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…the fulcrum of the US economy, and hence of US culture, is flowing away from NY/LA/SF and toward the likes of second-tier cities such as Omaha and Orlando. (He doesn’t mention Seattle, except to claim Asian immigrants are increasingly settling in the Midwest instead of here.)
…below, some also-serious stuff.
I’m at this moment watching ABC’s Martin Luther King anniversary special. At last, a contemporary mainstream media source has depicted King as more than just the thinking-outside-the-box CEO’s role model he’s been depicted as in most January MLK Day billboards. He was a fighter, a tactician, and a truer American patriot than the Alabama government neanderthals who’d violently held on to segregation.
The subsequent two years’ worth of civil rights legislation broke the Democratic Party’s “solid South.” George Wallace’s third-party Presidential campaign in ’68 (the last such campaign to win any Electoral College votes) threw the White House to Nixon. Today, a more-or-less thinly disguised variant of Wallace’s old, cynical fear-mongering and race-baiting stands at the heart of Republican demagoguery.
King was no mere “dreamer.” His message is no mere relic from a long-gone era. We need to heed it more than ever.
…to Troy Hackett, co-owner of Philly’s Best cheesesteak shop on 23rd Avenue, easily the best indie fast-food place in Seattle today. I’d met Hackett a few times, both at and away from the restaurant, and always found him to be a gentle, well-humored gent with a mind set on building his business and his heart set on having fun. (This image depicts Philly’s Best’s mobile kitchen, which had already been installed at Seattle Center on Feb. 15 for a black community festival when an antiwar rally was booked for the same date.)
IF YOU SAW the movie Ghost World, you’ll remember a shot of the astoundingly racist logo for an old restaurant, the Coon Chicken Inn. A few of you might not know that was a real chain, which until the ’50s had a large outlet on Lake City Way, just beyond the old Seattle city limits–and just a half mile north of the offices of Fantagraphics Books, which published the original Ghost World comic. (Ying’s Drive-In now stands on the ex-Coon Chicken site.)
What’s more bizarre than the old Coon Chicken logo is the fact that modern-day folks are making counterfeit logo souvenirs!
Posting from a Net-cafe again today. My re-un-fixed laptop went back to the shop (actually to some central repair facility in Houston) today.
FUN QUOTE #1 (Snoop Doggy Dogg in the SeaTimes on women who’ve complained about his fully-clothed MC jobs on Girls Gone Wild videos–specifically, women who’ve complained about the lack of Af-Am breast-barers in the videos): “They’ve been complaining to me like crazy… They think I like the white girls because I’m on there with them, and I don’t, I just did that for money.”
FUN QUOTE #2 (Vendetta Red singer Zach Davidson in the same SeaTimes issue, on having become the client of an LA-based voice teacher): “He’s very good at that, how to preserve your voice. … When your voice goes, it’s like losing your penis.”
…since Planet Hollywood opened its first in-town Seattle outlet on Tuesday, run by the same regional franchisee whose Issaquah store’s become the target of sexual-harassment and racial-discriminaiton suits by Hispanic employees. I’ve no way of knowing whether the controversy dampened the Aurora branch’s opening-day hoopla, but I only had to stand in line 15 minutes (most of that time protected from the elements inside a logo-merchandise-filled tent).
Once inside, everyone got a free example of the chain’s signature product, the hot-glazed grease-and-sugar circle, fresh from the massive all-automated production line. It turns out to really be an extraordinary product, a ring of melt-away gooeyness that bears only a visual resemblance to a supermarket donut. (We refuse the pretentious “doughnut” for such an unpretentious product. We also don’t like how the flyer passed out to the patrons in line referred to the restaurant’s coffee-and-pop menu as a “beverage program.”) The same product, when served at room temperature, becomes a fluffy semisolid that hits you with a pronounced sugar rush after three bites.
Thus, it shouldn’t have been so surprising that the “greeter” lady who saw customers out the door reminded everyone that the store’s got a special unglazed version for diabetics.
