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MISCmedia MAIL FOR 6/24/16: ANTHROPOMORPHIC SHIPPING BOXES
Jun 23rd, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

The big anti-Amazon blogger’s making a kids’ picture book with a talking shipping box representing the company. We also examine the origin’s of Seattle’s newest newcomers; worry about hate-crime stats; listen to a Muslim “non-binary queer” person; mourn one of Belltown’s last pre-upscale businesses; and begin to lose patience with the miserable Mariners.

MISCmedia MAIL for 6/13/16
Jun 12th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Making sense of the senseless: I can’t even try. But I try anyway. I also look at the paucity of women on local corporate boards; more trouble for Western State Hospital; a worker walkout at a strawberry farm; and an attack of “Diarrhetic Shellfish Poison.”

MISCmedia MAIL for 5/25/16
May 25th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Our midweek missive contains a man charged with stealing from the sick to help the religious; a Seattle Times pundit being totally wrong about something (again); U of Oregon students behaving badly; the state of ethnic artists in a white arts scene; and the latest thing in earbuds.

MISCmedia MAIL for 4/28/16
Apr 27th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

The Mariners are now under new (sorta) management. But that’s not the only story this day. There’s also a threat to the Fremont Outdoor Cinema; the future of Seattle parks; birds doing a big hit on a (non-Boeing) jet; the mystery of the disappearing bike-lane plans; and HALA’s potential to worsen downtown’s demographic cleansing.

MISCmedia MAIL for 4/6/16
Apr 5th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

As we await the first hot weather of the year, we also consider a bad place to put up an ad poster; why you can’t get some electric cars here; when “conversation” about thorny issues isn’t enough; and a big day for one of my all-time lit heroes.

MISCmedia MAIL for 3/15/16
Mar 14th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

The Nooze-day for Tooze-day includes a victory for bike-share lovers; genuine Nancy Pearl ice cream; more fallout from the Legislature’s school-funding punt; a creepy Cobain art show (that doesn’t even show him); and someone who likes Amazon’s physical bookstore.

MISCmedia MAIL for 3/14/16
Mar 13th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

We welcome Pi Day with still more wild weather; Legislative special-session guesses; memories of singer Ernestine Anderson; gold vs. salmon; and a debunked myth about the homeless.

MISCmedia MAIl for 3/3/16
Mar 2nd, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

For your perusal, we have we have bigger things made of wood than have been made before; an attempt to bring back nuclear power; Portland’s “toxic moss;” Foo Fighters’ non-breakup; and a tragic update to one of the Sonics’ movers.

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/22/16
Feb 21st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

A dryer, sunnier week starts off with a homeless camp that refuses to be shut down; Portland’s toxic air; indie bookstores on the rebound; our plastic-trashed oceans; and the second- or third-greatest film ever made in Spokane.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/21/16
Jan 20th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Your pre-pre-weekend newsletter includes: A paid-membership library opens; more GOP hate-talk; a formerly top-rated radio station disappears; tech-biz sexism; “Planet X” may exist, but would now be “Planet IX.”

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/14/16
Jan 13th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

A good friend of mine is trying to survive kidney disease while keeping her indie bookstore alive. Also: how to keep artists in town; a pact on reviving Ride the Ducks; mental-health crises; making tech products “For Women.”

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/6/16
Jan 5th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

North Korea may have an H-bomb, America now has fancy new vinyl-record turntables and ultra-hi-def TVs, and MISCmedia MAIL’s got big speculation about Jim McDermott’s Congressional seat; an almost sure thing about Ken Griffey Jr.; yet another brave new office midrise where KING is now; and Hugo House shacking up with the Frye.

THE IN AND THE OUTED FOR SWEET ’16
Jan 1st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

new years 2016 z

Would you believe, this is the thirtieth MISCmedia In/Out List? Well, it is.

As we prepare to begin the pearl-anniversary year of this adventure in punditry, we present yet another edition of the most trusted (and only accurate) list of its kind in this and all other known media.

As always, this list compiles what will become sizzling and soggy in the coming year, not necessarily what’s sizzling and soggy now. If you believe everything hot now will just keep getting hotter, I’ve got some Sears stock to sell you.

