Feb 18th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

haley young, via seattlemag.com

You really ought to see These Streets, the new play at ACT about five women in the ’90s local rock scene.

Its writers (Gretta Harley, Sarah Rudinoff, Elizabeth Kenny; pictured above) were there. They know of what they speak.

I mentioned in my book Loser how the national media’s false “grunge” stereotype included “no women in sight, not even as video models.”

But in the real Seattle scene, women were involved in leading roles from the start, on stage (Kim Warnick, Sue Ann Harkey, Barbara Ireland) and off (managers, venue owners, photographers, zine publishers, etc.).

Now, the truth may at last become better known.

Jan 30th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

ap via nwcn.com

  • Just like at the Ballard Locks, Oregon’s Willamette Falls is plagued by salmon-hungry sea lions. Local officials’ answer? “A boat crew armed with seal bombs and shotguns loaded with firecrackers.”
  • Seattle Times headline labels “art” as a waste of state taxpayer money, right up there with legislators’ dry-cleaning bills. This is not the sort of objective reporting of which the Times claims to be a last bastion.
  • You want real spending waste, in a project about, well, waste? Then look no further than Seattle Public Utilities’ new south end transfer station, still not ready months after its ribbon cutting.
  • Another stupid shooting in another local nightspot. How utterly gross. (Here’s news of the benefit for the bar bouncer’s recovery.)
  • I seem to have found out about this story in progress, but the UW’s Women’s Action Commission has created its own theater piece in the tradition of The Vagina Monologues. Only this all-new work is called The ___ Monologues. The title is apparently an attempt to make the work “more trans-friendly.”
  • The Yankees don’t like A-Rod anymore.
  • Marijuana industry trade associations are now a thing.
  • The Wall St. Journal says Microsoft wouldn’t have to take a majority stake in Dell in order to have  a pivotal degree of influence in the beleagured PC maker.
  • The newest version of MS Office comes in a “cloud based” subscription version, which seems to essentially require you to have a never-interrupted Net connection (and, of course, to keep paying).
  • Boeing’s global-outsourcing craze is now, more or less officially, a “disaster.”
  • We must say goodbye to Regretsy, the site that pokes gentle fun at kooky craft products. Its operator April Winchell (yes, Dick Dastardly’s daughter) said the site’s concept had run its course (“now we’re just Bedazzling a dead horse”).
  • Last week, Twitter launched a new streaming-video site called Vine. The premise is people posting six-second, repeating GIF videos. Yes, it’s already been used for porn, and for people taping themselves taking bong hits.
  • Barnes & Noble plans to close perhaps 20 percent of its stores over the next decade. So much for the guys who were supposed to be taking over the industry and driving all the indie quirkiness out of the book biz.
  • Someone’s written a long, detailed critique of the cinematography in Les Miserables—in the character of the Incredible Hulk.
  • “Rei” at Daily Kos wants you to reconsider the Fox News story from last week about Iceland’s official baby-names list.
  • Speaking of which, while my masses-bashing “radical” leftist friends like to imagine Fox News as “the most popular TV channel,” its ratings among adults under 55 are the lowest they’ve been in more than a decade.
  • Jeb Boniakowski at The Awl would like a mega-McDonald’s in NYC’s Times Square, that would serve everything the chain serves everywhere else but not in this country.
  • Public radio’s idea of “humor,” at once bland and cloying, reaches a new nadir in a Chicago station’s make-believe plea for its listeners to breed more public-radio-listening babies.
  • Headline: “Ex-NFL player charged with beating boyfriend.” Comment: Yes, this is still what it takes to acknowledge the existence of gay athletes.
  • Jim Nabors had been rumored to be gay ever since his days of sitcom stardom. Now he’s finally publicly proclaimed it, by getting married in Seattle.
  • The NY Times has discovered something that’s been going on around here for some time—the “permanent temp” economy.
  • One of the last of its kind in the region, the Valley 6 Drive-In Theater in Auburn, will not reopen after its most recent seasonal shutdown. Even sadder, its longtime manager Kieth Kiehl passed on shortly after the decision to close was made. Both will be missed.

beth dorenkamp via grindhouse theater tacoma

Nov 13th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

Onetime P-I cartoonist Ramon "Ray" Collins, to be featured in the documentary Bezango, WA

