washington dept. of natural resources via kxly-tv spokane
google earth via rhizome.org
perfect sound forever, via furious.com
An earlier version misstated the term Mr. Vidal called William F. Buckley Jr. in a debate. It was crypto-Nazi, not crypto-fascist.
ford 'seattle-ite xxi' car display at the world's fair; uw special collections via edmonds beacon
painting the needle for its big b-day party
Keith Seinfeld at KPLU recently asked, “Why does Seattle still care about the world’s fair?”
That’s an excellent question.
As international expos go, Seattle’s was relatively small.
And it took place a full half century ago.
Until Mad Men came along, that era was widely considered to have been a dullsville time, a time wtih nothing much worth remembering.
The “Space Age” predicted at the fair would seem would seem ridiculous just a few years later. It predicted domed cities and cheap nuclear power. It predicted computers in the home (in the form of fridge-sized consoles) and video conferencing (with a special “picturephone”), but it didn’t predict the Internet.
It sure didn’t predict the racial, sexual, musical, and social upheavals collectively known as “The Sixties.”
And a lot of the fair’s attractions were so utterly corny, you can wonder why they were taken seriously even then. Attractions such as the world’s largest fruitcake. Or the Bubbleator (essentially just a domed platform on a hydraulic lift). Or the adults-only risqué puppet show (by the future producers of H.R. Pufnstuf).
Yet a lot of us do care about all that. And not just us old-timers either.
And not just for the physical structures the fair left behind (the Space Needle, the Science Center, etc.).
The fair was the single most important thing that happened in Seattle between World War II and the rise of Microsoft. (The launch of the Boeing 707 was the next most important.)
The fair revved up the whole Northwest tourism industry, just as jet aircraft and Interstate highways were getting more Americans to explore other parts of their nation. This once-remote corner of the country became a top destination.
The fair was a coming-out party for a new Seattle.
A Seattle dominated not by timber and fishing but by tech. Specifically, by aerospace. Boeing had only a secondary role in equipping the U.S. space program, but its planes were already making Earth a seemingly smaller place.
The fair didn’t start the Seattle arts and performance scenes, but it gave them a new oomph.
Seattle Opera and the Seattle Repertory Theatre were immediately established in the fair’s wake.
ACT Theatre came soon after. Visual art here was already becoming famous, thanks to the “Northwest School” painters; the fair’s legacy led to increased local exposure to both local and national artists.
The fair established a foothold for modern architecture here.
Before the fair, there hadn’t been a major change to Seattle’s skyline since the Smith Tower in 1914. (The few new downtown buildings were relatively short, such as the 19-story Norton Building.)
The Space Needle became the city’s defining icon, instantly and forever.
The U.S. Science Pavilion (now Pacific Science Center) established the career of Seattle-born architect Minoru Uamasaki, who later designed the former World Trade Center.
Speaking of tragedy and turmoil, some commentators have described the fair’s era as “a simpler time.”
The Cuban missile crisis, revealed just after the fair ended, threatened to turn the cold war hot.
The whole Vietnam debacle was getting underway.
The civil rights and black power movements were quickly gaining traction.
The birth control pill was just entering widespread use.
Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, which helped launch the U.S. environmental movement, came out while the fair was on.
So yes, there were big issues and conflicts in 1962.
But there was also something else.
There was optimism.
In every exhibit and display at the fair, there was the notion that humans could work together to solve things.
And, at least at the fair, most everything was considered solveable.
I wrote in 1997, at the fair’s 35th anniversary, that its creators sincerely felt Americas would strive “to ensure mass prosperity (without socialism), strengthen science, popularize education, advance minority rights, and promote artistic excellence.”
It’s that forward-looking confidence that got lost along the road from the Century 21 Exposition to the 21st century.
It’s something many of us would like to see more of these days.
And that, more than Belgian waffles or an Elvis movie, is why Seattle still cares about the World’s Fair.
And why you should too.
(Cross posted with City Living.)
souvenir display at the world's fair anniversary exhibition
Three of the Big Six book publishers (Hachette, News Corp.’s HarperCollins, and CBS’s Simon & Schuster) have settled with the U.S. Justice Dept. in the dispute over alleged e-book price fixing.
The publishers still insist they’re innocent; but they agreed in the settlement to not interfere with, or retaliate against, discounted e-book retail prices.
Apple, Pearson’s Penguin, and Holtzbrinck’s Macmillan have not yet settled; they also insist they did not collude to keep e-book prices up. Bertlesmann’s Random House was not sued.
