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.



May 2nd, 1994 by Clark Humphrey

5/94 Misc. Newsletter

(incorporating five Stranger columns)

Here at Misc. we can’t wait for the longtime local label K Records to start a joint venture with the new local label Y Records. The connection between the two would undoubtedly go very smoothly.

THE MAILBAG: Thanx to all the Aldus people who E-mailed words of reassurance after the piece here about the software giant last time. One guy said not to worry about Aldus’s future, that the firm’s forthcoming merger with Adobe Systems would be more like a “marriage” than a corporate takeover. (I think we’ve all seen marriages that were like corporate takeovers, but that’s beside the point…)

FOR LOVE OR $$ DEPT.: For shameless audience manipulation, nothing could compare to KCTS‘s weekend marathon of Getting The Love You Want, a home-video marriage counseling series. The facilitator picks a couple from the audience, has them reveal their issues and conflicts, then leads them in working out their differences. He closes the segment by getting the couple to hug and avow their continued empathy. This moment of tenderness and generosity closes, and then we see another pledge break.

THE NEW LITTER: The P-I reports that the much-hyped closure of the legendary Dog House restaurant was just a ploy by its owners to get out from its lease and its union contract. But it backfired; the eatery’s landlord decided not to sign a new lease with the Dog House people, but instead to let the owners of that other legendary 24-hour hash house, Beth’s Cafe, take over the space. The newly-christened Hurricane Cafe doesn’t have a bar, organ player, murals (its walls are newly painted in the same plum color as Linda’s Tavern on E. Pine), or such old-time menu items as liver and onions, but it does have big food at reasonable prices at all hours. The Dog House folks are reportedly looking for a new downtown site to open a non-union cafe, which may or may not have any of the old Dog House iconography.

FOUL TIP: The Mariners opened another season amidst new hype about the team actually maybe winning a division this year (a new mini-Western Division shorn of the powerhouse White Sox). And as usual, a new season brings out the usual media hype of “Whither Baseball?” Here’s what I think’s wrong with the game: 1) a new TV contract worse than hockey’s, with half the national cable games, no network games until July, and regional-only playoff telecasts — a setup that won’t help promote the game to new fans; and 2) its reputation as the sport of writers and other dullards, who blather on about such esoterica as the dimensions of the field (I’ve never seen ponderous essays on how a basketball court’s 96 feet long, a multiple of the sacred numbers 8 and 12). When they’re not doing that, writers use baseball to conjure up images of that Bygone Innocent America, that nice all-white-middle-class wonderland that never was. Face it: a game marketed to exploit grandpa’s selective memories isn’t gonna attract enough kids to maintain a decent supply of players, let alone a decent supply of fans.

PUFF PIECES: The King County Council may vote this month on a plan, drafted by the county health department, to ban smoking in restaurants. If approved, the ban would first take effect in the suburbs, then spread to Seattle in ’95 when the county takes over Seattle’s restaurant regulation. You could still smoke in taverns, lounges, and in restaurants that were willing to serve adults only, at least until they pass a broader ban. I think smoking is a wretched habit; but everybody I meet these days smokes, especially the vegetarians. This is Big Brother-ism at its most persnickity.

INK STAINS: Fourteen months ago, some dudes in Lynnwood started Face II Face, a free monthly newsprint magazine with equal emphasis on fashion, art, music and fiction. The Face II Face team split up un-amicably last November, with several members relocating to Seattle and re-starting under the name Month (though the cover flag said “November,” “December,” etc.). That crew just had another falling out. Jim and Jodi Madigan continued to publish Month, unveiling a slightly revised graphic design in their April issue, while their ex-colleagues Bill Maner, Tom Schmitt and Roger LeBlanc just put out something called Monthly, whose premiere April issue is billed as “Vol. 1 No. 6” and looks just like the first five issues of Month except it’s not stapled. To add to the confusion, neither publication mentions the family feud in its pages. We’ll see if they start up fistfights over press credentials to runway shows.

