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RANDOM LINKS FOR 9/27/13
Sep 27th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

seattleglobalist.com

  • The thorough folks at Seattle Globalist traced UW-licensed apparel items back to the places where they were made, to the people who made them, and to how much more the people who made them would need to earn to meet the local cost of living.
  • Speaking of apparel, BuzzFeed’s got some sorry evidence of pathetic attempts to turn punk rock nostalgia into mere fashion-fad fodder.
  • Still speaking of apparel, Sesame Street really doesn’t like unauthorized “Sexy Big Bird” Halloween costumes. (You can still get the “Pho King Hot” waitress costume, though.)
  • Why is Storyville Coffee, a single espresso and pastry boutique in the Pike Place Market, spending so much on lavish pre-opening marketing (including a month of free food and drinks for invited guests)? Because (1) it’s the first unit of a planned chain, and (2) it’s got the zillionaire behind a for-profit college backing it. (And as an aside, the owners also have ties to the “hip” but reactionary Mars Hill Church.) (And as another aside, do they even know they’ve named it after New Orleans’ old red-light district?)
  • Can the scenic, low-density office “park” that is the ex-Battelle Research campus in Laurelhurst be saved? And should it?
  • Eric Stevick at the Everett Herald has the sad life story of a woman who basically never got a break her entire life, and then died in the Snohomish County jail because they wouldn’t send for medical help.
  • Bumper salmon runs! Yay! Just, you know, keep ‘em away from the dogs.
  • Pasta-and-pride dept.: Barilla’s CEO doesn’t care much for the gays, but Bertolli (hearts) the gays. Or something like that.
  • Bono wants a more equitable tax system in Ireland, but will still keep his own millions stashed away in offshore trust accounts.
  • Could Google’s latest search-ranking changes finally kill off that bane to humanity that is “Search Engine Optimization”?
  • Ted Cruz apparently didn’t understand that Green Eggs and Ham is a liberal allegory about open mindedness. But he’s yesterday’s news. Today’s news is the conservatives’ next showdown target, the debt ceiling.
  • Do they serve Hello Kitty beer on the Hello Kitty plane?
  • Let’s leave you today with some visual inspiration, of sorts, in the form of “Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos.”

terriblerealestateagentphotos.com

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 5/28/13
    May 28th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

    kuow

    • KUOW has a handy guide to Seattle’s “public spaces that appear private.”
    • There’s a downside to making big popular parks out of former U.S. Navy installations. Magnuson Park turns out to have lots of radioactive, contaminated soil.
    • Wash. state ranks #49 in supporting public colleges and universities. This is not like being a Mariner fan, where being even ahead of one other team is a call to point with pride.
    • Some website I’d never heard of before says Seattle’s “most photographed attraction” is the Elephant Car Wash sign. (Gee, even more than the toothache-man gargoyle?)
    • The Illinois company calling itself Boeing used to have big battery design skills in-house. Then outsourcing mania took over. Result: the 787 disasters.
    • You know how I disdain the marketing company calling itself Pabst Brewing, due to its role in closing the Rainier and Olympia breweries while keeping their brands alive in zombie form. Cracked.com also hates Pabst, but for a different reason: for virtually inventing that commonly despised character type known as the “hipster.”
    • South Carolina Republicans, faced with popular legislation promoting renewable energy sources, rigged a faked “voice vote” to defeat the measure.
    • Daily Kos diarist “markthshark” claims the real IRS scandal is how all those blatantly partisan Tea Party groups got to file as nonpolitical nonprofits in the first place.
    • Are angst and misery really due to a single “great glitch” built into human nature?
    • Paul Krugman sez, “being a good liberal doesn’t require that you believe, or pretend to believe, lots of things that almost certainly aren’t true; being a good conservative does.”
    • The police backlash against protesting garment workers in Cambodia wasn’t at a “Nike factory,” which the hereby-linked headline claims. It was at a locally owned company taking outsourcing work from several Western clothing firms, all of whom can thus take “plausible deniability” about conditions and worker abuse.
    • Some of the outdoor sets from the original Star Wars are still standing, and decaying, in Tunisia.

    lostateminor.com

    RANDOM LINKS FOR 2/22/13
    Feb 22nd, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

