Mar 13th, 1996 by Clark Humphrey

WELCOME BACK to your Ides-O-March Misc., the pop-culture column that amusedly notes the first wedding of the age of media mergers, in which the widow of the publisher of the Spokane Spokesman-Review married the retired publisher of the NY Times. Who said you can’t get far in the journalism biz these days?

UPDATE #1: The state legislature’s regular session expired with hundreds of conservative-social-agenda bills allowed to die. Among these was the Senate bill to drive strip clubs out of business via over-regulation, discussed here two weeks back. House members apparently felt the bill wouldn’t survive club operators’ lawsuits. Also gone, for this year at least, are bills to ban gay marriages, require parental consent for high-school HIV education, etc. Most of these proposals (except the anti-stripping bill) were introduced by Religious Right-friendly House Republicans but blocked by Senate Democrats. The Repo men hope to capture both chambers this November. You oughta work to try and stop that.

UPDATE #2: I asked you a few weeks back to suggest Disneyland character mascots for what might become the Anaheim Ex-Seahawks. Choices included Scrooge McDuck (natch), Jafar, and Cruella DeVil. My favorite was from the reader who, commenting on recent Seahawk seasons, recommended Sleepy.

COINCIDENCE OR…?: The guy who played Henry Blake on the M*A*S*H TV show and the guy who played Blake in the movie died within days of one another. Talk about becoming one with your role!

AD SLOGAN OF THE WEEK (seen in the Stranger for the Backstage, 3/6): “Maria McKee: A Punk Edith Piaf.” Don’t bait me here, guys. The real Piaf was punker than you, me, or McKee will ever be. Ever heard her version of Lieber & Stoller’s “Black Leather Trousers and Motorcycle Boots”? Didn’t think so.

LOCAL PUBLICATION OF THE WEEK: The P!pe is a tabloid run by ex-International Examiner staffer Soyon Im, who sez he wants “to debunk the myth that anything cool with Asian Americans is happening down in San Francisco or L.A.” It also helps debunk the squaresville reputation of King County’s large Asian American community. Issue #1 packs eight pages with stuff about Indian dance music, Japanese power pop, Korean fashions, “Pan-Asian” restaurants, Chinese-American comix, Vietnamese travelogue photos, Taiwanese interracial relationships, and old Japanese erotic art. There’s even a sex-advice column (where’d they get that concept?) by “Soybean Milkchick,” assuring readers there’s nothing deficient about Asian-American manhood. (In other words, don’t feel bad if you don’t look like the guys in that old Japanese erotic art.) At Pistil Books and elsewhere.

ONE TOO MANY?: Cocktail Nation hype has hit overdrive, less than two years after the first Combustible Edison record (albeit 15 years after Throbbing Gristle did its homage to Martin Denny). A glance at the “Cocktail Mania” display at Borders Music shows how nearly every record label with old middle-of-the-road instrumentals in its vaults is repackaging that material as something hip n’ ironic. And a local indie TV producer’s currently trying to launch a weekly entertainment-talk show called Atomic Lounge. Don’t be surprised if reproduction smoking jackets show up this fall in the Tiger Shop.

PAT-APHYSICS: Buchanan’s proving to be more than just another lifetime DC political/ media insider pretending to be an “outsider.” His (momentary?) campaign success signals the first significant crack in the GOP’s 16-year ruling coalition of fundamentalists and corporations (something I’ve been predicting or at least desiring for some time). About a quarter of the things he says (the parts about the plight of the downsized and the ripoff that is “free” trade) make more sense than what the other Republicans say. It’s just the other three quarters of the things he says are so freakish (the tirades against gays, feminists, immigrants, pro-choice advocates, and other humans guilty only of not belonging to his target demographic). If there’s hope, it’s that Buchanan’s polls rose after he started downplaying the hatefest talk and emphasizing the anti-corporate talk. Why’s the only candidate to challenge the sanctity of big money also the biggest bigot and bully? Why don’t any national-level Democrats speak against the corporate power-grab like Pat does?

Mar 6th, 1996 by Clark Humphrey

WELCOME BACK TO MISC., the pop-culture column that still gets slightly disoriented when given a “Welcome to Fred Meyer” bag upon leaving the store.

SITE LINES: Adobe Systems is looking for new area digs for the Seattle software operation formerly known as Aldus, and possibly also for some of its currently Calif.-based divisions. I got just one piece-O-advice to the desktop publishing giant: keep it in town. You’re being tempted by developers to move to some soulless office park on some Eastside flood plain. But part of what made Aldus great was that it was in Pio. Square. The firm attracted people who liked walking to Ivar’s or to Mariner games. I believe this helped grow a corporate culture of creative, energetic people who could listen to others, including the people who used your warez; as opposed to the cult-like groupthink seen within certain office-park outfits.

ON A LONELY SATELLITE: Some of you can get 30 channels of DBX satellite music on your cable TV system. But what I want are the 60 extra channels the DBX company offers retailers and other clients via satellite dish. Instead of just mainstreamed selections like “Top Hits” and “R&B Oldies,” I could choose from polka, mariachi, Hawaiian, Danish, Greek, Brazilian, Indian, “Euro Pop,” “Canto Pop” (that’s Cantonese), “Traditional South African,” and that all-time fave “German Schlagers!”

AD VERBS #1: Denny’s sponsored the Harlem Globetrotters 70th Anniversary tour, which stopped in Seattle during African-American History Month. Let’s see, twelve Globetrotter players plus the sham-opposition team, trainers, and roadies… The restaurant chain instantly doubles its black employment!

AD VERBS #2: You may have been bemused by the Nike commercial with snippets of Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (as remade by KRS-One) alongside images of street basketball players; defining “the revolution” as mere recreation and fashion. Now the hypocrisy deepens. Nike and its ad agency Weiden & Kennedy have hired Scott-Heron as a consultant for a planned Nike-owned cable channel. The channel has no name or launch date; but you can expect it to rival MTV in associating “rebel” youth culture with the purchase and use of apparel and other consumer products. You can also safely bet it’ll never promote any “revolutionary” thinking which might question companies that export all their manufacturing jobs to pennies-a-day Asian sweatshops and spend all the “saved” expenses on dorky ads.

SPACE CASES: The pitifully thin ranks of Seattle all-ages concert spaces briefly increased by one before shrinking again. The venerable Showbox got special dispensation from the Liquor Board to run all-ages shows under strict conditions. Ever-zealous authorities spotted a relatively minor violation of one of those conditions one night, and promptly decreed the joint 21-and-over for all further events. This was two days before the Throwing Muses gig; promoters had to refund 200 tickets from under-21ers. The onetime punk palace has since changed management (again), so don’t blame that fiasco on the guys there now. Instead, keep questioning why our Powers That Be keep making all-ages music so hard to get put on and so easy to get shut down.

MIKE TAKES A HIKE: It’s a rise-n’-fall tale almost Shakespearean if it weren’t so mundane: A politician who used his out-of-step appearance and social sense to symbolize his devotion to unfashionable policies; who did more things for more people (or tried to) than any Washingtonian since the Scoop-Maggie gravy train; whose downfall came not from opponents but from a trusted aide who’d had enough of his social manners or lack thereof, as expressed thru unwanted “bear hugs.”

We may not have seen the last of Gov. Lowry, but neither may we see anyone like him again soon. And that’s a shame. He lived both in the world of three-martini politicians and that of six-fingered sawmill workers. He used the means of mainstream politics to help those outside the mainstream, at a time when politicians prefer to work chiefly for the overprivileged. (He even dared oppose tax rollbacks for Sacred Business!) And at a time when even many coffeehouse “leftists” ignore class issues or even sneer at working-class people, we need Lowry’s progressive populism more than ever.

Feb 28th, 1996 by Clark Humphrey

MISC. DOESN’T BELIEVE everything’s cyclical, but still finds it cute when something that goes around comes around again. F’rinstance, local mainstream retailers seem again interested in exploiting the popularity of the local music scene. Why just last week, the E. Madison Shop-Rite had its neon sign altered, either deliberately or by accident, to read 1ST HILL FOO CENTER.

INDECISION ’96: Drat. Now I won’t get to recycle old druggie jokes about “a really bad Gramm.”

LEGISLATURE WANTS TO BAN STRIP CLUBS: When lap dancing is outlawed, only outlaws will wear buttfloss. But seriously, our elected guardians of hypocrisy are out to kill, via punitive over-regulation, one of the state’s growth industries, employing as many as 500 performing artists in King County alone, many of whom support other artistic endeavors with their earnings. (Old joke once told to me: “What does a stripper do with her asshole before she goes to work? Drops him off at band practice.”)

Yes, these can be sleazy joints, drawing big bucks by preying on human loneliness. Yes, in a more perfect world these clubs’ workforce would have more fulfilling employment and their clientele would have more fulfilling sex lives instead of costly fantasies. Yes, no organized political faction is willing to defend them (‘cept maybe some sanctity-of-the-entrepreneur Liberterians). But if we let the state’s sultans of sanctimony outlaw something just ’cause they think it’s icky, there’s a lot of gay, lesbian, S/M and other stuff they’d love to ban next.

REELING: You’ve heard about the Oscar nominations representing a surprising triumph for “independent” cinema. I’m not so sure. Just as the global entertainment giants have created and/ or bought pseudo-indie record labels, so have they taken charge of “independent” cinema. The Independents magazine given out at 7 Gables theaters lists the following participating sponsor/ distributors: Sony Pictures Classics, Fox Searchlight Films, Fine Line Features (owned by Turner Broadcasting, along with New Line and Castle Rock; all soon to be folded into Time Warner), Miramax (Disney), and Gramercy (PolyGram).

Seven Gables’ parent firm, the Samuel Goldwyn Co., just became a sister company to Orion, which at its peak was considered a “mini-major” but is indie enough for my purposes here. And there are a few other real indies still out there, including Jodie Foster’s Egg Films. But between buying up the domestic little guys and crowding out foreign producers, the Hollywood majors (half now non-US owned) are on their way to monopolizing everything on big screens everywhere in the world. Speaking of silenced voices…

THE OTHER SIDE: This paper’s reported how ethnic-rights and environmental activists in Nigeria have faced arrest, torture, and execution. The Nigerian govt. defended itself in a slick eight-page ad supplement running only in African-American papers (includingThe Skanner here). In the same quaintly stilted 3rd World PR prose style seen in the USA Today ad section Our World, the supplement extols the west African nation as a land of “Investment Opportunities” and “Investment Incentives,” whose rulers are “Truly Peace Makers and Peace Keepers.” The center spread insists the country’s military junta’s still on “The Road to Democracy” (“Only those detractors who deliberately persist in a negative view of Nigerians and their efforts fail to take account of all that Nigerians have achieved in a short time”).

