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RANDOM LINKS FOR 7/12/12
Jul 11th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

comicsbronzeage.com

Just Sayin’ Dept: Here’s something that hasn’t been publicized much in the World’s Fair 50th anniversary celebrations.

  • Could the Almost Live! cast (or a key portion of it) be reuniting in a new project? A site called The206.tv is being coy n’ teasing about it, at least for now.
  • Cafe Racer will reopen. And it’ll look better than ever.
  • Seattle’s own Ezell’s has the nation’s greatest fried chicken, according to a highly manipulable Esquire online poll.
  • Danny Westneat sees the Sonics Arena plan as a much better deal than the one that was used to rebuild Husky Stadium.
  • No, there won’t be a zip line in West Seattle’s Lincoln Park.
  • No, there won’t be an Airbus factory in Wash. state. But Gov. Gregoire would really like Airbus to buy parts and services from some of the same local subcontractors and suppliers that service Boeing.
  • Just as Rush Limbaugh has his paid phony callers, Mitt Romney buses and flies in loyalist rooters to his campaign speeches. Even to the NAACP!
  • It’s the 20th anniversary of the first photo ever posted to a Web site. It was a plug for a retro-cabaret combo comprising “administrative assistants and significant others of scientists” at CERN, the Swiss lab where both the WWW was invented and the Higgs-Boson Particle was discovered. The hereby-linked article includes some of their science-nerd-chic novelty repertoire.
  • No, online-meme followers, Bill Gates did not speak at some random unidentified high school and tell the kids, “Life is not fair. Get used to it.” That whole text comes from a newspaper op-ed column dating back to 1996.
RANDOM LINKS FOR 2/29/12
Feb 28th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

wallyhood.org

My adventure in Bellingham this past Sunday was cold but lovely. Will post a complete post about it a little later on.

And I’ve got another presentation coming up this Saturday, right here in Seattle! It’s at 2 p.m. at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, 319 2nd Ave. S. in pontificous Pioneer Square. (That’s right across from Zeitgeist Coffee.) This one concerns my ’06 book Vanishing Seattle, and perhaps all the things that have vanished around here since then. Be there or be frostbitten.

Now, to catch up with a little randomness:

  • Writer Jonathan Shipley would like to hear from anyone who lived or worked at or was involved in the Home of the Good Shepherd (1906-70), the former Catholic “wayward girls” institution, whose building is now a community and arts center.
  • One of my current projects is an essay about the “future of news.” It will start with the proclamation that web ads, by themselves, will almost never pay enough to support original, professional journalism. No matter how hard you pander to the advertisers.
  • The admirable local-politics site Publicola has faced this fact, and has begun appealing for donations.
  • Facebook: Soon to have more ads in your “news feed” from companies you don’t even “Like®”.
  • Under current legislation, city authorities would have more authority to kick people out of Westlake Park (including protesters?).
  • Ron Sims says it better than I can: We’ve cut too much from higher-ed in this state already.
  • Gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna won’t endorse a GOP presidential candidate. This is smart strategy for the current state attorney general. If he wants to win even a single moderate crossover vote, he’ll need to stay as far away as he cam from the “I’m a bigger bigot than you!”/”No, I am!” Republican presidential field.
  • The Seattle Times, now mostly ensconced in its new smaller digs, has put up a retro Times Square-esque news ticker sign, where people stuck in traffic halfway up Denny Way can learn all that’s going on.
  • The construction bust (at least in greater downtown): Wasn’t it wonderful? Now there’s gonna be 40 stories of apartments next to the Paramount.
  • I’ve been a skeptic of Bill Gates’s education-reform schemes (i.e., bust the teachers’ unions, and spend on fancy tech even if it means firing teachers). But today he makes a good point, that you can’t get employees to work better if you treat them as objects of incessant ridicule.
  • The Koch brothers: Not only big anti-Obama Super PAC donors/organizers, but also leading oil price speculators. I’m not alleging any dot-connecting, but you might.
  • Jonathan Chiat at New York magazine has a theory for why the far right wing (and its corporate puppet masters) are tripling down on the hate- and fear-mongering this year. It’s because the far right’s traditional chief audience (non-college-educated whites, particularly white males) is aging and dwindling, both in number and as a part of the total electorate. This may be the last Presidential election in which this audience can be effectively exploited.
  • Did Ralph Nader really endorse Ron Paul, or is the hereby-linked rant a gross exaggeration?
  • Ex-Seattle monologuist Mike Daisey talked a bit about sweatshop labor in his Apple-themed piece last year. Now he’s bashing the defenders of the Chinese factory system.
  • It’s the fourth anniversary of the last Leap Day. That was when the soap opera Guiding Light (then the longest-running dramatic production in the world) introduced a new reality-show-like production technique. (Even the studio scenes were shot with hand-held minicams.) The new look failed to save that show, or the three other soaps (which held to their standard styles) that got canceled after GL was.
RANDOM LINKS FOR 10/5/11
Oct 4th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

