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I'M NOT A CONSPIRACY THEORIST,…
Jul 11th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…or at leat I didn’t use to be. But I’m a wee bit perturbed by the Republican partisans’ media leaks of supposed “terror threats” to the Presidential election, which maybe, just maybe, would give the Bushies an excuse to try to cancel or postpone the vote. That would be the end of the World’s Oldest Democracy. Period. Don’t let the GOP even imagine they could get away with it.

SO THIS COMMUNITY-COLLEGE STUDENT…
Jul 10th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…in Ballard starts taking pictures of the Ballard Locks for a photography class, alongside dozens of shutterbugging tourists. He gets harassed, followed, and harassed some more by guys claiming to be Homeland Security agents, who’ve decided he was really staking out terror targets. Could it have possibly been because he looked brown?

JOHANN HARI CLAIMS PROGRESSIVE GAY MEN,…
Jul 1st, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…at least in Europe, need to start paying attention to the actions of neo-fascistic gay men:

“With the exception of Jean-Marie Le Pen, all the most high-profile fascists in Europe in the past thirty years have been gay. It’s time to admit something. Fascism isn’t something that happens out there, a nasty habit acquired by the straight boys. It is – in part, at least – a gay thing, and it’s time for non-fascist gay people to wake up and face the marching music.”

YOU MIGHT NOT FEEL…
May 29th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…very proud of the human race after glancing through the vast array of gross-out stereotype references contained at “The Racial Slur Database.”

A BIG P-I FEATURE STORY…
May 28th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…acknowledges there are as many as 20 Seattle barber shops specializing in “hip-hop” dos. Upon which one does the paper choose to focus? You guessed it: The one that’s in the north end and owned by two white guys.

SAD NEWS IN CULTURELAND: Northwest Bookfest has thrown down its last galley of type, and won’t be back this fall. That just gives us book-lovers the opportunity to start over and launch a brand spankin’ new Lit-O-Rama weekend.

I’d say: Forget about staging it in a funky but remote location such as Sand Point. Use the new library for a scaled-down fair; or bring the neo-modern aesthetic of the new library into the Convention Center, the Trade Center, the Seahawks Exhibition Center, or Key Arena. Make it festive, celebratory. Make it a fun gathering for people who will be spending the winter curled up at home with books.

SOCIAL ACTIVIST BETSY LEONDAR-WRIGHT REMINDS US,…
May 20th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…on her website (and soon to be book) Class Matters, that there are more “Others” in this nation besides just upscale women and upscale gays.

THE GOOD OLD DAZE
May 10th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

A fellow Stranger refugee stopped me on the street the other evening. He said he still enjoyed my writing, my vocabulary, and my sense of style.

But he also said he thought I’d limited my vision by holding to a rose-colored nostalgia for “the old Seattle,” a viewpoint that’s ill-suited toward effectively discussing today’s city of high tech and hipsters.

I beg, as I do so darned often, to differ.

You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.

The mindset that created the Century 21 Exposition, f’rinstance, is with us still. The magnificent Space Needle was built with private money on land essentially donated by the city. The publicly-funded exhibit buildings were either cheap “multipurpose” constructions (just like most local government buildings between then and the late ’90s) or repurposed older structures that weren’t that distinguished to begin with.

The old Seattle had its progressive, even radical ideas, alongside plain old fashioned racism/sexism. Some of its citizens held both types of beliefs at once. (I’m thinking of labor organizers who appealed to anti-Chinese hysteria among their flocks, and of “New Left” rabblerousers who defined “women’s liberation” as the right to give blow jobs.)

Today, Seattle loves diversity. Or rather, it loves the idea that it loves diversity; just so long as its white female children don’t have to go to the same schools as black male children.

The old Seattle had civic leaders who tirelessly struggled to have their burg seen as “world class,” but always by someone else’s standards. (Hence the ’60s campaigns to bulldoze the Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, and large swaths of the Arboretum for parking lots, office towers, and highway lanes respectively.)

In more recent years, Seattle had civic leaders who saw every problem as solvable by a construction project. That’s why we can build new libraries and arts facilities, but can’t afford to run them.

The old Seattle’s governmental gears could grind very slowly; just as they can now. It took the “foodie” restaurant revolution of the ’70s before the city legalized sidewalk cafes. Now, we need, but are less likely to get, a similar outspoken demand before the city will allow new strip clubs.

video coverIf I may switch metaphors for a moment: Leonard Maltin’s book Of Mice and Magic, an invaluable history of the early animation business, refers at one point to the Warner Bros. cartoon studio’s desire in the thirties to “keep up with Disney, and plagiarize him at the same time.” Seattle’s assorted drives over the years to become “world class,” by imitating all the things all the other would-be “world class” burgs do, have often been just as self-defeating.

Warners conquered the cartoon world when its directors and artists stopped aping Disney and started to create their own brand of humor. LIkewise, Seattle will come into its own as it develops its own ways of doing city things.

We don’t have to have a cars-only transportation plan, or sprawling McMansions devouring the countryside. We don’t have to give in to corporate job-blackmail shakedowns. We can lead, not follow.

That’s not the “old Seattle,” but it’d be a better Seattle.

SISTERLY LOVE?
Apr 16th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

NEWSWEEK QUOTES a sorority leader who insists her organization no longer discriminates–at least not by hair color. (Scroll toward the bottom of the page.)

EBONY MAGAZINE ADS from the '80s
Mar 26th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

Symbols of empowerment or retro-kitsch?

A JAPANESE CRITIC…
Feb 27th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…chastizes Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation for racist stereotypes: “The Japanese (characters) are ‘funny,’ two-dimensional, cartoon-like characters who can’t pronounce English words correctly and often mix ‘L’ and ‘R’ sounds.”

WORSE THAN GANGSTA?
Oct 17th, 2003 by Clark Humphrey

BILL MAXWELL ASKS, is the “Ghettopoly” board game really worse than gangsta rap? (He doesn’t mention that both products are sold to predominantly white suburban customers.)

JOEL KOTKIN CLAIMS…
Sep 11th, 2003 by Clark Humphrey

…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.)

AS A BREAK from the serious stuff…
Aug 28th, 2003 by Clark Humphrey

…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.

TODAY MISCmedia IS DEDICATED…
Jul 31st, 2003 by Clark Humphrey

…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.)

COON CHICKEN INN
Jul 7th, 2003 by Clark Humphrey

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!

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