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HEY BABY, IT’S THE FOURTH OF JULY!
Jul 3rd, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Deja Vu Showgirls with American flag LED sign

The ol’ U.S. of A. sees b-day #239 embroiled by many disagreements. Among the biggest are disputes about race-hate, severe economic inequality, the subversion of democracy by big money, and the perilous future of life on Earth.

The nation stands at a crossroads.

As it always has.

Issues of equality, class, race, and the best long-term use of land and other resources have been with us from the start. We are a nation born of contradictory ideas; ever since it all started with a colonial secession by business men and slave holders publicized as a freedom-centric “revolution.”

Disputes between What’s Right and What’s Profitable have traditionally torn this nation—much more than disputes between different definitions of What’s Right ever did.

Even battles that superficially seem to be the latter usually turn out to be the former.

You undoubtedly know about assorted “family values crusades,” fanned by politicians who really only care about billionaire campaign contributors.

But a similar, if more complicated, syndrome occurs on the allegedly “progressive” side of the political spectrum.

By belittling and stereotyping white working-class people as “hicks,” “rednecks,” and racists, certain elements on the left have helped to enable the Democratic Party’s embrace of Wall Street and other elites, while ignoring for practical purposes the hollowing-out of middle class jobs.

(For a more detailed riff on an aspect of particular contradiction, check out Greta Christina’s essay at RawStory on the fallacy of claiming to be “fiscally conservative but socially liberal.” Christina avows that no matter how much you like legal pot and gay marriage, you’re only a real liberal if you fight against economic and class injustice.)

As I wrote here many years ago, I have a basic definition of liberalism: the belief that Money Isn’t Everything. We have to take care of our people and our planet, not just our bottom lines.

To that, I’ll add a latter-day addendum:

Money may not be Everything, but it’s still Something. Something more people should have more of, instead of a privileged few hogging most of it.

Fortunately, the biggest thing that’s Right With America is our ability to discuss, and even fix, what’s Wrong With America.

GAYS GONE WILD OR GAYS GONE MILD?
Jun 29th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

'for my birthday the supreme court gave me rights'

Another late June, another Pride Parade.

This time, it had the special, one-time-only, added attraction of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to celebrate. Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land from approximately coast to coast.

murray at gay marriage rally

Mayor Murray spoke at a hastily-arranged rally Friday afternoon outside the Federal Courthouse, thanking the high court’s majority for coming down on the side of respect, dignity, and legal rights for all couples and families.

facebook 2

Thus, the weekend’s pride parades in Seattle and elsewhere took on an extra air of triumph.

But of what?

Will gay men and lesbians settle into mainstream corporate-American culture, no longer threatening to the established order?

justice mary yu

Certainly some of the political figures and public officials who appeared in the parade are out for mainstream acceptance, for the gay/lesbian community and for their own careers.

sawant 2

One specific politician, of course, will have nothing to do with assimilation or “mainstreaming.”

crowd 4

And many at the parade, both in the crowds and marching/dancing/biking along the route, also displayed little interest in settling down into domestic boredom (or anything like it).

blonde rainbow flag marcher

shirtless man and tutu 2

bicyclist 1

peacock dancer

nude dudes 1

topless cage dancer 2

gothic pride 1

No matter how many images get issued of nice, wholesome, show-tunes-loving guy/guy couples in meticulously decorated homes, homosexuality and transsexuality are still about sexuality.

And even whole aspects of “typical” hetero sexuality are topics many Americans don’t like to discuss, or to be confronted with.

“Queerness,” therefore, will always have an element of “outlaw” status to it.

Even now that it’s protected (to an extent) by the law.

THOSE ENDEARING YOUNG CHARMS, REVISITED
Jun 25th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

jones 3 bullseye

Over the next few weeks, I’ll discuss some of the things I’ve been doing this past 10 months when I mostly haven’t been blogging.

They include what one might call Internet research rabbit holes, obsessions with obscure corners of pop-culture arcana.

One of these obsessions is a “rabbit hole” in more ways than one.

It starts with something everybody knows, even if it hasn’t been at the pop-cult forefront in recent years.

Warner Bros.’ classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons haven’t been on broadcast TV in years. The one basic cable channel they’ve been on, Cartoon Network, had lately only shown them on weekday mornings, and only when that time slot wasn’t being used to rerun some Tom & Jerry or Scooby-Doo direct-to-video movie. CN’s not showing them at all now. You have to pay extra for CN’s premium-tier channel Boomerang to see these timeless classics.