denny hall, the uw campus's oldest building

  • We’ve always known the Univ. of Washington has one of America’s most beautiful campuses. Now it’s finally getting national recognition in that regard.
  • Meanwhile, the UW is participating in a research study into drunk Facebook photos.
  • Mayor McGinn says he admires the spirit behind the Occupy Seattle folks, but still orders them to remove their tents from Westlake Plaza or risk getting arrested. Protesters say they’ll take the risk.
  • The American Planning Association calls Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park one of America’s “great public spaces.” As the old bumper sticker says, “Admit It, Tacoma. You’re Beautiful.”
  • NYTimes.com’s automated ad placement bots placed an ad for Starbucks’ Italian Roast above an article about you-know-who.
  • Starbucks boss Howard Schultz’s next idea to save the economy: donation boxes in the stores, where customers can contribute to community development groups. They’d use the cash to help small businesses create jobs. Of course, if Schultz really wanted to help jump-start the economy at the personal level, he could pay his own baristas a living wage….
  • The message from the Gates Foundation, the City of Seattle, and others: Don’t be no fool, stay in school.
  • The Zune, Microsoft’s would-be iPod killer, is dead.
  • Layoffs hit another supposedly recession-proof industry, nuclear-waste cleanup.
  • A cause of death I, for one, hadn’t heard of—”detergent suicide.”
  • Lee Fang believes the Occupy Wall Street protests “embody the values of the real Boston Tea Party.”
  • Paul Krugman analyzes big bankers’ testimony in a Congressional hearing about the financial crisis. He sees the bankers claiming to be clueless, as an alternative to admitting to be evil.
  • Obama’s finally speaking out against GOP state legislatures’ spate of anti-voting laws.
  • The Fox broadcast network is threatening to cancel The Simpsons unless its voice actors accept a 45 percent pay cut.
  • And now for fun, here are some fun Mexican movie-theater lobby cards.

THE PATIENTS OF JOBS
Aug 24th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

Steve Jobs had essentially retired from Apple Inc.’s day to day management back in January. On Wednesday he simply made this move official.

Thus ends the second (third, if you count the NExT/early Pixar years) era of Jobs’s involvement in, and leadership of, the digital gizmo industry.

I will leave it to others more laser-focused on that industry to give the big picture of Jobs’s work and legacy. But here are a few notes on it.

Jobs and Steve Wozniac did not, by themselves, “invent the personal computer.” Many individuals and companies had seen what the early mainframes could potentially do in the hands of smaller-than-corporate users. The early “hacker culture” was a tribe of programmers who worked in corporate, institutional, and particularly collegiate computing centers, who snuck in personal projects whenever and wherever they could get processor time.

As the first microprocessor chips came on the market, several outfits came up with primitive programmable computer-like devices built around them, initially offering them in kit form. One of those kit computers was Jobs and Wozniak’s Apple (posthumously renamed the Apple I).

