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CAN ‘AMAGEDDON’ BE PREVENTED?
Aug 16th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

bloomberg.com called amazon’s under-construction hq complex a ‘geek zone, cursed by dullness’ (sean airhart/nbbj via bloomberg)

A few months back, I gave a presentation to a group of retired teachers about my 2006 book Vanishing Seattle.

At the talk, I mentioned how, at the time the book came out, the city seemed to be losing its most beloved people, places, and things at a rapid rate.

These disappearances have only accelerated since then. (Most recently, the Harvard Exit on Capitol Hill, one of the city’s pioneer “art house” cinemas, which closed forever following this year’s SIFF.)

Everywhere you look, funky old buildings are giving way to enormous new buildings.

And it’s all to be blamed, if you believe some wags, on a company that’s more interested in incessant growth than in such business-world niceties as, you know, actually turning a profit.

Late last year, Jeff Reifman posted an essay on GeekWire.com claiming everything we now know and/or love about Seattle could quickly become lost to what he calls “Amageddon,” the total takeover of the city by Amazon.com’s self-styled “code ninjas.” Reifman warns that, unless Amazon’s corporate culture (or its rampant growth in town) is stemmed, the result could be “an unaffordable, traffic-filled metropolis dominated by white males and devoid of independent culture.”

Reifman claims there are three things Amazon could do (other than crashing in a WaMu-like stock bubble) to become a better corporate citizen. It could “advocate for an appropriate tax system in Seattle and Washington state,” commit to hiring more women and minorities, and support programs to help “lower income, lower skilled Seattleites” stay in the city.

But those moves, as noble (and unlikely) as they are, would not change the trend of Amazon (and many smaller dotcoms) importing waves of hyper-aggressive “brogrammers” from out of state, with no knowledge of or affinity toward Seattle’s heritage, only to replace them after an average of one or two years.

(The NYT recently described Amazon as “a bruising workplace,” where “code ninja” programmers are worked into the ground, maternity and illness are treated as treason to the corporate cause, and a hyper-aggressive atmosphere makes it nearly impossible for women to advance.) (A high-ranking Amazonian wrote a long rebuttal to the NYT piece at GeekWire.)

No, what we need is a training program. A crash course in why this city, this place, is something to be celebrated, cherished, nurtured. To encourage our newer citizens to care about more than just their own narrow cliques and their own material existences.

With enough people taking a more active part toward making things here better, we can still be the city that rose from challenge after challenge.

A city that respects its heritage, in its highest and lowest aspects.

A city that could create great things.

Whose engineers and deal-makers brought about the Jet Age, and later “de-fragmented” the chaotic early home-computer business.

Whose progeny have repeatedly pushed the boundaries of art, music, and performance.

A city that’s constantly remade itself; that moved mountains (well, hills), raised streets, lowered lakes, created islands, and planted parks in the most improbable spots.

A city that pioneered in public power (City Light) and public health care (Group Health).

A city that can both love and laugh at itself, creating great comedians and cartoonists along the way.

A city that comes together, not apart, in moments of sadness (the public rallies after 9/11) and sweet triumph (the first day of gay weddings at City Hall).

A city that always took pride in its buildings and other structures, whether sublime (the Olympic Hotel), playful (the Hat n’ Boots), tasteful (the many Craftsman bungalows), or both spectacular AND populist (the Central Library).

Indeed, the library building is a great example of Seattle at its best. Yes, the building qualifies for that hoary overused expression, “world class.” But it’s also a place that simply works. It invites everyone to relax, read, listen, and learn.

It’s a building that’s more than “world class.” It’s Seattle class.

And it’s what we need more of.

Not just in our buildings and construction projects, but in our people, our attitudes, our ambitions.

More than half a century ago, the Century 21 Exposition depicted a Seattle on the move toward a great tomorrow.

Our real life Century 21 might never have flying cars; but it can still become an age built on wonder, optimism, high art, low kitsch, and shared joys.

Reifman has since gone beyond merely complaining about the Big A.

He and artist Kali Snowden have just started a site called Flee the Jungle.

It’s got short essays reiterating Reifman’s complaints about the company, and about its actions (or lack of same) as a local corporate citizen:

“…Amazon’s run by a wealthy libertarian who’s shown only modest concern for his home community as his company’s growth has dramatically impacted the city—good in some ways, but largely problematically in many…”

And it has dozens of links to other e-commerce sites, in many of the umpteen product and service categories in which Amazon’s now involved.

The thing about “disruptive” companies is that someone else can always come along to disrupt them.

To date, Amazon’s been able to crush (or at least hold its own against) the competition in all these lines on its sheer size and muscle, and on its ability to operate unprofitably thanks to loyal shareholders.

