I can reasonably state that I wasn’t the only person in Seattle who wanted to personally witness 2013 go bye bye. Certainly, the bottom of the Space Needle had even more than its regular yearly throng of fireworks watchers.
Before the blast, the Needle was bathed in a very pleasant plum-esque lighting scheme.
Then, right on time, the big kaboom began.
By the end of the seven minute spectacular, the smoke had failed to disperse, leaving the whole tower looking like, as one KING-TV commentator called it, “internally illuminated cotton candy.”
Back in 2003, after the first round of local dot-com crashes, former Seattle Weekly writer Fred Moody wrote a book called Seattle and the Demons of Ambition.
Moody wrote about instances when the city as a whole, or individual Seattleites, obsessively pursued grandiose schemes for power, money, or civic greatness, only to figuratively crash back down to Earth.
Moody didn’t include the Seattle Monorail Project (1996-2005) in his vignettes. But that failed dream of a better, cheaper, more futuristic urban transit system certainly qualifies as a sky-high dream that collapsed amid broken hearts and balance sheets.
And Dick Falkenbury, the sometime cab driver who helped to launch the project, is a major aspect of this tale. While he’d worked in minor roles on local political campaigns in the past, many saw him as the ultimate outsider.
To the local media, and to many of his supporters, Falkenbury was the civilian tinkerer with a great idea—an idea that would cure gridlock, make car-free living more feasible, and never get stuck in traffic, all without major government subsidies.
He was like Campbell Scott’s character in the Seattle-filmed movie Singles, whose drive for a city-crossing “supertrain” was promptly dismissed by the mayor. Except that Falkenbury’s idea, while snickered at by almost everyone in power, was loved by the people.
With the aid of local rich kid Grant Cogswell and a few plucky volunteers, plus some clever ideas for low-cost signature gathering and campaigning, the Monorail Initiative got onto the ballot—and passed.
Cogswell went on to a failed City Council run, as documented in Phil Campbell’s book Zioncheck for President and Stephen Gyllenhaal’s movie Grassroots. (Later, Cogswell declared Seattle to be unworthy of him and moved to Mexico City.)
Now, Falkenbury’s written, and self-published, his account of the Monorail dream’s life and death.
The book’s title, Rise Above It All, was one of the initiative’s slogans.
Just as the elevated trains were meant to run above snarled streets, the Monorail Project was meant to run above, and apart from, the city bureaucracy and the “infrastructure lobby” of contractors and construction unions.
That things didn’t turn out that way wasn’t just the fault of Falkenbury’s outsider status. But that was a factor. He made enemies. He nurtured grudges, even with allies. Without the skills or clout to manage the ongoing operation of planning and building a transit system, he was forced to watch it taken over by the “experts.”
What came out the other end of that process was, in many ways, just another bloated civic construction proposal, complete with an unworkable financing plan. After four consecutive “yes” votes, city voters finally killed the monorail on a fifth ballot.
But would the system Falkenbury originally envisioned, or something like it. have worked?
Would it have carried 20 million riders or more per year, in auto-piloted trains, on tracks supported just 20 feet above the ground on narrow pillars, with fewer than 100 employees, financed almost completely by fare-box proceeds and station concessions?
In his book, Falkenbury insists it could have, and still could.
But he doesn’t make a convincing case.
For one thing, he could have really used an editor.
He regularly misspells the names of even major players in his story, such as City Councilmember Nick Licata.
He makes the sort of wrong-real-word errors that Microsoft Word’s spell checker can’t find, such as when he mentions “rewarding a contract” instead of “awarding” it.
He rambles on about his personal distaste for several people, including ostensible allies such as Peter Sherwin (whose second monorail initiative kept the dream alive after the city council first tried to kill it).
And he defends the monorail plan as he’d originally envisioned it, without providing a lot of specific evidence that the engineers and planners and politicians were all wrong and he was right.
But he still could be.
If Falkenbury had been a more effective schmoozer and networker; if he’d gotten more politicians on his side; if he’d sold his plan as a supplement, not a competitor, to the tri-county Sound Transit organization; if he’d convinced ST to at least consider switching from light-rail to monorail technologies; if he’d been able to keep a tighter eye on the planning and money people, or had more allies who could; then, just maybe, we might have been riding in the sky from Crown Hill to the West Seattle Junction by now.
