»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
COMET CLEANSERS
Apr 11th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

The Comet Tavern reopened to the public on March 31, a little less than six months after it had abruptly closed. Former regulars (from many era of the bar’s history) and curiosity seekers crowded the joint.

The place they entered had been considerably cleaned up. Years (nay, decades) of grafitti, soot, and cigarette-smoke stains had been scrubbed away. Several grody closets had been removed, opening up more of the main barroom. New wooden booths had replaced some wobbly bar tables. The ceiling only had a few old dollar bills taped to it, instead of being covered with them. The bathrooms, and everything within them, were both clean and functional.

Indeed, it still looked mostly as it had looked before. That is to say, it looked mostly as it had since it first opened in the 1930s, as one of Seattle’s first wave of post-Prohibition beer halls.

But the Comet’s “scene,” and its function in the Pike/Pine neighborhood, has changed many times.

A hangout for hippies and bikers in the ’60s, it attracted more of an “art world” crowd by the ’80s. In the early ’90s it was the principal watering hole for “grunge” musicians and their friends.

By the late 2000s it had become a full time live-music venue. It was also a clubhouse for Hate City, a neighborhood skateboard gang; some of its members worked as bouncers and bartenders.

Then on Oct. 2, the Comet suddenly closed.

Reportedly, its then-owner hadn’t paid the rent or the water bill for several months. Even before that, several apparent years’ worth of “deferred maintenance” meant much of its interior looked on the verge of physical collapse.

Many, on and off the Hill, wondered whether the Comet had poured its final pint.

Several would-be buyers announced themselves over the subsequent days and weeks.

The building owners, though, soon chose to deal with people they already knew. David Meinert and Jason Lajeunesse had already opened the Lost Lake retro diner/lounge in the same building.

Besides Meinert and Laneunesse already being known to the landlords, access to Lost Lake’s kitchen meant the Comet could add food, and therefore offer hard liquor, without the Comet needing a new kitchen of its own.

(Just across Pike from the Comet, Meinert and Lajeunesse also co-own Big Mario’s Pizza, and Lajeunesse co-owns the Neumos/Moe Bar/Barboza nightclub complex. Meinert also owns the 5 Point restaurant/bar in Belltown; Lajeunesse also runs the annual Capitol Hill Block Party.)

One of the new owners’ first decisions was to cut the live music from seven nights a week to one midweek night and two weekend matinees. That meant the new Comet would complement, not compete with, Neumos’ shows. It would again be (as it mostly was before 2005) a place to drink and talk, not to see bands.

Another decision was not to rehire the occasionally violent bouncers from the Hate City crew. (I knew a petite woman who’d been worked over badly by them one night there, and was glad to see them gone.)

But the decision to clean up the place was both the most obvious and (probably) the most controversial to the Comet’s former regulars.

A good amount of fixing up had to be done just to get the room back up to various building and occupancy codes.

But by so thoroughly sanitizing one of the city’s last un-reconstructed true dive bars, Meinert and Lajeunesse risked alienating the very regulars they claimed to be trying to please.

Business was brisk on night one. The real question is whether bargoers (old and new) will come back, whether they’ll still find the Comet inviting and comfortable, despite its lack of grime.

While the Comet’s future is more or less assured, other Capitol Hill institutions have been falling to redevelopment projects.

The latest, but undoubtedly not the last: Piecora’s Pizza.

After more than three decades on the Hill, its employees were suddenly given two-week notices on April 1. It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, either. The building’s coming down for yet another new mixed-use midrise.

At least the Piecora family owned the building, and presumably got enough for it to retire.

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

‘OREGONIAN’ SHRINKAGE WATCH
Apr 10th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

via charlesapple.com

The Seattle Times hasn’t shrunk much more lately, so we haven’t used our “Seattle Times Shrinkage Watch” meme much lately.

The same can’t be said for the monopoly daily in Portland, the Advance Publications (S.I. Newhouse family)-owned Oregonian.

Like Advance’s New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Oregonian has cut back on home delivery (to four days a week).

Like the T-P and other Advance papers, it’s been corporately reorganized as a “digital first” operation.

