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THE COLUMN
May 14th, 1998 by Clark Humphrey

FROM `THE PESTO OF CITIES’: You’re probably either anxiously awaiting tonight’s final episode of Seinfeld, or you’re bored to tears by all the press the show’s gotten and you’re glad it’ll all be done soon. Both camps might be interested in the Seinfeld create-a-plot guides on the Internet. Fill in the blanks and you’ve got your own wacky li’l Mad Libs-esque story, little more implausible than those the show’s actually used. I’ve used some of the categories on that list, and made up some of my own, to organize my own riff on the show’s familiar formulae:

Discussion/argument about a topic of profound unimportance: If Carly Simon wrote about somebody and wanted to get at him by saying “You probably think this song is about you,” but it really was about him, what’s the deal here?

Slightly unsightly sight gag: Sticking quarters onto your forehead.

Sexual euphemism: A soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend is derided behind his back for spending too much time “mountaineering” and not enough time “spelunking.”

Kiddie snack-food product, still remembered and/or consumed by the lead characters: Fizzies–the tablets that, when dropped in water, are supposed to create instant soda pop but actually create a vaguely cherry-flavored, non-medicinal version of Alka-Seltzer.

Celebrity name-drop: Charlene Tilton.

Humorous situation in which this celebrity appears: Fighting with one of the lead characters over an object of pathetic obsession.

Object of pathetic obsession: A M@xRack movie-ad postcard with Gwyneth Paltrow’s name misspelled, and hence potentially collectible.

Urban-etiquette peeve: People who make too many consecutive transactions at an ATM while others are in line.

Proposed solution to this peeve: Start a petition drive outside bank branches, demanding banks to set a two-transactions-at-a-time limit at ATMs during peak hours, punishable by “eating” the violator’s ATM card.

Ethnic guest character: An Italian-American mother who works at the clothing-catalog company.

Ethnic-slur aspect of that character: Demands accordion music at her daughter’s wedding reception.

Reason to start dating someone: She appreciates really good Dr Pepper, and makes special buying trips to New Mexico where the local bottler makes an especially strong version. She even knows to never spell Dr Pepper with a period, and publicly corrects anyone who tries.

Reason to stop dating someone: Goes into a hissy-fit at any restaurant (or wedding reception) that even deigns to offer Mr. Pibb as a substitute for Dr Pepper, and in fact screams to the whole world that she would rather drink cherry-flavor Fizzies.

`Wacky’ money-making scheme: The last known cache of big-E Levi’s jeans not yet sold to Japan; a cache discovered at the rural New Mexico general store that also has the world’s best Dr Pepper.

Why this money-making scheme’s doomed: Nobody bothers to figure out that, with the Asian recession, the bottom’s fallen out of the Japanese big-E Levi’s mania.

How the characters learn this lesson too late: At the wedding reception, the clothing-catalog owner is overheard casually mentioning this during a discussion about a new unusual garment concept.

Uunusual garment concept: Garanimals for grownup men.

Potential benefit of this new garment concept: You’d never look like an ill-dressed, color-conceptless dork in public.

Potential liability: If you’re a single man and you don’t look like a color-conceptless dork, women will presume you’re either gay or married.

Potential benefit from that potential liability: Attracting a woman who’s specifically after married men, because she’s turned on by the transgressiveness.

Potential liability from that potential asset: You’re now living an elaborate lie in order to keep this woman from leaving you, which she undoubtedly will do if she finds out you’re not really married.

Non-sequitur catch phrase: “Do I even look like your caseworker?”

Now go make up your own answers to these categories, or categories like them; then stick them into a standard four-subplot Seinfeld story arc. The result will probably be funnier than whatever’s gonna be on tonight’s finale. Submit your entries to clark@speakeasy.org. The best entries will be posted online, for all to share in the being and nothingness.

BOWLED TYPE
Apr 2nd, 1998 by Clark Humphrey

It’s a post-April Fool’s Misc., the popcult column that hopes the popular new local band A/C Autolux will one day appear on the same gig with the even-newer local band MoPar. Let’s just hope no band members forget their parts.

UPDATE: Since writing about the Triangle Broadcasting Co., I’ve learned of another gay radio outlet, sorta: The Music Choice section of the DirecTV satellite-dish service has a nightly package of “Out” music, starting around 11 p.m. It’s commercial-free and even flashes the titles and artists’ names on screen.

CLASS-ACTION RACISM SUIT HITS BOEING: Some of you theoretically might ask, “But aren’t pocket-protector-clad Boeing engineers the virtual epitome of squaresville fair play and quiet devotion to duty?” Maybe, in myth; but any huge organization with an almost all whitebread leadership (even an officially “nice” whitebread leadership) can be prone to insult “jokes,” promotion preferences and other discriminations, even anonymous threats and attacks. It’s happened in the past decade (according to suits and pubilshed accusations) at Nordstrom, City Light, the fire department, the ferry system. And with affirmative action under attack and with every boor and bigot using the all-justifying label of “political incorrectness” as an excuse to actually take pride in their own obnoxious inhumanity, we might see more ugliness ahead. Speaking of untoward behavior at unexpected places…

CATHODE CORNER #1: The (still alive, still free) online zine Salon recently ran allegations of sexual harrassment in the offices of 60 Minutes (following that show’s sympathetic treatment of Clinton accuser Kathleen Willey). Salon‘s article was built around eight-year-old allegations by freelancer Mark Hertsgaard, who’d written a piece for Rolling Stone (which published only a watered-down version). He charged the show’s bigwigs, including exec-producer Don Hewitt and anchor Mike Wallace, with acts of gender-hostility ranging from lewd jokes to groping and bra-snapping. It’s enough to bring new meaning to my old foolproof formula for “Safer sex” (imaginining that the person you’re about to have sex with is really Morley Safer oughta stop anything from happening).

CATHODE CORNER #2: KCPQ’s news, after the expected bumpy first weeks, is turning into a snappy li’l broadcast that, partly out of necessity (fewer camera crews, no helicopter), spends a little less time than the other stations chasing ambulances and a little more time covering issues, including issues deemed important to those youngish X-Files viewers. Any broadcast that gives top billing (on 3/17) to the fight to abolish the Teen Dance Ordinance at least has a set of priorities in concordance with those of some of our readers. Just one little thing: If they’re trying to skew to a younger audience, why do they follow the newscast with a M*A*S*H rerun that probably looked creaky when made (before the station’s target audience was born)?

PINNING IT DOWN: Bowling as a source for hip iconography is way on the rise. Bowling shirts (particularly the Hawwaiian variety) have been in for a couple of years now and may have another resurgence this summer (if the collectors haven’t stowed away all the good ones by now). New bars from the Breakroom to Shorty’s are festooned with balls, pins, and other acoutrements of the sport. It’s a way to be fun ‘n’ retro without the bourgeois trappings of the cigar-bar crowd. But don’t look for any new bowling alleys anywhere around here anytime soon. Banks and landlords think bowling’s a suboptimal use of square footage, compared to other entertainment or retail concepts. When a Green Lake Bowl or Village Lanes or Bellevue Lanes goes away, it doesn’t come back. All we can do is support the remaining kegling bastions (including the occasional “rock ‘n’ bowl” nights at Leilani Lanes in upper Greenwood).

