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‘SEATTLE TIMES’ SHRINKAGE WATCH
Jun 24th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

startribune.com

My ex-UW Daily editor (and proud Armenian-American) Suki Dardarian is the latest SeaTimes leading light to leave the Bore on Boren (née Fairview Fanny). She’s now a senior managing editor at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

She’d been a managing editor here, until SeaTimes management transferred her out of the daily deadlines and into the position of “strategist on audience development and community engagement.”

Her hubby (and fellow Daily vet) Peter Callaghan, currently one of the best remaining reporters about Wash. state government, will join Dardarian in Flour City upon the end of his current contract with the Tacoma News Tribune.

COMET CLEANSERS
Apr 11th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

The Comet Tavern reopened to the public on March 31, a little less than six months after it had abruptly closed. Former regulars (from many era of the bar’s history) and curiosity seekers crowded the joint.

The place they entered had been considerably cleaned up. Years (nay, decades) of grafitti, soot, and cigarette-smoke stains had been scrubbed away. Several grody closets had been removed, opening up more of the main barroom. New wooden booths had replaced some wobbly bar tables. The ceiling only had a few old dollar bills taped to it, instead of being covered with them. The bathrooms, and everything within them, were both clean and functional.

Indeed, it still looked mostly as it had looked before. That is to say, it looked mostly as it had since it first opened in the 1930s, as one of Seattle’s first wave of post-Prohibition beer halls.

But the Comet’s “scene,” and its function in the Pike/Pine neighborhood, has changed many times.

A hangout for hippies and bikers in the ’60s, it attracted more of an “art world” crowd by the ’80s. In the early ’90s it was the principal watering hole for “grunge” musicians and their friends.

By the late 2000s it had become a full time live-music venue. It was also a clubhouse for Hate City, a neighborhood skateboard gang; some of its members worked as bouncers and bartenders.

Then on Oct. 2, the Comet suddenly closed.

Reportedly, its then-owner hadn’t paid the rent or the water bill for several months. Even before that, several apparent years’ worth of “deferred maintenance” meant much of its interior looked on the verge of physical collapse.

Many, on and off the Hill, wondered whether the Comet had poured its final pint.

Several would-be buyers announced themselves over the subsequent days and weeks.

The building owners, though, soon chose to deal with people they already knew. David Meinert and Jason Lajeunesse had already opened the Lost Lake retro diner/lounge in the same building.

Besides Meinert and Laneunesse already being known to the landlords, access to Lost Lake’s kitchen meant the Comet could add food, and therefore offer hard liquor, without the Comet needing a new kitchen of its own.

(Just across Pike from the Comet, Meinert and Lajeunesse also co-own Big Mario’s Pizza, and Lajeunesse co-owns the Neumos/Moe Bar/Barboza nightclub complex. Meinert also owns the 5 Point restaurant/bar in Belltown; Lajeunesse also runs the annual Capitol Hill Block Party.)

One of the new owners’ first decisions was to cut the live music from seven nights a week to one midweek night and two weekend matinees. That meant the new Comet would complement, not compete with, Neumos’ shows. It would again be (as it mostly was before 2005) a place to drink and talk, not to see bands.

Another decision was not to rehire the occasionally violent bouncers from the Hate City crew. (I knew a petite woman who’d been worked over badly by them one night there, and was glad to see them gone.)

But the decision to clean up the place was both the most obvious and (probably) the most controversial to the Comet’s former regulars.

A good amount of fixing up had to be done just to get the room back up to various building and occupancy codes.

But by so thoroughly sanitizing one of the city’s last un-reconstructed true dive bars, Meinert and Lajeunesse risked alienating the very regulars they claimed to be trying to please.

Business was brisk on night one. The real question is whether bargoers (old and new) will come back, whether they’ll still find the Comet inviting and comfortable, despite its lack of grime.

While the Comet’s future is more or less assured, other Capitol Hill institutions have been falling to redevelopment projects.

The latest, but undoubtedly not the last: Piecora’s Pizza.

After more than three decades on the Hill, its employees were suddenly given two-week notices on April 1. It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, either. The building’s coming down for yet another new mixed-use midrise.

At least the Piecora family owned the building, and presumably got enough for it to retire.

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

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.)

