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.

Aug 3rd, 2005 by Clark Humphrey

MORE PIX TODAY from the Seafair parade, with the lamer-than-lame theme “Hooray for Hollywood.”

There are innumerable other potential parade themes, even considering the “family” criterion (i.e., nothing too involved with sex, death, violence, bodily functions, sectarian religion, or sectarian politics). Submit your own here.

Aug 2nd, 2005 by Clark Humphrey

…a parade theme than “Horray for Hollywood,” the theme of last week’s Seafair parade in downtown Seattle. If the organizers hope to stem the institution’s long slide into irrelevance, they’d better think of something more exciting than a couple of Darth Vader costumes.

Aug 2nd, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

Specifically, un-themed floats, clowns, and pirates.

I’ve no idea what this critter is, except that it belongs to the Group Health Credit Union.

Aug 1st, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

TODAY AND TOMORROW, some pix from Saturday’s Seafair Torchlight Parade, just for the fun of it. (We’ll write about the Democratic Convention sometime within the coming week. Promise.)

The theme this year was “Fifty Years of Rock n’ Roll.” Most entrants interpreted it as an excuse for Elvish fetishism and Fabulous Fifties fetishism.

A local Hare Krishna congregation created a float based on Yellow Submarine, perhaps the first rock n’ roll movie to be partly influenced by Eastern culture, albeit in a corporate, watered-down way. But then again, rock n’ roll itself was originally a corporate, watered-down corruption of black R&B.

The Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center offered the best interpretation of the theme—a preview of its forthcoming mixed-race production of Grease, that venerable musical depicting the ’70s version of ’50s nostalgia.

As you may have read, 1954 wasn’t just the year of Presley’s first recording. It was also the year of the Brown v. Board of Education court decision, which broke previous legal excuses for segregated public schools. As John Waters explored in Hairspray, racial and other suppressions were integral to the story of that not-really-so-quiet decade. The freakish unreality of ’50s nostalgia culture, as evinced in Grease (one of Waters’s favorite films), re-interpreted this revolutionary era as A Simpler Time. A more multicolored Grease would be an alternate-universe fantasy, in which a wider swath of America’s youth would’ve had the opportunity to wear the silly clothes, sing the silly songs, and live the fluffy little romances.

Think of it as a healing image.

Speaking of inclusion, longtime local Latino political activist Roberto Maestas was picked to be Seafair’s honorary “King Neptune Rex” this year. He’s accompanied by Jeanine Nordstrom, who, like most female members of that family that got rich selling clothes to women, doesn’t get to do much at the company.

Jul 29th, 2003 by Clark Humphrey

JUST BECAUSE I CAN, I’m slipping y’all some more pix from last Saturday’s Seafair Torchlight Parade; starting with these proud finishers of the preliminary “fun run.” (Someone, somewhere, must have defined the differences between running for “fun” and organized masochism. If you know where such a written differentiation exists, please tell me.)

Yeah, there were a couple of serious rowdy incidents among the 300,000 spectators, leading to three non-fatal injuries. But you won’t see the municipal bureaucracy trying to ban the whole event, like they did to the Pioneer Square Mardi Gras. Seafair’s too entrenched. And that’s good.

We need something at the heart of Seattle’s civic life that reminds us of the town’s rougher, louder, scruffier past; of the days before every damn thing in town had to be world-fucking-class.

That’s what Seafair is, and that’s why I like it.

Jul 27th, 2003 by Clark Humphrey

FOR THE UMPTEENTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR, this corner continues to refuse to hate the Seafair parade. Sorry, all ye conformist non-conformists out there; but I happen to like big crowds sharing in the celebration of the simple act of being alive on a late summer night.

This giant balloon represents an energy-saving home fluorescent bulb.

Aug 5th, 2001 by Clark Humphrey

Yes, longtime MISC. readers, it’s time for our annual defense of Seafair, the set of local summer rituals poshed at all these years by would-be tastemakers of both the “world class” and bohemian varieties.

Seafair is, above all, a reminder of where this city and region have been. It’s a glorious, unpretentious, homespun celebration of traditional Wash.-state values–hokum contrasted with mannerism, “wholesome” emotional repression (and its noisy release valves), and an engineering-nerd aesthetic.

We’ll discuss the latter trait a little later on. But first, the Torchlight Parade.

It’s admittedly a perennial also-ran compared to Portland’s Rose Parade. It’s smaller, it’s rowdier (partly due to its sunset timing), and has less support from local high society. But it’s ours, dammit.

The drill teams, the beauty queens, the less-than-zany clowns, the not-as-naughty-as-they-used-to-be Seafair Pirates–they’re examples of folk culture from a specific place, dating from a specific time (the early ’50s) when enough people here believed in making up their own shit, not in desperately trying to be sophisticated.

The Seafair organization (formerly Greater Seattle Inc.) also incorporates a score of neighborhood parades, kiddie festivals, and other assorted events around King County.

But the big stuff consists of three pieces: The aforementioned parade, the “scholarship pageant for young women” (also a pale cousin of the Rose Festival’s pageant), and something neither Portland nor most of the rest of North America has.

I speak, of course, of the hydros.

Yes, I still like the hydros after all these years, despite all the hipster flack I’ve taken for it.

Yes, they’re loud. Yes, they’re testosteronic. Yes, they’re not seen in, or approved by, NY/LA/SF.

But those are some of the reasons why I love them.

They’re also a pleasant childhood memory for many NW natives.