This is, of course, all really about Amazon, and its ongoing drives to keep e-book retail prices down and its share of those revenues up. The big publishers, and some smaller ones too, claim that’s bad for them and for the book biz as a whole.
In other randomosity:
revel body, via geekwire.com
A few days late but always a welcome sight, it’s the yummy return of the annual MISCmedia In/Out List.
As always, this listing denotes what will become hot or not-so-hot during the next year, not necessarily what’s hot or not-so-hot now. If you believe everything big now will just keep getting bigger, I can score you a cheap subscription to News of the World.
satirical ad by leah l. burton, godsownparty.com
illo to hugo gernsback's story 'ralph 124C41+,' from davidszondy.com
As we approach the Century 21 Exposition’s 50th anniversary, Seattle magazine asked a bunch of local movers, shakers, and thinkers what one thing they’d like to see this city build, create, or establish. Contributors could propose anything at any cost, as long they described one thing in one paragraph.
This, of course, is in the time honored local tradition of moaning about “what this town needs.”
In my experience, guys who start that sentence almost always finish it by desiring an exact copy of something from San Francisco or maybe New York (a restaurant, a nightspot, a civic organization, a public-works project, a sex club, etc.).
But this article’s gaggle of imaginers doesn’t settle for such simplistic imitation.
They go for site specific, just-for-here concepts.
Some of the pipe dreams are basic and obvious:
Other dreamers dream bigger:
As for me, I could be snarky and say that what this town needs is fewer people sitting around talking about what this town needs.
But I won’t.
Instead, I’ll propose turning the post-viaduct waterfront into a site for active entertainment.
We’ve already got Myrtle Edwards Park and the Olympic Sculpture Park for passive, meditative sea-gazing and quiet socializing.
The central waterfront should be more high-energy.
Specifically, it should be a series of lively promenades and “amusement piers.”
Think the old Fun Forest, bigger and better.
Think pre-Trump Atlantic City.
Think England’s Blackpool beach.
Heck, even think Coney Island.
A bigass Ferris wheel. A monster roller coaster. Carny booths and fortune tellers. Outdoor performance stages and strolling buskers. Corn dogs and elephant ears. People walking and laughing and falling in love. Some attractions would be seasonal; others would be year-round. Nothing “world class” (i.e., monumentally boring). Nothing with “good taste.” Everything that tastes good.
atlantic city steel pier, from bassriverhistory.blogspot.com
SIDEBAR: By the way, when I looked for an online image to use as a retro illustration to this piece, I made a Google image search for “future Seattle.” Aside from specific real-estate projects, all the images were of gruesome dystopian fantasies. I’ll talk about the current craze for negative futurism some time later.
…Disneyland’s Tomorrowland-of-yesterday for The Atlantic and asks whatever happened to the human imagination.
That’s close to something I’ve been asking for a long time: Whatever happened to the future?
The two are highly intertwined, as O’Rourke’s essay implies. Without a working imagination, an individual or a society can’t foresee a compelling vision of tomorrow, let alone implement it.
This situation goes far beyond mere theme-park attractions, beyond the unending post-apocalyptic cliches in novels and movies.
You could see this utopia-deficiency among those liberals and radicals who spent the 27 years prior to this past year conveniently moping that everything was going to hell and nothing could really be done about it so why bother.
You could see it among those conservatives and business hustlers who spent the same years propagating a social zeitgeist of I-got-mine-screw-you.
And it ties in with a current project of mine.
I’m in the process of writing a futuristic story, in the form of a graphic-novel script. It’s a simple story, but it’s set in a complex world. Its setting is a future America that’s neither utopia nor dystopia, in which machines have progressed and the environment’s been “saved” and many other things have happened, but in which individual humans are just as fallible and their social structures just as imperfect as ever (albeit “different” in many intriguing ways).
When I’ve told people about it, I’ve had to repeatedly explain to them that my particular story’s “back story” includes no apocalyptic event between our “now” and the characters’ “now.” No nuclear wars, no eco-catastrophes, no corporate-military coups, no alien invasions, no mass genetic mutations.
It’s as if we’d lost the very ability to imagine an Earth on which things just happen, at their own various paces, with various results, with which people learn to live.
As usual, this annual list (the most reliable of its type published anywhere) reports the people, places, and things that will become hot or hot-hot during the following year, not necessarily what’s hot or not-hot now. If you think everything that’s big just keeps getting bigger, you probably bought WaMu stock in ’06.
“Too big to fail” banks
New silent movies
K Street (DC)