FIVE YEARS AFTER
Mar 17th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

Classic P-I building from my book 'seattle's belltown;' museum of history and industry collection

I left the Missy James post up as this blog’s top item for a month, both to remember her and because I’ve been laser focused on finding paying work.

But it’s time for me to get back to the “writing” thang.

And there’s no more appropriate day to do so than on the fifth anniversary of the last printed Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The city lost a huge chunk of its soul and its collective memory when the Hearst Corp., awash in losses here and in its other print-media operations, pulled the plug on our town’s “second” yet superior daily paper.

There’s been a P-I sized hole in the local media-scape ever since.

Yeah, we’ve got the Seattle Times, albeit a shrunken one (though it’s apparently stopped shrinking any further, at least for now).

We’ve got the StrangerSeattle Weekly, CrosscutPublicola, and SportsPress NW.

We’ve got four local TV news stations (plus NorthWest Cable News), four local radio news stations, and all their respective websites.

We’ve got Seattle magazine, Seattle Met, and CityArts.

We’ve got the Daily Journal of Commerce, the Puget Sound Business Journal, and assorted tech-biz news sites.

We’ve got Horse’sAssSeattlishThe Seattle Star, and dozens of other (mostly volunteer-run) blogs covering local politics, sports, and arts.

And, oh yeah, we’ve got SeattlePI.com.

It’s still run by Hearst. It still has Joel Connelly’s acerbic political commentary, Josh Trujillo’s dramatic photojournalism, and the occasional excellent news story.

But its staff has shrunk to 14 reporters, photographers, and “producers,” down from the 20 it had at its stand-alone start in ’09. That, in turn, was a small fraction of the team the print P-I had.

That’s still a full-time payroll comparable to that of any newsroom in town, except those of the Times and the TV stations.

But it’s stretched thin by the requirement to post dozens of “click bait” and “listicle” stories every day.

Hearst is running PI.com according to the 2009 rules of a “content” web business.

Those rules, which nationally gave us the likes of BuzzFeed and Elite Daily, have proven profitable only among the most sensationalistic and most cheaply run operations that feed either on gossip, noise, or national niche audiences.

It’s no way to run a local general-news operation.

And it’s no way to pay for professional local journalism on a sustainable basis.

But neither Hearst nor any of America’s other old-media giants has figured out a better way.

So it’s become the job of us “street level” bloggers to find new rules, new concepts, to forge a new path beyond the ugly web pages stuff with worthless banner ads. To create the New-New News.

My personal bottom line:

I want a local news organization, staffed by folks who know what they’re doing and who are paid living wages.

I want it to attract an audience at least as loyal (and as willing to help support it) as KUOW’s audience.

I want it to be the first place this audience looks to to learn what’s been going on around here, in the last day or the last hour.

I want it to reach out across subcultures and social strata.

I have collected a few ideas in this regard, a few potential pieces of this puzzle.

And I’d love to hear some of yours.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 2-2-14
Feb 2nd, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

Since most of my most loyal readers will have other things to do on Sunday afternoon, here’s some relatively timeless randomosity for whenever you log back in:

  • Kentucky’s GOP Senators forced Wash. state utilities to buy nuclear power components they don’t really need.
  • Amazon has exercised its option to buy the Belltown block where the Hurricane Cafe has been for 20 years (and the legendary Dog House had been for more than three decades before that).
  • Meanwhile, the Washington State Convention Center is buying the Honda of Seattle block.
  • As we approach five years since the last printed Post-Intelligencer (still missed), we must say goodbye to one of its ol’ mainstays, reporter John Engstrom.
  • If anybody knows what’s still stalling the waterfront tunnel machine, nobody’s telling.
  • There was a “Progressive Radio Summit” in Seattle, in which the keynote speaker claimed “the only sustainable model for broadcasters today is subscription based programming.”
  • The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center is still financially desperate.
  • White privilege: it exists, whether it’s visible to you or not.
  • Yes, Macklemore hired an established distribution company (the same one Sub Pop and others use) to get his CD into retail stores. That still qualifies as “not having a record label,” no matter what NPR says.
  • Steve Wilhelm at the Puget Sound Business Journal warns that Boeing’s strong arm tactics against the Machinists Union may cost the company more than it gains.
  • As Paramount becomes the first Hollywood studio to cease distributing movies on film reels to theaters, indie filmmakers take to the proverbial the Star-Off Machine and “reach for 16mm.” Meanwhile, there’s a campaign to “Save Film,” as a medium for both movie production and exhibition.
  • It’s always trouble when typographers attack one another.
REQUIEM FOR AN APARTMENT
Dec 23rd, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

In early October, crews began tossing abandoned personal belongings out of the former Palladian Apartments at Second and Virginia, across from the Moore Theatre/Hotel.