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: If the Olympics come to Seattle in 2012 (and I know some of you are dead set against the idea but if the Schellites have their way it won’t be our decision to make), will you still be willing to be televised as part of a quaint, exotic human-interest piece about those strange local customs? Submit your reply, with your choice of quaint custom, at clark@speakeasy.org. (Remember, no latte jokes.)

SMARTY PANTS
Jan 29th, 1998 by Clark Humphrey

HIGH IQ=LOW XXX?: The papers were full of smart-folks-get-less-sex headlines the same week IDG Books brought out Dating for Dummies, the latest extension of a guidebook series initially aimed at people who needed to run computers at work but didn’t like to. Maybe they should’ve put out Dating for Smarties instead. (On the other hand, a programming-manual format’s perhaps an ideal means to show literal-minded people how to survive in such an un-left-brain activity.) (On the third hand, maybe it’s all the wrong way; reinforcing thought patterns completely useless for the realm of hormones and emotions.)

Smart ladies at least have Marilyn Vos Savant and the learned lovelies in Bull Durham and La Lectrice as sexy role models. Who’ve boys got: The antisocial (alleged) Unabomber? The hygiene-challenged Einstein and Edison? OK, there’s the fun-lovin’ late scientist Richard Feynman and certain brooding movie master-criminal types, but they’re the exceptions. But the more common image is the drooling fanboy in a three-sizes-too-small Capt. Kirk shirt, peering through inch-thick spectacles, looking for love in all the wrong places (like AOL chat rooms), fantasizing about Amazonian superwomen but incapable of chatting up a real one, perhaps still traumatized by high-school crushes who slept with jocks and treated him as a brother.

Many hyper-rational people of all genders fear the irrational, and love and sex are about the most irrational behaviors known to humankind. But becoming more desirable isn’t as impossible as it sometimes seems. Practice using a softer, sultrier voice in which to recite post-structuralist literary theory. Memorize love sonnets. Do something to get outside the comfy prison of your own head (yoga, gardening, cycling, pets). Reclaim your place in the physical/ biological/ emotional realm. To quote a love-struck professor in Hal Hartley’s Surviving Desire, “Knowing is not enough.”

`WORLD’ CONQUEST: I’ve heard punk-rock activists might try to disrupt location tapings of MTV’s Real World Seattle with pickets or street-theater type hostilities. I say we can be more creative than that. They think they’re an entertainment network; heck, we’ll show ’em some real entertainment. First, start a phone tree in advance, so you can descend on the place in numbers. Then when the crew and cast are sighted somewhere, arrive en masse in Santa suits, or chanting the Ivar’s Acres of Clams folk jingle, or loading the bar’s juke box to repeatedly play “Convoy.” Let’s show those stuck-up industry people we know how to have an old-school good time in this town. Speaking of entertainments…

WORDS & MUSIC: Fizz: A Blah Blah Blah Blah Magazine has put out its last issue and I’ll miss it. Some of publisher Cathy Rundell’s associates are regrouping to start a successor mag, Plus One. One of the things I loved about Fizz (and its LA-based predecessor Fiz) was its insistance on indie-pop as a force for creativity and empowerment, for doing things where you are with what you’ve got.

Compare this to the attitude in Resonance, the three-year-old local dance and pop mag. Where Fizz got personal with musicians, portraying them as just-plain merrymakers like you or me, Resonance keeps its critical distance. Even its interviews too often practice the same old provincialism, treating musical artists as gods and goddesses descending upon us from the media capitals. The irony, of course, is how dance music depends for its real innovations on stubborn trend-breakers, many from outside the NY/LA/SF/London axis. Another dance-club freezine, the LA-based Sweater, exemplifies this in a recent cover story about Derrick May, the Detroit DJ who pioneered late-’80s house music–and who only found a domestic market for his work after U.K. imitators “popularized” the style.

I’ve been criticized for having a rocker-reactionary “disco sucks” attitude toward the dance revolution. Not true. My beef’s with the self-defeating “real-life-is-elsewhere” attitude among too many dance-scene followers, too content to remain followers. Like an introspective genius afraid to date, the scene needs to shake off its inhibitions, to dare to be foolish, to really get down.

(Share your egghead love tips at clark@speakeasy.org .)

SOLID GOAD
Jul 17th, 1997 by Clark Humphrey

MICOSOFT TO BUY CBS?: That’s what a New York Post story said a couple weeks ago. I didn’t believe it, even before the denials from all sides. For one thing, Gates likes to buy companies on their way up, not underperformers in need of restoration. For another, MS’s current alliance with NBC made for at least a few half-decent jokes around the Internet, contrasting nerd stereotypes with the network’s young, hip image (Gates becoming the seventh Friend, et al.). But there’s nobody on CBS one could even imagine as having ever used a computer–except Dave’s World star Harry Anderson, a card-carrying Macintosh endorser.

AD SLOGAN OF THE WEEK: “At Bally’s health clubs, you can get the body you’ve always wanted to have.” And you thought that sort of offer could only be advertised in the rural counties of Nevada…

WHITE UNLIKE ME: I’m on my third reading of Jim Goad’s book The Redneck Manifesto. Goad (co-creator of the nearly-banned-in-Bellingham zine Answer Me!) has his points, but you have to sift through an awful lot of theasaurus-bending cuss words and almost poetry-slam-style “attitude” to find it. Around all this filler, Goad interweaves his and his family’s story of financial/ social struggle with observations of his current surroundings in industrial north Portland and with what BBC documentary producers might label “a personal history” of the white (rural and urban) working class in Europe and America, from the bad old days of indentured servitude and debtors’ prisons to the bad new days of welfare-mother bashing, wage stagnation, and job exports. In Goad’s worldview, the great mall-hopping middle class either doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter much to his main concept, the eternal war of “white trash vs. white cash.” Among the aspects of his thesis:

* Poor whites and poor blacks have more in common (and socialize together more readily) than poor whites and rich whites.

* Unattractive traits ascribed to rednecks and trailer trash (laziness, savagery, stupidity, promiscuity, poor hygiene) have always been used by the rich everywhere to disparge the poor everywhere.

* America’s “dirty little secret” isn’t race but class.

* Most rich people are white but most white people aren’t rich–and shouldn’t be collectively blamed for slavery, discrimination, and other rich people’s crimes.

* So-called “angry white male” subcults (militias, talk radio listeners, etc.) aren’t necessarily as racist, sexist, homophobic, or paranoid as the upscale media crack ’em up to be. Their real beefs, Goad claims, are against big business and big government, as they should be.

