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bloomberg.com called amazon’s under-construction hq complex a ‘geek zone, cursed by dullness’ (sean airhart/nbbj via bloomberg)
A few months back, I gave a presentation to a group of retired teachers about my 2006 book Vanishing Seattle.
At the talk, I mentioned how, at the time the book came out, the city seemed to be losing its most beloved people, places, and things at a rapid rate.
These disappearances have only accelerated since then. (Most recently, the Harvard Exit on Capitol Hill, one of the city’s pioneer “art house” cinemas, which closed forever following this year’s SIFF.)
Everywhere you look, funky old buildings are giving way to enormous new buildings.
And it’s all to be blamed, if you believe some wags, on a company that’s more interested in incessant growth than in such business-world niceties as, you know, actually turning a profit.
Late last year, Jeff Reifman posted an essay on GeekWire.com claiming everything we now know and/or love about Seattle could quickly become lost to what he calls “Amageddon,” the total takeover of the city by Amazon.com’s self-styled “code ninjas.” Reifman warns that, unless Amazon’s corporate culture (or its rampant growth in town) is stemmed, the result could be “an unaffordable, traffic-filled metropolis dominated by white males and devoid of independent culture.”
Reifman claims there are three things Amazon could do (other than crashing in a WaMu-like stock bubble) to become a better corporate citizen. It could “advocate for an appropriate tax system in Seattle and Washington state,” commit to hiring more women and minorities, and support programs to help “lower income, lower skilled Seattleites” stay in the city.
But those moves, as noble (and unlikely) as they are, would not change the trend of Amazon (and many smaller dotcoms) importing waves of hyper-aggressive “brogrammers” from out of state, with no knowledge of or affinity toward Seattle’s heritage, only to replace them after an average of one or two years.
(The NYT recently described Amazon as “a bruising workplace,” where “code ninja” programmers are worked into the ground, maternity and illness are treated as treason to the corporate cause, and a hyper-aggressive atmosphere makes it nearly impossible for women to advance.) (A high-ranking Amazonian wrote a long rebuttal to the NYT piece at GeekWire.)
No, what we need is a training program. A crash course in why this city, this place, is something to be celebrated, cherished, nurtured. To encourage our newer citizens to care about more than just their own narrow cliques and their own material existences.
With enough people taking a more active part toward making things here better, we can still be the city that rose from challenge after challenge.
A city that respects its heritage, in its highest and lowest aspects.
A city that could create great things.
Whose engineers and deal-makers brought about the Jet Age, and later “de-fragmented” the chaotic early home-computer business.
Whose progeny have repeatedly pushed the boundaries of art, music, and performance.
A city that’s constantly remade itself; that moved mountains (well, hills), raised streets, lowered lakes, created islands, and planted parks in the most improbable spots.
A city that pioneered in public power (City Light) and public health care (Group Health).
A city that can both love and laugh at itself, creating great comedians and cartoonists along the way.
A city that comes together, not apart, in moments of sadness (the public rallies after 9/11) and sweet triumph (the first day of gay weddings at City Hall).
A city that always took pride in its buildings and other structures, whether sublime (the Olympic Hotel), playful (the Hat n’ Boots), tasteful (the many Craftsman bungalows), or both spectacular AND populist (the Central Library).
Indeed, the library building is a great example of Seattle at its best. Yes, the building qualifies for that hoary overused expression, “world class.” But it’s also a place that simply works. It invites everyone to relax, read, listen, and learn.
It’s a building that’s more than “world class.” It’s Seattle class.
And it’s what we need more of.
Not just in our buildings and construction projects, but in our people, our attitudes, our ambitions.
More than half a century ago, the Century 21 Exposition depicted a Seattle on the move toward a great tomorrow.
Our real life Century 21 might never have flying cars; but it can still become an age built on wonder, optimism, high art, low kitsch, and shared joys.
Reifman has since gone beyond merely complaining about the Big A.
He and artist Kali Snowden have just started a site called Flee the Jungle.