The junta’s execution of opposition leader Ken Saro-Wiwa is discussed on the back page, in a “Letter to the Editor” by Af-Am conservative Rev. Maurice Dawkins: “The Nigerians are learning the hard way that the majority media and the international liberal left network is a dangerous foe.” Dawkins denounces Saro-Wiwa as “a terrorist determined to overthrow the government” and his anti-junta movement as “a group of bandits;” justifies the crackdown against his movement under “the right of a soverign nation to conduct business and maintain law and order within its borders,” and accuses the junta’s western critics of holding “a racist double standard, depicted by misinformation and disinformation.” In short, the persecutors are re-imaged as the persecuted–a classic Limbaughan doublespeak technique.

PASSAGE (British-Israeli-American social critic Eli Khamarov in Surviving on Planet Reebok): ” People are inherently good. Bad people are created by other bad people; their survival is guaranteed because of their safety in numbers.”

Nov 20th, 1995 by Clark Humphrey

I’m Pseudo-Black and I’m Proud:

Kwanzaa for White B-Boyz

Original online essay, 11/20/95

This goes out to the phat n’ phunky white kids, hangin’ at the malls in their butt-cleavage threads and chuggin’ from 40-ouncers.

You might not know it, but you’re part of an American tradition of caucasian hip-wannabes remaking last year’s Black cultural stances into this year’s lifestyle uniforms.

Thing is, once whites start copying a black style, blacks do something else. When hippies took over electric blues, blacks went to soul. When soul became the property of Brit teen idols, rap emerged. Now that you’re the main gangsta market, Af-Am kids are listening to prosocial R&B harmonizers, as part of the Black Pride thang.

Another part of Black Pride is Kwanzaa. That’s a non-religious holiday created in 1966 by Black Studies prof Dr. Maulana Karenga. The name means “the first fruits of the harvest” in Swahili.

Here’s the short version of how it works: Each day from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, Kwanzaa celebrants hold a simple home ceremony at a table decorated with straw, fruit, ears of corn, a communal cup, and seven candles. They light one candle and speak about one of the holiday’s seven principles: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujama(cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith).

That’s a long ways from the glorified lowlife white kids love about gangsta music. But to be an ahead-of-the-curve hipster is to fake today’s blackness, not yesterday’s white fake blackness. Otherwise you’ll look as dorky as Dan Aykroyd’s Elwood Blues bit looks today.

So put down that malt liquor (you probably don’t like the stuff really). Get one of Karenga’s books, like Kwanzaa: Origin, Concepts, Practice. He writes for descendents of the African Diaspora, but a lot of his message has universal meaning, including the part about how “History is Knowledge, Identity and Power.” Kwanzaa yenu iwe na heri (Happy Kwanzaa).

Nov 1st, 1995 by Clark Humphrey

CORREC: Sorry for misstating the first name of syndicated talk-radio goon Bob Grant a few weeks back. Incidentally, an out-of-town reader of the Misc. World HQ website emailed to say he’d followed Grant’s local NYC show for years, and he believed Grant’s racially-charged demagoguery wasn’t based on organized white-supremacist ideology but on simple obnoxiousness–as if that makes it any better.

DUDS: The new downtown Ross Dress for Less is all done up inside like a mall store, with all the old Woolworth magic gutted out of the building. And they don’t have my favorite Woolworth apparel section, the $17 fedoras. But the new store’s something downtown’s needed since the demise of the Bon Budget Floor in the late ’80s. It’s a place where non-yups can actually buy useful products. And I do like the Giant Wall Of Sox downstairs. As Seattle’s business establishment and the politicians it owns keep striving to turn this into a city By The Upscale, Of The Upscale and For The Upscale, I invite all of you to regularly visit the Wall Of Sox and meditate on its deeper meaning, representing what residents really need from a city. (Now if we could only get a store that brought back some of the key Woolworth features: the fedoras, the bins of bridge-mix candy, the shelf of easy-crossword and confessions magazines.)

JUNK FOOD OF THE WEEK: Squeeze Cone, made by the Amurol unit of Wrigley’s, is a chocolate-flavored corn syrup concoction in a toothpaste-like tube. The experience is akin to gorging on the gooey insides of off-price assorted box chocolates without the milk-chocolate outsides.

A GREAT GIFT IDEA: Out-of-town readers in search of more non-mall maniacal media now have another option. The WFMU Catalog of Curiosities, put out by a college radio station that somehow survived the mid-’80s demise of the college that owned it, has gone national. It comes from the same North Jersey suburbs where Nickelodeon films The Adventures of Pete & Pete, and displays a similarly Petean attitude toward defining what others would call “weirdness” as the stuff of everyday reality. You know you’re reading the right catalog when the first page offers an import CD of William Shatner’s infamous spoken-word LP The Transformed Man, followed on the very next page by a Sun Ra retrospective. But there’s more: Music from legendary amateurs theShaggs and the late Pere Ubu co-founder Peter Laughner! The Mondo Cane and Forbidden Planet soundtracks! Tapes of Mexican border-radio announcers hawking scrotum implants made from goat glands as a supposed cure for impotence! Books of “outsider art” and conspiracy theories. I could tell immediately WFMU’s my kinda people; and I’ve never even heard their station. The catalog’s free from P.O. Box 1568, Montclair, NJ 07042, or online at <<http://www.wfmu.org>>.

DUNNO ‘BOUT YOU, BUT: LOVE that salad-in-a-bag. Green leafy vegetables as a convenience food, who’da thunk it?… Overheard at Tower Records: “I normally don’t care for alternative music, but I like Candlebox…” It’s just so dang fun to re-use America Online’s freebie floppy discs to store files downloaded from the Internet… If you seek the next stage in the lounge-music revival, check out the Sazerac Sextet. They carefully straddle that delicate cusp between that safe tongue-in-cheek lounge sensation so popular these days and the naked despair of Edith Piaf/ Billie Holiday territory… Great to see The Baffler back after an interminable absence for another carefully thought-out treatise on the survival of human values in the Age of Marketing. This one takes particular aim at the Gingrich/ Toffler “promise” that in the CyberFuture everybody will live in the suburbs, as if we all wanted to… I normally have little nice to say about media mega-mergers, but the possible Time Warner-Turner deal will mean Warner Bros. will finally regain control of all the Warner cartoons, allowing for more complete home-video collections (but also more latter-day censorship of classic violent gag scenes)…

(Those who missed my prior promos for Loser: The Real Seattle Music Story can attend a free talking/ signing event next Friday afternoon, Nov. 10, 3-4 p.m., at the University Book Store.)

Oct 25th, 1995 by Clark Humphrey

I COULD SAY I now know what it was like to be a Cubs fan in ’84 or a Red Sox fan any year, but will instead just say: Damn fine ride. All possible kudos to the players, the coaches, and especially to Dave & Rick.

I’VE GOT IT: Here’s the way to make that maybe-finally-funded but yet-undesigned retractable-roof Son-of-Kingdome thang a better investment, and attract the last major-league sport we haven’t yet got: Make it the world’s first combination baseball-hockey arena! Just make the natural-turf baseball surface in a removable-tile format (that’s how they made instant natural-turf fields in some of the stadia for World Cup soccer last year). Then acquire some of those mobile bleachers like they use for Kingdome basketball. Then bring in whatever they use to make that temporary rink inside the Flag Pavilion at Xmas and stick it on top of the whatever floor’s left when the boxes of turf-tiles are trucked away for the winter. Even if we don’t get an NHL team (what with Seattle money investing in Vancouver’s team and Portland’s franchise try), truck-away turf would let the new ballpark be used as an off-season Kingdome annex for car and boat shows.

THE BROTHER ‘HOOD: Watched parts of the Million Man March on C-SPAN and CNN. The former’s unedited coverage was better, but CNN’s mix of speech segments, commercials and “analysis” brought up some of its own issues. The transitions between the sea of solemn Af-Am faces in the crowd and the pale yup models in the commercials was enough to bring home the message about America’s continuing class struggles.

CATHODE CORNER: You can now see Mystery Science Theater 3000 (the show with a guy and some robot puppets heckling bad sci-fi movies) even if you don’t live in a Viacom Cable neighborhood, thanks to KCPQ. The syndicated rerun version’s only an hour, so the movies are heavily truncated and/or split into two episodes. And so far they’re showing only films from the same repertoire of a couple dozen public domain 50’s badfilms that have circulated the cheapo-video circuit forever (probably due to trouble getting syndication rights to still-copyrighted B flicks). But at least there’s now something for Saturday stay-homes to watch at midnight that’s not the reeking undead corpse of SNL.

CONFIDENTIAL TO RYAN B.: Yes, I know Soma magazine’s a pathetic goop of “cliché generational angst” and “anti-marketing marketing.” But it’s no more so than any of those other 20-odd pretentious Frisco mags that claim to cover “The West Coast” but end up only writing about Frisco. At least the title’s appropriate, taken from a cutesy name for a “restored” ex-industrial district there but reminiscent of the mind-control drug in Brave New World. Speaking of printed effluent-for-the-affluent…

I KNOW I PROMISED to cease Weekly-bashing and stick to going after more worthy targets, but I couldn’t resist its sarcastic, classist ad depicting a glass-eyed, square-jawed, power-suited reactionary yuppie as its mythical average reader under the headline “One of the punk rock weirdos you’ll find in the Seattle Weekly/ EastsideWeek personals.”

MISC.’s TOP 6: I Should Coco, Supergrass (Capitol)… VCRs that mark recording/ playback progress in minutes and seconds, not “counter” numbers… The “Opportunities” ads in USA Today offering prepostrously unlikely franchise or multi-level-marketing schemes… Endust for Electronics (Johnson Wax)… The Total Package: The Evolution and Secret Meaning of Boxes, Bottles, Cans, and Tubes, Thomas Hine (Little, Brown & Co.)… The downscale, pulp-paper, ’60s-’70s men’s magazines sold at That’s Atomic on E. Olive (mags that relied less on sex than on faux-Spillane tuff-guy writing and garish graphics)…

MISC.’s BOTTOM 2: Internet service providers that go down for whole weekends, leaving users in acute Web Withdrawal… The slowness of America’s bookstore distribution system…

(Thanks to those who overcame the Sunday-night weather and Mariner Fever to attend my book release party and see four of the rockin’-est sets-O-tunes ever performed. The book itself (Loser: The Real Seattle Music Story) oughta be in more stores this week. As always, info’s on the Misc. World HQ website.)