Everything that the building’s former tenants chose not to take with them, along with all of the building’s interior walls and fixtures, was originally sent down the building’s not-always-reliable single elevator, then later by chutes attached on the building’s south side. It all got tossed into truck-sized Dumpsters parked outside.

Among the toss-outs: CRT TV sets. Cheap Ikea shelving. Old clothes in varying degrees of rattiness. Pots and pans. The detrius of more than 60 human lives, detrius left behind and destined for either recycling or dumping.

In 1909-10 (shortly after the the Moore, and a little late for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition tourist business), attorney/businessman Scott Calhoun built the Calhoun Hotel for $175,000. Its block had recently been lowered as part of the massive Denny Regrade project. (The intersection of Second and Virginia is the highest remaining point in what had been the Denny Hill neighborhood.)

Like the nearby Moore, Commodore, St. Regis, and New Washington hotels (the latter two are now nonprofit housing), the Calhoun was the product of a frontier city trying to prove it had come of age.

Its facade incorporated elements of Art Nouveau and Beaux Arts architecture.

Its 152 guest rooms were small by modern standards, but its lobby, mezzanine, and dining room were posh.

There was even a “rathskeller” beer tavern in the basement (which became a Prohibition-era “speakeasy”).

Over the decades, the Calhoun (like its neighbor hotels) got steadily less posh. It essentially became a single-room occupancy residence.

Developers turned it into the Palladian (after a style of window dressing on its exterior) in 1984. The lobby was walled off into two storefront spaces, a building office, and an alcove/mailroom for the residents upstairs.

The storefronts first housed a bookstore and coffeehouse. Later tenants included the Poor Italian Restaurant and Corner Bar; then the Buenos Aires Grill and the Whisky Bar.

The upstairs contained 69 apartments (all studios and 1-brs; some with Space Needle views) and an art studio. It was affordable housing without public subsidies, except a city tax credit for preserving existing affordable housing stock.

However, there were hidden costs within those relatively low rents. The units and hallways were bland looking. Stairwells were poorly maintained. The elevator often stalled.

And it had noise issues, particularly the units that faced the alley entrance to a men’s homeless shelter. This alley became a 24-hour hangout for street people, including drug dealers and users.

In 2011, the city granted historic-landmark designation to the building and its exterior.

The following year, the Buenos Aires Grill’s owners signed a lease on the Whisky Bar’s space. The Whisky Bar’s owners took out all the furnishings and fixtures, which the Buenos Aires people almost completely duplicated to create the new Corner Bar. (A new Whisky Bar moved one block up the street, opening in October 2012.)

Then this past March, notices appeared in the mailroom and the ground-floor office door, asking tenants to personally meet with landlord David Cohanim. They learned that Cohanim, whose family had owned the building for more than a decade, was turning it into a boutique hotel.

City relocation assistance checks arrived in mid-May. Even before that, residents had begun to seek new homes, pack up, and move out. They scattered to places near and far—to commercial and non-profit apartments, to senior buildings, to rooms in relatives’ homes.

The Buenos Aires and the Corner Bar closed by the end of May.

The last resident officially moved out of the Palladian on Aug. 17.

Once the residents’ abandoned trash is removed, workers will take out the appliances, plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, and anything else that can be sold or recycled.

Then, the building’s roof will be knocked open. A crane will drop a small bulldozer onto the top floor. With that machine, crews will knock out the entire interior of each floor, top to bottom; flooring, wiring, and all.

It will take at least a year for what’s tentatively being called the new Calhoun Hotel to open. (Its operation may be contracted out to an established management company, which may want to stick its own name onto the place.)

The last Palladian residents will each get one free night in the hotel.

