse they became.)
I knew then I would like Stewart, and have continued to do so.
Even when he was injecting humor into really icky news events (of which we’ve had a lot) and other TV channels’ lame coverage of those events (of which we’ve had a HELL of a lot).
Surveys listed Stewart as some people’s primary “news source.” Here’s one reason why:
There came to be a lot of “funny fake news” out there—in print (for a while), on TV, and especially online.
But Stewart didn’t run totally-fabricated stories with halfway plausible “clickbait” headlines.
He and his rotating sidekicks (“correspondents”) repeated the facts of a story (or whatever other channels claimed were the facts), and only then joked it up about them, in ways ranging from the joyously juvenile to the deadly serious.
Along the way, he always appealed to his audience’s image of itself as the only people who “really knew things,” as above all the hype and manipulation. (Which, of course, is exactly what Stewart’s nemeses at Fox News encourage their own audience to believe about itself.)
If there were any surveys about “the most popular TV show among people who pompously refuse to own TVs,” Stewart’s show would have topped them. (And they still could, with multiple online ways to see the show.)
Most of my hip art-world friends have long sneered at Seafair.
Too “Family” with a capital F.
Too unlike anything that would be done in NY/LA/SF.
As if those were somehow bad things.
But nowadays, this city needs all the legacy, all the history, and (yes) all the squareness it can keep out of the gentrifiers’ Rolex-wristed clutches.
We need our own homegrown racing sport, rooted in tinkerers building boats around surplus WWII airplane engines.
We need public education, and spectacles that celebrate it.
We need honest shows of support for even the most basic of community functions.
We need to remember the human groups that first made this place what it is.
We need to publicly honor all the peoples that make up this city and this region.
So don’t knock Seafair.
(Except the Blue Angels. Feel free to bash them. They’re just too damn militaristic.)
I know I’ve been taking however many of you are reading this back to memory lane a lot lately. But indulge me a few more times, please, including this time.
This time, it’s back to a weekend day in June 1981.
I went straight from my UW commencement ceremony, still possessing my cap and gown, and went to a planning meeting in a Wallingford rental house.
Also there were Daina Darzin, Maire Masco, and Dennis White.
We were starting a punk rock zine, to overcome what we all thought was The Rocket’s excessive commercialism. (Yeah, I know.)
The result was called Desperate Times.
It lasted for six tabloid issues, before Darzin effectively ended it by returning to New York, where she’d previously lived.
(And yes, like so many New Yorkers, she absolutely KNEW how everyone ought to think and behave. And if they thought or behaved in a non-New Yorkish way, then that thought or behavior automatically sucked.)
I had at least one piece in each of the six issues. The most affecting, albeit in a very indirect way, was in the first issue. I asked readers to write in mentioning the band they hated the most. (A cheap “comment bait” trick, it would now be called.)
It got a response all right.
That response came from one Mark McLaughlin, then a student at Bellevue Christian High School. He wrote that he loved the simple repetitive music of Philip Glass, and hated Mr. Epp and the Calculations. (“Pure grunge. Pure shit.”)
This, I continue to insist, was the first documented use of that six-letter word to describe a Seattle punk band.
And it was the first print mention of Mr. Epp, McLaughlin’s own band (of course).
One night shortly after that, Masco found McLaughlin on the streets downtown, pasting up flyers for a fictional gig by Mr. Epp, which at the time was mostly a fictional band (named after a favorite math teacher). Masco persuaded McLaughlin to stage real gigs.
For the next three nearly three years, Darren “Mor-X” Morray, Jeff “Jo Smitty” Smith, and Mark “Arm” McLaughlin gigged and recorded under the Mr. Epp name.
Arm, of course, went on to Green River and then to Mudhoney, famously performing on top of the Space Needle for Sub Pop’s 25th anniversary in 2013.
Darzin became a scribe for Billboard and other high falutin’ rags.
White and Masco started the short-lived Pravda Records label (not the Chicago firm of the same name).
White now runs another indie music label, “dadastic! sounds.”
