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

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

  • Kentucky’s GOP Senators forced Wash. state utilities to buy nuclear power components they don’t really need.
  • Amazon has exercised its option to buy the Belltown block where the Hurricane Cafe has been for 20 years (and the legendary Dog House had been for more than three decades before that).
  • Meanwhile, the Washington State Convention Center is buying the Honda of Seattle block.
  • As we approach five years since the last printed Post-Intelligencer (still missed), we must say goodbye to one of its ol’ mainstays, reporter John Engstrom.
  • If anybody knows what’s still stalling the waterfront tunnel machine, nobody’s telling.
  • There was a “Progressive Radio Summit” in Seattle, in which the keynote speaker claimed “the only sustainable model for broadcasters today is subscription based programming.”
  • The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center is still financially desperate.
  • White privilege: it exists, whether it’s visible to you or not.
  • Yes, Macklemore hired an established distribution company (the same one Sub Pop and others use) to get his CD into retail stores. That still qualifies as “not having a record label,” no matter what NPR says.
  • Steve Wilhelm at the Puget Sound Business Journal warns that Boeing’s strong arm tactics against the Machinists Union may cost the company more than it gains.
  • As Paramount becomes the first Hollywood studio to cease distributing movies on film reels to theaters, indie filmmakers take to the proverbial the Star-Off Machine and “reach for 16mm.” Meanwhile, there’s a campaign to “Save Film,” as a medium for both movie production and exhibition.
  • It’s always trouble when typographers attack one another.
RANDOM LINKS FOR 1/15/14
Jan 14th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

funhousedocumentary.com

  • Some folks have made a documentary about the Funhouse, that greatly-missed bastion of DIY loud n’ live music. It should screen some time this spring.
  • Buried in a list of various cineastes’ top 10s of ’13 is the announcement that SIFF will indeed return to the now-shuttered Egyptian Theater for this year’s festival, and is working to reopen the festival’s traditional “home base” for year-round screenings.
  • Norman Durkee, 1949-2014: Teatro ZinZanni’s original music director was a musical polymath. He produced early punk 45s, put out TV-advertised new age piano LPs, worked on stage musicals and dance performances, and performed recitals of jazz and modern classical tuneage.
  • Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was seen in an online video clip with local pompous homophobic/sexist pastor Mark Driscoll. This does not mean Wilson necessarily endorses anything Driscoll says.
  • King County will move forward with Plan C (at least) to save Metro Transit from drastic cuts, declining to wait for the professional Seattle-haters in the State Senate to become sane.
  • Meanwhile, in state-politician-friendly transportation (i.e. cars and roads only), the Waterfront tunnel project has a lot more problems than just a steel pipe in the way.
  • The long-delayed Tacoma Amtrak station now, thankfully, won’t replace half of the Freighthouse Square mini-mall.
  • Finally, a practical use for those “tiny houses” you sometimes see pictures of, cute micro-cottages usually depicted surrounded by pristine countryside with no humans or other buildings in sight. In Olympia, 30 of them are being used as transitional units for the previously homeless.
  • Misadventures in Clickbait Dept.: Two companies supply most of those often-silly “Around the Web” or “Recommended for You” link boxes on otherwise “serious” news sites.
  • Is “Net Neutrality” (the policy that service providers can’t give preferential speed/access treatment to certain websites) really “dead”? No. The FCC simply has to rewrite its rules around the technicalities of a court decision.
  • Fox News anonymously created its own pro-Fox News blog. Yes, it’s hilarious and chock full O’ stereotypes.
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 1/9/14
Jan 8th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