Oct 18th, 1995 by Clark Humphrey

AGAIN THIS WEEK, my early deadlines prevent me from commenting on the Ms/ Cleveland series. But I can talk about the strangely hostility-free jubilation after the four home victories that led to it. The outside-the-Kingdome postgame celebrations were described by one eyewitness as “loud and happy, not obnoxious or rude. It wasn’t like New York after a championship or Detroit after a championship. It was like Seattle after a championship.” Also of note: Fans who remembered the Sonics’ 1979 championship year found a new reason to hate sportscaster Brent Musburger. He dissed the Sonics then, and this time peppered his ABC anchor duties with East Coast-patronizing swipes at our “no name team” that he thought only got this far ‘cuz California folded. It’s no news to his distant cousin, local utility drummer Mike Musburger, who’s used to apologizing for the actions of a relative he’s never met.

‘ROUND THIS TIME previous years, the Kingdome used to host the annual Manufactured Housing Expo. It’s now held at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma. Last year’s Kingdome closure had something to do with the move, but it’s wiser for what used to be the “mobile home” industry to have its showcase closer to the path of new suburban development. Here in town, only a few small areas are zoned for factory-built housing, and they’re threatened by redevelopment. One of Seattle’s last big mobile home parks on Aurora was razed this past summer for a Home Depot, that shrine to the stick-built house. Still, the Kingdome was a great site for the show. They used to build a mini-neighborhood on the AstroTurf, with walkways lined with plastic landscaping. ‘Twas a fantasy world reminiscent of the domed cities in which, according to the World of Tomorrow exhibit at the ’62 Seattle World’s Fair, we’d all be living by now.

DEAD AIR DEPT.: It’s been about a month since the censorship-by-firing of Jim Hightower by ABC Radio, the people who have no qualms about bringing you avowed white-supremacist Tom Grant. Hightower’s now looking for another syndicator to revive his show. Besides being a hoot-and-a-half to listen to, the Austin sagebrush sage had the only national talk-radio show that dared question Big Money’s stranglehold on public policymaking. He probably wouldn’t have gotten into trouble with the network brass had he limited his barbs to politicians. In the corporate-media world, you can be more or less as “political” as you like, as long as you never challenge the sanctity of business. Speaking of pro-business “political” media…

DEPT. OF AMPLIFICATION: When I dissed George magazine recently, I neglected to mention the two good parts of its “Inagural Issue.” First was a comprehensive report on Krist Novoselic and the JAMPAC anti-censorship crusade. The other was a short piece by ex-Rocket scribe Karrie Jacobs about a proposed Women Veterans’ Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, drolly undertstating how its architects plan a main rotunda area with a glass ceiling.

HOME BODIES: Remember a few months back when we printed a call for volunteer models for some nude Seattle greeting cards? They’re finally out. Anecdote Productions’ $2 cards feature black-and-white tableaux posed at or outside Moe, the Mecca, the Wildrose, Rosebud Espresso, Cafe Paradiso, Glamorama, the Triangle Tavern, Urban Flowers, the Comet, Dick’s on Broadway, and (natch) the Pike Place Market and the Fremont Troll. They depict a variety of young-adult ladies and gents going about their everyday business, oblivious to the camera and unaware that there’s anything un-everyday about public threadlessness. They’re sexy in a wholesome, clean-cut-American sorta way. But they also invoke a deeper longing for a currently nonexistent way of life, one more “free” and unpretentious yet still totally social and urbane, not hippy-dippy “natural.” Available at M. Coy Books at 2nd and Pine.

‘TIL NEXT TIME, check out the low-key, lounge-y Charles Grodin talk show on CNBC, visit the Candy Barrell store in Pio. Sq. (one of the few places in town where you can still get Clark’s Slo-Poke suckers), and ponder these words of Wm. Blake from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-93: “Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.”

Oct 9th, 1995 by Clark Humphrey

In Praise of Male Heterosexuality

Original online essay, 1/9/95

I write to defend, yea to praise, the most commercially exploited sexuality in the so-called “mainstream” culture and the most viciously disrespected sexuality in the so-called “alternative” culture.

I assert that male heterosexuality is just as valid a lifestyle as female and/ or gay sexuality, and that male heterosexuals are just as human as women and gays. Not superior, but not inferior either.

The male heterosexuality I praise is neither the crude stereotype presented by the commercial sex industry (which seeks to turn men into mindless stimulus-response machines) nor that presented by the anti-porn movement (which avers that men already are such machines). Nor is it the “mystic warrior” stereotype (often a regression to presexual YMCA/ Boy Scout notions of “playing Indian”), nor the postmodern masochist (all too eager to accept self-pitiful guilt trips over other men’s crimes), nor the crude sexual boasting of “macho” rappers and metalheads (all about playing dumb power games with other guys and nothing about reaching out toward a woman’s heart).

No, I praise the man of passion and soul, of heart and joy, of unpretentious self-confidence and mutual respect, the man who eats and drinks and makes love with a big heart, who gives his lust to a woman while receiving grace from her and vice versa.

It is this passion, this yang zest for living and loving, that is obscenely absent from most manifestations of “sexual liberation” inside the “alternative” culture.

Without going too far into my private affairs, I will admit that I’m still on the path toward discovering my passions and releasing my inhibitions. But at least I know now where I need to be. I need to explore the fullness of my positive male self.

This does not mean by becoming a mere consumer of corporate sex, which is even more life-denying and unfulfilling than corporate food or corporate entertainment.

Nor does it mean the soulless “casual sex” advocated by the Hipster Chamber of Commerce types in NY, LA and especially SF. TheCyborgasm CD, hyped to death in the Frisco “alternative” media, is as loveless a formula product as any XXX video. And S/M can be equally life-denying. Of all the pictures in the recent local “Definitive Erotica” fetish-photo exhibit, only one held any real eroticism. It was also the only picture in which the two models appeared to like one another.

Perhaps love’s opposite isn’t hate or even indifference but power. It’s easy for some of us to see the destructive effects of power madness in the political Right. It can be harder to see it within ourselves. Power madness destroys the heart through the mind, by instilling the false but oh-so-tempting concept of Good People and Bad People (instead of average people who do good and bad things).

The people (of any demographic or political stripe) who claim to be The Good People are the ones who most need to be confronted with their averageness. That’s one of the things sex can teach you, that you’re not one separate loner rebel but a node of the biological continuum.

The devilish temptation of power is not the exclusive property of the Right. You see it in gay bars that use slogans like “Dare to be Different” then post a six-foot-long dress code inside the door. You see it in new-age “men’s movement” zines that promote misogyny in the guise of denouncing misandry. You see it in the stifling codes of thought emanating not only from the Right (denouncing almost all sexualities) but also from the neo-Puritan Left (endorsing almost all sexualities except het-male). And yes, you see it in “radical” ideologies that brand straight men as one mass entity of cruel, idiotic woman-haters.

The true heterosexual male, in my definition, doesn’t hate women. He likes them, having alredy learned to like himself. He takes honest pride in abetting the life and dreams of the woman he loves. The Mahabarata said that “the mark of an efficient society is its respect for women.” In olden days when life was physically tougher and women didn’t get enough iron in their diet, supporting women meant one thing. In this age of coed workplaces and two-career couples, supporting women means helping them achieve their goals in and out of the home.

Feminists and gays should invite the support of sympathetic het-males, not spread oversimplistic stereotypes against them. To engage in gender-bigotry is to tacitly, indirectly accept its use–including its use by those who would use it against you. To demand that more men behave humanely, you must first acknowledge those men who already do. And in the Age of Newt, progressive elements need all the sincere supporters they can get, right?

Besides, without an acknowledgement of a positive role for male yang energy, the Left is bereft of the psychic and emotional means to take charge. It can react (passively or aggressively) against the Right’s actions well enough, but it can’t take proactive steps to promote any agenda of its own.

Sexual love, whatever the genders of its participants, ought to be about breaking down the walls between souls, not building them up. Intimate ecstasy is the abandonment of individualistic power trips. It’s the willful sacrifice of cold individualism for the sake of building something stronger.

Real lovemaking, particularly real hetero lovemaking, its most spiritual level is about discovering and connecting on every level with a life force outside and different from yourself. It’s about the yang becoming enveloped by the yin; what a new-age yoga book described as “the jewel in the lotus.”

This is something far beyond the mechanical sex of the porn industry or the even more mechanical sex of much “alternative” erotica (e.g., the Mondo 2000 dream of one day being able to masturbate with robots–yecch!).

I do not condemn the sex industry or its clientele; a starving person without access to a homecooked feast will find at least some sustenance from an Egg McMuffin. And face it, an Egg McMuffin can seem downright tasty at the right time and context. But those who always settle for the most expedient never learn to train their palates.

My vision of het-male sexuality at its best is of a passion, of the Lust for Life that Van Gogh and Iggy Pop advocated in their own ways (not to mention Henry Miller or Cobain). It’s a vision of blood as the life force, the elixer that feeds the soul; of the heart, the vulnerable organ within us that we don’t see; of braving the risk of looking like a fool or an idiot, the risk of rejection; of intimacy; of the pain no one can see. It values sentimentality, the fulfillment of yearning through remembrance of what the heart truly feels. It values emotional equality instead of loveless sex, friendship instead of name-dropping parties to be seen at but not heard. It affirms life, instead of the surface-level soullessness that the “alternative” culture falls prey to just as badly as other subcultures in today’s America. Indeed, the “hipness” defined by NY/ Calif. is in some ways more life-denying and consumerist than a lot of “mainstream” subcultures.

But that’s not to say we don’t have our own cultural constraints working against active love. Seattle, this land of Mandatory Mellowness, this land of pale Edwardian smugness posing as “progressivism,” especially needs to learn the power of positive passion, to really believe in something, to be really attached to someone, to really live.

Mar 29th, 1995 by Clark Humphrey

A five-Wednesday month means an extra visit from Misc., the pop-culture column that’s just as tired of people wanting to tell it the good news about hemp as it is of people wanting to tell it the good news about Amway.

WHICH MAG D’YA READ?: New Republic cover blurb, earlier this month: “The Decline of the Black Intellectual.” Atlantic Monthly cover blurb, same week: “The New Intellectuals… Suddenly They’re Back, and They’re Black.”

THE FINE PRINT (the only subtitled closing credit in the video release of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Blue): “We wish to thank Alfa Romeo for authorizing the scene of the accident of the Alfa 164, the dynamics of which were purely ficticious.” (The scene involved a brake-fluid leak.)