Its shrunken newsroom staff has faced a series of management dictates to post at least three online news items per day, to participate in (and start) comment threads for each item, and to eternally chase the Almighty Pageview Count. (As if standard “content site” target analytics from circa 2008 were still valid and could still lead to profits.)

And, as of last week, the print Oregonian is now a tabloid.

They officially call it a “compact” format, but it’s the same approximate page size as the Stranger. (That’s about three-quarters the current page size of the Seattle Times.)

It has (or is capable of having) color on every page. Each section is stapled (though management vows it’s all still fully recyclable).

The acres of national/international wire stories that used to dominate the front section have been slashed into a few stories and digests at the section’s back. Local coverage is still around (including, this week, a series on workplace sexual harassment), but is far more tightly edited.

However, the paper seems to have only dropped one comic strip (Rex Morgan M.D.).

These aren’t the final changes coming to the once-venerable “Big O.”

Like many shrunken daily papers, it’s moving out of its historic headquarters building, into smaller rented office quarters.

And management has told the remaining reporters they’ll soon be judged, and incentivized, for their stories’ online pageview counts and “engagement” statistics.

Expect a lot less boring but important local-paper-of-record stuff and a lot more cute cat pictures.

COBAIN + 20
Apr 5th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

Twenty years ago, a sensitive soul apparently felt overwhelmed by the role thrust upon him (and by the addiction he apparently felt unable to overcome).

At the time, he had become the Biggest New Thing in the music business.

At the time, there was such a thing as the “music business.”

Since then, his infant daughter has grown up. Many of his friends and colleagues have continued to make music; others have gone into political activism, accounting, retail, and other endeavors.

The term “rock star” now seems to be applied more often to tech-startup CEOs than to musicians.

The recorded-music industry is now about two-fifths of what it used to be (by sales), and shrinks further every year.

But the Cobain Cult keeps going strong.

People still “re-imagine and re-invent” the man into almost completely fictionalized idealizations. He has been depicted as a demigod, a crucified martyr, a conspiracy victim, a badass, a weeping giant, a rocker, an anti-rocker, a Voice of a Generation, a idiosyncratic loner, etc. etc.

Even in the first days after his death, this had gone on. As Ann Powers quoted C/Z Records owner Daniel House then:

He’s turned into something that represents different things for different people. I understand the press is going to be all over it, but I wish they would leave it alone completely. Because that attention is why Kurt died. He had no life, no peace, constant chaos. He had become a freak.

OSO CAN YOU SEE?
Mar 26th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

'before shot' via nytimes.com; many of these home lots were second or summer homes

As many of you know, I grew up in northern Snohomish County.

Arlington, Darrington, Oso, Smokey Point, and the Mountain Loop Highway are all places I regularly visited with my mother on antique-buying trips, or bicycled through, or on church or school trips.

My parents briefly owned a second home in what became the landslide zone.

My brother still lives near there.

He has a friend-of-a-friend who was one of the first landslide victims helicoptered to Harborview. Another friend-of-a-friend is the parent of one of the still-missing children.

If you pray or meditate, the still-missing people there, and their loved ones and/or survivors, are worth remembering.

FROM CITY LITE TO CITY OF LIT
Mar 24th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

As Sears’ Seattle store dies (see this blog’s previous entry), another company here in town has led a revival of shopping from home, with a “catalog” running to millions of auto-customized web pages.

But Amazon’s original business, and its most controversial presence, remains in books.

As George Packer recently noted in the New Yorker, Amazon has disrupted, and often infuriated, the champions of traditional publishing, also known as “Book Culture.”

Some of these folks gathered in Seattle in late February/early March for the annual convention of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP).

AWP’s main public event was a giant book fair on the convention’s final day, featuring hundreds of publishers big and small, for- and non-profit. It’s the one time a year, in a different city each year, when poetry is a business!

And Amazon was there, as a convention co-sponsor and as a vendor, with a book fair table advertising its self-publishing services.

One of the small literary publishers at the fair had a raffle for one of Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader devices. They promoted the raffle with a punching-bag toy, festooned with a photo of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ face.