But none of those advantages are necessarily permanent or exclusive.

Is there an endgame to all this?

Of course there is.

As I always say, things that are hot now just don’t keep getting even hotter forever. (Except, perhaps, actual climate-related hotness.)

Financial/accounting exec John Spaid, writing at GeekWire, believes Amazon will eventually have to change itself to become profitable, and that those changes will likely include lotsa layoffs in Seattle.

And when that happens, a lot of locals (merchants, landowners, homeowners, etc.) will get burned.

(Cross-posed with City Living Seattle.)

HEY BABY, IT’S THE FOURTH OF JULY!
Jul 3rd, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Deja Vu Showgirls with American flag LED sign

The ol’ U.S. of A. sees b-day #239 embroiled by many disagreements. Among the biggest are disputes about race-hate, severe economic inequality, the subversion of democracy by big money, and the perilous future of life on Earth.

The nation stands at a crossroads.

As it always has.

Issues of equality, class, race, and the best long-term use of land and other resources have been with us from the start. We are a nation born of contradictory ideas; ever since it all started with a colonial secession by business men and slave holders publicized as a freedom-centric “revolution.”

Disputes between What’s Right and What’s Profitable have traditionally torn this nation—much more than disputes between different definitions of What’s Right ever did.

Even battles that superficially seem to be the latter usually turn out to be the former.

You undoubtedly know about assorted “family values crusades,” fanned by politicians who really only care about billionaire campaign contributors.

But a similar, if more complicated, syndrome occurs on the allegedly “progressive” side of the political spectrum.

By belittling and stereotyping white working-class people as “hicks,” “rednecks,” and racists, certain elements on the left have helped to enable the Democratic Party’s embrace of Wall Street and other elites, while ignoring for practical purposes the hollowing-out of middle class jobs.

(For a more detailed riff on an aspect of particular contradiction, check out Greta Christina’s essay at RawStory on the fallacy of claiming to be “fiscally conservative but socially liberal.” Christina avows that no matter how much you like legal pot and gay marriage, you’re only a real liberal if you fight against economic and class injustice.)

As I wrote here many years ago, I have a basic definition of liberalism: the belief that Money Isn’t Everything. We have to take care of our people and our planet, not just our bottom lines.

To that, I’ll add a latter-day addendum:

Money may not be Everything, but it’s still Something. Something more people should have more of, instead of a privileged few hogging most of it.

Fortunately, the biggest thing that’s Right With America is our ability to discuss, and even fix, what’s Wrong With America.

THE RACHEL PAPERS
Jun 15th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

mgm/this tv

Some pseudo-random thoughts about l’Affaire Rachel Dolezal, the just-resigned Spokane NAACP leader who’s claimed at various times to be black, part-black, and Native American, but whose parents claim her to be white (and who have the blonde, blue-eyed childhoood pix to support their claim):

If it weren’t for white people pretending to be black, we’d have no jazz or rock n’ roll or R&B or even hiphop as we know those genres today. American white pop music would still sound like “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?” British pop music would still sound like “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes.”

(We also wouldn’t have sorry minstrel-show acts, macho-baby-boomer blues bands, or fratboy rappers either; but you’ve got to take the bad with the good, right?)

There’s a long-running meme of college-educated white women identifying, or trying to identify, with black women of “lower” castes. It ranges from recent works such as The Help, back to the predominantly white-female audiences for Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. Walker especially depicted Af-Am womanhood as an ultimate embodiment of a specifically feminine wisdom and righteousness.

Could Dolezal, who had Af-Am adopted siblings, have envied their specific “tribal” identity, collective-struggle heritage, etc.? Not for an outsider like me to say.

It can be said that she should have known “being black” involved more than just looks and “soul,” but (as shown gruesomely in recent news items) a continuing legacy on the receiving end of repression, injustice, and brutality. (As Tavis Smiley asks, “Who’d sign up to be black?”)

Dolezal is the second Spokanian to re-invent herself so thoroughly. The first, of course, is Billy Tipton.

Tipton, a small-time jazz pianist and a bio-female who lived as a (hetero) man until his death in 1989, was essentially (in my opinion) a trans who never had reassignment surgery, but who simply tried to create a being and a life for himself and succeeded completely.

Dolezal attempted a similar life-feat, trying to create a present by rewriting her past. Our age of instant information made that ultimately impossible.

There’s nothing wrong, as Smiley’s above-linked essay notes, with being a white person devoted to helping her less race-privileged fellow humans; people who…

…have the courage, conviction and commitment to unapologetically use their white face—and their white voice, hands, feet, head and heart to make America a nation as good as its promise.