But more than that, they combine no less than six of our region’s innate qualities in a single spectacle:

Our love of the water and nature, and our traditional wish to express this love by leaving our mark of conquest upon them.

Our engineering-nerd aesthetic, represented here by the obsessive attention paid to the boats’ custom designs and engine systems.

Our love of clean lines and “clean” living, evinced by the boats’ aerodynamic beauty and the insistant proclaimations that this is a “family” event.

Our historic dichotomy between the squeaky-clean and the down-and-dirty, as shown in the giant floating drunken orgy of yachters that is the Log Boom.

Our manic-depressive nature, shown by monster machines that either go 260 m.p.h. or lie dead in the water.

Our combo of ambition and envy, symbolized by all the underfunded crews trying every year to beat the Budweiser.

Anyhow, this year’s race was one of the best in years.

Thirteen boats were entered. Each of them finished at least two heats, and there were no “Did Not Starts.” There were no serious crashes. There was real competition throughout the day. And the winner-take-all final heat was a battle two of the little-guy teams; the Bud only made second place on a penalty.

Last year, we worried whether the hydroplane racing circuit had a future after Bud boat owner Bernie Little and partners sbought up the whole organization (renamed HydroPROP). Instead, the new bosses installed new rules to relieve the Bud’s dynasty status and make it a race again. The rules worked.

Perhaps this could be a lesson and inspiration to those trying to lessen a certain other Lake Washington dynasty’s power.

Jun 27th, 2001 by Clark Humphrey

Mark Sidran is rapidly emerging as the favorite Seattle mayoral candidate among certain people who don’t live in Seattle.

Specifically, among certain Eastside and Vashon Island business moguls who seek to spread the Word According to Limbaugh, in which the role of government is (1) to further accelarate the concentration of wealth and power in the corporate elite, and (2) to subject the rest of the populace to draconian, even militaristic social controls.

Directly, Sidran’s “get-tuff” platform wouldn’t immediately benefit the bosses of Paccar and Food Services of America (who are among Sidran’s biggest financial benefactors). But indirectly, a hard-right administration running America’s third or fourth most supposedly-liberal town would be a boon to the promoters of a rigidly caste-stratified society (no matter how much they publicly emote about “empowerment” and entrepreneurism).

And, of course, the mandatory-mellowness and demographic-cleansing tactics Sidran’s pursued as City Attorney have benefitted many condo developers, real-estate speculators, and “market-price” restaurateurs these past eight years.

But the question remains: Sidran’s proven adept at raising big bucks from out-of-town (and out-of-state) Right ideologues (to the point of violating the individual-donation limits he’s supposed to be enforcing), but can he translate that loot into real votes from real in-town voters?

I suspect not. He’s done such a successful job of pissing off so many resident Seattle individuals, groups, and influence bases, the election’s already turned into a strategy issue: Not merely to prevent Sidran’s election but how to prevent a Schell-SIdran final race. (Incumbent Paul Schell, we all know, is little more than the gentrification “good cop” to Sidran’s “bad cop.”)

Should we all wholeheartedly back generic respectable-liberal Greg Nickels in the primary? Or would a strong Nickels run merely split the stop-Sidran vote, leaving a stronger Sidran to face a weaker Schell in the final?

Heck if I know.

Aug 3rd, 2000 by Clark Humphrey

ONE OF THIS COLUMN’S TRADITIONS has been the almost-annual defense of Seafair. We’re resuming it this year, as a vehicle for asserting a few points I strongly believe.

1. Corny is just all right with me. And I don’t mean self-conscious, wink-wink-nudge-nudge parody corny either. That’s for people who can’t handle real corny.

2. Everything in Seattle doesn’t have to be World-Fucking-Class. We can have a big parade (albeit not as big or as respected as Portland’s) and a beauty pageant (ditto) and it’s still OK because it’s ours.

3. Working-class people, and their cultural expressions, are not necessarily fascist. Every year I get the same sneers from hipsters who either are unaware of the Seafair parade (you know, the folk who only read the New York fucking Times and only listen to NP fucking R), or consider the parade’s only worthy purpose to be as an excuse to scornfully chortle at square people. (This year, I had an invite to work on a float. The writer of the invite thought I’d be turned on by his description of the parade as “a trip into the heart of darkness of America.”)

To me, the parade’s an important legacy of an older Seattle in which such pretentious elitism was simply not done.

4. Hydroplanes are all-time cool. The roar of the thunderboats, the sunburnt noses on the Miller-drunk dads, the waterborne tailgate parties on the log boom, the pin traders, the way the boats have only two speeds (140 m.p.h. or dead in the water), the sympathies of the underfunded racing teams trying to cobble enough spare parts together to last the day.

The only problem with the race is the same problem it’s had for over a decade: Its monopolization most years by the Budweiser-sponsored Bernie Little crew. The Unlimited Racing Association is afraid to impose any parity rules (of budgets or equipment stock) that would seriously impair the Bud, and has been unable to attract, for more than a one- or two-season stint, other big-bucks sponsors willing to compete against the Bud squad at its budget level.

(Now, management of the whole sport’s been bought out by a partnership of Little and Formula One promoter Don Garbrecht. How, and whether, Little will deal with his own dominance, in order to restore competitiveness to the sport, remains to be seen.)

Ignorance of your culture is not considered cool. Seattle, and America, is a huge and diverse place, much more complicated and chaotic than any oversimplistic hip-vs.-square duality. You have as much to learn (if not more) from people of other cultures in your own town than from the N.Y./Calif. gatekeepers of your own particular subculture.