  • I don’t often plug Kickstarter fundraising projects here. But there’s one I fully believe in. It’s Bezango, WA, a feature documentary by Ron Austin and Louise Amandes about Northwest cartoonists past and present. It’ll have everybody from David Horsey to Ellen Forney. It should be a blast.
  • It’s been a few days since the last Random Links, I know. No, I haven’t been dancing the liberal’s victory dance all this time. I’ve been working on another National Novel Writing Month novel. This one should be great. I’ve got a scene in which an electronics nerd compares a sexy woman to a freshly soldered joint. (Really.) (That part might not make the eventual final cut, though.)
  • Remember, Seattle parks users: the owls are not what they seem.
  • A nice Wikipedia contributor explains Seattle’s street layout. (This will be on your exam.)
  • Don’t send too many Tweets® from a Husky football game, or the UW will accuse you of being an unlicensed media outlet.
  • Andy Warhol’s studio submitted a proposal to paint the Tacoma Dome’s roof all floral-y. Now, it might finally appear.
  • RIP Tristan Devin, 32. The Capitol Hill cafe owner and comedian was also the director of the “People’s Republic of Komedy,” staging group bills all over town and promoting a standup revival. Among the topics of his own act were his long struggles with depression and experiences in therapy.
  • Bryan Johnson has retired after 53 years at KOMO radio and TV. On the radio side, he’d announced both the death of JFK and the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Transferred to the TV side, he became a sort-of local Mike Wallace. In his booming baritone, he asked the tough questions, he made the snarky comments, he delivered the gloom-n’-doom “analysis.” His official last piece was an in-studio commentary on whether the feds would act to prevent pot legalization here.
  • Some Occupy ____ activists have an idea that might just actually benefit people. It’s called “Rolling Jubilee.” Under this scheme, a donation-funded nonprofit would buy up unpayable consumer debt at pennies on the dollar, just like collection agencies do. But the nonprofit would then cancel, instead of try to collect, those debts.
  • Google allegedly now makes more ad revenue than all U.S. magazines and newspapers combined.
  • Is selling out to commercials now the only viable business model for indie rock bands?
Nov 6th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

ward sutton

‘Tis election day. The most infuriatingly nervous day of the year, or in this case of the quadrennium. (I believe that’s a word.)

The polls, even the progressive leaning polls, predict a tighter race than I want. I want Obama across the board over Mr. Lying One-Percenter Tax Cheat Hypocrite in previously “red” states, and all victorious long before the Pacific Time Zone results show up. If I can’t get that, I at least want an Obama victory big enough that even the partisan-hack dirty tricks in Ohio and Florida (and even here) can’t threaten it.

Back to randomosity:

  • Lynn Stuart Parramore at AlterNet insists that liberals need to expand their potential base, to reach out to the whole of America. Yes, even to stop stereotyping white male Southerners.
  • Postcard collector Lisa Hix has some lovely examples of cartoony “attack ads” from the women’s suffragist era.
  • Bob Quinn, who started a one-man needle exchange program in the U District in the 1990s, has apparently died. I have no further information on this, however. (UPDATE: Here’s more.)
  • Microsoft staged a real-life fake “invasion” theater piece to launch the newest version of its Halo video-game series. The mock battle essentially involved all of the European micro-state of Lichtenstein. Cue references to the Bloom County version of Bill Gates trying to get a date by boasting about owning Norway.
  • UPDATE: The Cobain-Love stage musical, threatened last month, is now an official no-go.
  • The state Dept. of Transportation is holding a naming contest about the big machine that will dig the tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. All entry names must be female, presumably to avoid the obvious phallic jokes.
  • Boeing’s next jetliner model might have folding wings, to fit in better at crowded airports.
  • Thirty-six percent of the cigarettes sold in Wash. state may be “contraband” (i.e., sold without state taxes). These will, of course, kill you just as dead.
  • John Naughton at UK weekly The Observer says the big book publishers have played into Amazon’s hands in the past decade or so. Actually, they’ve played into the hands of their own conglomerate owners who cared only about the short-term Almighty Stock Price, to the long-term detriment of the business itself.
  • If Disney buys Hasbro, as has been rumored, they’d not only get the rights to Battleship remakes, but also to the role-playing game franchise Dungeons & Dragons. You’ll recall Hasbro bought Renton game company Wizards of the Coast, which had bought D&D during its peak years.
  • R.I.P. Mac Ahlberg. The famed Hollywood cinematographer had directed a few of his own films while still in his native Sweden. One of these was the erotic classic I, A Woman and its two sequels.
  • Occupy Wall Street protesters had rigged together some bicycle-powered generators during their marathon protest. These devices proved handy for neighbors during the Hurricane Sandy blackout.
  • Today’s lesson in the folly of marketing products “For Women” is brought to you by Honda.
Oct 25th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey


“Amidst the Everyday,” a project by photographers-artists Aaron Asis and Dan Hawkins, aims to reveal “elements of the unseen urban environment.” You go to places around town, scan QR codes (etched in wood!) at various buildings, and receive images of their hidden treasures. (Above, one of the unoccupied-for-decades upper floors of the Eitel Building at Second and Pike.)