cartoonbrew.com

  • DVD sales may be collapsing in the Age of Streaming, but cheap knockoff imitations of famous animated features keep showing up.
  • Has the City of Seattle finally found an effective legal weapon against notorious U District/Roosevelt slumlord Hugh Sisley?
  • The fallout of the Boeing Machinists’ vote is just going to get messier. And it’ll set lousy precedents all around.
  • Noah Smith at the Atlantic believes the years have proven the Seattle WTO protesters were right.
  • An especially gruesome local child-abuse scandal has made the UK tabloids.
  • No Country for Old Men novelist Cormac McCarthy’s ex wife was found arguing with her current boyfriend about UFOs, when she “gave birth” to a concealed gun.
  • Pundit Edgeny Morozov sees the brouhaha over Edward Snowden’s high-tech-snooping allegations not for what they say about modern governments but for what they say about modern business.
  • Fewer people are smoking (as a proportion of the world’s population). But more people are smoking (counting raw numbers).
  • Sir Run Run Shaw, 1907-2014: The king of Hong Kong commercial cinema essentially created the martial-arts action genre. The Shaw Brothers studio originally intended it as escapist entertainment for the international Chinese diaspora across the Pacific Rim. But many of these films, by Shaw’s and other studios, became a cinematic trope of global appeal. (Seattle’s own Bruce Lee worked for the Shaws’ archrivals Golden Harvest.) Raise a toast to the man while watching possibly the greatest studio-logo sequence in film history.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 1/6/14
Jan 6th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

the columbian

  • A “lost roll of film” depicting Mt. St. Helens just weeks before its 1980 eruption, by a newspaper photographer who died while covering it, was found. The paper had to go to a Portland lab, which had to further outsource it to a freelancer, to get the b/w images processed.
  • The Illinois company now calling itself Boeing gets gazillions in Wash. state tax breaks. Workers lose pension protections. The state government’s financial/tax structure became even more un-reformable. This might have been the best we could get. (Now to get some real competition by inviting Airbus to our state.)
  • What’s been stalling the tunnel digging machine on the waterfront? As a certain French painter wouldn’t say, “This actually is a pipe.”
  • Who would pour gasoline down the stairs at Neighbours on Broadway on New Year’s, attempting to destroy Seattle’s “anchor” gay dance club and some 750 revelers? Oh yeah, some heartless bigot (not yet found) who probably thinks it was the “Christian” thing to do.
  • Longtime, legendary, local street trumpeter Richard Peterson has announced his “last day on the street.” For at least the fourth time.
  • The anonymous “trio of mouthy broads” behind local blog Seattlish offers “a retrospective on how Seattle treated Mike McGinn.” Their essential premise: we didn’t deserve him.
  • After winning RuPaul’s Drag Race and starring in a hit production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Jinkx Monsoon’s next big thing will be a bio-documentary film.
  • A self described “straight male” fan of first-person-shooter video games says the term “gamer,” and the often-sexist-jerkish subculture it represents, have got to go.
  • National Political Punditry Dept.: Margaret Flowers and Kezin Zeese at Truthout claim the populist-Left movement of “winning over the hearts and minds of the American people” is progressing along just fine; Valerie Tarico at Alternet sez the to-do over a “reality” TV celeb’s homophobia/racism helps prove “religious fundamentalism is going down”; and Mary Bell Lockhart at OpEdNews deconstructs a few of the lies that “ultraconservatives think they know for sure.”
  • First Roger Ebert goes. Now one of the longtime contributors to RogerEbert.com, local film critic and all around good guy Jeff Shannon, succumbed to pneumonia following years of various illnesses. A quadraplegic for most of his life, following an accident during his younger years, he was an advocate for the disabled and once wrote that “Happiness is a choice.”
WHAT’S HIGHER AND LOWER IN TWENTY ONE FO-UR
Jan 4th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

For the 28th consecutive year (really!), we proudly present the MISCmedia In/Out List, the most venerable (and only accurate) list of its kind in this and all other known solar systems. As always, this is a prediction of what will become hot and not-so-hot in the coming year, not necessarily what’s hot and not-so-hot now. If you believe everything hot now will just keep getting hotter, I’ve got some BlackBerry stock to sell you.