WANKING ON PARADE: That professional egotist and artistic has-been John Lydon, in town on a book tour, was scheduled to appear on The Spud Goodman Show. Goodman had outlined half an episode to the Lydon interview, the most he’d ever alloted to a single guest. KNDD’s Norman Batley, who’d took on a volunteer producer position on the Goodman show, was in charge of bringing Lydon from his hotel room to the studio. But somebody, either on the local PR team handling the tour stop or one of the print-media reporters keeping him busy, dissuaded him from going, charging “that’s not even a real TV station.” Goodman and his normally scripted cast had to improvise a new show on the spot, shuffling in segments written for other episodes and making introductions for location segments that don’t exist yet, that will have to be shot and edited into the episode before it airs.

THE MARGINAL WAY: There’s been a big media blitz over the county’s plan to revive the beautifully rusty Industrial District between the Kingdome and Tukwila. The stories quoted officials claiming that unless We Act Now, the zone could become a “rust belt” a la the abandoned factories of Michigan and Ohio. The top paragraphs of the stories mentioned all-well-n’-good stuff like fixing roads and cleaning up toxic waste. But if you read further you find out that there really aren’t many vacant sites in the area, that it’s well-occupied by small and medium businesses. Most of the horror stories cited in the articles about companies leaving the ID turn out to be about firms that wanted bigger tracts than they could get.

It doesn’t take much between-line reading to wonder whether the politicians are really seeking an excuse to condemn and consolidate tracts down there, evict some of the little guys, and turn the area over to bigger operations by bigger companies — the sort of companies that employ proportionately fewer people, but make bigger campaign contributions.

MISC.’S LOOPY LEXICON defines “race-blind casting” as the courageous risk of daring theatrical directors to award all major roles, no matter what ethnicity the characters may be, to white actors.

THE LAST WORD ON GANGSTA RAP: When hiphop was ruled from NY, it was an explosion of creativity with a social conscience. Then the Hollywood showbiz weasels took charge and, as usual, ruined everything. If I believed power, money, intimidation, sexism and egotism were the answers to everything, I would’ve become a Republican.

LITERAMA: Clever people across the country are discovering a real use for the Apple Newton Messagepad, that overpriced electronic Rolodex that’s supposed to read your handwriting but usually can’t. It may not be able to make an exact digital version of what you write on it, but it can turn it into computer-assisted cut-up poetry! Yes, you can make your own faux-Burroughs without having to shoot anybody or get addicted to anything. In my own experimental-fiction days, I used to be in a group that played the “writing games” devised by the French Oulipo group (Raymond Quaneau, Georges Perec, Harry Mathews, et al.). One of them was “n + 7”: take an existing passage and replace each common noun with the noun seven dictionary entries past it. Similar discoveries await when you Newtonize a familiar saying. Here’s some vintage “Abe Newton” as posted on the Net: “Foyer scrota and severe heavers ago our flashovers brought force on thy cosmetician a new notion conceives in lubricate and deducted to the prosecution that all men are crated quail.”

JUNK FOODS OF THE MONTH: Thomas Kemper Weizen-Berry might be America’s first raspberry-flavored beer. I wouldn’t say it was particularly good, but it might qualify as an experience in learning just how bizarre foreign-inspired food-and-drink recipes can really be…. Wheaties Dunk-A-Balls is the first basketball-shaped cereal! They’re wheat/corn puffs, sorta like oversize Kix with alternating pink and brown basketball seams dyed onto them and an odd brown-sugar taste. Better still is the hype on the side: “Hey Mom & Dad! Tired of putting on the full-court press to get your kids to eat a wholesome breakfast? Introducing new Dunk-A-Balls, the one-of-a-kind breakfast cereal that will have your kids fast breaking for the breakfast bowl. Dunk-A-Balls is the perfect tip-off to the whole day…. Score a slam dunk with your kids, sky-hook them a bowl of Wheaties Dunk-A-Balls now, before the buzzer sounds on this limited time offering!”

LOCAL PUBLICATIONS OF THE MONTH: My Spokane is Evergreen student Jon Snyder‘s oversize photo-essay book on the sights, sounds and dreams of his beloved Inland Empire hometown (though he does complain in an insert that he couldn’t find an Eastern Washington printer willing to run it, due to a chapter on adolescent sex fantasies). Of special interest to west-side readers is his ode to the Spokane Dick’s Drive-In, a completely separate enterprise from the Seattle Dick’s chain (and servers of superior flesh-n’-grease products, or so he claims). $7.50 at Fallout Records or from 214 S. Coeur D’Alene St., Spokane 99204….