UPDATE: For those who wanted to reach the Seattle Volunteer News, plugged here a few weeks back, its address is P.O. Box 70402, Seattle 98107, or email SeattleVol@aol.com. Speaking of helpful zines…

`WAVE,’ GOODBYE: Fourth Wave: Disability News and Views is an outspoken and borderline-courageous local quarterly newsprint mag published by the Disabilities Research and Information Coalition with funding from the state’s Developmental Disabilities Council. Or rather, it was. For six years FW communicated directly with 23,000 statewide readers about, as editor Victoria Medgyesi noted in a last-issue editorial, “such issues as love, sex, institutions, oppression, housing, discrimination, abuse, alcohol and drugs, misuse of funds, parents with disabilities, foster care, funding inequities, education, health care reform, `mercy’ killing, and self-advocacy.” It also “questioned the agencies and organizations that deal with disability concerns by asking them the kinds of questions they ask the community-at-large: How many people with disabilities do you have on your paid staff? On your board of directors?”

Eventually, challenging the bureaucracy that fed it caught up with FW. The state canceled the last year of the mag’s funding contract, feeding the money instead to a PR campaign aimed less at fostering self-empowerment for people with physical, mental or developmental disabilities and more at getting resource listings and positive-role-model messages into the mainstream news media. This spring is the first quarter without an issue of FW.

Medgyesi says of the cutoff, “Mostly it’s an impression of keeping disabled people quiet and out of sight of most people. Most of these (media) programs have been developed to make able-bodied people feel better about how they’ve treated people with disabilities. But we looked how the system oppressed and exploited people with disabilities, how it promoted images of pity regarding them in the media. I’ve gone from `why did they cut our funding?’ to `how did we get away with that for six years?’ ” Medgyesi’s willing to correspond with people interested in starting similar ventures, c/o Whole Note Media, 911 Western, #555, Seattle 98104. Speaking of mainstream media…

THIS JUST IN: The network-switcheroo has one positive byproduct: the new KSTW news. It’s fast, info-packed, straight-no-chaser, almost free of happy-talk, little tabloid trash (aside from the requisite O.J. doses), like a local CNN Headline News instead of the drawn-out, filler-filled old KSTW news or the anchorperson-as-celebrity tedium of the other stations.

MISSING THE TRAIN: The transit vote was actually fairly encouraging. The 53 percent no vote was partly influenced by (1) natural suspicion against big public-works projects; (2) suburban rugged-individualists who mistakenly think they’re not part of the larger community; (3) the usual backlash against alternatives to driving; and (4) city-supported opposition in Everett, which got cut out of the light-rail portion of the plan in a last-minute budget cut. When the RTA resubmits the plan, preferably later this year, they should bring Scoopville back in, get out more urban votes, and work better at turning outlying residents onto the possibility of not just commuting but living without having to haul your personal ton of steel everyplace.

‘TIL NEXT WE STRAIN EYES TOGETHER, first- and second-day Stranger readers oughta consider attending the Sheryl Wiser folk gig Thursday night at the OK Hotel bar. Proceeds from Wiser’s tip jar (there’s no cover) will benefit “The Church of Lingirie,” a local ministry providing new underwear to homeless women. Nice music for a good cause, proving the ol’ slogan “Support Can Be Beautiful.

Feb 7th, 1995 by Clark Humphrey

UPDATE: In our In/Out List a few weeks back, we listed “tribute albums” as an Out. More evidence: Duran Duran’s recording a CD tribute to bands that “inspired” them, including a cover of Public Enemy’s “911 Is A Joke.”

THE FINE PRINT (at the bottom of a billboard on a Snohomish County Community Transit commuter bus, selling houses in my ol’ hometown of Marysville by showing a whitebread yuppie nuclear family picnicking in all-white clothes): “Models do not represent any race or family formation preference.”

DAY OF DISCOVERY: I finally realized why I have so much trouble understanding post-adolescent obsessions. It’s because I never really had a post-adolescence. I can love cute childish things, silly adolescent things, and certain mature adult things. But there’s a certain stage of development some people pass through, some people never get over, and I skipped–the stage of the “educated fool” (the dictionary definition of “sophomore”). It’s the moment of a romanticized first awakening to the complications of grownup existence. Not real understanding, but just the initial shock. My late adolescence and early adulthood were times of constant emotional and frequent financial turmoil. I didn’t move from a sheltered suburban upbringing to a swinging college town and suddenly discover how complex life was. To me, life always was complex. So I didn’t get, and still don’t get, a lot of post-adolescent (or post-adolescent-retentive) compulsions, such as (in no particular order): Terrence McKenna, Anais Nin, Naomi Wolf, Charles Bukowski, Hunter Thompson, the yuppie Hendrix cult, the Grateful Dead, Timothy Leary, neopaganism, “serious” science fiction, raves, pot, acid, semiotic analyses of Madonna, J.D. Salinger, Allen Ginsberg, Joni Mitchell, &c., &c. It may also be why I still love the ’60s Batman but am bored by the ’80s Batman.

RE-TALES: Chain stores are dropping on Broadway while indie merchants survive: first Burger King turns off its broilers after Xmas, now Crown Books has suddenly shuttered without even a clearance sale. In the District, Cellophane Square’s experiment with an all-vinyl store at its old 42nd St. location failed; now the original Cello2 is gone (ah, the memories…) and everything’s being consolidated at the new site.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s other surviving original-punk-era record shop also shutters this month. Time Travelers was to have been demolished for the new library that failed on last November’s ballot; the current owners decided to close anyway. In recent years it’s been less of a record than a comic-book store, a hard business with nonreturnable merchandise of very unpredictable popularity, with two much larger competitors downtown.

ARS GRATIA ARTIS DEPT.: ArtFBI (Artists For a Better Image) is a Maryland-based group devoted to preserving arts funding by attacking perceived ideas about the arts and artists spread by politicians, the media, and by artists themselves. The group’s Internet site (gopher.tmn.com) includes articles and other materials about the necessity for artists to reclaim their role at the center of the community.

I and other Stranger writers have written in the past that federal arts funding has too largely served to subsidize formula entertainment for the rich. The entities doing most of the real creative endeavors here and across the country still live and work on the fringes, while the biggest cries to stop the NEA’s demise come from institutional theaters and museums that serve the Haves with slick nonthreatening material. While I still believe the upscale should be able to support their own leisure pursuits, I also oppose Newt’s crusade against arts funding–because it’s really a crusade against art, against what art ought to be. The Right is trying to silence all opposition, real or potential, to its societal vision of greed and obedience. To fight this, we’ve gotta do what ArtFBI suggests, and reassert the role of art at the heart of society. Art has to communicate a meaning to people, and not just to liberal-arts grads either. Part of the legacy of modernism is the way the upper classes used newfangled “sophisticated” art forms and genres to define its own difference from the masses. This alliance between modernism and elitism gave Stalin and Hitler their excuses to wage war against expressionistic, surrealistic, nonrepresentational, or oppositional artists, while mandating life-denying kitsch art (cf. The Unbearable Lightness of Being). Newt doesn’t want to kill artists or destroy their works; he’ll settle for isolating them into the margins of discourse by smear campaigns disguised as political funding debates.

Jan 17th, 1995 by Clark Humphrey

WEB FOOTING: I wish I knew who first wrote “I apologize for the length of this message; I did not have the time to make it shorter.” The reason you’ve been seeing fewer, longer items in Misc. lately’s ‘cuz I’ve been busy with (1) my book (now retitled Loser: The Real Seattle Music Story; current ETA: April); (2) my live talk-variety performance event (Fri., 1/20 at 911 Media Arts, 117 Yale Ave. N.); and (3) my current addiction of the month, the World Wide Web.

For once, there’s something worth the Cyberhype. The WWW’s a Swiss-invented software protocol for sending cross-referenced texts, graphics, sounds and other files thru the Internet. Sign up for a local Internet access service, get the appropriate software (my pick: Netscape), and start following the hypertext links to assorted files at assorted sites in assorted places around the world.

The WWW is nothing less than a generalist info-browser’s wet dream. You’re just a click or two or twelve away from scientific and technical info, sampled bits from new bands, scans of new and historic art and photos, classic and PoMo literature, attempts at collaborative art and fiction, episode guides to your favorite sitcoms, online-only music and culture zines, and online editions of your favorite print mags, including that stoic German newsweekly Der Spiegel (the latter has just the articles: no cute ads for Euro-only products like mayo-in-a-tube, no gratuitous nudity like the topless skin diver DS used to illustrate a story about water pollution).

But among my fave WWW places are the personal home pages set up by communicatively-minded individuals with data-storage privileges at their access providers. They’re like personal zines without the Kinko’s bills. There are hundreds of them already, ranging from plain-text first-person narratives to complicated multi-page hypertexts with sound files and original and/or sampled pix. Topics range from travelogues and hobbies (model planes, sci-fi) to essays on the big issues of the day (politics, corporate America, female masturbation techniques). Some pages have BBS-like write-in features, like opinion polls or add-on stories. It’s all chaotic, unregulated, wonderfully DIY (despite the rising number of ad-based sites) and a needed alternative to top-down, elitist commercial media. Speaking of which….

DON’T TAKE IT FOR GRANT-ED: Another of my favorite WWW sites is the online version of Extra!, the journal of Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, a watchdog group documenting how conservative-biased America’s allegedly “liberal media” really are.

The online Extra! currently includes an exposé of Bob Grant, the New York-based talk radio host soon to appear on KVI. Grant isn’t merely another of those tasteless boors who excuse their grossness under the now-sacred rubric of “Political Incorrectness.” He’s an admitted blatant racist. Here are some things he’s said on WABC-AM, New York (as compiled by FAIR and New York magazine): “We have in our city, we have in our state of New York, we have in our nation, not hundreds of thousands but millions of sub-humanoids, savages, who really would, would feel more at home careening, careening along the sands of the Kalahari or the dry deserts of eastern Kenya — people who, for whatever reason, have not become civilized.”…”I can’t take these screaming savages, whether they’re in that African Methodist Church, the AME church, or whether they’re in the streets, burning, robbing, looting. I’ve seen enough of it.” Grant has also advocated the discredited pseudoscience of eugenics (which Hitler used in his “master race” allegations), and has advocated, if only as a pie-in-the-sky-someday hope, that non-whites be legally forbidden from having children. KVI loyalists wrote tons of nasty letters last year when Times columnist Jean Godden called the station “KKKVI.” Adding Grant to the station just shows how far-from-wrong Godden was. It relates to something I wrote a couple of years back, that demographics is the death of democracy. Many of last fall’s victorious Newtzis won by slim margins furnished by talk-radio listeners. Our country is being run on the political ideas that attract the upscale, middle-aged male audiences talk-radio advertisers seek.