The NAACP has (openly) white local and national officers, past and present. More famously, the late Westinghouse and CBS exec Michael H. Jordan (absolutely no relation to the basketball star) was chairman of the United Negro College Fund for a decade.

In the statement announcing her NAACP resignation, Dolezal stated she won’t stop fighting for justice.

Dolezal has been a student, and occasionally a teacher, of Af-Am culture and history. She assuredly knows, both from book-learning and from those in her life, about what black life is really like.

She could have used this knowledge to work at bridging our racial divides.

If she can transcend the unfortunate image of her own “race drag act,” she still can.

Everybody seems to have an opinion or an angle on the tale:

  • Dolezal’s brothers have spoken on camera: “It started out with the hair.” (ABC)
  • The Daily Beast parses out the whole history of Dolezal’s carefully constructed identity.
  • Variety claims a Dolezal biopic “is inevitable,” and postulates whether it will be a comedy or drama or both.
  • Ijeoma Olio proposes a bargain for white people who want to be black: the ability to dance, a history of triumph over diversity, and the looks of white women clutching their purses when you walk past them. (Slog) 
  • Darnell Moore at Mic.com calls the Dolezal affair a “fiasco” and “a glaring example of white privilege in action.”
  • Twitter users are using such hashtags as #transracial and #wrongskin, as other Twitter users ruthlessly mock them. (KING) 
  • A self described “gay Black man” explains the terms “transracial” and “transethnic,” in terms of the furry community. (Fusion.net)
  • Kara Brown at Jezebel: Girl, WHAT?”
  • Explaining the “passing” as a quest for “empathy.” (USAT) 
  • Gyasi Ross at Indian Country Today compares Dolezal to decades’ worth of white folk pretending to be Native Americans.
  • Author Michael P. Jeffries calls the incident “a lesson in how racism works.” (Boston Globe)
  • As you might expect, the social sub-network known as “Black Twitter” has plenty of snarky reactions. (The Culture)
  • Vox has a think piece on how it proves “race” isn’t a cut and dried issue anymore.
  • Salon has a harsher piece by Mary Elizabeth Williams, claiming Dolezal’s “fraud is unforgivable.
  • For compare-and-contrast, here’s the story of local author Mishna Wolff, whose white father “identified” as black for many years. (KUOW)
SELL ME SOME PEANUTS AND CRACKER JACK (AND BEER)
Jun 4th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

safeco field sushi stand in 2001

Last season, the Seattle Mariners were playing for respect.

At the start of this season, some fans and observers thought the Ms would be playing for their first World Series rings. (Hasn’t turned out that way so far, alas.)

But this story is about some of the other teams that call Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field home.

Staging a Mariners game, Sounders FC soccer match, or other major sports event requires a small army of workers, from ushers and ticket takers to standby paramedics.

And among them are an unsung aspect of the teams’ charitable contributions.

This season, the teams and their concessionaires are working in conjunction with local charities including the Millionair Club to furnish overflow staffing in fiood service at the games. The concessionaires get extra hands; the workers, many of whom are long-term unemployed and underemployed, get hands-on experience in the industry.

As with the Millionair Club’s better known “day labor” program, all workers are interviewed and vetted before they’re sent out. The group helps them attain the needed food handling permits, and in some cases also state alcohol servers’ permits.

Despite common stereotypes about the jobless, these are diligent and ambitious men and women, striving to improve their lives.

More than one hundred of them (the number of workers invited depends on expected game attendance) waited patiently outside Safeco Field’s gates in the early morning of Opening Day. As instructed, they were clad in black shoes, black slacks, and black shirts.

Eventually, they were organized into lines, handed uniform shirs and hats, and sent through the gates onto the stadium grounds. Just beyond the gates, the workers stopped at a table where supervisors assigned them to their respective work stations and duties.

One group was sent to the opposite corner of the stadium, to a hot dog stand on the highest deck. While the concessionaires’ regular staffs had done a lot to prepare it and the other food/drink outlets for the new season, much remained in the last moments before the first fans streamed in. But with some applied “organized chaos,” all the menu items, trays, cups, and straws got to their proper spots. The new workers were quickly taught to operate the grills, the soft-serve machine, the beer taps, and the point of sale terminals.

By shortly after 11 a.m. the first customer had the first beer poured at that stand this season. Business gradually picked up as the sellout crowd continued to gather.

By the first pitch at 1 p.m., the joint was hopping. Beer taps that poured mostly foam at first now efficiently dispensed plastic cup after plastic cup of Coors product. The three varieties of hot dogs were sold as quickly as they could be cooked.

While the workers could neither see nor hear the game (the TV monitors on each side of the stand were, of course, pointed outward toward the customers), they heard, and sometimes joined in, major cheers that erupted whenever the Ms did something spectacular. With pitching ace Felix Hernandez leading the team to a 4-1 victory that day, such celebrations came frequently.

