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MISCmedia MAIL for 2/10/16
Feb 9th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

It’s Lent, but don’t give up your daily MISCmedia MAIL. Why, today alone we’ve got a plan to stop the Legislature’s pathetic-ness; differing views on the state “affordable” housing tax credit scheme; SPU students challenge white privilege; Amazon’s (alleged) big-big-big cargo plans; and an artwork honoring a Northwest legend.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/28/16
Jan 27th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

As the Oregon siege apparently winds down, we also discuss still more GOP pro-bigot tactics; past attempts to clear “The Jungle” homeless encampment; a “rebuilding year” at Boeing; and ancient relics found at Oregon State’s football stadium.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/18/16
Jan 17th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Searching for the real MLK; still lovin’ the Seahawks; the earliest drive-up “strip malls;” (still) trying to save film in Washington. All this and more in your Monday missive.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/5/16
Jan 5th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

In Toosday’s nooze: Jim McDermott’s leaving; the Oregon militia doodz aren’t; Sawant really is a socialist; birth control can be gotten without a prescription (in other states); FAA vs. 101-story tower plan.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/29/15
Dec 28th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

In the Toosday Nooze: Could Sparkling Ice turn Japanese?; could the “revenue neutral” carbon tax be anything but?; could Bellingham get its own version of Gas Works Park?; and remembering Lemmy.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/24/15
Dec 24th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

As the holidaze (and, just perhaps, snow) loom, MISCmedia MAIL covers the legacy of Chubby & Tubby; fun with fish names; looming layoffs for MS “permatemps;” a private techie-shuttle-bus startup; and many weekend activities.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/14/15
Dec 13th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

The darkest two weeks of the year are underway, and we’re here to help you survive. On Monday, read about more weather woes; anti-Islamaphobia marchers; just how Microsoft and other companies shave their tax bills; and a real-estate developer who tried to improve views from his property by poisoning neighbors’ trees.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/11/15
Dec 10th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Many, many weekend listings in Friday’s e-missive. Also: X-Treme weather woes continue; does the waterfront need eight lanes of traffic?; racism/fascism in local history; Group Health management vs. member democracy.

AIRING IT OUT
Dec 10th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

john richards b

It’s been a long time since KEXP morning man John Richards regularly broadcast to Seattle from far-off New York, as part of a co-production deal with a station there.

On Wednesday morning at 9:03 a.m. (for 90.3 FM), he was front n’ center as he played the first song from the station’s ultra-deluxe new studios. (It was Robyn Hitchcock’s “Viva Sea-Tac.”)

gathering place a

The station now occupies 27,000 square feet of the Seattle Center Northwest Rooms. The facility includes a big open office done up in Late Dot-Com style (complete with indoor bike racks), a big “Live Room” performance space, multiple audio and video editing/mixing suites, a second DJ booth for future multiple online streams, showers, a laundry room, and a big open “Gathering Place” that will be partly subleased to a coffee house and record store.

The whole thing cost $15 million, most of which has already been raised.

A formal grand opening will occur at an unannounced future date.

As some of you know, I was a “new wave” DJ on KEXP’s precursor KCMU. It was a much wilder, more freeform outfit then, and it was all volunteer-run. It was based in a tiny space on the third floor of the UW’s Communications Building (whose code in campus documents was CMU); a DJ booth, a second booth for newscasts, and a classroom.

The early KCMU could reach amazing heights of aural beauty, and equally-amazing depths of unlistenability. But that was part of its charm.

But today’s KEXP is an empire. It’s got 40-50 regular employees plus volunteers and specialty-show DJs, and an ongoing annual budget around $6 million.

What has KEXP got that other “public” broadcast radio stations (such as the apparently doomed KPLU) haven’t? Several things, including:

1) Its own “brand.” By producing all its own programming, it’s not simply “the local NPR,” or, worse, as simply “NPR” with the local call letters (and local programming) ignored by listeners.

2) A global reach. KEXP’s both a local broadcaster and a global “streamer,” and raises donations from both audiences. So “Viva Sea-Tac,” with a Brit singer-songwriter fronting a band of Seattle music legends, is an even more appropriate choice for the first song played from the new studio.