INSVILLE OUTSKI
Da Vinci’s Inquest Da Vinci’s Demons
Lorde Lard
Mead Gin
Tapatio Sriracha
“Fewer” “Less”
WordPress Flash
CBS This Morning 60 Minutes
Alex Trebek retirement Jay Leno retirement
Baltimore Miami
“Relevant” “Viral”
Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) Kristen Stewart
Kacey Musgraves Brad Paisley
Formica Granite
Plum Silver frost
Oscar Isaac Johnny Depp
Mini-tacos Chicken wings
Fly Moon Royalty Robin Thicke
Saving Scarecrow Video Saving the Seattle Times
DailyKos.com Upworthy.com
Bare midriffs “Designer grunge” revival
Voting-rights defenders White people who claim “racism is over”
Elizabeth Warren “Politics by hashtag”
Venice Paris
Burien Bainbridge
Worker rights Working for “the exposure”
End of movies shown on film End of incandescent light bulbs
Games for all ages/sexes/races Macho-asshole “gamer culture”
“You better WORK!” “Because (noun)”
Erin Morgenstern Charlaine Harris
Raising the minimum wage Cutting corporate taxes
NHL in Seattle NBA back in Seattle
Binge viewing Crash dieting
Bolt Bus Airline mergers
Single-payer HMOs
Seahawks 49ers
Girls (still) Dads
Misfits Kardashians
Lovers “Winners”
“-esque” “-ski”
CONFESSIONS OF A DECATUR CANNONBALL
Jan 3rd, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

  • What early Seattle lumber baron was accused in 1876 of embezzling funds intended for “the Grand Lottery of Washington?”
  • Reached in 1950, what is the record for the lowest temperature recorded in Seattle?
  • Where was the second Starbucks located?
  • What is Macklemore’s real name?

If you know the answers to some or all of these questions, then you stand a fighting chance at MOHAI Trivia.

This monthly “pub trivia” competition began in April 2012, as a way to help promote the Museum of History and Industry’s pending reopening in south Lake Union. It began at the Wurst Place restaurant/tavern on Westlake, near the old Naval Reserve armory where MOHAI moved that December.

It’s now has also branched out to other bars around town, where volunteer quizmasters offer “MOHAI rounds” as part of those locations’ weekly trivia contests.

But the monthly flagship event is still held at the Wurst Place (except during summer breaks).

And, since its inception, it has been dominated by one team of obscure-knowledge buffs.

Which happens to be the team I’m on.

The Decatur Cannonballs were organized by Jeff Long, a rare book dealer and a longtime Seattle history maven. The other members, all founts of obscure knowledge, are Long’s longtime friends Chris Middleton, Brian Doan, Bill Sandell, and Randall Fehr.

The team is named after a U.S. Navy “sloop of war” whose artillery fire helped end the Battle of Seattle, a one-day uprising by local native Americans against the new white settlement in 1856.

(On nights when some members were unable to attend, the remaining team members have used the alternate name Denny Hillbillies, after the hill that was leveled to create today’s Belltown.)

The Cannonballs won all of the first 11 MOHAI Trivia events. Sometimes they won handily; sometimes by a mere half point. Once, a tiebreaker question was needed to put them on top.

They aced “name the local building” photo questions, questions based on audio clips from movies filmed in Seattle, the origins of local place names, old political scandals, local celebrities, historic events, and sports teams. They beat as many as ten other teams on any given night.

Finally, in November of this year, a team arose to challenge the Cannonballs.

And two categories were found that stumped the Cannonballs. They were local hip hop and local Olympic athletes—both vital aspect of our recent cultural scene but both topics about which these 50ish Caucasian dudes were relatively ignorant.

That night the Cannonballs finally lost.

The previously undefeated champs took it all in stride.

After all, constant triumph without at least a few setbacks just isn’t the Seattle way.

Then the Cannonballs promptly won again in December.

MOHAI Trivia at the Wurst Place (510 Westlake Ave. N.) occurs the first Tuesday evening of every month, including Jan. 7. Neighborhood MOHAI Trivia events will resume in the new year following a holiday hiatus; check MOHAI.org for dates and locations.

(ANSWERS: Henry Yesler; zero; University Village; Ben Haggerty.)

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

MIKE VRANEY, 1957-2014
Jan 3rd, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

popmatters.com

I first knew Mike Vraney, the legendary Seattle rock promoter and home-video mogul, from the regulars at Time Travelers, a comic book store at Second and Pike that also stocked some of the first “punk rock” records. It was a nexus for the nascent “alternative” music scene in town.

He became one of the promoters (with Jim Lightfoot, Carlo Scandiuzzi, and Terry Morgan) who reopened the Showbox Theater for live rock shows in 1979. (The legendary big-band hall at First and Pike had, by then, become a Jewish bingo parlor.)