It should be mentioned that each of the food and beverage “stands” in each stadium is a fully equipped, permanently installed facility. Each has its own coolers, freezers, and cooking and cleaning equipment. The price of stadium food and drink isn’t just the result of exploiting a “captive market.” The concessionaire companies put a lot of investment into facilities that only earn income 81 days a year. (And that’s at the baseball stadium. The football/soccer stadium has even fewer event dates.)

While the concessionaires tried to anticipate opening-day demand, some of the beer kegs “blew” prior to the scheduled cutoff of alcohol sales at the end of the seventh inning. Supervisors scrambled to replace them, even for just a half hour’s worth of potential sales. That’s what you do when your sales day is so short. (Soccer matches, which run for less than two hours, have even shorter sales “windows.”)

Once the beer officially ceased flowing and the tap handles got put away, food sales also trickled off. The stand remained open until some time after the game’s end. Then came a furious hour of thorough cleaning, wiping, and product inventory. The regular staff and the charity “day workers” had worked as one team, and done it well.

By 5 p.m. the day workers had returned their uniforms and signed out. Only some of them would be needed at the next day’s game, for which far fewer tickets had been pre-sold. But all of them had gained work experience in a high-energy, high-volume, group effort.

Even if that effort was for nothing more significant than feeding some hungry baseball fans.

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

THREE THOTS ON YOOTOOB
Jun 24th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

  1. Last Friday evening, a long line of excited but patient teenage girls gathered outside the Showbox. They were going to something called “Digitour O2L” (Our 2nd Life). That isn’t an electronic dance music ensemble, but a package tour of hot looking young men who simply post “video diary” monologues onto YouTube. These six idols (ages 15-21) don’t sing; they don’t dance. They just talk about stuff. And, with the nurturing attention of a couple of hotshot promoters, they’re raking in the bucks.
  2. YouTube itself, and its Google masters, are trying to make monetizable sense of a big part of the streaming video site’s offerings. One tactic is a subscription-based music service, to start some time this year. The company’s reached contracts with the Big Three (formerly Big Six) record companies. Smaller labels, though, are balking at YouTube’s proposed terms. As CNet describes the situation, “the massive video site requested the smaller labels automatically give up their royalty rate if a major label agrees to something lower.” YouTube is threatening to remove all videos from its main site by musicians whose labels don’t sign on for the subscription service. This could effect affect as much as 5 percent of all the music tracks on the site. There are plenty of other streaming-clip sites out there where these acts and/or their fans can place clips; but none of them has YouTube’s recognition or market share.
  3. Those other video sites also don’t have the massive inventory of clips YouTube can offer on its “Recommended For You” page, where so many users/viewers first find so much new and/or intriguing stuff. Why, just the other day that page referred me to Two Breaths To…, an educational film produced by Hanna-Barbera for a Hanford Nuclear Reservation contractor. Hanford, Hanna-Barbera, the late beloved Casey Kasem narrating, and gruesome animated deaths—what’s not to love?

Two Breaths To…

TODAY IN OWN-TAIL-EATING, INTERNET STYLE
Jun 19th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

Apparently, there are deliberately annoying (male) online “trolls” (in the days of dial-up bulletin board systems, we called them “twits”) who have conspired to promote fake “feminist” Twitter slogans. Their idea was to make feminists as a whole appear to be just as stupid and sexist as these trolls themselves are. They (or at least many of them) got caught.

But also, apparently there are also Twitter trolls who have conspired to promote a made-up meme about “bikini bridges” (defined as an open space under the top of a bikini bottom, between the hips).

But what makes this operation even dorkier is that the same trolls, under a variety of online pseudonyms, are orchestrating fake “grassroots” comments both promoting and denouncing this supposedly “viral” hashtag obsession.

Some people, clearly, have just too much time on their hands.

CAN THIS MAGAZINE BE SAVED? ALAS, NOT.
Apr 29th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

aboutfacts.net

The publication that first coined the phrase “Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman” (initially referring to women’s spending power, as a lure to advertisers) is calling it quits.

The Ladies’ Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper, as it was known back in 1886, was founded by Philadelphia newspaper publisher Cyrus Curtis, and originally edited by his wife Louisa Knapp Curtis. It was run for three decades by the Curtises’ son-in-law Edward Bok, one of the inventors of the modern magazine industry. (Some old timers might have heard of the Curtis/Bok family’s other big magazine, The Saturday Evening Post.)

The Journal was a pioneer in the business model of cheap subscriptions subsidized by advertising, and thrived on it for many years. At the end it still had more than 3.2 million buyers (down from 6.8 million in 1968); but ad revenue had collapsed, as it has for so many print ventures. The name will now appear on occasional “newsstand special” editions, essentially to keep the trademark alive.