Sell Yourself to Science is, at first glance, just another Loompanics Unlimited tome of quasi-demimonde self-help access; in this case, about how to make small sums of money by participating in medical experiments or by selling your blood, semen or other bodily products. What sets it above the Loompanics norm is the oft-hilarious writing, by local kid Jim Hogshire; especially when he asserts that you should be allowed to sell post-death rights to your organs to the highest bidder. Even better is the collected set of Hogshire’s zine Pills A-Go-Go, which studies pharmaceuticals (legal and otherwise) the way Spin studies music (available at Pistil Books on E. Pike, that handy place to go mag-shopping on a Fri. night while avoiding an opening act at Moe).

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT?: You don’t have to be in Ulster to get harsh treatment at an Irish cultural event. A couple of bouncers at the Moore were overheard vowing to “get” some kids at the Pogues show a few weeks back. And they did, grabbing people (particularly the small and/or female) from the pit, forcibly removing them. One frustrated attendee tried to leave voluntarily, only to get grabbed and tossed outside herself; she reports still having sore limbs and muscles. The bouncers in question are reportedly no longer at the theater; its new owners were already planning to hire new security.

BOOZE NOOZE: Dewar’s Scotch, whose youth-appeal magazine ads we’ve discussed, isn’t the only distilled liquor trying to capture a younger generation weaned on cheap beer. The trade mag Market Watch: Market Intelligence on the Wine, Spirits and Beer Business just had a special issue about it. The opening note from the publisher, pictured as a plump moustached old guy, declared, “They’re diverse. They’re young. And they have decidedly different attitudes about alcoholic beverages than do baby boomers. Just who are these new consumers, you asked? Generation X, that’s who.” Inside, we learn the market strategies aimed at pushing spirits, extra-sweet chardonnays, ice beer, and mass-produced pseudo-microbrews to under-30s. But the most telling parts of the issue are the ads, boasting to retailers of the youth-market atrategies of Southern Comfort (“One small age group buys enough spirits to empty your store every hour”) and Black & White Scotch (“They’re passive-aggressive vidiots who grew up too fast and have no faith in the system and think holes in jeans are cool and that party is a verb and will never buy anything in your store anyway. Congratulations. They’re your new Scotch customers”)….

Meanwhile, that new desperate-to-be-hip malt beverage Zima has reportedly been casting locally for commercials, seeking out models who are 25 or older but look younger. Encouraging underage drinking, you say? Heavens no! Just looking hip and urbane! Speaking of which…

SNOWED UNDER: I’d hoped that springtime would bring a seasonal end to articles about snowboarding, full of all the requisite MTV Sports-style hyperbole, neon-drenched graphics, “unfocused” typefaces, and Prince-esque spellings (“D Place 4 U 2 B”). But instead there are now at least six year-round snowboard magazines, all more or less drenched in “grafique XS.” The art aside, there’s a bigger issue at work: the case of a countryside athletic activity attracting an urbane-hip mystique. I’m meeting intelligent, club-going, artistically-minded young adults who play the sport, who either don’t mind the hype about it or like it.

To many old-line punkers and wavers like myself, athleticism was the suspect domain of the Evil Jock Mentality, or of anti-intellectual adults (cf. “Get High On Sports Not Drugs” programs in school, which posited that the only alternative to being a mindless junkie was to be a hopeless jock). Artistically-aware people weren’t into sports; they were more likely to be beaten up by the guys who were into sports. But in recent years, some free-thinking youths have begun to accept that the human body might be useful for activities besides dancing, fighting, fucking, and dressing (cf. Vedder‘s surfer-dude acrobatics). Speaking of sports…

FROZEN IN TIME?: The New Times, that monthly new-age broadsheet, offers a specialist perspective on recent events: “Tonya and Nancy: An ECKist’s View.” That’s Eckankar, “The Ancient Science of Soul Travel.” Author Robin Adams McBride claims Harding’s misdeeds and/or lapses in judgment resulted from her personal development over successive reincarnations over the centuries, “as the soul sets up its scenarios for learning and then forgets that it had anything to do with planning her experiences….Tonya Harding can experience the ultimate transformation of an evolved Scorpio personality if she responds to this wake-up call positively. The phoenix arising from the ashes of personal humiliation and defeat can replace the scorpion which stings its enemies to gain advantage.”