  • I’m not disillusioned by the news of a potential sitcom that would carry the title Smells Like Teen Spirit. (The show concept sounds more like a ripoff of Family Ties, which is also something we don’t need.) However, I am at least a little disillusioned by the news of a potential Kurt and Courtney stage musical, which would be licensed by Courtney Love via Britney Spears’ estranged ex-manager.
  • Lester Smith, 1919-2012: The Mariners’ original principal owner had, in partnership with Hollywood star Danny Kaye, a number of business endeavors. They ranged from rock-concert promotion to direct-mail marketing. But Smith (or Kaye-Smith) will always be legendary for stewarding KJR-AM during its 1955-80 golden age as Seattle’s Top 40 (or “Fab 50”) powerhouse.
  • The Seattle Times‘ free ads for Rob McKenna caught the LA Times‘ attention; not to mention a less-than-kind portrayal in the SeaTimes‘ own “Truth Needle” department.
  • The next step up from bicycle lanes: physically separated “bike tracks.”
  • Knute Berger reiterates what I’ve been saying about the waterfront development scheme. Let’s not let it be “sanitized by good intentions.”
  • Dominic Holden would like you to know the biggest reason for legalizing pot. It isn’t for the stoners (and it sure ain’t to shut up the stoner evangelists, which had been my reason).
  • Joe Copeland takes up the continuing legacy of Floyd Schmoe, one of the greatest people I ever met, leader of Seattle’s Quakers and hands-on advocate for peace and reconciliation.
  • The next hurdle toward getting the NBA back in Seattle has been overcome. That hurdle is Commissioner David Stern, whose butt will be out of that particular chair by the end of next season.
  • A major casual-games convention may be leaving Seattle.
  • UK film blogger Petra Davis looks back admiringly at the still-underrated Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, 20 years old this year…
  • …and, with the winding down of the World’s Fair semi-centennial, our pal Jim Demetre has some kind words for the (mostly justifiably) forgotten It Happened at the World’s Fair.
  • In other film news, the Columbia City Cinema is being reopened (yay!). The new owner has repaired all the previous owner’s not-up-to-code “renovations.”
  • Note to Amazon Kindle users: Buy all your e-books while you’re physically in the same country, lest you be targeted as a Terms of Service violator.
  • Today’s dire-threat-to-America’s-youth story comes to you from a California high school where boys and girls alike are invited to join a “fantasy slut league.”
  • Penguin and Random House are in merger talks. This is bad news, since book publishing is one of those industries that’s too consolidated already.
  • Today’s lesson in the folly of products marketed as “For Women” is brought to you by Fujitsu and its “Floral Kiss” brand laptop PC.
  • Among all the slimy, sociopathic, and bigoted things Republicans are saying and doing these days, add this overt racism by Sarah Palin.
  • Pseudonymous Daily Kos diarist “bayushisan” wishes gamer culture had fewer macho jerks in it. (The same, of course, can be said about athiests and “skeptics,” online comment threads, U.S. politics, and even atheists and “skeptics”.)
  • Paul Karr loathes the dot-commers’ worship of “disruption” as a sacred concept, and the Ayn Randian me-first-ism behind it.
  • The BBC notes that “creativity is often intertwined with mental illness“…
  • …and Simon Reynolds disses the “modern dismissal of genius” in today’s “age of the remix.”
  • Earthquakes can’t be predicted. That hasn’t stopped a court in Italy from convicting seven scientists who failed to do so.
  • Community organizer “B Loewe” believes you should not get into lefty causes to feel good about yourself, and you shouldn’t try to be your own, or your only, emotional “caregiver.” Instead, you’re to practice prosocial interdependence as both ideology and a way of life.
  • Someone says something nice about so-called “hipsters!” They’re credited with helping bring back Detroit (the place, not the car companies).
Sep 30th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

