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CAN ‘AMAGEDDON’ BE PREVENTED?
Aug 16th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

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.)

OF DESPERATE TIMES AND VISUAL VOCABULARIES
Jul 24th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

desperate times cover

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.

 

 

chantry speaks cover

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).

AMAZON @ 20
Jul 7th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

an early amazon home page, via onemonthrails.com

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.

ROOM AT THE IN (AND OUT) FOR ONE-FIVE
Jan 2nd, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

this year's space needle fireworks were sponsored by t-mobile and heavily emphasized the color 't-mobile magenta.'

As promised previously, MISCmedia is back for two-ought-one-five with a new commitment to try and make sense (or at least document the nonsense) of Life in the Demitasse Size City.

To start things off, and for the 29th consecutive year (really!), we proudly present the MISCmedia In/Out List, the most trusted (and only accurate) list of its kind in this and all other known media relay systems.

As always, this list operates under the premise that the future is not necessarily linear. It compiles what will become torrid and tepid in the coming year, not necessarily what’s torrid and tepid now. If you believe everything hot now will just keep getting hotter, I’ve got some RadioShack stock to sell you.

INSVILLE OUTSKI
Bratwurst Ice cream
Saving affordable housing Saving sandwich shops
Amazon as profitless, fragile giant Amazon as omnipotent leviathan
“Phablets” Apple Watch
Fully independent publishing Kindle Unlimited
Fully independent cinema Marvel Cinematic Universe
Ronan Farrow Michael Smerconish
Journalism Clickbait
Furniture Girls Taylor Swift
“Selfie sticks” Facebook food pictures
Euro-socialist revival GOP revival
Cardless payments Kardashians (still)
Dyed armpit hair Lululemon
“Black lives matter” “I’m not racist, but…”
Streaming TV Streaming music
Shoreline White Center
Cheap oil as climate threat Cheap oil as economic blessing
Forest green Taupe
Art Basel Burning Man
Compassion “Non-apologies”
Fiat Google drone car
Women Who Code “Brogrammers”
Cards Against Humanity Candy Crush
Human rights for Cuba New cars for Cuba
Tessa Thompson (Dear White People) Jessica Alba
Tiny houses Charter schools
Legalizing/protecting sex workers Banning protests
Vox Daily Currant
Tucson Austin
Four Roses Fireball
Chris Pratt Seth Rogan
Funky weirdness Soulless “luxury”
Mariners comeback UW football comeback
Insulting Russia Insulting North Korea
Treasure hunts Private “event spaces”
Fried chicken Bacon
Bakugan Minecraft
Ending the waterfront tunnel Closing movie theaters
“Sweetums” “Bae”
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.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 1/10/14
Jan 10th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

fastcoexist.com

  • The Fast Company folks seem to love Northgate’s Thornton Creek mixed use megaproject.
  • A Seattle architect has re-devoted his career toward aiding the homeless and the recently homeless.
  • One-fourth of Amazon’s Kindle ebook sales in 2012 were for books by indie and self-publishers.
  • Amazon’s warehouses, sometimes infamous for pushing workers hard, are getting robotized.
  • Meanwhile, some guy at the Atlantic’s biz-news site Quartz claims that 3D printing and robotized manufacturing, and the one-of-a-kind manufacturing they can enable, could eventually mean “the end of Walmart and mass-market retail as you know it.”
  • Students at Eastside Catholic High School will keep protesting the firing of a beloved, now gay-married, vice principal.
  • Seattle author David Shields is acting in a movie directed by James Franco.
  • City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, and the Stranger writers who relentlessly pushed her candidacy, were named to the Nation‘s “2013 Progressive Honor Roll.”
  • The gang down at Three Imaginary Girls has a roundup of their favorite (mostly) local music of ’13.
  • Ani DiFranco scheduled a women’s songwriting retreat at a former slave plantation. (The place is now a museum, offering a highly sanitized account of America’s slave-owning heritage.) Some Af-Am women protested online. A smart person would have used this hubbub as a positive “teaching moment.” DiFranco and her associates essentially failed at that.
  • Where They Are Now Dept.: NY punk and underground-film bad girl Lydia Lunch now teaches women’s yoga and “empowerment” workshops in Calif.
  • Right-wing front groups, pretending to be “journalists,” have tried to obstruct investigations into right-wing financial misdealings in Wisconsin.
  • Prostitution is fully legal in Canada (including brothel-keeping and solicitation), sez their Supreme Court. It could be the start of a new (or upgraded) tourism shtick. But I’d like it to mean more respect and personal safety for sex workers, there and here.
RANDOM LINKS FOR 12/17/13
Dec 16th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

