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THOSE ENDEARING YOUNG CHARMS, REVISITED
Jun 25th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

jones 3 bullseye

Over the next few weeks, I’ll discuss some of the things I’ve been doing this past 10 months when I mostly haven’t been blogging.

They include what one might call Internet research rabbit holes, obsessions with obscure corners of pop-culture arcana.

One of these obsessions is a “rabbit hole” in more ways than one.

It starts with something everybody knows, even if it hasn’t been at the pop-cult forefront in recent years.

Warner Bros.’ classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons haven’t been on broadcast TV in years. The one basic cable channel they’ve been on, Cartoon Network, had lately only shown them on weekday mornings, and only when that time slot wasn’t being used to rerun some Tom & Jerry or Scooby-Doo direct-to-video movie. CN’s not showing them at all now. You have to pay extra for CN’s premium-tier channel Boomerang to see these timeless classics.

Even worse for longtime fans, no LT/MM shorts have been issued on DVD (aside from reissues) since late last year. With the industry-wide collapse of disc sales, Warner Home Video has put any future digital remasters of old cartoons on hold.

The prolific WB cartoon studio made some 1,005 “classic” theatrical shorts over 40 years. Approximately 450 of them have yet to be digitally restored. A lot of those look really dingy in the old TV prints seen online.

Oh yeah: Almost all the LT/MM shorts can be found in unofficial online uploads. WB has gotten some of them removed from YouTube, but they just pop up on more obscure sites. (WB could put them up officially, and get whatever ad revenue there is to get, but mostly hasn’t.)

While I was on my last extended “blog vacation” earlier this year, I set out to watch every darned one of the not-on-DVD Warner cartoons. About half of them feature the studio’s “A list” characters (Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Tweety, etc.). Some of them (in the uploaded versions from old TV prints) look good enough to go on disc as is. Others look dingy, faded, and lo-res.

To keep the LT/MM “franchise” (and its lucrative merchandising) alive, WB needs to (at least) make new digital transfers of these not-on-DVD shorts, from the best existing film materials. This would make the films more viable in today’s hi-def era, for release on broadcast, cable, on-demand, streaming, and download “platforms,” as well as on disc. Perhaps some of the less “commercial” entries (the ones with minor or one-shot characters) could receive less of the labor-intensive digital retouching that was used for the DVD releases.

At the same time as I was re-viewing all those films, I also started to research the music used in them.

The studio’s great music directors, Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn, incorporated more than 500 pre-existing compositions into their cartoon scores. They ranged from classical and folk pieces, to contemporary hits and songs from Warner feature films, to obscurities that had originally been published as sheet music for silent-music accompanists.

With the aid of several existing online lists of the “sampled” compositions, I put together a YouTube playlist of most of them. It’s currently up to 434 entries. They’re all records or film clips of the original tunes—not the cartoon excerpts of them.

If you know them only from the cartoon versions (and you probably do), you’re in for a few surprises:

  • “Hello Ma Baby,” the first frog-sung tune in One Froggy Evening, was originally a novelty song about a man in love with a woman he knows only as a voice on that then-new gadget, the telephone.
  • “Those Endearing Young Charms,” used in the oft-repeated “exploding xylophone” gag, was originally a sorrowful ballad about a man promising his wife he’ll still love her in sickness and old age.

jones 2 mural and guitar cyclone

Warner might be mismanaging one of its most valuable assets; but other parties remain determined to keep the cartoons in the public eye.

They include the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, founded by the Spokane boy who became the most famous of the studio’s several cartoon directors.

The Jones Center and the Jones heirs, along with the Smithsonian’s “touring exhibits” division, created What’s Up, Doc?: The Animated Art of Chuck Jones. It’s now at the EMP Museum in Seattle.

It’s got dozens of original art pieces and artifacts from Jones’s Warner, MGM, and indie films.

It’s got one of his most famous works, What’s Opera, Doc?, playing continuously (it never gets tiresome); plus a mysterious minute and a half of music recorded for “unproduced scenes” in that classic. (Wonder what they would have been?)

It’s got excerpts from several other Jones films (and one Tex Avery WB short, the defining Bugs Bunny film A Wild Hare), on flat-screen monitors around the exhibit space.

It’s got a few spots where you can take photos of one another alongside life-size cartoon props, such as under a “precariously” suspended prop anvil. (Photography’s forbidden in the rest of the exhibit.)

It’s got meticulous explanations and documentation about the now-threatened art of 2D animation.

And it’s got plenty of words, pictures, and video footage about Jones (1912-2002).

Besides hundreds of one-reel films for theaters, Jones also worked on TV specials, instructional films, and a couple of animated features (Gay Purr-ee and The Phantom Tollbooth).