(The above image links to a review of a 1900 article in which the Journal predicted American life in the far-off year 2000. The article was a lot closer to what really happened than you might think.)

STERLING, SILVER
Apr 29th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

sigcis.org

It’s usually awkward to be outed as a flaming racist.

It’s infinitely worse when you are in certain lines of business.

Owning a professional basketball team is one of those lines of business.

So, after all hopes of the scandal “blowing over” evaporated, rookie NBA commissioner Adam Silver put a “banned for life” fatwa on LA Clippers owner/racist/adulterer Donald Sterling.

This means, among other things, that Sterling can’t attend games or take an active management role in the team that he still, for now, majority-owns. He’ll be encouraged, but apparently not forced (at least not yet), to sell the team. That last part could conceivably lead to a court case.

Yet, already the rumors are abuzz that the Clippers could (just could, mind you) potentially move to Seattle.

Obviously a lot would need to occur for that to happen.

Sterling would need to be eased, or forced, out.

Other LA buyers would have to be turned down in favor of Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen. (Former Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz has supposedly talked, or been talked about, about fronting a group to buy the team.)

The Clippers’ share of Staples Center would have to be sold back to the Lakers and the NHL’s LA Kings.

The league’s other team owners would have to be convinced that having two teams in the #2 TV market (even if that second team is the traditionally hapless Clippers) would be less lucrative than regaining a team in the #12 TV market.

But think of the possibilities: If the Clippers were co-owned by an ex-Microsoft CEO, they could bring back the old Windows Office Assistant mascot “Clippy”!

WHERE AMERICA SHOPPED
Mar 21st, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

theryanrvexpress.blogspot.com

Here is a story about the world’s largest “shop from home” company, and the time it started an experimental business operation in Seattle that grew and grew.

The company was Sears, Roebuck and Co. (“Cheapest Supply House on Earth”, “Our Trade Reaches Around the World”).

The time was 1925.

The experiment was to expand from its famous “Big Book” mail order catalogs into what are now called “brick and mortar” retail stores. Urbanization and automobiles (two trends that now seem contradictory) had come to threaten Sears’ biggest market—rural families who wanted prices and selections they couldn’t get in small-town stores.

Because this was a new direction for a company that had grown huge on its existing business model, Sears management chose to save money by placing its first two retail stores in buildings it already owned—its catalog warehouses in Chicago (the company’s headquarters) and Seattle. (The Chicago flagship store closed a few decades back, leaving the Seattle store as the company’s oldest.)

The Sears Seattle warehouse building had been built a little over a decade before, in 1912. The Industrial District (later christened “Sodo” by local boosters) had just been created a few years before, from tide flats filled in with dirt from the city’s massive regrading projects. It was built for the company by the Union Pacific Railroad, whose freight tracks hugged its back side. It was built from solid old growth local timber, with handsome brick cladding and a clock tower (still the neighborhood’s tallest structure, other than container-dock cranes) on top.

It also happened to be two miles south of the city’s traditional retail core. This meant the store would rely less on foot traffic and more on folks driving expressly to go there. That meant it was a forbearer of suburban malls and big-box stores, trends Sears would ride on nationally in the post-WWII decades.

The store housed a subset of the catalog’s almost-everything selection (but not cars, or entire houses in kit form, or non-perishable groceries, three of the catalog’s once-popular sections). It had “soft goods” (clothes and linens). It had “hard goods” (appliances, hardware, auto parts, furniture). For a while, there was even a farm supply department.

In 1951, the new Alaskan Way Viaduct meant Sears was just off of the main highway through the city. A little over a decade later, I-5 would pass nearby.

Generations grew up with our own local version of the store advertised as “Where America Shops,” a chunk of middle class materialistic heaven surrounded by warehouse and small factories.

Perhaps the escalators were narrow and rickety, and the ceilings shorter, compared to newer stores in the malls; but Seattle’s Sears had its own charms. The popcorn machine and the candy counter. The cool pastel colored walls in the women’s department. The Saturday morning cartoons or Sunday afternoon sports games on the wall of TVs.

Meanwhile, the warehouse part of the building grew over the years to 2.2 million square feet, making it Seattle’s largest building by volume.

But the Sears catalogs were phased out in the mid 1980s. The building was put up for sale in 1990. It was first retitled SoDo Center, then Starbucks Center when the coffee giant moved its head offices into it.

The Sears retail store remained but shrank. Part of its space was taken up by by an Office Max. Home Depot opened a huge store across South Lander Street, competing with many of Sears’ “hard goods” departments.