The Krispy Kreme hype campaign is more than a publicity gimmick. It’s a vital aspect of the chain’s business plan as it expands from a cult-classic Southern regional circuit into a national powerhouse. The lowly donut stand has been a part of roadside and urban America for decades, but mainly in the form of independent operations (often immigrant-owned) or small regional chains. (Winchell’s and Dunkin’ Donuts have either scaled back or pulled out of their Norhwest regional operations.) Krispy Kreme has supersized the donut stand into a behemoth of relative Wal-Mart proportions (though each outlet is still little larger than McDonald’s largest urban branches). Everything about the restaurant, from the bright lighting to the cutesy T-shirts, reflects this re-imaging of a little ring of flour and lard into a destination entertainment experience.
Of course, the entertainment experience is taken to a new level by the franchisee’s current scandal. The combination of donuts and sleazy sex is such a rife opportunity for snickering jokes, which you are hereby allowed to imagine on your own. (Suggested premises: Holes, frosting, batter, mixers, beaters, roundness, crullers, dough, self-rising, “for here or to go,” drive-thru, cream filling, plain vs. chocolate, and, of course, sprinkles.)
Nina Simone, the jazz singer-songwriter and outspoken advocate of racial justice, died Monday at age 70 at her home somewhere in France. (She’d left the US in ’73 in disgust and only came back occasionally on tour.) Her official website has her whole fascinating life story, but it doesn’t include her last local appearance at Benaroya Hall in 2000, a spectacular evening according to those I know who attended.
…wherever we can find it, so here’s a link to some valiant folk trying to preserve the traditional Clallam language.
AN APOLOGY to those who tried to see my photo show the past week and a half. The Nico Gallery apparently had a water-heater explosion. We’ll try to remount the show elsewhere later this year, and will soon post all the images online.
LAST SUNDAY IN THIS SPACE, I discussed the value of continuing to read local newspapers, not just the NY Times.
But I also see value in trudging one’s way thru the Cadillac of American newspapers (i.e., it’s bigger than the others and weighted down with more luxury features, though it’s still built on the same Chevy drive train).
F’rinstance, Paul Krugman’s Sunday magazine section think-piece on America’s immensely growing economic inequality, and how it’s polluted politics, health care, foreign policy, social discourse, etc. etc.
It’s good to see something this honest in a paper that’s long (actually, just about always) been the voice of the economic elite. (I vaguely remember a writer (I don’t remember who it was) complaining a year ago that the NY Times Sunday magazine section’s editors rejected a piece he’d written about the homeless, asking him to make it more upscale.)
The backward distribution-O-wealth toward an increasingly out-of-touch Overclass isn’t exactly an untold story. But it is undertold. Or rather, when it is told it’s in a can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees manner.
Anyone who regularly peruses the “alternative” press knows about the symptoms of an Overclass economy:
A Republican Party whose “ideology” is just a ramshackle structure of excuses for big-money butt kissing and power-grabbing.
A “New” Democratic Party concerned solely with preserving its own institutional existence, by striving to become just as big-money-friendly as the Republicans.
A “conservatism” prescribing authoritarian brutality to the downscale, libertine excess to the upscale.
A “liberalism” with plenty to say about recycling but little to say about luxury lifestyles that produce all those wastes; that abstractly worships M.L. King as a courageous leader (a sort-of civil-rights CEO) but ignores most of the issues he fought for; whose favorite “minorities” are upscale white women and upscale white gays.
A ‘radicalism” centered parimarily around issues friendly to the “rebel” kids from affluent families (the fates of plants, animals, and “exotic” humans who conveniently don’t live on the same continent).
A corporate society built not around making stuff, or even around profitably selling stuff, but around supporting the insatiable material demands of top executives by propping up the Almighty Stock Price.
An urban environment defiled by smoggy SUVs.
A suburban environment defiled by minimansions, ever larger and ever further apart.
A dumbed-down “mainstream” media in which only the big-money boys’ side of any issue gets mentioned, in between lengthy pieces about entertainment celebrities.
A dumbed-down “alternative” media in which politics is reduced to demographic target marketing (“Oh how much more englightened we are than those mainstream dorks”), in between lengthy stories about “alternative” entertainment celebrities.
