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MISCmedia MAIL for 4/22/16
Apr 21st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

You know we’re talking about yet another music/art/performance legend gone far, far too soon. Back in local stuff, there’s some funny and sobering Earth Day thoughts; an attempt to legalize sub-minimum wages; the new owners of I Can Has Cheezburger; a local nightlife mogul’s role in today’s hottest musical act; a century-old “City Beautiful” plan that didn’t make it; and the usual plethora of weekend things-2-do.

MISCmedia MAIL for 4/13/16
Apr 12th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Your midweek missive includes Cliff Mass really disliking KUOW’s latest move; Trident Seafoods moving some fish-processing work to Germany; Amazon getting into subscription podcasts; an eco-group giving the Duwamish river system a dubious “honor”; and someone wondering when non-corporate, non-white women can even ask for “equal pay.”

MISCmedia MAIL for 3/10/16
Mar 10th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Greenwood has been through disasters, natural and other, and will survive this one. We also mention what is and isn’t still alive in the Legislature; more LGBTQ folk gathering in smaller cities; Jeff Bezos’s vision of a future post-industrial planet; a beloved plant store’s potential end; and another loss to the NW music world.

MISCmedia MAIl for 3/3/16
Mar 2nd, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

For your perusal, we have we have bigger things made of wood than have been made before; an attempt to bring back nuclear power; Portland’s “toxic moss;” Foo Fighters’ non-breakup; and a tragic update to one of the Sonics’ movers.

MISCmedia MAIl for 3/1/16
Feb 29th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Sooper Toosday finds us blathering about a racketeering suit against Mars Hill Church’s top brass; how to properly describe an alleged adult-woman/teenage-boy relationship; just how hard Russell Wilson’s “Good Man” clothes will be to find; and that ridiculously big container ship.

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/24/16
Feb 24th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Our midweek missive covers Clint Dempsey’s achievements; Calvin Johnson’s (the Olympia one, not the Detroit one) fiscal ills; the Brits discovering Pike/Pine’s turmoil; the costs of any expanded water taxi; and the incredible shrinking unbuilt downtown tower.

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/5/16
Feb 4th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

We head into a Seahawk-less Super Bowl weekend with footage of the TP’ing of Pam Roach’s office; a known creator of toxic chemical debris wanting to build a big biofuel refinery; a plea for understanding by the mom of a heroin victim; an attempt at increased state aid to the homeless; and the usual gazillion weekend activities.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/26/16
Jan 25th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Today, we attempt to understand why some GOP women are acting so sexist; follow the Legislature’s halting steps toward school reform; hail an “analog gaming” initiative; and witness the second (or is it third?) coming of “mom punk.”

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/13/16
Jan 12th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

In your midweek missive: Seattle is now Dick-less; environmental activist group or classic punk band?; how not to cover U.S. firms in India; an anti-concussion football helmet; and are law firms doomed?

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/12/16
Jan 11th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Bowie tributes from far and near top the e-missive today. Also: The Legislature’s back (seems like it never went away); citizen-made substitute sidewalks; a Rainier-branded beer product will be made in Washington again; the save-KPLU drive begins.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/11/16
Jan 11th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

There’s nothing like the sudden (to us in the public) death of a global music/film/art icon to put a little thing like an amazing sports victory into its rightful, if small, perspective. Also: Justice for the Marysville shooter’s victim’s families?, will the next legislative session do ANYTHING?, a classic waterfront building saved?, and the latest attempt to cheat “contract workers” out of needed benefits.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/8/16
Jan 7th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Our first Friday e-missive in three weeks, due to holiday schedules, includes: the resumption of Bertha tunnel digging; a comprehensive Seattle transit map (no, there really wasn’t one before); “concerned neighborhood” groups show their bigotries; tampons for charity; and the usual scads of weekend activity options.

THE IN AND THE OUTED FOR SWEET ’16
Jan 1st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

new years 2016 z

Would you believe, this is the thirtieth MISCmedia In/Out List? Well, it is.

As we prepare to begin the pearl-anniversary year of this adventure in punditry, we present yet another edition of the most trusted (and only accurate) list of its kind in this and all other known media.

As always, this list compiles what will become sizzling and soggy in the coming year, not necessarily what’s sizzling and soggy now. If you believe everything hot now will just keep getting hotter, I’ve got some Sears stock to sell you.

INSVILLE OUTSKI
ABC AMC
Saving KPLU Saving the Seattle Times
Turquoise Mauve
Spinach Kale
Hollow Earth Radio/KHUH KIRO-FM
“Black Lives Matter” Macho anarchists
Empathy Superiority
Gents Bros
Stopping Trumpism Treating Trump as a joke
Taking back Congress Merely keeping the White House
Ta-Nehisi Coates David Brooks
Storytelling “Branding”
Mismatched plaid separates Striped socks
High-speed rail Hoverboards
Fewer cars “Greener” cars
NHL NBA
Fiat (still) VW
We Bare Bears Teen Titans Go!
Juxtapoz Erotica Censored Playboy
Hillman City Ballard (alas)
Lalaloopsy Minions
Searching for solutions together “You figure that part out, I’m just sayin'”
Issa Rae Zooey Deschanel
Michael Fassbender Will Farrell
“Genderqueer” movement “Men’s rights activists”
Exciting machines Boring machines
Real virtue Virtual Reality
Granny shoes Skinny jeans
Justin Trudeau Justin Bieber (duh)
Sia Zac Brown
Light rail to Husky Stadium Parking downtown
Hydrox cookies comeback Crystal Pepsi comeback
Monkey Shoulder Wild Turkey
Milk stout Bud-owned microbrews
“Homey” “Artisinal”
Citizens “Stakeholders”
Uniqlo Gap
Bellingham Bellevue
Back-yard cottages “Tiny homes” in the far countryside
Millennials as defiant activists Millennials as selfish slackers
El Borracho Chipotle (duh)
Guy Maddin J.J. Abrams
Permanent progressive movements Only showing up in election years
Wisdom Data
“Snap!” “YOLO”
Moving the world forward “Taking America back”
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

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)).