via fastcompany.com

  • Dean of indie animators Bill Plympton offers a handy “Guide to Telling Animated Stories.” Lesson #1: “Having a great idea is more important than being a great artist.”
  • The New York Post doesn’t like Dina Martina. Of course, they’ve been so wrong about so much so often….
  • One reason the Republicans are running so scared this election: it could be the last election cycle to be dominated by TV ads, and hence by the megabucks they cost. Local news ratings around the country are teetering, especially among young adults. (And don’t expect 3D TV to save the business.)
  • Buried in this story about Fender Guitars’ fiscal trouble in the techno era is the info that Fender’s biggest wholesale customer, Guitar Center (the 500 lb. gorilla of music-store chains) is controlled by Mitt Romney’s ol’ pals at Bain Capital.
  • George W. Bush was kept far away from the GOP convention but is front n’ center at an “alternative investment summit” in the Cayman Islands.
  • Seattle Weekly founder David Brewster looks back at his creation, now under semi-new ownership again. Brewster still seems not to understand why the Weekly had become vulnerable to the Stranger’s early-1990s rise. For 15 years, the Weekly had operated under the unbending assumption that its original target audience, the (formerly) young urban professionals of the Sixties Generation, were the absolute only people who mattered in this town or ever would matter. By ignoring the wants (or even the existence) of people born after 1952, Brewster left a huge hole for some underfunded entrepreneurs from the Midwest to fill.
  • Jeremy M. Barker would like to remind you that, even when its performers appear nude on stage, “Contemporary Dance Is Not Stripping.” I agree. It’s infinitely sexier.
Sep 18th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey


  • My ol’ pal and fellow Stranger refugee, painter/illustrator Sean Michael Hurley, worked the “safety patrol” at the Downtown Emergency Service Center for the past two years, until earlier this month. Here are his poignant reminiscences of this tough job.
  • Not since (or even including) Dukakis have I seen a Presidential campaign come apart at the rivets so thoroughly, so quickly. Having apparently abandoned even most of the remaining “swing states” (of which some polls say there are now only six), the Romneyites are retreating to their remaining hardcore base—their billionaire donors. That’s the reason for the masses-bashing speech Romney gave to some donors last week, which got leaked to Mother Jones.
  • Next, the Romney cronies will try to double down on the “culture war” nonsense, to try to keep the wingnuts interested in propping up the GOP downticket races.
  • Wall Street was re-occupied, with the expected police over-reaction.
  • Timothy Harris at Real Change, meanwhile, insists there’s life yet in the Occupy shtick.
  • Nanci Donnellan, KJR-AM’s former “Fabulous Sports Babe,” has had major health issues in recent years, but is still doing the brassy-mama act on the air in Tampa.
  • Did a European magician try to copy one of Penn and Teller’s (well, Teller’s) signature bits? Or is it all just another of the team’s elaborate hoaxes?
  • Today’s lesson in officially homophobic institutions covering up rampant child abuse comes from the Boy Scouts.
  • So the organized anti-American attacks in the Mideast aren’t really due to an awful, no-budget American movie. But if they had been, so many more cringeworthy-bad films are out there. Where’s the rioting over Manos the Hands of Fate or The Wasp Woman?
  • There are still vast places in America, nay in Wash. state, where there’s no cell phone service and previous little Internet service. Some people who don’t live in these places imagine them to be heaven. I do not.
  • A Tacoma teacher says education reform has become like the unsolvable training exercise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I think it’s more like one of those Doctor Who season finales that require a millennium or two to resolve.
  • Jen Doll at the Atlantic says the changing book biz means the end of the cloying back-cover blurb. (You’ll also enjoy the article’s stock photo of the old Elliott Bay Book Co. location.)
  • Harvard researchers claim “a wandering mind is not a happy mind.” I’d tell you more about the story, but I had these 30 other browser tabs open at the time….
Sep 14th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