Even worse for longtime fans, no LT/MM shorts have been issued on DVD (aside from reissues) since late last year. With the industry-wide collapse of disc sales, Warner Home Video has put any future digital remasters of old cartoons on hold.

The prolific WB cartoon studio made some 1,005 “classic” theatrical shorts over 40 years. Approximately 450 of them have yet to be digitally restored. A lot of those look really dingy in the old TV prints seen online.

Oh yeah: Almost all the LT/MM shorts can be found in unofficial online uploads. WB has gotten some of them removed from YouTube, but they just pop up on more obscure sites. (WB could put them up officially, and get whatever ad revenue there is to get, but mostly hasn’t.)

While I was on my last extended “blog vacation” earlier this year, I set out to watch every darned one of the not-on-DVD Warner cartoons. About half of them feature the studio’s “A list” characters (Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Tweety, etc.). Some of them (in the uploaded versions from old TV prints) look good enough to go on disc as is. Others look dingy, faded, and lo-res.

To keep the LT/MM “franchise” (and its lucrative merchandising) alive, WB needs to (at least) make new digital transfers of these not-on-DVD shorts, from the best existing film materials. This would make the films more viable in today’s hi-def era, for release on broadcast, cable, on-demand, streaming, and download “platforms,” as well as on disc. Perhaps some of the less “commercial” entries (the ones with minor or one-shot characters) could receive less of the labor-intensive digital retouching that was used for the DVD releases.

At the same time as I was re-viewing all those films, I also started to research the music used in them.

The studio’s great music directors, Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn, incorporated more than 500 pre-existing compositions into their cartoon scores. They ranged from classical and folk pieces, to contemporary hits and songs from Warner feature films, to obscurities that had originally been published as sheet music for silent-music accompanists.

With the aid of several existing online lists of the “sampled” compositions, I put together a YouTube playlist of most of them. It’s currently up to 434 entries. They’re all records or film clips of the original tunes—not the cartoon excerpts of them.

If you know them only from the cartoon versions (and you probably do), you’re in for a few surprises:

  • “Hello Ma Baby,” the first frog-sung tune in One Froggy Evening, was originally a novelty song about a man in love with a woman he knows only as a voice on that then-new gadget, the telephone.
  • “Those Endearing Young Charms,” used in the oft-repeated “exploding xylophone” gag, was originally a sorrowful ballad about a man promising his wife he’ll still love her in sickness and old age.

jones 2 mural and guitar cyclone

Warner might be mismanaging one of its most valuable assets; but other parties remain determined to keep the cartoons in the public eye.

They include the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, founded by the Spokane boy who became the most famous of the studio’s several cartoon directors.

The Jones Center and the Jones heirs, along with the Smithsonian’s “touring exhibits” division, created What’s Up, Doc?: The Animated Art of Chuck Jones. It’s now at the EMP Museum in Seattle.

It’s got dozens of original art pieces and artifacts from Jones’s Warner, MGM, and indie films.

It’s got one of his most famous works, What’s Opera, Doc?, playing continuously (it never gets tiresome); plus a mysterious minute and a half of music recorded for “unproduced scenes” in that classic. (Wonder what they would have been?)

It’s got excerpts from several other Jones films (and one Tex Avery WB short, the defining Bugs Bunny film A Wild Hare), on flat-screen monitors around the exhibit space.

It’s got a few spots where you can take photos of one another alongside life-size cartoon props, such as under a “precariously” suspended prop anvil. (Photography’s forbidden in the rest of the exhibit.)

It’s got meticulous explanations and documentation about the now-threatened art of 2D animation.

And it’s got plenty of words, pictures, and video footage about Jones (1912-2002).

Besides hundreds of one-reel films for theaters, Jones also worked on TV specials, instructional films, and a couple of animated features (Gay Purr-ee and The Phantom Tollbooth).

At Warner he created his own characters (the Road Runner and Coyote, Pepe le Pew) and developed characters created by or with other directors (Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester).

Later, he adapted works by Dr. Seuss, Walt (Pogo) Kelly, Rudyard Kipling, and his former Warner colleague Frank Tashlin, adjusting all of their individual artistic visions to his own.

Thematically, Jones’ films ranged from Disney-esque sentiment to violent slapstick and back again. Stylistically, they ranged from slick “realism” to almost pure abstraction (and, in his version of Norman Juster’s story The Dot and the Line, total abstraction).