    • Seattle artist Ellen Ziegler’s mom was a ballet dancer—and a onetime girlfriend of the great Mexican comic actor Cantinflas. Ziegler’s turning this story into a very-limited-edition art book.
    • In other news about local women and art and books and images of hotness, Charlotte Austin and Ciolo Thompson have created The Better Bombshell. In it, a variety of writers and artists of both genders contemplate that age-old issue of female role models and what they should be now.
    • Online “cyber-bullying” isn’t just for teens anymore. The disgraced now-former Snohomish County executive did it too.
    • The Oatmeal explains why “How to Suck at Your Religion.” (Essentially: if you preach brotherhood but practice bigotry, etc….)
    • The drive to preserve the Bauhaus coffeehouse’s building, by getting it named an official historic landmark: rejected.
    • The lawsuit challenging the Sonics arena scheme: rejected.
    • Even Republicans believe Tim Eyman’s “lying whore” comment against Gov. Inslee went too far.
    • PONCHO, granddaddy of Seattle arts fundraising groups (and inventor of the “charity auction”), is no more.
    • Can private tech colleges, charging $30,000 or more for degree programs, really solve Wash. state’s learning gap?
    • Eastern Washington, now with more radioactive sludge.
    • Life imitates Portlandia, at least 30 times.
    • Chuck Thompson at the New Republic derides microbrews, and the brewpubs who sell them, as icons of silly urban gentrificaiton. But they’re really, really tasty icons of silly urban gentrification.)
    • The sad tale of the “food critic on Food Stamps” finally has a happy ending. Ex-Tacoma News Tribune restaurant reviewer Ed Murrieta finally found a job, after spending years among the long-term unemployed. He now writes blurbs for Sacramento’s tourism board.
    • In Virginia, a white mom wants white kids not to have to read books about past racial violence.
    • I know I’m not the only one who still remembers LaserDiscs, those 12-inch analog video discs that were the best way to see movies at home in their day.
    • Here’s an artistic vision of a future car-free Manhattan, funded by (who else?) a car company.

    RANDOM LINKS FOR 7/27/12
    Jul 27th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

    1931 soviet book jacket; new york public library via allmyeyes.blogspot.com

    • Love old timey design elements in photography, fashion, furnishings, books, posters, ads, packaging, and everywhere else? Then you’ll love Linda Eckstein’s fastidiously curated site All My Eyes.
    • Conversely, Angela Riechers at Print magazine’s site disdains all this obsessive old-schooling. Riechers claims the world of graphic design, and perhaps the world as a whole, is becoming infested with “toxic nostalgia.” Among the symptoms she sites is Churchkey, the Seattle microbrew beer that comes only in cans that require an opener.
    • Amazon’s sales rose 29 percent over the same quarter last year. But the company reported almost no profits, thanks to big investments in robotic warehouse systems. (Remember what we always say when robots are in the news: “Nothing can possibly go wrong….”)
    • David Brewster found someone to take over management of the local-punditry site Crosscut. He’s a longtime functionary at the Gates Foundation. Let’s see how well he can transition from a nonprofit that doesn’t have to raise money, to one that needs to do a lot of that and soon.
    • At the end of a long rant, Paul Constant describes Mitt Romney as:

    A cowering man in a suit on the screen, waving his hands in front of his face and begging Robocop not to kill him for profiting, for draining the United States dry and exploiting the pain and hard work of others, for doing what businessmen do.

    • Meanwhile, Devin Faraci at something called Badass Digest describes The Dark Knight Rises as feeling “like it is composed entirely of knee-jerk conservative nonsense.”
    • A (non-cable-dependent) TV network tells you how you, too, can cut the cable.
    RANDOM LINKS FOR 4/24/12
    Apr 23rd, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