Go to the parade (and one or more of the auxiliary neighborhood parades) next year. Go to the hydros this year. Observe the families (screeching kids, bored teens, grumpy grownups), the ethnic dance troupes, the bands, the floats, the vendors. Don’t treat them like your inferiors, because they’re not.

Become part of the celebration.

Even come to enjoy it.

You’ll be a better person for it. Really.

TOMORROW: The He-Man Woman Lover’s Club.


Aug 7th, 1997 by Clark Humphrey

NOT-SO-PACIFIC RIM: What if the Salmon War escalated into a trade war on all fronts between the U.S. and Canada? It could be fun, seeing which side would dare to live without the other’s products the longest. They’d have to stop going to most movies, driving most cars, eating most packaged food products, and shopping sprees to the Burlington, WA outlet mall. We’d have to give up hockey, Crown Royal whiskey, and–oh yeah–cheaper grades of paper, like the newsprint that becomes fine weekly tabloid-size newspapers. Maybe it wouldn’t be so fun after all. Maybe we should figure out a way out of this mess before it gets to that point.

SPICE GIRLS: One of the things I miss most about Moe was its dining room’s large selection of obscure indie hot sauces. There’s more of these out there than ever, thanks to increased demand for exotic foods, bigger supermarkets with more space for different items, and that ol’ pop-cult blessing/ curse, the collector. The trade mag Fancy Food quotes Jennifer Trainer Thompson, author of The Hot Sauce Collector’s Guide, as saying there’s “such a demand today for collectible hot sauces and gifts that makers are releasing the same sauce over and over again and just putting different labels on it.”

One example of creative labeling is the same mag’s ad for Pepper Girl sauces from Calif.-based Peppertown USA. Each product has a label inspired by ’40s-’50s pin-up illustration: Fifi’s Nasty Little Secret (pineapple-jalapeno, with a French maid on the label); Kitten’s Big Banana (banana-mango-habanero, with a bathing beauty); Wrong Number (chipotle-mango-habaerno, with a lingirie model holding a dial telephone); Bad Girls In Heat (papaya-pumpkin-habaerno, with two hitchhikers in slinky dresses); and Sultan’s Main Squeeze (passion fruit-Thai pepper, with a belly dancer). Those female diners who might disapprove of those brands might instead prefer an ad elsewhere in the magazine, for the Atlanta-made Scorned Woman Fiery Barbecue Sauce (slogan: “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even!”).

BRING ON THE WARM JETS: In past years, I used to annually print my arguments in defense of Seafair. I skipped it last year, but with the Blue Angels’ noisy spectacle returning to the lineup this weekend I figure it’s time. With Bumbershoot admission getting pricier every year, the Seafair parade and hydro races comprise two of the city’s three most populist gatherings; the first is the Bite of Seattle. This annual triumverate of events reject both the “quiet good taste” of Seattle’s yuppified official culture and the too-cool-to-have-fun taboo that constricts much of our “alternative” community. Sure these are “family” events, as advertised; but they’re for real families: bratty kids, horny teens, dysfunctional parents, grumpy oldsters. They promise pleasant times out-of-doors with food, drink, and unpretentious entertainment (plus a lot of noise). They deliver humanity in all its gross-out, homely, cantankerous, troublesome, pathetic, amazing, loveable variety (plus a lot of noise).

Nature poets (like the poets who used to hold anti-Seafair reading events every year) love to move to communities connected to The Land and The Water, but have a hard time cohabiting with the castes of people who live off of said resources. Seafair honors the people who work in and on the water (sailors, fishers, shipbuilders, stevedores) and those who feel affinity with them (regular working stiffs)–not the people with million-buck “cabins” on the islands. Similarly, the Bite (particularly the Times-sponsored portion) purports to honor the town’s yupscale restaurant segment, but really celebrates the all-American deadly sin of gluttony as thoroughly as Mardi Gras revels in lust and modern Christmas honors greed. Unlike Folklife’s moderate hammered-dulcimer lovers, the Bite’s a true celebration of the common person. The streets of downtown, increasingly unhospitable to the non-affluent, became on Aug. 1 a temporary invasion site for the forgotten Seattleites. This weekend, the brahmins of Lake Washington are bracing for the onslaught of gauche sex-joke T-shirts, decidedly non-REI rubber rafts, and people at least officially not drinking alcohol in a public park. Plus a lot of noise. Even noisier with the Blue Angels back. I can’t wait.

(Next week: The Misc. midsummer reading list.)

Aug 2nd, 1995 by Clark Humphrey

Welcome to the Seafair Week Misc., the column that can’t wait for the annual return of the hydros. Reactionary hippies sometimes accuse me of political conservatism for daring to like the hydros. I was once asked to speak at the “Alternative to Loud Boats” poetry reading, accepted, and shocked the crowd by telling ’em how much I liked the boats. Still do. There’s something endearing about these mechanical manic-depressives that sometimes go 250 m.p.h. but more often just sputter dead in the water. They’re an unabashedly non-chic relic of pre-yup Seattle, combining three or four of the old city’s once-dominant subcultures (they were built by solemn engineers, driven by rugged pioneer types, watched by hard-drinkin’ workingfolk, and promoted by oldtime hucksters). One of my longtime fantasies, besides having my own cereal, is to have my own hydro. “Miss Misc.” would be run by one of those hard-luck indie racing teams with no spare hulls and maybe one spare engine, the kind of guys who win fans’ sympathy while the big-money Budweiser team wins the heats.