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

IF I ONLY HAD A BUSINESS MODEL
Dec 20th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

It’s Saturday Oct. 19. It’s Independent Video Store Day, an industrywide promotion similar to Record Store Day.

Scarecrow Video in the University District is packed with customers, there for special sales offers and cult-movie screenings.

Some of these are once-loyal customers who haven’t been inside Scarecrow, or any brick-and-mortar video store, in a long time.

The store needs them back, and on more than just one day a year.

Scarecrow Video is in trouble.

Not from the owners of the “Wizard of Oz” trademarks. That was quietly settled long ago, with the scarecrow in the store’s logo replaced by the silhouette of a flying crow.

And not from landlords. Store owner Carl Tostevin bought the building (formerly a stereo shop, and then a large Radio Shack) a while back.

No, what could kill the store that boasts of having “the world’s largest collection of films” are the same trends that killed Rain City Video, Hollywood Video, and even the once-mighty Blockbuster.

In the mid 1980s, during the first heyday of home video, attorney Fred Hopkins and record collector John Black had a little used record store, Backtrack, on the 25th Ave. NE strip north of University Village. Hopkins brought in a few dozen VHS tapes of ’50s horror and other cheesy B movies, for rent and for sale.

One day, regular customer George Latsois came in with some tapes of foreign and “art” films. Hopkins and Black agreed to stock them on Backtrack’s rental shelves on Latsois’s behalf. They rented well enough to encourage Latsois to start his own store.

Scarecrow Video began its standalone existence in an old commercial building south of Green Lake. Latsois quickly expanded to a second, then a third, adjacent storefront. He put everything he made and more into increasing his stock. Scarecrow, he decided, would be a destination store attracting customers from around the city and even the ‘burbs.

Latsois and a growing staff of film fanatics outgrew the Green Lake space. They moved to a bigger, and higher profile, location on Roosevelt Way, just off of the NE 50th Street freeway exit.

The U District was one of the city’s traditional film hubs. The Seven Gables and Metro cinames, and the Cinema Books store, were just down the street; the Neptune, Varsity, and Grand Illusion theaters were on or near nearby University Way; the UW itself had acclaimed film-studies programs and screening series. Scarecrow immediately became a major part, then an anchor, of this activity.

It was at Scarecrow that I first saw a DVD being played (the first Michael Keaton Batman). Within 10 years, the DVD format would render VHS (and the niche Laserdisc format) completely obsolete. Scarecrow, though, would hold on to hundreds of VHS titles that still haven’t come out on DVD.

Latsois kept expanding his selection. He tried to balance interesting but unprofitable titles with films in popular or niche-market genres (sexploitaiton, anime, old Hollywood classics). Scarecrow’s collection, already the biggest in Seattle, became one of the, and then THE, biggest in America.

But Latsois’s get-big-fast model caught up with the store’s finances. He was forced to seek buyers. He found them in 1998, in Microsoft managers (and loyal store customers) Tostevin and John Dauphiny.

Latsois died in 2003 in his native Greece; a wake at Scarecrow was attended by loyal customers dating from back in the Backtrack days.

With the backing of Tostevin and Dauphiny (who kept their Microsoft day jobs and didn’t take salaries from the store), Scarecrow continued to grow. To 23,000 titles, then to 80,000, then to almost 120,000.

Every available foot of space in the former stereo shop was turned into shelves. The main room’s collections of “auteur” directors became a labyrinth of tall shelves, separated by increasingly narrow passages. At Scarecrow, shopping for films was as much of an adventure as watching them.

Then came Netflix’s DVD by mail service. Then came streaming and on-demand services. Independent retailers like Scarecrow, which can’t afford the expensive rights (or the technical infrastructure) to stream movies, were cut off from that side of the buisness.

DVD rentals and sales tumbled. The big movie studios cut back their DVD release schedules. Video stores everywhere (independents, chains, big and small) began to disappear.

Tostevin (who bought out Dauphiny’s share) kept Scarecrow open, with a staff of 30. They added a coffee bar (“VHSpresso”), a screening room, and cross-promotions with art cinemas and neighborhood small businesses. They pushed the sales side of the business, and offered different rental specials each day of the week. It hasn’t been enough.