andraste.com via the smoking gun

  • A Seattle fetish photographer puts up some shots taken inside a cemetery. Legal rancor ensues. Trust me on this: The dead people don’t give a darn.
  • Heather Artena Hughes, 1967-2012: The longtime local actress/singer/dancer/comedienne did everything from torch songs and burlesque bits to parody wrestling matches. She was a regular in the Match Game Belltown shows. Everyone who knew and/or worked with her called her a near-goddess of skill and verve.
  • Nordstrom is expanding into Canada. (No “designer toque” jokes from this corner.)
  • Why do the Mariners brass still oppose the Sonics arena scheme? Could it be because the M’s could conceivably want their own cable channel, and any neo-Sonics team could conceivably compete with that?
  • The city of Auburn has a “wall of shame,” decrying banks that hold on to foreclosed homes and leave them to decay.
  • A JPMorganChase analyst claims the iPhone 5 (just announced this week) “could prop up the entire U.S. economy.” Douglas Rushkoff at CNN is more than a little skeptical about this claim.
  • AT&T wants the legal right to abandon the landline-phone biz, and with it all demands for “network neutrality” that keep it from manipulating what websites its customers get to see.
  • The broadcast/cable/satellite TV industries, and their attorneys, continue to make the online streaming of “free” TV a near-impossibility.
  • It’s a little too late for the chain’s Washington locations (the regional franchisee went under a year or two back), but Hooters is trying to be more female-friendly.
  • It’s not much of a comic (just dialogue scenes), but there’s still novelty value to a lawyer making a five-page strip as a legal brief in the Apple/Amazon ebook pricing suit.
  • USA Today just brought out a massive print/online redesign. Nice to see a print paper fighting for continued relevance, instead of just fading away.
  • Amanda Palmer raised over a million bucks on Kickstarter for a new album. Not getting a slice of that: local pickup musicians on her tour stops.
  • The Pussy Riot protesters might get out of jail next month. Just might.
  • “Did the Republicans deliberately crash the U.S. economy?” Or was that merely collateral damage in the game of supplying as many favors as possible to its billionaire campaign donors?
  • How do you get and keep more women in the tech industries? One way is to not require programming experience in filling non-programming jobs (such as middle management).
  • What will it take to get more black ballet dancers?
Sep 10th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

The rubric atop this entry is not merely the title of the Ventures’ breakout hit, over 50 years old and still an instro-rock classic.

It’s also a potential slogan of the second annual NEPO House 5K Don’t Run, held last Saturday from Beacon Hill to the International District.

This year, the event began at NEPO House, the sometime installation/performance space on Beacon Hill. Last year, that’s where it ended. That meant this year’s event was (mostly) downhill (except at the end).

That still wasn’t easy for the woman pushing the wheelchair seen above (whose occupant also carried a load of bricks in her arms).

Also giving themselves an added degree of difficulty were Graham Downing and Max Kraushaar, wearing helmets that only gave them tiny tiny peephole views. They had to rely on one another’s limited perspectives all along the way.

Along the way, Nathaniel Russell’s ad posters promoted fictional events, services, and events.

Earthman! (Seanjohn Walsh) read selections from famous poets, selected by a random process that involved a spin toy and a game board.

A little further down 18th Ave. S., poet Sarah Galvin arises from a hidden hole in the ground, from which a wildman (played by Willie Fitzgerald) had arisen, grabbed her, and thrown her down.

With the path having moved onto I-90 Trail, Julia Haack’s arches here aren’t just striped, they’re quilted.

The Ye-Ye Collective’s “Telethon” looked back to the old days of printed phone books, landline phones, and all-knowing “directory assistance.”

Paul Komada shows “How to Fold an American Flag.”

Keeara Rhoades’ dance troupe, stationed under the Jose Rizal Bridge, performs “When They Move They Take Their Fence With Them.” They’re a white picket fence, you see.

“Meadow Starts With P” and her Covert Lemonade Stand were quite popular with the by-now tiring non-runners.

A K Mimi Alin, the “Not So Easy Chair,” is no relation to Chairy from Pee-wee’s Playhouse (I asked).

Eric Eugene Aguilar and friends danced under a freeway overpass. Just out of camera range, official city notices pasted onto the piers ordered people to not sleep here.

The Don’t Run ended at its own version of the Boston Marathon’s “Heartbreak Hill,” the steep climb along S. Maynard St. toward Sixth Ave. S. Those non-runners who survived this last obstacle were treated to a beer garden, food trucks, and the Bavarian Village Band (who’d also performed at the end of last year’s Don’t Run).

The Diapan Butoh took at least half an hour to dance up the one block to Sixth. Even when they got there, things did not go swiftly or smoothly.

What you saw here was fewer than half the Don’t Run’s attractions. When next year’s event arrives, you’d better walk, stride, strut, or shimmy to it.

Just don’t, you know….

Aug 19th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

amnesty international via pickadolla.wordpress.com

By now you’ve heard and/or read about the Russian protest/music/performance-art collective Pussy Riot.

About the group’s carefully staged protest at a Russian Orthodox church against Vladmir Putin, the political boss of Russia’s current crony-driven, corrupt regime.

About the regime’s rote reaction against the protest.