That begat the pre-assembled (but still user-expandable) Apple II. It came out around the same time as Commodore and Radio Shack’s similar offerings. But unlike those two companies, the two Steves had nerd street cred. This carefully crafted brand image, that Apple was the microcomputer made by and for “real” computer enthusiasts, helped the company outlast the Eagles, Osbornes, Kaypros, Colecos, and Tandons.

Then the IBM PC came along—and with it MS-DOS, and the PC clones, and eventually Windows.

In response, Jobs and co. made the Apple III (a failure).

Then the Lisa (a failure, but with that vital Xerox-borrowed graphic interface).

Then came the original Macintosh.

A heavily stripped-down scion of the Lisa, it was originally capable of not much besides enthralling and inspiring tens of thousands into seeing “computers” for potential beyond the mere manipulation of text and data.

The Mac slowly began to fulfill this potential as it gained more memory, more software, and more peripherals, particularly the Apple laser printer that made “desktop publishing” a thing.

But Jobs would be gone by then. Driven out by his own associates, he left behind a company neither he nor anyone else could effectively run.

Jobs created the NExT computer (a failure, but the machine on which Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web), and bought Pixar (where my ol’ high school pal Brad Bird would direct The Incredibles and Ratatouille).

The Mac lived, but didn’t thrive, in the niche markets of schools and graphic design. But even there, the Windows platform, with its multiple hardware vendors under Microsoft’s OS control, threatened to finally smother its only remaining rival.

Back came Jobs, in a sequence of maneuvers even more complicated than those that had gotten him out of the company.

Out went the Newton, the Pippin, the rainbow logo hues. In came the candy colored iMac and OS X.

And in came a new business model, that of “digital media.”

There had been a number of computer audio and video formats; many of them Windows-only. For the Mac to survive, Apple had to have its own audio and video formats, and they had to become “industry standards” by being ported to Windows.

Thus, iTunes.

And, from there, the iTunes Store, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, and an Apple that was less a computer company and more a media-player-making and media-selling company. The world’s “biggest” company, by stock value, for a few moments last week.

Jobs turned a strategy to survive into a means to thrive.

Along the way he helped to “disrupt” (to use a favorite Wired magazine cliche) the music, video, TV,  cell-phone, casual gaming, book publishing, and other industries.

We have all been affected by Jobs, his products, and the design and business creations devised under his helm.

He’s backing away for health reasons. But we’ve all been the subjects of his own experiments, his treatments for “conditions” the world didn’t know it had.

The post-Jobs Apple is led by operations chief Tim Cook, whom Gawker is already calling “the most powerful gay man in America.” That’s based on speculation and rumor. Cook hasn’t actually outed himself, keeping his private life private.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 7/20/11
Jul 20th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

  • When better toilets are designed, the Gates Foundation will design them.
  • R.I.P. Bagley Wright, 1924-2011. A Princeton grad from Georgia who married into the Bloedel timber family, Wright was one of the five original Space Needle investors (hence the Needle’s original corporate name, the “Pentagram Corp.”). He also helped run the Seattle Art Museum and the Seattle Repertory Theatre, cofounded the medical-devices maker Physio Control, was a key player in downtown real estate development, was a major early investor in Seattle Weekly, and sold the house where Kurt Cobain died. He and his wife Virginia amassed a large contemporary-art collection, some of which is on view at their own gallery space.
  • Anand Giridharadas believes it’s all well and good for bright minds to go to work at “social entrepreneur” projects, but he insists that “real change requires politics.”
  • Buried in a story about PopCap Games boss Dave Roberts is an important lesson that always needs re-teaching:

…Making simple products is way more difficult than making complicated products…. Simple is more complicated, simple is elegant, simple is harder.”

APPARENTLY, THE NYC GOSSIP MEDIA'S…
May 3rd, 2005 by Clark Humphrey

…just now discovered that Bill Gates has bodyguards. Nothing new, folks.