It’s got short essays reiterating Reifman’s complaints about the company, and about its actions (or lack of same) as a local corporate citizen:
“…Amazon’s run by a wealthy libertarian who’s shown only modest concern for his home community as his company’s growth has dramatically impacted the city—good in some ways, but largely problematically in many…”
And it has dozens of links to other e-commerce sites, in many of the umpteen product and service categories in which Amazon’s now involved.
The thing about “disruptive” companies is that someone else can always come along to disrupt them.
To date, Amazon’s been able to crush (or at least hold its own against) the competition in all these lines on its sheer size and muscle, and on its ability to operate unprofitably thanks to loyal shareholders.
But none of those advantages are necessarily permanent or exclusive.
Is there an endgame to all this?
Of course there is.
As I always say, things that are hot now just don’t keep getting even hotter forever. (Except, perhaps, actual climate-related hotness.)
Financial/accounting exec John Spaid, writing at GeekWire, believes Amazon will eventually have to change itself to become profitable, and that those changes will likely include lotsa layoffs in Seattle.
And when that happens, a lot of locals (merchants, landowners, homeowners, etc.) will get burned.
(Cross-posed with City Living Seattle.)
By now, everybody and her brother has said something online, in print, or on the air about the two Black Lives Matter protesters who took over a rally at Westlake Park, thus preventing Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders from making one of his three scheduled Seattle speeches this past Saturday.
My own thoughts, such as they are:
Slog has the basic story of the Bernie Sanders rally that wasn’t; plus thoughts about the event from State Sen. Pramila Jayapal.
Sanders DID get to speak at a $250 a head fundraiser at the Comet (Capitol Hill Seattle), and later to 15,000 (the biggest local political rally in five years) at Hec Ed (Joel Connelly).
Then on Sunday, Sanders spoke to 19,000 at the Portland TrailBlazers’ arena. (AP via KOIN)
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.
Some pseudo-random thoughts about l’Affaire Rachel Dolezal, the just-resigned Spokane NAACP leader who’s claimed at various times to be black, part-black, and Native American, but whose parents claim her to be white (and who have the blonde, blue-eyed childhoood pix to support their claim):
If it weren’t for white people pretending to be black, we’d have no jazz or rock n’ roll or R&B or even hiphop as we know those genres today. American white pop music would still sound like “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?” British pop music would still sound like “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes.”
(We also wouldn’t have sorry minstrel-show acts, macho-baby-boomer blues bands, or fratboy rappers either; but you’ve got to take the bad with the good, right?)
There’s a long-running meme of college-educated white women identifying, or trying to identify, with black women of “lower” castes. It ranges from recent works such as The Help, back to the predominantly white-female audiences for Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. Walker especially depicted Af-Am womanhood as an ultimate embodiment of a specifically feminine wisdom and righteousness.
Could Dolezal, who had Af-Am adopted siblings, have envied their specific “tribal” identity, collective-struggle heritage, etc.? Not for an outsider like me to say.
It can be said that she should have known “being black” involved more than just looks and “soul,” but (as shown gruesomely in recent news items) a continuing legacy on the receiving end of repression, injustice, and brutality. (As Tavis Smiley asks, “Who’d sign up to be black?”)
Dolezal is the second Spokanian to re-invent herself so thoroughly. The first, of course, is Billy Tipton.
Tipton, a small-time jazz pianist and a bio-female who lived as a (hetero) man until his death in 1989, was essentially (in my opinion) a trans who never had reassignment surgery, but who simply tried to create a being and a life for himself and succeeded completely.
Dolezal attempted a similar life-feat, trying to create a present by rewriting her past. Our age of instant information made that ultimately impossible.
There’s nothing wrong, as Smiley’s above-linked essay notes, with being a white person devoted to helping her less race-privileged fellow humans; people who…
…have the courage, conviction and commitment to unapologetically use their white face—and their white voice, hands, feet, head and heart to make America a nation as good as its promise.
…have the courage, conviction and commitment to unapologetically use their white face—and their white voice, hands, feet, head and heart to make America a nation as good as its promise.
The NAACP has (openly) white local and national officers, past and present. More famously, the late Westinghouse and CBS exec Michael H. Jordan (absolutely no relation to the basketball star) was chairman of the United Negro College Fund for a decade.