FIGHTING FOR HER HONOR?: At the Lollapalooza show in E. Washington Courtney Love allegedly punched out Bikini Kill singer and original riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna, one woman who wouldn’t stand up to Love’s business. This is almost too perfect to be believable: our region’s two biggest icons of strongly contradictory definitions of “A Strong Woman,” in a fight for the title of The True Righteous Rebel. It’s an exciting notion as a fantasy, but somewhat pathetic if it’s true. They oughta put aside any past personal differences and combine forces for the real battles ahead. Speaking of which…

THE EXPLOITATION CONTINUES: Meanwhile, as Love relishes her new role as Molson beer spokesmodel, another Canadian company (Pyramid Productions) is soliciting investors for a youth-market exploitation film to be called Horsey. In a fundraising announcement the film’s writer/co-producer, Kirsten Clarkson, calls it “a story that appeals to the MTV generation… `Baby Busters’ and `GenXers’ are prime multi-level consumers of small ticket items, such as movie tickets, soundtracks, comics, and other ancillary products.” Clarkson describes her script’s heroine as “a hard-core, explosive, and sexy artist, who after quitting university to become the next Van Gogh, finds herself unable to paint. Delilah drinks too much, smokes too much and fucks whoever she wants. Women or men. She falls in love with Ryland Yale, the utterly dedicated and monogamous heir to a lumber empire. Ryland sings in an underground punk band and is gleefully building up a tolerance for heroin… Tragically, Ryland starts to disappear under the layers of a heroin haze. Although she is overwhelmed by loneliness, Delilah struggles to rebuild her life.” Sound like thinly-fictionalized versions of anyone we know?

TASTY BITS: For a long time, lotsa people thought computer-age aesthetics would be all cold-n’-sterile. Then by the mid-’80s, emerging PC-related visual styles (in game software, user-group literature and digital illustration) threatened to drown us all in bad sword-and-sorcery geekdom. Now, I’m happy to report, it’s a whole new picture, especially in the homespun friendly covers of CD-ROMs by small independent developers.

There’s something promising about CD-ROMs, even the ones that suck. It’s a vital artform that can inspire this kind of generic mediocre content in identical bright-n-bouncy packaging. Just lounging in the CD-ROM section of Future Shop is a thrilling experience. If there’s shelf and catalog space for all those discs of generic clip-art, old shareware video games and swimsuit pictures, there’s gotta be a market for something really good if and when it ever arrives.

Another thought: D’ya think music CDs could be sold in 5- or 10-packs “in promotional packaging” like the grab bags of low-end CD-ROMs? With the Wall St. Journal reporting a “glut out there” in indie rock releases, maybe low-sellers could be repackaged as The Five-Foot Pack of Punk, or 1,001 Straight Edge Rants, or even Super Value Bundle of White Kids Who Think They’re George Clinton.

Sep 1st, 1992 by Clark Humphrey

9/92 Misc. Newsletter

(incorporating four Stranger columns)




Misc. is sorry to have missed the debut of the Grunge Rock Poets at the Puss Puss Cafe. I gotta see their next event, at least to check out the audience behavior. The thing is, hard rock fans are joyously eager to deride anything with the faintest scent of lameness, while poetry fans fraternally support even the tritest poet in their midst. What would grunge-poetry fans do, hiss at the poets and then give them hugs and handshakes?

CORRECTION: OK, I wrote “effect” last month when I meant to write “affect.” Sue me.

APOLOGY, SORT OF: Some music clubs are still sensitive that I referred to their clientele with the adjective “fratboy” some months back. I’m sorry. Few businesses want to be associated with guys who think “Handicapped Parking” signs are really “BMW Parking” signs, who scream sexist jokes at bartenders from their tables via cellular phones, who insult anybody on the street whose looks they don’t like. Now if fewer universities felt the same.

STRATEGY FOR DEFEAT #3: The Republican convention was like an ad for an impulse product (beer, cigarettes, candy) that offers no claims about the product, only images of its ideal consumers. If you’re not an evangelical, country music-loving, hetero nuclear family (white or white-wannabe), they don’t want to see your face. Not long ago, the Republicans promised to become the new majority party for the next century. Last month’s convention abandoned this ambition, along with any coherent political or economic policy. The only remaining GOP agenda is cultural: the promotion of a British-style class system, with financiers and influence peddlers on top and passive-aggressive fundamentalists beneath. If you don’t belong to those categories, the Repos want nothing to do with you. Like the ’80s left, the ’90s right is obsessed with purifying its own ranks, not with building a sufficient base of support.

ONE LAST CONVENTION ITEM: In the Wall St. Journal, an anonymous Demo complained about the inefficiency of getting around in New York: “If this same convention had been held in Seattle, it would have been a success.”

PUMP IT UP: Years of Benny Hill jokes are fulfilled in Cole of California’s Top Secret swimsuit, with air-filled cups controlled by a discreetly placed pump. According to designer Jacqueline Bronson, it’s “the ’90s way to have cleavage.” The only one I’ve seen looked too small to provide anything practical, like floatation assistance.

MY MIND WANDERS: The Twin Peaks Festival at the Snoqualmie Historic Log Pavilion was free of the geekiness associated with fan movements. It was mainly a standard small-town fair, just the obsessively “normal” display of feigned innocence that David Lynch loves to deconstruct. Lynch loved “the look and the smell” of the North Bend Cinema, the moldy, 400-broken-seat concrete box where the festival ended with the premiere of the TP movie. Having grown up in a Wash. sawmill town, I loved the series as a mostly-realistic portrayal of power and frustration in such a place. The film goes further, abandoning donut fetishes and comedy relief to concentrate on how evil is executed and covered up beneath our region’s shallow protestations of “small town values”.