Whenever I’ve seen Gates in public (the first time was circa 1988 at the Crowne Plaza), he’s always surrounded himself by an all-male perimeter crew. I always figured some or all of them were security guys dressed as ye smen and toadies. Whenever he had to walk through or past crowds of strangers, Gates kept an emotional/psychic distance from the civilians by talking nonstop to his dudes, making unanswered rants about the flaws in other companies’ technologies.

FIRST MICK JAGGER,…
Jan 26th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…now knighthood for Bill Gates. Liz II’s standards seem to be lowering in her dotage.

BRIT-PUNDIT GREG PALAST alleges…
Jul 17th, 2003 by Clark Humphrey

…about a third of the way down this linked page, that Bill Gates’s highly publicized anti-AIDS crusade’s really a prop-up for the big drug companies, and for the intellectual-property regulations that protect their monopoly (and his):

“Gates knows darn well that ‘intellectual property rights’ laws… are under attack by Nelson Mandela and front-line doctors trying to get cut-rate drugs to the 23 million Africans sick with the AIDS virus…. He’s spending an itsy-bitsy part of his monopoly profits (the $6 billion spent by Gates’s foundation is less than 2% of his net worth) to buy some drugs for a fraction of the dying. The bully billionaire’s ‘philanthropic’ organization is working paw-in-claw with the big pharmaceutical companies in support of the blockade on cheap drug shipments…”Gates says his plan is to reach one million people with medicine by the end of the decade.  Another way to read it: He’s locking in a trade system that will effectively block the delivery of medicine to over 20 million.”

THE BUSINESS SELF-HELP BOOKS…
May 6th, 2003 by Clark Humphrey

…I’ve been reading lately talk a lot about the principle of “OPM,” or “Other People’s Money.” Nobody knows this better than Bill Gates, who’s been steadily rakin’ in the OS/Windows/Office software royalties for years while the PC hardware makers’ fortunes ebb-‘n’-flow. (Anybody remember Acer, Micron, Packard Bell, or Eagle PCs?) Now his MS minions are promoting a new computer hardware format, code-named “Athens.” The Athens machine’s chock full of MS Windows-only technologies, making it either useless or cumbersome as a potential Linux box. If adopted by enough manufacturers (and their end users), Athens will send more factory-installed-software monies Bill’s way, while leaving the manufacturers themselves to compete on razor-thin profit margins to sell boxes with roughly the same features.

MY PRINT FUTURE
May 15th, 2001 by Clark Humphrey

WHAT I THOUGHT I’D NEVER DO, I just did.

Yes, I returned to a certain sleazy tabloid after about 32 months away.

Even after all that blather just weeks ago in this virtual space about giving up on the pathetic word biz in order to concentrate on the more tangible realm of photographic imagery.

The first batch of pieces, in the issue coming out tomorrow night, will be little regular features: The X-Word puzzle, and a new obituaries piece.

I’ll also be contributing larger feature pieces on a less-regular basis. The first will be a nostalgic look back at the last time I was one of the paper’s key contributors, the dot-com-crazed autumn of 1998.

For this, I seek your help.

Tell me your stories of those giddy (for the financially ambitious) yet scary (for many of the rest of us) times, via email or via our MISCtalk discussion boards.

(Ahh, the Late Nineties. They were such simpler times…)

NEXT: Another of my former homes depicted.

ELSEWHERE:

  • Naomi Klein doesn’t like globalized, homogonized, mass “McProtests….”
  • Buried in the middle of a long, somewhat trite essay about The Need For Literature lies a strange allegation: that Bill Gates wants to stamp out the book as we know it….
WILL THE REAL 'IDIOTS' PLEASE STAND UP?
Jun 20th, 2000 by Clark Humphrey

THE AMERICAN DISTRIBUTOR of the Danish movie The Idiots demanded its frequent shots of male nudity be (crudely) censored, to insure an ‘R’ rating (and, therefore, the chance at mainstream theatrical bookings and big-newspaper advertising).