About the two-year labor-camp sentences dutifully dished out to three Pussy Riot members; following five months of imprisonment and a farcical show trial tainted by allegations that the women were beaten, denied food, and weren’t allowed witnesses to speak in their defense.

About the protests throughout western Europe and elsewhere in support of the group.

I found it all to be an extremely well thought out piece of real-life theater.

The group’s English language name and song titles were clearly intended to generate a global support network.

Their act was inspired both by 1990s U.S. “riot grrrl” bands and the recent Ukranian activist group Femen (who’ve staged topless protests against “sex tourism” in their country).

The concept was to put human faces (albeit sometimes masked faces) on what had been a year of mass protests, in Moscow and elsewhere, against Russia’s increasingly oppressive and even neo-Stalinist system.

This face is young, dynamic, colorful, defiant, female, and (even when fully dressed and masked) openly sexual.

It was crafted as a deliberate contrast to a regime that willingly depicted itself as old, staid, grim, mechanical, humorless, and, yes, patriarchal. A machine as repressed as it is repressive; appealing to fear and bigotry to maintain support among older citizens nostalgic for the days of Soviet predictability.

Anti-Putin and anti-Putinism protests are not confined to Pussy Riot. Mass marches have been held in major cities for more than a year. Putin’s somber bureaucrats have issued increasingly suppressive laws to stop them.

Russia’s opposition is broad and deep, cutting across ethnic and class as well as gender lines.

Pussy Riot gives this opposition a face and a voice the outside world can see and hear.

Jul 10th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

Happy 7/11 everyone! And we’ve got a new place to get our free regular Slurpee® on this only-comes-but-once-a-year day. This brand new 7-Eleven franchise is on Virginia Street between 8th and 9th, in the cusp between Belltown, the retail core, South Lake Union, and the Cascade district. It’s got all your favorites—burritos, Big Bite® hot dogs, $1 pizza slices, bizarre potato-chip varieties, coffee lids with sliding plastic openings. It closes nightly at midnight, though (sorry, hungry Re-bar barflies at closing time).

  • I can tell you that hate-filled, hyper-aggressive online “comment trolls” existed back in the 1980s days of bulletin board systems (BBSs) and 300-baud acoustic modems. Neil Steinberg at the Chicago Sun-Times sees their antecedents back even further. A lot further.
  • There’s only one million-selling music album so far this year. It actually came out last year.
  • Jon Talton explains how tax cuts are “the god that failed.”
  • ACT Theatre will have the U.S. premiere of a play by Brit mega-playwright Alan Ayckbourn next year. And he’s personally coming over to direct it. This is just about the most establishment-prestige you can get in the play world.
Jul 3rd, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

Back when the Stranger was still assigning me stories (just never running them), I researched the long and convoluted history of the Eitel Building at Second and Pike. Mr. Savage believed it might be cool to have a story about what he described as “Seattle’s only downtown slum” or words to that effect.

I’d first come to know the 1904-built midrise medical-office building (it was called “the 2nd & Pike Building” by the 1980s) as the storefront home to Time Travelers, a record and comix shop that was a vital early punk-scene hangout.

At the time I researched that later-killed Stranger piece, its then-owner wanted to demolish it for the usual Exciting New Office/Residential/Retail blah blah blah.

But shortly afterward, in 2006, the city slapped landmark status on it, against the owner’s wishes.

At the height of the real estate bubble a few years back, Master Use Permit boards appeared on it proclaiming an imminent 16- to 22-story structure that would incorporate the Eitel’s outer facades but nothing else. That, obviously, never happened.

But now, just weeks before Target opens in the Newmark megaproject across the street, new developers announced a new scheme.

The Eitel will remain intact on the outside, with a “boutique hotel” opening inside sometime in 2014.

But to me it will always be what I’ve always known it to be—one of the last major surviving, un-gentrified remnants of what the Pike Place Market and surrounding blocks to be like. A hard, scruffy place whose “original elegance” had long since settled into comfy sleaze.

The Eitel’s storefronts and basement spaces have held a wide variety of uses over the decades, few of them frou-frou.

There was the original practice space for Ze Whiz Kidz, a pioneering gay cabaret troupe. There was the needle exchange. There were several indie and local-chain fast food outlets, including the current longstanding Osaka Teriyaki.

What there wasn’t was anything on floors 2 through 7. The upper floors have been boarded up since at least 1978. Even the occupied parts have had little in the way of basic upkeep.

The one major change to the exterior cladding was a black faux-deco treatment, done some time in the 1970s and not in keeping with its original appearance.