And while many animators were/are soft spoken and shy creatures, Jones was an inveterate and articulate self-promoter. He made books and documentaries about his works. He gave many interviews to animation historians, sometimes embellished for entertainment’s sake.

And with the exhibit, his take on “the art of animation” has an immersible, walk-through incarnation. Viewers get to enjoy the finished films, and to learn in grit-detail about each of the many components that went into them.

Can this help revive interest in “analog” animation?

And, just as importantly, can it help rescue the classic WB shorts from extra-tier-cable-channel purgatory?

FREMONT SOLSTICE, NOW WITH SHELL-BASHING
Jun 22nd, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

evil oil well 1

 

Another bright mid-June day, another Fremont Solstice Parade.

As usual, it featured wordless performances expressing “political” notions of Good vs. Evil.

Shell’s arctic platform and its noble “kayaktivist” opponents were among the principal tableaux of this type.

corporate person float

But there were others as well. Legendary local artist Carl Smool created a kinetic statement about big-money politics and the notion of “corporate personhood.”

school prison pipeline banner

A banner decried the “school to prison pipeline.”

spirit of mandatory testing

A schoolmarm tied up in ropes signified dreary, “to the test” education.

black boy coffin with white pall bearers

It’s hard to tell from this angle, but these pall bearers are carrying a coffin adorned with the faces of black children and flags of African countries.

giant puppets 2

But also as usual, there were plenty of other spectacles depicting an affirmation-of-life spirit.

starry night costume

orange flag dancers 3

panties and white pasties

This includes the parade’s famous nudes, on and off of bicycles.

tiger skin nudes

blotchy paint nudes 2

orange nudes 2

The body, revealed but still adorned, in a non-sexualized “family” context, is the ultimate example of the “Good” half of the parade’s dichotomy.

Many people, including myself and my half-namesake Kenneth Clark, have pontificated on the meaning of the unhidden human body in modern societies. For now, let’s simply say it symbolizes aspects of the Solstice Parade community’s ideals for life: “natural,” free-flowing, post- (or pre-) industrial, un-commercialized, un-stigmatized, un-pressured.

And impracticable for modern urban environs, except on special occasions and in special circumstances.

 

 

SOMETIMES THE MAP ACTUALLY IS THE TERRITORY
Jun 12th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

…Especially if it’s this cartoon map of Washington from the 1930s.

It’s part of an every-state series made by Berta and Elmer Hader. It depicts the histories, industries, topographies, and agricultural products of each part of this Land-O-Contrasts place.

(Found via Vox.com.)

MISCmedia @ 20!
Jun 8th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey
BargeIcon

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?

 

BUSES, BANKS, AND THE BUILDING BOOM
May 22nd, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Still more classic places and things are going away from our once-sleepy city, as it loses more and more pieces of its built heritage to an urban building boom the likes of which Seattle hasn’t seen in nearly a century.

We’ll start this journey with a street feature almost everyone in the city has seen and even used, but to which few might fave given any thought.

The bus stop “island” on Pine Street between Third and Fourth avenues is one of the last standing relics from downtown’s once-prominent streetcar lines.

Those long, track-bound vehicles generally ran in the middle of four-lane streets, and of course couldn’t pull over to the curve to add or subtract from their passenger loads. Riders got on and off the streetcars from raised concrete islands placed one lane away from the curb (sometimes dodging car traffic to get there).

Most of those islands were removed in the 1940s, when the streetcars were scrapped and the tracks were dug up. But the island on Pine remained, for riders on buses and rubber-tired “trackless trolleys” at what remained Seattle’s highest-volume transit intersection.

Until now.

The island bus stop is now permanently closed. By July, piledrivers will clear it away. The space will be turned into a truck loading zone and a permanent parking spot for police vehicles.

It’s part of a major project to completely revamp the bus zones along Third Avenue and adjacent streets. When the work’s all done, the city promises the area will be more convenient and attractive to residents, commuters, and shoppers alike.

But it’ll be without a remnant of a time when public transit was a far more central aspect of city life.

(A more elaborate trolley island survives on South Jackson Street, but it hasn’t been used for transit since the demise of the Waterfront Streetcar.)

streetcar island at third and yesler (seattle municipal archive via kplu)

Even before Seattle’s streetcar network was changed to buses, “Motor coaches” had been carrying people within and between cities.

