Aug 4th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

The biggest weekend of the year is here for both art lovers and Seattle old-timers. We’ve got a link to a guy who explains just why the hydroplane races are still important. We’ve also got a guy who quit running for office but made it to the top-two general election anyway; the need for affordable housing in the ‘burbs; the threat of technological thought-reading; a nascent “co-op” nightclub; and dozens of event listings, art-related and otherwise.

Jul 26th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

dragon dance 1

Most of my hip art-world friends have long sneered at Seafair.

Too square.

Too hokey.

Too small-towny.

Too “Family” with a capital F.

Too unlike anything that would be done in NY/LA/SF.

clowns 2

pirates 1

As if those were somehow bad things.

hydro 2

But nowadays, this city needs all the legacy, all the history, and (yes) all the squareness it can keep out of the gentrifiers’ Rolex-wristed clutches.

We need our own homegrown racing sport, rooted in tinkerers building boats around surplus WWII airplane engines.

husky band 1

We need public education, and spectacles that celebrate it.

seattle utilities 2

We need honest shows of support for even the most basic of community functions.

poulsbo viking float

We need to remember the human groups that first made this place what it is.

duwamish tribe 1

We need to publicly honor all the peoples that make up this city and this region.

af am drill team

vietnam float

So don’t knock Seafair.

Love it.

(Except the Blue Angels. Feel free to bash them. They’re just too damn militaristic.)


Mar 17th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

Classic P-I building from my book 'seattle's belltown;' museum of history and industry collection

I left the Missy James post up as this blog’s top item for a month, both to remember her and because I’ve been laser focused on finding paying work.

But it’s time for me to get back to the “writing” thang.

And there’s no more appropriate day to do so than on the fifth anniversary of the last printed Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The city lost a huge chunk of its soul and its collective memory when the Hearst Corp., awash in losses here and in its other print-media operations, pulled the plug on our town’s “second” yet superior daily paper.

There’s been a P-I sized hole in the local media-scape ever since.

Yeah, we’ve got the Seattle Times, albeit a shrunken one (though it’s apparently stopped shrinking any further, at least for now).

We’ve got the Stranger, Seattle Weekly, Crosscut, Publicola, and SportsPress NW.

We’ve got four local TV news stations (plus NorthWest Cable News), four local radio news stations, and all their respective websites.

We’ve got Seattle magazine, Seattle Met, and CityArts.

We’ve got the Daily Journal of Commerce, the Puget Sound Business Journal, and assorted tech-biz news sites.

We’ve got Horse’sAss, Seattlish, The Seattle Star, and dozens of other (mostly volunteer-run) blogs covering local politics, sports, and arts.

And, oh yeah, we’ve got SeattlePI.com.

It’s still run by Hearst. It still has Joel Connelly’s acerbic political commentary, Josh Trujillo’s dramatic photojournalism, and the occasional excellent news story.

But its staff has shrunk to 14 reporters, photographers, and “producers,” down from the 20 it had at its stand-alone start in ’09. That, in turn, was a small fraction of the team the print P-I had.

That’s still a full-time payroll comparable to that of any newsroom in town, except those of the Times and the TV stations.

But it’s stretched thin by the requirement to post dozens of “click bait” and “listicle” stories every day.

Hearst is running PI.com according to the 2009 rules of a “content” web business.

Those rules, which nationally gave us the likes of BuzzFeed and Elite Daily, have proven profitable only among the most sensationalistic and most cheaply run operations that feed either on gossip, noise, or national niche audiences.

It’s no way to run a local general-news operation.

And it’s no way to pay for professional local journalism on a sustainable basis.

But neither Hearst nor any of America’s other old-media giants has figured out a better way.

So it’s become the job of us “street level” bloggers to find new rules, new concepts, to forge a new path beyond the ugly web pages stuff with worthless banner ads. To create the New-New News.

My personal bottom line:

I want a local news organization, staffed by folks who know what they’re doing and who are paid living wages.

I want it to attract an audience at least as loyal (and as willing to help support it) as KUOW’s audience.

I want it to be the first place this audience looks to to learn what’s been going on around here, in the last day or the last hour.

I want it to reach out across subcultures and social strata.

I have collected a few ideas in this regard, a few potential pieces of this puzzle.

And I’d love to hear some of yours.

Aug 5th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

kiro-tv via missy chow

Another Seafair Sunday, Seattle’s own civic holiday, has come and gone.

And this one was a beautiful one.

Everything went as expected. Oberto won the race; but not without some thrills (and thankfully, no spills) along the way.

The weather was beautiful and scorchy.

The original piston-powered thunderboats made a spectacular cameo.