(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)
I got a pic of the historic Mudhoney set on the Space Needle Roof on Thursday, but it didn’t quite come out as I’d hoped. Here’s a far better shot by my ol’ pal Charles Peterson (and here’s a link to video of the set):
As it happens, both the band and its longtime record label Sub Pop are 25 years old. The latter’s celebrating its milestone all day Saturday in Georgetown.
Thursday’s gig was an all-afternoon live affair on KEXP, including two opening solo-acoustic acts and DJs and interviews with Sub Pop personnel past and present downstairs on the Needle’s observation deck.
KEXP had its own 40th anniversary last fall, but waited until today to hold an all-hands reunion party at the Sunset in Ballard.
For those who tuned in late, KEXP (renamed at the behest of onetime funder Paul Allen) began as KCMU, part of the UW’s School of Communications (“CMU” was the UW’s course-code prefix for Communications classes).
That’s where I DJ’d a little show of party tunes with Robin Dolan, then went on to my own shift, modestly entitled “Broadcast Radio of the Air.”
Ran into a lot of the old gang at the Sunset. Along with much of the station’s current team, including John Richards and Kevin Cole (again, sorry for the bad snapshot quality).
Also there was Faith Henschel-Ventrello, one of the old KCMU gang. She now does big event planning in Calif. but is back to work on the Sub Pop jubilee shindig.
Seeing these old station newsletters, stickers, T-shirts, and a box of LPs from its early vinyl collection (complete with DJ-scrawled “Yes!” endorsements), and meeting all these onetime champions of youth culture now propelled inexorably into adulthood (if not into “maturity”), really made me feel like (1) we’d been on the ground floor of something that became mighty, and (2) damn I’m old.
Yep, there was another Pride Parade in Belltown, heading toward another PrideFest in Seattle Center.
This year’s installment was even more festive than most, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against one specific federal anti-gay-marriage law; following the voter-approved start of gay marriages in this state late last year.
And, as always, the parade provided major companies with a chance to show off just how welcoming they are toward clean-cut, well-dressed, upper-middle-class people with good tastes in music and home decor.
But gay pride, and gaydom/queerdom in general, shouldn’t be about being the “ideal minority” for a segment of corporate America.
It shouldn’t be merely about recreation, food, drink, and other consumer practices.
For that matter, it shouldn’t be about sexuality as a consumer practice.
It shouldn’t be about an all-white “rainbow.”
And it shouldn’t be about imposing an oversimplified straight/gay social construct on top of an oversimplified female/male social construct.
It should be (and, at its best, it is) about universal inclusion. Of all gender-types, gender-roles, and consensual relations. (PrideFest’s ampersand logo this year expresses this with simple elegance.)
It should be about being who you individually are, without imposed identities (even “progressive” imposed identities).
And, of course, it should be about love.
Known for decades as a cranky reactionary political commentator, you might find it hard to believe he’d started as a Seattle Times art and theater reviewer.
There, and later as managing editor at the P-I, he regularly advocated for the “fine arts” as a civilizing force, a means toward furthering the region’s progress from frontier outpost to respectable conservative community.
When the Seattle World’s Fair ended, Guzzo famously editorialized that the fair grounds (to become Seattle Center) should be devoted entirely toward arts/cultural pursuits. He specifically did not want any amusement-park rides there. He lived to see them finally removed.
One of Guzzo’s closest allies in this education-and-uplifting ideology was Dixy Lee Ray, who ran the Pacific Science Center. He later worked for Ray at the Atomic Energy Commission and during her one term as Washington Governor.
After Ray was primaried out of a re-election bid in 1980, Guzzo became a regular commentator on KIRO-TV. That’s where, in 1986, he delivered a blistering attack against greasy-haired, anti-social punk rockers. (The motivation was the infamous Teen Dance Ordinance, which Guzzo supported.)
In response, a local hardcore combo called the Dehumanizers released a blistering attack on him, in the form of a 45 entitled “Kill Lou Guzzo” (which began with a sample of Guzzo’s original commentary). Guzzo sued the band and its record-label owner David Portnow. Portnow responded by pressing more copies.
After retiring from KIRO at the end of the 1980s, Guzzo started a “voice of reason” website and self-published several books.
jordan stead, seattlepi.com
Amazon wants to build a triple-globe shaped, five story thing, variously called a “biodome” and a “greenhouse,” as part of its three-block skyscraper project. It would be on Lenora Street east of Sixth Avenue.