And in Seattle, intercity bus trips had begun at the Central Stage Terminal on Stewart Street. Greyhound took it over, along with some of the regional bus lines that stopped there, by 1939.

The station was in constant use (sometimes 24/7). Untold thousands of passengers passed through its lobby (which, like that of the King Street railway station, had been sadly “modernized” in the 1960s).

That ended last summer. Developers bought up the entire block, intending to build another of those big new luxury hotels. They haven’t started yet (there’s a shortage of construction cranes and crews here these days).

Greyhound could have moved in with Amtrak at the now-restored King Street Station, but instead remodeled a small building near Safeco Field. (It’s near the Link light rail line, but good luck trying to get a cab from there on game days.)

The old Greyhound station, especially before its remodel, was a passenger palace near the city’s heart. The new station seems like almost an afterthought to Seattle’s transportation network.

Some landmarks don’t have to be (completely) removed to lose their original character.

The Rainier Square block is the biggest surviving relic of what was Washington’s second biggest bank.

The project was originally announced in the early 1970s as Commerce House, the new headquartes of National Bank of Commerce. Before it was finished, the bank’s name was changed to Rainier Bank and the project became Rainier Square. It replaced the stoic, block-long White-Henry-Stuart building with a slender office tower atop an odd looking but functional pedastel. The tower was set above a block of street level storefronts, which in turn led into an underground passageway to the Convention Center.

Rainier Bank disappeared during the first wave of out-of-state bank takeovers in the late 1980s. but Rainier Square remained, and even grew with a second-floor atrium (home to the Rock Bottom brewpub).

Now, developers plan to raze the block’s low-rise northern half for a second tower, bulkier than and almost twice as tall as the first, with a staggered base that will look vaguely like a high-heel boot.

The original Rainier Square tower, one of the finest products of Seattle’s ’70s highrise boom, will remain. But its clean modern lines will be dwarfed by its overwhelming new neighbor.

nbbj/motyw via seattlepi.com

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

THE LAST ENCHILADA
May 21st, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Mama’s Mexican Kitchen, the family-owned eatery that for 41 years has been a bastion of the pre-gentrification Belltown, closes this year, perhaps in September.

Its 1924 building will be razed for yet another 60-unit “mixed use” development.

Mike McAlpin, who’s owned Mama’s from the start (and used to also own the nearby Lava Lounge), says he’ll retire. Many of his employees have been there for 15 years or more.

I’ve been going there almost since it opened. Its Second and Bell corner spot once seemed way out in the wilderness, a million years from either downtown or Seattle Center. Art/music types had begun to flock there, attracted by what were then low rents close by to everything. Mama’s became a hangout and a resource for this community. Its cheap and plentiful food and margaritas, its friendly Elvis/Marilyn interior decor, and its unpretentious vibe kept its regulars coming back, even after many of them couldn’t afford to live in Belltown any more.

Yes, there are fancier and even more “authentic” Mexican joints out there these days, or at least ones more amenable to modern tastes. (Mama’s recipes came from McAlpin’s Cal-Mex grandmother, and are heavy on melted cheese and mild salsa.)

And there are many, many other dining and drinking joints in today’s Belltown; some at prices as tall as the condo towers now dominating the area.

But there isn’t anything else like Mama’s, and there probably never will be.

YOU KNOW THE DRILL
May 19th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

That Shell arctic oil drilling platform everybody’s been up in arms about? Damn, it’s big.

But so is the combined force of those protesting against it.

greenpeace usa via grist.org

THE NIGHT BEFORE THE (POTENTIAL) RE-PETE
Jan 31st, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Super Bowl Eks Ell Eye Eks begins some time after 3:30 p.m. our time on Sunday. By 7 p.m. the mighty Seahawks will either “Re-Pete” as NFL champs (a slogan based on the name of beloved head coach Pete Carroll) or not (perish even the possibility of the thought).

This time the whole civic zeitgeist about the game seems different.

Nothing can compare to the city’s first major men’s pro sports championship of the century, of course, for collective excitement, enthusiasm, and pride.

This time the civic experience (on the streets, on sports talk radio, in the sports bars, in social media, at home-game tailgate parties, etc.) seems more familiar, even rote.

It sure wasn’t expected, though. Not by everybody here; not during all of the season and post-season.

Yeah, right after last year’s game, the team and the 12s were full of confidence that our boys would be the first in a decade to win consecutive Super Bowls.

