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A Portland sportswriter sees the TrailBlazers hiring the ex-Sonics announcer, and imagines a secret plot to ship the NBA team to Seattle (apparently a secret to everyone in Seattle). In more fact-based reportage, we view more Cobain-sploitation coming across the USA; trouble for Virginia Mason Med. Center; K Records trying to right its fiscal ship; the rise of the “upper middle class” (aka the people all those “upscale” products are aimed at); and political organizing for renters.
Once again, the Fremont Solstice parade has arrived and left.
This year, the threat of rain may have kept the audience smaller than previously.
Not in short supply were the body-paint bicyclists (and more-or-less clothed bicyclists, and just plain nude bicyclists, and walkers, and skateboarders).
Much as the Seafair hydro races have become, to many fans, the sideshow to their own intermission act (the Blue Angels), the Solstice Parade has become, to many, merely the footnote to its unofficial and unorganized prelude.
As the annual corps of paint people and their pals has grown, the parade itself has shrank. This year’s edition barely ran 45 minutes.
There were the usual ethnic and pseudo-ethnic dance troupes.
There were the usual floats and dancers celebrating summer, environmentalism, nature, and wholesome “quirkiness.”
There was a tribute to Prince with a purple-boat float.
The main “political” statement at the parade was made by homeless advocates. They depicted Mayor Ed Murray with a broom, trying to literally “sweep” away a bunch of street people and car-dwellers; while marchers carried signs (conforming to the parade’s traditional rule against written words) exhorting people to call Murray to support housing and denounce sweeps of encampments.
I’d hoped to, but didn’t, see anything in the parade expressing solidarity with the Orlando victims and families, and forthrightly expressing LGBTQ solidarity. Apparently that happened too soon for parade volunteers to build moving artwork and costumes.
The bike brigade did include several folk proudly sporting rainbow-flag paint. These two held barbells labeled LOVE.
While other “alt” gatherings around town, such as Pride and Hempfest, remain big, Solstice this year seemed to be in decline.
Is it that Seattle’s finally getting done, after all these decades, with the cultural aesthetic of baby-boomer mellow? Or is it that Solstice has no specific, single “cause” behind it?
Parade organizers do plan to do something about it, starting next year.
They want the bicyclists to register as official participants, subject to official event rules. They don’t specifically say they’ll order the bikers to cover up, but they’ll assert the right to make such decrees.
If Solstice does have a “cause,” it’s celebrating an extended family, a virtual “tribe,” built around creativity, joy, and personal freedom.
If its leaders try to rein in the event’s most basic (and most popular) expression of such freedom, its decline could get worse.
POSTSCRIPT: The Fremont Solstice Fair is much larger than the parade itself. There’s the big street fair. There’s the HONK! Fest West, a festival of alternative “street bands.” There’s the display of art cars. And there’s the live music, which this year was even more impressive than in past years. Even if the parade declines in interest, the rest of the fair still goes strong.
It’s (a potentially four-day) Cinco de Mayo, just as America’s most prominent Hispanophobe inches closer to the highest office in the land. In other subjects, sales of a tech-office staple take a dive; the Lynnwood lawyer with the sexist Tweets® against the City Council is already in trouble; the City contracts out homeless-removal to a private company; and Seattle’s biggest obsolete piece of office equipment’s moving.
One UW basketball team’s season lives on; Clinton will appear to the local non-wealthy after all; women-in-tech career advice might not be “one size fits all”; maimed Bertha workers; body-spray stink. All that and more in our Toozday Nooze.
Would you believe, this is the thirtieth MISCmedia In/Out List? Well, it is.
As we prepare to begin the pearl-anniversary year of this adventure in punditry, we present yet another edition of the most trusted (and only accurate) list of its kind in this and all other known media.
As always, this list compiles what will become sizzling and soggy in the coming year, not necessarily what’s sizzling and soggy now. If you believe everything hot now will just keep getting hotter, I’ve got some Sears stock to sell you.
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.)
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.
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.
…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:
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.)
Two Breaths To…
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.
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.)
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”!
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.)