Masco took a long hiatus from “creative” endeavors.
But now she’s back with a book collecting every issue of Desperate Times, from full-size high-quality digital scans.
Some thoughts on looking at these pages nearly 3.5 decades later:
The music discussed, well a large part of it anyway, still stands up.
The writing and the graphic design are of their time and of the milieu. That is to say, they’re brash, un-slick, and occasionally immature. But that was part of the whole aesthetic of the period. This was before “desktop publishing.” The text was created on typewriters. The headlines were created with press-type lettering. It was DIY Or Die, and it expresses the emotional states of its content better than anything in Adobe InDesign ever could.
Masco is selling the book online and at a few select local shops.
Masco’s been living in Tacoma in recent years, with a guy who knows a thing or two about graphic design, and who’s not shy about sharing what he knows.
I’ve written several times in the past about Art Chantry. How he played a critical role in creating my book Loser (itself coming back later this year). How he did most of the grunt work in bringing “punk rock graphics” and poster art beyond the deliberately “amateur” style seen in Desperate Times and toward something that was “professional” but NOT corporate. He took his obsessive research into design schticks high and lowbrow, industrial and “artistic,” and created a whole new visual vocabulary.
In recent years, Chantry’s been spreading his vast knowledge and sharp opinions about the design profession (actually, he thinks of it as more of a “trade”) on his Facebook feed.
Now he’s collected some 50 of these essays in the book Art Chantry Speaks: A Heretic’s History of 20th Century Graphic Design.
The format of self-contained short essays, on different but related topics, works well with the disparate roots of Chantry’s visual aesthetic and career philosophy.
He finds inspiration in everything from monster-movie magazines to industrial-supply catalogs, from trade magazines to Broadway show posters, from hot-rod customizers to girlie magazines.
Unlike the late Andy Warhol (to whom he dedicates a praise-filled chapter), Chantry appreciates commercial design without feeling the need to dress it up in “fine art” trappings.
Indeed, Chantry openly and repeatedly scoffs at such trappings.
He upends the “official” history of graphic design, which treats it as a top-down profession dominated by Manhattan designers and ad agencies.
Instead, he sees it as a bottom-up, working-stiffs’ trade, originating with sign painters, printers, and other craftspeople. It’s a living tradition, re-created and adapted everywhere. It’s something that’s both populist and commercial at once. It expresses social and individual values, even as it overtly tries to sell stuff (products, politicians, religions, etc).
And, just as American pop/rock music absorbed and mutated everything that came before it, Chantry’s personal aesthetic absorbed and mutated everything he’d learned to love in the various arts of visual/verbal persuasion.
You won’t find any images of Chantry’s own works in Art Chantry Speaks. For that, look up Some People Can’t Surf: The Graphic Design of Art Chantry, written in 2001 by Julie Lasky. There, you’ll see his famous posters for bands, film screenings, and condom-awareness campaigns; his cover art for The Rocket; and his many record covers and band/label logos.
But, just as there are now drinking-age people who weren’t alive when Nirvana last performed, many of the various production techniques Chantry’s essays discuss have become lost to time, from the lead-cast “hot type” of letterpress to the photo-strip “cold type” of manual pasteup pages.
And much printed ephemera itself (magazines, newspapers, cheap paperbacks, recorded music on physical media, etc.) has declined or disappeared in the digital age.
But Chantry’s observations are still important in our current era, when even web page design is considered an obsolete line of work.
Typography, illustration, color theory, and layout are all part of the visual vocabulary of our world. There are reasons why all these arts developed the way they did.
And, just as many young adults have discovered the great music of the 1980s and ’90s Chantry’s idiosyncratic views about these can teach timeless principles about how things look (or ought to look).
an early amazon home page, via onemonthrails.com
One month ago, I asked you to turn back your mental clocks to the summer of 1995.
It was a time when Seattle still had a men’s pro basketball team and two daily newspapers. It was a time when Seattle bands still ruled the recorded-music sales charts (and a time when people still bought recorded music).