But then the ’14 season began with the Seahawks going 3-3.

But then the team got its collective act together, and sealed the top seed in the conference by the regular season’s end.

But then the Packers looked invincible for three and a half quarters of the conference championship game.

But then the Seahawks, who’d come back from halftime deficits throughout the regular season, pulled off the Miracle on FieldTurf®, sending them (and, by extension, us) straight into the Big Game.

So here we are, back at the biggest event of the year (in either sports or entertainment) in this country. The eyes of the sports world (or at least the U.S. and Canadian sports world) are upon our noble and valiant gents.

Even The Nation, a publication that seldom pays any attention to sports (or, despite its name, to anything beyond the NY/DC corridor), is chanting “Solidarity and Seahawks Forever.”

Writer Dave Zirin admires how Seahawk players have spoken out about racist cops, racist sports-media, and college sports’ frequent neglect of injured players.

Zirin likes how Marshawn Lynch has consistently defied “that walking, talking corporate crime spree Roger Goodell.”

Zirin even likes coach Carroll (“that rare football coach who does not think he’s the reincarnation of General Patton”).

So sleep tight, 12s, secure in the knowledge that we, and our champions, are in it for more than just a game.

CORPORATE BEER STILL SUCKS. STILL.
Jan 24th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

There will still be four Elysian brewpubs in Seattle.

There will still be various Elysian beers on tap and in bottles at bars, restaurants, and stores in the region and beyond.

There will still (probably) be an Elysian Brewery on Airport Way South, not far from the old Rainier Brewery.

But they’ll all be owned now by AB InBev (doing business in this country as Anheuser-Busch).

The Belgian beer conglomerate that bought Budweiser (and commands 47 percent of the nation’s total beer sales) is now buying up craft brewers around the country. Just weeks ago, it snapped up Oregon’s 10 Barrel. It already owns 32 percent of the now-merged Redhook and Widmer Brothers.

And now, Elysian has joined the empire.

The craft brewers’ national trade group, the Brewers Association, automatically expels any member company that sells out to AB or MillerCoors. (However, the group altered its rules a few years back to allow Boston Beer (Sam Adams) to remain in the group.)

For almost 19 years now, starting with a single (albeit spacious) brewpub in the Pike/Pine Corridor, Elysian has steadily become a big fish in the no-longer-so-small pond of regional craft brewers. Its product line has included over 350 different brews over the years, many of them short-term and seasonal (like its annual pumpkin ales). Its products are distributed in 11 states and two Canadian provinces.

One of those products is Loser Ale, originally introduced as a promotional tie-in with Sub Pop’s 20th anniversary in 2008. Its slogan (based on Kurt Cobain’s hand scrawled T shirt on a Rolling Stone cover, which in turn was based on SST Records’ old slogan): “Corporate Beer Still Sucks.”

Many “craft beer” drinkers see their choice of drink as meaning a lot more than just a matter of quality product. They think of indie beer (just as many think of indie music) as a crusade of the Regular Folk fighting back against a bland, monolithic corporate culture.

But should they?

As Kendall Jones writes at the Washington Beer Blog:

The sky is not falling. This is not a sign that the end is near. There are still over 3,400 breweries in America that Anheuser-Busch does not own…. As craft beer lovers, we’ve been taught that Anheuser-Busch and the other big beer companies are our enemies. So what gives? Is Elysian now evil? Not in my mind, but that’s a decision you’ll have to make for yourself.

Another view on the Elysian sale comes from Jeff Alworth at the Canadian blog Beervana, who ties Elysian’s past success to its savvy local management:

It’s long been my favorite Washington brewery, and it’s always my first stop when I hit Seattle. It has always seemed the most Seattle of the Seattle breweries—an extemporaneous brewery that could be equal parts gritty and urbane and credibly support local sports teams or indie bands. Elysian always seemed to be right where Seattle was at the time….

Just because a brewery is local doesn’t mean it can channel the local mores, culture, and zeitgeist. Elysian could and did—which is a big part of why they were so good. Can they still do that as a division of AB? In the short term, almost certainly. But I fear we’ve lost a little bit of what made Seattle Seattle.