For two amazing years he helped to stage dozens of shows, all of them memorable, with both national (the Ramones, XTC, the Police, Devo) and local (the Blackouts, the Beakers, the Fags) acts. For that alone, he shaped my life and what would become known years later as “the Seattle scene.”

From there, he went on to manage such bands as the Dead Kennedys, TSOL, and Seattle’s own The Accused.

Then in 1990 he launched Something Weird Video.

At first, it was a simple operation. Vraney had unearthed a cache of nudie-cutie “loop” film reels at a swap meet. He sold VHS tapes of their contents.

Those tapes sold well enough that he put out tapes of other reels he and friends had collected over the years, and sought out similar “cult” films to release.

Early hardcore pornos; earlier softcore sex films (that had been driven out of the marketplace by hardcore pornos); indie horror and gore flicks; nudist-camp pseudo-documentaries; sci-fi “creature features;” gangster and spy capers; gruesome driver’s-ed classroom films; drive-in intermission promos; old beer commercials—almost no genre was too outré for Something Weird.

In these tapes’ packaging and promotion, Vraney effectively captured and updated the carney-barker showmanship of old sleaze cinema. His video boxes were printed in lurid colors that made them stand out on store shelves. Wherever available, he incorporated the films’ original advertising copy and poster art on his videocassette boxes, along with scads of text placing the films in the context of their original making and release.

Before long, Vraney was buying or leasing the rights to films by such schlockmeister auteurs as Harry Novak, David Friedman, Doris Wishman, Joe Sarno, Michael and Roberta Finley, and Herschell Gordon Lewis. (Vraney took his company’s name and logo from one of Lewis’s no-budget “classics.”)

He brought these films (which had originally only been screened in drive-ins and urban “grindhouse” cinemas) and their makers (who’d been mostly unknown, even to the films’ original viewers) to the attention of new generations of enthusiasts. The pop-rock band 10,000 Maniacs named itself after a film Vraney had reissued, Lewis’s 2,000 Maniacs.

When DVDs first came out, Vraney hit upon a two-pronged business strategy.

For “mainstream” markets (or at least as mainstream as Something Weird got), Vraney signed up with distributor Image Entertainment to place over 100 discs (mostly double features) in major retail chains. These “Special Edition” discs included trailers, shorts, and the films’ original posters and ad art.

He kept full control of the rest of his catalog (which by this time numbered in thousands of titles) for sale on DVD-R, through mail order and through specialty video stores.

As the DVD biz peaked and declined (he once told me he’d known DVD was done for when Tower Records, his biggest customer, folded), Vraney moved into downloads, streaming, and on-demand cable TV. He even set up a stock footage operation, licensing scenes from some of his videos (such as his compilations of old commercials and educational films) for documentaries.

In 2012 he co-produced That’s Sexploitation!, a documentary about the makers of old time nudie, softcore, and stag films. Even as he appeared at some of its festival screenings, he kept private what only family and close friends knew—that he’d been diagnosed with lung cancer.

The end apparently came quickly.

He leaves behind his wife and partner, artist Lisa Petrucci, and two now-adult children he’d had with his first wife Tammy Decroff (who had also died from cancer).

OF MONORAILS AND MONOMANIA
Dec 28th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

Back in 2003, after the first round of local dot-com crashes, former Seattle Weekly writer Fred Moody wrote a book called Seattle and the Demons of Ambition.

Moody wrote about instances when the city as a whole, or individual Seattleites, obsessively pursued grandiose schemes for power, money, or civic greatness, only to figuratively crash back down to Earth.

Moody didn’t include the Seattle Monorail Project (1996-2005) in his vignettes. But that failed dream of a better, cheaper, more futuristic urban transit system certainly qualifies as a sky-high dream that collapsed amid broken hearts and balance sheets.

And Dick Falkenbury, the sometime cab driver who helped to launch the project, is a major aspect of this tale. While he’d worked in minor roles on local political campaigns in the past, many saw him as the ultimate outsider.

