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MISCmedia MAIL for 8/19/16: A TRANS MISSION
Aug 18th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Seattle’s “queer friendly” auto repair shop aims to treat all clients (and vehicles) with their due respect. Our additional topics include an anti-squatter crusade; a Japanese-American internment survivor; a lake that makes people sick; and a piece of “political” art seen here and in many other places.

MISCmedia MAIL for 7/19/16: A WHOLE (POTENTIALLY) NEW BALL GAME
Jul 18th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

On the 10th anniversary of the sale that doomed the Sonics, here’s a modest proposal: Instead of waiting (potentially forever) for the NBA’s brass to approve of Seattle’s existence, let’s start our own league!

Other topics this in your (for today at least) GOP-free newsletter include a battle over water in and near Leavenworth; Central Co-Op’s sudden Tacoma closure; another cleared-out encampment; and Boeing’s switch to “the cloud.”

MISCmedia MAIL for 7/5/16: NOT-QUITE-AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN
Jul 4th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Now that the last amateur drinking day’s over, we return to news-digestin’ with attempts to save the sockeye; an unsung city park’s anniversary; a troubled trove of regional history; a church offering drug-assisted enlightenment; and great news for all Thucking-Funder haters!

MISCmedia MAIL for 6/28/16: GOIN’ SOUTH?
Jun 27th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Could Amazon be establishing a new techie beachhead in Portland? Besides that, we view the huge Tulalip fireworks bazaar; celebrations for the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling; more trouble for prosecutor Mark Lindquist; a bigger Panama Canal’s existential threat to our seaports; and a change of heart on the Viaduct park initiative.

MISCmedia MAIL for 6/16/16: FOR THE BIRDS
Jun 16th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

On a palindromic date we view evidence of “reverse molecules” in space; Tacoma’s downtown falcons; more Orlando reactions here and in DC; jail inmates allegedly forced to take drugs; the state’s regressive tax system used as a selling point for zillionaire homes; and a creepy “joke” by the anti-trans initiative boss.

MISCmedia MAIL for 4/27/26
Apr 26th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

The Mariners win again! (Against the hapless Astros but it still counts.) We also observe reiterated allegations against Bellevue High football; a very partial resolution in the Troy Kelley case; the year-long wait to tell Tacoma school kids about lead in the water; housing hyper-inflation getting worse; and a big-name movie financed (but not made) in Seattle.

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/18/16
Feb 17th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Today we mention more anti-Trans sleaze; a not-really answer to school funding; a proposal to “scatter” homeless camps around town; and a just-slightly-smaller tall tower scheme.

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/17/16
Feb 17th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Remember the Seattle Center Arena?  It’s still there but not for long. Also in your midweek missive: Someone thinks moving into RVs is a serious solution to high rent; a “cis”-dressed dude claims the trans-restroom law lets him enter women’s locker rooms; the coal-export boom goes bust; and what part of town’s got the most Priuses (or is it Prii?).

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/10/16
Feb 9th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

It’s Lent, but don’t give up your daily MISCmedia MAIL. Why, today alone we’ve got a plan to stop the Legislature’s pathetic-ness; differing views on the state “affordable” housing tax credit scheme; SPU students challenge white privilege; Amazon’s (alleged) big-big-big cargo plans; and an artwork honoring a Northwest legend.

MISCmedia MAIL for 11/13/15
Nov 12th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

One less “public” news source; UW basketball’s season starts in Shanghai; many weekend activity listings; TPP vs. the “open Internet;” and a Mt. Rainier pint glass. All this and more in your Friday the 13th MISCmedia MAIL.
 
MISCmedia MAIL for 11/9/15
Nov 9th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Things you can learn in Monday’s MISCmedia MAIL: 
  1. Don’t pour cooking oil down a storm drain.
  2. Having your city’s biggest bridge collapse can hurt civic self-esteem.
  3. Sounders fans are heartbroken today.
  4. Håagen-Dazs still exists.
 
OF DESPERATE TIMES AND VISUAL VOCABULARIES
Jul 24th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

desperate times cover

I know I’ve been taking however many of you are reading this back to memory lane a lot lately. But indulge me a few more times, please, including this time.

This time, it’s back to a weekend day in June 1981.

I went straight from my UW commencement ceremony, still possessing my cap and gown, and went to a planning meeting in a Wallingford rental house.

Also there were Daina Darzin, Maire Masco, and Dennis White.

We were starting a punk rock zine, to overcome what we all thought was The Rocket’s excessive commercialism. (Yeah, I know.)

The result was called Desperate Times.

It lasted for six tabloid issues, before Darzin effectively ended it by returning to New York, where she’d previously lived.