At Warner he created his own characters (the Road Runner and Coyote, Pepe le Pew) and developed characters created by or with other directors (Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester).

Later, he adapted works by Dr. Seuss, Walt (Pogo) Kelly, Rudyard Kipling, and his former Warner colleague Frank Tashlin, adjusting all of their individual artistic visions to his own.

Thematically, Jones’ films ranged from Disney-esque sentiment to violent slapstick and back again. Stylistically, they ranged from slick “realism” to almost pure abstraction (and, in his version of Norman Juster’s story The Dot and the Line, total abstraction).

And while many animators were/are soft spoken and shy creatures, Jones was an inveterate and articulate self-promoter. He made books and documentaries about his works. He gave many interviews to animation historians, sometimes embellished for entertainment’s sake.

And with the exhibit, his take on “the art of animation” has an immersible, walk-through incarnation. Viewers get to enjoy the finished films, and to learn in grit-detail about each of the many components that went into them.

Can this help revive interest in “analog” animation?

And, just as importantly, can it help rescue the classic WB shorts from extra-tier-cable-channel purgatory?

THE RACHEL PAPERS
Jun 15th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

mgm/this tv

Some pseudo-random thoughts about l’Affaire Rachel Dolezal, the just-resigned Spokane NAACP leader who’s claimed at various times to be black, part-black, and Native American, but whose parents claim her to be white (and who have the blonde, blue-eyed childhoood pix to support their claim):

If it weren’t for white people pretending to be black, we’d have no jazz or rock n’ roll or R&B or even hiphop as we know those genres today. American white pop music would still sound like “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?” British pop music would still sound like “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes.”

(We also wouldn’t have sorry minstrel-show acts, macho-baby-boomer blues bands, or fratboy rappers either; but you’ve got to take the bad with the good, right?)

There’s a long-running meme of college-educated white women identifying, or trying to identify, with black women of “lower” castes. It ranges from recent works such as The Help, back to the predominantly white-female audiences for Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. Walker especially depicted Af-Am womanhood as an ultimate embodiment of a specifically feminine wisdom and righteousness.

Could Dolezal, who had Af-Am adopted siblings, have envied their specific “tribal” identity, collective-struggle heritage, etc.? Not for an outsider like me to say.

It can be said that she should have known “being black” involved more than just looks and “soul,” but (as shown gruesomely in recent news items) a continuing legacy on the receiving end of repression, injustice, and brutality. (As Tavis Smiley asks, “Who’d sign up to be black?”)

Dolezal is the second Spokanian to re-invent herself so thoroughly. The first, of course, is Billy Tipton.

Tipton, a small-time jazz pianist and a bio-female who lived as a (hetero) man until his death in 1989, was essentially (in my opinion) a trans who never had reassignment surgery, but who simply tried to create a being and a life for himself and succeeded completely.

Dolezal attempted a similar life-feat, trying to create a present by rewriting her past. Our age of instant information made that ultimately impossible.

There’s nothing wrong, as Smiley’s above-linked essay notes, with being a white person devoted to helping her less race-privileged fellow humans; people who…

…have the courage, conviction and commitment to unapologetically use their white face—and their white voice, hands, feet, head and heart to make America a nation as good as its promise.

The NAACP has (openly) white local and national officers, past and present. More famously, the late Westinghouse and CBS exec Michael H. Jordan (absolutely no relation to the basketball star) was chairman of the United Negro College Fund for a decade.

In the statement announcing her NAACP resignation, Dolezal stated she won’t stop fighting for justice.

Dolezal has been a student, and occasionally a teacher, of Af-Am culture and history. She assuredly knows, both from book-learning and from those in her life, about what black life is really like.

She could have used this knowledge to work at bridging our racial divides.

If she can transcend the unfortunate image of her own “race drag act,” she still can.

Everybody seems to have an opinion or an angle on the tale:

  • Dolezal’s brothers have spoken on camera: “It started out with the hair.” (ABC)
  • The Daily Beast parses out the whole history of Dolezal’s carefully constructed identity.
  • Variety claims a Dolezal biopic “is inevitable,” and postulates whether it will be a comedy or drama or both.
  • Ijeoma Olio proposes a bargain for white people who want to be black: the ability to dance, a history of triumph over diversity, and the looks of white women clutching their purses when you walk past them. (Slog) 
  • Darnell Moore at Mic.com calls the Dolezal affair a “fiasco” and “a glaring example of white privilege in action.”
  • Twitter users are using such hashtags as #transracial and #wrongskin, as other Twitter users ruthlessly mock them. (KING) 
  • A self described “gay Black man” explains the terms “transracial” and “transethnic,” in terms of the furry community. (Fusion.net)
  • Kara Brown at Jezebel: Girl, WHAT?”
  • Explaining the “passing” as a quest for “empathy.” (USAT) 
  • Gyasi Ross at Indian Country Today compares Dolezal to decades’ worth of white folk pretending to be Native Americans.
  • Author Michael P. Jeffries calls the incident “a lesson in how racism works.” (Boston Globe)
  • As you might expect, the social sub-network known as “Black Twitter” has plenty of snarky reactions. (The Culture)
  • Vox has a think piece on how it proves “race” isn’t a cut and dried issue anymore.
  • Salon has a harsher piece by Mary Elizabeth Williams, claiming Dolezal’s “fraud is unforgivable.
  • For compare-and-contrast, here’s the story of local author Mishna Wolff, whose white father “identified” as black for many years. (KUOW)
(RETURN TO) RETURN TO TWIN PEAKS
May 24th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

fan art by emre unayli, mavenport.net, via tvmediainsights.com

It was The Great Northwest TV Drama.

It took serialized TV beyond the bedroom/boardroom antics of Dallas and Dynasty and into deeply detailed stories combining comedy, suspense, and pathos.

It expanded the range of what prime time could show, not in terms of cuss words and violence but in terms of characterization and complexities.

And, after several years of regularly-denied rumors, Twin Peaks is coming back.

Showtime announced late last year that it would air at least nine new episodes, but not until 2016. That’s 25 years since the last series episode, which included a line from the spirit of Laura Palmer to Agent Cooper in the Black Lodge, “I’ll see you again in 25 years.”

Then co-creator David Lynch said he was quitting the project. He said Showtime hadn’t offered enough production money to make the new series the way he felt it needed to be made. Several of the old show’s cast members said they wouldn’t act in the new series without Lynch around.

But then in early May, Lynch and Showtime said the new show was back on, with Lynch again on board. Only now it will run “significantly more” than the originally promised nine episodes.

We’ve been told every new episode will be directed by Lynch, and written by Lynch and his fellow original series co-creator Mark Frost.

We’ve been told the new series will be set in the present day, and will finally resolve at least some of the plot threads left unresolved all this time.

We haven’t been told which original-series actors will be back, aside from Yakima native Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Cooper. Even without the characters who’d been killed off in the series, and the actors who’ve died in real life since then, some three dozen or more major players could reprise their roles, at least in cameos.

And we initially weren’t told whether it would be shot in the Snoqualmie/North Bend area, where the pilot and the prequel theatrical feature Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me were largely made. (The regular series episodes, however, were filmed in L.A.)

At the time the series ended in June 1991, I was semi-distraught that something this beautiful, this perfect evocation of everything I found funny and evil and odd and fetishistically square about my home state, could die. (Nobody knew the “Seattle Scene” music mania would reiterate many of these themes on a global stage by the end of that year.)

Having grown up in a Washington sawmill town, I loved the series as a mostly-realistic portrayal of power and frustration in such a place.

Yes, it had a murder mystery as its central plotline. But part of what made me love Twin Peaks is that Lynch and Frost deliberately broke several of the rules of murder mysteries (thusly dooming the series to a short network run).

The murder victims (at least most of them) were human beings with good and bad sides and personalities and everything, whose demises were treated with tragic weight, not as mere puzzle pieces.

The killers, particularly the schizo Leland Palmer (a medium-time sleazeball even when in his “right” mind), were also humanized. They were still violent criminals, with or without the excuse of demonic possession, but they were also victims in their own way; victims of their own dark ambitions and vanities.

The subsequent 1992 film prequel went further, abandoning donut fetishes and comedy relief to concentrate on how evil was often performed and covered up beneath our region’s shallow protestations of “small town values”.

The Northwest, even the small-town Northwest, has changed in many (at least superficial) ways since then.

The timber business (the main industry in the fictional town of Twin Peaks) has declined.

Digital consumer devices have rendered microcassette recorders and other major series props into quaint nostalgia items.

But there are still Northwest men and women with conflicting dreams and desires—and demons.

This past weekend at Crypticon, the annual horror fan convention in SeaTac, original series actors Sheryl Lee and Sherilyn Fenn gave a few pieces of good news about the new Twin Peaks:

  1. The new series will have 18 episodes, up from the originally-planned nine (still all Lynch-directed).
  2. Original series composer Angelo Badalamenti will again make the music.
  3. Filming starts in September.
  4. It WILL be at least partly filmed in Wash. state. The production will remodel Twede’s Cafe in North Bend to look again like the Double R Diner from the 1990 series pilot episode. Yay!