To the local media, and to many of his supporters, Falkenbury was the civilian tinkerer with a great idea—an idea that would cure gridlock, make car-free living more feasible, and never get stuck in traffic, all without major government subsidies.

He was like Campbell Scott’s character in the Seattle-filmed movie Singles, whose drive for a city-crossing “supertrain” was promptly dismissed by the mayor. Except that Falkenbury’s idea, while snickered at by almost everyone in power, was loved by the people.

With the aid of local rich kid Grant Cogswell and a few plucky volunteers, plus some clever ideas for low-cost signature gathering and campaigning, the Monorail Initiative got onto the ballot—and passed.

Cogswell went on to a failed City Council run, as documented in Phil Campbell’s book Zioncheck for President and Stephen Gyllenhaal’s movie Grassroots. (Later, Cogswell declared Seattle to be unworthy of him and moved to Mexico City.)

Now, Falkenbury’s written, and self-published, his account of the Monorail dream’s life and death.

The book’s title, Rise Above It All, was one of the initiative’s slogans.

Just as the elevated trains were meant to run above snarled streets, the Monorail Project was meant to run above, and apart from, the city bureaucracy and the “infrastructure lobby” of contractors and construction unions.

That things didn’t turn out that way wasn’t just the fault of Falkenbury’s outsider status. But that was a factor. He made enemies. He nurtured grudges, even with allies. Without the skills or clout to manage the ongoing operation of planning and building a transit system, he was forced to watch it taken over by the “experts.”

What came out the other end of that process was, in many ways, just another bloated civic construction proposal, complete with an unworkable financing plan. After four consecutive “yes” votes, city voters finally killed the monorail on a fifth ballot.

But would the system Falkenbury originally envisioned, or something like it. have worked?

Would it have carried 20 million riders or more per year, in auto-piloted trains, on tracks supported just 20 feet above the ground on narrow pillars, with fewer than 100 employees, financed almost completely by fare-box proceeds and station concessions?

In his book, Falkenbury insists it could have, and still could.

But he doesn’t make a convincing case.

For one thing, he could have really used an editor.

He regularly misspells the names of even major players in his story, such as City Councilmember Nick Licata.

He makes the sort of wrong-real-word errors that Microsoft Word’s spell checker can’t find, such as when he mentions “rewarding a contract” instead of “awarding” it.

He rambles on about his personal distaste for several people, including ostensible allies such as Peter Sherwin (whose second monorail initiative kept the dream alive after the city council first tried to kill it).

And he defends the monorail plan as he’d originally envisioned it, without providing a lot of specific evidence that the engineers and planners and politicians were all wrong and he was right.

But he still could be.

If Falkenbury had been a more effective schmoozer and networker; if he’d gotten more politicians on his side; if he’d sold his plan as a supplement, not a competitor, to the tri-county Sound Transit organization; if he’d convinced ST to at least consider switching from light-rail to monorail technologies; if he’d been able to keep a tighter eye on the planning and money people, or had more allies who could; then, just maybe, we might have been riding in the sky from Crown Hill to the West Seattle Junction by now.

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

IF I ONLY HAD A BUSINESS MODEL
Dec 20th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

It’s Saturday Oct. 19. It’s Independent Video Store Day, an industrywide promotion similar to Record Store Day.

Scarecrow Video in the University District is packed with customers, there for special sales offers and cult-movie screenings.

Some of these are once-loyal customers who haven’t been inside Scarecrow, or any brick-and-mortar video store, in a long time.

The store needs them back, and on more than just one day a year.

Scarecrow Video is in trouble.

Not from the owners of the “Wizard of Oz” trademarks. That was quietly settled long ago, with the scarecrow in the store’s logo replaced by the silhouette of a flying crow.

And not from landlords. Store owner Carl Tostevin bought the building (formerly a stereo shop, and then a large Radio Shack) a while back.

No, what could kill the store that boasts of having “the world’s largest collection of films” are the same trends that killed Rain City Video, Hollywood Video, and even the once-mighty Blockbuster.

In the mid 1980s, during the first heyday of home video, attorney Fred Hopkins and record collector John Black had a little used record store, Backtrack, on the 25th Ave. NE strip north of University Village. Hopkins brought in a few dozen VHS tapes of ’50s horror and other cheesy B movies, for rent and for sale.