The company wasn’t doing too well nationally by this time either. Walmart had overtaken both Sears and Kmart to become the nation’s top retailer. The 2004 merger of Sears and Kmart failed to revive either chain’s fortunes.

Thus, the end of the Sodo Sears store became inevitable.

Only 79 employees remained with the store when its closure was announced in February, 13 of them in the “Auto Center” department.

The store had become forgotten before it was gone.

(Cross posted with City Living Seattle.)

THE POWER OF 12
Feb 6th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

The most recently estimated population of Seattle is 637,000 and change.

Another 200,000 workers commute into town on a typical weekday. (I don’t know how many city residents commute to suburban jobs.)

Police estimated 700,000 people lined Fourth Avenue and Pioneer Square on Wednesday.

A lot of them were kids. Some really young kids. Some older kids, skipping school for a major life experience.

(The victory parade had to be on a weekday because the players were about to disperse to off-season homes.)

The day was sunny and mightily cold. People, lots of ’em, found themselves trapped in the middle of the crowd as the hastily-conceived parade started more than half an hour after its scheduled start time.

Then the buses, humvees, and “Ducks” bearing the players and coaches finally appeared. Whoops and hollers and cheers rose up all around. I took these last two shots from an upper floor of an office building two blocks away and could still hear it.

THE DAY AFTER THE DAY AFTER
Feb 4th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

The Seahawks’ previous playoff game, against the team’s current division rivals San Francisco, carried such a sense of challenge, struggle, and last-minute triumph, that I feared the big game for the total league championship might seem anticlimactic.

My fears proved unfounded.

Two great local pregame storylines immediately developed:

  1. Yes, it would be only the Seahawks’ second appearance at the biggest U.S. sports event of the year. The team from America’s “far corner,” from a city still often treated as a backwater fishing village, a team that not long ago almost moved to L.A., now playing for our collective honor and respect.
  2. More specifically, our gaggle of relative no-names would take on a genuine media-anointed Celebrity Quarterback, beloved by advertisers, broadcast sports pundits, and Las Vegas gamblers. Despite the Seahawks’ power and their balanced offense, we were underdogs in Vegas and everywhere outside the team’s official TV/radio region.

Sports bars (and other bars that could be used for watching sports) were full. Other spots around town were empty or closed.

I’d mentioned previously that everyone I read or talked to here in town was absolutely certain the Seahawks would win. But many of them predicted the Seahawks would win by just a few points. Almost nobody expected a blowout.

A blowout was what they, and the rest of us, got.

It started with a Broncos safety (the rarest scoring play in the sport) on the very first play from scrimmage.

It just went on from there, with a Seahawks field goal on the very next drive. Before the game was done, there were Seahawk touchdowns from kickoff returns, interceptions, and pass receivers scrambling past tacklers. The Broncos’ offensive drives (with one exception) ended with fumbles, interceptions, punts, or fourth-down stops.

The result was “boring” to some national commentators.

But it was ecstatic to all of us.

Some national bloggers apparently thought it amusing that we mostly celebrated sanely. (Unlike, say, the 2011 riots when the Vancouver Canucks lost the NHL finals.)

But that’s how we roll.

We get angry over injustice.

We get joyous over spectacular successes.

(Although I suspect many of Sunday night’s 12th Men and Women might now be looking into the 12 Steps.)

A few civic-culture thoughts:

No, the Seahawks’ victory was not solely due to its aggressive defense. A defense-only team would be like those dot-com bosses who boast of how “disruptive” they are, but whose works contribute nothing back to the world.

The Seahawks’ offense is every bit as important as its “D.” It’s a balanced offense, that relies as much on solid rushing plays as on spectacular passes.

And the Seahawks, and their players, contribute a lot.

In charity drives, publicized and other.

In economic activity, bringing fans from around the region and beyond into Seattle.

In just being decent people off the field, something you don’t see often enough in bigtime sports.

And in uniting a whole region in a cause.

A meaningless cause, yes; an entertainment.

But a cause of power and (yes) beauty, of guts and glory, of being seen and recognized and respected.

Some thoughts by others:

  • Jeopardy! legend Ken Jennings wrote before the game that “the heartbreak of Seattle sports fandom made me who I am today;” but he added that “we’re not supposed to hope, but maybe this is the team that ends the heartache.”
  • Lindy West takes a break from bashing media misogyny to concur with Jennings, noting that “the Seattle I grew up in is not the type of city that wins Super Bowls.” West hopes Seattle having suddenly become “a city of winners” doesn’t lead to “the end for us.”
  • Seattle Storm legend Lauren Jackson would like you all to remember that her team has won two league titles. The UW football team and the pre-MLS incarnations of the Sounders have also been tops in their respective fields of play. It’s not just the Sonics 35 years ago and the Seahawks today.
  • Blogger Kacee Bree notes the positive effect this has all had on the city’s zeitgeist:

You can feel the electricity and expectation everywhere you go. The atmosphere is different lately at the mall, the grocery store and even in the classic Seattle traffic. The 12th Man flag flies everywhere from skyscrapers to SUVs. Even our fountains burst with bright blue.…

Why are we so passionate about our SEAHAWKS? Because despite the impression that the national media is portraying, we know our Hawks are true INSPIRATIONS on and off the field. We have a team that acts, plays and respects like a true team, and they are lead by a man who recognizes that our city is a part of that team. The 12th Man is more than a saying here in Seattle; it is the role we play in the success of this outstanding football team.