IT’S THE CHEESIEST!: I reiterate that people who only read the NY Times don’t have a clue about non-bourgeois existence. Take its essay on the “Cheese” movement, the paper’s term for the ’70s bad-art craze (from disco to Karen Carpenter). A third of the verbiage went to the writer musing whether or not “Cheese” was really derived from “cheesy.” (Of course it was. Duh.)

STILL, IT WAS NICE to see the NYT mentioning a big Seattle law firm, Williams, Kastner & Gibbs, running local TV spots that don’t sell consumer services but promote an image to corporate clients. The paper described the ads as “actors impersonating lawyers at work and play — sailing, fishing, water skiing, jogging, reading to their children…Also on display were soaring images of the Pacific Northwest.” Where did the firm go to create this invocation of the stereotype Northwest Lifestyle? That’s right, to a California ad agency.

MALLED DOWN: We’re pleased to see a nice word about the Everett Mall city hall in a NY Times article, which also noted the Happy Church of Denver (an evangelical church which lightened its theology to attract boomer families and uses a smile face instead of a cross for its logo) has taken over an abandoned mall for a sanctuary, office, gym, bowling alley, and rec center. Suburbs still suck, but more varied activities will make them suck a little less.

ALSO ON THE STANDS: Spy, the only magazine that thinks Bret Easton Ellis is still important, ran an esaay on “The Descent of Man,” purporting to show how downhill we’ve gone. One of their examples read: “Culture: Athens…Paris…New York…Seattle.”

LOCAL PUBLICATION OF THE MONTH: Sabot Times is an occasional four-page newsletter by some disgruntledSeattle Times reporters, vowing to sabotage the corrupt newspaper biz from within. Topics include how and when to fabricate quotes, a defense of “checkbook journalism” (paying interviewees and sources), and the shenanigans of creepy bosses. While the Times is the apparent topic of many items, issue #3 also discusses the Gannett chain’s papers, “where all of the stories (but none of the men) are eight inches long.” $1 cash per copy or $10 per year from “Lois Lane,” 12345 Lake City Way NE, Box #211, Seattle 98125.

A RIOT OF THEIR OWN: When you get covered in the Weekly and USA Today the same week, ya gotta worry about what you’re doing wrong. That’s the situation faced by the Riot Grrrls, a loose-knit network of punk women with its biggest scenes in Oly and D.C. Neither paper really said that this is hardly a new movement; these 22-year-old women embrace something that goes back to the late ’70s with the Slits and Lydia Lunch. I’ve said before that punk’s main difference from most cultural revolutions is that it had women out in front from the start, instead of in an auxiliary or a follow-up (such as the ’70s “women’s music” , a second wave of hippie folk). Also, while some R.G. ‘zines spout the same reverse-sexist slogans as earlier radical feminists, the R.G.’s I’ve met are open to the support of men who want to help change a society that’s hurting all of us. They know that there’s no organized conspiracy of all men to oppress all women (if there is, I’ve never been invited to its meetings). Men tend not to see themselves in solidarity with all other men. That’s why men have these little things called wars.

TRUE CRIME: It’s been reported that the Denny Regrade Crime Prevention Council, dominated by rich condo residents, singled out black music nights as the sole target of club-censorship recommendations, even though more violent acts have occurred at white bars. After living in Belltown a year, I’ve not been personally threatened by blacks but have been by gay-bashing whites. (You don’t have to be gay to be gay-bashed; you just have to look insufficiently macho for a drunken twerp’s taste. You can even be walking with a woman, while the twerp’s in an all-male group.)

MORE TRUE CRIME: New York officials claim that, thanks in part to new police reforms, their town has fewer reported major crimes per capita than Seattle. Don’t scoff! It could happen. NYC just might be safer, but it’ll still feel more dangerous with its noise, summer heat, canyon-like streets and tense people. If a loud residential burglary happens there, 300 people might hear it and think of it as one more thing to hate about New York. The same crime here might be heard by 10 people, and they might think, “that’s weird. That doesn’t happen here in wholesome little Seattle.” Well, it does.

DON’T BANK ON IT: Key Bank is running ads depicting local businesses it claims to have worked with since the ’50s. Those firms really had a long-term banking relationship with Seattle Trust, Key’s first local conquest. But if Bush can claim credit for Gorbachev’s accomplishments, why not this?

RAP SHEET: I’ve said before that hip-hop is the first black-culture invention that white hipsters haven’t been able to convincingly “tribute” (i.e., take over). More proof: The Pillsbury Doughboy wearing dark glasses and rapping, “It’s a pie thing.” Still more proof: the Basic fashion show at Down Under. White guys in baggy candy-color trousers slumped down the butt, a graffiti backdrop, an onstage DJ pretending to spin records and swigging from a quart bottle of malt liquor. Quite silly.

`M’ IS FOR THE MANY THINGS SHE GAVE ME: The personal celebrity of new mom Courtney Love is eclipsing the career of her still-somewhat-obscure band Hole. Now, she’s done her own Vanity Fair full-belly pic (in undies). FutureNew Yorker editor Tina Brown ordered a lit cigarette airbrushed out of the shot, declaring that smoking while pregnant is not role-model behavior. Brown left in text claiming that Love and hubby Kurt Cobain shot up heroin and other drugs during the early months of her fetus’s life. She vehemently denies it. The mag stands by the story.