  • Good News (Personal) Dept.: I’ve got a part time job these days. It’s in the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle. That was one of the many local structures designed by the great local architect Fred Bassetti, whom we lost earlier this month.
  • Why Didn’t I Know About This Sooner? Dept.: Bob Royer (ex-KING 5 newsman; brother of ex-mayor Charley; ex-hubby of self help maven Jennifer James) has been writing online about Northwest history. His recent topics include a Spokane narrative poet from the early 20th century and the launch of Washington’s wine industry as we know it today (he traces it to the state Legislature’s move in 1969 to allow more Calif. imports).
  • Passage-O-Time Dept.: It’s been 20 years since the murder of Gits singer Mia Zapata sparked the founding of Seattle self-defense group Home Alive. There’s now a documentary about the group and its impact. No idea when the film might play here.
  • There hasn’t been a new Seattle Best Places guidebook since ’09, and now the publisher says there won’t be any more.
  • Nope, there’s still no concrete plan to bring the National Hockey League to Seattle.
  • As ESPN’s Chris Berman might say, Mariners fans can now give a big welcome to ex-Yankees star Robinson “Paddle Your Own” Cano. (Of course, one marquee-draw player alone won’t reverse the results of years of mismanagement.)
  • The UW football team’s got a new coach, the same guy who helped helm Boise State’s rise to powerhouse (or at least near-powerhouse) status.
  • Mars Hill Church leader Mark Driscoll isn’t the only guy trying to combine a “hip” image with reactionary religious politics. One example, from Portland, is a vintage-furniture shop owner who moonlights as a street preacher railing against gays, strippers, and football, among other things.
  • German Amazon employees went all the way to Seattle to protest the company’s warehouse working conditions. The apparent lesson: In the age of globalized capital, labor must behave likewise.
  • Meanwhile, Amazon’s predecessor as America’s great central general store, Sears, was nearly destroyed by an Ayn Rand-lovin’ CEO whose modus operandi was to pit department against department, manager against manager, employee against employee. (Any relation to recent management policies at, say, Microsoft are purely coincidental I’m sure.)
RANDOM LINKS FOR 12/2/13
Dec 1st, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

A long-delayed batch of randomosity (the first in more than a month) begins with the discovery of the newest local “mainstream microbrew.” Underachiever Lager appears to have begun as a promo vehicle for Tacoma designer-casual-wear company Imperial Motion, but is now being rolled out as its own thang in select local bars.