But that just made it a more lovable little victim of neglect.

Nice to know it will survive, even if it’s not as the funky place I’ve known.

Jun 29th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

'jseattle' at flickr, via capitohillseattle.com

Yes, it’s been nearly a week since I’ve posted any of these tender tidbits of randomosity. Since then, here’s some of what’s cropped up online and also in the allegedly “real” world:

  • There’s still no official hint on what the proposed Sonics Arena might look like. But the wannabe developers of East Pine Street’s “Bauhaus block” have released a drawing of their proposed mixed use development. At least in its idealized-drawing form, it’s not as monstrous looking as some other recent structures in the area.
  • In other preservation battles, Seattle’s people again rally around a thing about which the elites don’t give a darn. They’re striving to bring back the Waterfront Streetcar.
  • Meanwhile, a study claims if the viaduct-replacement tunnel charges tolls high enough to pay for it, drivers will clog the surface streets rather than pay those tolls.
  • Seattle Opera faces a $1 million shortfall, and will mount fewer new shows in future years. But don’t count ’em out yet, folks. It’s not over until, well, you know.
  • The late writer-director Nora Ephron had many major achievements. Sleepless in Seattle, let us all admit, is among the least of them.
  • Did you know there was a real hostelry in Fife called the “Norman Bates Motel“? Emphasis on the was.
  • America’s cities: they’re back! (Of course, some of us knew this for some time.)
  • In a pleasant surprise, one of the Supreme Court’s pro-one-percenter flank betrayed his masters and voted to uphold Obamacare. In response, some members of the Rabid Right’s noise machine claimed the great American Experiment was over and they’d hightail it to Canada (which, uh, has had universal health care in place for some time now).
  • If you’re on liberal/progressive websites at all these days, you’ll find a lot of comment threads hijacked by folk who claim to be lefties disgusted by Obama’s centrist tactics, so much that they won’t vote this November, and want you to not vote either. At least some of these comment trolls turn out to be paid employees of right-wing dirty tricks outfits.
  • Rupert Murdoch’s splitting his News Corp. into two companies. One will contain his print properties (including HarperCollins Books, The Wall St. Journal, the New York Post, and his besieged London tabloid operation), plus the iPad “newspaper” The Daily. The other will hold his “entertainment” properties. Yes, Fox “News” goes with the entertainment half.
  • Paul Krugman tells the PBS NewsHour all about his “cartoon physics” theory of the American economy.
  • Google’s putting out a tablet device with a 7-inch color screen, just like Amazon’s Kindle Fire. But the exciting part of this Wall St. Journal link is at the bottom, where they mention another forthcoming Google hardware product. It’s a streaming-media player that attaches to TV sets, and it’ll be made in the USA!
  • Ann Althouse looks at a famous parody of trashy sex novels, and asks rhetorically if those who make and read such parodies are really bashing the potboilers’ readers (i.e., women).
  • Nordstrom’s opening a branch in New York City. Make way for NYC media outlets to describe it as a brand new startup.
  • Headline: “The media covers Kardashians, not climate change.” Comment: The media covers the-media-not-covering-climate-change more than it covers climate change.
Apr 28th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

joybra.com, via seattlepi.com

  • Dept. of Things You Never Knew You Needed: UW business students have designed a bra with a pocket for an iPhone.
  • Seattle’s (the nation’s? the world’s?) longest running serialized stage play, the Asian American-centric Sex in Seattle series, ends after 12 years with episode 20, opening this weekend.
  • Amazon’s quarterly profits are 35 percent lower than a year ago. To Wall Street, that’s seen as good news somehow.
  • The Sacramento Kings’ arena deal is apparently dead. The team might or might not be put up for sale any week now. Seattle has a wannabe majority owner, a perfectly functional arena, and the land and initial plans for a new arena.
  • Vancouver punk legend Joey “Shithead” Kiethley sez he’ll run next year for a seat in B.C.’s provincial legislature. He’s done this twice before, on Green Party tickets. But this time he’ll run on the ticket of the New Democrats (Canada’s official national “opposition” party). He’s putting into practice his old motto, “Talk – Action = Zero.”
  • Gay Divorcee Dept.: A B.C. judge has ruled that a split-up lesbian couple has to split their jointly owned sperm-bank deposit.
  • Are outspoken homophobes really gay but suppressing it? All I know is for me, other men’s bodies are like eggplant casseroles. I don’t wanna eat ’em but I don’t mind if you do.
  • Will the Arab world need a full-scale “cultural revolution” before women have rights there?
  • Nutella: not as “healthy” as some consumers apparently thought.
  • The story about Egypt legalizing sex between widowers and their dead wives? A complete hoax.
  • In an interview promoting her new film Hysteria (about the first electric sex tools for women and the “medical” excuses advertised for them), Maggie Gyllenhaal talks about why there are so few emotionally powerful sex scenes in U.S. movies. My theory: Most sex scenes in mainstream films are escapist in nature. Many serve as breaks from the plot, like the songs in many musicals. These include scenes choreographed to emphasize the woman’s responses. To use such a scene to reveal a character’s personality, emotions, and vulnerabilities, to show a female character with her sense of public decorum stripped away, is a rare feat.
  • Did Romney only tell 10 major lies last week?
Apr 24th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