* The media (including most “alternative” weeklies) are tools of the “white cash” class and don’t give a damn about the downscale, except to sneer at ’em.

* The same’s true of white-upscale leftists, whom Goad claims care more about overseas rainforests than about toxic dumps in our own inner cities. Goad says this is an historic trait, citing Brit society ladies who spoke out against slavery in the American south while treating their own servants and employees like dirt.

* The white hipster agenda has always had less to do with assailing bourgeois privileges than with defending these privileges against the downscale squares.

Many of the class-struggle arguments have been made before, by folks like Michael Moore and Baffler editor Tom Frank. Goad’s main addition to the genre, besides his damn-aren’t-I-politically-incorrect sass, is his insistance that there’s no singular white racial caste, united in privilege and oppressiveness. With this, Goad seemingly contradicts the worldview of Race Traitor zine editors Noel Ignatiev and John Garvey, who claims there is such a universal Caucasian identity and “progressive” whites should personally renounce it.

But their stances aren’t really that different. Both believe in self-empowerment by dropping out from the mainstream-America assimilation thang. Ignatiev and Garvey (instructors at bigtime East Coast universities) do this by pretending to be black. Goad does it by playing up his links to the white unprivileged. Goad’s is probably the healthier approach. Instead of appropriating the romanticized victimhood of some defined “Other,” Goad argues for the right to be his own Porter Wagoner-listenin’, dead-end-job-workin’, hard-livin’, high-lovin’, prematurely-dyin’ kind. One approach seeks true humanity outside oneself; the other finds it within. (More on this latter sub-topic in two weeks.)

BEAVER TERRITORY
Jun 26th, 1997 by Clark Humphrey

I just spent half a week in Corvallis (Latin for “Heart of the Valley”), the Oregon hamlet where I’d spent some of my post-adolescent years. I was there to revisit childhood memories (unlike Seattle, most of the buildings there in the late ’70s are still there) and to meet my aunt and uncle. Uncle Kurt looks just like the late Days of Our Lives star Macdonald Carey; like Carey’s character, he was (before his retirement) the leading physician in an isolated college town, a pillar of kindly authority in a place that valued such things. Unlike Days’ fictional town of Salem, Corvallis has no known international spy rings or demonic-possession cases (there’s more treachery in Oregon’s real Salem, the state capital).

Corvallis is a place you have to want to go to, deep in the fertile Willamette Valley. It’s 10 miles from the freeway and Amtrak (both at Albany), 50 miles from commuter air service (at Salem or Eugene), 100 miles from Portland. It’s a place of unbeatable scenery, especially with the low cloud ceiling and the summertime field burning. It’s a real town, a feat of collective architecture/ planning/ whatever. Narrow streets are lined with big trees and shrubs. The buildings are human-scale, mostly amiacably rundown. Downtown’s still intact and prosprous, despite the loss of a few big chain stores (the Penney’s storefront now holds a Starbucks and a Noah’s Bagels). The outlying cul-de-sac streets are still part of the town, not elite-retreat suburbs.

It’s a company town, and the company’s Oregon State University (née Oregon Agricultural College), home of the fighting Beavers. It’s a damn handsome college, with low-rise ’20s brick classroom buildings built close together. At the campus’s heart is the Memorial Union (“Vnion” in the exterior stone lettering), an elegant, state-capital-like student union building.

It’s a place where small-town kids arrive, learn a trade in concrete, physical-plane-of-existence stuff (food growing and processing, computers, machines, chemicals, earth sciences), and in the process learn about getting along with people. One of the things they learn how is interracial dating’s no big deal–the college imports out-of-state black athletes (like future Sonic Gary Payton), who invariably end up dating white women (Af-Am females being scarce, even with the rise of the women’s basketball program). (One of the few Af-Ams to grow up in Corvallis was ex-Mariner Harold Reynolds. No, I don’t know anything gossipworthy about either Reynolds or Payton.)

State budget cuts have hit OSU hard. While private funding is helping keep the physical plant up (with several big new buildings going up this summer), enrollment is now less than three-quarters of its 1990 peak of 16,000. Fewer students mean local merchants sell fewer kegs of beer, fewer copies of Penthouse, fewer jogging bras. What’s kept the town going are the office-park businesses that like to put down roots near tech schools, such as the Hewlett-Packard plant and the CH2M-Hill engineering firm.

Also, there’s not much nightlife (though they’re finally getting regular punk shows and have an improving college-radio station). There’s a granolahead scene, but it doesn’t rule the town like in Eugene. There is a “Music of Your Life” radio station (the network KIXI used to belong to). The yellow pages list more multimedia production companies than video-rental stores. There’s a feminist small press (Calyx), and a strong gay-lib movement (surrounded by Lon Mabon’s notorious anti-gay crusaders elsewhere in the valley).

Despite these struggles, Corvallis was recently cited in one of those “top places to live” books as one of America’s most progressive towns. I don’t know if the honor’s deserved, but it is a near-perfect example of the kind of strait-laced yet “mellow” place Utne Reader readers might love. Oregon was always Washington’s older, more patrician sibling; Corvallis is a jewel-box setting for this staid “civil society” attitude. It’s the sort of town where almost nobody’s too rich, too poor, or too dark; where everybody (in certain circles) has some post-high-school education, where everybody wears sensible shoes and drives sensible cars; where even the frat houses separate their bottles for recycling; where Lake Wobegon and Reagan’s “Morning in America” prove to be the same fantasy–soothing for some, scary for others.

CLARK@40
Jun 12th, 1997 by Clark Humphrey

MY ADORATION OF JACK BENNY notwithstanding, I decided years ago I wouldn’t rue or deny the inevitable entry into the fourties. I wouldn’t be like those pathetic boomers, forever striving to retain ever-fading remnants of youthful bodies and identities. (My recent diet-exercise regimen had nothing to do with staying young; I was as out-of-shape at 17 as I was last year.)

No, I plan to age disgracefully into a crochety old geezer. Having bosses younger than me, at a paper targeted at readers younger than me, has offered plenty of practice. “Back in my day Sonny, we had real music. Einstruzende Neubauten! Skinny Puppy! Throbbing-fuckin’-Gristle! That crap they listen to these days: Why, it’s just noise!”

I also plan to enjoy the collected experience of my years on Earth. A few years ago I wrote something called “Everything I Ever Really, Really Needed to Know I Learned on the Playground.” Since then I’ve learned a few more things, including the following:

  • If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the concentrate.