A “digital age” that was aggressively hyped as a tool for expression, empowerment, and equility; but which, in its pre-stock-crash form, generated even more obscene levels of stock-price and luxury-lifestyle nonsense, contributing to real-estate hyperinflation and massive demographic cleansing in many cities.
The Overclass economy might have carried the seeds of its own fall from grace. Between certain CEO scandals and a depression that’s made millions aware of their own precarious fiscal states, it’s at least a little harder this year to make excuses for giving the ultra-rich every damned thing they want.
But a fall from grace ain’t the same thing as a fall.
The U.S. economy might not currently even know how to reform itself toward greater equity, despite experts’ warnings that middle-class consumer confidence might be the only way out of this slump.
Most politicians are deathly afraid of doing anything that might threaten big-money campaign donations.
Most media outlets don’t even want to think of showing or printing anything that would tarnish the upscale image they sell to advertisers. (When I interviewed for a job at the short-lived local mag Metropolitan Weekly, the publisher’s first statement was the minimum average income he wanted his readers to have.)
No, the way out of our socio-political-economic mess won’t come from the systems and institutions that helped us get into the mess.
It can only come by developing viable, inclusive, true alternatives to those systems and institutions; forcing those systems and institutions to adapt or die.
The Seattle School Board has just decreed that West Seattle High School’s sports teams shall no longer be known as the “Indians.”
Fair enough; about time, some of you might say. But the board also declared the name be replaced before the start of the next school year. That means the school’s students might not get to vote on a new name.
So it’s up to us, the loyal friends of youth, to help come up with some possible replacements.
The best new WSHS team name I can think of, the “Alkis,” isn’t a tribal name but does derive from the
old “Chinook Jargon” trading language, and hence might still be too native-oriented to qualify. (And besides, some say the name’s correctly pronounced “al-key,” something the authorities might not want to be associated with minors.)
Other possibilities, equally neighborhood-centric but more palatable, include “Admirals” (from the north WS business district) and “Cranes” (from the beautifully rugged cargo-container lifts flanking the Duwamish River). But there’s gotta be something better out there. Email me with your suggestions. I’ll pass them all along to the school officials.
INANE POLITICAL IDEA OF THE HALF-WEEK: Sanctimonious, bipartisan hypocrites in the U.S. Senate have drafted an all-purpose bill to allow police to shut down virtually any public gathering at which drugs might be consumed or even discussed—raves, Hempfests, neo-hippie country festivals, and potentially even scrictly political events at which someone might state that the war on drugs wasn’t a great thing. The bill has already passed one Senate committee. You might consider letting certain people know you think this stinks.
LET’S ALL PLAY
This proposed role-playing game will involve two separately-shuffled decks of cards.
The female player draws a card at random from the Pink Deck to determine which of the following grossly overgeneralized female character types (taken from popular images in “mainstream” and “alternative” media) she must adopt.
Then the male player does the same from the Blue Deck, containing various one-dimensional male character types. The two players then proceed to have a bitter verbal argument, in their characters.
The loser: The player who breaks character first.
The winner: There are no winners.
The point of the game: NOT to have fun, but to be as adamant and as miserable as you can be.
THE FEMALE ROLES:
Description: Says she’ll love you; will really kill or at least totally humiliate you.
Visualization: Blonde, sultry, with a come-hither expression, cleavage, and a knife held behind her back.
Description: Stuck-up high school brat
Visualization: Perfect body, perfect hair, perfect clothes, the facial expression of someone who’s just confronted horse feces on the sidewalk.
Description: Believes stereotyping people by gender is the worst crime in the world, that it’s done by no women and all men, and if you disagree you’re part of the universal male conspiracy.
Visualization: Butch in leather with a permanent scowl.
Description: The emotionally abusive, all-purpose victim of everything. Transforms in an instant from bawling to anxious to wrathful.
Visualization: Overemotive Shakespearean actress; or the couch-swooner from that Edward Gorey book cover. Might be finishing a drink carried in one hand while pouring another drink with her other hand.
Description: Completely lacking a mind or will of her own. Enslaved by TV and magazine ads that don’t want her to buy stuff, just to make her feel miserable.