    foodbeast.com

    • Margarita flavored Bud Light: sign of the apocalypse #6 or #7?
    • Winning bids for the state liquor stores (or rather, for the right to apply for licenses, negotiate leases, and take over inventory at the stores) are now in. Individual winners have apparently not yet been posted anywhere, but the store at 12th Avenue and East Pine Street went for a cool half million. The state’s total take (should all the sales go through): over $30 million, more than four times estimates reported just last Friday.
    • Yesterday, we mentioned how Deluxe Junk, the lovely vintage everything store that’s one of the last remnants of “Fremont funk.” faced a sudden eviction by the Masonic lodge that owns its building. Apparently there’s a settlement; alas, Deluxe Junk will still leave the premises, at the end of June.
    • The Real Change folks will get their protest camp in Westlake Park after all.
    • One little-publicized event at the big Space Needle anniversary gala: a protest by Needle restaurant workers.
    • The Canucks have made sure there won’t be riots in the Vancouver streets this June.
    • Here’s a long, loving profile of ex-Seattleite and comix genius Lynda Barry.
    • Google and Facebook: They’re hot now, but could they stumble as computing goes mobile?
    • Author Michael J. Sandel places blame for the market-ization of almost all of western society. He says the economists did it.
    • Paul Krugman blasts Romney, assuredly not for the last time.
    • A Georgetown prof really dislikes the Facebook-spawned overuse of the verb “Like.”
    • Toby Litt in Granta wonders whether long-form literature can hold an audience, or even be considered relevant, in an age of multitasking and incessant distraction. I say bah. Folks who can finish umpteen-level video games or watch entire TV-show seasons in one weekend can enjoy a story of a few hundred pages.
    • Sorry, but I can’t trust any list of the “ten most harmful novels for aspiring writers” that excludes Bukowski.
    • The top black women’s magazine hired a white guy as managing editor. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, that he turned out to be a not-so-secret racist wingnut.
    • Steven Pearlstein reminds you that some politicians actually want you to be turned off from politics. Remember: Not voting = voting a straight right-wing ticket.
    • Making stuff in China will cease being cheap sooner or later. China’s other outsourcing advantages might remain (lax environmental enforcement, autocratic government, brutal suppression of dissent).
    • TV ratings, both broadcast and cable, are way down, especially among younger viewers, and especially in terms of “real time” viewing (i.e., without DVRs; i.e., with the commercials). The hardcore TV haters will naturally ignore this, and will continue to insist that Everyone Except Them is a vidiot sheeple.
    RANDOM LINKS FOR 3/29/12
    Mar 28th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

    ap photo via newstimes.com

    • At the time of this writing, the Seattle Mariners are in first place as the winningest team in Major League Baseball! (This may be subject to change by the time you read this.)
    • In other sporting news, the Husky men’s basketball team valiantly lost its NIT semifinal game in overtime; thus tying for the status of this year’s 71st best college team.
    • You might be able to ski on the Fourth of July around here this year.
    • Two years in the making, the downtown Target is set to finally open on July 29.
    • Metro Transit’s downtown Ride Free Area ends two months after that.
    • Meanwhile, Washington’s first food-only Walmart store is about to open at an ex-Kmart site in Bellevue.
    • One-third of all homes sold in King County these days are sold for all cash (i.e., to speculators or rental operators).
    • An Army PR guy says Joint Base Lewis-McChord is “not having any issues that other Army bases aren’t having, too.”
    • This is from October but still fascinating—an in-depth look at the Columbia River, its watershed, its hydroelectric industry, its fishery, and the people who try to balance the needs of each.
    • Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon would really like you to know there really are non-wingnut Christians out there.
    • The rumored Apple-branded TV set is still just a rumor. But Farhad Manjoo at Slate reports that Microsoft’s XBox already brings the magic of online streaming-video search to TV sets.
    • Slate also has a fond remembrance to the inventor of the frozen bagel and a handy guide to Quebeçois cuss words.
    • Now we know why Bud, Miller, and Coors all sold out to foreigners. Light-beer sales are in a nosedive, perhaps a permanent one.
    • John Cassidy at the New Yorker claims the right-wing assault on health care reform, as seen this week at the Supreme Court, is “a very bad joke.”
    RANDOM LINKS FOR 3/16/12
    Mar 15th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

    washington beer blog via seattlepi.com

    First, thanks to the more than 50 people who crowded Roy St. Coffee and Tea for the History Cafe presentation on old Seattle restaurant menus Thursday evening. And thanks to my fellow panelists Hanna Raskin and Taylor Bowie for making it easy for me. Each of them had so many insights about the old restaurants, their menu designs, their food items, and their respective places in cultural history, that I didn’t have to say much.