Meanwhile, Jim Hightower, Austin populist and one of the few non-demagogues in syndicated talk radio, is now on in Seattle, 10 am-1 pm Saturdays on KIRO-FM (100.7). So far, Hightower’s only attracting bargain-rate, run-of-schedule ads (Ovaltine, Bromo Seltzer).

(Montreal has its Winter Carnival. Seattle has its first annual Midwinter Night’s Misc.-O-Rama, 8 pm Friday at 911 Media Arts, 117 Yale Ave. N. All ages are welcome to an evening of readings, games, weird videos, and general frolic.)

Jan 3rd, 1995 by Clark Humphrey

As has been our practice since 1988, this year’s list reflects what will become big over the next 12 months, not necessarily what’s big now. If you believe everything already big will just keep getting bigger forever, we’ve got some Northern Exposure and Barney merchandise to sell you.

Insville Outski
Pocket watches Swatch
Power PC Pentium
Blue drinks Clear drinks
Real cocktail parties L.A.-style “slumming”
Fizz Wired
LPs Tribute albums
Determination Defeatism
Brooklyn Berkeley
Count Chocula Pop Tarts Crunch
Mini satellite dishes Cable
Video dialtone Pay-per-view movies
Hi-8 camcorders “Kill Your TV” bumper stickers
Old Country Young Country
Voodoo Faith healing
EastEnders Days of Our Lives
The Other Side Geraldo
Hinduism Baseball as religion
Indie films Action hits
Tower Video Blockbuster
Drew Soicher Bruce King
Lives Lifestyles
Scotland Spain
Safeway Select President’s Choice
Shop-Rite Larry’s Markets
Democracy Demographics
World Wide Web Video games
Love vs. hate Right vs. wrong
Alaskan Amber Ale Rainier’s fake microbrews
Sew-your-own Designer fashions
Gas station artifacts Glass art
Horse shampoo Spray-on hair
Urban homesteading Moving to the country
Hercules Babylon 5
Tom Snyder Last Call
Body painting Piercing
Passion Fashion
All-female bands All-male plays
Jack Hammer Jay Jacobs
Miss Lily Banquette Madonna
Wisdom Ideology
PDAs (this time for sure) Cell phones
Public nudity Cybersex
Atom Egoyan Oliver Stone
DIY culture Global entertainment empires
Talking books Talk radio
Nellie Bly Hunter Thompson
Cool wit “Hot Talk”
Whiskey Vodka
Jazz Funk
Linda Fiorentino Meg Ryan
Johnny Depp Michael Douglas
Opium tea Crack
Ambrose Bierce Dave Barry
Musical comedy Stand-up comedy
Curling Snowboarding
Gargoyles Animaniacs
Skeleteens sodas OK Soda
Old Dart Swingers Mercedes
Sampling Intellectual property
Floods Earthquakes
Fat pride Waifs
Live performance Movies based on TV shows
Men who wish they were lesbians Whites who wish they were Indians
Doing your own thing Obeying dumb in/out lists
Dec 1st, 1994 by Clark Humphrey

12/94 Misc. Newsletter

(incorporating expanded versions of four Stranger columns)




MISC.’S WALKING TOUR this month takes you to Madison Park Greetings at 11th & Union. Outside, you can see rack upon rack of beautiful friendly greeting cards thru the window, right above a tasteful sign noting that “This Building Is Under 24 Hour Video Surveillance.”

UPDATE: The Computer Store won’t be sold to Ballard Computer after all, preserving competition for full-line Apple products in Seattle. Alas, TCS is gonna abandon its longtime Apple-only policy and start carrying Windows clones–or so said a particularly confusing Times piece that claimed Apple was in deep deep trouble market-share-wise, that the company was on the verge of being permanently marginalized in a Windows-ruled computer universe. Then back on the jump page, the article acknowledged that Apple isn’t having trouble selling its newest products at all, but in fact can’t build enough of ’em to meet demand.

HEADLINE OF THE MONTH: The cover of the 11/7 New Republic has this huge banner, THE REPUBLICANS COMETH, followed by the smaller blurb line INSIDE. Gee, I was wondering why we hadn’t heard anything from Packwood lately…

BRAVE OLD WORLD REVISITED: The election debacle confirmed several trends I’ve often cud-chewed about in this space. Chiefly, the right-wing sleaze machine’s got a grip on the late-modern (not yet postmodern) political economy, efficiently funneling cash and influence from both eastern Old Money and western New Money into smear campaigns, stealth campaigns, one-sided religious TV and talk radio operations, etc. They’re good at convincing voters that they’re Taking Charge when they’re really getting them to suck up to the forces that control most of the real power and money in this country.

The middle-of-the-road Democrats, having shed most populist pretenses in the futile dream of winning corporate cash away from the GOP, is trapped in limboland; while too many left-wingers still think it’s a statement of defiance to stay out of the electoral process and let the right win. The GOP effectively controlled Congress the last two years anyway, but now it’s gonna create Gridlock City, getting nothing done in a big way and blaming the “liberals” for everything. At least it might, just might, force Clinton into the spin doctor’s office for an emergency backbone transplant.

How to change this around? Like I said at the end of ’92 and again this past April, we’ve gotta rebuild a populist left from the ground up. “Progressive” movements that refuse to venture more than a mile from the nearest college English department aren’t worth a damn. We’ve gotta persuade working-class people, rural people, parents, and ethnic minorities that corporate ass-kissing is not people power. The right’s effectively played on voters’ justified resentment at centralized power structures, only to rewire that energy back into those structures. We’ve got to reroute that wiring, to lead people away from the right’s faux-empowerment into real empowerment. We’ll have to do it against deliberate apathy from corporate-centrist media and hostility from right-wing media. And we shouldn’t depend on help from mainstream Dems, who might revert to their Reagan-era coddling (the equivalent of S&M’s “consensual bottom role”).

Eventually, the right’s hypocrisies should collapse as an emerging decentralized culture supersedes today’s centralized culture–if we stay on guard against those who would short-circuit the postmodern promise into the same old hierarchical system. Speaking of which…

FRAYED: Wired magazine’s two years old next month. While it’s still the smartest (or least-stupid) computers-n’-communications mag, it already seems to have fallen toward the rear flanks of the computer-aided social revolution it covers. While the Internet, the World Wide Web (more on that in a future column) and related technologies are rapidly empowering people everywhere to create, connect and think in new ways, Wired stays stuck in its Frisco provincialism, its relentless hype for already-lame technoid fantasies (masturbation with robots? No thank you.), and most importantly its vision of the new media as tools for Calif. and NY to keep controlling the world’s thoughts and dreams. It salivates at special-effects toys for Hollywood action movies, and sneers at anyone who dares challenge the culture cartel (like the French).

One remarkable example: the backwards logic with which the mag exploited Cobain’s hatred of being a rock star in a piece hyping techno-disco. They took the passionate feelings of a man who wanted to decentralize culture, to create a world where anyone could create, and used it to laud one of today’s most centralized music genres, canned in studios according to trends dictated in the media capitals.

But I now understand the magazine’s pro-corporate-culture stance. Turns out its publishers belong to the Global Business Network, a corporate think tank started by ex-Shell Oil strategists (you know, the company that used to be so pro-German that Churchillstarted BP so Shell couldn’t cut off Britain’s oil supply in WWI) and dedicated to keeping multinational elites on top of things. The Whole Earth Catalog guys and other Hipster Chamber of Commerce types also belong to it. This explains the mag’s other pro-corporate stances, like its tirades against “universal service” (govt.-mandated cheap phone and cable rates). But back to techno-culture…

140 COUGHS PER MINUTE: Last year I told you about Rave cigarettes. Now there’s a brand that even more explicitly targets techno-disco culture. Wheat-pasted posters for Buz cigarettes promise “industrial strength flavor.” The packs, cartons and ads have ad-agency re-creations of techno-rave flyer art. Even the Surgeon General’s warning is in fake-typewriter type. Remember, dance fans: tobacco is no “smart drug.”

YOU MOVE ME: Ooh, we’re so urbane now, we’re even getting a subway beneath Capitol Hill! ‘Tho only if it passes three counties’ worth of bureaucrats and a referendum vote, and even then the system won’t be all built until 2010. Still, I wanna be the first to ride each built segment of the system (to involve lite rail, regular rail, and new buses). But how would this affect the initiative drive to build a citywide elevated light-rail under the name of the beloved Monorail? Or how would the initiative conversely affect the big regional scheme? Let’s just hope that the whole scheme, in whatever its final form, doesn’t get derailed by the pave-the-earth troglodytes now ascendant in political circles.

(latter-day note: The transit plan failed in a public vote, with only Seattle voters approving.)

AD SLOGAN OF THE MONTH (from a commercial that aired on the Fox Kids’ Network): “What do you want in a plastic power shooter?” “Balls! More balls!”

WE ARE DRIVEL: Ford’s been running commercials stoically reciting a corporate mission statement attributed to founder Henry Ford Sr., proclaiming that “We live by these words every day.” The commercials don’t include any of Mr. Ford’s noted anti-Semitic remarks.

A SWILL BUNCHA GUYS: Budweiser recently ran a commercial during Monday Night Football: “Sure, in 1876 we were a microbrewery too. But then we got better.” How bogus can you get? We’re talking about a product born at the dawn of national distribution and advertising, that used the now-discredited pasteurization process to turn beer from a local agricultural product to a mass-market commodity… By the way, how d’ya spot a New Yorker in a Seattle bar? He’s the only guy protectively clutching his Bud bottle amidst a group of micro-guzzlers.

WHAT A DISH!: Home satellite receivers have been a fixture on the Eastern Washington landscape for a decade. Nearly every tiny farmhouse between Ellensburg and Spokane has an eight-foot dish, supplying isolated ruralites with the latest crop-futures trades on CNBC as well as last year’s cop movies on pirated HBO. Now, GM-Hughes and Thomson-RCA want to bring that experience to anybody who’s tired of their cable company and has a spare $700 or so (plus $30-$65 a month for programming). Magnolia Hi-Fi will gladly show you how it works.