  • Everything retro is neo again.
  • Women aren’t just different from men. They’re different from other women.
  • Hipsters can be just as prejudiced as anybody. They just have a different set of targets.
  • People whose lifestyles are different from yours are not necessarily fascists.
  • People who let downtown Manhattan tell them preciesely how to think are no more “empowered” than people who let midtown Manhattan tell them precisely how to think.
  • If you only read the New York fucking Times and only listen to NP fucking R, you’ll never know what’s really going on.
  • The New York Times really is the Cadillac of American newspapers. It’s bigger, and weighted down with more luxury features, but it’s still built on the same Chevy drive train.
  • In an average week, America generates 1,000 books (including 300 new and reprinted fiction volumes), 500 CDs, 150 porn videos, 55 soap-opera episodes, 152 TV talk shows, about 10,000 issues of daily newspapers, 115 prime-time TV shows (in season), a couple hundred magazines, 20 direct-to-video movies, and three theatrical movies. Decentralization of culture isn’t pretty. Live with it.
  • Hedonism makes a lousy premise for a revolution, but a great premise for advertising one.
  • I used to laugh at people stuck in the ’60s, until I met people stuck in the ’80s.
  • Other things happened in the ’60s besides affluent college kids getting stoned and/or laid. In fact, that’s probably the least important thing that happened then.
  • You’re not personally guilty of anything that happened before you were born.
  • If you’re born into relative privilege, use it to help make a better world. There are enough real victims around, negating any need for victim wannabes.
  • Feeling good about yourself isn’t enough. Feeling bad about yourself isn’t enough either.
  • Protesting isn’t enough either. You’ve gotta be for something.
  • There’s more than one way to think about everything. There’s even more than two ways.
  • Natural born hustlers don’t have a clue about what it’s like to not be a natural born hustler.
  • There’s nothing inherently truthful about The Word or corruptive about The Image. Images merely deceive; words lie.
  • People who suck up to the real centers of money and power are not “rebels,” no matter how loud their custom-painted Harleys are.
  • Punk’s older now than hippie was when punk started.
  • There is no master race. There is also no master gender, no master sexual orientation, no master bioregion, and no master dietary regimen.
  • White women, white gays, and white leftists are still white.
  • Grammatical rules are made to be broken, with one exception: Never put an apostrophe in the possessive version of “its.”
  • If you like to view images of women’s physiques, it doesn’t necessarily mean you hate women. It probably means you like them.
  • We don’t have to tear the fabric of society apart. Big business already did it. We have to figure out how to put it back together.
  • Everybody’s ignorant about something.
  • A dictatorship of the proletariat would still be a dictatorship.
  • Most evil people don’t say they’re evil. They say they’re so utterly, completely good, they can do evil things and it’s OK.
  • Love is more important than self-righteousness.
  • Even among misfits you’re misfits.
IN DEPENDENCE
Apr 10th, 1997 by Clark Humphrey

HERE AT MISC. we’re bemused in a melancholy way by the new logo for the Landmark (ex-Seven Gables) theaters; imposed by their new owner, John Kluge’s Metromedia empire. It features the words “Landmark Theater Corporation” surrounding a hyperrealistic airbrush image of the Hollywood sign and palm trees. It precisely symbolizes that creepy showbiz “glamour” the Seven Gables indie-film citadels were always supposed to represent an alternative to. Speaking of the supposed Year of Independent Film…

BAD-MOON-RISIN’ DEPT.: Remember that lifetime-achievement Oscar to English Patient producer Saul Zaentz, the Hollywood establishment’s idea of a proper “independent” film guy? Admittedly, he’s generated some of the more interesting celluloid products of recent decades (Amadeus, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). But amid the peaens to Zaentz on the Oscar show and printed in newspaper tributes, John Fogerty was never mentioned.

Details of the Fogerty/ Zaentz fiasco have been disputed, in courts and elsewhere. The following is pretty much agreed on: Fogerty was underage when his band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, signed with Zaentz’s Fantasy Records, then a small Frisco jazz label. The terms were typically awful for the period (Fogerty & co. got pathetic royalties, the label took all ownership to their songs). Creedence became one of the biggest-selling acts in rock history, enabling Zaentz to expand his record empire (Fantasy now owns over a dozen labels, including the catalogs of R&B legends Chess and Specialty), and from there to enter the movie biz.

Instead of offering the band a better contract, Zaentz convinced them to invest their royalties at a Nassau tax-shelter bank. The bank disappeared in the ’70s, taking the band’s money with it. Fogerty left the business and moved to Oregon, living off the cents-on-the-dollar settlement he got years later from Fantasy’s lawyers. When he returned with a solo LP in ’86, Fantasy sued him, claiming one of his new songs sounded too much like one of his Fantasy-owned old songs. Fogerty’s first new record in a decade will be out in a month or two. Since he won’t perform any Fantasy-owned Creedence songs on tour, this little dispute will probably come up again. We’ll see if Zaentz (no longer active in Fantasy’s day-to-day management) gets mentioned in connection with the hassle. In any event, the story should serve as an object lesson for anyone who believes indie media operators are always more honorable than the majors. Speaking of pop history…

OTHER WORLDS, OTHER SOUNDS: Esquire magazine’s been so pathetic in recent years, it’s amazing its lounge-culture cover story turned out not-half-bad. Pity it didn’t more thoroughly explore one curious quotation from critic Milo Miles, complaining that the retro-cats were championing a worldview the Beats and hippies had desired to destroy. That’s true, but that’s also one of the movement’s positive points.

At its broadest definition, lounge culture is the culture of the first Age of Integration. It’s Sammy Davis refusing to perform at hotels that made him eat in the kitchen. It’s Sinatra demanding to tour with an integrated band. It’s Juan Garcia Esquivel, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Eartha Kitt, Yma Sumac, Perez Prado, Sergio Mendes, Nat “King” Cole, Desi Arnaz, Vikki Carr, Harry Belafonte, and Quincy Jones. (In comparison, can you name more then four stars of color in the past quarter-century of “progressive rock”?) It’s the sounds and sights of other lands, curated and juxtaposed to jostle the audience’s expectations (as opposed to the smiling-peasant complacency undertoning much of today’s “world beat” industry.) It reflects an aesthetic of respect for oneself and others, and also a postwar philosophy that personal and social progress were not only necessary but possible.

Sure, there’s a lot of posing and play-acting among today’s cocktail kids. But within the most “shallow” pose, as gay-camp afficianados know, lies a truth, or at least a desire for a truth. In the lounge revival, it’s a desire for seemingly long-lost ideals of beauty, adventure, community, mutual respect (the only source of true cultural diversity), economic advancement, and fun. Locally, that wish for a brighter tomorrow was and still is best expressed in the legacy of the Seattle World’s Fair. More about that next week.