Any architectural thang with three segments, in which the two smaller segments are spherical, is bound to lead to a lifetime of snickering jokes.
Arrangements of one or more spherical objects at the bottom of a 50-story tower will engender the same responses.
Amazon’s either being brave, or clueless, or devil-may-care bombastic, or some combo of the above.
Second, slightly more serious, comment:
As gargantuan New Seattle monuments to world-class-osity go (and I wish a couple of them would go), this one looks at least somewhat friendlier than the planned central waterfront makeover, kitschier (in a good way) than the Sculpture Park, and not nearly as brutalistic as Chihuly Garden & Glass.
Depending on how it works out, and how tolerant its staff is toward civilian activity within, it could be a welcome addition to the cityscape. Or at least a place in which to hide out from the rain for a bit.
neil hubbard via cousearem.wordpress.com
the aurora kmart in 2002
via huffington post
At least, that’s what I hope and pray it will be, for myself and for all of you.
It’s a short distance from either the 1958 or 1968 KIRO-TV buildings, where Chris Wedes performed as J.P. Patches, to Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall, where Wedes was publicly remembered last Saturday.
The distance from the Patches show’s fictional City Dump to McCaw’s clean, modern splendor is far greater.
J.P.’s “little old shack by the railroad track” was a tiny, cluttered little studio set that felt like home.
It was a fun palace for a working-class town.
Within these flimsy walls, pretention was unknown, and funky, honest good times were the rule.
This “room,” barely wide enough to allow full-height camera shots of its inhabitants, was our portal to the infinite realms of imagination.
McCaw’s seats were filled with Patches Pals who’d grown up with the 1958-81 TV show, and others who’d known J.P. only from later personal appearances and home-video retrospectives.
The always affable Pat Cashman hosted, on a stage bedecked with J.P. set pieces and props (mostly re-creations). In between many video montages, Cashman shared his (and our) memories of the man, the clown, the Northwest icon.
One of the video montages was set to a recent song by Aaiiee!, a local ’80s-vintage band now gigging again.
This segment was included when KIRO telecast the memorial later that evening (commercial-free, but cut to an hour).
The telecast cut out a couple of other montage segments, on-stage tributes by John Keister (above) and Dori Monson, and a pre-recorded tribute by Joel McHale.
But home viewers did get the part with Duane Smart, the show’s longest serving “Mr. Music Man,” playing some of the music and sound-effects cuts that burned themselves into kids’ memories.
And they got to see the particularly poignant bit with Stan Boreson, who was both Wedes’ friend and nearest rival (he hosted KING’s afternoon kids’ show for 11 years).
Wedes’ partner in crimes against “good taste” was Bob Newman, who played Gertrude, Boris S. Wort, Ketchikan the Animal Man, and most of the show’s other characters. Newman sat at the front of the audience during the memorial, addressing the audience only in a pre-taped segment. That did not stop the audience from giving him at least two standing ovations.
Chris Ballew, in his “Casper Babypants” persona, closed with the snappy original piece “Meet Me at the City Dump.”
Which is exactly where, in our imaginations, so many of us still regularly go.
Yes, the J.P. Patches show existed to sell peanut butter, cookies, and tennis shoes to impressionable youth, and to fill little bits of time between those commercials and syndicated cartoons.
But it did so much more.
It didn’t invent, but it sure helped spread, a particularly Northwest brand of goofball humor.
It was at once totally childish and totally hip.
It was at once subversive and pro-social.
It mocked social mores (as the best clowning always does) while instilling confidence and reassurance.
It made every viewer feel just a little bit special, a little bit loved.
As promised, here are my observations of Bumbershoot 2012, Seattle’s annual big culture buffet.
As others have noted, it was a sunny but not unbearably hot three-day weekend, bringing out strong-sized crowd despite the steeper than ever ticket prices. (It was either charge $50 a day, or go back to having no musical stars bigger than Hall & Oates.)
Behold, my first ever deep fried candy bar (a Snickers). Gooey. Messy. Yummy.
How are curly fries made? With good old American industrial knowhow, that’s how.
They may call it the Seattle Center Armory now, but to me it will always be the Center House and/or Food Circus.
In this post-record-industry age, live gigs are more important than ever to a band’s financial model. So are gig posters, as lovingly seen at the latest Flatstock exhibit.