GOD HELP US IN THE FUTURE: My used-bookstore wanderings have landed Criswell Predicts, a 1968 paperback by the late syndicated prognosticator who also narrated the cult film Plan 9 From Outer Space. Here, he predicts a Soviet leader whose five-year rule will transform the USSR toward free enterprise “with only a few symbols of communism remaining;” the death of another socialist leader and the breakup of his country in a civil war (only he thought it was gonna be Mao); a series of “homosexual cities” (“small, compact, carefully planned areas…complete with stores, churches, bars and restaurants”); bald women on the streets of a major city (he blames it on pollution); contraceptives in the water supply (industrial contaminants might make us sterile, so it could happen); the evacuation of New York City due to floods; and the end of the world in 1999 (just like Nostradamus, Prince, and the evangelists I mentioned last month).

He also makes predictions for each state. “I predict that the state of Washington will become the art center of America, for it is in that state that a Federal Arts Center will be built. Persons showing aptitude in any of the arts — painting, music, dance, writing, acting, etc. — will be allowed to go to this Federal Arts Center and live at government expense to pursue their talents. From this arts center will come road companies of performing artists who will tour the nation.” Hey, Kurt & Courtney: You’re just fulfilling a destiny.

SPURTS: I saw pieces of the Olympics Triplecast in bars. It seemed to be almost worth the money: Coverage from the international-pool video feed, without the network frills. No personality profiles of people who (since they’ve spent every waking hour since age 3 training) have no personalities. Far less jingoism. Non-Americans actually shown winning things. With three channels, you could keep watching Olympics without having to see the nightmare of the “Dream Team” treating the real Olympians like the Harlem Globetrotters’ sham opponents.

MORE SPURTS: I finally got two drawings (shown below) in response to my invitation to speculate about John McCaw, reclusive car-phone magnate and Mariner investor. The contributor on the left, D. K. O. Dog, suggests that more people didn’t enter because “your readers aren’t in the sporting class. I for one could give the proverbial rip if the Seattle Mariners moved away and became the Boise Weiners.” I’ve been noticing an all-too-outspoken hatred of sports among mandatory ideology of conformist hippies. A couple of self-styled “radicals” even told me that all sports fans were “fascists.” The problem with radicals is that they’re too conservative. Bohemian square-bashing is just another form of mindless bigotry. For the record, while I’m no fanatic, I don’t hate sports. Also, I don’t hate fast food. I don’t hate technology. I don’t hate computers. I don’t hate USA Today. I don’t hate TV. I don’t hate MTV. I don’t hate contemporary music. I don’t hate Madonna. I don’t hate rap. I don’t hate men. I don’t hate teenagers. I don’t hate people from small towns. I’m not kidding.

‘TIL NEXT TIME, be sure to see the magnets, hats and cow furniture at Magnetic North on 12th near Denny, furrow your brow at the faux-obscurity of the Bon‘s “98181” billboards (you did know it was them all the time, didn’t you?), and remember: when the far right claims that everybody in the “real” America belongs to it, don’t believe it.


What I love/hate about Seafair is what I love/hate about this town in general. I love its unabashed hokiness. I hate its coldness, its Protestant stoicism concealing a face of sheer terror. It started in the early postwar years, when our raucous post-frontier city was trying too hard to prove it had grown up. A civic-development group, Greater Seattle Inc., devised a series of rough-and-tumble events with a veneer of good clean fun. The core events reveal two facets of Seattle: an obsessive blandness on the surface (influenced by the Boeing corporate culture) and repressed frustrations underneath.

Newcomers hate it. It contradicts the laid-back stereotype of the modern Northwest. It’s a throwback to the clumsy, pre-pretension Seattle. It’s also an example of what feminists call “imbalanced male energy.” Officials try to downplay the rowdy parts, especially the Seafair Pirates, costumed mischief-makers, originally recruited from Elks lodges. (In the ’50s the Pirates used to “kidnap” a young woman at their annual landing ceremony, “releasing” her at the end of the afternoon with a big badge that said “I was raped by the Seafair Pirates.”) But there’s still the hydros (250,000 people getting drunk and waiting for a boat to burn). There’s the Blue Angels, loud fast planes that terrify dogs and neighborhoods for Navy recruiting. There are shiploads of sailors on the streets, courtesy of the same Navy that brought you Tailhook. There’s a Friday-night parade before 300,000 spectators who are eager to release their ids but are instead shown marching bands, motorcycle drill teams, corporate floats, and sideshow clowns. Take that many people (many with Thermoses of booze), bore them to tears, and some are bound to end up fighting.

The chief female energy comes from a beauty pageant that was already innocuous, and is now toned down further to avoid charges of sexism. Turning it into an amateur talent show reduces its ability to add any yin to the yang-heavy activities. Compare Seafair to Portland’s more civilized Rose Festival; on the Saturday of the (daytime) main parade, the Oregonian would devote its full front page to a color photo of the Rose Queen and her court, in a healthy respect for traditional feminine power. Or compare it to Mardi Gras, where Catholic passions and Creole sensuality are gleefully celebrated.

Still, I do like the hydros. There’s something noble about big, fat machines of wood and fiberglass, run on obsolete surplus airplane engines, maintained by mechanical geniuses who spend the year scrounging for enough parts to challenge Budweiser’s big bucks. These great manic-depressive machines either bounce above the water at a roaring 150 mph or conk out and die. There’s a lesson for us all in there.


Jennifer Finch of L7, quoted at “Endfest” on Seattle rockers’ 12-year loyalty to plaid flannel shirts: “It’s a sad state of affairs when you can’t tell the lumberjacks from the rockers.”