More recently, Mayor Murray sent a formal proposal to UNESCO’s “Creative Cities” program, to become an officially, internationally recognized “City of Literature.”

The city’s formal application included a long original essay by Blueprints of the Afterlife novelist Ryan Boudinot.

The essay lists programs (to be supported partly by local public and private funding) Seattle would implement should it get the UNESCO nod. One of these programs would involve the city buying Hugo House’s building on Capitol Hill as a permanent “literary arts center” (that would also continue to house Hugo House’s programs).

Boudinot’s essay also gushes, in adoring detail, about Seattle and the Northwest’s cultural heritage(s) and its contributions in literature and publishing (especially Fantagraphics’ graphic novels) as well as in music and the visual arts.

And nowhere in the essay’s 7,000-plus words are the words “Amazon” or “Bezos” ever mentioned.

WHERE AMERICA SHOPPED
Mar 21st, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

theryanrvexpress.blogspot.com

Here is a story about the world’s largest “shop from home” company, and the time it started an experimental business operation in Seattle that grew and grew.

The company was Sears, Roebuck and Co. (“Cheapest Supply House on Earth”, “Our Trade Reaches Around the World”).

The time was 1925.

The experiment was to expand from its famous “Big Book” mail order catalogs into what are now called “brick and mortar” retail stores. Urbanization and automobiles (two trends that now seems contradictory) had come to threaten Sears’ biggest market, rural families who wanted prices and selections they couldn’t get in small town stores.

Because this was a new direction for a company that had grown huge on its existing business model, Sears management chose to save money by placing its first two retail stores in buildings it already owned—its catalog warehouses in Chicago (the company’s headquarters) and Seattle. (The Chicago flagship store closed a few decades back, leaving the Seattle store as the company’s oldest.)

The Sears Seattle warehouse building had been built a little over a decade before, in 1912. The Industrial District (later christened “Sodo” by local boosters) had just been created a few years before, from tide flats filled in with dirt from the city’s massive regrading projects. It was built for the company by the Union Pacific Railroad, whose freight tracks hugged its back side. It was built from solid old growth local timber, with handsome brick cladding and a clock tower (still the neighborhood’s tallest structure, other than container-dock cranes) on top.

It also happened to be two miles south of the city’s traditional retail core. This meant the store would rely less on foot traffic and more on folks driving expressly to go there. That meant it was a forbearer of suburban malls and big-box stores, trends Sears would ride on nationally in the post-WWII decades.

The store housed a subset of the catalog’s almost-everything selection (but not cars, or entire houses in kit form, or non-perishable groceries, three of the catalog’s once-popular sections). It had “soft goods” (clothes and linens). It had “hard goods” (appliances, hardware, auto parts, furniture). For a while, there was even a farm supply department.

In 1951, the new Alaskan Way Viaduct meant Sears was just off of the main highway through the city. A little over a decade later, I-5 would pass nearby.

Generations grew up with our own local version of the store advertised as “Where America Shops,” a chunk of middle class materialistic heaven surrounded by warehouse and small factories.

Perhaps the escalators were narrow and rickety, and the ceilings shorter, compared to newer stores in the malls; but Seattle’s Sears had its own charms. The popcorn machine and the candy counter. The cool pastel colored walls in the women’s department. The Saturday morning cartoons or Sunday afternoon sports games on the wall of TVs.

Meanwhile, the warehouse part of the building grew over the years to 2.2 million square feet, making it Seattle’s largest building by volume.

But the Sears catalogs were phased out in the mid 1980s. The building was put up for sale in 1990. It was first retitled SoDo Center, then Starbucks Center when the coffee giant moved its head offices into it.

The Sears retail store remained but shrank. Part of its space was taken up by by an Office Max. Home Depot opened a huge store across South Lander Street, competing with many of Sears’ “hard goods” departments.

The company wasn’t doing too well nationally by this time either. Walmart had overtaken both Sears and Kmart to become the nation’s top retailer. The 2004 merger of Sears and Kmart failed to revive either chain’s fortunes.

Thus, the end of the Sodo Sears store became inevitable.