One day, regular customer George Latsois came in with some tapes of foreign and “art” films. Hopkins and Black agreed to stock them on Backtrack’s rental shelves on Latsois’s behalf. They rented well enough to encourage Latsois to start his own store.

Scarecrow Video began its standalone existence in an old commercial building south of Green Lake. Latsois quickly expanded to a second, then a third, adjacent storefront. He put everything he made and more into increasing his stock. Scarecrow, he decided, would be a destination store attracting customers from around the city and even the ‘burbs.

Latsois and a growing staff of film fanatics outgrew the Green Lake space. They moved to a bigger, and higher profile, location on Roosevelt Way, just off of the NE 50th Street freeway exit.

The U District was one of the city’s traditional film hubs. The Seven Gables and Metro cinames, and the Cinema Books store, were just down the street; the Neptune, Varsity, and Grand Illusion theaters were on or near nearby University Way; the UW itself had acclaimed film-studies programs and screening series. Scarecrow immediately became a major part, then an anchor, of this activity.

It was at Scarecrow that I first saw a DVD being played (the first Michael Keaton Batman). Within 10 years, the DVD format would render VHS (and the niche Laserdisc format) completely obsolete. Scarecrow, though, would hold on to hundreds of VHS titles that still haven’t come out on DVD.

Latsois kept expanding his selection. He tried to balance interesting but unprofitable titles with films in popular or niche-market genres (sexploitaiton, anime, old Hollywood classics). Scarecrow’s collection, already the biggest in Seattle, became one of the, and then THE, biggest in America.

But Latsois’s get-big-fast model caught up with the store’s finances. He was forced to seek buyers. He found them in 1998, in Microsoft managers (and loyal store customers) Tostevin and John Dauphiny.

Latsois died in 2003 in his native Greece; a wake at Scarecrow was attended by loyal customers dating from back in the Backtrack days.

With the backing of Tostevin and Dauphiny (who kept their Microsoft day jobs and didn’t take salaries from the store), Scarecrow continued to grow. To 23,000 titles, then to 80,000, then to almost 120,000.

Every available foot of space in the former stereo shop was turned into shelves. The main room’s collections of “auteur” directors became a labyrinth of tall shelves, separated by increasingly narrow passages. At Scarecrow, shopping for films was as much of an adventure as watching them.

Then came Netflix’s DVD by mail service. Then came streaming and on-demand services. Independent retailers like Scarecrow, which can’t afford the expensive rights (or the technical infrastructure) to stream movies, were cut off from that side of the buisness.

DVD rentals and sales tumbled. The big movie studios cut back their DVD release schedules. Video stores everywhere (independents, chains, big and small) began to disappear.

Tostevin (who bought out Dauphiny’s share) kept Scarecrow open, with a staff of 30. They added a coffee bar (“VHSpresso”), a screening room, and cross-promotions with art cinemas and neighborhood small businesses. They pushed the sales side of the business, and offered different rental specials each day of the week. It hasn’t been enough.

On Oct. 17, two days before Independent Video Store Day, Tostevin posted notice on the store’s website:

“Our rental numbers have declined roughly 40% over the past 6 years. This isn’t a huge surprise—obviously technology has been moving this direction for some time—but the decline has been more dramatic than we had anticipated.… Scarecrow has never been about making money, but it has to support itself. It’s no longer doing that, and hasn’t for a while.”

Scarecrow general manager Jeffrey Shannon told KOMO-TV that if revenues don’t pick up by year’s end, he and Tostavin might pursue a nonprofit, subscription-based model or other options. Completely closing, and disbanding the collection, remains one of those options.

In his website post, Tostevin didn’t ask for donations, just for his former regulars to “come back in” and buy and/or rent stuff; particularly during the upcoming holiday season.

One of the things you could buy is a Scarecrow T-shirt bearing the cartoon image of an anthropomorphic DVD disc and VHS cassette, smiling beneath the slogan VIVA PHYSICAL MEDIA.

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

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 10/20/13
Oct 20th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

charter construction via ronald holden, cornichon.org

Gosh, has it really been more than three weeks since I’ve done this? Time flies when you’re desperately looking for paying work (i.e., absolutely not “for the exposure”).