    • Seattle’s newest microbrewery has a gimmick. It puts out its pilsner in old fashioned steel cans that need a can opener. The company’s appropriate name: Churchkey Can Company.
    • Annie Lowrey at Slate has the strange tale of a true “computer hacker” in the old, non-criminal definition of the term. He was a programming genius who supplied his innovations to, and supported the goals of, the open-source software movement. Before he abruptly and completely withdrew from public life.
    • At least half the traffic on the Internet isn’t supplied by human computer users, but by automated spambots, information-stealing “scrapers,” and search engines.
    • America’s most progressive-leaning broadcaster (or at least the outfit with that reputation) has just hired a union-buster consulting firm.
    • Branding consultants Susan Lee and Jenny Laing claim the Occupy movement represents a great new opportunity to sell stuff.
    • “The world’s most annoying song,” according to one Jason Richards, is not “Paradise City.” I see no reason to believe anything this Richards person says.
    RANDOM LINKS FOR 1/13/12
    Jan 12th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

    1975 opening; from onelifetolive.wikia.com

    (Again this year, I’ve been drafted into participating in the Seattle Invitationals, a contest for Elvis Tribute Artists (ETA; and yes, that acronym is used within this particular scene). In keeping with the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair (and of It Happened at the World’s Fair), this year’s edition is under the Space Needle at the Experience Music Project, 8 p.m. Saturday. Be there or be Fabian.)

    • It’s another sad day in TV land. For the fourth time in as many years, a generations-spanning narrative ends. The idea that anything as out-of-thin-air as a fictional yarn could grow and morph and dig itself in for 43 and a half years (in One Life to Live’s case) seems bizarre enough in today’s media sphere. That it did so in the old three-network TV milieu is a testament to (1) the continued ingenuity of producers and writers and actors, and (2) the fact that these productions became so expensive, with such limited revenue models, that the networks would rather reinvent existing shows than replace them. But in the 500-channels-plus-Internet world, even the old-line networks can’t support these dinosaurs of drama. Alas.
    • The City of Seattle now has this handy little array of online city maps. One of the niftiest of the batch depicts the different types of street trees you can find around town. “Number one: the larch… the larch…
    • Get ready for more booze in more places in Seattle Center.
    • Unlike KPLU, I have a hard time feeling sorry for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
    • The McCormick and Schmick’s restaurants were just taken over by the parent company of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
    • Is the author of a Congressional bill that would make online copyright violators face jail time (aka the bill that would “break the Internet“) himself an online image, er, borrower?
    • White “antiracist essayist” Tim Wise considers Ron Paul to be only a few gradations less icky than the Ku Klux Klan.
    • The creator of a new sitcom filled with ethnic stereotypes says it’s OK when he invokes stereotypes because he’s gay. Note to the confused: Gay white people are still white people.
    • A “sexual politics” blogger would like you all to stop dissing female right-wing politicians with the same “slut”-bashing language you hate when right-wingers themselves use it.
    • The concept of a “beer for women” has been tried before and failed. This time, MillerCoors is preparing to market a specially-formulated “bloat resistant” light lager. It’ll come in three named flavors: “Clear Filtered,” “Crisp Rosé,” AND “Zesty Lemon.” What’s even more bizarre is the name they’ve given the thing: “Animée.” It’s French for “livened up.” But you and I know it won’t be out three seconds before someone asks whether it’s the favorite beverage of, say, Sailor Moon.
    RANDOM LINKS FOR 9/10/11
    Sep 9th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

    1979 ad from vintagepaperads.com

    • This list of (mostly dreadful) declining beer brands by the Big Two and a Half (that’s AB InBev, MillerCoors, and the Miller-produced Pabst brands) would seem like a ray of hope for true beer lovers—except that their place on the shelves has been usurped by other brands from the same companies.
    • Microsoft is putting out a tablet computer next year. And this time, they hope to get it (and its marketing) right.
    • A former Sea Gal (the Seahawks’ cheerleaders/dancers), who became a Price Is Right model, was named in a lawsuit by another Price Is Right model against that show’s producers.
    • What’s behind the disembodied feet washing up in B.C. and Washington? As Spike Lee once famously asked, is it the shoes?
    • The state Dept. of Employment Security is laying off almost 400 of its 2,500 employees. Alas, it’s not due to a lack of work.
    • There’s going to be a graphic novel about the Green River killer. Or rather, about a detective who’d spent many years on the case, written by said detective’s son.
    • Teamsters leader James Hoffa came to town. He reiterated what he’d said in Detroit about defeating the right wing. That is, he reiterated what he’d really said, not the right-wing media’s deliberate distortion of it.
    • As I’ve written before, one of Seattle’s favorite activities is to proclaim “what this town needs.” Now there’s a whole site where you can leave your own ideas in that regard. It’s Changeby.us.
    • SeattlePI.com has an intriguing list of local ’90s celebrities and where they are now. No, Rev. Bruce Howard isn’t mentioned. No, I don’t know what happened to him.
    • French women don’t get fat, so the book says. But they do get sexually frustrated. And they sue over it.
    • Update: A few days ago we linked to a guy who wished Apple would get around to charitable giving at last. It’s getting around to charitable giving at last.
    • Half of Americans ages 16-24 are now unemployed.
    RANDOM LINKS FOR 7/30/11
    Jul 30th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