(And yes, like so many New Yorkers, she absolutely KNEW how everyone ought to think and behave. And if they thought or behaved in a non-New Yorkish way, then that thought or behavior automatically sucked.)

I had at least one piece in each of the six issues. The most affecting, albeit in a very indirect way, was in the first issue. I asked readers to write in mentioning the band they hated the most. (A cheap “comment bait” trick, it would now be called.)

It got a response all right.

That response came from one Mark McLaughlin, then a student at Bellevue Christian High School. He wrote that he loved the simple repetitive music of Philip Glass, and hated Mr. Epp and the Calculations. (“Pure grunge. Pure shit.”)

This, I continue to insist, was the first documented use of that six-letter word to describe a Seattle punk band.

And it was the first print mention of Mr. Epp, McLaughlin’s own band (of course).

One night shortly after that, Masco found McLaughlin on the streets downtown, pasting up flyers for a fictional gig by Mr. Epp, which at the time was mostly a fictional band (named after a favorite math teacher). Masco persuaded McLaughlin to stage real gigs.

For the next three nearly three years, Darren “Mor-X” Morray, Jeff “Jo Smitty” Smith, and Mark “Arm” McLaughlin gigged and recorded under the Mr. Epp name.

Arm, of course, went on to Green River and then to Mudhoney, famously performing on top of the Space Needle for Sub Pop’s 25th anniversary in 2013.

Darzin became a scribe for Billboard and other high falutin’ rags.

White and Masco started the short-lived Pravda Records label (not the Chicago firm of the same name).

White now runs another indie music label, “dadastic! sounds.”

Masco took a long hiatus from “creative” endeavors.

But now she’s back with a book collecting every issue of Desperate Times, from full-size high-quality digital scans.

Some thoughts on looking at these pages nearly 3.5 decades later:

The music discussed, well a large part of it anyway, still stands up.

The writing and the graphic design are of their time and of the milieu. That is to say, they’re brash, un-slick, and occasionally immature. But that was part of the whole aesthetic of the period. This was before “desktop publishing.” The text was created on typewriters. The headlines were created with press-type lettering. It was DIY Or Die, and it expresses the emotional states of its content better than anything in Adobe InDesign ever could.

Masco is selling the book online and at a few select local shops.

 

 

chantry speaks cover

Masco’s been living in Tacoma in recent years, with a guy who knows a thing or two about graphic design, and who’s not shy about sharing what he knows.

I’ve written several times in the past about Art Chantry. How he played a critical role in creating my book Loser (itself coming back later this year). How he did most of the grunt work in bringing “punk rock graphics” and poster art beyond the deliberately “amateur” style seen in Desperate Times and toward something that was “professional” but NOT corporate. He took his obsessive research into design schticks high and lowbrow, industrial and “artistic,” and created a whole new visual vocabulary.

In recent years, Chantry’s been spreading his vast knowledge and sharp opinions about the design profession (actually, he thinks of it as more of a “trade”) on his Facebook feed.

Now he’s collected some 50 of these essays in the book Art Chantry Speaks: A Heretic’s History of 20th Century Graphic Design.

The format of self-contained short essays, on different but related topics, works well with the disparate roots of Chantry’s visual aesthetic and career philosophy.

He finds inspiration in everything from monster-movie magazines to industrial-supply catalogs, from trade magazines to Broadway show posters, from hot-rod customizers to girlie magazines.

Unlike the late Andy Warhol (to whom he dedicates a praise-filled chapter), Chantry appreciates commercial design without feeling the need to dress it up in “fine art” trappings.

Indeed, Chantry openly and repeatedly scoffs at such trappings.

He upends the “official” history of graphic design, which treats it as a top-down profession dominated by Manhattan designers and ad agencies.

Instead, he sees it as a bottom-up, working-stiffs’ trade, originating with sign painters, printers, and other craftspeople. It’s a living tradition, re-created and adapted everywhere. It’s something that’s both populist and commercial at once. It expresses social and individual values, even as it overtly tries to sell stuff (products, politicians, religions, etc).

And, just as American pop/rock music absorbed and mutated everything that came before it, Chantry’s personal aesthetic absorbed and mutated everything he’d learned to love in the various arts of visual/verbal persuasion.

You won’t find any images of Chantry’s own works in Art Chantry Speaks. For that, look up Some People Can’t Surf: The Graphic Design of Art Chantry, written in 2001 by Julie Lasky. There, you’ll see his famous posters for bands, film screenings, and condom-awareness campaigns; his cover art for The Rocket; and his many record covers and band/label logos.

But, just as there are now drinking-age people who weren’t alive when Nirvana last performed, many of the various production techniques Chantry’s essays discuss have become lost to time, from the lead-cast “hot type” of letterpress to the photo-strip “cold type” of manual pasteup pages.