If, as Elysian’s owners publicly insist, joining the big boys was the only way to support the company’s continued growth and to fund further expansion, maybe there’s a natural business limit to how big a microbrewer can be and still remain independent (if no longer truly “micro”).

neonsign.com

In other news:

  • Chop Suey, the venerable live-music club located not far from the original Elysian brewpub, may remain open (or rather, reopen) after all.
  • Here’s how out-of-it (locally) I’ve been: Richard Hugo House, the city’s premier writing and literary-arts center, is getting demolished and rebuilt at the same site. Didn’t even know.
  • The Seattle City Council and City Attorney Pete Holmes apparently believe sex workers will be less abused by pimps and traffickers if we just create harsher penalties for sex-work customers. Uh, no; it doesn’t work that way. Try again. This time, try to work on the pimps and traffickers themselves (and on support services for the workers).
  • There’s still no real replacement for the still-mourned Fun Forest amusement area at Seattle Center. But we may be getting a 1,000-foot water slide this summer.
  • Our pal Lindy West remembers the cool stuff found in the now-bankrupt SkyMall catalog, and also ponders whether its fate is that of all that is fun and quirky.
  • Hershey, which owns all U.S. rights to Cadbury products, is moving to stop the grey-market imports of the British-made chocolate goodies.
  • Print books are bouncing back, according to recent sales figures. The “literature is doomed” crowd will, I’m sure, simply ignore these figures and continue its wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth.
ROOM AT THE IN (AND OUT) FOR ONE-FIVE
Jan 2nd, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

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.

INSVILLE OUTSKI
Bratwurst Ice cream
Saving affordable housing Saving sandwich shops
Amazon as profitless, fragile giant Amazon as omnipotent leviathan
“Phablets” Apple Watch
Fully independent publishing Kindle Unlimited
Fully independent cinema Marvel Cinematic Universe
Ronan Farrow Michael Smerconish
Journalism Clickbait
Furniture Girls Taylor Swift
“Selfie sticks” Facebook food pictures
Euro-socialist revival GOP revival
Cardless payments Kardashians (still)
Dyed armpit hair Lululemon
“Black lives matter” “I’m not racist, but…”
Streaming TV Streaming music
Shoreline White Center
Cheap oil as climate threat Cheap oil as economic blessing
Forest green Taupe
Art Basel Burning Man
Compassion “Non-apologies”
Fiat Google drone car
Women Who Code “Brogrammers”
Cards Against Humanity Candy Crush
Human rights for Cuba New cars for Cuba
Tessa Thompson (Dear White People) Jessica Alba
Tiny houses Charter schools
Legalizing/protecting sex workers Banning protests
Vox Daily Currant
Tucson Austin
Four Roses Fireball
Chris Pratt Seth Rogan
Funky weirdness Soulless “luxury”
Mariners comeback UW football comeback
Insulting Russia Insulting North Korea
Treasure hunts Private “event spaces”
Fried chicken Bacon
Bakugan Minecraft
Ending the waterfront tunnel Closing movie theaters
“Sweetums” “Bae”
IN THE REALM OF THE SENSELESS, PART 2
Nov 1st, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

Went to the ol’ hometown on Tuesday. Marysville had never been a particularly “fun” or “friendly” place. Even the tiny “old” downtown has essentially no “street life.”

You drive, or are driven, everywhere, across long and increasingly crowded roads between subdivisions, strip malls, churches, schools, the golf course, the casino, the surviving still-rural patches, and the relatively low-density sidewalked streets of the original central town.

Still, there is a sense of community.

And it comes together in times of crisis, of which last week’s is the biggest in years.

These ribbons are in the Marysville-Pilchuck High School colors. When the old Marysville High (in the old town) was merged with the newer Pilchuck campus (out further into the suburban sprawl), the combined institution took Marysville High’s colors (strawberry red and white) and team name (Tomahawks).

We now know a little more about the boy who committed the murder-suicide shootings at Marysville-Pilchuck High. He’d had an emotional breakup with a girlfriend (who didn’t go to MPHS); and he may have wanted to get back at the same-age relatives and friends whom, he may have decided, had helped to cause that breakup.

But it still doesn’t really make any sense.

WHO’S AFRAID OF THE FREMONT FAIR? (NOT MANY.)
Jun 25th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

After last Saturday’s Fremont Solstice Parade, I met up with an acquaintance who asked if this spectacle wasn’t the greatest possible statement against corporate America or something like that.

I told her no, not really.

Hedonism, in and of itself, is not a terribly effective counterforce to consumer capitalism.

“The market” can easily ingest any image or genre of recreational “rebellion,” transform it into something completely commercial, then sell it back to you for big money. (For recent examples, witness the playgrounds of the cyber-rich known as Burning Man and Coachella.)