Anyhow:

  • The prefab apartment units (above) recently craned into place next to Dan’s Belltown Grocery on Third are not really “apodments.” They’re from a different developer than the company that owns that name. And they’re about 425 square feet each, a “regular apartment” size that’s much larger than those micro-apts.
  • Meanwhile, the residents (many of them elderly) of a Ballard apartment complex are standing their ground and refusing to be evicted from their longtime homes in the name of upscaling.
  • Use It Or Lose It Dept.: The current owners of Scarecrow Video say they’re in desperate fiscal straits. If enough former loyal customers don’t resume renting/buying “physical media” at the U District institution, “the world’s largest collection of movies” will go away forever.
  • Tom Foley, 1929-2013: The Spokane liberal (yes, there really are such) and former U.S. House Speaker thrived in a disappeared age of gentler, more cooperative politics (i.e., two-way backroom dealmaking). The end of that era was the end of his political career; he was ousted by a corporate Republican who promised to limit his own terms of office, then promptly forgot that promise.
  • As another baseball season reaches its last round, Steve Rudman claims the Mariners’ bosses don’t even know how clueless they are.
  • Stop the coal trains! (Besides, I always liked Thelonius Monk better.)
  • Great moments in market segmentation: Rave dancers now have a bottled water “made” just for them.
  • Of course, Sean Hannity’s “victims of Obamacare” were all fake. But you knew that.
  • Charles Simic at the NY Review o’ Books has harsh words for inequality deniers and other right-wing goons:

We have forgotten what this country once understood, that a society based on nothing but selfishness and greed is not a society at all, but a state of war of the strong against the weak.

rocketnews24.com

RANDOM LINKS FOR 9/4/13
Sep 3rd, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

satoshi kon's 'paprika' (2006); via film.com

  • The following are not among Film.com’s list of the all-time “Ten Most Beautiful Animated Films”: My Little Pony: The Movie, Bebe’s Kids, The Croods, Wreck-It Ralph, Gnomeo and Juliet.
  • Microsoft buys Nokia’s cell-phone business: Is it really the end of MS as predominantly a software company? Is it the end of software as a stand alone industry?  Nah. Code shall always be needed, as will be upgrades and bug fixes and adaptations to said code. What it’s the end of is MS relying on outside hardware vendors (aka PC manufacturers), a marriage of convenience that left the hardware companies racing to the proverbial price-point “bottom” (and to overseas subcontractors).
  • Nicklesville breaks camp and breaks up, to relocate three far-flung new sites.
  • For infotainment at its most baffling, it’s hard to top “Strange Bloomberg Headlines.”
  • Not even the song of Mothra‘s miniature princesses can save Japanese rubber-suit monsters from the onslaught of computer graphics.
  • Big Freedia, the “Queen of Bounce,” says Miley Cyrus doesn’t know how to “twerk” properly.
  • There’s no shortage of tech grads coming out of U.S. colleges. There are, however, scads of U.S. tech companies eager to legally bring in as many low-paid immigrant techies as they can.
  • In news that comes as shocking to almost nobody, corporate pop stars and actors willingly perform for free (plus expenses) at Walmart shareholder meetings.
  • Kim Messick at Salon explains, in terms of history and demographics, specifically “How the Republican Party Lost Its Mind.”
  • Music history note: The legendary kitsch cover art for Devo’s debut LP, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!, came from a merchandise display with golf star Chi Chi Rodriguez.

clubdevo.com

RANDOM LINKS FOR 9/2/13
Sep 1st, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

sprudge.com

  • Coffee blogger Alex Bernson serves up some kind words, and a little design history, toward Capitol Hill’s soon-to-close Bauhaus Kaffee & Kunst:

It is the quintessential Northwest cafe—rustic industrial meets cozy 1950s Modern nostalgia in a beautiful, double-height corner space. It manages to feel warm, inviting, and communal all at once, even when the acres of windows are filled with oppressively gray Seattle skies.