INSVILLE OUTSKI
ABC AMC
Saving KPLU Saving the Seattle Times
Turquoise Mauve
Spinach Kale
Hollow Earth Radio/KHUH KIRO-FM
“Black Lives Matter” Macho anarchists
Empathy Superiority
Gents Bros
Stopping Trumpism Treating Trump as a joke
Taking back Congress Merely keeping the White House
Ta-Nehisi Coates David Brooks
Storytelling “Branding”
Mismatched plaid separates Striped socks
High-speed rail Hoverboards
Fewer cars “Greener” cars
NHL NBA
Fiat (still) VW
We Bare Bears Teen Titans Go!
Juxtapoz Erotica Censored Playboy
Hillman City Ballard (alas)
Lalaloopsy Minions
Searching for solutions together “You figure that part out, I’m just sayin'”
Issa Rae Zooey Deschanel
Michael Fassbender Will Farrell
“Genderqueer” movement “Men’s rights activists”
Exciting machines Boring machines
Real virtue Virtual Reality
Granny shoes Skinny jeans
Justin Trudeau Justin Bieber (duh)
Sia Zac Brown
Light rail to Husky Stadium Parking downtown
Hydrox cookies comeback Crystal Pepsi comeback
Monkey Shoulder Wild Turkey
Milk stout Bud-owned microbrews
“Homey” “Artisinal”
Citizens “Stakeholders”
Uniqlo Gap
Bellingham Bellevue
Back-yard cottages “Tiny homes” in the far countryside
Millennials as defiant activists Millennials as selfish slackers
El Borracho Chipotle (duh)
Guy Maddin J.J. Abrams
Permanent progressive movements Only showing up in election years
Wisdom Data
“Snap!” “YOLO”
Moving the world forward “Taking America back”
THE BIG A GETS ‘REAL’
Nov 9th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

amazon books 2

Ninety years ago, the world’s largest shop-at-home company expanded into real-world retail in Seattle.

That Sears store lasted until just recently; a victim of large-scale corporate mismanagement.

Now, the world’s currently largest shop-at-home company has expanded into real-world retail in Seattle.

Amazon Books in University Village does not have, as Amazon.com once claimed to have, “Earth’s Largest Selection.” It’s more of a throwback to the days of B. Dalton and Waldenbooks.

Like those chains had been, Amazon Books is highly bestseller driven. Or rather, its stock is driven by two factors. Some are picked because of their actual sales on the Amazon site. Others are picked because of the amount of positive customer comments (and, in the case of new releases, requests) on the site.

It has everything displayed “face out,” not “spine out,” a display tactic already used at airport bookshops. (Even B. Dalton, onetime monarch of shopping-mall bookstores, shelved most of its titles the linear-space-saving “spine out” way.)

Besides further reducing the store’s selection, this shtick makes each title a “featured selection,” just as Amazon’s site gives even the more obscure books their own web pages. Each title on display gets its own display card, quoting from a customer review on the book’s Amazon.com sales page.

It’s cashless; credit and debit cards only.

Prices are the same as on the website, and thus can change even within the same day.

Amazon has kept most of its gazillion other product lines out of the store, with a precious few exceptions. There’s a selection of “Amazon Essentials” (electronics cables, chargers, and earphones). And there’s a display of the company’s house-brand e-readers, tablets, phones, and media players. These are items that really benefit from in-person demonstrations by in-person salespeople.

As a “retail theater experience,” Amazon Books has tall shelves and narrow aisles with plenty of intimate nooks and crannies, like a good bookstore has. There’s no space for live readings or signings; but the lighting is nice n’ subdued, and the shelves seem to be made of real wood.

In short: Amazon Books won’t change anyone’s opinion of the book industry’s current 500-lb. gorilla.

And it’s no replacement for the Barnes & Noble that used to be in U Village; or even for the small indie bookstore that was in the Village before B&N.

If you want a particular book (especially a more obscure one), and you want to possess it today, you’re more likely to find it elsewhere.

If you’re a purist book lover, and you want to browse and discover a title you’d never heard of before, you;ll still prefer the likes of Elliott Bay and the U Book Store.

But as “a clean, well lighted place for books,” it’s decent enough.

And, by devoting so much doting attention to each and every title in its stock, it may actually serious about selling books.

OTHER VOICES:

The PS Biz Journal quotes local indie bookstores as saying Amazon’s real-world outlet doesn’t threaten them.

BuzzFeed jams on Amazon Books as an opportunity to cajole you into supporting your local indie outlet.

A Forbes.com freelance “contributor” says Amazon Books could potentially be a savior of real-world book selling, if its data-driven product stocking reduces the costly returns that have plagued the publishing biz for so long.

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).

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© Copyright 2015 Clark Humphrey (clark (at) miscmedia (dotcom)).