THE FINE PRINT (from promo copies of the Sister Psychic CD Surrender, You Freak!): “Advance CD — Instore-airplay promo only. Will explode if sold.”

MISC.’S LOOPY LEXICON defines “classic rock” as the work of radio station managers wistfully looking back to a more innocent age, before the radio was controlled by people like them. Speaking of which…

LIVE AIR: Here’s all I know about Free Radio Seattle, the new pirate station advertised on flyers around Capitol Hill this past month. It was scheduled to go on the air at midnight 4/30 for a 90-minute broadcast, transmitting somewhere in the vicinity of 88 on the FM dial. Further broadcasts are tentatively scheduled on a weekly basis. Content will include community news and commentary, club listings, and freeform music (“like what KCMU used to be,” according to an anonymous communique sent to me). Because this whole thing’s somewhat illegal, the broadcasts will be recorded at one undisclosed site and transmitted from another; to avoid (or at least delay) FCC detection, the portable transmitter will be set up at a different place each time. If these guys are putting their butts on the line to do this (and there’s a strong chance they’ll get caught before long), they’d better have a good reason, like having something important to say.

CATHODE CORNER: A recent wire service item placed Married… With Children as one of the top 10 TV shows among African American audiences. (The only white-cast show with more black viewers is Blossom, which until recently shared a time block with the black-starring Fresh Prince of Bel Air.) My theory: Married‘s black co-creator, Michael Moye, clearly set out to devise a family that would affirm the stereotypes some hard-striving black middle-class families have about lazy, privileged white trash. It’s either that, or the utter failure of Bud Bundy’s attempt to play-act as “Street Rapper Grandmaster B.”

BAN, ROLL ON: Yes, the Washington legislature tried again to revive the Erotic Music Bill, a misguided attempt to shore up the morals of Those Kids Today by restricting selected rock records (Gov. Lowry vetoed the “anti-porn” package of proposals that included the music bill). In the short term, control-freak schemes like this can be dangerous to free expression and personal privacy, and must be fought vigorously. But in the long term, the tide is starting to turn against the forces of cultural suppression, because it’s bad for capitalism.

In the pre-industrial age, censorship was a tool of economic as well as social control. When only the upper classes were taught to read, the number of potential rivals for prestige positions was kept within means. The class system was kept in place by restricted information.

In the industrial age, supporting censorship was a convenient way for big business interests to forge convenient political alliances with more populist right-wing elements (note Michael Milkin, Jesse Helmes, et al.). The Republicans of the rural west proved particularly adept at using the religious right to help elect politicians whose real loyalty wasn’t to churches but to big ranchers, miners and real estate developers. Censorship was also a convenient way for the corporate power structure to deny responsibility for some of the social upheavals its own machinations had caused. Corporate America could say: “We’re losing our technological edge to Japan? Don’t blame us; all we did was encourage slashes in education spending so the government could reduce business taxes. Blame the decadent liberals — yeah, that’s the ticket! Sexual permissiveness did it! That, and the devil’s rock music, and those naughty TV shows!” Or: “Urban crime? We didn’t cause it; all we did was move all our jobs to the suburbs! Blame the homosexuals, or the immigrants, or the lack of family values!” Or: “Child abuse? Don’t look at us; we merely promoted a culture where selfish aggression was treated as a virtue. No, just get rid of those magazines with the pictures of bad women in them. That’ll solve everything!”

But in the Information Age (which spread into the realm of politics about 18 to 24 months ago), censorship is a threat to what is becoming big business’s most prized asset — intellectual property. Free expression is the new frontier of post-industrial capitalism. The Viacom-Paramounts and the Time-Warners will begin to fight against the principle of censorship in the same way the timber industry has fought designated wilderness areas, or the way GM has fought pollution controls. A key connection of the old Reagan coalition has been severed, perhaps for keeps. The religious right, having outlived its usefulness to much of the business community, just might find itself sent back into the shadows due to a slow drying up of big-money support, destined to become just another of the many isolated subcultures in today’s fragmented society.