I HATE CALIFORNIA. IT’S COLD AND IT’S DAMP.
Jan 17th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

'i hate the 49ers' on facebook

(Note: This post’s title is a gag based on a song lyric. Californians never get the joke.)

Twice a year, I get to express out loud an opinion that usually attracts scorn and correctiveness from even my closest friends.

And this week, I get to really say it.

The excuse: The Seahawks’ upcoming battle in the National Football League’s playoff semifinals, against the arch rival 49ers.

The opinion: San Francisco is a land of pompous, arrogant snobs who falsely believe themselves to be the Supreme Species of the Universe.

Especially San Francisco’s “alternative” and “radical” scenes.

That’s a socially forbidden opinion there—and even, often, here.

All my life, I’ve heard people here insisting that Seattle was a “hick town” that needed to become “world class” by religiously copying everything in, from, and about San Francisco. Its restaurants and bars. Its bands. Its fashions. Its municipal political structure. Its architecture. Its media institutions. Its stores. Its strip clubs. Even its street crime.

To these “local boosters,” anything Seattleites created on their own was intrinsically inferior to anything swiped from or “inspired by” cultural dictates from down south. (This attitude was particularly strong during the ’70s and ’80s, when Seattle’s civic establishment was almost completely run by upscale baby boomers.)

Over the years, there’s also been a steady stream of promoters and hucksters from there moving up here, opening “authentic San Francisco style” hoity-toity clubs or boutiques, long on attitude and short on anything really interesting. When these enterprises failed, as they usually did, said hucksters bemoaned us Seattle hicks for failing to appreciate their genius.

To a true San Franciscan, there is only San Francisco, and maybe New York, and just-maybe-maybe Los Angeles. The rest of America is all Bumfuck, Iowa.

“But,” people invariably say, “what about all the bohemian rebels and counterculturists and Establishment-challengers from there?”

They can be even more annoyingly snooty than your basic San Franciscan annoying snoot.

And it’s an American tragedy, the way they’ve helped left-wing politics to get ensnarled with the most anti-populist, square-bashing sentiments, in which one is supposed to love “the people” and hate “the sap masses” at the same time. (I’m talking to you, Mr. Tom Tomorrow and Mr. Jello Biafra.)

I happen to believe progressive/revolutionary politics should be for everybody.

Even meat eaters. Even TV viewers. Even people who don’t drink lattes or listen to public radio.

Otherwise it’s just a worthless pose.

There’s now a book out by one Fred Turner, called From Counterculture to Cyberculture. It traces the twisted path of San Franciscan “liberation” ideology/hype, from the “flower power” wild-oats sowers, through the Whole Earth Catalog gang, to the early microcomputer startups, to Wired magazine’s founders, to the hyper-alpha guys (and too few gals) running today’s dot-com giants.

Turner traces how a particular strain of NoCal “personal freedom” beliefs mutated and metastasized into corporate-Libertarian selfishness.

The Harvard Business Review story about the book carries the telling title, “How Silicon Valley Became the Man.”

Right now in Frisco (an informal, anti-elitist abbreviation I always insist upon using), there’s a loud backlash against dot-com one-percenters taking over the whole city, forcing artists and musicians (and, oh yeah, non-white folks) out, and making annoyances of themselves with their big spending and boorish behavior.

Protesters and pundits forthrightly proclaim that this all runs counter to “The City” and its heritage of rugged individualists, rule breakers, and wild boys.

No. It’s a monster bastard child of that heritage, taken to a parasitical extreme.

So no, Danny Westneat and Knute Berger: I don’t share any “sense of inferiority to San Francisco.”

I treat it as an example of what Seattle should not become.

WHAT’S HIGHER AND LOWER IN TWENTY ONE FO-UR
Jan 4th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

For the 28th consecutive year (really!), we proudly present the MISCmedia In/Out List, the most venerable (and only accurate) list of its kind in this and all other known solar systems. As always, this is a prediction of what will become hot and not-so-hot in the coming year, not necessarily what’s hot and not-so-hot now. If you believe everything hot now will just keep getting hotter, I’ve got some BlackBerry stock to sell you.

