Jan 16th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

A local Af-Am activist says we shouldn’t try to go back to some perceived past golden age of the U.S., but to create a more equitable country at last. We also view MLK and pro-school-funding rallies; Boeing’s (and American industry and labor’s) racist past; a strange Amazon request to the FCC; and Seattle having one-quarter of the world’s very-richest people.

Jan 2nd, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

As a safety-net-hostile, ethics-hostile Congress prepares to convene, we continue to focus on local stuff, including another dead orca; state Sen. Baumgartner’s latest power-grab attempt; Amazon bashed for, well, just about everything; and fire trucks crashing into each other.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 12/14/16: UP ALL NIGHT?
Dec 13th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Some business interests want to turn downtown Seattle into “a 24-hour city.” People walking and shopping and being entertained and high-fiving one another in the streets when the only people who should normally be awake (aside from insomniacs like me) are hungry newborns and their parents. Can this be accomplished; and if so, would we even like it? We also ponder Bill Gates’s strange comparison between the next president and JFK; a temporary win for homeowners who don’t like back-yard cottages; Boeing management proving as indifferent to St. Louis as it is to Seattle; and why Sounders fans don’t watch a parade, they march in it.

MISCmedia MAIL for 10/26/16: A NEW GAME?
Oct 25th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Chris Hansen now says he can build a basketball and/or hockey arena without tax $$. Other stuff today:  Google assembles its own e-tail program; more landlords kick out Section 8 tenants; a lawyer turned slam poet; and the Old Spaghetti Factory will serve its last Spumoni in December.

MISCmedia MAIL for 10/19/16: WHITE HOUSE ‘GATES’?
Oct 18th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Bill AND Melinda Gates as potential Vice Presidents? Ridiculous. Among our other topics today: our pal Kelly Lyles and her art-van; HALA changes; a high school requesting “pledges” of attendance only from Af-Am students; a game company responding to allegations of “enabling” gambling; and an International District institution threatened.

Oct 5th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

We at #MISCmediaMAIL believe the Northwest autumn isn’t to be endured or survived but savored. We additionally sort out alleged conservative local-media bias; changes at SIFF; not-really-recyclable bags; ethnic emoticons; and a candle that supposedly smells like a “new Mac.”

MISCmedia MAIL for 11/17/15
Nov 16th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

In your blustery-day MISCmedia MAIL: Two Wash. enviro-stars get honored; how Bill Gates could’ve made more money but didn’t; trees on a condo tower?; no City-owned broadband this year.

Sep 17th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

via washingtonpost.com

  • Our ol’ pal Lynda Barry reveals “The 20 Stages of Reading.”
  • Knute Berger sez the real issue in recent local violent crimes isn’t political “leadership,” it’s the sorry state of mental-health care.
  • We now know where Bauhaus Coffee is going, temporarily, while its building gets knocked down and replaced. It’s moving into the about-to-close Capitol Club’s space, just two blocks up East Pine.
  • Chick-Fil-A, the fast food chain with the cow commercials and the homophobic CEO, is coming to Northgate.
  • A micro-apartment developer wants Amazon to put up its short-stay employees, vendors, etc. at his buildings instead of hotels. So much for the argument that “we’re just trying to make affordable housing pencil out businesswise” etc.
  • In case you care, Bill Gates is the richest guy in the country again.
  • A Nation of Change essay comparing Libertarians’ ideological justifications for selfishness to “comic book writing” is an insult to comic book writers everywhere (yes, even at Marvel).
  • Bob Woodward describes the GOP standard operating procedure these days as “extortion and blackmail.”
  • My fellow Stranger refugee S.P. Miskowski now writes horror stories, and she’s looking for good examples of “bad woman” characters. Not daring rebel women who were really good but just called bad, mind you. She wants real (fictional) female baddies.
  • Playboy’s latest, er, re-vamp in search of lost circulation and ad bucks: “natural” glamour, instead of bleach and silicone. Also, 1 percent-y lifestyle articles.
Aug 29th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

ballmer at we day in keyarena, 3/27/13

In its 36-plus years of existence, Microsoft has had only two CEOs.

But no longer.

Steve Ballmer’s calling it quits, effective some time next year.

Fret not for the big guy with the big voice and the big body language. He’ll get a retirement-severance package bigger than the economies of several Third World states.

It’s what will happen to the empire of code and copyrights in Redmond (with tendrils worldwide) that’s at stake.

As all good schoolchilden know, Microsoft began in the primordial-ooze era of pre-personal computers, when tiny startup companies made build-it-youself electronics kits which, when assembled, could perform some of the functions of “real” computers (except, you know, for the function of performing real, practical work).

Bill Gates and Paul Allen made a stripped-down version of the BASIC programming language; then (more importantly) they established the notion that software should be paid for. They backed up this concept with copyrights and patents and lawyers.