@grrlskout via welcometotwinpeaks.com

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

HOW WE DOIN’ ON TIME?
May 20th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

letterman with seattle comix legend lynda barry, 1988

Either the first or the second most famous ex-Mariners co-owner (before or after Danny Kaye) ends late night TV’s longest run (almost 33 and a half years, between two networks) tonight.

Besides having been an investor in the Ms during the baseball team’s disastrous George Argyros era, he often had locally-connected guests over the years, including Foo Fighters as the official last guests on the last show, and Eddie Vedder on Monday’s third-to-last show. (Also: Lynda Barry (above), Soundgarden, Bill Nye, Joel McHale, Kyle MacLachlan, Artis the Spoonman, Sean Nelson’s band Harvey Danger, and especially the late Seattle-born comedian George Miller.)

Some commentators have pointed out that his NBC Late Night series (and especially his short-lived NBC morning show, which never aired in Seattle) were landmarks in conceptual humor (as masterminded by original head writer Merrill Markoe).

Some of these same critics complain that his act on CBS has morphed into a real version of his onetime grumpy-old-guy character, the one with the catch phrase “Get off my lawn.'”

It had been clear for some time that Letterman had accomplished all on TV that he ever would; but that he was determined to stick around until his onetime pal Jay Leno left (for good) first. Once that finally happened, Letterman announced his own retirement. That was followed in short order by the ends of Chelsea Lately, The Colbert Report (a post-“idiot”-character version of Colbert takes over from Letterman on CBS this fall), The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, and soon The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

(All this has happened while, in the eyes of some industry watchers, online streaming is allegedly “killing traditional TV.”)

It was also clear that Letterman had ceased even pretending to care about the showbiz-hype rituals that are the state religion of late-night talk; leaving a sincere (if borderline-pandering) appreciation for a certain few celebrity pals and longtime frequent guests. These people have populated the Late Show guest roster during this almost year-long “farewell tour,” an exercise in mawkishness that just kept getting mawkish-er as the finale approached.

And the whole hip-irony shtick he’d popularized back then has become one of the native tongues of marketing and advertising, in all its air-quotes smarm.

As of Thursday, the longest-serving hosts still in late night will be (1) Conan O’Brien (who’d originally replaced Letterman at NBC) and (2) Jimmy Kimmel.

Letterman’s leaving the public stage means I’ll now probably never get to ask him what, if anything, he remembered about Frances Farmer. He and the ill-fated Seattle-born film actress were each on Indianapolis local TV, albeit at different times.

I do know a guy who’d studied drama with Letterman (and future Three’s Company star Joyce DeWitt) at Indy’s Ball State U. This guy had remembered Farmer’s TV show, but alas not much about it; only that she’d been a low-rent Loretta Young introducing creaky old movies in the afternoons.

THINGS I COULD’VE WRITTEN ABOUT FOR 1/21/15
Jan 21st, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

via the hollywood reporter

Once again, I’ve fallen behind on my idealized blog posting rate. And not for any good reason. (Though I am working on a new (kinda-sorta) project, to be announced at a later date.)

It’s sure not for a lack of things to write about. Goodness knows, dudes n’ dudettes are always suggesting those.

Here are some of the topics I could have blogged about in recent days:

  • The First Hill Streetcar, already delayed, now won’t start running until midsummer at best.
  • Folks of all races and backgrounds came together for peaceful MLK Day rallies in Seattle. But the local media focused almost exclusively on the almost-all-white group that forcibly obstructed rush hour traffic.
  • Yep, Wash. state’s tax system is still the nation’s “most regressive.” Yep, nobody’s really gonna do a darn thing about it.
  • T-Mobile, the Bellevue-based US subsidiary of a German telecom giant, probably can’t afford to keep offering the cell-phone deals it now offers, and may still need to merge itself out of existence.
  • A Fortune.com headline stated, “Target says it will pull out of Canada after failed expansion.” A frustrated Canada could not be reached for comment.
  • The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s UK tabloid daily, will apparently no longer include its famous bare breasted “Page 3 Girls®,” at least not in its print edition. (The Sun will still show the models in the paper; but now it’ll show the models with tops on, like the non-related Toronto Sun does.) The other big Euro paper with such a feature, Germany’s Bild Zeitung, had scrapped its own newsprint nudes in 2012. In both cases, the pictures ended up costing the papers more readers than they gained. (UPDATE: It was all a publicity stunt, wouldn’t you know. The lo-res breast pix are back in The Sun as of Wednesday.)
  • R.I.P. Don Harron. You all knew the “Canadian entertainment icon” (as per the CBC’s obit) as the hackneyed radio announcer on Hee Haw. But he was also a radio/TV talk show host, a theatrical producer, a Shakeapearean actor, the ex-hubby of the disembodied head from The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, and the dad of the director of American Psycho and The Notorious Bettie Page.

yep, she married the guy in the top picture.