Today’s KEXP is a big-time, ambitious operation. Its new space is a postmodern palace.

That’s even more of an achievement at a time when broadcast radio, like so many other “old media” institutions, suffers from shrinking audiences and revenues, leading to cuts and consolidations (cf. KPLU).

But damn, I still miss the old KCMU.

skin yard at kcmu benefit, 1986; posted to youtube by daniel house

skin yard at kcmu benefit, 1986; posted to youtube by daniel house

MISCmedia MAIL for 11/12/15
Nov 11th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

In Thursday’s MISCmedia MAIL: Remembering another practical li’l apartment building; a posthumous arts bounty from the Kingdome; the predictable truth behind the anti-Starbucks ranter; can KeyArena be rebuilt without taxpayer funds?
 
MISCmedia MAIL for 11/11/15
Nov 11th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Remembering “Remembrance Day;” heroin deaths rise; Pronto bike renters are mostly young & male & white; we’re not as parched as we were this summer. All this & more in Wednesday’s MISCmedia MAIL.
 
MISCmedia MAIL for 11/9/15
Nov 9th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Things you can learn in Monday’s MISCmedia MAIL: 
  1. Don’t pour cooking oil down a storm drain.
  2. Having your city’s biggest bridge collapse can hurt civic self-esteem.
  3. Sounders fans are heartbroken today.
  4. Håagen-Dazs still exists.
 
OF ‘FACADISM’ AND FALSE FRONTS
Oct 8th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

ex bill's off bway construx

In December 2013, I wrote in this space about Bill’s Off Broadway, the legendary Capitol Hill pizza joint and bar.

It had just closed earlier that month. Its building at Harvard and East Pine was going to be replaced by a fancy new mixed-use development.

Now, Bill’s is back.

It’s got the same owners, much of the same staff, and the same menus.

It’s got the same interior color scheme.

It’s at the same corner.

But it’s not the same place; and it’s not in the same space.

Only the street-facing outer brick walls remain from the old building. Everything else, including the Bill’s interior, is all-new. Above the brick front, modern steel and glass construction rises six stories up.

exterior 1b

This sort of thing is going on all over Pike, Pine, and Union streets on Capitol Hill. Everything from printing plants to luxury-car dealerships has been removed except for the skins. A few blocks away, even the beloved Harvard Exit Theater is being razed-and-rebuilt like this.

It’s going on all over South Lake Union. The massive Troy Laundry building has already been hollowed out. The former Seattle Times building, its interior recently defaced by squatters, will probably also vanish except for its art-deco frontage.

In these and other places around town, you can see forlorn exterior walls of brick and terra cotta, artificially braced up, standing in front of nothing but construction holes.

In the frontier towns of the Old West (including pioneer Seattle), main streets were full of “false front” architecture. Grand, pompous storefronts stood proudly as signs of civic ambition, drawing people into the little one- or two-story stick structures hiding behind them.

Today’s “façadism” (yes, that’s a term some people use for this phenomenon) attempts an opposite aesthetic goal.

It seeks to mask the harsh, brutal, hyper-efficient modernity of a structure by offering a make-believe connection to the funky old building it replaced. Long-time residents can drive past it and imagine that the historic old building is still there, as long as they don’t look too closely.

But that’s about all it does.

It doesn’t preserve the spaces within, or their diverse uses.

Eugenia Woo, a local historic-preservation advocate and current director of preservation for Historic Seattle, writes about “What Price Façadism?” in the latest issue of Arcade, the local architectural/design journal.

Woo decries the practice, as an aesthetic travesty that fails to preserve the old buildings’ “authenticity”:

Stripped of everything but its facade, a building loses its integrity and significance, rendering it an architectural ornament with no relation to its history, function, use, construction method or cultural heritage. With only its primary facades saved, the original structure is gone, including the roof, interior features and volume of space.… Further, the scale and massing of the new building change the rhythm and feel of a block and neighborhood.”

Crosscut.com’s Knute Berger recently noted that property owners have sometimes manipulated the façades they’re supposedly preserving.

Berger writes that preservation advocates “have accused developers of damaging the historic integrity of building exteriors to ensure their building won’t be made a landmark, yet preserving the building’s skin as a ploy to win approval for more height for a new project. In other words, façade protections could actually be undercutting true preservation.”