INSVILLE OUTSKI
Da Vinci’s Inquest Da Vinci’s Demons
Lorde Lard
Mead Gin
Tapatio Sriracha
“Fewer” “Less”
WordPress Flash
CBS This Morning 60 Minutes
Alex Trebek retirement Jay Leno retirement
Baltimore Miami
“Relevant” “Viral”
Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) Kristen Stewart
Kacey Musgraves Brad Paisley
Formica Granite
Plum Silver frost
Oscar Isaac Johnny Depp
Mini-tacos Chicken wings
Fly Moon Royalty Robin Thicke
Saving Scarecrow Video Saving the Seattle Times
DailyKos.com Upworthy.com
Bare midriffs “Designer grunge” revival
Voting-rights defenders White people who claim “racism is over”
Elizabeth Warren “Politics by hashtag”
Venice Paris
Burien Bainbridge
Worker rights Working for “the exposure”
End of movies shown on film End of incandescent light bulbs
Games for all ages/sexes/races Macho-asshole “gamer culture”
“You better WORK!” “Because (noun)”
Erin Morgenstern Charlaine Harris
Raising the minimum wage Cutting corporate taxes
NHL in Seattle NBA back in Seattle
Binge viewing Crash dieting
Bolt Bus Airline mergers
Single-payer HMOs
Seahawks 49ers
Girls (still) Dads
Misfits Kardashians
Lovers “Winners”
“-esque” “-ski”
RANDOM LINKS FOR 12/3/13
Dec 3rd, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

RANDOM LINKS FOR 12/2/13
Dec 1st, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

A long-delayed batch of randomosity (the first in more than a month) begins with the discovery of the newest local “mainstream microbrew.” Underachiever Lager appears to have begun as a promo vehicle for Tacoma designer-casual-wear company Imperial Motion, but is now being rolled out as its own thang in select local bars.

  • The countdown to the possible decimation of King County Metro Transit continues, with professional Seattle-haters in the Legislature officially not giving a damn.
  • Could the Seattle Monorail Project really be brought back from the dead?
  • About eighteen years past due and not a moment too soon, there’s finally a local music show back on local TV. It’s Band in Seattle, and it airs at 11 p.m. Saturdays on the once-mighty KSTW (which hasn’t had any local programming in ages).
  • Dj and promoter Derek Mazzone offers a fond remembrance of Ace Hotel/ARO.Space/Tasty Shows/Rudy’s Barbershop entrepreneur Alex Canderwood.
  • We must also say goodbye to Dee Dee Rainbow, a longtime Meany Middle School art teacher, a fixture at just about every jazz show in the region, and a figure of joy and celebration wherever she went.
  • As has been expected, a mega-developer is buying the old “Fairview Fannie” Seattle Times HQ. The 1930 art deco façade features might be retained.
  • Monica Guzman has seen one of Amazon’s new “webisode” sitcoms and finds it to be a dreary dude-fest with female characters decidedly de-emphasized.
  • Sinan Demirel at Crosscut remembers homeless-housing projects of the past, and ponders whether they contain any lessons for today.
  • Is there really such a thing as “The Seattle ‘No,'” depicted as a passive-aggressive copout response? I’ve certainly had few problems saying a firm “No” to questions just like this one.
  • City Councilmember-elect Kshama Sawant isn’t even in office yet and the carpers, local and national, are already circling.
  • The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center is in severe financial straits and might not survive.
  • One of my fave hangouts, Bill’s Off Broadway at Pine and Harvard, closes Monday nite. Yep, redevelopment strikes again. The pizza/pasta joint and sports bar has already opened an exile location on Greenwood Avenue, and should be back in the rebuilt corner in 20 months’ time.
  • To the surprise of very few, David Meinert and his partner Jason Lajuenesse are taking over the Comet Tavern.
  • Matt Driscoll at Seattle Weekly describes Boeing’s single, unacceptable, set of take-it-or-leave-it demands for labor givebacks as the “dick move of the week.” But don’t worry; billionaire CEOs have made plenty of dick moves just in the two weeks since then.
  • Lemme get this straight: A local ad agency is trying to convince other ad agencies to make ads here in Wash. state by playing on the image of this as a place where people don’t like being advertised to. Or something like that.
  • KIRO-TV salaciously described the sidewalks surrounding City Hall Park and the Morrison Hotel as “The Most Dangerous Block in Seattle.” A local merchant there begs to differ, and asks that the down n’ out be treated with “your hope, not your contempt.”
  • We’re learning that every time there’s a closed subculture run by leaders who demand total obedience, there’s apt to be child abuse. Latest example: NYC’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community.
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