CAPITOL CRITTERS
Feb 13th, 1997 by Clark Humphrey

MISC. IS ALWAYS BEMUSED when mainstream media outlets suddenly discover the existence of “youth scenes” that are nearly 20 years old, like the Times’ back-to-back exposés of Goth and hip-hop (at least the latter series, by Cynthia Rose, was somewhat respectful of the genre and its participants). By this track, we’re due for a two-page feature about, say, the ambient-dance scene sometime in 2011 (mark your calendars). Speaking of issues recently in the news…

SITE LINES: Your community-conscious column hereby offers an ingenious solution to the still-asmolderin’ controversey over Fred Meyer‘s desire to build a big new store on Leary Way industrial land (the retail giant was denied a rezone, but is appealing the decision). They oughta leave that site be, and instead take over the ex-Ernst space up the street by the Ballard Bridge. This way, near-North-enders will still get a place to buy their Levi’s and bicycle tires and My-T-Fine canned peas, and neighborhood activists can preserve the mid-Leary stretch for manufacturing jobs. The Ernst block’s closer to established traffic patterns (and is on more bus lines), but is far enough from other big stores that Freddy’s can still have the local dominance it likes. It’s smaller than the steel-plant site Freddy’s wanted to build on, but should be just the right size if the store’s built with rooftop and/ or basement parking (both of which Freddy’s uses at other locations). they wouldn’t even need to tear down the venerable Mike’s Tavern & Chili Parlor on the block’s southwest corner. Speaking of eatin’-drinkin’ establishments…

IN CLUBLAND: The opening of the Capitol Club, the new Blank Generation cocktail bar and fusion eatery on E. Pine, is a sea-change event for several reasons. First, it signifies the “Cocktail Nation” phenom as not just a slumming fad but as a bankable long-term trend. Second, its smart but non-aggressive style calls out for an end to generation gaps. Tasteful and comfy but still nonpretentiously elegant, it’s meant to appeal to everyone from neo-swingers to grand dames. It’s a force for community unity amid an increasingly fragmented society.

The aspect of the place that initially disturbed me was the lower-level dining area. Call me a traditionalist, but when I think of the restaurant half of a real Cocktail Culture restaurant-lounge, I think of either classic American fare (burgers, chicken), standard American expense-account fare (steaks, seafood), or that pseudo-Euro stuff dissed by author Calvin Trillin as “Maison de la Casa del House, Continental Dining.” Instead, the Capitol Club offers fancy-schmancy entrees (grilled eggplant, Saffron Seafood Rosetto) and appetizers (Grilled Chorizo, Sauteed Spinach). “What’re they trying to be,” I initially thought to myself, “another stuffy Cuisine-with-a-capital-C site for condo boomers?” I’ve since been reassured by management and early customers that that wasn’t the intention. I’d forgotten how many young-adult artists and musicians have spent years in restaurant work, much of it at joints with more exotic fare. I’d also forgotten how many of these folks, when they do come into money, prefer to dine on the fare of places like Il Bistro and Marco’s Supper Club. And besides, I’m told CC’s BBQ chicken is fine (haven’t tried it yet). Back in prole-fare land…

JUNK FOOD OF THE WEEK: Fizzies are the reincarnation of a soda-pop-in-a-tablet product first tried out some years back. These flavored, medicineless Alka-Seltzer knockoffs turn a glass of water into an adequately-tasting diet beverage, though the dissolving experience is more fun than the drinking experience. According to rumor, General Foods was trying to invent a better version of this stuff when it accidentally invented Pop Rocks. Available at Bartell Drugs in assorted flavors, including “Chillin’ Cherry.”

‘TIL NEXT TIME, here’s some day-before-Valentine’s advice from Af-Am Stanford U. chaplain Floyd Thompkins, in his ’91 treatise Enemies of the Ebony Warriors of Love: “Love’s greatest enemy is cynicism. (Cynicism’s) power lies in the fact that it makes sense. The optimism that love requires does not make sense… Cynicism is based on the absolute facts of the world. Optimism requires one to accept a supposition difficult to affirm–that the facts are not always the truth.”

EBONY AND IRONY
Jan 23rd, 1997 by Clark Humphrey

AD VERBS 1: Pontiac’s got this new ad with a computer-animated version of the Munch Scream man. A red sports car appears on his bridge. He gets in and immediately morphs into a shades-clad “dood,” happily puttering down the road. By treating chronic depression and/ or realistic world-weariness as just a minor “attitude adjustment” problem, it ridicules the worldview of the young-adult generation it’s trying to sell to. How typical. Speaking of ill-advised selling points…

AD VERBS 2: I know I’m not the only one disturbed by the new Blockbuster Video slogan, “One World, One Word.” It harkens back to a line used in the ’80s by its now sister company MTV, “One World, One Music, One Channel.” Both phrases envision a singular corporate deity commanding the entire Earth’s population with a single brand of formula entertainment. It’s not just monopolistic, it’s monotheistic. And it’s not what either music or video ought to be. Rather, millennial pop culture is (or is becoming) a pantheon of sources, ideas, aesthetics, genres, sounds, and looks; something as vast and chaotic as the world itself. Speaking of dangerous delusions of hegemony…

ANGUISH LANGUISH: The whole Ebonics mania is about teaching the ability to communicate. The furor over it shows just how much miscommunication we have to deal with. From hate radio to the op-ed pages, Beemer conservatives and Volvo liberals alike are decrying something Ebonics isn’t, something that existed only in oversimplified newspaper descriptions. What the Oakland, CA schools want to do isn’t to “promote” the language spoken by Af-Ams in inner cities and the rural south. They want to treat that language in class as a legitimate idiom, with its own rules and norms–and then to use these notions of rules and norms to teach business English as a second language. Think of it as sorta like your Pygmalion/ My Fair Lady shtick, with modern school-bureaucrat propriety substituted for Prof. Henry Higgins’ old-time classism.

The more rabid critics of Ebonics are using it as an excuse to deride Black English as “gibberish,” and those who speak it as “illiterate thugs.” This kind of arrogance is part of the whole point of Oakland’s Ebonics scheme. It’s a scheme to teach kids to speak and write business English without telling ’em they’re idiots for not already knowing it. It’s a scheme combining Calif. new-age “empowerment” hype with legitimate linguistic studies. Indeed, as occasional Stranger contributer Zola Mumford can tell you, Black English is a fascinating mix of words and pronounciation patterns from Africa, the US south, and elsewhere. Everybody from beatniks and mall rappers to jazz and art lovers have benefitted from its traditions and continual innovations. (I wrote a couple years ago that “teen slang in advertising” could be defined as how old white people think young white people think young black people talk.) The catch is that most potential employers speak a different idiom, one which must be learned by potential employees. What might really frustrate both rightists and centrists is where Ebonics departs from the Higgins metaphor. It treats business, or “white,” English as a trade idiom (like the old-Northwest “Chinook Jargon” taught by white pioneers to conduct business with different native peoples who spoke different tongues). The idiom of CEOs (and of talk-show hosts and columnists) is treated as just another English variant, not as the language’s one and only proper form. Speaking of learning…

CRUNCHY NUMBERS: Tucked away in the residential enclave of Maple Leaf (89th & Roosevelt) is an educational-toy store with a wonderful name, Math’n’Stuff (looove that juxtaposition of specifics and generalities!). If you didn’t grow up in the kind of Harper’s-subscribin’, Pendleton-skirt-wearin’ family you see in all the Nordstrom Xmas ads, you can now fantasize about that sort of patrician cocooning with this store’s vast array of geometric puzzle games, algebra flash cards, mind-bender storty-problem books, and K’Nex building sticks. (They’ve even got genuine Rubik’s Cubes!) Much of the store’s merchandise is meant to teach kids to see math as relevant, by relating “real” world observations to the world of numbers. I imagine a different, equally-valuable use–to teach teen and adult computer nerds that the world of senses and physicality is just as exciting as the world of logical constructs.