My first thought: What’s so horrible about a penis and a couple of testicles anyway? I think my own are just fine. I’ve been in locker rooms and at nude beaches, and my finely-attuned writerly senses were never offended by other men’s dangling participles.

As for female viewers, some sensitive ones might indeed feel confronted by the organs some women associate only with rape and violence, not with lovemaking. But such viewers, I believe, would be helped if they could see more male bodies in the nonthreatening environment of a cinema; they might learn to see them as symbols not of male power but of the ultimate male weakness.

(I’ve seen naked men running, in a nudist camp’s annual Bare Buns Fun Run, and it can be as silly and awkward a sight as one can imagine.)

In certain other jurisdictions of the civilized world (namely Britain and Japan), the formulaic, ritualized entertainment known as hardcore pornography does not legally exist, but less extreme sexual and/or anatomical exhibitions are freely and openly available (nudity in newspapers, cuss words in the comics, simulated film-sex on network TV).

In certain other jurisdictions (such as much of the European continent), this dichotomy is considered superfluous and just about anything goes.

Here, things are a little different.

The Motion Picture Association of America, the media conglomerates who control it, and the other media conglomerates who control major-newspaper advertising have conspired to keep anything more salacious than one Kate Winslet breast from being seen in anything that looks like a real movie theater (where IDs can be checked) and instead relegated to premium cable TV (where anyone living in a subscribing household can conceivably watch) or the adult-video market (where the use of sexuality to reveal characters or tell stories isn’t a high priority).

Anyhoo, I went to the U District and saw the censored version of The Idiots, with the quaint black censor bars around the male parts (and, in only one shot, around female parts).

The movie would’ve been a lot less disturbing if they’d shown the full nude scenes and cut out all the scenes with the cast wearing clothes.

Essentially, this is a story of six men and five women, all young adults of solid bourgeois upbringings, who crash in one of the men’s uncle’s second home and turn their lives into a performance-art project, by acting in a rude and obnoxious manner to anyone they meet. (I can see that sort of thing in the U District any day without spending $7.00 for the privilege, but that’s beside the point.)

Specifically, they do this by pretending to be from a group home for retarded adults. (You might expect me, as one with a retarded older brother, to be offended by this, and I was.)

Back at the house, the film’s characters continue the role-playing as a means of releasing their “inner Idiots.” They justify this with the age-old young-intellectual blather about overcoming everyday consciousness to become one with primal nature; but at least they don’t do this by pretending to be blacks or Indians.

In the last reel, we’re supposed to suddenly poignantly identify with the faux-Idiots, because at least three of them are revealed to have had real emotional problems, and to have been using the Idiot game as therapy. I didn’t buy it.

Nor did I buy the “purity” of the film’s Dogme 95 wobbly-cam technique, which (thanks to too many bad Amerindie fake-documentary films) already seems like just another gimmick.

Director Lars Von Trier has done far better stuff. Any regular filmgoer who tells you otherwise is a, well, you know.

TOMORROW: Flann O’Brien, my current Main Man.

ELSEWHERE:

FOOTING THE BILL
Jun 6th, 2000 by Clark Humphrey

A REMINDER to make plans for our MISCmedia@1 party on Thursday, June 8, starting around 7:30 p.m., at the quaint Ditto Tavern, 5th and Bell. Yeah, it’s 21 and over.

TO OUR READERS: Yr. ob’t corresp’d’t has been summoned to that great spectator sport known as jury duty. Daily site updates may or may not, therefore, be spotty over the next few days. Stay tuned for more.

AS LONG AS the Feds have Microsoft square in their judicial gunsights, ready to cleave the software monopoly in two (pending the results of a few years in appellate courts), let’s add our own recommendations for the “remedy phase” of the case.

After all, we in the Seattle metro area have been affected by the machinations of our own native son Bill Gates, for good and/or for ill, just as the global business and computing scenes have been.