But it won’t go away quietly. There will be more kooky drives like the Erotic Music Bill and that initiative to legalize anti-gay discrimination. These campaigns will become blunter, shriller and more divisive, as their instigators strive to hold on to their own core support base.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, root for the Sonics and for single-payer health care, and ponder this sign outside Catholic Community Services on 2nd: “Depression Support Group, 8:30 a.m. Wednesdays.” If you can get up that early, do you really need to go there?


Words of love from the animated, syndicated, underrated 2 Stupid Dogs: “The world is our pancake house, and you’re my flapjack stack with a scoop of butter and maple syrup and a side of hash browns and some toast and a large orange juice.”


A small publisher of cult-appeal books has expressed serious interest in my book, The Real Seattle Music Story. Once I sign a contract, I probably won’t be able to sell any more printout copies of the text. So if you want a Preview Edition, you’d better order it now.




Mar 1st, 1994 by Clark Humphrey

3/94 Misc. Newsletter

(incorporating four Stranger columns)



Here at Misc. world HQ, we celebrated yet another lonely-guy Valentine’s Day by scarfin’ down those Brach’s Sour Hearts candies.

UPDATE: Patrick Purdy says I shouldn’t have been so harsh a few months back about the hand-carved Zuni fetishes offered as promotional trinkets by Time-Life Books: “They’re (the tribe) developing a cottage industry for themselves so that they may upgrade their standard of living without having to leave their home. The fetish carvings have proved so successful that they’ve opened a few fancy galleries…That they must have signed a fairly lucrative contract with Time/Life is not a matter for despair, but for congratulations.”

ONE OF THE FEW negative aspects of this gig is that people come up at parties and demand that I be angry for them on cue. They seemingly expect me to always have some shoulder chip, some fresh beef ground daily. But as Johnny-one-note expectations go, it’s easier than if people asked me to be funny for them on cue, ‘cuz I can always fall back on being angry about being expected to be angry.

MY $.02: As some of you know, Misc. is at least partly an homage to the great prewar columnists. The only similar columnists in modern dailies are Army Archard in Daily Variety, Irv Kupcinet in the Chicago Sun-Times, and of course our hero Larry King in USA Today. Just for fun, let’s start out with some Kingisms: “When it comes to great ear-poppin’ tunes, you just can’t do better than Built to Spill… To this pair-O-eyeballs, nobody wrote page-turners like that past master Donald Barthelme… Has anybody ever made that Mock Apple Pie from the recipe on the Ritz cracker box?… As that local sage Dick Balch used to say, if you can’t trust your car dealer, who can you trust?… New name to watch: Combustible Edison. Hip enough for the kids, and parents like ’em too! They’re gonna be big; trust me.”

THIN ICE: The “media-beat” analysts on C-SPAN and in NY opinion journals are predictably aghast over Tonyamania. The commentators seem to think all newspapers used to be like some idealized memory of the pre-1974 NY Times, that only in today’s dark times would papers put scandal and sleaze on their front pages. Not so. Newspapers always were as exploitive as they are now, only they used to be a lot better at it. The old Hearst papers or the old NY Daily News would’ve done a much hotter job on it than today’s wimpy rags.

THINNER ICE: As the nation awaited the Nancy/Tonya faceoff, it faced the usual abundance of commercials and sponsor-ID announcements. Again, as in previous Games, some advertisers were able to boast that they were “proud sponsors of the U.S. Olympic Team,” while other companies, that had opened their wallets to nothing Olympic-related beyond their own commercials, tried to fudge their commitment to Our Kids by plugging themselves as “a proud sponsor of CBS’s coverage of our Olympic heroes.”