The picture looks great, especially on a fancy-schmancy TV with surround sound. You need your own home (or a landlord who’ll let you install the 18-inch dish) and an unobstructed sky view to the southwest (tough luck, valley-dwellers). RCA’s flyers promise “up to 150 channels,” though only 60 are named (including 24 movie channels); the rest, for now, are pay-per-view movies and sports. You get most of the famous cable channels, including channels most local cable viewers can’t get (Sci-Fi, Comedy Central, C-SPAN 2, ESPN 2, but not the arts channel Bravo). You get the local sports channel, but for broadcast networks and local stations you’ll need a regular antenna.

The one thing you can’t get on home satellites is public access. Cable companies have treated access as a municipally-mandated obligation, to be minimally begrudged. Now if they’re smart they’ll put money, promotion and support toward public access, the one thing (besides better broadcast reception) they’ve got that the dishes don’t. Satellites might offer a wider trough of Hollywood product, but only cable can give you your own town. Speaking of local imageries…

EYE TRANSPLANT UPDATE: KIRO continues its evolution into a non-network station (CBS shows move to KSTW next St. Patrick’s Day). The station’s painted over the big rooftop CBS eye that used to serve as the Chopper 7 helipad, and recently gave away a lot of old-logo pencils and keychains at Westlake Center. Its daytime talk show Nerissa at Nine did a long segment about “soap opera addicts,” subtly criticizing people who watch some of the shows KIRO soon won’t have.

DRAWING THE LINE: Fox TV’s nighttime soaps have long sold a glamour-fantasy LA, at a time when practically nobody else (except porno and Guns n’ Roses videos) professed any remaining belief in the image of La-La Land as all sand, swimming pools and silicone. The parent company’s practices reflect a different attitude, however. First, they threatened to hold off on an expansion of the 20th Century-Fox studios (address: Beverly Hills 90212) unless they got special zoning and financial considerations. Now they’re building a new cartoon studio, to be run by animation vet Don Bluth, in a Phoenix office park. The Screen Cartoonists’ Union complained that Fox was building in a right-to-work state in order to keep the guild out. Bluth’s lawyers sent a letter to the union’s newsletter, asserting Fox wasn’t trying to shaft future animation employees but indeed was doing them a favor by giving them a chance to move out of that icky, polluted, high-rent, full-of-non-white-people LA.

PHILM PHACTS: The Pagemaster, a new animated feature released by 20th Century-Fox (but not made by Bluth in Arizona) about a boy lost in a universe of old children’s books, is a 90-minute extrapolation of the library-poster imagery of reading as a less-efficient medium for outmoded notions of action-adventure escapism. The only place you see pirates anymore is on posters exhorting kids to “live the adventure of books.” You still see knights and dragons in paperback fantasy trilogies, but that’s an entirely different interpretation of the myth than you get in the Once and Future King/Ivanhoe iconography on library walls and in The Pagemaster.You’re not gonna turn kids into bookworms by promising the same kinds of vicarious thrills they can get more viscerally from movies and video games. You’ve gotta promote the things writing does better than movies: the head-trip of imagination, the power of the well-turned sentence, the seductive lure of patient verbal storytelling that doesn’t have to “cut to the chase.” The Pagemaster, like the earlier Never-Ending Story, couldn’t do this. It’s possible that the Disney fairy-tale films could lead a few kids toward the original stories, especially when the originals are more downbeat or violent than the cartoons.

THE FINE PRINT (on the back of a Rykodisc CD): “The green tinted CD jewelbox is a trademark of Rykodisc.” Next thing you know, 7-Up will claim it owns anything made from green plastic and threaten to sue Mountain Dew and Slice.

LOCAL PUBLICATION OF THE MONTH: Freedom Club is a slick new newsletter promoting local counselor Jana Lei Schoenberg’s specialized services in “Re-Empowerment Resources” for traumatized people. How specialized her work is is evident in her subtitle: “Ex-Alien Abductees Unite.” As her opening editorial says, “Our focus is to get beyond the story telling of personal abduction experiences… The questions we need to be asking ourselves are not ‘Do aliens exist?’ or ‘Is our government covertly working with them?’ but rather, ‘What can you do to heal your life from their control and intrusion?’ and ‘What steps do you need to begin the process of recovery from their control over your life?’ ” Free from 1202 E. Pike St., Suite 576, Seattle 98122-3934, or by email to empower@scn.org.

URBAN TURF WARS: With the Seattle Downtown News gone, two parties have launched rival freebie tabloids for the condo-dwellers and commuters. The Times Co.’s Downtown Source is plagued by that trademark cloying blandness some like to call “Northwest Style,” down to a person-in-the-street segment on the question “Do you drink too much coffee?” Much less slick and slightly more interesting is Pacific Media’s Downtown Seattle Forum, highlighted by this quip from UW prof and third-generation Chinese Canadian Tony Chan: “Seattle people are really Canadians in drag.”

‘TIL NEXT WE VIRTUALLY MEET in the snowcapped (I hope! I hope!), short days of winter solsticetime, be sure to stay warm, don’t get any of the gunk that’s going around, be nice to people (in moderation), and ponder these goodwill-toward-whomever holiday greetings from Alan Arkin: “I don’t love humanity. I don’t hate them either. I just don’t know them personally.”


Like Hewlett-Packard, ’70s easy-listening singer David Gates (no relation to Bill), and some public-domain poet whose name I forget right now, Misc. never stops asking, and sometimes even gets around to answering, that simple yet profound question, IF:

  • IF I were Jack in the Box, I’d think twice before I tied all my fourth-quarter ad budget in with a movie (Star Trek Generations) that promises the death of one of its two main characters.
  • IF KVI said it was raining outside, I’d still want to get the story confirmed by a more reliable source.

  • IF I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d wonder whether the fashion industry deliberately made clothes as ugly as possible so customers could be convinced the next year of how foolish they’d been. Ponder, for instance, the new slogan of Tower Records’ clothing racks: “Tower Clothing, Because Some People Look Better With Their Clothes On.” (Indeed, many folks do look better in their own clothing than in Tower’s snowboarding jackets, gimme caps and mall-rat “hiphop” shirts.)
  • IF I were a real conspiracy theorist, I’d wonder whether the fashion, music and media industries invented and promptly denounced all that phony “Seattle scene” hype as a way to dissuade young people from catching the real message behind what’s been going on here, the message that you don’t have to remain a passive consumer of media-invented trends. In this theory, the corporate elite deliberately tried to redefine a rebellion against shallow fads as a shallow fad. But that would require big business to be smarter than it probably is.
  • IF you’re really into those two great tastes that taste great together, you’ll eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs cereal withButterfinger flavored milk (recommended only for the brave).
  • IF I ran the city, I’d change the name of Dexter Ave. N. to “Dextrose Ave.,” after one of that street’s most prominent and aromatic sights, the Hostess bakery.
  • IF I were a betting man (and I’m not), I’d start a pool to wager on the day, week and month Newt Gingrich is forced to resign from the House speakership for saying something just too dumb and/or outré. Speaking of which…
  • IF Pogo cartoonist Walt Kelly were still with us, he’d have a field day satirizing ol’ Newt. Imagine, a right-wing politician with the same name as a salamander!
  • IF Brian Basset was really laid off because the Times couldn’t afford an editorial cartoonist anymore, howcum the lower-circulation P-I still has two? The Newspaper Guild claims Times editors tried to fire Basset over personal disputes, but his union contract wouldn’t allow it, so they eliminated his position instead. The Guild’s suing the paper to get Basset hired back. Both sides insist content censorship’s not an issue here; Basset’s cartoons have drifted rightward along with the paper’s editorial stances. (The Times still runs Basset’s syndicated strip Adam.)
  • IF I wasn’t so ill-disposed to outdoor participant sports in the first place, I’d be all fired up over the newly-found fashionability of golf. Several local and national rock bands are now into the game of big sticks and little balls. Local illustrator-of-the-utterly-posh Ed Fotheringham‘s made an EP of golf-themed punk songs, Eddy and the Back Nine (Super Electro/Sub Pop), backed by the members of Flop. Local lounge-instrumental savant Richard Peterson made a CD called Love on the Golf Course. And in the ultimate sign of commercialized trendiness, Fox is gonna start promoting its own made-for-TV golf tourneys. Perhaps by this time next year we’ll see lime-green Sansabelt slacks and sensible sweaters at the Tower Clothing racks (at this point, anything would be an improvement over the snowboarding look).
  • IF the reason/ excuse given for sexual repression nowadays is that we’re in the “age of AIDS,” howcum gays are still exploring new frontiers of sexual liberation in public and private, while heteros (statistically much less likely to get the virus than gay men) are the ones feeling they have to stay home and settle for porn, phone sex, and/ or dildos? Virtually every book, film, performance event, seminar, or public demonstration promising “new, radical expressions of human sexuality” turns out to be by and/or for gays and lesbians only. Those who enjoy the company of chromosomes other than their own oughta be given the chance to consensually discover their hidden powers and passions too.
  • IF I were running out of space, which I am, I’d close this entry with the following highly appropriate graffito, found in the Two Bells Tavern men’s room: “Visualize A World Without Hypothetical Situations.”


Some universal advice from PBS’s favorite Af-Am-Neo-Con, Tony Brown: “Never offend people with style if you can offend them with substance.”


There will be some sort of celebration of the 100th (and possibly last?) Misc. newsletter in mid-January. Details as the date approaches. In the event the newsletter does get dropped, all current subscribers will receive credit for other fine Humph rey literary product.

Due to the demands of book production and other tasks, I cannot accept any unpaid writing work until further notice. Don’t even ask.



Nov 13th, 1994 by Clark Humphrey

Where the Suckers Moon

Book review for the Stranger, 11/13/94

Portland ad agency Wieden & Kennedy is one of your classic Northwest success stories. Its Nike spots established it as the agency that knew how to give a hip, wiseguy image to an inanimate object. It became the sort of agency ripe to be sought by a company down on its luck–especially if that company wanted to change an unhip public image, like Subaru of America.

Where the Suckers Moon (Knopf) is former New York Times business writer Randall Rothenberg’s extremely long but laff-a-minute account of the resulting misadventure. Rothenberg follows W&K’s go-getters (some of whom openly hated cars and car ads) as they spent other people’s money to create slick, oh-so-clever artistic statements about how Subaru makes back-to-basics cars for back-to-basics people. At a couple of points, Rothenberg implies (but doesn’t overtly allege) that the ads may have been intended more to increase the agency’s rep inside the ad world than to move units.