Only 79 employees remained with the store when its closure was announced in February, 13 of them in the “Auto Center” department.

The store had become forgotten before it was gone.

(Cross posted with City Living Seattle.)

SINCE WE’RE NEIGHBORS, LET’S BE FRIENDS
Mar 20th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

mallhalloffame.blogspot.ca

In the six weeks or so since I posted any news briefs, the news has just kept on a-comin’.

Among the highlights: The hedge-fund guys who bought and sold Chrysler, then bought (and re-merged) the two previously spun-apart regional halves of Albertsons, are now going to buy Safeway.

Both chains have been bought and sold in leveraged buyout schemes previously; both have barely recovered from those debacles. Both chains have also acquired other regional chains over the decades, and lost and re-gained some of the stores operating under their original “store banners.” Even the “core” Safeway-branded operation was originally a merger of several chains, arranged by Merrill Lynch in the 1920s.

It happens that Safeway and Albertsons both have roots in Idaho (the original Albertsons is still open in Boise!). Both circuits grew and thrived in the inland and coastal West, areas A&P (the grocery biz’s former 300-lb. gorilla) mostly never got around to entering. These are also territories that Walmart only got around to entering in the last decade or two. That makes them relatively stable fiscally, compared to southern and eastern grocery circuits operating in Walmart’s core regions.

Both chains, of course, control lots of real estate, which may be the real reason they’re attractive to the hedge-fund folks. Safeway in particular has actively co-developed multi-story, “mixed use” projects on many of its store sites, including several projects in Seattle and Bellevue.

The soon-to-be-combined chains’ management claims no stores will close as a result of the merger. But many could be sold off, especially in metro areas where both chains are strong. And some warehouses and front-office jobs could also go away.

One thing I predict won’t go away: the persistent, and false, urban legend that either or both chains are really “owned by the Mormons.” They never were.

NY10014 at flickr

FIVE YEARS AFTER
Mar 17th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

Classic P-I building from my book 'seattle's belltown;' museum of history and industry collection

I left the Missy James post up as this blog’s top item for a month, both to remember her and because I’ve been laser focused on finding paying work.

But it’s time for me to get back to the “writing” thang.

And there’s no more appropriate day to do so than on the fifth anniversary of the last printed Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The city lost a huge chunk of its soul and its collective memory when the Hearst Corp., awash in losses here and in its other print-media operations, pulled the plug on our town’s “second” yet superior daily paper.

There’s been a P-I sized hole in the local media-scape ever since.

Yeah, we’ve got the Seattle Times, albeit a shrunken one (though it’s apparently stopped shrinking any further, at least for now).

We’ve got the StrangerSeattle Weekly, CrosscutPublicola, and SportsPress NW.

We’ve got four local TV news stations (plus NorthWest Cable News), four local radio news stations, and all their respective websites.

We’ve got Seattle magazine, Seattle Met, and CityArts.

We’ve got the Daily Journal of Commerce, the Puget Sound Business Journal, and assorted tech-biz news sites.

We’ve got Horse’sAssSeattlishThe Seattle Star, and dozens of other (mostly volunteer-run) blogs covering local politics, sports, and arts.

And, oh yeah, we’ve got SeattlePI.com.

It’s still run by Hearst. It still has Joel Connelly’s acerbic political commentary, Josh Trujillo’s dramatic photojournalism, and the occasional excellent news story.

But its staff has shrunk to 14 reporters, photographers, and “producers,” down from the 20 it had at its stand-alone start in ’09. That, in turn, was a small fraction of the team the print P-I had.

That’s still a full-time payroll comparable to that of any newsroom in town, except those of the Times and the TV stations.

But it’s stretched thin by the requirement to post dozens of “click bait” and “listicle” stories every day.

Hearst is running PI.com according to the 2009 rules of a “content” web business.

Those rules, which nationally gave us the likes of BuzzFeed and Elite Daily, have proven profitable only among the most sensationalistic and most cheaply run operations that feed either on gossip, noise, or national niche audiences.

It’s no way to run a local general-news operation.

And it’s no way to pay for professional local journalism on a sustainable basis.