Jul 1st, 1991 by Clark Humphrey

7/91 Misc. Newsletter



Misc. is back, the pop-culture newsletter that can still remember when we all used to scoff at the USSR’s idea of fun — tanks and missiles on parade, “honoring” those who obeyed orders fighting to prop up dictatorial puppet regimes.

DOWN THE PIKE: Three food booths in the Pike Place Market were gutted in late May for one huge eating table with only four chairs, one of which broke the first morning. This is not how they’re going to raise revenues to buy out the New York investors and pay off both sides’ immense legal bills.

REQUIEM FOR AN ECCENTRIC: Vic Meyers, who died in late May, was one of the true northwest characters, a jazz musician who got elected to the normally meaningless post of lieutenant governor on a joke campaign and managed to keep getting re-elected on the privileges of incumbency, much to the disgust of the real politicians. One such pol was Gov. John Langlie, who felt trapped in the state during his two terms, unable to fly to the other Washington for lobbying work out of fear that Meyers would become temporary acting governor, call a special session of the Legislature and issue who knows what disorderly executive orders. Finally Langlie got a chance when Meyers was himself off on a fishing trip; until Meyers heard Langlie was gone, and Langlie heard Meyers was rushing back to Olympia. Langlie hurriedly chartered a plane to fly him back west in the middle of the night, landing in Spokane just minutes before Meyers showed up at the state capitol to call the special session he was no longer authorized to call.

DOG DAZE: The UK is trying to eradicate all pit bulls from its soil, as a probable preliminary step toward exterminating soccer hooligans and perhaps even, if they’re lucky, the unspeakable foods they make out of the variety meats.

CLOTHES HOARSE: A national fashion trade magazine noted the increasing prominence of Seattle menswear designers, but the Times tried to stick a nonexistent spin onto the story by noting that these designers “show no Seattle influence” — by which the paper means they don’t have prints of outdoorsy scenes, but instead show a variety of influences from around the world. What rubbish! Seattle is, if you haven’t noticed (and a lot of reporters haven’t), a real city, an international trade center and home of the machines that made the Jet Set possible. A fashion style that mixes the best of America, Canada, Europe and particularly urban Asia could be about as distinctly Seattle as you’re likely to get.

SHOE BIZ: How appropriate that a cache of Nike shoes, lost at sea a year ago, would wash ashore along the Oregon coast the day before the Portland TrailBlazers were eliminated from the NBA playoffs. Almost poetic, no?

CATCHING `EM WITH THEIR PANTS DOWN: Seattle’s American Passage Media Corp., a company that began selling term paper “guides” and now handles various ad ventures, wants to put up ads in high-school locker rooms. Called “GymnBoards,” they’d be like Whittle Communications’ ad posters in doctor and dentist offices, a little bit of consumer info surrounded by slick ad messages. (Whittle, originator of the sponsored classroom newscast Channel One, is under fire from mainstream media reporters who don’t want ad dollars to cease subsidizing reporters’ salaries) Too many teens are already almost fatally self-conscious, without having diet, food, or grooming products confronting them while nude.

JUNK FOOD OF THE MONTH: Johnny’s Fine Foods of Tacoma has launched a line of salad dressings with offbeat names: Jamaica Mistake, Honey! You’re Terrific!, Garlic: The Final Frontier, Poppy Love, Great Caesar, and Gorby Light: A Kinder, Gentler Russian. (The back label of the latter sez, “…unleashes the flavor of good Russian and eliminates those harsh old overtones…”)

GOOD NEWS!: The Clark bar is being saved, by Pittsburgh financier Michael P. Carlow. He bought the venerable candy from Leaf Inc. of Illinois, which had basically let it slide before announcing plans to sell or scrap it.

END OF THE ’80S ITEM #6: On-Your-Tie Cookies are no more. Neither are Uncle Billy’s Pasta Chips, Frutta di Terra dried tomato products, or seven other companies listed in the 1989 membership list of the Specialty Foods Group of Washington. According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, 10 other local specialty-food companies are struggling to survive.

FROZEN FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Whatever happened to the New World Order, anyway? This term was used only once by Bush as a justification for the war, but has remained as a catch phrase used by Leftists for every dishonorable aspect of Reagan-Bush foreign policy. T-shirts proclaim that it’s really an “Old World Odor;” bumper stickers insert swastikas between every word. I don’t know what the band New Order thinks of it all.

LIFE IMITATES LYNCH, PART 2: According to the authors of the new book The Day America Told the Truth (a survey of moral/ethical attitudes by region), the quintessential Northwest personality might be that of bad ol’ Leland Palmer. According to James Patterson and Peter Kim, roughly one in four Northwesterners is a clinical sociopath, four times the national average. “Pac Rim [their name for a “moral region” of the Northwest and northern Calif.] respondents were much less likely to have strongly developed consciences than were individuals in any other area…Coupled with the observation that Pac Rimmers are the regional respondents least likely to present themselves to others as they really are, it seems that David Lynch may be onto something”…By the way, I still believe Twin Peaks has been 32 of TV’s best hours ever. It taught me how to write Northwest fiction that has imagination and wonder, that doesn’t reek of godawful God’s-country pretentiousness. The show’s “failure” only proved that ambitious genre-splitters may not be meant to be ongoing series, especially when erratically scheduled and poorly advertised. Lynch is now working up a feature; my choice would be a string of TV movies.

