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We’ve got some handy activity hints for school-struck kids in our Thursday newsletter. Also: China’s upcoming Seattle tech confab; a long-life drug for dogs; and “beeronomics.”
In Friday’s pre-holiday MISCmedia MAIL: Teachers prepare to strike; one of the doomed 2nd Ave. buildings might get protected; remembering the days of DIY glam rock.
Here, at long last, is my draft design for a postcard/flyer promoting our MISCmedia MAIL morning newsletter. Lemme know what you think of it.
We’ve been doing weekday morning e-mail newsletters for almost 13 weeks now.
And apparently, some of you still haven’t signed up for them.
Here’s what you’re missing.
In today’s letter, you can read about the wind-blown trees and power lines, the fires, a major attempt to enhance wild salmon runs, and a kink-oriented sex shop that’s closing after its landlord applied some “discipline.”
Read it now.
Then come back to this home page and subscribe at the box in the left-hand column.
It’s that simple.
Still don’t have the comment functions repaired.
Still don’t have an online menu of past newsletters.
Still don’t have printed flyers to help you spread the word about our scrumptious morning email newsletter.
But I DO now have a lovely icon for our site.
It’s the same logo you’ve loved for almost six years now, in handy self-contained form.
On a phone or tablet, you can use the “Add to Home Screen” function to instantly come here. (Handy, no?)
Or, if you’re on a regular ol’ computer, you can just include this in any social-media links back here.
One of the site’s first logos, from some time in the mid 1990s.
Twenty years ago this week, it was an age of dial-up modems, Windows 95, Internet cafés, and the media hype over an alleged “Seattle Sound.”
I hate to use the old cliché “it was a simpler time.”
But in some respects it was.
The ol’ World Wide Web was a child just learning to walk. It seemed so full of possibilities. It hadn’t yet been tamed, corporatized, or commodified.
The “free”/”sharing” ideology of Grateful Dead bootleggers hadn’t yet taken completely over. There was still hope that journalists, musicians, and other “content” people might one day make a buck from this medium. (I know, crazy, right?)
I was in what turned out to be the middle of a seven-year writing stint with the Stranger. The paper itself had little interest in going online at the time, but allowed me to put my own material up on my own site.
I’d already been a regular at the Speakeasy Café in Belltown, essentially Seattle’s first Internet café. I’d been customer #23 on its then-novel home broadband service (which outlived the café, eventually becoming a business-to-business operation owned by something called MegaPath).
The Speakeasy people helped me learn rudimentary HTML and get a site up. I created some simple .JPG graphics, and reformatted (and, in some cases, retyped) columns and zine pieces I’d written over the previous nine years.
I didn’t call it a “web log” or “blog” at the time, but rather an online version of a classic “three-dot” newspaper column format. It originally wasn’t dependent on links to other websites, and it was only updated once or twice a week.
But it was one of the first sites anywhere to have a little bit of this and a little bit of that, curated and compiled from assorted info sources local and worldwide, based on an individual sensibility.
It allowed me to keep writing MISC after the Stranger fired me the first time.
For a while, it got me enough freelance work to live off of, at least until the first dot-com crash in ’01.
And I’ve kept at it ever since, more or less.
There have been times (such as most of last year) when I haven’t really felt like adding to it.
Times when I didn’t even want anyone to think of me as “a writer,” especially if that meant I was expected to gladly work for for-profit companies for free.
(I am not, nor have I ever been, independently wealthy, despite occasional rumors to the contrary.)
Even more than in the past, I’ve been obsessed with finding something, anything, that I could do specifically for money. Not for coolness, and certainly not for that dreaded term “exposure.”
And having the public image of “a writer” meant many people thought I couldn’t do, or wouldn’t want to do, anything else.
But the Seattle corporate world isn’t a fully welcoming place these days for someone who’s neither young nor a programmer.
And reinventing myself at my age (yes, it’s my own birthday today) would be possible, but perhaps more trouble than it would be worth. Especially if that reinvention involved student loan debt.
So I looked into what I could do that would exploit what I’m already known for doing.
Blog ads don’t earn a lot any more, unless you’ve got a really high readership in a national “market niche.”
And asking people to contribute money to a personal, occasional blog wasn’t much of a proposition.
But, perhaps, an information service that would contribute to people’s lives might be something people would want to support.
In 2007-8, I was involved with a group trying to start a local news site.