But neither Hearst nor any of America’s other old-media giants has figured out a better way.

So it’s become the job of us “street level” bloggers to find new rules, new concepts, to forge a new path beyond the ugly web pages stuff with worthless banner ads. To create the New-New News.

My personal bottom line:

I want a local news organization, staffed by folks who know what they’re doing and who are paid living wages.

I want it to attract an audience at least as loyal (and as willing to help support it) as KUOW’s audience.

I want it to be the first place this audience looks to to learn what’s been going on around here, in the last day or the last hour.

I want it to reach out across subcultures and social strata.

I have collected a few ideas in this regard, a few potential pieces of this puzzle.

And I’d love to hear some of yours.

MISSY JAMES
Feb 11th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

Trying to find words is hard for me, a lot of the time. Today, it’s even harder.

Missy James was a longtime figure in Seattle’s underground literary, pottery, and music circles, and a mainstay of the tight-knit bohemian scene in Seattle’s remote South Park neighborhood. Her “artist’s product” business Fossil Fire, in which she made ceramics that looked just like fine chocolates, has been on the “Friends of MISCmedia” column on this page since ’09.

I’d first met her, bizarrely enough, through a national email list of fans of the author David Foster Wallace. I first met her in person at a local meetup of some of that group’s members. We quickly became good friends, as did most people who met her.

She was a major force in South Park’s art/music/party scene, a “world unto its own” the likes of which Seattle otherwise doesn’t have anymore. She was an occasional guest voice with drag-rocker Gnarlene Hall. She helped organize regular street and yard parties. She was a hockey fan, a cat lover, and a voice against injustice and stupidity.

But mostly she was a Presence. One of light and passion and sass.

So, when she finally learned she’d had a long undiagnosed cancer, she became furious. At the doctors who’d told her it was something else. At the world for thrusting this painful, brutal burden upon her.

But she fought back, for as long as she could (more than three years since her first surgeries), as fully as she could.

Then she went in to Overlake Hospital near Christmas. She went back in late January. She then spent several days at a hospice facility. Then her brother David, who’d flown down from Anchorage, picked her up and took her back to her home. She received visits from neighbors and friends until David announced on Facebook that she couldn’t take any more visitors for the time being.

That was last Saturday. She passed on early Tuesday morning, with a friend holding her hand all the time.

She did not go gentle into that good night. She raged, raged against the dying of the light.

May I be more like her.

THE POWER OF 12
Feb 6th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

The most recently estimated population of Seattle is 637,000 and change.

Another 200,000 workers commute into town on a typical weekday. (I don’t know how many city residents commute to suburban jobs.)

Police estimated 700,000 people lined Fourth Avenue and Pioneer Square on Wednesday.

A lot of them were kids. Some really young kids. Some older kids, skipping school for a major life experience.

(The victory parade had to be on a weekday because the players were about to disperse to off-season homes.)

The day was sunny and mightily cold. People, lots of ‘em, found themselves trapped in the middle of the crowd as the hastily-conceived parade started more than half an hour after its scheduled start time.

Then the buses, humvees, and “Ducks” bearing the players and coaches finally appeared. Whoops and hollers and cheers rose up all around. I took these last two shots from an upper floor of an office building two blocks away and could still hear it.

THE DAY AFTER THE DAY AFTER
Feb 4th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

The Seahawks’ previous playoff game, against the team’s current division rivals San Francisco, carried such a sense of challenge, struggle, and last-minute triumph, that I feared the big game for the total league championship might seem anticlimactic.

My fears proved unfounded.

Two great local pregame storylines immediately developed:

  1. Yes, it would be only the Seahawks’ second appearance at the biggest U.S. sports event of the year. The team from America’s “far corner,” from a city still often treated as a backwater fishing village, a team that not long ago almost moved to L.A., now playing for our collective honor and respect.
  2. More specifically, our gaggle of relative no-names would take on a genuine media-anointed Celebrity Quarterback, beloved by advertisers, broadcast sports pundits, and Las Vegas gamblers. Despite the Seahawks’ power and their balanced offense, we were underdogs in Vegas and everywhere outside the team’s official TV/radio region.