Berger also notes that, at least in the Pike/Pine Corridor, current regulations have the effect of encouraging façadism instead of true preservation: “If an old building’s exterior is deemed to have architectural and contextual character, a developer can get additional height for a new structure in exchange for saving the façade. In other words, extra density and square-footage is dangled as an incentive to save an original exterior.”

The current tech-office boom, a legacy of city officials promoting urban development at almost any price (except in “single family” zones), and popular trends that see urban life as more attractive than suburban life have combined to create a “perfect storm” of development fever. This has put pressure on  the continued existence of old commercial and industrial buildings, throughout Seattle.

Growth, say pro-development “urbanists,” is inevitable.

But façadism needn’t be.

There are other ways to keep Seattle’s built history alive, while accommodating new residents and new uses.

Instead of false façades, Woo would rather see a form of “smart planning” that either preserves historic buildings whole or replaces them whole with “new projects that are well designed, perhaps the landmarks of tomorrow, cohesively knitted into the streetscape.”

ex bauhaus facadism

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

SEAFAIR AS AN ACT OF CIVIC DEFIANCE
Jul 26th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

dragon dance 1

Most of my hip art-world friends have long sneered at Seafair.

Too square.

Too hokey.

Too small-towny.

Too “Family” with a capital F.

Too unlike anything that would be done in NY/LA/SF.

clowns 2

pirates 1

As if those were somehow bad things.

hydro 2

But nowadays, this city needs all the legacy, all the history, and (yes) all the squareness it can keep out of the gentrifiers’ Rolex-wristed clutches.

We need our own homegrown racing sport, rooted in tinkerers building boats around surplus WWII airplane engines.

husky band 1

We need public education, and spectacles that celebrate it.

seattle utilities 2

We need honest shows of support for even the most basic of community functions.

poulsbo viking float

We need to remember the human groups that first made this place what it is.

duwamish tribe 1

We need to publicly honor all the peoples that make up this city and this region.

af am drill team

vietnam float

So don’t knock Seafair.

Love it.

(Except the Blue Angels. Feel free to bash them. They’re just too damn militaristic.)

 

OF DESPERATE TIMES AND VISUAL VOCABULARIES
Jul 24th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

desperate times cover

I know I’ve been taking however many of you are reading this back to memory lane a lot lately. But indulge me a few more times, please, including this time.

This time, it’s back to a weekend day in June 1981.

I went straight from my UW commencement ceremony, still possessing my cap and gown, and went to a planning meeting in a Wallingford rental house.

Also there were Daina Darzin, Maire Masco, and Dennis White.

We were starting a punk rock zine, to overcome what we all thought was The Rocket’s excessive commercialism. (Yeah, I know.)

The result was called Desperate Times.

It lasted for six tabloid issues, before Darzin effectively ended it by returning to New York, where she’d previously lived.

(And yes, like so many New Yorkers, she absolutely KNEW how everyone ought to think and behave. And if they thought or behaved in a non-New Yorkish way, then that thought or behavior automatically sucked.)

I had at least one piece in each of the six issues. The most affecting, albeit in a very indirect way, was in the first issue. I asked readers to write in mentioning the band they hated the most. (A cheap “comment bait” trick, it would now be called.)

It got a response all right.

That response came from one Mark McLaughlin, then a student at Bellevue Christian High School. He wrote that he loved the simple repetitive music of Philip Glass, and hated Mr. Epp and the Calculations. (“Pure grunge. Pure shit.”)

This, I continue to insist, was the first documented use of that six-letter word to describe a Seattle punk band.

And it was the first print mention of Mr. Epp, McLaughlin’s own band (of course).

One night shortly after that, Masco found McLaughlin on the streets downtown, pasting up flyers for a fictional gig by Mr. Epp, which at the time was mostly a fictional band (named after a favorite math teacher). Masco persuaded McLaughlin to stage real gigs.

For the next three nearly three years, Darren “Mor-X” Morray, Jeff “Jo Smitty” Smith, and Mark “Arm” McLaughlin gigged and recorded under the Mr. Epp name.