The project fell through for several reasons.
But the initial notion, of a single handy source for the day’s Seattle-area headlines, stayed with me.
There have been several attempts, but nothing that came close to the type of service I’d like to see.
So I’ve made my own.
It’s MISCmedia MAIL, and it starts today.
Each weekday morning, your email box will be filled with a brief, breezy summary of what’s going on around here.
It’s everything you’ve learned to love about this site, only in a much more useful form.
You can sign up for it at the handy box in the upper-left corner of this page.
Over the next few weeks and months I’ll be looking into ways to monetize it.
But for now, I’m working on building its audience.
Won’t you join us?
For months now, I’ve hinted about my new ventures on social media sites, while this site has again become dormant.
Now, I am at last ready to reveal all, or at least most of it:
MISCMEDIA.com relaunches in early June (the blog’s 20th birthday) with a new format. It will be a daily email newsletter, combining my skeptical-yet-sincere takes on the passing scene with headlines gathered from some three dozen local and regional news sources (all picked by hand, no RSS algorithms involved). I’ll be experimenting with ways to “monetize” it over the first few months.
The 20th anniversary of the book LOSER is coming in the autumn. It will be republished, in a third edition, with new and vastly improved scans of the original edition’s pages, plus a “whatever happened to…” addendum. I’m still working out the business side of it, which may include a crowdfunding campaign. Stay tuned.
frederick & nelson christmas display, via 'patricksmercy' on flickr and sandra bolton on pinterest
I’ve not been in the mood to make blog posts for the longest time.
The mood I’ve been in has been something other than the positive, assertive persona I’ve maintained in the blog and its print precursors over the years.
Besides, the ultra luxury-obsessed, alpha-techie ruled city that is much of modern-day Seattle is, in many aspects, so different from the funky, spunky, and, yes, grungy city I had known and loved. To truly cover the “pulse” of such a place, one would need to care about hedge-fund-financed dotcoms and hundred-dollar-a-plate bistros a helluva lot more than I ever will.
And then there’s the matter of trying to convince people, even long standing acquaintances, that I need a job.
NOT an idea for something to write about, but a job.
NOT an unpaid writing “opportunity” for a commercial website, but a job.
It doesn’t have to be “writing” work, just paying work.
I’ve told this to everyone, sometimes repeatedly.
But some people I’d known for years didn’t get it.
They seemed to believe that, since they had identified me as “a writer,” all I needed was to “write” all the time.
(“Don’t worry about the money,” one dude sincerely exhorted me one evening, after I’d almost lost my second apartment in one year.)
The only way I thought I could convince these folks that I needed actual monetary income, not sub-minimum-wage (or, worse, “for the exposure”) freelance crap, was by ceasing to “be a writer.”
It didn’t really work. Either at convincing these well-meaning but ignorant folk, or at getting me a real for-the-money job. (I have gotten a long-term-temp, part-time dishwashing gig, but that’s it.)
So I’m quitting the quitting.
Actually, I have been posting on so-called “social media” sites all this time. I like the knowledge that someone’s at least reading my stuff when I post it there.
But the MISCmedia site, I promise for real this time, will be back in full force in Two Ought One Five.
I’ve got a major publishing project in the works (still), and a plan to revamp the site into a daily local news “aggregation” and commentary source (still).
But we’ll start the year, as we always have, with the mellifluous MISCmedia In/Out List, always the most accurate list of its type seen anywhere at any time.
And, as always, we need YOUR input to make it happen.
In the comments box below, please recommend what will become hotter and less-hot in the twelve months to come, in the fields of music, fashion, food/drink, the arts, architecture, socio-political trends, etc. etc.
The list’s simple rules, as always:
Good luck, and good predicting.
Yep, this li’l venture in snarky commenting and pseudo-intellectual aggrandizing has gone on now for one score years plus eight. Slightly over half my life.
The last few months, I know, I’ve been away from the site a lot.
It’s not that there hasn’t been a plethora of potential subject matter, both on the local front (the waterfront tunnel machine’s woes, the rise of jocks-with-laptops aka “brogrammers,” the ugly new buildings going up everywhere) and the national-p0p-culture front (weird crimes, dumb online “meme” obsessions, the ongoing collapse of almost all professionally-made media genres).
It’s just that the site/column’s “persona” isn’t a personality mode I’ve been into lately.
For the past two years, ever since my mother’s death, I’ve been forced to scramble and hustle just to keep a roof over my head.
