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MISCmedia MAIL for 5/2/16: WAITING FOR THE END OF THE WORLD
May 1st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

lineup at abercrombie copyMay Day Anarchy 2016 would seem like a farcical exercise, except that people got really hurt. We also explore the looming final (sorta) step in the Sonics Arena saga; the climate-change kids’  court victory; more backlash against the Nooksacks’ “disenrollments;” and a tech-connected print-book publisher folding.

MISCmedia MAIL for the Twentieth Day of April 2016
Apr 19th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

As the temps thankfully cool off (for now), our observant eyes observe the Bauhaus Coffee resurrection and its discontents; the sad end to the Ballard Locks whale story; a sort-of push against rental-housing discrimination; the Tacoma methanol plant plan’s death; and just one of Microsoft’s cash-stashing schemes.

MISCmedia MAIL for 4/19/16
Apr 18th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

In the heat-O-the-night, we observe a West Seattle landmark restored; an important GLBTQ institution threatened; a Hanford waste tank leaking; car-share service in the south end lacking; and Nordstrom’s Seattle office staff shrinking.

MISCmedia MAIL for 3/28/16
Mar 28th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

We’re back to the post-holiday daze, waiting for the dry and warm weather that’s been predicted, and reading about the mess that’s been the massive Metro-bus morphing; Portland encouraging the homeless to leave town; the living-wage movement’s progress; racist vandalism; and the premise that wildfires can be good for the rural economy.

MISCmedia MAIL for 3/21/16
Mar 20th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Spring is here and so are we, with a NIMBY assailant playing the “victim” card; another potentially doomed movie palace; whether or not teachers really need more pay (spoiler: they do); crow brains; and the lovely new light-rail stations.

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.

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”
MISCmedia MAIL for 12/8/15: SOLITUDE AMONG THE RUINS
Dec 8th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

eitel ruins

tiffany von arnim

In Tuesday’s e-missive: a visit to the beautifully decrepit Eitel Building before it gets “restored”; a rural school district may be charter schools’ legal savior; Comcast offers Seattle a slightly better franchise deal; and a brief thought about the John Lennon shooting’s anniversary.

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.)

POST SCRIPTS
Sep 3rd, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

postcard 11a

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.

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.)

 

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.

 

 

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