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MISCmeia MAIL FOR 12/6/16: SNOWLESS (PROBABLY) IN SEATTLE
Dec 6th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Another day of no white stuff on the ground (probably) sees us discussing a GOP legislator’s attempt to negate public-school funding (and non-discrimination); an aborted scheme to put surveillance cams into a middle-school cafeteria; and Amazon’s latest “real world” retail concept.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 11/25/16: BLACK (LIVES MATTER) FRIDAY
Nov 24th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Don’t think of today as a dispute between racial justice and shopping. Think of it as a potential meeting of racial justice and holiday compassion. Also: One of Belltown’s longest-running gourmet eateries threatened; art and music against the new DC regime; and Olympia’s police chief doesn’t like “fracking sand” trains through his town either.

MISCmedia MAIL for 11/1/16
Oct 31st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

A new month, and the last week of Campaign 2016, have arrived; and we study little-kid ghost sightings; icky stuff from our road surfaces that gets into our waters; alleged racism in WSU student discipline; two more doomed local bars; and an idea to replace KeyArena with housing.

MISCmedia MAIL for 10/17/16: APOCALYPSE NOT NOW
Oct 16th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

So you stocked up on canned goods, canceled your weekend plans, and all for just a few minutes of torrential downpour followed by the usual autumn sogginess. (Turns out the real storm here was at Friday’s homeless-bill hearing.) We additionally talk about Hope Solo’s possible next career move; a gay-rights garden planned for Broadway; a sidewalk with solar panels; how to make the police force more diverse; and an old, old town with a new name.

MISCmedia MAIL for 9/21/16: ON TRACK?
Sep 20th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Regional politicians proposed a far better idea than an all-robocar lane on I-5: hi-speed rail from here to Vancouver. Additional subjects in our e-missive include the state’s still-unreformed foster care system; blame placed for the Greenwood gas explosion; a hope to one day “re-program” cancer cells; a coming exhibit on Seattle’s food history; and whales vs. whales off Vancouver Island.

MISCmedia MAIL for 4/3/16: SUDDEN DEATH; OVERTIME?
May 2nd, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Now that would-be arena builder Chris Hansen can’t buy two blocks of a little-used city street, he says his plan will go forward, but how? Also for your Tuesday perusal: The Lusty Lady space won’t host the Punk Rock Flea Market after all; the big housing levy’s going to the ballot; a little music/art space closes; an old-school local rock promoter dies;  and more May Day anarchist aftermath.

MISCmedia MAIL for 4/21/16
Apr 21st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Cooler skies continue to develop, and we develop a continuing interest in the slowly approaching Sonics Arena decision; questions of racism in the Bellevue High School probe; questionable reasoning behind the SHARE shelters’ funding crisis; women playing full-on tackle football; and a request to touch a nude-dude statue.

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/19/16
Feb 18th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Spring training is here! And so is MISCmedia MAIL, informing about pastors prevented from selling their church; what is and isn’t still alive in the Legislature; even more petrochemical export plants in the works; a future for King Street Station’s upstairs; and the usual scads of weekend activity listings.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/22/16
Jan 21st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Tim Eyman’s convoluted screw-the-state initiative is just as unconstitutional (and sleazy) as we all knew it was. Also in your weekend digest: A planned office tower’s big middle finger to the streetscape; another scheme to tilt the Electoral College rightward; plans for the world’s biggest ethanol refinery; the 747’s slow demise; the usual scads of weekend stuff-to-do.

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”
MISCmedia MAIL for 12/30/15
Dec 29th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Midway through another short work week, and we’ve got: A big hop crop (but not as big as planned); a WSDL might not get you on domestic plane trips; Seattle’s gay-rights record honored; we’re building homes for the homeless but the homeless population gets bigger anyway.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/29/15
Dec 28th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

In the Toosday Nooze: Could Sparkling Ice turn Japanese?; could the “revenue neutral” carbon tax be anything but?; could Bellingham get its own version of Gas Works Park?; and remembering Lemmy.