    sorry, maude, you didn't make the list

    • Julianne Escobedo Shepherd offers a list of 10 (American, prime time) “TV shows that changed the world.” It includes some of the usual suspects (Ellen, Mary Tyler Moore, the original Star Trek) but leaves out so many other possibilities. Where’s Yogi and Boo Boo in the same bed all winter, or all the early variety shows with interracial love-song duets?
    • Seattle PostGlobe, the spunky li’l local news and arts site started by ex P-I reporter Kery Murakami (and for which I posted a couple of pieces), is closing up shop after two years and change. With Murakami gone to Long Island, NY and many other original volunteer contributors off in other jobs (or other careers), the site had mainly become a spot for Bill White’s film reviews. Without the funding to maintain the site’s operation, let alone to build it into a stronger endeavor, its current boss (and cofounder) Sally Deneen is pulling the plug. She’s keeping it up in archival form.
    • In other local media news, technical workers at KIRO-TV have been at a labor impasse for some15 months now. The IBEW Local 46 claims they’re just trying to preserve contractual language “that respects their individual and collective rights that are afforded to them under federal law.”
    • Copper thieves have no respect for anyone or anything. Not even for the local branch of Gilda’s Club. That’s the drop-in cancer support center, named after Gilda Radner and housed in that fake Monticello office building at Broadway and East Union.
    • The bicyclist struck by a hit-and-run SUV Thursday? He was a photographer and office worker for an international health agency. And how he’s dead.
    • Wherever there’s a business with a predominantly male clientele, there’s somebody trying to attract female customers. The latest result comes from the UK branch of Molson Coors (you did know those beer companies had merged years ago, right?). They’re test marketing a pink beer for women. Even stranger: It’s called “Animée.” Which begs the question, would Sailor Moon drink it? How about the Ghost in the Shell?
    • Lee Fang sees a cartel of “shadowy right wing front groups” spending lotsa bucks to get Congress obsessed with “the deficit” (i.e., with dismantling anything government does to help non-billionaires) instead of the economy. I don’t think the drive is all that shadowy. These outfits, their funding sources, and their biases are well known and well documented—and still scary.
    • Dan Balz sees today’s Republicans as being at war against Democrats, against the middle class, against women, against sanity, and now against one another.
    • Remember: Tonight (Saturday the 30th) is the annual Seafair Torchlight Parade bisecting Belltown and downtown along Fourth Avenue. This year’s grand marshal is smaller-than-he-used-to-be TV personality and Sounders FC spokesmodel Drew Carey. (The organizers tried to get someone else for the role, but they bid over the actual retail price.)
    RANDOM LINKS FOR 7/15/11
    Jul 15th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

    pittsburgh post-gazette illo by anita dufalla, 2009

    • Census data says even more of Seattle’s low-income population (some 68 percent) now resides in the suburbs. However, I’m not ready (as this linked article is) to declare the likes of Tukwila and Skyway to be “suburban slums.”
    • New fun word of the day: “blagging” (defined by the BBC as “obtaining personal details by deception,” as in the Murdoch UK tabloids’ nefarious gossip trawling).
    • R.I.P. Theodore Roszak, who was 35 in 1969 when his book The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society professed to know just what Those Krazy Kids were up to.
    • Pyramid Hefeweisen is now called Pyramid Hefeweisen again, following a three-year failure to rebrand the wheat ale as “Haywire.” I could repeat my hefeweisen riddle here, but I won’t.
    • There is such a thing as wearing too many clothes. If you’re in a mall. And you didn’t pay for some of those clothes.
    • Amazon’s own tablet computer—look for it this autumn.
    • The local ski season is finally over.
    • Oh, all right: What do you call the last hefeweisen that causes a yuppie to total her new car? (Answer tomorrow.)
    RANDOM LINKS FOR 7/7/11
    Jul 7th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

    Heidelberg beer cloth patch

    • The bad news: The old Heidelberg brewery in Tacoma burned down. The worse news: It was scheduled for demolition anyway.
    • Hey you: Got an idea to bring back the Intiman Theatre?
    • Your chance to speak out against Metro Transit’s proposed brutal service cuts: 6 p.m. Tuesday at the King County Council chambers, 516 3rd Ave. Be there or be stuck in traffic, forever.
    MORE SIN, MORE SIN TAXES
    Dec 28th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

    Our ol’ pal David Meinert suggests at Publicola that Seattle could get at least a little out of its deep fiscal hole by opening itself up to casinos, slot machines, and booze in strip clubs.