STATE DINNER
Dec 12th, 1996 by Clark Humphrey

MISC. WAS PLEASANTLY SURPRISED at the announcement that Diahann Carroll would star in the touring version of the Sunset Boulevard musical, coming soon to Vancouver. We’d previously written that “race-blind casting” traditionally means all the starring roles in big commercial theatricals go to white folks. So we’re happy to note an exception (even if it’s an exception that proves the rule).

SINGIN’ THE BREWS: If you remember when Bud Dry was hawked as “The Alternative Beer,” get ready for another contender to that dubious title. New management at Maxwell’s, that longtime rock club inside a former Hoboken, NJ coffee factory (on what that PBS Baseball miniseries claimed was the first site where baseball as we know it was played), has installed a brewpub on the premises, with its own “Alternative Brew” and “Percussion Ale.” If market conditions seem plausible (right now the business press claims there’s an impending microbrew glut), they might get sold at other outlets, perhaps even out here.

LIVING OFF THE LAND: Eat the State!: A Forum for Anti-Authoritarian Political Opinion, Research, and Humor is an often-clever li’l four-page lefty newsletter. So far it’s been consistently witty and has had a good mix of local and national topics, though it leans a bit too heavy for my taste on the side of self-righteous ranting, too lightly on organizing and solution-seeking. I also have troubles with the name. At a time when even pork-barrel senators now purport to oppose “Big Government,” that ol’ punk-anarchist concept of “The State” seems almost like nostalgia for yesterday’s problems. The old nation-states are indeed being eaten, but it’s Global Business that’s doing the digesting. (Free weekly at the usual dropoff points; online at speech.csun.edu/ben/news/ets/; or $24/year from P.O. Box 85541, Seattle 98145.) Speaking of social theorizin’…

YOU’RE SO VEIN: I also have problems with the political piece in issue #2 of the regional visual-art journal Aorta, relating the Clinton/Dole rivalry to “The Twilight of The Patriarchy.” For nearly a quarter-century now, the leftist labeling of mainstream American society as “The Patriarchy” has utterly failed to recognize the significant contributions individual women have made in service to reactionary politics and social stagnation. After all, if women are capable of doing anything, they’re certainly capable of doing things you or I might not approve of. A writer living in the state of Craswell and Dixy Lee Ray oughta know this. Still speaking of social theorizin’…

GRIN AND BARE IT: As instigator of the cable-access show Political Playhouse, Philip Craft was a master provocateur, attracting the wrath of bluenoses like Sen. Gorton for his on-camera nudity and protest-comedy skits. Toward the end of his show’s two-year run, Craft had begun to move beyond simple protesting and had started to articulate a vision of his ideal alternative society based on practical anarchism. Unfortunately, his new self-published book The Fool on the Hill doesn’t spell out that vision, beyond calling for political power to be recentered onto the county level (an idea similar to ones expressed by the militia cults). Instead, he offers an autobiographical tale about cheating on his wife, taking lotsa drugs, getting investigated by the Feds for advocating some of those drugs on his show, taking on paranoid delusions, and hiding out in the woods. It’s a long way from Craft’s introductory claim that it’s “a paranoid comedy that will forever change the way you view the world… that conspires to bring down the political, economic, and religious institutions that enslave us today.” Rather, it’s a downbeat story of personal loss and confusion, imbued with a sense of vulnerability and humility unseen in Craft’s TV work. (Pay-what-you-can from P.O. Box 17320, Seattle 98107.)

WHAT I’LL MISS ABOUT ERNST HARDWARE: The clashing aromas of freshly-cut flowers and freshly-cut lumber. The annual Show Me How Fair in the old Coliseum. The Sonics “In The Paint” promotion. The slogan, “We’ve got a warehouse too; we just don’t make you shop in it.” And, of course, The Fellow In Yellow.

FRIEND OR UFO?
Sep 5th, 1996 by Clark Humphrey

LET US RETURN to Misc., the pop-culture column that’s indifferent about the threatened Federal ban on goofy cigarette brand merchandising like Marlboro Gear, Camel Cash, and the near-ubiquitous Your Basic Hat. Wearing or carrying that stuff’s a walking admission of subservience to a chemical god, disguised (as so many human weaknesses are) as bravado. Speaking of personal appearance…

BEAUTY VS. COMMERCE: The Portland paper Willamette Week reports many employers in that town are altering their dress codes to regulate employees with nose and lip rings. An exec with the espresso chain Coffee People was quoted as saying his company allows up to “three earrings per ear and a nose stud,” but forbids nose rings. Starbucks baristas in the Rose City may wear up to two earrings per ear but no face rings, no tattoos, and no “unnatural” hair colors. Dunno ’bout you, but I like to be served by someone who shows she knows there’s more important things than serving me. Speaking of trendy looks…

UPDATE: Got a bottle of Orbitz pop thanks to the guys at Throw Software, who’d smuggled three bottles from NYC. It’s made by a Vancouver company (Clearly Canadian) whose US HQ’s in Kent, but it’s only sold so far in the Northeast. It’s more beautiful than I imagined–a clear, uncarbonated, slightly-more-syrupy-than-usual concoction with caviar-sized red, yellow, or orange gummy globules in perfect suspension, neither floating nor sinking. It uses Clearly Canadian’s regular bottle shape, which is already sufficiently Lava Lamp-esque for the visual effect. As for the taste, reader Jeannine Arlette (who also got hers in NY) sez it’s “less icky tasting than the dessert black-rice-pudding, but just a little… The little neon `flavor bitz’ lodge in the gag part of your throat as you swallow, and, they have no flavor except possibly under some very loose definition where texture is considered a flavor.” Speaking of beverages…

THE FINE PRINT (at the bottom of an ad offering video-rental “happy hours,” complete with cocktail-nation cartoon imagery): “Rain City Video does not condone the use of alcoholic beverages with some movies.” What? Without a few good highballs or mint-liqueur martinis in your system, what’s the point of watching something like Leaving Las Vegas, Barfly, Under the VolcanoThe Lost Weekend, or I’ll Cry Tomorrow? Certainly the Thin Man films nearly demand six martinis. Speaking of film and morals…

WATCH THIS SPACE: The Rev. Louis Farrakhan, in his paper The Final Call, recently blasted the producers of Independence Day.He claims they knowingly stole and corrupted a 1965 prophecy by his predecessor, Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammed, that a fleet of space ships will one day descend from their “Mother Plane,” secretly built by Africans in 1929 and currently hidden in high orbit, to destroy white America. (This is the source of the “mother ship” imagery George Clinton sanitizes for mainstream consumption.) Farrakhan claims all the world’s political and media leaders know about the Mother Plane but have never admitted it, except to slander it in a movie. (Farrakhan’s also displeased that the UFO-blasting hero in Independence Day is so openly Jewish.)