OF ‘FACADISM’ AND FALSE FRONTS
Oct 8th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

ex bill's off bway construx

In December 2013, I wrote in this space about Bill’s Off Broadway, the legendary Capitol Hill pizza joint and bar.

It had just closed earlier that month. Its building at Harvard and East Pine was going to be replaced by a fancy new mixed-use development.

Now, Bill’s is back.

It’s got the same owners, much of the same staff, and the same menus.

It’s got the same interior color scheme.

It’s at the same corner.

But it’s not the same place; and it’s not in the same space.

Only the street-facing outer brick walls remain from the old building. Everything else, including the Bill’s interior, is all-new. Above the brick front, modern steel and glass construction rises six stories up.

exterior 1b

This sort of thing is going on all over Pike, Pine, and Union streets on Capitol Hill. Everything from printing plants to luxury-car dealerships has been removed except for the skins. A few blocks away, even the beloved Harvard Exit Theater is being razed-and-rebuilt like this.

It’s going on all over South Lake Union. The massive Troy Laundry building has already been hollowed out. The former Seattle Times building, its interior recently defaced by squatters, will probably also vanish except for its art-deco frontage.

In these and other places around town, you can see forlorn exterior walls of brick and terra cotta, artificially braced up, standing in front of nothing but construction holes.

In the frontier towns of the Old West (including pioneer Seattle), main streets were full of “false front” architecture. Grand, pompous storefronts stood proudly as signs of civic ambition, drawing people into the little one- or two-story stick structures hiding behind them.

Today’s “façadism” (yes, that’s a term some people use for this phenomenon) attempts an opposite aesthetic goal.

It seeks to mask the harsh, brutal, hyper-efficient modernity of a structure by offering a make-believe connection to the funky old building it replaced. Long-time residents can drive past it and imagine that the historic old building is still there, as long as they don’t look too closely.

But that’s about all it does.

It doesn’t preserve the spaces within, or their diverse uses.

Eugenia Woo, a local historic-preservation advocate and current director of preservation for Historic Seattle, writes about “What Price Façadism?” in the latest issue of Arcade, the local architectural/design journal.

Woo decries the practice, as an aesthetic travesty that fails to preserve the old buildings’ “authenticity”:

Stripped of everything but its facade, a building loses its integrity and significance, rendering it an architectural ornament with no relation to its history, function, use, construction method or cultural heritage. With only its primary facades saved, the original structure is gone, including the roof, interior features and volume of space.… Further, the scale and massing of the new building change the rhythm and feel of a block and neighborhood.”

Crosscut.com’s Knute Berger recently noted that property owners have sometimes manipulated the façades they’re supposedly preserving.

Berger writes that preservation advocates “have accused developers of damaging the historic integrity of building exteriors to ensure their building won’t be made a landmark, yet preserving the building’s skin as a ploy to win approval for more height for a new project. In other words, façade protections could actually be undercutting true preservation.”

Berger also notes that, at least in the Pike/Pine Corridor, current regulations have the effect of encouraging façadism instead of true preservation: “If an old building’s exterior is deemed to have architectural and contextual character, a developer can get additional height for a new structure in exchange for saving the façade. In other words, extra density and square-footage is dangled as an incentive to save an original exterior.”

The current tech-office boom, a legacy of city officials promoting urban development at almost any price (except in “single family” zones), and popular trends that see urban life as more attractive than suburban life have combined to create a “perfect storm” of development fever. This has put pressure on  the continued existence of old commercial and industrial buildings, throughout Seattle.

Growth, say pro-development “urbanists,” is inevitable.

But façadism needn’t be.

There are other ways to keep Seattle’s built history alive, while accommodating new residents and new uses.

