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DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE DEPT.
Mar 31st, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

An essayist with AOL News wishes to praise “America’s Most Diverse ZIP Code.” You’ll never guess where it is.

No. C’mon, guess.

GOING NATIVE
Mar 21st, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

From Hollywood warpaths to new-agey shamans, Joseph Riverwind deconstructs the “Basic Indian Stereotypes.”

BAR WARS: HOW BELLTOWN WON
Feb 24th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

As the Elliott Bay Book Co. prepares to leave Pioneer Square a business neighborhood without an “anchor tenant,” the Square’s major retail industry, big rowdy bars, is also in decline. The J&M shuttered altogether (it’s rumored to be reopening under new management as less of a bar and more of a cafe). Others are rumored to be in trouble.

I remember the glory days of the Square’s nightlife scene. I remember that milieu’s signature street sound. You’d stand in front of the pergola around midnight on a Saturday. You could hear, from five different bars, five different white blues bands, each cranking out a mediocre rendition of “Mustang Sally,” each band slightly out of tempo with the others. It was a cacophany only avant-garde composer Charles Ives could have dreamt up.

That scene was already waning before the infamous 2001 Mardi Gras melee gave the Square a bad PR rep.

Fast forward almost a decade. Today’s loci for bigtime drinking are Fremont, Pike/Pine, and especially Belltown.

Belltown’s bar scene has its own signature street sound. It’s the arhythmic clippety-clop of dozens of high-heel shoes trotting up and down the sidewalks of First Avenue. Creating this sound are many small groups of bargoers, small seas of black dresses and perfect hairdos.

These women, and their precursors over the past decade and a half, are the reason Belltown won the bar wars.

In my photo-history book Seattle’s Belltown, I described the rise of the upper First Avenue bar scene:

“After the Vogue proved straight people would indeed come to Belltown to drink and dance, larger, more mainstream nightclubs emerged. Among the first, both on First Avenue, were Casa U Betcha (opened 1989) and Downunder (opened 1991). Both places began on a simple premise: Create an exciting yet comfortable place for image-conscious young women, and the fellows would follow in tow (or in search).”

To this target market, the Square was, and would always be, too dark, too grungy, and too iffy. The condo canyons of Belltown, in contrast, were relatively clean (if still barren) with fresh new buildings and sported (at least some) well-lit sidewalks.

The state liquor laws were liberalized later in the 1990s, leading to more and bigger hard-liquor bars. Casa U Betcha and Downunder gave way to slicker fun palaces, all carefully designed and lit, with fancy drinks at fancy prices to be consumed while wearing fancy out-on-the-town clothes and admiring others doing the same.

And, aside from the occasional Sport, nearly all these joints sought to attract, or at least not to offend, the young-adult female market.

You’re free to make your comparisons here to the high-heeled and well-heeled fashionistas of HBO’s old Sex and the City.

I’d prefer a more local comparison, to Sex In Seattle. In case you don’t know, that’s a live stage show that’s presented 17 installments since 2001. Its heroines are social and career strivers, less materialistic and less “arrived” than the Sex and the City women.

And they’re Asian Americans. As are Sex In Seattle’s writers and producers.

As are a healthy proportion of the clientele at Belltown’s megabars these days.

These customers want many of the same things Belltown residents want. They like attractive, clean, safe streets with well-lit sidewalks.

They may make a little more noise outside than some of the residents want to hear.

But we’re all in the same place, geographically and otherwise.

(Cross posted with the Belltown Messenger.)

THE RACE IS ON, SERIOUSLY
Feb 11th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

You already know about the hit blog/book Stuff White People Like. It’s a gentle satire on the ways and mores of the upscale NPR/Starbucks/REI subculture.

One guy named “Macon D” has taken the same premise, cut out the funny business, and created a serious examination of modern ethnic attitudes.

As he explains,

I’m a white guy, trying to find out what that means. Especially the “white” part.

His site: Stuff White People DO.

THIS REALLY SUCKS
Feb 8th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

Of all the millions in Twilight tourism and merch sales to young vampire fans, the real-life native tribe depicted in the books essentially gets nothing.

WHAT REALLY WORKS
Dec 30th, 2009 by Clark Humphrey

Sixties antiwar organizer Mark Rudd insists in his essay “Beyond Magical Thinking” that…

Successful political movements do not spring fully formed. They require long-term, nuts-and-bolts organizing.

In other words, protesting, no matter how big and splashy, isn’t enough.

A PALER SHADE OF WHITE
Oct 17th, 2009 by admin

Jody Rosen at the formerly-locally-owned Slate has a lovely rant about the unbearable whiteness of “indie” music. Then Rosen segues into a side rant about the peculiar slant of NPR (and upscale white America) toward black music; preferably their preferences for Af-Am artists who are “Dead, Old, Retro, Foreign,” or “DORF.”

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN…
Jul 12th, 2009 by Clark Humphrey

…an African American cultural activist gets in a Twitter exchange with a white actress who says Af-Ams are “more free and fun and light hearted”? A lot more than 140 characters, that’s what happens.