On Oct. 17, two days before Independent Video Store Day, Tostevin posted notice on the store’s website:

“Our rental numbers have declined roughly 40% over the past 6 years. This isn’t a huge surprise—obviously technology has been moving this direction for some time—but the decline has been more dramatic than we had anticipated.… Scarecrow has never been about making money, but it has to support itself. It’s no longer doing that, and hasn’t for a while.”

Scarecrow general manager Jeffrey Shannon told KOMO-TV that if revenues don’t pick up by year’s end, he and Tostavin might pursue a nonprofit, subscription-based model or other options. Completely closing, and disbanding the collection, remains one of those options.

In his website post, Tostevin didn’t ask for donations, just for his former regulars to “come back in” and buy and/or rent stuff; particularly during the upcoming holiday season.

One of the things you could buy is a Scarecrow T-shirt bearing the cartoon image of an anthropomorphic DVD disc and VHS cassette, smiling beneath the slogan VIVA PHYSICAL MEDIA.

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

WHEN THE BILL’S COMES DUE
Dec 16th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

In February, we wrote about the impending closure of Bill’s Off Broadway, Capitol Hill’s venerable home style pizza place and sports bar.

At the time, Bill’s was scheduled to close on June 30. Delays in the big redevelopment project on the Pine and Harvard site meant Bill’s owner Don Stevens got to stay open over the summer.

Bill’s finally closed on Dec. 2, coinciding with a Seahawks appearance on Monday Night Football. The old joint was packed with well wishes and regulars past and present. It was more a celebration than a wake, especially with the Seahawks’ easy victory lifting everyone’s spirits.

Stevens and crew will reopen in the new building on the site some time in 2015; a new Bill’s “exile” location is now open on Greenwood Avenue N., north of N. 85th Street.

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.
RANDOM LINKS FOR 10/22/13
Oct 22nd, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

I mourn the Comet Tavern for what it had been. The un-upscaled hippie hangout; the dive that remained a dive when most of the other dives in town cleaned up their acts. I don’t mourn what it had become—a hangout ruled by an oft-violent aggro gang called Hate City. (A good friend, a petite female, was once roughed up by bouncers there, badly.) Could any new owners make it an inviting place again?

  • My ol’ pal Steven Shaviro uses a lot of highly obscure intellectual-left lingo in this essay about the futility of “transgressive” art/film/music in today’s world. I believe he’s saying you can’t be a “rebel punk” anymore, because the hyper-corporate society you’re rebelling against is “punker” (more offensive, aggressive, destructive) than you’ll ever be.
  • David Byrne has stopped pretending not to be white, long enough to notice one-percenter real estate speculation and Internet “disruption” (i.e., not paying content creators) as twin menaces to the arts and creativity.
  • Meanwhile, our ol’ pal Tom Frank claims pundits who talk about “the creative class” are really just talking about corporate players who like to imagine themselves as “creative.”
  • The e-book revolution has become a surprising boon to traditional big publishers. But it’s a hassle to libraries, which often have to pay more to provide e-books than physical books.
  • A husband-and-wife music duo in Arizona came to a sudden end. The wife died in a hospital; the husband then killed himself—after posting each death to the wife’s Facebook page under her name.
  • America’s biggest export to China was recycled plastic. But not anymore.
  • Gay men don’t have the right to grope women without consent either.
  • A British historian claims Jesus was a made-up character, invented by the Romans in an attempt to encourage conquered Jews to become more passive. Needless to say, there are many who disagree with this premise.
  • Is Cinemax really discontinuing its late-night softcore shows, unofficially nicknamed “Skinemax”? From the sound of this story, it’s more likely the cable channel’s just preferring to promote its primetime originals, in which sex takes a decided back seat to violence.
  • Andrew Fischer at GeneralForum.com has two lists (with a third promised) of “Really Annoying Facebook Friends We All Have.” Not included (yet): the one who posting vaguely-worded links to vaguely-headlined articles, attracting all vaguely-worded responses.
  • Elsewhere in snarkland, there’s a blog entry all about ridiculous traveler complaints:

We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 10/20/13
Oct 20th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

charter construction via ronald holden, cornichon.org

Gosh, has it really been more than three weeks since I’ve done this? Time flies when you’re desperately looking for paying work (i.e., absolutely not “for the exposure”).