Instead of false façades, Woo would rather see a form of “smart planning” that either preserves historic buildings whole or replaces them whole with “new projects that are well designed, perhaps the landmarks of tomorrow, cohesively knitted into the streetscape.”

ex bauhaus facadism

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

ROLON BERT GARNER, 1940-2015
Aug 18th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

rolon bert garner

photo by arthur s. aubry (who himself passed on earlier this year), via earl brooks

We all knew he was going.

He’d had chronic COPD for many years. At his last Seattle public appearance, in early 2013, he’d looked frail, and had trouble talking for long periods of time.

But it was still a total bitch to learn that he’d died this last Monday morning.

Like many people commonly grouped as “’60s generation kids,”Rolon Bert Garner was already past his teens before the Beatles came to our shores. He’d grown up in Eugene to parents from Oklahoma. In Portland he’d cofounded Artech (a long-running regional art-supply and framing chain) before he came here to work for the Seattle Art Museum, circa 1969.

He was one of the original instigators of Bumbershoot in 1971, and one of the creators of its visual-art component (then a much bigger part of the festival than it is now).

He was involved with the multi-disciplinary arts center and/or (1974-84).

He curated and designed exhibits, installations, and temporary “pop-up spaces.”

He installed exhibits (choosing which pieces went where) at the Frye Museum and many local galleries.

He helped produce private events, including fashion shows for Nordstrom.

With Virginia Inn owner Patrice Demombynes, Garner pioneered the idea of art exhibits in local bars. (He and Demombynes had their own gallery space on Dexter Avenue for a couple of years.)

He continued to curate art on barroom walls as a co-owner of the Two Bells Tavern (with wife Patricia Ryan, who passed in 2001). He’d been a bartender there before Ryan bought the place circa 1982, then married her in 1984. Under Ryan and Garner, the the rundown little bar on a low-foot-traffic stretch of Fourth Avenue became the virtual living room for the then-burgeoning Denny Regrade arts community. When Ryan’s cancer got too bad for her to continue running it, they sold it and retired to the country.

Garner was also an artist in his own right.

His last show of paintings, a career retrospective at the Virginia Inn two and a half years ago, was full of bright colors, underground-comix-esque lines and curves, and an old hippie’s lifelong interest in semi-abstracted nudes.

And he was a conceptual artist. With Ken Leback, he created the public-art piece Equality (a grid of Monopoly-style houses) on north Beacon Hill.

I’d been going to the VI since 1981, and to the Bells since at least 1985.

I knew Garner as a smart, soft spoken, often funny presence.

After I started MISC as a column in the old ArtsFocus paper, he supported and encouraged my work. (It took me years, though, to convince him I wasn’t just making up the things I wrote about in it.)

 He did so many things, in so many places, that it was hard to imagine a local arts scene without him.

And it still is.

THE LAST ENCHILADA
May 21st, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Mama’s Mexican Kitchen, the family-owned eatery that for 41 years has been a bastion of the pre-gentrification Belltown, closes this year, perhaps in September.

Its 1924 building will be razed for yet another 60-unit “mixed use” development.

Mike McAlpin, who’s owned Mama’s from the start (and used to also own the nearby Lava Lounge), says he’ll retire. Many of his employees have been there for 15 years or more.

I’ve been going there almost since it opened. Its Second and Bell corner spot once seemed way out in the wilderness, a million years from either downtown or Seattle Center. Art/music types had begun to flock there, attracted by what were then low rents close by to everything. Mama’s became a hangout and a resource for this community. Its cheap and plentiful food and margaritas, its friendly Elvis/Marilyn interior decor, and its unpretentious vibe kept its regulars coming back, even after many of them couldn’t afford to live in Belltown any more.

Yes, there are fancier and even more “authentic” Mexican joints out there these days, or at least ones more amenable to modern tastes. (Mama’s recipes came from McAlpin’s Cal-Mex grandmother, and are heavy on melted cheese and mild salsa.)

And there are many, many other dining and drinking joints in today’s Belltown; some at prices as tall as the condo towers now dominating the area.

But there isn’t anything else like Mama’s, and there probably never will be.

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