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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?
When I took an unplanned, unscheduled blog break last summer, I also neglected maintenance on the web links at the left side of this page.
I’ve gone back to some of them today.
Turns out I’m not the only one who just drifted away from writing on the Web.
Plenty of the links that had been on this page now lead to “404 Not Found” alerts, or to other enterprises altogether.
Then there were the sites that, like mine for much of last year, were neither closed nor updated.
I’ve removed most of them from the link list.
But there are a couple of more ambitious group sites that I wish would come back:
If their reasons for going away are anything like mine were, these sites’ operators simply had other lives, other things to do (or attempt to do). Continuing to send words and/or pictures out into the ether (or the cloud), with little to no compensation or hope of any, just ain’t something some people want to keep doing forever.
In other words, today’s Web 2.0 status quo isn’t just killing most of the “old media” industries.
It’s also killing creativity in its own online “space.”
this year's space needle fireworks were sponsored by t-mobile and heavily emphasized the color 't-mobile magenta.'
As promised previously, MISCmedia is back for two-ought-one-five with a new commitment to try and make sense (or at least document the nonsense) of Life in the Demitasse Size City.
To start things off, and for the 29th consecutive year (really!), we proudly present the MISCmedia In/Out List, the most trusted (and only accurate) list of its kind in this and all other known media relay systems.
As always, this list operates under the premise that the future is not necessarily linear. It compiles what will become torrid and tepid in the coming year, not necessarily what’s torrid and tepid now. If you believe everything hot now will just keep getting hotter, I’ve got some RadioShack stock to sell you.
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.
Two Breaths To…
There’s an international committee that creates standards for online typefaces. It’s called the Unicode Consortium.
It recently announced a new set of more than 250 pictographic symbols (also known by the Japanese term “emoji”). They’ll be available in a chat room or on a smartphone near you as soon as Microsoft, Apple, Google, et al. get around to adding them.
The consortium’s announcement listed some of these new symbols with verbal descriptions. They include:
Apparently, there are deliberately annoying (male) online “trolls” (in the days of dial-up bulletin board systems, we called them “twits”) who have conspired to promote fake “feminist” Twitter slogans. Their idea was to make feminists as a whole appear to be just as stupid and sexist as these trolls themselves are. They (or at least many of them) got caught.
But also, apparently there are also Twitter trolls who have conspired to promote a made-up meme about “bikini bridges” (defined as an open space under the top of a bikini bottom, between the hips).
But what makes this operation even dorkier is that the same trolls, under a variety of online pseudonyms, are orchestrating fake “grassroots” comments both promoting and denouncing this supposedly “viral” hashtag obsession.
Some people, clearly, have just too much time on their hands.
sony pictures tv via wellesley.edu
I’m still not back to posting Random Links posts (at least not without re-thinking their whole format).
But today, I have some random questions:
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.
He is angry because Salman Rushdie uses Twitter, and nowadays people can buy books on the Internet, and the Home Depot, and he had to go to Germany one time, and also some women exist who have not had sex with him.
I mourn the Comet Tavern for what it had been. The un-upscaled hippie hangout; the dive that remained a dive when most of the other dives in town cleaned up their acts. I don’t mourn what it had become—a hangout ruled by an oft-violent aggro gang called Hate City. (A good friend, a petite female, was once roughed up by bouncers there, badly.) Could any new owners make it an inviting place again?
We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish.
During our three-week-plus blogging absence, one of the events we failed to note was the demise of one of the unsung pop-culture greats, Samuel W. Petrucci. A logo and packaging designer, he worked on everything from the Charleston Chew candy wrapper to a Lassie lunch box. But he’s best known for the logo and box art on the original G.I. Joe dolls, often using himself as a model for Joe’s face. His daughter Lisa Petrucci is a prominent local “pop surrealist” painter and co-owner of Something Weird Video.