painting the needle for its big b-day party

Keith Seinfeld at KPLU recently asked, “Why does Seattle still care about the world’s fair?

That’s an excellent question.

As international expos go, Seattle’s was relatively small.

And it took place a full half century ago.

Until Mad Men came along, that era was widely considered to have been a dullsville time, a time wtih nothing much worth remembering.

The “Space Age” predicted at the fair would seem would seem ridiculous just a few years later. It predicted domed cities and cheap nuclear power. It predicted computers in the home (in the form of fridge-sized consoles) and video conferencing (with a special “picturephone”), but it didn’t predict the Internet.

It sure didn’t predict the racial, sexual, musical, and social upheavals collectively known as “The Sixties.”

And a lot of the fair’s attractions were so utterly corny, you can wonder why they were taken seriously even then. Attractions such as the world’s largest fruitcake. Or the Bubbleator (essentially just a domed platform on a hydraulic lift). Or the adults-only risqué puppet show (by the future producers of H.R. Pufnstuf).

Yet a lot of us do care about all that. And not just us old-timers either.

And not just for the physical structures the fair left behind (the Space Needle, the Science Center, etc.).

The fair was the single most important thing that happened in Seattle between World War II and the rise of Microsoft. (The launch of the Boeing 707 was the next most important.)

The fair revved up the whole Northwest tourism industry, just as jet aircraft and Interstate highways were getting more Americans to explore other parts of their nation. This once-remote corner of the country became a top destination.

The fair was a coming-out party for a new Seattle.

A Seattle dominated not by timber and fishing but by tech. Specifically, by aerospace.  Boeing had only a secondary role in equipping the U.S. space program, but its planes were already making Earth a seemingly smaller place.

The fair didn’t start the Seattle arts and performance scenes, but it gave them a new oomph.

Seattle Opera and the Seattle Repertory Theatre were immediately established in the fair’s wake.

ACT Theatre came soon after. Visual art here was already becoming famous, thanks to the “Northwest School” painters; the fair’s legacy led to increased local exposure to both local and national artists.

The fair established a foothold for modern architecture here.

Before the fair, there hadn’t been a major change to Seattle’s skyline since the Smith Tower in 1914. (The few new downtown buildings were relatively short, such as the 19-story Norton Building.)

The Space Needle became the city’s defining icon, instantly and forever.

The U.S. Science Pavilion (now Pacific Science Center) established the career of Seattle-born architect Minoru Uamasaki, who later designed the former World Trade Center.

Speaking of tragedy and turmoil, some commentators have described the fair’s era as “a simpler time.”

It wasn’t.

The Cuban missile crisis, revealed just after the fair ended, threatened to turn the cold war hot.

The whole Vietnam debacle was getting underway.

The civil rights and black power movements were quickly gaining traction.

The birth control pill was just entering widespread use.

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, which helped launch the U.S. environmental movement, came out while the fair was on.

So yes, there were big issues and conflicts in 1962.

But there was also something else.

There was optimism.

In every exhibit and display at the fair, there was the notion that humans could work together to solve things.

And, at least at the fair, most everything was considered solveable.

I wrote in 1997, at the fair’s 35th anniversary, that its creators sincerely felt Americas would strive “to ensure mass prosperity (without socialism), strengthen science, popularize education, advance minority rights, and promote artistic excellence.”

It’s that forward-looking confidence that got lost along the road from the Century 21 Exposition to the 21st century.

It’s something many of us would like to see more of these days.

And that, more than Belgian waffles or an Elvis movie, is why Seattle still cares about the World’s Fair.

And why you should too.

(Cross posted with City Living.)

souvenir display at the world's fair anniversary exhibition

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