Sports bars (and other bars that could be used for watching sports) were full. Other spots around town were empty or closed.

I’d mentioned previously that everyone I read or talked to here in town was absolutely certain the Seahawks would win. But many of them predicted the Seahawks would win by just a few points. Almost nobody expected a blowout.

A blowout was what they, and the rest of us, got.

It started with a Broncos safety (the rarest scoring play in the sport) on the very first play from scrimmage.

It just went on from there, with a Seahawks field goal on the very next drive. Before the game was done, there were Seahawk touchdowns from kickoff returns, interceptions, and pass receivers scrambling past tacklers. The Broncos’ offensive drives (with one exception) ended with fumbles, interceptions, punts, or fourth-down stops.

The result was “boring” to some national commentators.

But it was ecstatic to all of us.

Some national bloggers apparently thought it amusing that we mostly celebrated sanely. (Unlike, say, the 2011 riots when the Vancouver Canucks lost the NHL finals.)

But that’s how we roll.

We get angry over injustice.

We get joyous over spectacular successes.

(Although I suspect many of Sunday night’s 12th Men and Women might now be looking into the 12 Steps.)

A few civic-culture thoughts:

No, the Seahawks’ victory was not solely due to its aggressive defense. A defense-only team would be like those dot-com bosses who boast of how “disruptive” they are, but whose works contribute nothing back to the world.

The Seahawks’ offense is every bit as important as its “D.” It’s a balanced offense, that relies as much on solid rushing plays as on spectacular passes.

And the Seahawks, and their players, contribute a lot.

In charity drives, publicized and other.

In economic activity, bringing fans from around the region and beyond into Seattle.

In just being decent people off the field, something you don’t see often enough in bigtime sports.

And in uniting a whole region in a cause.

A meaningless cause, yes; an entertainment.

But a cause of power and (yes) beauty, of guts and glory, of being seen and recognized and respected.

Some thoughts by others:

  • Jeopardy! legend Ken Jennings wrote before the game that “the heartbreak of Seattle sports fandom made me who I am today;” but he added that “we’re not supposed to hope, but maybe this is the team that ends the heartache.”
  • Lindy West takes a break from bashing media misogyny to concur with Jennings, noting that “the Seattle I grew up in is not the type of city that wins Super Bowls.” West hopes Seattle having suddenly become “a city of winners” doesn’t lead to “the end for us.”
  • Seattle Storm legend Lauren Jackson would like you all to remember that her team has won two league titles. The UW football team and the pre-MLS incarnations of the Sounders have also been tops in their respective fields of play. It’s not just the Sonics 35 years ago and the Seahawks today.
  • Blogger Kacee Bree notes the positive effect this has all had on the city’s zeitgeist:

You can feel the electricity and expectation everywhere you go. The atmosphere is different lately at the mall, the grocery store and even in the classic Seattle traffic. The 12th Man flag flies everywhere from skyscrapers to SUVs. Even our fountains burst with bright blue.…

Why are we so passionate about our SEAHAWKS? Because despite the impression that the national media is portraying, we know our Hawks are true INSPIRATIONS on and off the field. We have a team that acts, plays and respects like a true team, and they are lead by a man who recognizes that our city is a part of that team. The 12th Man is more than a saying here in Seattle; it is the role we play in the success of this outstanding football team.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 2-2-14
Feb 2nd, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

Since most of my most loyal readers will have other things to do on Sunday afternoon, here’s some relatively timeless randomosity for whenever you log back in:

  • Kentucky’s GOP Senators forced Wash. state utilities to buy nuclear power components they don’t really need.
  • Amazon has exercised its option to buy the Belltown block where the Hurricane Cafe has been for 20 years (and the legendary Dog House had been for more than three decades before that).
  • Meanwhile, the Washington State Convention Center is buying the Honda of Seattle block.
  • As we approach five years since the last printed Post-Intelligencer (still missed), we must say goodbye to one of its ol’ mainstays, reporter John Engstrom.
  • If anybody knows what’s still stalling the waterfront tunnel machine, nobody’s telling.
  • There was a “Progressive Radio Summit” in Seattle, in which the keynote speaker claimed “the only sustainable model for broadcasters today is subscription based programming.”
  • The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center is still financially desperate.
  • White privilege: it exists, whether it’s visible to you or not.
  • Yes, Macklemore hired an established distribution company (the same one Sub Pop and others use) to get his CD into retail stores. That still qualifies as “not having a record label,” no matter what NPR says.
  • Steve Wilhelm at the Puget Sound Business Journal warns that Boeing’s strong arm tactics against the Machinists Union may cost the company more than it gains.
  • As Paramount becomes the first Hollywood studio to cease distributing movies on film reels to theaters, indie filmmakers take to the proverbial the Star-Off Machine and “reach for 16mm.” Meanwhile, there’s a campaign to “Save Film,” as a medium for both movie production and exhibition.
  • It’s always trouble when typographers attack one another.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
Feb 1st, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

And the ol’ 12th Man Fever, the regionwide joyous insanity over the Seahawks’ magic season, has continued for two weeks following the NFC Championship victory. It continues at least until early Sunday evening, when Sooper Bowl Ex El Vee Eye Eye Eye finally produces a winner.

Many non-sports-bar businesses around the city and region have already announced they’re going to be closed Sunday during the game, or all day. The Boat Show has even closed early. The Seahawks’ second-ever try at the league title has become an impromptu local holiday.

One big difference from 2006: As KING’s Linda Brill notes, there’s a “different vibe.”

Everyone here, and I mean everyone, is absolutely certain of a Seahawks victory.

So what, locals say, if the other team has a media-anointed Celebrity Quarterback? We’ve got the defense, the discipline, the guts, the heart, and the loudest fans anywhere.

And did I mention the attitude? A lifetime of traditional Seattle self-deprecation has blown away. At least for now.

Sleep well tonight, Seattle. If you can.

I WANT TO BE A PART OF IT, EAST RUTH-ER-FORD…
Jan 20th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

(The title of this post continues with the Sinatra-esque title treatment of the previous post.)

The Seahawks are off to the Super Bowl for the second time in team history. Just like the last time, you can expect all the national media to be against us. It’s going to be all “THE GREAT LEGENDARY PEYTON MANNING and some other team.”

Or that’s how it was going to be, until certain online commentators found a hate object.

Yeah, Richard Sherman is loud.

Yeah, he talked like a trash-talking wrestler during his impromptu sideline interview just after the game.

No, he was not, and is not, a “goon” or a “thug.” (He’s really a thoughtful young man who gives generously to charity.)

And no, his remarks do not justify idiotic racist bigotry.

The game’s striking ending, in which Sherman’s tip-away of a touchdown pass preserved the Seahawks’ lead with less than half a minute to go, was the climax of a huge day that capped a huge season.

It had been a day of high hopes and high fears.

The 2013-14 Seahawks had united this region in ways I didn’t think possible. Even some sports-hating hippies got into the fever.

The pregame festivities outside the stadium were a glorious cacophony of enthusiasm, pride, joy, and (yes) love.

And, yeah, maybe a little bit of bragging. Like when a lot of us noticed that one of the two Pioneer Square bars taken over by 49er fans was the New Orleans—namesake of the Seahawks’ previous playoff conquest.

(The “pegging” in the above photo was only with small water balloons, and was a school fundraiser, though they never said for which school.)

A nice lady gave me this cupcake decorated with Skittles (a product of Mars, originally founded in Tacoma), and a plastic kid-size Seahawks helmet ring.


Eventually, though, it came time to gather inside the stadium, to private parties, or to bars (such as Safeco Field’s “The ‘Pen”; yes, the Mariners learned to make a few bucks from a neighbor team’s success). I dutifully found myself back in Belltown, cheering on the team with about 40 other rabid fans.

And, as you undoubtedly know by now, it was a knuckle biter of an experience.

Our boys were down (but not by much) the entire first half, broken by a short-lived tie in the third quarter. They only took the lead early in the fourth quarter, and held precariously to that lead until Sherman’s final pass deflection.

The whole bar I was at became noisy as hell after that, and remained that way for a good half hour afterward.