CIVIC VALUES: So the Dog House restaurant is now Closed 24 Hours a Day. Woolworth’s is an empty palace of bargains. And the city government talks only about attracting more rich people’s retail. Between the Commons, the poster ban, and the big downtown development proposals, Seattle threatens to become a city by the upscale, of the upscale, for the upscale and to hell with everyone else. Hey Norm: How ’bout getting some stores the rest of us can afford to shop at? Support the plan to put a Marshall’s discount clothier in the Magnin spot. Next, we need a Freddy’s where Woolworth was, and an all-nite restaurant on 7th where you can get a good $6 pork-chops-and-mashed-potatoes dinner. Planet Hollywood? Who needs it! (Also note: KCTS’s Dog House closing-party special was technically well-done but suffered from that upscale-media disease, smug boomer condescension; much of the narration could be rewritten into “Look, Muffy: Ordinary people! Let’s gawk!”).

MISC. RULES FOR LIFE: another exciting ennui-filled column, how ’bout some Misc. rules for life: Don’t trust anybody who nevvuhwatches teh-levision. Don’t trust anybody who calls a car “an investment.” Don’t trust anybody who only talks about how “hot” a movie or a band is, not about how good it is. Don’t buy diet pills from an infomercial with the fine print “No Orders Accepted From Iowa.” Don’t buy anything advertised by white guys in Dockers dancing to James Brown‘s “I Feel Good.” And don’t move into a former slaughterhouse or brothel that’s been “restored to its original elegance.”

BRAVE NEW WORLD DEPT.: A few weeks ago, KING reported that the state’s highest youth suicide rate was on the Eastside. I could believe it, after having gone for a job interview in the heart of darkest Redmond. Once-lovely farmland, ploughed under and paved over with winding roads to nowhere, abutted by finished and unfinished cheap poured-concrete lo-rise office park buildings, some with gaudy entrances tacked onto their otherwise hyperbland facades, all recessed from the road by moats of parking and/or dirt where grass will eventually be. No “public space,” no pedestrians, just people working in isolated cubicles writing software that presumes that we’ll all someday be working in isolated cubicles. A sterile landscape of silent dread that only author J.G. Ballard or filmmaker Atom Egoyan could properly fictionalize.

HOUSE MUSIC: Tuff times have hit C/Z Records, the scrappy li’l label with perhaps the strongest current stable of Northwest bands. Honcho Daniel House rushed five CDs into the Xmas season, but his distributor RED (half-owned by Sony) only sold 200 units in December (after subtracting returns from stores). He’s putting three employees on two-month layoffs (“We need that time to get back on our feet”). House’s right-hand-dude Tim Cook is one of the casualties; he says he might look for permanent work elsewhere, having had managerial differences with House lately, but doesn’t have anything specific to announce yet.

House still plans a slate of 10 albums this year (down from 14 in ’93), including most of his top acts (7 Year Bitch, the Gits, Treepeople, Alcohol Funnycar, Dirt Fishermen, Engine Kid), the just-out In the West by new signees Silkworm, and a women-in-rock collection. He’s also negotiating for a retrospective of Seattle’s top new-wave-era band, the legendary Blackouts.

An indie-label purist might use this case to claim that labels don’t necessarily get top service from pseudo-indie distributors with major-label backing like RED (or Caroline, with whom Sub Pop parted ways, citing similar frustrations). (House has been negotiating for some sort of major-label alliance with Sony; nothing’s been signed yet.) The real problem’s more complicated than just big guysvs. little guys. Distribution remains the weak link of the music biz (and of the print biz, but that’s another tale). There are only so many slots in store bins (even at the 1,500 or so new-music specialty stores). Getting a new act into those stores, and promoting it to customers once it’s there, remains a pseudo-science. Articles in Musician and Wired look forward to proposed in-store downloading stations, where you could special-order any recording and get it transmitted onto a CD while you wait.

The major labels, natch, don’t want any part of a technology that might threaten their market share. Music-by-info-highway would be great for oldies and classics, and would destroy the fetish-object aspect of record collecting (thankfully), but wouldn’t solve the promotion issue. I can get umpteen thousand books from The Reader’s Catalog, but somebody still has to tell me why I need any particular one.

(latter-day note: By the end of 1994, most of C/Z’s remaining bands either broke up or went to other labels. House moved the company into his basement.)

HEADLINE OF THE MONTH (UW Daily, 2/10): “In the best of Peter Medak’s films, irreverence is something of a sacred cow.”