Some acquaintances and friends have understood this.
Others have just told me, why don’t I just write full time? They offer “cool” book ideas, imagining that that’s a viable substitute for the real job I tell them I really need. They tell me to just “do what you love” and “don’t worry about the money.”
But I do have to worry about the money. (Despite the occasional rumors over the years, I’m not, and have never been, independently wealthy.)
And I’m working on that, on several fronts.
Among them are two new projects in the “writing” line, neither of which I’m ready to announce right now.
Watch this space for further details.
A long-delayed batch of randomosity (the first in more than a month) begins with the discovery of the newest local “mainstream microbrew.” Underachiever Lager appears to have begun as a promo vehicle for Tacoma designer-casual-wear company Imperial Motion, but is now being rolled out as its own thang in select local bars.
Did the ol’ National Novel Writing Month thang again this year. Fifty thousand words in 30 days. My work, tentatively titled For One Night Only, will need a lot of work before I can show it to you all.
Also, my hosting bill is due. $120 that I haven’t got. Should I continue with the site as it is, or move it to some lesser-but-free service?
These Streets, the musical revue/play at ACT (running through March 10) about four women in the ’90s Seattle rock scene and two (mostly) supportive boyfriends, was constructed as a series of non-linear “moments.”
Scenes bounced between the past and present; the “past” storyline covers five years in the characters’ lives. Many of these short scenes and mini-monologues depicted single ideas or emotions.
In the show’s spirit, this piece is also a sequence of moments.
I mentioned in my 1995 book Loser how the national media’s false “grunge” stereotype included “no women in sight, not even as video models.”
But in the real Seattle scene, women were involved in leading roles from the start. Women were singers, instrumentalists, managers, promoters, venue owners, zine publishers, photographers, DJs, and record-label owners.
In keeping with the scene’s ethos, most of these women weren’t vying for fame and fortune. (The exception, Courtney Love, already had a record deal before she came here.)
But then a scene that, to many of its members, was an alternative to the major-label machine, became re-defined as fodder FOR the major-label machine.
The global music industry, at what turned out to be its peak of money and power, trawled Seattle fishing for superstars. The Gits were negotiating with a label when singer Mia Zapata was killed. Seven Year Bitch released one album on Atlantic, then broke up. But most of the scene’s women were ignored.
Over the years, “grunge nostalgia” books and documentaries (most made by out-of-towners) continued to ignore artists from the scene who hadn’t become big stars, including the women.
One of Harley and Rudinoff’s goals with the play was to remember this forgotten history.
These Streets, along with its concurrent poster-art and oral-history exhibit at the Project Room gallery on Capitol Hill, received massive coverage in local and national media.
The show includes parts of 18 vintage songs, originally recorded by 14 different female-fronted Seattle acts. Having four different characters singing the songs allowed the show’s makers to feature diverse musical material, from ballads (“power” and other) to straight-out punk blasts.
If any of those bands at the time had received a fraction of the publicity These Streets received, who knows what could have happened?
In keeping with the do-it-yourself spirit, These Streets was staged and produced by Gretta Harley and Sarah Rudinoff, who’d also written it (with Elizabeth Kenny).
Kenny and Rudinoff played the older versions of two of the characters. Harley sang and played guitar in the show’s tight backup band. Harley had been in the ’90s rock scene with the bands Maxi Badd, Danger Gens, and Eyefulls. She and Rudinoff currently perform as the duo We Are Golden.
ACT Theatre provided the auditorium space and various production services, under its “Central Heating Lab” program. (Carlo Scandiuzzi, ACT’s executive director, had promoted punk and new-wave gigs at the Showbox in the early 1980s.)
Harley, Rudinoff, and Kenny spent two years developing the script and score, based in part on interviews with some 40 Seattle-scene veterans. Twenty-three of these women were featured in historical graphics installed in the ACT lobby.
The show’s present-day storyline involves five of the six characters (yes, that’s a plot spoiler) reminiscing about their days of non-stardom, while surveying their later lives of houses, kids, divorces, and stints in rehab.
And they still have the urge to make music and art, to be on stage, to be loud and passionate in front of a crowd.
The world of their youth, the pre-dot-com Seattle of 1989-94, has largely vanished. The city isn’t the same and neither are they.