In the statement announcing her NAACP resignation, Dolezal stated she won’t stop fighting for justice.
Dolezal has been a student, and occasionally a teacher, of Af-Am culture and history. She assuredly knows, both from book-learning and from those in her life, about what black life is really like.
She could have used this knowledge to work at bridging our racial divides.
If she can transcend the unfortunate image of her own “race drag act,” she still can.
Everybody seems to have an opinion or an angle on the tale:
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.
via the hollywood reporter
Once again, I’ve fallen behind on my idealized blog posting rate. And not for any good reason. (Though I am working on a new (kinda-sorta) project, to be announced at a later date.)
It’s sure not for a lack of things to write about. Goodness knows, dudes n’ dudettes are always suggesting those.
Here are some of the topics I could have blogged about in recent days:
yep, she married the guy in the top picture.
Bertha, the humungous deep-bore (or deeply boring) tunnel digging machine, is still stuck under the ground, and won’t resume creating an underground Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement highway until perhaps some time next year.
But that delay won’t stop the rest of the total central-waterfront makeover from going forward.
A new seawall (which won’t protect us from long-term rising sea levels) will resume construction any month now, following a summer hiatus.
And the planning stages for a post-viaduct remake of Alaskan Way’s real estate, combining a surface street with a mile-long pedestrian/recreational “promenade,” continue apace.
At the end of May, the Seattle Office of the Waterfront (waterfrontseattle.org) released a new set of drawings and paintings depicting the project’s latest plans.
Unlike the project organizers’ previous set of sketches, which some online pundits snarked at for depicting all lily-white citizens enjoying the sights, these new illustrations show a healthy variety of skin tones on their make-believe happy citizens.
But the images still depict sizable groups of adults and kids walking about and enjoying sunny, warm days near Elliott Bay.
Days which, as anyone who actually lives here knows, are both precious and rare.
What would this landscaped playground look like the rest of the time?
It would probably look as barren and windswept and unpopulated as the waterfront mostly looks now during the wintertime, only prettier. (Which would, at least, make it friendlier to early-morning joggers and bicycle commuters.)
And, unlike some of the Waterfront Project’s earlier conceptual images, these new paintings don’t make the place seem too precious, too upscale, too (to use a far overused term these days) “world class.”
This is good.
It’s not so good that the fictional laid-back and mellow waterfront enjoyers in the images aren’t doing much of anything.
One image shows some kids splashing around a set of small, floor-level fountains (officially called a “water feature element”) at the planned Union Street Pier (to be built between the Great Wheel and the Seattle Aquarium).
Another image shows a few mellow aging-hipster couples (apparently all hetero) waltzing to the tunes of a small acoustic combo at the same Union Street site at dusk (with the “water feature element” turned off).
Otherwise, the fantasized open-space enjoyers are seen mostly just standing, sitting, strolling, bicycling, and talking on cell phones.
We don’t need a civic “front lawn;” the Olympic Sculpture Park already serves that function.
We need a civic “back yard.”
If we can’t have industry on the central waterfront in the container-cargo age, we can at least have industrious leisure there.
I want (at least seasonally) food trucks and hot dog carts, art fairs and circus/vaudeville acts. I want a summer concert series like the waterfront had years ago. I want a roller coaster to complement the Seattle Great Wheel, and smaller amusement attractions and rides nearby (finally replacing Seattle Center’s sorely missed Fun Forest).
Some of these events and attractions would require ongoing funding. The Waterfront Project doesn’t have that funding authority; its duty is only to design and build the promenade and to rebuild piers 62-63, using a part of the funding for the viaduct replacement.
So activities in this area, along the promenade and the rebuilt piers 62/63, would need to be supported separately. The Seattle Parks Department is having enough trouble supporting its current operations. But a semi-commercial amusement area, with concession and ride operators paying franchise fees, could support a variety of warm-weather-season activities and at least some off-season events.
(Cross posted with City Living Seattle.)
It’s usually awkward to be outed as a flaming racist.
It’s infinitely worse when you are in certain lines of business.
Owning a professional basketball team is one of those lines of business.