And much printed ephemera itself (magazines, newspapers, cheap paperbacks, recorded music on physical media, etc.) has declined or disappeared in the digital age.

But Chantry’s observations are still important in our current era, when even web page design is considered an obsolete line of work.

Typography, illustration, color theory, and layout are all part of the visual vocabulary of our world. There are reasons why all these arts developed the way they did.

And, just as many young adults have discovered the great music of the 1980s and ’90s Chantry’s idiosyncratic views about these can teach timeless principles about how things look (or ought to look).

THINGS I COULD’VE WRITTEN ABOUT
Jan 9th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

the kalakala in 2007, from wikipedia

During my long “blog silence” last year there were many things I could have written about, for sure. Some of them I mentioned in my little space in the little paper City Living Seattle (I’ll repost those soon here). Others I didn’t get to there either.

Among them:

  • The smallest Seattle Times in my lifetime, a mere 18 pages, was published on December 2. Many regular parts (editorials, comics, stocks, weather, sports stats) were missing; the content that was there contained many typographical oddities. The skimpier-than-usual edition was due to still unexplained “severe technical difficulties” that also apparently prevented new posts to the paper’s web site the previous night. This trip-up was never fully explained by the Times; nor, as far as I could find, was it even mentioned by other local media outlets.
  • I’d heard about, but didn’t write about, the sad final days of the art deco ferry Kalakala. After Seattle metal artist Peter Bevis, who’d gotten it back to Seattle from Alaska (where it’d become a gronded fish-processing factory) ran out of money, the Kalakala got evicted from its Seattle moorage, and got sold and moved to the Port of Tacoma. There it sat for several years, forgotten—except by the Coast Guard, who repeatedly cited the decrepit former floating palace as unseaworthy and as a potential menace to navigation. Just after New Year’s, the boat’s final owner said he’ll scrap it.
  • I mentioned in City Living Seattle about the impending end of the Hurricane Cafe, which occurred on New Year’s Day evening, ending 20 years of unpretentious grub at Seventh and Bell (where the even more legendary Dog House had stood for decades before that). But I didn’t mention the ends (all due directly or indirectly to redevelopment mania) of Kidd Valley Burgers on lower Queen Anne, the Ballard exile location of the former Capitol Hill landmark B&O Espresso, and the original Mercer Street location of the Streamline Tavern. The latter was one of the city’s last un-upscaled storefront beer halls, which once numbered in the hundreds. By the end of January, however, the Streamline will have reopened (bar, fixtures, and sign intact) at the former Jabu’s Pub site on East Roy Street.
  • Also now shuttered: the legendary Harvard Exit and Varsity movie theaters. The Varsity on University Way, once the only non-drive-in property of the former United Theaters chain, later became the last home of the the repertory-calendar format made famous at the nearby Neptune (itself saved as a live-performance venue). And the Harvard Exit near Broadway, with its spacious, chess-board-festooned lobby and its import-heavy programming, was one of the places where “art film” going in this town had begun. The buyer of the Exit’s building has gone on social media saying he’d consider ideas to incorporate the theater auditorium in his planned office-restaurant project.
  • And due to be razed any month now: the First and Seneca retail strip. It includes the old Myers Music storefront (where, legend has it, the young James M. Hendrix got his first guitar) and the former Check Mart space (which was the last remnant of the “underworld” settings depicted in the classic Seattle-filmed movie House of Games). The historic Diller Building, on the University Street end of the block, will survive.
  • In the realm of institutions coming instead of going, I got into the flamboyant new ultra-deluxe Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room on East Pike Street on its first day of business, without even having to wait in line outside. As for what I found, I’ll quote what USA Today‘s puff piece called it: “…A gathering spot for the well-to-do, where industrial age aesthetic meets information age reality.… The smell of the roasting coffee permeates the air like invisible java junkie insulin.”
  • I finally got around to watching the first season of the AMC series The Killing. The drama was clearly meant to be a single-minded barrage of unrelenting grimness. Except that it’s often unintentionally funny. Those welcome monotony-breaking moments are often, though not always, due to its many hilarious “set in Seattle, filmed in Vancouver” goof-ups. No, a King County Metro bus doesn’t look like a Vancouver Transit bus with a new label slapped on. No, Discovery Park doesn’t look like the hill above Wreck Beach. And so on.
  • This next bit has nothing to do with local affairs, but I found myself at a pizza place on Christmas Eve-eve. They started by playing holiday songs performed by American Idol style diva singers. Then they switched to holiday songs interpreted by hair metal bands. I realized that modern diva emoting is the true feminine counterpart to old hard-rock macho grunting.
  • Then there was time in October at an art gallery when I apparently talked to comedy legend Eric Idle but didn’t know it.
I WANT TO BE A PART OF IT, EAST RUTH-ER-FORD…
Jan 20th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

(The title of this post continues with the Sinatra-esque title treatment of the previous post.)