Rothenberg uses 463 pages to discuss the making of a handful of 30-second commercials and another handful of print ads. With that much available verbal roadway, he covers every conceivable angle of his topic, from the lighting and editing tricks used in modern commercials to the ideological roots of W&K’s trendy approach to image-making, from the history of Japanese automaking to the corporate-culture clashes between Subaru in Japan, Subaru of America (until recently a separate wholesale company started by a Philadelphia furniture salesman), and their branch offices and dealers. Add a recessionary, industrywide sales slump and some Oregon ad whizzes smugly telling everyone that everything they’ve heretofore done to sell cars was wrong, and you get a fascinatingly-described series of turf conflicts among people who often don’t seem to be trying to do the same thing (i.e., push the sheet metal off the lots). You also get a great glossary in the back for further reading about the wacky world of marketing.

You also get a few tidbits of regional history — how Portland’s business culture of New England Brahmin descendents differs from Seattle’s ex-Minnesotans, and how there’d been a dark side to Oregon’s pure-living ideology long before anti-gay crusader Lon Mabon (it was once a center of Klan activity, and passed a law to prevent blacks from moving to the state).

Rothenberg doesn’t, however, mention the ad that most completely encapsulated W&K’s desperation to be hip, the infamous “It’s like punk rock, only it’s a car” ad that aired a few months before the carmaker fired the agency.

Now, Subaru’s gone back to low-budget, low-profile advertising with clunky slogans like “The Beauty of All-Wheel Drive.” The cars are selling not significantly better or worse than when W&K ran its pretentious “Lack of Pretense” ads. W&K went on to make self-referential PoMo ads for Black Star beer (another campaign now discontinued) and OK Soda (ditto).

Jul 1st, 1994 by Clark Humphrey

7/94 Misc. Newsletter

(incorporating expanded versions of four Stranger columns)



Welcome back to the Henry Mancini memorial edition of Misc., the pop-culture newsletter that’s the only thing wilder than a Vancouver hockey riot.

UPDATES: For those who called about the Hanna-Barbera sound effects library but didn’t want to pay $495 for the professional-studio edition, a popular-price set will be out on Rhino this fall…. I wrote that KING-AM has been bleeding red ink for eons; a staff producer there writes to claim the station finally turned a modest profit last year…. A Wired article traces the currently-popular notion of “The Other,” that art- and lit-crit cliché I wrote about some months back, to French postmodern philosopher Julia Kristeva. She’s apparently the one who first thought of collapsing sociopolitical class analysis into an oversimplified two-tier model of The Dominant Order and The Other, a model that so narrowly defines society’s insiders that it allows many affluent white English majors to classify themselves as outsiders.

FEEDING FRENZIES: Our thanks to those who graciously attended our Misc. 8th Anniversary party and junk food film festival at the Pike St. Cinema. Among the beautiful old Frigidare promo films and Tony the Tiger commercials was a serious issue: Why should you care about junk food (a broad name for things people eat and drink for enjoyment, rather than sustenance)? Because it’s the sure sign of a culture. You won’t find the real Britain on Masterpiece Theatre; you’ll find it in cucumber sandwiches, room-temperature beer, and fish and chips wrapped in newspaper. American junk food represents everything this nation stands for: advanced technology and efficient distribution, under the direction of clever marketing, satisfying people’s wants instead of their needs. Take the new Bubble Beeper, an orange plastic box with a pocket clasp and a metallic front label. Inside the flip-top, the 17 sticks of rather ordinary bubble gum (made by Wrigley’s off-brand division) come in wrappers decorated with LCD-style type reading I’LL CALL YOU!, CALL ME, SORRY LINE BUSY, URGENT, or SEE YOU LATER! It’s a “value-added” (costlier than it absolutely has to be) version of what’s already an entertainment food product, with no nutritional purpose. But it’s an expression of many things–our fascination with personal tech, kids’ love of gadgetry and telephony, and corporate America’s drive to commodify the accessories of gangsta rap for suburban consumption.

JOINT VENTURES: We weren’t at the Grateful Dead shows. Hard to attach counterculture street-cred to a band that has a PBS pledge-break special (complete with yuppie phone operators in tye-dye shirts) and its own merchandise show on QVC.

LAVA LITE: We’re not too worried that Mt. Rainier could blow any day, according to a recent National Research Council report. There’ll likely be enough advance warning that any blast zone could be evacuated in time. And maybe it could blow away Southcenter, or the Boeing site that replaced Longacres, so we could start land-use planning in the area over again, only doing it right this time.

`METAL’ MELTDOWN: Adams News, Seattle’s dominant magazine wholesaler, refused to carry the July Heavy Metal, whose cover depicted two robotic stormtroopers (labeled “Tom” and “Jerry”) holding an S&M babe wearing a few strands of leather and a blindfold. Stores serviced by direct-market comix distributors are getting it and some are selling out, even though it’s indistinguishable from anything in the “adult” comix mag’s tradition of gory violence mixed with leering sex.

CYBER SPACES: With the U Book Store cutting back on sales to non-UW personnel, Ballard Computer (which bought The Computer Store) is now the only full-line, all-takers Apple dealer inside the Seattle city limits. Some electronics stores carry some Apple products like the Performas, but only Ballard sells PowerMacs, hi-end laser printers, et al. If you don’t like their prices or their service, you’ll have to go to the suburbs or to mail-order.

LOCAL PUBLICATION OF THE MONTH: The KIRO Radio News Fax is Seattle’s first new daily print publication in our lifetimes (not counting suburban papers). Wish I could say its content was equally momentous. It’s a five-page newsletter (the first is wasted on a cover sheet) with about two dozen brief news, sports and feature items (most shorter than this paragraph) and a few ads, phoned in free every weekday morning to any fax machine whose owner asks for it. A cute idea, but poorly executed. The items are too superficial to be interesting; you get more depth (and a lot more advertising) in a half-hour of KIRO-AM. It might’ve been better if KIRO were in charge. Instead, it’s run by an independent media firm in Bellevue; the station licenses its name and local news briefs to it. The Daily Journal of Commerce used to publish an afternoon “Newsgram” page of tightly-written financial items, distributed in downtown office towers; that was a much better example of condensed info of practical use to its readers.

STREET SEENS: Just because I oppose the Seattle Commons, don’t think I’m against all developments. I say a rousing Yes! to a symphony hall at 3rd & Union, and to moving A Contemporary Theatre into the Eagles Auditorium at 7th & Union. Next: turn the triangle between those two sites and Westlake Center into an all-night strolling and hanging-out area. Seattle needs something like Granville Mall in Vancouver, an all-hours, year-round, open-air gathering place. It’s too late to save the old movie-theater district; and our finally jump-started nightlife is scattered across a half-dozen areas, none feeding into downtown retail. But we can take advantage of real estate possibilities to put nightspots, live theaters, bowling alleys, pool halls, etc. in the Pine-Pike zone. Speaking of great hangouts…

SPACES IN THE HEART: I spent many a lonely evening at Andy’s Cafe on Broadway, home of honest food at honest prices; even got my heart broke by a waitress there. Now it’ll be an expanded version of Belltown espresso haven Septieme (“7e”). The last places to get unpretentious food on the Hill are Dick’s, the Jade Pagoda, Emil’s and IHOP. Why’s it seem that the more streets like B’way strive to become “arty” or “funky,” the less diverse or interesting they get? Speaking of homogenization…

HOPPING MAD: Redhook brewery products will be distributed by Anheuser-Busch, in the brewing equivalent of an indie record label going to bed with the majors. So much for the mystique of microbrew as a bastion of independence from the big boys (expressed in a rival microbrewer’s slogan, “Think Globally–Drink Locally”). Now when you doff a Ballard Bitter, you’ll contribute to the guys behind Spuds McKenzie, the Bud Dry “Alternative Beer” ads, and the capture of killer whales for Busch’s theme parks. (If I didn’t like the stuff I wouldn’t care this much.) Speaking of great independent foodmakers gobbled by “the majors”…

IN THE CHIPS: Tim’s Cascade Chips recently merged with Nalley’s, the Tacoma-based regional food legend, which in turn is being split up into two companies. The potato-chip operation, including Tim’s, is going to Dean Foods, while the rest of the company (chili, sloppy joes, enchiladas, mayonnaise, salad dressings, pickles, et al.) will go to Hormel. You might remember recent ads in which Nalley favorably compared its chili to Hormel’s; we probably won’t see those again. Let’s just hope the new owners don’t mess with the products too much or pay for the purchases by firing people (cf. the Oscar-winning documentary American Dream, on Hormel’s wage-slashing and union-busting). And let’s hope they keep Nalley’s Picadilly Chips, the last salt-and-vinegar potato chips left in the area now that Lay’s version is being discontinued.

(latter-day note: The Nalley/Hormel deal fell through.)

THE WORD: The arrest of Seattle Black Muslim preacher James Bess shocked me and probably other public-access fans. Bess, who allegedly shot and injured another ousted Nation of Islam leader in LA for reasons unknown at press time, was perhaps the most visible face on channel 29. While other volunteer producers found their shows shifted and bumped in the channel’s semiannual lotteries for scarce time slots, Bess always seemed to have from two to four shows every week. He entered each time-slot lottery with multiple applications under multiple program titles, to make sure he’d always stay on the air. His sermons were fiery and assertive, but he held himself with such an air of confidence and stand-up-straight persuasion that it’s hard to imagine him resorting to armed assault, a tactic of the weak and desperate.

SLIPPED DISCS?: After several years of relentless growth, are indie-rock labels overextended? Not only has C/Z cut back on its personnel, eMpTy has moved from its own office to a shared space. Label boss Blake Wright took a day job at Aldus; assistantTammy Watson took a PR job at Fantagraphics (replacing Larry “call me an Iconoclastic Visionary” Reid, now starting his own promo firm). The label reports good sales of its new Sicko CD and hopes to be back at full strength later this summer, even though its top-selling act, Gas Huffer, just signed with the larger indie Epitaph.

There are now between 20 and 75 record companies in Washington, depending on whether you count band-owned and vanity labels. Can they all survive? In theory, if you could get record buyers to support 50 20,000-copy albums instead of any one million-copy seller, you’d have a healthy indie scene.

It’s not that easy, of course; indies sell among the in-crowd fine, but still aren’t accessible by casual consumers in many areas (despite KNDD and the Insomnia and Tower 800 numbers). There are 16 stores in Seattle that sell appreciable amounts of non-major-label discs (plus seven others with limited selections), and four on the Eastside. But just try to find the Spinanes in Moses Lake (Ellensburg yes, but…). Heck, even Bellingham doesn’t have a decent indie store. There’s no quick-fix to this growth ceiling. We’re talking retail infrastructure here.