MICHAEL JACKSON, R.I.P.
Jun 25th, 2009 by Clark Humphrey

The ultimate tabloid celebrity was also the ultimate mess of contradictions, as you’ve long known. He was a devout student of classic R&B who had a series of nose and chin reconstructions, straightened his hair, and wore whiteface makeup on and off stage. He was a self-made sex symbol whose mark of “toughness” was to shriek in an attempt to reach the high notes of his early fame. He was a creator of effortless-sounding music whose life was rife with chaos, drug/alcohol abuse, and music-industry sycophants. He was a beloved entertainer who was accused of some of the most heinous crimes. He’d attained unlimited wealth (or the closest thing to that any African-American man has ever had), then spent the last third of his life scrambling to avoid total financial collapse.

In all the TV, radio, and online chatter in the first hours since his demise, I’ve been reading and hearing the wildest tales. Given what we know about his life, even the wildest of these rumors seem believable, whether or not they’re true.

My favorite quotation about Jackson came in a Facebook message from ex-Seattle semiotician Steven Shaviro: “MJ, in his musical genius and in his sad racial and sexual confusions, epitomized American civilization more than anybody else ever did.”

JESSE HELMS, RIP
Jul 4th, 2008 by Clark Humphrey

Yes, the right-wing firebrand ex-senator helped to perfect what we’ve all come to know as conservative standard operating procedure. Bash the blacks and the gays; openly appeal to fear and bigotry; proclaim a love for “America” that includes a hatred for many, if not for most, of the people living in it.

But it’s important to remember, no one politician, not even Helms with his devious genius for divisiveness, created this recipe.

Helms simply exploited and extended the heritage of intolerance and lizard-brain emotions that’s long been a part of our nation’s dark side.

Of course, there’s another side to out nation’s history. Many sides, in fact. I’ll mention them in my next post (which, thanks to the conventions of blogging, you may have read prior to reading this).

RUBY CHOW, 1920-2008
Jun 5th, 2008 by Clark Humphrey

Before she was the first Asian American on the King County Council, she owned the first Chinese restaurant in Seattle outside of the Chinatown/International District. With her husband in the kitchen, she presided over the dining room as a pure diva. This name/face recognition fueled her rise to influence, both within the Asian American community and beyond. You may know of her daughter, longtime public-schools advocate Cheryl Chow. You might not know Chow was the sister of Mary Pang, whose frozen-foods mini-empire met a fiery end at the hands of Pang’s convicted-arsonist son.

SO IT'S OVER
Jun 4th, 2008 by Clark Humphrey

Or rather, it’s finally begun.

So now what?

For one thing, there will, to quote a recent movie cliche, be blood.

No matter how lame McCain’s own speeches are, the Right’s many screeching mouthpieces will do all they can to defame the Obama campaign, by any sleazy means necessary.

The next 22 weeks will be brutal.

But they can also be exhilarating.

Let’s get started.

WHAT I'VE BEEN READING
Apr 3rd, 2008 by Clark Humphrey

  • A sad USA Today piece about a Denver-area subdivision increasingly abandoned to foreclosures.
  • A black college professor’s fascinating tale of why he founded a university-funded “museum of racist memorabilia.”
  • Sara Robinson’s similarly-themed essay in which she bemoans stereotyping and us-vs.-them dehumanization in America, then blames all of it on people who are different from her. No, she doesn’t get the irony.
  • A much more optimistic Rolling Stone profile of Sen. Obama’s campaign organization, showing the practical value of including everybody into the “us” group.
  • Naomi Klein’s weighty tome Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.Klein painstakingly traces the entirety of the global tragedy that is right-wing power-grabbing (coups, dictatorships, Iraq, even the response to Hurricane Katrina) back to Milton Friedman. You see, before Friedman ran the Federal Reserve Board (where he was credited/blamed for holding puppet strings on the entire U.S. economy), he ran the U. of Chicago’s school of economics, where “Chicago School” pundits and scholars produced long and ponderous statements offering complex reasoned arguments for letting big business do any damned thing it wanted to.

    Klein’s own reasoning is lucid, and her documentation is voluminous. But it’s incomplete.

    Economic theory is only one head of the Hydra-like monster that comprises power and privilege in this world. A more worthwhile look at the evils done in the name of America over the decades would look at the topic with more breadth, even if it meant less depth.

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, RIP
Feb 27th, 2008 by Clark Humphrey

The National Review founder and Firing Line TV host wrote in 1986, “I asked myself the other day, `Who else, on so many issues, has been so right so much of the time?’ I couldn’t think of anyone.” Some of the issues he was “so right” on included the civil rights movement (emphatically against), Joseph McCarthy (for), the Vietnam war (for), US support for “friendly” homicidal dictators (for), and rock music (against).

His early opposition to the John Birch Society was mostly tactical and cultural; he wanted a more respectable right wing, with a clear, one-way flow of power from Wall Street to Main Street. Similarly, his latter-day opposition to the Iraq war can be interpreted as a plea to put some brakes on a conservative movement heading inexorably toward a train wreck.

DAMN!
Jan 26th, 2008 by Clark Humphrey

Can’t anybody stage a hiphop club night without somebody firing guns outside?

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