The Seahawks are off to the Super Bowl for the second time in team history. Just like the last time, you can expect all the national media to be against us. It’s going to be all “THE GREAT LEGENDARY PEYTON MANNING and some other team.”

Or that’s how it was going to be, until certain online commentators found a hate object.

Yeah, Richard Sherman is loud.

Yeah, he talked like a trash-talking wrestler during his impromptu sideline interview just after the game.

No, he was not, and is not, a “goon” or a “thug.” (He’s really a thoughtful young man who gives generously to charity.)

And no, his remarks do not justify idiotic racist bigotry.

The game’s striking ending, in which Sherman’s tip-away of a touchdown pass preserved the Seahawks’ lead with less than half a minute to go, was the climax of a huge day that capped a huge season.

It had been a day of high hopes and high fears.

The 2013-14 Seahawks had united this region in ways I didn’t think possible. Even some sports-hating hippies got into the fever.

The pregame festivities outside the stadium were a glorious cacophony of enthusiasm, pride, joy, and (yes) love.

And, yeah, maybe a little bit of bragging. Like when a lot of us noticed that one of the two Pioneer Square bars taken over by 49er fans was the New Orleans—namesake of the Seahawks’ previous playoff conquest.

(The “pegging” in the above photo was only with small water balloons, and was a school fundraiser, though they never said for which school.)

A nice lady gave me this cupcake decorated with Skittles (a product of Mars, originally founded in Tacoma), and a plastic kid-size Seahawks helmet ring.


Eventually, though, it came time to gather inside the stadium, to private parties, or to bars (such as Safeco Field’s “The ‘Pen”; yes, the Mariners learned to make a few bucks from a neighbor team’s success). I dutifully found myself back in Belltown, cheering on the team with about 40 other rabid fans.

And, as you undoubtedly know by now, it was a knuckle biter of an experience.

Our boys were down (but not by much) the entire first half, broken by a short-lived tie in the third quarter. They only took the lead early in the fourth quarter, and held precariously to that lead until Sherman’s final pass deflection.

The whole bar I was at became noisy as hell after that, and remained that way for a good half hour afterward.

Then the party spilled into the streets, with revelers driving and marching up First Avenue from the stadium. Revelry continued well into the night.

Something tells me the Super Bowl itself (which will occur in East Rutherford NJ, despite what the promo ads may say), even when we win it, might feel anticlimactic in comparison.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 1/15/14
Jan 14th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

funhousedocumentary.com

  • Some folks have made a documentary about the Funhouse, that greatly-missed bastion of DIY loud n’ live music. It should screen some time this spring.
  • Buried in a list of various cineastes’ top 10s of ’13 is the announcement that SIFF will indeed return to the now-shuttered Egyptian Theater for this year’s festival, and is working to reopen the festival’s traditional “home base” for year-round screenings.
  • Norman Durkee, 1949-2014: Teatro ZinZanni’s original music director was a musical polymath. He produced early punk 45s, put out TV-advertised new age piano LPs, worked on stage musicals and dance performances, and performed recitals of jazz and modern classical tuneage.
  • Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was seen in an online video clip with local pompous homophobic/sexist pastor Mark Driscoll. This does not mean Wilson necessarily endorses anything Driscoll says.
  • King County will move forward with Plan C (at least) to save Metro Transit from drastic cuts, declining to wait for the professional Seattle-haters in the State Senate to become sane.
  • Meanwhile, in state-politician-friendly transportation (i.e. cars and roads only), the Waterfront tunnel project has a lot more problems than just a steel pipe in the way.
  • The long-delayed Tacoma Amtrak station now, thankfully, won’t replace half of the Freighthouse Square mini-mall.
  • Finally, a practical use for those “tiny houses” you sometimes see pictures of, cute micro-cottages usually depicted surrounded by pristine countryside with no humans or other buildings in sight. In Olympia, 30 of them are being used as transitional units for the previously homeless.
  • Misadventures in Clickbait Dept.: Two companies supply most of those often-silly “Around the Web” or “Recommended for You” link boxes on otherwise “serious” news sites.
  • Is “Net Neutrality” (the policy that service providers can’t give preferential speed/access treatment to certain websites) really “dead”? No. The FCC simply has to rewrite its rules around the technicalities of a court decision.
  • Fox News anonymously created its own pro-Fox News blog. Yes, it’s hilarious and chock full O’ stereotypes.
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