Visualization: mirror in her hand, standing on a scale, rail-thin but seeing herself in the mirror as voluminously obese
Description: Victim of the Mean Teen’s putdowns for merely looking insufficiently ladylike. Because she has the skankiest reputation in school, no boy will have her–and none ever has.
Visualization: Not seductive, merely “cheap” and semi-pathetic looking. Ill-fitting denim jacket, last year’s jeans style, the wrong brand of cigarettes, too much makeup.
Description: Her mischievous giggle and batting eyes can make men give her fortunes, which she’ll waste in an instant on one really fabulous consumer purchase.
Visualization: Carefully contrived fake absentmindedness.
Description: The woman every man’s supposed to go absolutely crazy about and if you don’t what’s wrong with you?
Visualization: An almost kabuki-like absurdist characterization made from her own thoroughly-surgeried body; plus overbleached and overteased hair, big vacant eyes, surgically-thickened pouting lips, impossibly high heels, and a vinyl or gold-lame jumpsuit.
Description: Diligently works to create a society where everything’s uniformly blah and anything that could even possibly be fun would be outlawed.
Visualization: Stern emotionless behind big round glasses, blah hair, blah clothes,
Description: Your new boss, who uses conniving and treachery to get to the top (whereas your old male boss simply used bluster and bullying).
Visualization: Nordstrom-suited adult version of the Mean Teen. Shoulder pads capable of playing football in.
Description: doesn’t want to kill you, just enslave you.
Visualization: Perect demure smile, bridal gown, holding handcuffs or a lasso, perhaps dreaming a “thought balloon” of screeching children and a minivan.
Description: In high school she was the Mean Teen. In adulthood she will be the Dresser for Success. But now in college, she’s sowing more oats than Quaker–and will voraciously defend her right to do so.
Visualization: Standing up in the back seat of a convertible, either flashing or simply thrusting her bosom forward. Expression of out-of-control glee.
THE MALE ROLES:
Description: Ape-ish, vulgar, boorish, yet boistrously unaware.
Visualization: Abercrombie & Hilfiger designer slop, backward baseball cap, puking while holding a bottle of Goldschlager.
Description: Can’t read, speak, or think. Can barely stand. Yet fantasizes about being a drug-running, woman-beating street tough.
Visualization: Baggy butt-cleavage jeans, blank permanent-stoner expression, skateboard, lanky and hunched over.
Description: Believes in Breaking All The Rules, especially rules that prevent him from doing anything he wants to anything (or anyone) he wants.
Visualization: Loud “GQ” attire, Ray-Bans, smug smirk, cocky strut, posing in front of a huge-ass vehicle with anti-environmental and/or just plain rude bumper stickers.
Description: Wishes for the chance to create, from violence and chaos, a new world of total purity. Doesn’t yet realize such a world would immediately declare him not pure enough.
Visualization: Crew cut, huge-ass gun, stern stare, KKK robe showing beneath his fatigues.
Description: Watches TV and doesn’t read “alternative” newspapers; and hence is personally responsible for everything wrong in the whole world.
Visualization: The vacuous ’50s daddy figure from the cartoon This Modern World.
Description: Exists only to oppress women; dreams of a world where men are men and women stay barefoot & pregnant.
Visualization: Malicious-looking brute with slick hair and a slick thin moustache, in a disco suit with gold chains and a thick mound of fake chest hair.
Description: From man-bashing TV commercials, the clueless househusband who can’t even open a can of beans without a woman to help.
Visualization: Clumsy oaf in the middle of a pratfall.
Description: Believes the only way a male can have a soul is to renounce his body. Eats a special macrobiotic diet devised by Chinese monks to completely suppress the sex drive. Women frequently tell him of their platonic respect for him, in between relationships with Patriarchists.
Visualization: Ponytail down to here; paisley pajama-esque clothes, open-toed Earth Shoes.
Description: The school principal, college professor, company president, court judge, government official, parole officer, doctor, cop, father, banker, or other authority figure whose only joy in life is keeping you down.
Visualization: A sadistic yet somehow blasé expression, a more or less wrinkly face, and a more or less formal business suit.