  • The countdown to the possible decimation of King County Metro Transit continues, with professional Seattle-haters in the Legislature officially not giving a damn.
  • Could the Seattle Monorail Project really be brought back from the dead?
  • About eighteen years past due and not a moment too soon, there’s finally a local music show back on local TV. It’s Band in Seattle, and it airs at 11 p.m. Saturdays on the once-mighty KSTW (which hasn’t had any local programming in ages).
  • Dj and promoter Derek Mazzone offers a fond remembrance of Ace Hotel/ARO.Space/Tasty Shows/Rudy’s Barbershop entrepreneur Alex Canderwood.
  • We must also say goodbye to Dee Dee Rainbow, a longtime Meany Middle School art teacher, a fixture at just about every jazz show in the region, and a figure of joy and celebration wherever she went.
  • As has been expected, a mega-developer is buying the old “Fairview Fannie” Seattle Times HQ. The 1930 art deco façade features might be retained.
  • Monica Guzman has seen one of Amazon’s new “webisode” sitcoms and finds it to be a dreary dude-fest with female characters decidedly de-emphasized.
  • Sinan Demirel at Crosscut remembers homeless-housing projects of the past, and ponders whether they contain any lessons for today.
  • Is there really such a thing as “The Seattle ‘No,'” depicted as a passive-aggressive copout response? I’ve certainly had few problems saying a firm “No” to questions just like this one.
  • City Councilmember-elect Kshama Sawant isn’t even in office yet and the carpers, local and national, are already circling.
  • The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center is in severe financial straits and might not survive.
  • One of my fave hangouts, Bill’s Off Broadway at Pine and Harvard, closes Monday nite. Yep, redevelopment strikes again. The pizza/pasta joint and sports bar has already opened an exile location on Greenwood Avenue, and should be back in the rebuilt corner in 20 months’ time.
  • To the surprise of very few, David Meinert and his partner Jason Lajuenesse are taking over the Comet Tavern.
  • Matt Driscoll at Seattle Weekly describes Boeing’s single, unacceptable, set of take-it-or-leave-it demands for labor givebacks as the “dick move of the week.” But don’t worry; billionaire CEOs have made plenty of dick moves just in the two weeks since then.
  • Lemme get this straight: A local ad agency is trying to convince other ad agencies to make ads here in Wash. state by playing on the image of this as a place where people don’t like being advertised to. Or something like that.
  • KIRO-TV salaciously described the sidewalks surrounding City Hall Park and the Morrison Hotel as “The Most Dangerous Block in Seattle.” A local merchant there begs to differ, and asks that the down n’ out be treated with “your hope, not your contempt.”
  • We’re learning that every time there’s a closed subculture run by leaders who demand total obedience, there’s apt to be child abuse. Latest example: NYC’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community.
RANDOM LINKS FOR 9/26/13
Sep 26th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

pelican bay foundation via capitolhillseattle.com

First, another “sorry folks” for not getting something up to the site lately. I know some of you enjoy these li’l linx, even when I don’t have a major essay about something.

For now, back to Randomosity:

  • The mural at the Kingfish Cafe’s building on east Capitol Hill (see above) dates back to the ’70s and to a noble experiment in cooperatively-run artist housing. Read the comments to learn how it collapsed.
  • A Bloomberg commentator decries Amazon’s South Lake Union “geek zone” as a swath of real estate “cursed by dullness.”
  • Amazon’s newest Kindle Fire tablet has one “killer app” selling point: live, human, tech support!
  • Getting the Rainier Beer “R” logo back up on the ex-brewery building will be nice. It would be even nicer if the brand’s current owners would make it here again, instead of at the Miller plant in the L.A. exurbs. There’s gotta be enough excess microbrewery capacity in Washington to make that possible.
  • (Rhetorical) question of the day: Would the local Caucasian model who donned black body paint for a fashion shoot make a good (rhetorical) question for the blog Yo, Is This Racist?
  • As discussed earlier this year at EMP, the likes of Miley Cyrus are, no matter how superficially “transgressive,” still the product of a star-maker machine that subjects female pop singers to a “packaging process.”
  • When it comes to regressive taxation against the poor, we’re (still) number one! (But Washington’s still a “progressive” state because we love gays and pot, right?)
  • A local grocery strike looks more likely.
  • An “adjunct professor” in Pittsburgh died a horrid death, without savings or health insurance. This is a facet of the status quo the Obamacare-bashing right wingers so desperately want to preserve. (Another facet: the cuts to mental health services that leave the dangerously untreated on the streets.)
  • No, Huffington Post,“Generation Y” folks don’t particularly feel “special” or “entitled.” Poverty-stricken and opportunity-deprived, yes.
  • Could “Internet workers” be subject to minimum wage laws? I sure hope so. And the same goes for other freelance and “for the exposure” workers, who are workers indeed.
  • I don’t need to view condom-free porn videos because, unlike apparently a lot of self-describing “straight” men, I’m indifferent toward the sight of other men’s parts.
  • And to help you politely refute specious “comment trolls” online and in “real” life, here’s a handy li’l Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments.