So herewith, a few modest proposals for how Gates and company (or companies) can partly atone for what they’ve done to our formerly quiet little region:

  • A maximum wage for executives.
  • A maximum work week for all other employees.
  • An affordable-housing fund, to be supported by all MS or sons-of-MS profits above a preset point.
  • A mass-transit fund, to be supported by a share of all proceeds from MS paid support calls.
  • A program to give cell phones to street people, so they’ll look little different from everybody else talking aloud by themselves these days.
  • Employee-retraining programs for all upper-echelon MS or sons-of-MS personnel. Subjects may include Beginning Humility, Intermediate Niceness, and Advanced Getting-A-Life.
  • Charm-school lessons for all single male employees, to shape them into the sorts of guys women could stand being around even if the guys didn’t have money.
  • A public-service advertising campaign, much like that of the tobacco industry, only propagating values for a post-MS Seattle:

    “Money. It’s not everything.”

    “Support the arts. Buy some local art today.”

    “Other people. Talk to one or more of them today.”

    “There’s not enough ‘country’ for everybody who wants to be the only person in it.”

    “Tech stocks: Tempting but dangerous.”

    “Is that fourth car really necessary?”

    “Get off the computer and talk to your wife. At least once a week.”

    “Sex is like tennis. It’s a lot more fun when you’re not playing alone.”

    “You’re not the center of the universe. Live with it.”

  • A pledge to start making software that didn’t crash, freeze up computers, or allow pesky email viruses to spread, at least not as much.

    (Okay, this last demand is the one MS will never, ever agree to. But one can dream, can’t one?)

IN RELATED NEWS: The Canadians have already taken away Wash. state’s film industry. Now they want to take Microsoft. I’d say “Let ’em have it,” but that’d be cruel to our beloved neighbors-2-the-north.

TOMORROW: Did I really think white people wouldn’t take over hiphop?

ELSEWHERE:

A GEEK MEDICI AND HIS DISCONTENTS
May 30th, 2000 by Clark Humphrey

AN EARLY REMINDER to make plans for our MISCmedia@1 party on Thursday, June 8, starting around 7:30 p.m., at the quaint Ditto Tavern, 5th and Bell. Yeah, it’s 21 and over.

TO OUR READERS: Yr. ob’t corresp’d’t has been summoned to that great spectator sport known as jury duty. Daily site updates may or may not, therefore, be spotty over the next few days. Stay tuned for more.

BILL GATES MAY DICTATE Seattle’s currently ascendant “Attitude” problem.

But it’s Gates’s ex-partner, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, who’s been remaking the city’s look–whether we like it or not.

Allen’s projects have been the subject of three public votes. Two of them, about the Seattle Commons scheme, led to citywide “no” votes against building a big city park in the middle of industrial land he wanted to turn into condos. (He’s going ahead with the condo-izations anyway.) The third vote, on public subsidies for his Kingdome-replacing football stadium, was a statewide plebescite in which “no” votes in Seattle (and Eastern Washington) were outnumbered by “yes” votes in the ‘burbs.

An NY Times piece a couple weeks ago (no longer on the paper’s website, except for a $2.50 fee) spent 1,600 words doting on how Allen, “who bounces around from being the second- to the fourth-richest person on the planet,” is plopping one “world class” structure down after another throughout the greater downtown Seattle area (the Union Station remodel and its adjacent new office buildings, the Cinerama Theater restoration, the waterfront sculpture park) and the UW campus (the Suzallo Library and Henry Gallery additions).

And in three weeks (by which time Allen’s Portland Trailblazers will have either won or lost the National Basketball Association championship), Allen’s most expensive and monumental structure opens–the Experience Music Project.

Known unofficially in its early planning stages as “the Jimi Hendrix museum” (before Allen and the Hendrix estate parted ways), EMP remains a quarter-billion-buck tribute to Allen’s love of the rock guitarist who left Seattle at 18, and subsequently and repeatedly expressed his disdain for it; only to get posthumously enshrined as the favorite “local musician” of a generation of modern-day geek Medicis.