HARDWARE WARS: This home-store fight is getting out of hand. You’ve got Ernst promising to undercut Eagle, HomeBase vowing to undersell Price Costco. Now Home Depot has taken the battle to the next level. It’s established its own bridal registry. Now you can make sure cousin Mindy doesn’t get 24 identical Skilsaws.

LOCAL PUBLICATION OF THE MONTH: When the Washington Free Press first came out, I said it was a feisty little rag that had the potential to be better. With the latest issue, it’s approaching that potential: a great piece on Boeing workers getting sick from icky production chemicals, with the company dismissing the complaints as some sort of mass hysteria, plus a well-argued essay warning against “job blackmail” — companies’ threatening to take their jobs elsewhere unless governments scrap those pesky environmental laws. Speaking of which…

DEMO DERBY: A couple of readers have asked me to stop constructively-criticizing the failings of “progressive” types, player and just stick to slamming Republicans. I still do that when appropriate; but our president, governor, mayor, most of our state Congressional delegation and most of our city council are Democrats who at least profess to some degree of progressive ideals. It’s important to note when they stray from or compromise these ideals in the name of “creating a climate for business” or whatever; and when the popularly-accepted definition of “progressive” thought might not be the best way to solve our problems. That’s why I sometimes question some of the unquestioned premises behind urban-bohemian ideology, premises that some other publications have taken as Gospel truth. Speaking of which…

SPY, 1986-1994: Gee, maybe the Reagan Era really is over. The magazine’s entire humor was predicated on opposing the Reaganites while accepting the Reaganites’ terms of debate. Spy completely bought into the notion that the Right held a monopoly on political/social popularity, that the only people not enthralled to the GOP were a few big-city artist types. Spy reveled in its self-righteous posturing, in its concept of lower Manhattan as the lone outpost of wit and civility amidst a nation of heathen predators.

If Reagan and Bush invoked a romanticized social past where authority was seldom questioned and resources existed to be exploited, Spy invoked a romanticized cultural past where New York was the only place that mattered. Both notions are now more widely seen as the ancient relics they are. Readers turned away from a magazine that kept rehashing the same tired gag formats attacking movie stars and local NY celebrities as if they were worth the attention. The last Spy editor, Nat. Lampoon vet Tony Hendra, announced a new-look magazine that would take a fresher, funnier look at postmodern America, but the money ran out before he could implement the new format.

(latter-day note: Spy returned later in 1994, with mostly the same format as before.)

AD VERBS: Dewar’s Scotch has a magazine ad with an Alice Cooper/Peter Criss lookalike, complete with boa constrictor as scarf. The headline: “Your tastes in music have changed. Your taste in drinks should too.” Yeah, I know just what they’re saying: When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate acts like that. Now I do.

THE INFORMER: KCTS has been running “public service” spots from the King County Police, asking folks to keep their eyes on their neighbors and report any activity that might be potentially drug-related — visitors at odd hours, darkened windows, et al. Somebody on a computer bulletin board called the spot “Gestapo TV” and wants anyone who doesn’t like it to tell the station they won’t give it money. I won’t go that far, but I will use the case to note that in the nascent Information Age, not all information’s gonna be shared freely or used benevolently.

CATHODE CORNER: In a welcome surprise, MTV’s 120 Minutes played the new Sage video, albeit deep into the show’s 1-2 a.m. hour. Too bad the show’s latest clue-deficient host, Lewis Largent, had to introduce the clip with that now-chichéd line, “They’re from Seattle, but don’t get any preconceptions; they’re not grunge.” Aargh! The next person who thinks all local bands are alike, please tell me just what Flop, Mix-A-Lot, Amy Denio, Alice in Chains and Sister Psychic have in common.

The media turned “grunge” into a stereotype so exact that no band really matched it; then they used that to dismiss our diverse music as if the stereotype were true. Largent’s seemingly well-intended statement really perpetuated the false myth. He oughta say, “Yes there are lots of bands in the NW, lots of different bands, and here’s another.”…In a more positive homage, an episode of NBC’s off-again Homicide included murder-suspect characters named Layne Staley and Crist Novoselic.

SLOGAN OF THE MONTH (on Safeway Mrs. Wright’s Sesame Cheddar Snack Crackers): “Baked For Your Enjoyment!” Ever see a snack baked for your seething frustration? If you find one, let me know.