The historic video games exhibit (still up) shows the young’uns what real entertainment was like, 8-bit style.
But amid all the fun there’s some deadly serious stuff. World Vision International would like you to know AIDS is still devastating much of Africa.
This “House of the Immediate Future” was named after a model home full of futuristic devices at the ’62 World’s Fair. The new one exemplifies affordable-housing designs that could be factory-built, then installed on small real-estate footprints.
A few inflatable rides are no substitute for the late, great Fun Forest.
The Toyota-sponsored “Whac-A Hipster” game. Hipster-bashing has become corporate,and therefore beyond passé.
The heart of the “Put the Needle on the Record” exhibit, a mini-recording studio where you can record your own music and/or voices for a time capsule, is this recording lathe that cuts real phonograph-record masters.
Today’s greatest ETA (“Elvis Tribute Artist”), El Vez, does his massive act with a massive in-house video production (like all the big music stages had this year).
An inflatable icon of the original Elvis stood over two exhibits.
To the right, the Record Store, a display of classic vinyl LPs with DJs and live small combos.
To the left, the Elvistravaganza. Marlow Harris and Jo David applied their kitsch curatorial touch to the World’s Fair’s most enduring celebrity visitor. I contributed my (quite modest) ETA talents at the all-day karaoke stage.
As I departed the Center grounds to the soothing strains of Hey Marseilles, I regretted the many acts I hadn’t seen but felt enlivened and revived by the ones I had seen.
I’ll have more to say about Bumbershoot 2012 later.
But I have to talk about the posthumous tribute exhibit to local urban-landscape painter Christopher Martin Hoff.
The show itself was fabulous, a loving homage to a man who loved the world around him and who deftly expressed all the color, detail, and even love he saw.
At least that’s what I saw in Hoff’s works.
Gary Faigin sees something else.
He’s a cofounder of the Gage Academy of Art and a contributing art critic on KUOW.
He wrote an introductory statement displayed at the Hoff exhibit.
Faigin’s statement begins:
Seattle is not a beautiful city. Its architecture is banal, its layout arbitrary and confusing. It is redeemed by its setting—dream-like mountains and islands tantalizingly close—but one would never know that by looking at the paintings of Christopher Hoff. It was Hoff’s lifework—tragically short, as lives go—to patiently go out into the gritty streets of the Seattle urban core, day after day, week after week, in good weather and bad, and attempt to extract the timeless and poetic from what most of us see as an everyday blur.
I most emphatically disagree with the first three sentences.
And I believe, without having known him, that Hoff would have done likewise.
Hoff saw beauty in the everyday. In the weather. In the streets. In intersections both straight and angular. In handsome 1920s apartment buildings and in graffiti- and poster-encrusted commercial walls. In warehouses and gas stations and billboards.
He saw the beauty in all this because it was all there to be seen.
Because Seattle IS beautiful.
And not just the picture-postcard parts, the water and the mountains,the Pike Place fish throwers and the glass artists.
All of Seattle is beautiful.
Just as all of you are beautiful.
(PS: This entry’s title, “I Acknowledge Beauty Exists,” comes from a Facebook page devoted to “body image,” inner beauty, and championing the diversity of all peoples. That page’s founders, in turn, based its name on another online activist space, “I Acknowledge Class Warfare Exists.”)
The first human on the moon turned out to be just two weeks younger than my mother.
The “Space Race,” begun with the Soviet Sputnik satellite’s launch, was only four months younger than me.
I was 12 when Apollo 11 landed. The perfect impressionable age for a young male.
The moon landing meant to me what it meant to a lot of guys my age:
The ultimate adventure.
The first steps of “Man” to a strange new world.
The first day of a new era.
I don’t have to tell you things turned out differently.
But we still dream.
Particularly during the 50th anniversary of the Century 21 Exposition.
As part of that, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s staging a “Celebrate Seattle” event on Sept. 16, with astronauts real (Cady Coleman) and fictional (Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols). The Ballet’s orchestra will play parts of Holst’s The Planets and Dvorak’s Song to the Moon.
It’s good to remember yesterday’s future.
But let’s also build ourselves some new dreams for a real future.
A future in which the work of Armstrong and the entire NASA team behind him will not have been in vain.
zoo atlanta via king-tv
seattle mariners via mynorthwest.com