One could talk about how such a huge sum of dough could’ve been used to build housing and/or transportation solutions, support more street-level arts projects, or save any number of development-threatened properties in town and in the exurbs.

But that’s moot now. Allen wanted to do this. If he hadn’t wanted to do this, he would most likely have instead put that money into his software and cable-TV investment portfolio.

EMP is here. And it will attract tourists, employ people, provide a locus for regional public-school music-ed programs (those that haven’t been destroyed totally by budget cuts), and give some support, publicity, and occasional gigs to living area musicians.

And it gives pundits such as myself plenty of sarcastic-remark fodder.

(My own current idea of what it looks like: A belly dancer lying on her side.)

TOMORROW: Why the Seattle International Film Festival was, and is, the pre-Microsoft Seattle’s favorite “arts” event.

ELSEWHERE:

WAITING FOR THE POP
Jan 17th, 2000 by Clark Humphrey

IT’S SO NICE TO KNOW that I’m not the seemingly only person who’s tired of Internet-stock inflation.

Indeed, there seems to be a game going on among amateur and semipro market observers. They’re waiting for the dot-com stock bubble to pop. Some have been waiting for months. So have I.

It’s not that I particularly want those young families with mutual funds to lose their kids’ college money; or for those overworked young workers at venture-capital-dependent Net companies to lose their jobs.

But it would be nice if some of the money-lust mania got out of the game.

It hurts the economic fabric, all that inpouring of wealth into the virtual casino that is tech speculation.

And it hurts the social fabric, all that reverse distribution of wealth into the already-wealthy classes. Behind the media-hype over garage entrepreneurs turning into instant IPO-zillionaires, the fact remains that just about all the massive new wealth North America’s created in the past couple of decades has flowed to the richest 20 percent or so of the populace.

Where the great American middle-class dream once stood (and yes, I know I used to scoff at that dream while it was alive, but that’s beside the point), now there’s a new caste system gelling, like that old Jell-O 1-2-3 dessert mix: The Bill Gateses and the Warren Buffets sitting rich and creamily on top; the lower-upper and upper-middle-class professionals and the dot-com mogul wannabes in a semi-fluid layer beneath the top; and all the rest of us Kmart shoppers gelatinously stuck as a mass of goo at the bottom.

Net-stock mania didn’t cause this by any means. It just symbolizes it.

By the end of last year, there were two main stock markets–not NYSE and NASDAQ per se, but the speculation-bloated tech stocks and the sluggish everything else. But as January began, the tech issues began to slide and stumble like a beginning skier, while “flight to quality” investors propped up traditional industrial stocks and bond issues.

But by mid-month, the sector had already gained back its declines and seemed to be a-roarin’ again; thanks in part to the AOL/Time Warner consolidation mania and rumors of a forced Microsoft breakup.

So maybe the tech-stock bubble might not pop.

Maybe it’ll just gently deflate instead.

Mind you, I still think the Internet is, and will continue to be, changing darn near everything humans do; from product-supply chains to underground-art movements. And I realize these new ventures are risky. And I hope the folks investing in them understand the risks. And I also hope they understand even the “winners” in the Net-biz universe may take longer than “Internet time” to show real profits. (Heck, in old-fashioned media a big new venture like a splashy national magazine isn’t expected to turn a profit for three to five years.)

It’s just that this transitoriness is the way things are now. Nothing to get that excited about; nothing to risk one’s life savings on. Unless you really want to.

MEANWHILE: Only an ego-big-as-all-outdoors such as Bill Gates would manufacture an excuse to kick himself upstairs (into a position of just as much big-picture authority, just fewer day-to-day duties)–the excuse being he needs to oversee stratagems to make Windows even more obligatory; i.e., even more of what the Justice Dept. says it’s too much of already…. And here’s a Microsoft permatemp (an old college pal of mine, in fact) who worked three years of up to 90-hour weeks and still didn’t get to be a “regular employee.”