  • Timothy Harris of Real Change has some icononoclastic, and caustic, words about the eviction of the “Nicklesville” homeless encampment.
  • Seattle’s Cinerama’s getting the snazziest, brightest digital cinema projecter ever.
  • Texas Gov. Rick Parry might finally face prosecution for alleged abuse of power.
  • A “banker-turned-writer” who predicted the financial floposity of ’08 now says the U.S. is at the verge of a “new economic boom.”
  • A new smartphone app encourages bicyclists on group rides to break away and race against the clock on their own. A bike blog calls this an invitation to antisocial behavior.
  • Computer chips could stop getting ever-smaller and more powerful every year, not due to physical limitations but to economic ones.
  • In modern (or postmodern or neomodern) fiction, is there such a thing as “The New Weird”? Or has this particular brand of weird always been with us?
  • A lesser-talked-about aspect of Miley Cyrus’s “twerking” performance: It was another in the centuries-old tradition of white performers paying “tribute” to black culture by stereotyping blacks as sexy savages.
  • (By the way, there’s apparently a Twitter meme called “solidarity is for white women,” dissing white feminists who imagine affluent white women’s issues as comprising the sum total of all women’s issues.)
  • (By the by-the-way, I’m still not sure what “twerking” is, but I’m not completely against it.)
  • (By the by-the-by-the-way, some guy wrote an advice essay on “How to Talk With Your Sons About Robin Thicke.” Unfortunately, the advice had only to do with the “Blurred Lines” video and its depictions of women. It’s also vital to address common stereotypes of men as dumb, dick-obsessed dorks.)
RANDOM LINKS FOR 8/19/13
Aug 19th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

imagined audio-book listeners on a train, 1894

Back in the early days of telephones and phonograph records (1894 to be precise), essayist Octave Uzanne claimed “The End of Books” would soon be at hand. Uzanne predicted people would much rather listen to storytellers (with what are now called audio books) than read:

Our eyes are made to see and reflect the beauties of nature, and not to wear themselves out in the reading of texts; they have been too long abused, and I like to fancy that some one will soon discover the need there is that they should be relieved by laying a greater burden upon our ears. This will be to establish an equitable compensation in our general physical economy.

Elsewhere in randomosity:

  • Our ol’ friend (and onetime print MISC zine contributor) Jenniffer Velasco is now designing clothes in NYC, and making a name for herself.
  • The Seattle Timesvendetta against Mayor McGinn just gets more petty.
  • Sadly, criminal attacks in and near Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill just keep occurring.
  • If you ever get a text from a number you’ve never heard of, claiming to be from a woman “naked and waiting” for you to arrive with a pizza at a UW dorm, it’s best to not believe it.
  • The UW, meanwhile, ranks #27 in some list of the world’s top 100 universities. Just think what could happen if it got the state funding it deserves.
  • Seattle is #2 in some list of top world cities for “economic development.” Number one: Ottawa.
  • Could Puget Sound’s seaports finally stop competing against one another, thus driving down revenues to all?
  • Would-be neo-Sonics owner Chris Hansen gave money to a political campaign that’s essentially trying to stop a new arena in Sacramento. His admission of this might or might not diminish his chances of eventually landing a franchise.
  • Is Forever 21 demoting full-time workers to part-time as a sick revenge against Obamacare, or just to be mean?
  • Is Walmart doing badly this year because it treats its workers badly, or just because downscale customers still haven’t got their past spending power back?
  • Would Obama’s proposed student-loan “reforms” just make ‘em more usurious?
  • Blogger Allen Clifton makes the simple, provocative claim that today’s “Republicans aren’t Christians.”
  • Orson Scott Card, the Ender’s Game novelist who wants you to be tolerant of his anti-gay intolerance, also wrote a little essay fantasizing about Obama hiring “urban gangs” into a personal army to make him dictator.
  • Sophia McDougall at the UK mag New Statesman says she hates the stereotype of the “Strong Female Character,” particularly in big-budget action movies. She’d much rather see more, more believable, and more different female characters (i.e., different from one another).
  • Vice magazine, onetime would-be darling of the fashionably decadent, is now partly owned by Fox.
  • Anti-sex-trafficking advocate Rachel Lloyd would really like all of you to cease using the terms “pimp” or “pimping” in any admiration-type context.
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