The only thing missing was the Unlimited Light fleet of smaller race boats. The UL circuit folded after last summer, sadly. Taking their place, we had tiny “Formula One” boats brought in. Fun but just not the same.

Let’s try to bring back the ULs in ’13. Seafair itself has had to be fiscally “saved” several times. If local sponsorship could be found for the big boats, it ought to be available for the middle-sized boats.

Jul 29th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

The Seafair Torchlight Parade is more than a relic of “a simpler time,” or an opportunity for Seattle merchants and restaurants to make money from visiting suburbanites and exurbanites.

It’s an opportunity for all of us to get back in touch with the values and aesthetics that helped make this city great.

At a time and place where these values are often scoffed at, Seafair proclaims there’s still plenty to admire in squareness.

Squares gave us the Space Needle. Squares gave us Boeing (and, hence, the “international jet set”). Squares gave us computers and software.

Towns at at least a little removed from the metro core still understand the positive aspects of squareness, and revel in them. I come from one of these.

Remember: Square DOES NOT necessarily equal boring or white. Values of family, tradition, and togetherness cut across all ethnic and subcultural lines.

There are three special things to mention about this year’s parade. The first is the Seafair Clowns’ heartfelt tribute to Chris Wedes/J.P. Patches.

The second thing was something I’d previously noticed last month at the gay parade—spectators using cam-equipped iPads to get a better-than-the-naked eye view of the proceedings.

And finally, what was Grand Marshal (and Fastbacks drummer #2) Duff McKagan doing in a horse and buggy? Wouldn’t a bitchin’ vintage muscle car be more his flavor?

Jun 22nd, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

lindsay lowe, kplu

  • It’s like Animal Planet’s Whale Wars, only without the whales. It’s Greenpeace submarines trailing Shell oil-exploration rigs in the Arctic.
  • There’s a “celebration of life” service for my mother today in Marysville.
  • Huge swaths of Wash. state exist in a “rural information ghetto,” with little local news media, little or no broadband access, and even spotty or no cellphone reception.
  • Local bands in Spin‘s all-time greatest-band-names countdown include Mudhoney and Bikini Kill. But Motorhead as the #1 greatest band name of all time? Sorry. Do over.
  • Speaking of which, Duff McKagan will be this year’s Seafair Grand Marshall. Still waiting for Mark Arm’s equally deserved official recognition.
  • Online Media Shrinkage Watch: Salon.com, one of the pioneers of web-based punditry, is bringing in exactly half the revenue it needs to survive.
  • Who owns the rights to the classic series Route 66 and Naked City? Hard to tell. What’s more certain is that the two shows’ exec producer had some very rough final days.
  • If the producers of The Looney Tunes Show had wanted to effectively depict Bugs and co. in a domestic setting, they should have perused old issues of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies comic books.
  • Tired of stick figure construction workers? Then look at these animated .GIFs in which the moving objects tend to be graceful women’s skirts and hair.


Aug 29th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

  • Despite what Republican politicians would have you believe, Washington state actually leads the nation in new business creation these days.
  • One of these new businesses will be a downtown JC Penney store, in the old Kress five-and-dime store building at Third and Pike. That’s just a block from the old (1930-82) Penney store (Target’s going in on that site later this year). It’s great news, but what will become of the loveable, and vitally needed, Kress IGA supermarket in the building’s lower level? Its operators insist they’ve got a long term lease and are staying no matter what.
  • It’s not just the state civil payroll that’s ethnically un-diverse. The state legislature is only 6.8 percent nonwhite.
  • Local theater blogger Jose Aguerra asks whether local troupes are being too coy and inoffensive, even in their depiction of female orgasms. (In my day, Seattle’s live theaters prided themselves on presenting edgy, daring material, even if the promise was grander than the product.)
  • A UW Medical Center administrator got caught embezzling a quarter mil from the hospital. You’re only hearing about it now because the state auditor made a statement publicly praising the U for how it investigated and prosecuted the inside thief. A potential huge scandal was thus turned into a low-key moment of triumph for the administration. At least if you read the Seattle Times version of the story. KOMO offers a far more critical spin on the affair.
  • Grist.org’s David Roberts ponders what the heck Friends of the Earth is doing getting involved with right-wing lobby groups in proposing a “green” federal budget slashing scheme.
  • The link we ran last week about the electric-guitar company? The company that got raided by federal agents, who were supposedly looking for endangered imported wood? The company flatly denies all allegations. And the Murdoch Wall St. Journal, ever eager to bash anything environmentalist, claims the feds could next go after folks who own old vintage instruments that contain now-restricted components.
  • Should any of us care about speculation about the new Apple CEO’s private life? Ars Technica says no.
  • Birth rates are dropping in many countries, especially those where female fetuses are sometimes selectively aborted. The Economist calculates some countries, at their current rates of decline, could totally run out of people in 600-700 years. Of course, if you’re not a dystopian scifi fan you know trends don’t stay the same, at the same rate, forever.
  • Sasha Brown-Worsham believes “we should parent more like they did in 1978.” More Boo Berry and daytime TV; less overprotectiveness and constant fear.
Aug 8th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

It was a corn-doggy sunny Sunday afternoon when I went to the Seafair hydro races.