Above, we see a “political” parade entry. Big business is stereotyped as an octopus in a suit, with big, money-stuffed, claw-shaped hands at the end of each tentacle. Assisting him is an old rabbit-eared TV set, that eternal lefty symbol of all that is supposed to be inherently evil in the media.

This is not to say there wasn’t plenty to contemplate about at the parade and fair.

Or that fun and pleasure are not good things to promote.

The Fremont Parade is like one of author Peter Lamborn Wilson’s old fantasized “temporary autonomous zones.” It’s a place where, for one afternoon a year, the rules of social repression (and clothes-wearing) are suspended; where free expression (albeit within its own set of rules) is championed. A place where a different way of life can, for a while, be imagined.

Actually creating a better world for real takes a different set of disciplines.

COMET CLEANSERS
Apr 11th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

The Comet Tavern reopened to the public on March 31, a little less than six months after it had abruptly closed. Former regulars (from many era of the bar’s history) and curiosity seekers crowded the joint.

The place they entered had been considerably cleaned up. Years (nay, decades) of grafitti, soot, and cigarette-smoke stains had been scrubbed away. Several grody closets had been removed, opening up more of the main barroom. New wooden booths had replaced some wobbly bar tables. The ceiling only had a few old dollar bills taped to it, instead of being covered with them. The bathrooms, and everything within them, were both clean and functional.

Indeed, it still looked mostly as it had looked before. That is to say, it looked mostly as it had since it first opened in the 1930s, as one of Seattle’s first wave of post-Prohibition beer halls.

But the Comet’s “scene,” and its function in the Pike/Pine neighborhood, has changed many times.

A hangout for hippies and bikers in the ’60s, it attracted more of an “art world” crowd by the ’80s. In the early ’90s it was the principal watering hole for “grunge” musicians and their friends.

By the late 2000s it had become a full time live-music venue. It was also a clubhouse for Hate City, a neighborhood skateboard gang; some of its members worked as bouncers and bartenders.

Then on Oct. 2, the Comet suddenly closed.

Reportedly, its then-owner hadn’t paid the rent or the water bill for several months. Even before that, several apparent years’ worth of “deferred maintenance” meant much of its interior looked on the verge of physical collapse.

Many, on and off the Hill, wondered whether the Comet had poured its final pint.

Several would-be buyers announced themselves over the subsequent days and weeks.

The building owners, though, soon chose to deal with people they already knew. David Meinert and Jason Lajeunesse had already opened the Lost Lake retro diner/lounge in the same building.

Besides Meinert and Laneunesse already being known to the landlords, access to Lost Lake’s kitchen meant the Comet could add food, and therefore offer hard liquor, without the Comet needing a new kitchen of its own.

(Just across Pike from the Comet, Meinert and Lajeunesse also co-own Big Mario’s Pizza, and Lajeunesse co-owns the Neumos/Moe Bar/Barboza nightclub complex. Meinert also owns the 5 Point restaurant/bar in Belltown; Lajeunesse also runs the annual Capitol Hill Block Party.)

One of the new owners’ first decisions was to cut the live music from seven nights a week to one midweek night and two weekend matinees. That meant the new Comet would complement, not compete with, Neumos’ shows. It would again be (as it mostly was before 2005) a place to drink and talk, not to see bands.

Another decision was not to rehire the occasionally violent bouncers from the Hate City crew. (I knew a petite woman who’d been worked over badly by them one night there, and was glad to see them gone.)

But the decision to clean up the place was both the most obvious and (probably) the most controversial to the Comet’s former regulars.

A good amount of fixing up had to be done just to get the room back up to various building and occupancy codes.

But by so thoroughly sanitizing one of the city’s last un-reconstructed true dive bars, Meinert and Lajeunesse risked alienating the very regulars they claimed to be trying to please.

Business was brisk on night one. The real question is whether bargoers (old and new) will come back, whether they’ll still find the Comet inviting and comfortable, despite its lack of grime.

While the Comet’s future is more or less assured, other Capitol Hill institutions have been falling to redevelopment projects.

The latest, but undoubtedly not the last: Piecora’s Pizza.

After more than three decades on the Hill, its employees were suddenly given two-week notices on April 1. It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, either. The building’s coming down for yet another new mixed-use midrise.

At least the Piecora family owned the building, and presumably got enough for it to retire.

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

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