With Ballmer at their side, Gates and Allen bought an operating system, re-sold it to IBM, and kept the right to also sell versions of it to other computer makers. MS would let hardware makers battle it out among themselves while it controlled the “platform” their products all ran.

This led to the DOS near-monopoly, which segued into the Windows near-monopoly.

It also led to Office and Internet Explorer.

It led to SQL Server, and to other high-end business software and related services.

Most everything Microsoft makes money from can be traced directly back to its early DOS-era dominance.

The company’s tried to get into other things. But those other things have had mixed results.

Remember MSN.com’s “online shows” concept? (The last survivor of those sites, Slate, is now among the Washington Post Co. properties not being sold to Jeff Bezos.)

Remember WebTV, HD-DVD, Mediaroom, Bob, Clippy, Hotmail, Actimates toys, the Encarta CD-ROM encyclopedia, Sidewalk.com, and Zune?

It’s probably easier to remember the Surface RT tablet device, the one the company recently wrote off to the tune of $900 million.

The company’s most successful new consumer-product line, the XBox game platform, is built (at least marketing-wise) on Windows’ gaming clientele. And even this realm has had its duds (XBox One, anyone?).

The jury’s still out on Windows Phone. Is there room for a third smartphone platform?

Microsoft could afford all these failures. Yes, even the Surface RT.

It could afford to keep an unsuccessful project going long enough to learn every little thing about why it failed.

And it could keep a successful project going long enough to watch its trajectory as the times, and the industry, pass it by.

So: Is today’s tech-universe passing Microsoft by?

Some analysts and pundits are making that claim.

They say the age one-size-fits-all personal computer has peaked.

There aren’t enough reasons for people or companies to keep replacing them as fast as they used to.

Especially with tablets and smart phones, and their hordes of specialty-function “apps” that make everything-for-everybody software like Office seem like lumbering beasts of prey.

So what should the next MS-boss do?

For one thing, he or she (and how come no women have been named as potentials?) could dump the notorious employee “stack ranking” system, that causes percentages of workers in each unit to be labeled as inferior no matter what. It’s horrid for morale and for productivity, and does nothing to improve products or services. If Ballmer really deserves to be called the “worst CEO ever” (he’s not, not by a long shot), it would be over this.

Next: Windows and Office still have many lucrative years left in them. That means there’ll be enough cash on hand to re-steer the company.

But to steer it where?

I say, away from Windows as the “one ring to rule them all.”

Even before phones and tablets, Windows had become an unwieldy thing, needing to perform the same functions (or at least most of them) on umpteen different hardware architectures, from sub-laptops to server arrays; for use by everyone from sophomores and shopkeepers to hospitals and factories.

Word and Excel have similarly undergone years of mounting “feature bloat,” hindering their everyday use at all but the most complex tasks. (Both are also based on a printed-page visual metaphor that’s increasingly obsolete as more people do everything on screens.)

What people increasingly need are simple ways to do specific things (preparing specific kinds of texts or crunching specific kinds of numbers, say), and to bounce the resulting documents around between different machines (their own and other people’s).

Think modular.

Think “apps,” to use the modern parlance.

The New MS could supply a basic ecosystem for modular software, which could be supplemented by developers large and small working in file formats (but not underlying code structures) compatible across different devices running different OSes in different screen sizes.

There’s plenty of space in that for all kinds of software puzzle pieces and building blocks. And for developers and template-scripters to build them.

And there’s no reason (other than entrenched corporate culture) why a lot of those builders couldn’t be at Microsoft.

Think even more “micro,” even more “soft.”

May 26th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

via geekwire.com

  • A female and a male employee at a local gaming company didn’t like the kickass-warrior bikini babe poster put up prominently in the company’s office. So they made a similar poster depicting one of the company’s male characters in a beefcake pose. The company’s boss left it up.
  • The Punk Singer, a biopic about Bikini Kill rad-feminist singer and zinester Kathleen Hanna, is playing SIFF this year. You may have already heard about the Odd-Couple-with-guitars romance of Hanna and Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, as depicted in the film. You might not have heard about something else mentioned in the film, a serious health scare she had a while back. It’s hard to imagine someone of Hanna’s carefully crafted public image ever admitting to any vulnerability, but she does so here.
  • Meanwhile, Hanna’s onetime protege Carrie Brownstein is not the first alt-music vet to “shill for American Express.” Laurie Anderson did the same gig back in the ’80s (though her ad for the card doesn’t seem to be posted online).
  • Melinda Gates is the world’s third most powerful woman, according to one of those magazine list-icles. Numbers 1 and 2 are the heads of state of Germany and Brazil.
Jul 11th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey


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.
Feb 28th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey


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.
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.

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.

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.”

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