THE FINE PRINT (fortune cookie-like slip of paper inside a Sears CD player): “Warning: Protection Rubber must be removed before using.” Unless you’re playing one of those sounds-of-lovemaking CDs. Speaking of which…

LOSS-OF-ERECTIONS DEPT.: Leno joked that after the MLK Day Quake, LA had become “a community united behind one shared goal: to move to Seattle.” A week later, an AP article noted that many LA porn-video companies were in heavily quake-hit buildings. Some outfits might move rather than rebuild among the So.Cal. radical right. One unidentified exec said, “Our people will find another place where the climate is more liberal, and the ground more stable. Someplace up north maybe, like Seattle.”

We’re not all that quake-safe ourselves (if you believe the mass-media scare stories). And any hetero (or sex-positive-gay) hardcore producers would face our PC censorship advocates, who can be as obstinate and closed-minded as any Fundamentalists. But we’ve got a strong community of trained video technicians (with the Art Institute supplying more every year), and hundreds of underemployed actor-dancer-model types who don’t have to worry about tan lines. It’ll be even more fun if the producers apply for the tax breaks politicians usually love to offer to relocating companies.

(latter-day note: I’m now told there are already at least two hardcore adult-video producers regularly shooting in Seattle. I don’t have any names to refer you to. They haven’t provided much of an economic boost to the local production community, since they use small crews and maintain their own in-house post-production units.)

MOUTHS-O-BABES (overheard gleeful shriek of an 8-year-old girl on a bus, passing the Bon’s Chihuly window promoting ArtFair ’94): “See mom, I told you! Big cereal bowls!”

SHRINKING VISION: Seattle’s “public art” establishment has long been known for its private privileges. Jurors pick friends and/or lovers for top grants, organizations tailor project specs to favor their favorite artists, programs are publicized just before (or even after) their deadlines. Now comes word that the visual-art programs in this year’s Bumbershoot festival will be awarded by invitation only; tho’ if you’ve got an idea for something, you can send in an informal suggestion and maybe they’ll look at it. We’re going in the wrong direction, folks. We need arts people whose top loyalty is to art, not to specific artists. We need truly open processes, where a total unknown can come out of left field and bowl people over with a spectacular idea. We need to encourage art that blows minds, not art that kisses butts. (If it’s any consolation, one of the exhibits will be culled from the city’s “Portable Works Collection,” one program that does sometimes buy from non-insiders.)

MY SOAP BOX: When an ad agency designed the Tide box in the ’50s, it never knew that its concentric patterns would look just like the computer-animated psychedelic visuals of the ’90s. The orange box has become an icon of rave graphics. It’s on countless techno-party flyers. Portland’s Sweaty Nipples used it on a CD label; a Seattle band was going to use it before the Nipples used it first. I’m told that the brain can perceive the circles as moving in and out at the same time, making the image a “mandala” that can send the mind into another world. I’m also told that the orange circles look great under blacklight, and that Liquid Tide makes a great medium for making black-light paintings that can’t be seen in normal light (the “bleach substitute” ingredient contains a fluorescent dye). What’s next: acid-trip costumes based on the playing-card guy on the ol’ White King box?

‘TIL WE NEXT CROSS INK STAINS, recall these words of Wm. Faulkner: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”


Gregory Hischak in the new issue of the lovely local zine Farm Pulp: “The planet is an unstable being. Little earthquakes rumble up and down our coast. The earth has a lot of bottled up stress…pent up aggression. The earth really needs to get out more. Spend more time in the woods. Feed the ducks. The planet needs to stop operating on that second shift mentality.”


Uncorrected, autographed proof copies of my book, Here We Are Now: The Real Seattle Music Story, are now available for a $10 donation plus $2 postage from the address below. Be among the first to get a piece of local cultural history! Tell your friends.

Either next month or the month after, this newsletter thang’s gonna get twice as big: a whopping 4 pp. of ennui and unwarranted assumptions clogging your first-class mail the last Friday of each month, including weird fiction and non-Stranger material. Larger print not guaranteed. New sub rates will be announced then; current subs will be adjusted accordingly.



»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa
© Copyright 2015 Clark Humphrey (clark (at) miscmedia (dotcom)).