TOMORROW: Looking at real-life film locations.

ELSEWHERE:

LIFE AFTER MICROSOFT
Dec 8th, 1999 by Clark Humphrey

IN THE WEEKS SINCE Judge Jackson’s ruling that Microsoft’s a monopoly, a lot of blather of varying degrees of insight and coherence has been written about what will and/or should happen next.

Microsoft itself, and the people who are paid to like Microsoft, insist the company should be left as-is, with the “freedom to innovate” (which is apparently something on the order of the right to do what you’re not doing now, but still want the option to do in the future).

Others want the Feds to create a bifurcated or trifurcated MS. They offer up various schemes for splitting the empire. Some schemes would leave one “Baby Bill” in charge of the Windows OS; others would have two or three companies that would sell their own versions.

And, natch, the “digerati” pundits in Silicon Valley couldn’t stop gleefully anticipating a future in which the pesky northern threat to total California control of everything “E” would be finished once and for all.

Meanwhile, back up here in my neck-O-the-woods, things have been, to say the least, “interesting.”

Local daily papers that seldom find a bad word for anything Gates-related have willingly run (out-of-town, syndicated) commentaries suggesting that Redmond’s Masters of the Cyber-Universe deserve all the comeuppance they’re gonna get.

MS cult members are even more true-believer than ever. They’re being taught to treat the federal and state antitrust cases as heathen attacks that only prove the total righteousness of the MS cause–doing everything one can for Bill (and for one’s own stock options).

Some of those Seattleites closest to MS are privately anticipating the excitement and drama a drawn-out divestiture dispute would bring; while publicly expressing concern about the future value of all the MS stock they and their pals hold.

In the fancy-schmancy restaurants and hoity-toity shops dependent upon MS hotshots’ spending power, and in the local arts groups and charities increasingly dependent upon cash from MS and from MS people, nobody’s talking publicly. Privately, few seem directly worried. They apparently figure the MS wealth machine will just keep on funnelling cash from the world into Western Washington, even if the machine’s eventually re-engineered into multiple smaller components.

Seattle, for better or worse, will never go back to its pre-MS status as a quiet, industrious town of aerospace engineers, sportswear vendors, and import/export lawyers. If there are Baby Bills, they’ll all likely stay based here. Indeed, if certain stock analysts are correct, the sum of the parts could come to be worth more than the whole. That means still more office and condo construction in town, more office and subdivision construction in the burbs.

These Baby Bills could be less monolithically institutional than today’s MS; more attuded to the rugged-bad-boy uber-capitalistic Attitude-with-a-capital-A seen in the rest of the software biz (including the companies founded here by MS refugees). Results: Even more monster SUVs crowding our roads. Even more silly “cuisine” restaurants. Even less affordable housing.

The computer world would face more profound changes–depending on how any breakup or set of restrictions on MS’s practices emerges. In one of the more radical scenarios, the Windows “standard” would dissolve as different Baby Bills offer different successors to the OS, each with its own add-on features. Application-software makers wouldn’t worry about getting run out of business by MS, but they would have to worry about making their stuff work on different post-Windows systems. (Of course, if they do that, then they’ll have code that’s probably also more easily portable to MacOS, Linux, etc.)

But if the video-game industry can still support between three and five platforms, then so can the “productivity” software industry.

TOMORROW: More on MS’s S/M.

IN OTHER NEWS: Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper said he’ll retire in March, following public hue and cry over cop violence against peaceful WTO protesters last week. Already, the conspiracy theorists are wondering aloud whether the street cops had deliberately gone abusive last Wednesday night as an opportunity to force out Stamper. (The chief had taken pains in the past to forge a liberal, gay-friendly, community-friendly image. This stance caused many rank-‘n’-file cops to complain loudly about Stamper on hate-talk radio.) Since I’m not a conspiracy theorist myself, I have trouble believing this notion, but feel I should report it nonetheless.

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