And, as I’d mentioned last month, it was a time when the whole World Wide Web thang was new and full of possibilities. Wired magazine’s pundits (a homogenous gang of “Grateful Dead fiscal conservatives”) lauded the dawn of a new golden age for media, the arts, medicine, and business opportunities unfettered by either governments or by the physical laws of planet Earth.
Amid all this hype, many “dot com” startups began.
Many of those ventures burned out in one to five years, having run out of money before they could turn a cool domain name into a viable business model.
There are (or were) websites devoted to chronicling the demises of other websites. Many of those obituary sites are also now defunct.
One of those first-generation dot-coms, however, has continued to live, and to expand in all directions like a wild Northwest blackberry bush.
And it’s done this without turning a real profit for most of its 20 years in existence.
Amazon.com Inc. has a lot of very patient investors. That, and its famous aggressive approach to everything it does (under such internal slogans as “Get Big Fast” and “It’s Always Day One”) turned it into one of the nation’s top 10 “technology” companies.
My readers here in Seattle don’t have to be told what Amazon has done for and/or to the city.
It’s brought thousands of swaggering “Code Ninja” programmer doodz into town (often for just one or two years), who’ve reshaped the local nightlife and bar industries while threatening the longstanding civic image of “Seattle Nice.”
It’s helped to accelerate the hyper-inflation of housing prices and the replacement of so many cool low-rise buildings.
It’s reshaped the Cascade (er, “South Lake Union”) neighborhood with its office buildings, and is doing the same to Belltown.
It’s made what was already one of America’s biggest book-buying burgs into a top center of gravity for book distribution and even publishing.
In the larger world, it’s become both loved and hated, often for the same things.
Along with most tech-centric companies, it’s been chided for its low hiring of non-white and non-male employees.
It’s become a symbol of economic inequality, paying many programmers six-figure salaries while being far less generous to its warehouse staffs.
Along with previous 500-lb. gorillas of bookselling (B. Dalton, Borders, etc.), it’s feared and despised by much of the old NYC publishing elite. Like those companies did before it, Amazon has been accused of setting its terms and expecting publishers to fall into line.
With the Kindle, it finally turned e-book reader devices into a real business. It helped to generate an explosion in online self-publishing, facilitating tens of thousands of author-entrepreneurs (who get nervous every time Amazon changes its terms).
Kindle, and the privacy it affords to its users, also helped turn “women’s erotica” into a major commercial genre.
In just about every other category of e-commerce, it’s instilled fear into competitors who don’t have the luxury of doing business for years without profits.
I shouldn’t describe Amazon as completely without profit.
It’s earning healthy margins on Amazon Web Services (AWS), its computing-services division, providing Internet “cloud” servers for other companies, including Netflix (a rival to Amazon’s own streaming-video venture), Spotify, and Instagram.
AWS’s web-page serving business is so big, and some of its clients are themselves so big, that up to one-third of U.S. Internet traffic at certain times of the day comes from AWS-hosted sites.
Another part of what AWS does is a modern, broadband-enabled version of what Boeing’s Computer Services division or Ross Perot’s old EDS company did—crunch numbers and process data for organizations that need stuff done by big computers, but don’t need to own their own big computers to get them done.
That business is almost certainly here to stay.
As for all the other big and little parts of this huge outfit, it all depends.
It can continue to “Get Big Fast” in new venture after new venture, as long as its shareholders (who include a lot of its own top employees, past and present) remain patient.
If they don’t, or if a raider like Carl Ichan muscles into the scene, Amazon might one day have to sell or drop some of its costlier or newer lines of business, raise prices and “Prime” membership fees, pause some of its ginormous office-building plans, hold back on some new projects, and shed some of its 20,000 staff in the Seattle area (out of some 165,000 worldwide).
And if that happens, you could see a local recession comparable to the 1970 Boeing Bust.
You might claim you’d like to see Amazon’s influence on Seattle wane. But a crash would hurt a lot of people.