Took the light rail to the Othello station, then a free shuttle bus to the southern end of Genessee Park. That got me to a lot of people milling about at fast food and military-recruiting booths.

Inside the admission gates, initially, were more of the same. Then approaching the lakefront you got the bigger sideshow attractions, such as the Seafair Pirates.

One of these attractions was a daylong demonstration of something called “Hyperlite,” a water skiing experience using ropes and pulleys instead of a tow boat. (Yes, that was my excuse to ask you to say “tow boat” five times fast.)

Oh yeah, there was that highly publicized intermission act, which newbies increasingly mistake for the star attraction. It’s loud. It’s fast. It’s shiny. It’s simple to “get.”

But for Seafair’s steadfast true believers, it’s not the big thing.

This is.

The combination of subtlety and power, of quiet water and loud machinery, of stillness and speed, of steamlined curves and pure aggression, of hand craftsmanship and industrial might.

Here’s the Graham Real Ventures boat. It’s one of the “Unlimited Lights,” the smaller class of boats that raced on Seafair Weekend. Yes, I know “Unlimited Lights” is an oxymoron derived from a misnomer. (The bigger boats have long been under various size and horsepower restrictions for safety’s sake.)

But they’re still fast and exciting. And because they use piston engines, they generate the kind of noise that old timers like me find comforting, not annoying.

Above is the boat of Kayleigh Perkins, the only female driver in this past weekend’s lineup.

And this is her boat after it flipped over in the air during the lights’ championship heat, the only accident of the day. (She got out of the boat safely and was apparently fine.)

With Budweiser’s departure from the circuit, the Oberto beef jerky-sponsored team has been the team to beat in recent years.

But it wasn’t the only boat out there.

I happened to be positioned near a group of loyal Oberto fans. Would they find themselves satisfied at the end of the championship round?

Why yes, they would.

As for me, I sunburned through my shirt and had to have a long nap once I got hope. And it was completely worth it.

Aug 6th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

from gasolinealleyantiques.com

  • Just a reminder: I’ll be reporting (perhaps even “liveblogging,” just perhaps) Sunday from the hydroplane races.
  • And another reminder: The hydroplane boats are the stars of Seafair Sunday. The Blue Angels are the intermission act, and as such are expendable.
  • Today’s sermon against the waterfront tunnel project comes from activist Cheryl dos Remedios, who implores “Seattle’s arts and heritage community” to oppose the scheme.
  • You know when the Uptown Theater closed, and I said it was too bad SIFF didn’t take it over? Guess what—SIFF’s taking it over.
  • An AIDS remembrance billboard on the Broadway light-rail station construction fence was censored, because it showed a small blurry image of a guy’s butt. It’s another example of how our civic establishment prides itself on accepting alternative sexualities, but only as long as people don’t get too, you know, sexual about it.
  • An Army vet claims he was tortured by his fellow Americans as a prisoner in Iraq. His suit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cleared a legal hurdle this week.
  • Michael Moore remembers when Reagan fired the air traffic controllers. Moore calls it the start of the war on the middle class.
  • Paul Krugman asks why the heck anybody still trusts those mortgage-bubble-crisis abettors at Standard & Poor’s anyway.
  • Catch-22 of the week: Employers only hiring folks if they’re already employed somewhere else.
  • Now that you’ve read this (and perhaps the articles linked hereto), go look at something real for a few moments to reduce “computer vision syndrome.”
Aug 1st, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

Another summer, another Seafair Torchlight Parade, the oldest, biggest, and (alas) clothed-est of Seattle’s three big summer parades.

It’s been billed by some local wags as a taste of the suburbs in the middle of town. But that’s not quite the case. A lot of the “forgotten Seattle” shows up too. Working families, even with children. Public school children even.

Some attendees chose to forego the standard T-shirts and shorts uniform.

Teachers’ union picketers showed up to appeal to the family friendly crowd, campaigning for increased school funding and fewer state-mandated tests.

Then the parade itself got underway with its new title sponsor, Alaska Airlines (replacing rival Southwest). In keeping with nostalgia for pre-TSA era air travel, Alaska featured an all-flight-attendant drill team.

Mr. Drew Carey was a thorough professional, shaking hands, kissing babies, selling soccer scarves.