    (UPDATE: And our other ol’ pal Goldy thinks it’s a lousy idea.)

    THE EXTRAVAGANT AND THE INTIMATE
    Aug 9th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

    (Cross posted with the Capitol Hill Times.)

    Thoughts on recent performance events, big and small, on the Hill:

    1) The Capitol Hill Block Party.

    From all accounts it was a smashing success. Some 10,000 people attended each of the event’s three days. Except for one no-show due to illness, all the big advertised bands satisfied their respective throngs. Seattle finally has a second summer attraction with top big-name musical acts. (I personally don’t consider an outdoor ampitheater in the middle of eastern Washington to be “in Seattle.”)

    But as the Block Party becomes a bigger, bolder, louder venture, it can’t help but lose some of its early funky charm, and a piece of its original raison d’etre.

    Once a festival starts to seriously woo major-label acts, it has to start charging real money at the gates. It’s not just to pay the bands’ management, but also for the security, the sound system, the fences around the beer gardens, and assorted other ratcheted-up expenses.

    That, by necessity, makes the whole thing a more exclusive, less inclusive endeavor.

    The street fair booths that used to be free get put behind the admission gates. The merchants, political causes, and community groups operating these booths only end up reaching those who both can and want to pay $23 and up to get in.

    I’m not suggesting the Block Party shut down or scale back to its earlier, small-time self.

    I’m suggesting an additional event, perhaps on another summer weekend. It would be what the Block Party used to be—free to all, but intended for the people of the Hill. An all-encompassing, cross-cultural celebration of the neighborhood’s many different “tribes” and subcultures. An event starring not just rock and pop and hiphop, but a full range of performance types. An event all about cross-pollenization, exchanges of influence, and cultural learning.

    It wouldn’t be a “Block Party Lite,” but something else, something wonderful in its own way.

    2) Naked Girls Reading: “How To” Night.

    A couple of years ago, a friend told me about a strip club in Los Angeles called “Crazy Girls.” I told him I would rather pay to see sane girls.

    Now I have. And it’s beautiful.

    “Naked Girls Reading” is a franchise operation, originally based in Chicago. But it’s a perfect concept for Seattle. It’s tastefully “naughty” but not in any way salacious. It’s not too heavy. It’s entertaining. It’s edifying. It could even be billed as providing “empowerment” to its cast.

    The four readers last Sunday night, plus the dressed female MC (costumed as a naughty librarian), all came from the neo-burlesque subculture. But this concept is nearly the exact opposite of striptease dancing. There’s no stripping, no teasing, and no dancing. The readers enter from behind a stage curtain, already clad in just shoes and the occasional scarf. They sit at a couch. They take turns reading aloud. When each reader has performed three brief selections, the evening is done.

    Each performance has a theme. Last Sunday, it was “How To.” The readers mostly chose types of texts that are seldom if ever read aloud in public. Given Seattle’s techie reputation, it’s only appropriate that we rechristen instructional text as an art form.

    Selections ranged from explosive-making (from the ’70s cult classic The Anarchist Cookbook), to plate joining in woodwork, to home-brewing kombucha tea, to deboning a chicken (from The Joy of Cooking), to the famous Tom Robbins essay “How to Make Love Stay.” The women performed these selections with great humor, great voices, and great sitting posture.

    Despite what you may hear from the Chicken Littles of the book and periodical industries, The Word isn’t going away any time soon, any more than The Body. Both obsessions retain their eternal power to attract, no matter what.

    “Naked Girls Reading” performances are held the first Sunday of each month in the Odd Fellows Building, 10th and East Pine. Details and ticket info are at nakedgirlsreading.com/seattle. The promoters also promise a “Naked Boys Reading” evening at a yet-unset date. (The participles won’t be all that’s dangling.)

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