So, after all hopes of the scandal “blowing over” evaporated, rookie NBA commissioner Adam Silver put a “banned for life” fatwa on LA Clippers owner/racist/adulterer Donald Sterling.
This means, among other things, that Sterling can’t attend games or take an active management role in the team that he still, for now, majority-owns. He’ll be encouraged, but apparently not forced (at least not yet), to sell the team. That last part could conceivably lead to a court case.
Yet, already the rumors are abuzz that the Clippers could (just could, mind you) potentially move to Seattle.
Obviously a lot would need to occur for that to happen.
Sterling would need to be eased, or forced, out.
Other LA buyers would have to be turned down in favor of Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen. (Former Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz has supposedly talked, or been talked about, about fronting a group to buy the team.)
The Clippers’ share of Staples Center would have to be sold back to the Lakers and the NHL’s LA Kings.
The league’s other team owners would have to be convinced that having two teams in the #2 TV market (even if that second team is the traditionally hapless Clippers) would be less lucrative than regaining a team in the #12 TV market.
But think of the possibilities: If the Clippers were co-owned by an ex-Microsoft CEO, they could bring back the old Windows Office Assistant mascot “Clippy”!
Since most of my most loyal readers will have other things to do on Sunday afternoon, here’s some relatively timeless randomosity for whenever you log back in:
(The title of this post continues with the Sinatra-esque title treatment of the previous post.)
The Seahawks are off to the Super Bowl for the second time in team history. Just like the last time, you can expect all the national media to be against us. It’s going to be all “THE GREAT LEGENDARY PEYTON MANNING and some other team.”
Or that’s how it was going to be, until certain online commentators found a hate object.
Yeah, Richard Sherman is loud.
Yeah, he talked like a trash-talking wrestler during his impromptu sideline interview just after the game.
No, he was not, and is not, a “goon” or a “thug.” (He’s really a thoughtful young man who gives generously to charity.)
And no, his remarks do not justify idiotic racist bigotry.
The game’s striking ending, in which Sherman’s tip-away of a touchdown pass preserved the Seahawks’ lead with less than half a minute to go, was the climax of a huge day that capped a huge season.
It had been a day of high hopes and high fears.
The 2013-14 Seahawks had united this region in ways I didn’t think possible. Even some sports-hating hippies got into the fever.
The pregame festivities outside the stadium were a glorious cacophony of enthusiasm, pride, joy, and (yes) love.
And, yeah, maybe a little bit of bragging. Like when a lot of us noticed that one of the two Pioneer Square bars taken over by 49er fans was the New Orleans—namesake of the Seahawks’ previous playoff conquest.
(The “pegging” in the above photo was only with small water balloons, and was a school fundraiser, though they never said for which school.)
A nice lady gave me this cupcake decorated with Skittles (a product of Mars, originally founded in Tacoma), and a plastic kid-size Seahawks helmet ring.
Eventually, though, it came time to gather inside the stadium, to private parties, or to bars (such as Safeco Field’s “The ‘Pen”; yes, the Mariners learned to make a few bucks from a neighbor team’s success). I dutifully found myself back in Belltown, cheering on the team with about 40 other rabid fans.
And, as you undoubtedly know by now, it was a knuckle biter of an experience.
Our boys were down (but not by much) the entire first half, broken by a short-lived tie in the third quarter. They only took the lead early in the fourth quarter, and held precariously to that lead until Sherman’s final pass deflection.
The whole bar I was at became noisy as hell after that, and remained that way for a good half hour afterward.
Then the party spilled into the streets, with revelers driving and marching up First Avenue from the stadium. Revelry continued well into the night.
Something tells me the Super Bowl itself (which will occur in East Rutherford NJ, despite what the promo ads may say), even when we win it, might feel anticlimactic in comparison.
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.
pelican bay foundation via capitolhillseattle.com
First, another “sorry folks” for not getting something up to the site lately. I know some of you enjoy these li’l linx, even when I don’t have a major essay about something.
For now, back to Randomosity:
It is the quintessential Northwest cafe—rustic industrial meets cozy 1950s Modern nostalgia in a beautiful, double-height corner space. It manages to feel warm, inviting, and communal all at once, even when the acres of windows are filled with oppressively gray Seattle skies.