Then the party spilled into the streets, with revelers driving and marching up First Avenue from the stadium. Revelry continued well into the night.

Something tells me the Super Bowl itself (which will occur in East Rutherford NJ, despite what the promo ads may say), even when we win it, might feel anticlimactic in comparison.

I HATE CALIFORNIA. IT’S COLD AND IT’S DAMP.
Jan 17th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

'i hate the 49ers' on facebook

(Note: This post’s title is a gag based on a song lyric. Californians never get the joke.)

Twice a year, I get to express out loud an opinion that usually attracts scorn and correctiveness from even my closest friends.

And this week, I get to really say it.

The excuse: The Seahawks’ upcoming battle in the National Football League’s playoff semifinals, against the arch rival 49ers.

The opinion: San Francisco is a land of pompous, arrogant snobs who falsely believe themselves to be the Supreme Species of the Universe.

Especially San Francisco’s “alternative” and “radical” scenes.

That’s a socially forbidden opinion there—and even, often, here.

All my life, I’ve heard people here insisting that Seattle was a “hick town” that needed to become “world class” by religiously copying everything in, from, and about San Francisco. Its restaurants and bars. Its bands. Its fashions. Its municipal political structure. Its architecture. Its media institutions. Its stores. Its strip clubs. Even its street crime.

To these “local boosters,” anything Seattleites created on their own was intrinsically inferior to anything swiped from or “inspired by” cultural dictates from down south. (This attitude was particularly strong during the ’70s and ’80s, when Seattle’s civic establishment was almost completely run by upscale baby boomers.)

Over the years, there’s also been a steady stream of promoters and hucksters from there moving up here, opening “authentic San Francisco style” hoity-toity clubs or boutiques, long on attitude and short on anything really interesting. When these enterprises failed, as they usually did, said hucksters bemoaned us Seattle hicks for failing to appreciate their genius.

To a true San Franciscan, there is only San Francisco, and maybe New York, and just-maybe-maybe Los Angeles. The rest of America is all Bumfuck, Iowa.

“But,” people invariably say, “what about all the bohemian rebels and counterculturists and Establishment-challengers from there?”

They can be even more annoyingly snooty than your basic San Franciscan annoying snoot.

And it’s an American tragedy, the way they’ve helped left-wing politics to get ensnarled with the most anti-populist, square-bashing sentiments, in which one is supposed to love “the people” and hate “the sap masses” at the same time. (I’m talking to you, Mr. Tom Tomorrow and Mr. Jello Biafra.)

I happen to believe progressive/revolutionary politics should be for everybody.

Even meat eaters. Even TV viewers. Even people who don’t drink lattes or listen to public radio.

Otherwise it’s just a worthless pose.

There’s now a book out by one Fred Turner, called From Counterculture to Cyberculture. It traces the twisted path of San Franciscan “liberation” ideology/hype, from the “flower power” wild-oats sowers, through the Whole Earth Catalog gang, to the early microcomputer startups, to Wired magazine’s founders, to the hyper-alpha guys (and too few gals) running today’s dot-com giants.

Turner traces how a particular strain of NoCal “personal freedom” beliefs mutated and metastasized into corporate-Libertarian selfishness.

The Harvard Business Review story about the book carries the telling title, “How Silicon Valley Became the Man.”

Right now in Frisco (an informal, anti-elitist abbreviation I always insist upon using), there’s a loud backlash against dot-com one-percenters taking over the whole city, forcing artists and musicians (and, oh yeah, non-white folks) out, and making annoyances of themselves with their big spending and boorish behavior.

Protesters and pundits forthrightly proclaim that this all runs counter to “The City” and its heritage of rugged individualists, rule breakers, and wild boys.

No. It’s a monster bastard child of that heritage, taken to a parasitical extreme.

So no, Danny Westneat and Knute Berger: I don’t share any “sense of inferiority to San Francisco.”

I treat it as an example of what Seattle should not become.

»  Copyright 2012 Clark Humphrey (clark (at) miscmedia.com)   »  Substance: WordPress   »  Style: Ahren Ahimsa