Many of you first became acquainted with the advanced mysteries of the Nation of Islam at the Million Man March, when Farrakhan preached about conspiracies revealed by magic numbers. A nonbeliever might find it strange, but it’s no stranger than tenets followed by Catholics, Mormons, Evangelicals, and New-Agers.

Besides, the premise of an apocalypse from the skies is as old as War of the Worlds. Several sects have predicted violent or benign spaceship-based takeovers over the years; the Church of the Sub-Genius parodied it in its tracts claiming that “Jehovah is an alien and still threatens this planet.” And compared to real-life crimes against blacks (like the recent report in the mainstream press that CIA-connected crooks jump-started the crack industry, and the resulting gang violence, in order to finance the Nicaraguan Contras), and Farrakhan’s charges seem relatively mild and almost plausible.

‘TIL NEXT TIME, ponder these thoughts of Courtney Love on smells, from a 1993 issue of Mademoiselle: “All boys love Chanel No. 5 because it reminds them of their moms when they got dressed up.”

NOT KIDDING
Jul 18th, 1996 by Clark Humphrey

MISC. HATES TO say it, but the rest of the local media were more than a bit mistaken about the hyped-up overimportance of a certain out-of-state chain restaurant opening up shop in Seattle. Now if White Castle had moved into town, that would’ve meant something.

Besides, we’ve already got a watering hole for Seattlites who love film. It’s called the Alibi Room. Instead of loudly pandering to manufactured celebrity worship (just what has B. Willis actually done to deserve this kind of Messiahdom?), this place quietly honors the art and craft of making film, with published screenplays on a shelf for browsing and many of Seattle’s growing tribe of director and cinematographer wannabes hanging out and networking. They’re even mounting a local screening series, “Films From Here.” Seldom has the divide over competing visions of America’s cultural future been more clearly shown than in the contrast between a corporately-owned shrine to prepackaged Global Entertainment and a local independent gathering place for creators.

LOCAL PUBLICATIONS OF THE WEEK: The Vent may be the only alternative literary zine published on that rock of antisociality known as Mercer Island. The current issue’s highlighted by “Rage,” George Fredrickson’s two-paragraph micro-essay on “how crazy it is 2 live on Mercer Isl. and b black at da same time.” Free at Twice Sold Tales on Capitol Hill or pay-what-you-can from 3839 80th Ave. SE, Mercer Island 98040… July’s Earshot Jazz newsletter has an important piece by new editor Peter Monaghan about DIY indie CDs and some of the pitfalls unsuspecting musicians can face when they try to become their own record producers. (Free around town or from 3429 Fremont Pl. N., #309, Seattle 98103.)

NET-WORKING: the same week I read this month’s Wired cover story on “Kids Cyber Rights,” I also found a story from last September’s Harper’s Bazaar about “Lolitas On-Line.” In the latter article, writer David Bennahum claims there’s a trend of teen females (including “Jill, a precocious 15-year-old from Seattle”) acting out sexual fantasies in online chat rooms and newsgroups. Bennahum proposes, that online sex talk isn’t necessarily a Force of Evil but can, when used responsibly, be a tool of empowerment and self-discovery; letting users explore the confusing fascinations of sexual identity safely and pseudonymously.

In the Wired piece, Jon Katz offered some similar notions. I’m particularly fond of his assertions that children “have the right to be respected,” “should not be viewed as property or as helpless to participate in decisions affecting their lives,” and “should not be branded ignorant or inadequate because their educational, cultural, or social agenda is different from that of previous generations.”

Twenty years of punk rock should have proved kids can make their own culture and don’t like being treated as idiots. Yet the Right still shamelessly uses “The Family” (always in the collective singular, as one monolithic entity) to justify all sorts of social-control mechanisms. Near-right Democrats try to muscle in on the far right’s act, using “Our Kids’ Future” to promote gentrification schemes that make family housing less affordable, while cracking down on any signs of independent youth culture (punks, skaters, cruisers) and going along with dubious “protection” schemes like V-chips and Internet censorship. And too many of yesterday’s Today Generation (like Garry Trudeau) mercilessly sneer at anyone too young to be From The Sixties. (In ’92 a Times subsidiary hired me to write for its tabloid for teens; I was laid off when its baby-boomer bosses found, to their surprise, that actual teens could indeed compose their own sentences.)

Yes, teens and preteens face a lot of problems. They always have; they always will. But they’re far more likely to get abused by daddy than by an e-mail correspondent. They’ll hear more (and more creative) cuss words in the playground than on HBO. Let’s stop stunting kids’ growth by forcing them into subhuman roles they often can’t stand. Instead, let’s treat kids as human beings, who could use a little friendly advice now and then (as could we all) but who ultimately should, and can, take responsibility for their own lives. John Barth once wrote, “Innocence artificially preserved becomes mere crankhood.” I’d add: Innocence excessively enforced becomes fetishization.

STORE TREK
Jul 4th, 1996 by Clark Humphrey

HANK-ERING: Misc. received an anonymous letter from somebody complaining about a recent ish of No Depression, the “alternative country” zine co-run by Rocket vet Peter Blackstock. The letter-writer felt outraged at the cover image of the late Hank Williams Sr. posing alongside two white Negro-dialect impersonators. I highly doubt Blackstock intended to endorse the show’s crude ethnic humor. Rather, I’m sure he intended to explore Williams’ work and its historical context–like the Robt. Christgau Village Voice piece last month claiming Williams took his vocal shtick from NY performer Emmett Miller, who sang in blackface from the ’20s thru the ’40s.

CLUB IMPLOSION, CONT’D.: The Weathered Wall, for four years Seattle’s poshest (in a friendly way) live-and-recorded-music club (and the only local club to use a blown-up photocopy of an old Misc. column as a wall poster), shut its doors in mid-June. It’s been used since then as a location for a made-for-TV movie. Various interests are looking into getting it sold and/ or re-opened, but there’s nothing to announce now. Meanwhile, the Pioneer Square Theater has hosted its last all-ages gig. Promoters tried to raise prices after fire marshals halved the building’s legal capacity; but that put the concerts out of range of much of the underage crowd. Reportedly the marshals offered a list of improvements that had to be made before full capacity could be re-granted; but the space’s landlord balked at the expense. (If I were a conspiracy theorist, which I’m not, I’d wonder why the marshals didn’t go after the building back when it housed non-punk music and plays.)