We can only hope that the underground-rock mystique stays hot long enough that a demand for the real thing filters through across the vast American landscape. That’ll require fans, zines, college and “alternative” radio, clubs, booking agents and bands to hold stronger loyalties to the indie scene, remembering that the media conglomerates are not necessarily our friends. Speaking of which….

COLD TYPE: Are major labels financing “independent” rock zines? So sez Maximum Rock n’ Roll. The self-proclaimed punk bible claims the majors are secretly investing in zines “in exchange for unspecified favors.” You can imagine what those might be–cover stories on bands the label (or “sham indie” companies controlled by the label) wants to hype. It sure explains why certain “alternative” zines have run big stories to plug bland but heavily promoted acts, movie soundtracks, and even TV tie-in discs.

VIRTUAL MATERIALISM: I’ve often felt sorry for poor little rich Barbie; just ‘cuz the character’s got a big chest people think she’s a bimbo, even when she’s a doctor or an astronaut. What she is, is an unabashed celebration of certain traditional feminine values that help drive the consumer economy. She doesn’t teach girls to be passive and dumb; she teaches them to make and spend all the money they can.

This training for life in corporate America is evident in the Barbie video games by Hi Tech Entertainment. In the Barbie game, she (you) searches for what a USA Today report calls “fashion treasures.” In Barbie Game Girl (for Game Boy, natch), you navigate “a mall maze” with Ken at the other end. And in Barbie Super Model, you’re “on a quest to become the hottest of supermodels in Aspen, New York, Hawaii and Hollywood.” There’ll soon be an interactive CD-ROM tour of Barbie and her Magical House. The makers claim they’re performing a service by getting girls interested in computers. But it won’t hurt society if one gender doesn’t get hooked on the left-brain opiate of passive-aggressively manipulating screen objects under pre-defined rules. We don’t need more female gamers, just more female programmers. Speaking of models out for money…

COME ON DOWN DEPT.: Darrington-born MC Bob Barker‘s lately called The Price Is Right “the highest-rated game show on network television”–a sly acknowledgment that it’s now the only game show on network television. But his triumph as last survivor turned sour when Dian Parkinson, the former “Barker’s Beauty” who became a Playboy model at 47, slapped him with an $8 million sexual-harrassment suit. Barker, now 70, countered that they’d had a voluntary affair in the late ’80s, at her instigation.

In an Internet message, a former contestant in beauty pageants he’s hosted claims his straying hands were infamous on the pageant circuit. But modem users love to wean gallows humor from the most serious issues, as in these jokes from America Online: “Would this have happened had he been spayed or neutered?” “The lawyers should have to guess the final settlement amount without going over.” “Hope he made sure he didn’t get Parkinson’s Disease.” “Overheard backstage: `Higher, higher, lower, lower–Plinko!'” And best/ worst of all: “I guess he really does like fur.” Speaking of controversial daytime celebs…

CATHODE CATHARSIS: Having meditated long and hard, I’ve decided I no longer hate Barney the Dinosaur. There are good reasons kids like the Purple One: (1) Parents hate him, so he’s a secret club for kids with none of that “sophisticated” humor that the grownups go for, going against everything boomers expect kids to like; (2) he’s purist television, a long-attention-span show on two obvious studio sets, unlike those disconcerting cut-up video shows like Sesame St. that their parents watched as kids. The show is as calming and reassuring as its star. Beneath its veneer of smarmy cheese it preaches civility and honor in an age ruled by selfishness and rudeness from gangsta rap to Rush Limbaugh, from left-wing elitists to right-wing boors. My only fear is that the Barney generation might grow up to be a reincarnation of the Victorians, who reacted against the decadence of 18th Century England by promoting extreme moralism. Either that, or they’re going to be just as irritatingly perky-bland as some of their elders. Speaking of which…

THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE SMUG: One thing that bugs me about San Francisco writers is that they seem to think the entire world’s just like San Francisco–an isthmus of self-styled “civilization” surrounded by vast fascistic deserts of heathen polyester-clad Sunset magazine readers. A worldview of hip liberals vs. square conservatives is impractical in Seattle, where so many of the closed-minded bourgeois squares fighting to stamp out original expression and true diversity claim to be political liberals. A square liberal loves “The Arts” but doesn’t want anything too new or harsh. Square liberals mistake Dave Barry for outré social comment, Linda Ronstadt for rock, and Chiluly for cutting-edge art. Squre liberals support Hollywood location shoots in town, but ignore indigenous local filmmaking.

Seattle politics is run by square-liberal boomers, by a Democratic machine in cahoots with high-powered attorneys and construction magnates. This machine’s progressive reputation is now cracking, as its obsessive-compulsive ideal of “A Clean City” (all-affluent, all-boomer, almost all-white) becomes more irreconcilable with reality and also with basic ideals of social decency. We’re witnessing an end to the premise that whitebread 1968 liberal arts graduates know what’s best for everybody and have everybody’s best interests at heart. With the poster law, the sitting law, the Commons plan, and the concerted drive to subsidize a bigger Nordstrom without bothering to replace Woolworth’s, it’s clear that the square-liberal boomers, and the politicians who strive for boomer appeal, aren’t always on the side of what’s best for the whole city.

MEMO TO THE MEDIA: Please stop using that dorky name “Generation X” to describe modern-day teens and young adults. Nobody likes it except stupid journalists. Generation X was a British punk band that broke up when today’s high schoolers were still in kindergarten. Speaking of which…

TONY! TONY! TONY!: The media mavens have been going agog over Tony Bennett’s well-received MTV Unplugged special last month, acting like it’s just so totally weird that a guy that old could appeal to their stupid stereotype of the younger generation. The reporters saying this are, of course, working for the same media industry that perpetually defines young people as A Market to be reached by whatever boomer-age marketers currently imagine to be Hot, Wild and Now. This approach invariably leads to such pathetic excuses for hipness as rapping cartoon animals, Details magazine, suntanned square-jawed surfer dudes in New York-designed “grunge” wear, and Marky Mark. The media business (and various related marketing businesses like restaurants) don’t get that many young adults don’t want to be force-fed patronizing simulacra of trendiness. They want things that are actually good, including things that evoke a sense of connection to some artistic tradition. That’s why the old Coke bottle’s so in now, along with vintage clothing stores, old magazines, and classic funky home furnishings. That’s why you see 20-year-olds at Dead shows, or reading Bukowski and Burroughs. That’s why great old restaurants lose all their coolness when they start trying too hard to be hip. Most recent case: The new owners of Vito’s Restaurant on First Hill trashed the place’s great old juke box full of Peggy Lee and Hank Williams for a CD player equipped with the requisite recent rock hits. Speaking of mistaken attempts to be hip…

RETURN TO THE OK CORRAL: The Coca-Cola Co. isn’t placing all its now-generation marketing bets on OK Soda. It’s also test-marketing its faux-Snapple line of fruit drinks, Fruitopia. Thsee strange-tasting sweetened beverages come in 16-ounce bottles with labels in ripoff World Beat label designs, with the flavor names “The Grape Beyond,” “Strawberry Passion Awareness,” “Citrus Consciousness” and “Fruit Integration.” At least one of the varieties uses taste-neutral pear juice to manipulate its sweetness, a trick used for years by Tree Top mixed juices. (For an independent taste of the same premise try Arizona Ice Tea and Cowboy Cocktails, made in Brooklyn, in big 24-oz. cans at the Gollywog Grocery on 1st and Blanchard.)

SOCCER TO ME: I confess I had a long couple of days and passed out on the sofa while trying to watch my first World Cup match. Still, it was great to see the entire US sports press go agog over the first American World Cup victory in 44 years, burying deep in their stories the fact that the game was won on a fluke (an opposing player mistakenly deflected the ball into his own team’s net). And it’s cool to see the games without commercial breaks, just corporate logos in the corner of the screen. Other kinds of programs oughta consider this device. Let’s see uninterrupted movies, shown in widescreen letterbox format with AT&T ads scrolling across the black bars. Or run the soaps with little logos denoting the toothpastes and hair-care products of the stars, alternating with subtitles explaining every character’s convoluted past for the benefit of new viewers. Just expect some actresses to make demands in their contracts that their big dramatic scenes not be accompanied by Massengill logos. Speaking of global broadcasting concepts…

NAFTA NASTIES: The trade papers claim Fox is going to finally start having daytime soaps, sorta. They’re contracting with the Mexican network Televisa to produce English-language versions of Televisa’s infamously sappy, 100-episode telenovelas. They’ll be made like the Spanish-language versions of early Hollywood talkies were made, with a separate cast taking over the same sets after the regular cast is done for the day. Somehow, it just won’t be the same to see these shows and know what they’re saying.

JUNK FOOD OF THE MONTH: Craisins, recently given out in half-ounce bags downtown, are the Ocean Spray grower co-op’s attempt to find yet another non-winter-holiday market for the tart little red bog fruit. As the name implies they’re dried cranberries with juice added back in and pumped full o’ sugar (the leading ingredient). They look like regular raisins with red food coloring. They taste like the lumpy bits of holiday cranberry sauce.

KRISTEN PFAFF, 1967-1994: Yet another creative free spirit destroyed by the global drug cartel, an even more sinister institution than the major record labels. I’m no straight-edger but I know there’s nothing even remotely “rebellious” about getting hooked on smack. It makes you less capable of assertive action. It greatly increases your need for money while decreasing your ability to earn it. It makes you an even bigger slave to the system than you already are. Which may be one reason why neo-fascist dictators and the US “intelligence” establishment love to be part of the business of selling it to you.

‘TIL OUR NEXT VIRTUAL GATHERING, be sure to visit the new Costco on the big concrete cavity that used to be Aurora Village, and heed these prophetic words from a 1970 Esquire fashion spread about the “Pepsi Proletariat” look: “It consists of overalls, flannel shirt, and heavy work boots, the traditional accoutrements of the working class…. To adopt the Pepsi Proletariat guise is to express one of the more euphoriant pipe dreams of the counterculture: the hope that a coalition may someday be fashioned out of workers and freaks.”


An anonymous Searle pharmacologist, quoted in that spiritual guide for our times, Listening to Prozac: “If the brain were simple enough for us to understand, we’d be too simple to understand it.”


Again, thanks to the select few of you who attended our little film screening/soirée in June. Another might be held this fall; watch this space for details.

Am currently heading into the slimy depths of production on my local-music history book. I really need two things right now: (1) Pictures, including band photos, record covers/sleeves, posters, tickets, ads, and old zines; and (2) Your recommendations on which current Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia-Bellingham club bands should be in the book.



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