THINGS I COULD’VE WRITTEN ABOUT
Jan 9th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

the kalakala in 2007, from wikipedia

During my long “blog silence” last year there were many things I could have written about, for sure. Some of them I mentioned in my little space in the little paper City Living Seattle (I’ll repost those soon here). Others I didn’t get to there either.

Among them:

  • The smallest Seattle Times in my lifetime, a mere 18 pages, was published on December 2. Many regular parts (editorials, comics, stocks, weather, sports stats) were missing; the content that was there contained many typographical oddities. The skimpier-than-usual edition was due to still unexplained “severe technical difficulties” that also apparently prevented new posts to the paper’s web site the previous night. This trip-up was never fully explained by the Times; nor, as far as I could find, was it even mentioned by other local media outlets.
  • I’d heard about, but didn’t write about, the sad final days of the art deco ferry Kalakala. After Seattle metal artist Peter Bevis, who’d gotten it back to Seattle from Alaska (where it’d become a gronded fish-processing factory) ran out of money, the Kalakala got evicted from its Seattle moorage, and got sold and moved to the Port of Tacoma. There it sat for several years, forgotten—except by the Coast Guard, who repeatedly cited the decrepit former floating palace as unseaworthy and as a potential menace to navigation. Just after New Year’s, the boat’s final owner said he’ll scrap it.
  • I mentioned in City Living Seattle about the impending end of the Hurricane Cafe, which occurred on New Year’s Day evening, ending 20 years of unpretentious grub at Seventh and Bell (where the even more legendary Dog House had stood for decades before that). But I didn’t mention the ends (all due directly or indirectly to redevelopment mania) of Kidd Valley Burgers on lower Queen Anne, the Ballard exile location of the former Capitol Hill landmark B&O Espresso, and the original Mercer Street location of the Streamline Tavern. The latter was one of the city’s last un-upscaled storefront beer halls, which once numbered in the hundreds. By the end of January, however, the Streamline will have reopened (bar, fixtures, and sign intact) at the former Jabu’s Pub site on East Roy Street.
  • Also now shuttered: the legendary Harvard Exit and Varsity movie theaters. The Varsity on University Way, once the only non-drive-in property of the former United Theaters chain, later became the last home of the the repertory-calendar format made famous at the nearby Neptune (itself saved as a live-performance venue). And the Harvard Exit near Broadway, with its spacious, chess-board-festooned lobby and its import-heavy programming, was one of the places where “art film” going in this town had begun. The buyer of the Exit’s building has gone on social media saying he’d consider ideas to incorporate the theater auditorium in his planned office-restaurant project.
  • And due to be razed any month now: the First and Seneca retail strip. It includes the old Myers Music storefront (where, legend has it, the young James M. Hendrix got his first guitar) and the former Check Mart space (which was the last remnant of the “underworld” settings depicted in the classic Seattle-filmed movie House of Games). The historic Diller Building, on the University Street end of the block, will survive.
  • In the realm of institutions coming instead of going, I got into the flamboyant new ultra-deluxe Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room on East Pike Street on its first day of business, without even having to wait in line outside. As for what I found, I’ll quote what USA Today‘s puff piece called it: “…A gathering spot for the well-to-do, where industrial age aesthetic meets information age reality.… The smell of the roasting coffee permeates the air like invisible java junkie insulin.”
  • I finally got around to watching the first season of the AMC series The Killing. The drama was clearly meant to be a single-minded barrage of unrelenting grimness. Except that it’s often unintentionally funny. Those welcome monotony-breaking moments are often, though not always, due to its many hilarious “set in Seattle, filmed in Vancouver” goof-ups. No, a King County Metro bus doesn’t look like a Vancouver Transit bus with a new label slapped on. No, Discovery Park doesn’t look like the hill above Wreck Beach. And so on.
  • This next bit has nothing to do with local affairs, but I found myself at a pizza place on Christmas Eve-eve. They started by playing holiday songs performed by American Idol style diva singers. Then they switched to holiday songs interpreted by hair metal bands. I realized that modern diva emoting is the true feminine counterpart to old hard-rock macho grunting.
  • Then there was time in October at an art gallery when I apparently talked to comedy legend Eric Idle but didn’t know it.
ROOM AT THE IN (AND OUT) FOR ONE-FIVE
Jan 2nd, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

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

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

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

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

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

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