Arm, of course, went on to Green River and then to Mudhoney, famously performing on top of the Space Needle for Sub Pop’s 25th anniversary in 2013.

Darzin became a scribe for Billboard and other high falutin’ rags.

White and Masco started the short-lived Pravda Records label (not the Chicago firm of the same name).

White now runs another indie music label, “dadastic! sounds.”

Masco took a long hiatus from “creative” endeavors.

But now she’s back with a book collecting every issue of Desperate Times, from full-size high-quality digital scans.

Some thoughts on looking at these pages nearly 3.5 decades later:

The music discussed, well a large part of it anyway, still stands up.

The writing and the graphic design are of their time and of the milieu. That is to say, they’re brash, un-slick, and occasionally immature. But that was part of the whole aesthetic of the period. This was before “desktop publishing.” The text was created on typewriters. The headlines were created with press-type lettering. It was DIY Or Die, and it expresses the emotional states of its content better than anything in Adobe InDesign ever could.

Masco is selling the book online and at a few select local shops.

 

 

chantry speaks cover

Masco’s been living in Tacoma in recent years, with a guy who knows a thing or two about graphic design, and who’s not shy about sharing what he knows.

I’ve written several times in the past about Art Chantry. How he played a critical role in creating my book Loser (itself coming back later this year). How he did most of the grunt work in bringing “punk rock graphics” and poster art beyond the deliberately “amateur” style seen in Desperate Times and toward something that was “professional” but NOT corporate. He took his obsessive research into design schticks high and lowbrow, industrial and “artistic,” and created a whole new visual vocabulary.

In recent years, Chantry’s been spreading his vast knowledge and sharp opinions about the design profession (actually, he thinks of it as more of a “trade”) on his Facebook feed.

Now he’s collected some 50 of these essays in the book Art Chantry Speaks: A Heretic’s History of 20th Century Graphic Design.

The format of self-contained short essays, on different but related topics, works well with the disparate roots of Chantry’s visual aesthetic and career philosophy.

He finds inspiration in everything from monster-movie magazines to industrial-supply catalogs, from trade magazines to Broadway show posters, from hot-rod customizers to girlie magazines.

Unlike the late Andy Warhol (to whom he dedicates a praise-filled chapter), Chantry appreciates commercial design without feeling the need to dress it up in “fine art” trappings.

Indeed, Chantry openly and repeatedly scoffs at such trappings.

He upends the “official” history of graphic design, which treats it as a top-down profession dominated by Manhattan designers and ad agencies.

Instead, he sees it as a bottom-up, working-stiffs’ trade, originating with sign painters, printers, and other craftspeople. It’s a living tradition, re-created and adapted everywhere. It’s something that’s both populist and commercial at once. It expresses social and individual values, even as it overtly tries to sell stuff (products, politicians, religions, etc).

And, just as American pop/rock music absorbed and mutated everything that came before it, Chantry’s personal aesthetic absorbed and mutated everything he’d learned to love in the various arts of visual/verbal persuasion.

You won’t find any images of Chantry’s own works in Art Chantry Speaks. For that, look up Some People Can’t Surf: The Graphic Design of Art Chantry, written in 2001 by Julie Lasky. There, you’ll see his famous posters for bands, film screenings, and condom-awareness campaigns; his cover art for The Rocket; and his many record covers and band/label logos.

But, just as there are now drinking-age people who weren’t alive when Nirvana last performed, many of the various production techniques Chantry’s essays discuss have become lost to time, from the lead-cast “hot type” of letterpress to the photo-strip “cold type” of manual pasteup pages.

And much printed ephemera itself (magazines, newspapers, cheap paperbacks, recorded music on physical media, etc.) has declined or disappeared in the digital age.

But Chantry’s observations are still important in our current era, when even web page design is considered an obsolete line of work.

Typography, illustration, color theory, and layout are all part of the visual vocabulary of our world. There are reasons why all these arts developed the way they did.

And, just as many young adults have discovered the great music of the 1980s and ’90s Chantry’s idiosyncratic views about these can teach timeless principles about how things look (or ought to look).

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© Copyright 2015 Clark Humphrey (clark (at) miscmedia (dotcom)).