ali almossawi

    RANDOM LINKS FOR 8/31/13
    Aug 31st, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

    soundersfc.com

    • Turns out there’s a word for these massive fan-made visual displays at soccer matches. The word is “tifo.”
    • The NY Times notes that Amazon hasn’t asked for a dime in extra tax breaks for its big Seattle development schemes.
    • Meanwhile, could Amazon start its own wireless cell-phone network?
    • Even the rarified realm of Seattle sushi, there are problematic “bigot diners.”
    • After almost 50 years, the Francine Seders Gallery in Phinney Ridge closes this December.
    • After 22 years, the radio station known as “The Mountain” is leaving the air, sort of. An Internet feed and a digital sub-channel will continue the format (but will they have live DJs?).
    • The UW experiment in “mind control” won’t immediately lead to anything useful, like helping disabled people regain control of their limbs or anything.
    • “Celebrity architects” don’t always design monumental, scenery-dominating houses in the countryside for fat cat clients. Sometimes they do it for themselves.
    • In keeping with my occasional claims that we’re entering a long attention span generation, the Guardian claims that big epic novels “are back.”
    • It’s not just McDonald’s workers who are getting screwed over. Franchise operators allege the company’s been overcharging them with rent and fees.
    • Coca-Cola’s marketing a stevia-sweetened “Coca-Cola Life” drink, with vague claims of “healthiness,” but only in Argentina.
    • Could the building blocks of life on Earth have come here from Mars?
    • It turns out that Larry Summers, the onetime Harvard president who may be nominated to head the Federal Reserve, was involved in the World Trade Organization and its 1999 efforts to force big financial deregulation upon all its member countries. (You may remember a little protest when the outfit had its convention here.)
    WE’RE ALL BEZOS ON THIS BUS
    Aug 8th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

    Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos apparently summoned his inner Charles Foster Kane and decided, “I think it would be fun to run a newspaper.”

    For a mere quarter billion (less than some of his fellow one-percenters spend on bigass yachts), Bezos has instantly become a news media powerhouse (of the “old media” persuasion).

    Basically that’s all we know at this point.

    Some people are suggesting that Bezos might use the WaPo as a bully pulpit for his own national legislative agenda (which may or may not include fewer minimum-wage hikes, sales-tax breaks on online/interstate commerce, and restrictions on book publishers and other suppliers from setting enforced retail prices on products).

    Other people are suggesting a Bezos-subsidized WaPo could revive bigtime journalism by relieving it from the need to earn a Wall St.-acceptable profit level.

    Still others wonder how someone based in this Washington can effectively lead an institution based in that Washington. Don’t just dismiss these as the typical remarks of Northeast provincialists.

    As we’ve mentioned, the WaPo‘s business model has traditionally been that of a local paper whose locality happened to be the nation’s capital. Unlike the NY Times, it had little direct presence beyond the Northeast during the pre-online years, aside from its wire service and its syndicated columnists.

    Under Bezos, the WaPo could become a national business; not just a DC/Maryland/Virginia business with national influence. Its website, and future related online products, could become not just greater attractors of “clicks” but greater forums for the big issues of the day.

    But where would that leave the local DC news? (Remember, the WaPo originally “broke” the story of the Watergate break-in as a local crime story.)

    The less-glamorous, formerly more-profitable half of the WaPo institution needs its own reassurances from the Bezos camp.

    PS: The Washington Post Co. will remain under the Graham family, under a new name to be announced later. That company will still include the formerly Microsoft-owned Slate.com, as well as TV stations and the Kaplan educational-publishing outfit.

    RANDOM LINKS FOR 7/31/13
    Jul 31st, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