Then, at last, came the real entertainment. The drill teams.

The marching bands.

The floats.

The Clowns and the Pirates.

Yes, the parade could become “hipper” (even while remaining G rated).

But why should it?

Squares need some celebration in their lives too.

Jul 30th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

sorry, maude, you didn't make the list

  • Julianne Escobedo Shepherd offers a list of 10 (American, prime time) “TV shows that changed the world.” It includes some of the usual suspects (Ellen, Mary Tyler Moore, the original Star Trek) but leaves out so many other possibilities. Where’s Yogi and Boo Boo in the same bed all winter, or all the early variety shows with interracial love-song duets?
  • Seattle PostGlobe, the spunky li’l local news and arts site started by ex P-I reporter Kery Murakami (and for which I posted a couple of pieces), is closing up shop after two years and change. With Murakami gone to Long Island, NY and many other original volunteer contributors off in other jobs (or other careers), the site had mainly become a spot for Bill White’s film reviews. Without the funding to maintain the site’s operation, let alone to build it into a stronger endeavor, its current boss (and cofounder) Sally Deneen is pulling the plug. She’s keeping it up in archival form.
  • In other local media news, technical workers at KIRO-TV have been at a labor impasse for some15 months now. The IBEW Local 46 claims they’re just trying to preserve contractual language “that respects their individual and collective rights that are afforded to them under federal law.”
  • Copper thieves have no respect for anyone or anything. Not even for the local branch of Gilda’s Club. That’s the drop-in cancer support center, named after Gilda Radner and housed in that fake Monticello office building at Broadway and East Union.
  • The bicyclist struck by a hit-and-run SUV Thursday? He was a photographer and office worker for an international health agency. And how he’s dead.
  • Wherever there’s a business with a predominantly male clientele, there’s somebody trying to attract female customers. The latest result comes from the UK branch of Molson Coors (you did know those beer companies had merged years ago, right?). They’re test marketing a pink beer for women. Even stranger: It’s called “Animée.” Which begs the question, would Sailor Moon drink it? How about the Ghost in the Shell?
  • Lee Fang sees a cartel of “shadowy right wing front groups” spending lotsa bucks to get Congress obsessed with “the deficit” (i.e., with dismantling anything government does to help non-billionaires) instead of the economy. I don’t think the drive is all that shadowy. These outfits, their funding sources, and their biases are well known and well documented—and still scary.
  • Dan Balz sees today’s Republicans as being at war against Democrats, against the middle class, against women, against sanity, and now against one another.
  • Remember: Tonight (Saturday the 30th) is the annual Seafair Torchlight Parade bisecting Belltown and downtown along Fourth Avenue. This year’s grand marshal is smaller-than-he-used-to-be TV personality and Sounders FC spokesmodel Drew Carey. (The organizers tried to get someone else for the role, but they bid over the actual retail price.)
Jul 29th, 2009 by Clark Humphrey

…the Seafair Torchlight Parade drew thousands from the whole tri-county region to Fourth Avenue on July 25, to witness the usual sequence of drill teams, marching bands, floats, horses, big balloons, clowns, and politicians. This year’s grand marshalls were ex-Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren and local radio legend Pat O’Day.

KIRO-TV’s parade telecast ended promptly at 10 p.m., so the station could air a rerun of one of CBS’s near-identical detective shows. The telecast ended before the Seafair Pirates came into camera range, which is exactly like cutting off the Thanksgiving Day Parade before Santa shows up.

Now, the station has posted video of the Pirates’ performance online, perhaps as a make-up offering to angry parade-telecast viewers.

Aug 3rd, 2007 by Clark Humphrey

…Seafair parade, here’s an official Seafair Pirates eye patch. It’s sponsored by AT&T Wireless, made of space-age rubberized plastic, and made in China.

Apr 22nd, 2007 by Clark Humphrey

…ask why I still prefer the Seafair hydroplane races better than the Navy Blue Angels’ intermission show the same day. Here’s one reason: While one or two hydro drivers have been tragically lost performing their jobs, none have crashed into houses and mobile homes.

Aug 7th, 2005 by Clark Humphrey

…for that glorious only-in-Seattle institution, the hydroplane races. (Other cities host the boats, but no other city loves ’em as much.)

As I’d predicted for several years now, the Miss Budweiser team’s dissolution has meant a far more level playing field for the other boats. Of the eleven official entrants, at least six had a reasonable chance of winning the whole thang. It’s so good to see a sport “dominated” by such sponsors as Llumar Window Film, Lakeridge Paving, and E-Lam Plus (whatever the heck that is).

And kudos to KIRO for airing the whole event in HD, or at least in upconverted widescreen.

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