According to Harley, the present-day scenes refer to a time when “you’re in this stage of life and you look back and take ownership of it. But then you’re also looking forward for first time in a very particular way. I hope the show helps to illuminate that ownership of this time in our lives, and also look back and say, ‘Hey kid, you had a lot of guts to get up and do that.'”
Harley says the making of These Streets was “a great experience. People who lived it seem to really love it; they feel that it’s very authentic. A couple of people said it inspired them to pick up music again.”
While no further performances have been scheduled past its three-week run, “we’re taking it one step at a time at this point.”
(Cross-posted with City Living.)
'he-man and she-ra: a christmas special,' part of the festivities at siff film center on xmas eve
And a dreadful sorry for not posting in the last 12 days.
What I’ve been up to: Not much. Just wallowing in the ol’ clinical depression again over my first mom-less Xmas, trying to figure out how the heck I’m gonna pay January’s rent.
(For those of you who came in late, I’m not independently wealthy despite the old rumors; a few little local photo books don’t earn anything near a decent living; and my eternal search for a little ol’ paying day job has gone nowhere slowly.)
But I have vowed to stay at it. And there will be new MISCmedia products in the new year.
And, as always, it’s the time of year for MISCmedia’s annual In/Out List, the only accurate guide to what will become hot and not-so-hot in the coming 12 months. Send in your suggestions now.
On with the accumulated random links:
I participated in National Novel Writing Month again this year. Came out of it with most of the first draft of something I’m tentatively calling Horizontal Hold: A Novel About Love & Television. More details as I come closer to making it presentable.
I’ve recently become obsessed with deliberately awful online writing.
By this I specifically mean copy that’s not really meant to be read by humans, only by Google’s search-engine algorithms. (The term in the trade is “SEO,” for “search engine optimization.”)
Texts are stuffed with “keywords” and boldfaced (or “strong”) phrases. The pages may have their own domain names, chosen to be close to whatever a search user is really looking for. Header tags and other “metadata,” unseen by the reader but seen by the search engine, are endlessly tweaked for optimum pickup.
These pages can be some of the least useful, least informative, and least readable stuff in the whole WWW.
This is particularly annoying when the pages deal with self-help and how-to topics (which is most of the time).
Partly that’s because a lot of it comes out of low-paying “content mill” operations, who outsource a lot of their work to Third World contractors of questionable English-language skills.
And partly it’s because the mills generally don’t give a darn about communicating any knowledge, only about gaming the system for a few bucks.
The business model is that you get your page ranked high in searches. Then you convert those page views into income, by pasting in either Google’s own “AdWords” slots or “affiliate ads” for Amazon and others that pay the site a sliver of any sales (or both).
The propagators and champions of SEO can be as annoyingly hype-laden as any other “web gurus.” They’re not only unapologetic for the formulaic blandness of their product, they’re proud of it. One guy known as “Webwordslinger” (real name: Paul Lalley) even boasts that…
Bill Shakespeare–you know, The Bard–would have made a terrible web writer. He never gave a thought to keyword density and didn’t even know what strong text was or how to use it in web writing.
If this kind of bad Web writing exists solely to make money, then it’s even more stunning to see examples that don’t even have the monetization part figured out.
A kind reader recently referred me to an extremely unofficial site promoting the Seattle Great Wheel, the Seattle waterfront’s new star attraction.
Only the site, “Pier57ferriswheel.com,” seems to have no affiliate links and definitely has no AdWords links.
What it does have is warmed-over text rewritten from other sites about the Great Wheel, and a little link at the bottom for the Wheel’s official page (or rather, for its official Facebook page).
Some critics would look at all the bad commercial copy online and claim proof that Americans (or at least Americans younger than themselves) have become a nation of illiterate boobs.
I have a different take.
I say that, instead, the written word has become more important than ever.
The written word is the lifeblood of commerce in the Internet Age. Far more than it was in the days when magazines and TV ruled marketing.
But too few of the bureaucrats and hotshot entrepreneurs in charge realize this.
They think they can throw up the cheapest trash they can get and just manipulate it into profits, by using ever-trickier shticks (including “article spinning” software!).
But it doesn’t work that way. Not in the long term.
Google-ranking is a fad. Heck, Google itself might turn out to be a fad.
To establish a “brand,” to sell stuff, or to simply stand out from the crowd, you’ve gotta take your text seriously.
It’s an art (or at least a craft), not a formula.
And it takes a professional to do it up right.
Someone, say, like me.