    • There’s now a soccer federation for “Cascadia” (i.e., B.C./Wash./Ore.). And it’s gotten provisional recognition from a global confederation of soccer interests representing other not-really-nations (Basque country, Kurdistan, etc.).
    • Cracked.com tells you some reasons “why you can’t believe anything you read online.” One reason: A lot of click-whoring sites, including click-whoring “news” sites, try to make you feel angry and outraged at something, then to share your outrage via social-media links. (Maybe that’s why this site hasn’t taken off like Drudge or Kos. I’m not ordering you to go ballistic X times a day.)
    • A week or two back, we remarked how Saks department stores had become, for a time, owned by an Alabama firm. No more. Saks will now be part of the Hudson’s Bay Co. (aka “The Bay”), the Canadian retail giant whose fur-trading heritage helped shape the initial settlement of this part of the world.
    • Al-Jazeera America, the cable news channel replacing the low-rated Current TV, will have a Seattle news bureau. Allen Schauffler, who just quit KING after more than two decades, will run the outpost.
    • Today’s local history lesson, brought to you by the Seattle Star: The time when the feds tried to arrest local Black Panthers because of a supposedly stolen typewriter.
    • Dumb Criminal Report #1: When you’re wanted by the cops, it’s unwise to shoplift beef jerky.
    • Dumb Criminal Report #2: Don’t set fire to the Aurora Sears. We love that store. It’s possibly the only truly beautiful suburban big-box store ever built around here.
    • Are ebook sales peaking?
    • Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon claims Amazon personifies “everything wrong with our new economy.” Apple, Walmart, Nike: You can rest easy now; you’re no longer the company everyone most dearly loves to hate.
    • Yes, “existential depression in gifted children” is a real thing. Trust me on this.
    • “Naked Juice” no longer claims to be “all natural,” and also is owned by Pepsi.
    • Fox tries to create a clone of Adult Swim, only even cruder and dumber. The results are now here, and they’re immensely dreadful.
    • The vinyl music comeback may be here to stay. Yeah, but does anybody actually, you know, play any of those records?
    • David Byrne, meanwhile, details six modern business models for the modern musical artist.
    • Unfortunately, there are still too many awful big-budget action movies. And, unfortunately, there are still economic incentives for the studios to make more.
    RANDOM LINKS FOR 7/30/13
    Jul 30th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

    via theatlantic.com

    • We told you previously about a 1970s Federal photography project, documenting the nation as it existed during the “energy crisis” days. Here are 30 of the project’s pix from the Northwest, including a decidedly un-built-up downtown Seattle.
    • Next time you’re at Husky Stadium, give your best Jimmy Durante It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World impression and tell your pals you’ll meet ’em “under the Big Dubble-ye.”
    • Is the bowing out of one of the Q nightclub’s partners really evidence the Seattle dance-club scene is “in disarray”?
    • The bosses at Spokane’s Veterans Arena agreed, in order to snag a Bon Jovi concert, to temporarily rename it the “Bon Jovi Veterans Arena.” Just temporarily. Veterans’ groups still don’t like it.
    • Indie-lit publisher Dennis Johnson hates, hates Amazon, but sees its level of book-biz control as possibly peaking.
    • Should Cheryl Chow’s widow have outed a current Seattle School Board candidate as a homophobe?
    • The most heartwarming/breakng obit you’ll read this month is the one penned in advance by local writer-essayist Jane Catherine Lotter, and issued following her cancer death this month.
    • We won’t have Kirby Wilbur to kick around anymore. The state Republican party head and sometime KVI shock-talker is going to D.C.
    • Elsewhere in radioland, UFO/conspiracy promoter extraordinaire Art Bell is staging a comeback on Sirius XM satellite radio.
    • A site for teenage girls gives a big tribute to Bjo Trimble, founding queen of Star Trek fandom and instigator of the first successful “save our show” campaign.
    • Warren Buffet’s son offers a dismaying look into “the Charitable-Industrial Complex.”
    • “Four out of five adults” face unemployment and/or poverty, or the threat of same, at some point in their lives.
    • Norm Ornstein at National Journal calls the Republicans’ stubborn, unending attempts to kill Obamacare “unprecedented and contemptible.”
    • “Contemporary” and even “avant garde” art is selling for huge bucks these days to global-one-percenter art collectors. Critic Walter Robinson explains some of the effects:

    …The success of the avant-garde marks its failure. This is not news. We’ve been domesticated, no matter how fantastic and provocative we might be, into just one niche culture among many. We’re fun, and good, and even progressive, but all the rest of it is fantasy.