And the Lake Union Pub, home to some of Seattle’s punkiest shows (and to some of the Liquor Board’s heaviest enforcement details), just had another 10-day closure, amid rumors the joint would be sold and turned into a sports bar. If it happens, the closure would mean three of the four alt-music clubs on the Commons Committee’s ’94 map of blocks it wanted to condo-ize would be dead (leaving only Re-bar). On the upside, the Pub’s quasi-neighbor, the Store Room Tavern, has been booking bands again; while the Seattle Parks Department (!) has co-promoted Wednesday night touring-punk bands at the Miller Community Center on east Capitol Hill.

THE BIG TURN-OFF: The Sonics’ recent successes reminded me how one of the joys of televised sports has always been the excuse to loiter among a department store’s TV displays, sharing the moments of triumph/ despair with instant friends without having to buy (or drink) anything. But that’s another of those disappearing urban pleasures. The Bon Marche’s new management, having disposed of the Budget Floor, the Cascade Room restaurant, and the downtown pharmacy, is now closing the electronics departments. Besides leaving Radio Shack (and pawn shops) as the only source for home electronics in the central downtown, the loss (effective August) leaves but a few public TV walls in the greater urban core (Sears, Fred Meyer, Video Only). At least we might see no more dorky Bon cell-phone ads (we love ya Keister, but keep your night job).

The changes show how the Bon, once powerful enough to rise above retail’s sea changes (documented in an ’80s P-I headline, “Bon Marches to Different Drum”), now bumps along in the tides like the rest of the industry. Further proof: the parent company’s apparent threat (still officially denied) to consolidate the chain with another of its holdings, Macy’s California, and planned cuts in commission pay which might lead to a clerks’ strike this month. Still, for now, the Bon remains the store “Where All Seattle Shops,” from dowagers hanging out in the women’s rooms to brides seeking just the right bread machine. It’s also the city’s crossroads point, having struck a deal in the ’20s to make its 3rd Ave. side one of the town’s biggest bus stops. While the downtown store’s merchandise mix is now based on strategies devised for mall branches, it’s still the first place to go for lots of stuff, sold in a respectful, relatively unpretentious manner. Would hate to see it deteriorate into just another store.

WHITE LINES
May 8th, 1996 by Clark Humphrey

SHADES OF PALE: Those white authors who’ve unilaterally declared racism to be “over” aren’t living on any planet near mine. Witness David Stennett and Eric Remington, founders of something called the “Euro-American Students Union.” They’re trying to organize at Tacoma’s Univ. of Puget Sound (and are talking about taking their cause to other campuses), under the official guise of cultural awareness and “ethnic pride.” Thus far, Stennett and Remington have met with widespread opposition and controversy. They’ve yet to find a willing faculty advisor, a requirement for officially-recognized student clubs at UPS. The campus paper, the Trail,has run several angry letters denouncing the club as a front for white supremacist organizing. UW Daily writer Kerri DeVault has written a column asking UW students how they’d react if a Euro-pride contingent tried to organize up here.

So far, Stennett and Remington seem to have done nothing to effectively allay these fears. Indeed, they flirt around the edges of the intolerant image they purport to denounce. Stennett told the Trail that the club would attract “mostly white conservative students… since most liberal students don’t believe in cultural heritage stuff and have been brainwashed by the white stereotype.”

The group’s literature and its website are full of barbed-wire imagery and rants against affirmative action, along with euphemistic preachments about a proud, righteous white race persecuted by ashamed-of-their-heritage white liberals and double-standard-bearing minorities. It’s all seemingly designed to appeal to the topsy-turvy ideology of hate radio (where some of academe’s crudest bullies and bigots regularly turn around and whine about being the pitiful victims of the mean ol’ PC thought police).

And Stennett and Remington’s own literature is tame compared to some of the “recommended resources” linked from their website–more extreme writings from guys with Idaho P.O. boxes encouraging folks to support “white preservation” by moving to the “New Plymouth Rock” (the Rocky Mountain states, where they’ve got “the best gun laws”).

How do I count the stupidities in all this? First, “White” is a singular population entity only in terms of a heritage of priviliges and in the delusional theories of demagogues. North American caucasians are a beyond-muttness amalgam of dozens of ethnic, tribal, and national root groups, many of which have fought bitter wars with one another over the past few centuries. (The biggest of those wars were started by jerks like Napoleon and Hitler who foolishly sought to impose a singular nationhood on all Euros.) “White” isn’t an ethnicity; it’s the absence of ethnicity. You can have whole or partial ancestry from England, France, Germany, Spain, Norway, Latvia, Greece, Italy, and/or a hundred other lands or sub-lands, but there’s no Nation of White. What I and other writers have referred to as “whitebread culture” is a complex set of beliefs, styles, fashions, foods, aesthetics, and attitudes rooted in concerted attempts by business and government earlier in this century to forge a common “American” culture from all these diverse ethnic and immigrant groups. That’s not really “white culture”; that’s mainstream American culture, something adhered to in varying degrees by citizens of varying ethnicities.

(Besides, pure breeding is for primping show dogs, not for healthy work dogs and especially not for humans. Interaction and interbreeding makes us stronger, not weaker.)

Of course, some whites are more privileged than others; class and race were never uniformly synonymous. Demagogues here, in Europe, and in Africa have long exploited racial/ national/ color “identity” to get the relatively underprivileged to support programs and wars that mainly benefitted the overprivileged of similar ethnicity or skin hue.

And it doesn’t help that certain demographically-obsessed leftists help the demagogues by ranting against “White Male Society” as if everyone who was white and/or male was equally rich and/or powerful. Most rich people are white, but most white people aren’t rich. I belileve most people regardless of complexion would be better off in a more progressive, more diverse, and more equitable society than in what we’ve presently got. A left wing that really worked would reach out to these people, and not abandon them to the “Euro-Americans” or other such nonsense.

(Coming Sun., June 2: The big Misc. 10th Anniversary blowout at the Metropolis Gallery, across from SAM on University St. Details forthcoming.)

Response to the Above

Subject: ESU?

Date: Sat, 23 Dec 1995 00:44:50 -0800

From: “David J. Stennett” (Dstennett@ups.edu)

Organization: Euro-American Students’ Union

DEAR BIRBONE:

Hey there buddy O’l pal. This is David J. Stennett of the ESU at UPS.

I wanted to help you with some corrections. First… Eric Remington was only the Vice-President of the ESU chapter at UPS–while I am a CO-FOUNDER of the NATIONAL ESU which is now responsible for 34 chapters at University’s throughtout this great country (and growing into Canada and even Europe). Remington was a mere helper at the UPS chapter, along with the final 64 members. Ooo, yeah, we did get an Advisor. He was one Henry Johnson, the BLACK ASST. DEAN OF STUDENTS. In fact, ESU’s are everywhere. I thank you for the FREE PUBLICITY. Please make corrections where nessessary.

Alea Jacta Est!

David J. Stennett

P.S. Have a Great YUL

PAT ANSWERS
Mar 13th, 1996 by Clark Humphrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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