MORE ON SEATTLE TODAY: The old-clips final episode claimed the show had been on for 17 years, but it was really 40 years old (even older than I said last issue). I still have the TV and T-shirt I won on it on separate occasions in the mid-’70s. Under that name as well as TeleScope, The Noon Look, Good Company, and Northwest Today, it formed a part of the daily rhythm of the city that will be missed, even if the show itself had become stale (the same old fashion tips, the same old recipes, the same old touring psychics, the same old itinerant book-pluggers).

HOME TOWN NEWS: A Marysville woman got stung in a supermarket by a scorpion stuck onto the sticker of a Del Monte banana. In a lawsuit, she’s blaming the store for a miscarriage she had weeks later.

NEWS ITEM OF THE MONTH (Weekly “Clarification,” 5/2): “In a Discovery item last week, Kit Hughes was quoted as saying that before she used Aqua Mirabilis Bath Salts she was a `shallow person.’ Hughes was a shower person. In a different story in the same issue, Jim Bailey was quoted as describing Lori Larsen (Tales of Larsen) as `wild and horny.’ What Bailey said was corny.”

ADS OF THE MONTH: I was slipped a newspaper ad promoting a shopping-mall appearance by Gerardo, the Latin Rapper. But the ad to the left of that won gets this month’s honors. It’s for Lovers Package (“Try One On for Sighs”) a chain store offering “Wonderfulwedding things meant to be seen,” including “lingerie, cards, games, bachelor & bachelorette party prizes.” Half the small ad consists of a photo of a model in gartered stockings, bra, panties, and a wedding veil. Reminds me of the old nudist-camp-wedding joke, where you can always tell who the best man is… Sears ran an ad for an electronics sale that showed dozens of dazed customers wandering into the mall, carrying out big-name products at “shocking” prices. What’s delicious about it is that the whole commercial makes no sense if you’ve never seen Dawn of the Dead. In a similar old-movie reference, a Brut as has Kelly LeBrock discussing the “Essence of Man.” That was also the name of a device in Barbarella, in which the women of the corrupt sky city smoked from water pipes connected to a male prisoner in a water-filled glass cage. (By the way, a G-rated cartoon version of Barbarella has been optioned for TV series development.)

THE DRUG BUG: The Tobacco Institute, a venture of the big cigarette companies, offers free booklets entitled Tobacco: Helping Youths Say No. Hmm: an industry acknowledging that its product should be kept away from kids. Or is it? Not having read the book, I imagine it might be like all that counterproductive anti-drug propaganda of the past 25 years. You know, where the only “role models” of non-users are obnoxious jocks and hopeless squares…

BODY LANGUAGE: Pat Graney’s dance performance eloquently succeeded in contrasting healthy, natural sensuality with the clumsy, contrived “sexiness” of modern life as exemplified in that symbol of everything ex-hippie women despise, high heel shoes, at one point compared by Graney dancer Tasha Cook to Chinese foot-binding. (That many younger women have found a source of power in black dresses and uncomfy shoes is dismissed in the course of the piece, with the dancers eventually shucking off their im-ped-iments of needless discipline.) One must also mention the last of Graney’s four segments, in which she and her six other female dancers crawled across the floor nude (mostly with spines arched out to the audience). That this was accompanied by Mideval-inspired music (by Rachel Warwick) did not seem the least bit sacrilegious. Indeed (in a twist on liberal orthodoxy), Graney implied that old religious-based cultures held more respect for both body and spirit than current secular society.

TROUBLE IN FANTASYLAND?: French culture mavens, the Chicago Tribune reports, are predictably miffed at the rising upon their shores of Euro Disneyland: “A cultural Chernobyl” and “a black stain on the soul of France.” One of the American construction supervisors was quoted, “I know there were good political reasons for building it in France, but I wish they’d picked a country where the work ethic is a little more highly developed, like Germany.”

END OF THE ’80S ITEM #7: Working Women magazine lists the two hottest careers for 1991 grads as bankruptcy attorney and “outplacement specialist” — counseling the newly-unemployed.

NOW IT CAN BE TOLD (it was told in the Smithsonian last year; I just found it now): Before Muzak moved its HQ to Seattle, three-quarters of its 4,000-selection library had been recorded by a Czechoslovakia radio orchestra. The old owners liked its price and tolerated its admittedly odd musical flavor. It’s being steadily replaced by new tunes recorded mostly by synthesizers and “electronically enhanced” quartets. You have to wonder, though: what if Commies were hiding secret subliminal messages that got into offices and factories across America, messages like “Lower your productivity” or “Let America become a second-rate industrial power”?

CLEANING UP: Toronto entrepreneurs have brought one of Playboy’s most common and inexplicable images to life by starting the first commercial topless car wash. It’s apparently all legal (there is no contact with the customer’s body, only with the customer’s car). Perhaps this proves what Toronto’s own Marshall MacLuhan used to say about a car being essentially modern man’s new outer skin or something like that.

‘TIL AUGUST, when we might have warmth, visit Jersey’s Sports Club on 7th (a “sports bar” where people actually play sports inside instead of just watching them on TV), and resist the turning of Seafair into even more of a pro-war spectacle than it already is.


One of the lines of the pathetically insufferable couple in the KBSG commercial, describing how only the sappy pop music of their childhoods saved their marriage: “We almost broke up over the wallpaper.”


Following the “Misc.@5” anniversary show, I’ll probably hold another reading in August, as part of a COCA series. More in the next issue.

Kim Thompson insists that Mariel Hemingway’s line at the end of Manhattan was “NOT everybody gets corrupted;” somewhat diff. from my quote last time. All I can say is it ain’t the way I heard it.

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