    RANDOM LINKS FOR 7/28/13
    Jul 28th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

    nextnature.net

    • While sorting my stuff for an upcoming move (more on that a little later), I’ve unearthed some pieces of almost Jurassic technology. Just the sort of things depicted in the art project “Modern Fossils.”
    • The Northwest Film Forum’s Bill Kennedy reminisces about repertory cinemas in Seattle in the 1980s (a couple of which I was involved with).
    • How to fix the Mariners fan experience (other than fielding a more competitive team)? Adjust or dump the “dynamic pricing;” put paper cups beneath the mustard dispensers; stop limiting T shirt giveaways to the first 5,000 through the gates.
    • Timothy B. Lee at the Wash. Post claims Microsoft “is doomed” in the tablet/smartphone age, but that it’ll still “make a ton of money” as Windows and Office enter their declining years.
    • A “scholarly publishing” industry analyst claims Amazon is “a great company with a bad character”—and excellent customer service.
    • We’ve already told you that many “basic cable” channels make more money off of pieces of people’s cable bills than they make from commercials. Now, industry analysts claim that if channels such as ESPN were “unbundled,” they’d have to charge $30 a month or more to those viewers who’d specifically want them.
    • Original Simpsons co-executive producer (and Playboy TV poker-show host) Sam Simon is dying of cancer, and will leave his fortune (including a hefty share of Simpsons royalties) to charity.
    • Female ex-Merrill Lynch workers claim the Wall St. giant issued them copies of a book on how to “stroke men’s egos,” and that the company reprimanded them for “not being ‘perky’ or ‘bubbly’ enough with customers and colleagues.”
    • A lawsuit claims “‘Occupy’ protesters in Minneapolis were used as ‘guinea pigs’ in a [state] government drug research program.”
    • Carl Gibson suggests “Nine Ways to Organize the Next Civil Rights Movement.” I’ve got #10: Don’t depend on, or cede control to, white alt-culture “radicals.”
    • Justifying, excusing, and even celebrating the lives of brutal homicidal dictators is a time-honored tradition. Today’s example: Robert Mugabe.
    • Great old hangouts aren’t just disappearing in Seattle. Today’s example: Tacoma’s 75-year-old Flying Boots Cafe.

    tacoma news tribune

    RANDOM LINKS FOR 7/27/13
    Jul 27th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

    theramenrater.com

    • Meet the (legally blind) Seattle man who’s been proclaimed the world’s leading reviewer of instant ramen. (Gotta have a niche, as the biz books say….)
    • If Seattle’s really the “hardest working city in America” (which sounds too much like a classic James Brown intro line), howcum I know so many people who’re still trying to find work?
    • Mayor Mike McGinn has found his big re-election year crusade. He’s against giving up a city-owned alley in West Seattle to a Whole Foods store project. The justification: the nonunion Whole Foods doesn’t pay as well as other established supermarket chains. By forcing his primary opponents to take a stand on this issue, he’s gotten accused of favoritism and even “graft.”
    • A company you never heard of wants to build “America’s biggest bottling plant” in Anacortes. The company says it could employ up to 500 people, making everything from pop and bottled water to flavored coffee beverages, under contract from (as-yet unnamed) big brands. Local opponents claim it could threaten everything from the town’s way of life to the Skagit River itself.
    • Health Scare of the Day: Eating local fish, beyond a few bites a month, could build up water-pollution residue in your body.
    • Amazon’s keeping certain “erotic” Kindle e-book titles out of its site’s “All Departments” searches, though they can still be found through other means. Sounds like an opportunity for a third-party search site. Perhaps one could call it “FindMySpankingWerewolfThreesomeStory.com.”
    • Meanwhile, a former Amazon contract worker gives “An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos.” In it, the contractor says the company could operate a lot more productively if folks like himself were given more respect.
    • Among folks ages 18-33, “religious progressives” now outnumber “religious conservatives.” Expect the “Christian” politicians to discover this, well, never.
    • A Google-designed “dongle,” that lets you stream anything from any computer, tablet, or smartphone to an HDMI-equipped TV, is being hailed as a “miracle device.” Somehow, I don’t think the ability to watch YouTube cat vids on a big flatscreen is what the saints responsible for dispensing miracles had in mind.
    • The Church of England wants to run payday-loan predators out of business in that country by competing against them (in cooperation with credit unions).
    • That story of acquitted killer George Zimmerman as a car-crash rescue “hero”? A likely fraud, set up by a Zimmerman-sympathetic local cop.
    • Some time in the late 1980s, struggling screenwriter George Meyer put out a small, short-lived zine called Army Man. Its contributors (including Meyer) went on to form the bulk of the Simpsons writing staff, among other achievements. The whole, tiny output of the venture (32 total pages in three issues) is now online.
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