Description: The perfectly trained mate. Ready and eager to perform any chore (from cunnilingus to grouting) without notice. Will be cheated on within a year and divorced within two.
Visualization: Sweater, tastefully poofy curly blond hair, the expression of a puppy dog eager to please. Perhaps cooking, gardening, or mending socks.
Description: White women see him as a potential stealer of purses. White men see him as a potential stealer of jobs.
Visualization: Thin; dressed in an overly-anxious-to-fit-in looking formal suit. Face is silhouetted (the particular ethnicity of this man, whatever it is, isn’t the point).
Description: Perfect BECAUSE he’s gay and therefore safely unavailable; the object/recipient of female fantasies involving every possible virtue.
Visualization: Perfectly dressed, perfectly groomed, boyish looking (but not queen-y).
A UW survey claims young white male workers have a worse start in life, and fewer opportunities for a better life, than their early-’80s forebearers.
Undoubtedly, the Dittoheads will misinterpret these findings to claim affirmative action has gone too far, that women and minorities are now the privileged castes and society must now focus on returning the erstwhile sons of privilege to their supposed rightful place.
What it really means is a new caste system has developed in the U.S., based less on race and gender than on the purer inequalities of money and power. There are still bastions of white-male privilege, in the corporate boardrooms and the corridors of political power. But remember, most rich people are white but most white peope aren’t rich. And the nonrich whites are in the same unstable boat as the nonrich blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and native Americans.
This means progressive-lefty types need to rethink 30-year-old (or older) notions of a world where “white” plus “male” equals “oppressor.” There are millions of pale penis people stuck in the same no-future rut as millions of women and minorities. A liberalism that worked would reach out to these people, inviting them in to a movement to try and make things better for everybody.
…has come and gone, and I would not at all be surprised if you didn’t notice it unless you either had the day off from work/school or if you’d waited for mail delivery on Monday.
Mainstream-media coverage of the day was reduced to the bare minimum (Sunday op-ed pieces about The State of Race in America; quick TV clips of politicians’ speechifying about the great man intercut with children’s choirs doing old black spirituals).
Even the traditional MLK corporate “public service” ads, re-imaging Dr. King into corporate America’s preferred idea of a visionary (someone who shifts paradigms and thinks outside the proverbial box), were noticably diminished this year. Part of that could do with companies cutting back on expenses deemed unnecessary for fiscal survival.
But there might be another potential reason. The politicians, the companies, and particularly the media just might (might, I say) be particularly uncomfy this time around with Dr. King’s real messages. The man wasn’t just a dreamer. He was a dissident. He demanded to challenge the U.S. status quo, to insist this country live up to its professed ideals of liberty and equality. To King, being a proper American didn’t involve sanctimonious complacency. It meant working, fighting, to make this a better place, a more just place.
It’s almost certain that if King were around today, Lynne Cheney’s think tank would brand him as a bin Laden sympathizer.
At first, I thought the sudden emergence of an overriding central political issue would render irrelevant all the littler things progressives obsess over, such as gender-role images in the media or PoMo deconstructions of texts.
But then it dawned on me that all these sub-issues relate, at least indirectly, to the main tasks at hand: Getting the U.S. going again, not letting Bush pull us toward an inevitably-futile armed conflict, and getting the U.S. out of the colonial-empire game that got us into this mess.
Herewith, a few speculative ways some of the heretofore largely separate progressive causes might tie into the new Cause #1 (finding a way out of this new military-political situation without losing lots of innocent lives here or elsewhere):
Thus, it takes PoMo thinking to find a response to the attacks that doesn’t end up destroying modern (western) society in the name of saving it.
So don’t for a minute buy into the notion that the conservative prowar contingent’s got some inevitable monopoly on the nation’s hearts-‘n’-minds.
The things progressives have talked about all these years are more relevant, and potentially more promotable, than ever.
A critic lists the “Top 50 Cliches of the Art World.”
“Why Whites Think Blacks Have No Problems.”
Longtime tech-biz observer Adam Engst has some inside insights about the Internet grocery biz in “Where Webvan Went Wrong.”