Anyhow:

  • The prefab apartment units (above) recently craned into place next to Dan’s Belltown Grocery on Third are not really “apodments.” They’re from a different developer than the company that owns that name. And they’re about 425 square feet each, a “regular apartment” size that’s much larger than those micro-apts.
  • Meanwhile, the residents (many of them elderly) of a Ballard apartment complex are standing their ground and refusing to be evicted from their longtime homes in the name of upscaling.
  • Use It Or Lose It Dept.: The current owners of Scarecrow Video say they’re in desperate fiscal straits. If enough former loyal customers don’t resume renting/buying “physical media” at the U District institution, “the world’s largest collection of movies” will go away forever.
  • Tom Foley, 1929-2013: The Spokane liberal (yes, there really are such) and former U.S. House Speaker thrived in a disappeared age of gentler, more cooperative politics (i.e., two-way backroom dealmaking). The end of that era was the end of his political career; he was ousted by a corporate Republican who promised to limit his own terms of office, then promptly forgot that promise.
  • As another baseball season reaches its last round, Steve Rudman claims the Mariners’ bosses don’t even know how clueless they are.
  • Stop the coal trains! (Besides, I always liked Thelonius Monk better.)
  • Great moments in market segmentation: Rave dancers now have a bottled water “made” just for them.
  • Of course, Sean Hannity’s “victims of Obamacare” were all fake. But you knew that.
  • Charles Simic at the NY Review o’ Books has harsh words for inequality deniers and other right-wing goons:

We have forgotten what this country once understood, that a society based on nothing but selfishness and greed is not a society at all, but a state of war of the strong against the weak.

rocketnews24.com

RANDOM LINKS FOR 9/27/13
Sep 27th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

seattleglobalist.com

  • The thorough folks at Seattle Globalist traced UW-licensed apparel items back to the places where they were made, to the people who made them, and to how much more the people who made them would need to earn to meet the local cost of living.
  • Speaking of apparel, BuzzFeed’s got some sorry evidence of pathetic attempts to turn punk rock nostalgia into mere fashion-fad fodder.
  • Still speaking of apparel, Sesame Street really doesn’t like unauthorized “Sexy Big Bird” Halloween costumes. (You can still get the “Pho King Hot” waitress costume, though.)
  • Why is Storyville Coffee, a single espresso and pastry boutique in the Pike Place Market, spending so much on lavish pre-opening marketing (including a month of free food and drinks for invited guests)? Because (1) it’s the first unit of a planned chain, and (2) it’s got the zillionaire behind a for-profit college backing it. (And as an aside, the owners also have ties to the “hip” but reactionary Mars Hill Church.) (And as another aside, do they even know they’ve named it after New Orleans’ old red-light district?)
  • Can the scenic, low-density office “park” that is the ex-Battelle Research campus in Laurelhurst be saved? And should it?
  • Eric Stevick at the Everett Herald has the sad life story of a woman who basically never got a break her entire life, and then died in the Snohomish County jail because they wouldn’t send for medical help.
  • Bumper salmon runs! Yay! Just, you know, keep ‘em away from the dogs.
  • Pasta-and-pride dept.: Barilla’s CEO doesn’t care much for the gays, but Bertolli (hearts) the gays. Or something like that.
  • Bono wants a more equitable tax system in Ireland, but will still keep his own millions stashed away in offshore trust accounts.
  • Could Google’s latest search-ranking changes finally kill off that bane to humanity that is “Search Engine Optimization”?
  • Ted Cruz apparently didn’t understand that Green Eggs and Ham is a liberal allegory about open mindedness. But he’s yesterday’s news. Today’s news is the conservatives’ next showdown target, the debt ceiling.
  • Do they serve Hello Kitty beer on the Hello Kitty plane?
  • Let’s leave you today with some visual inspiration, of sorts, in the form of “Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos.”

terriblerealestateagentphotos.com

RANDOM LINKS FOR 9/26/13
Sep 26th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

pelican bay foundation via capitolhillseattle.com

First, another “sorry folks” for not getting something up to the site lately. I know some of you enjoy these li’l linx, even when I don’t have a major essay about something.

For now, back to Randomosity:

  • The mural at the Kingfish Cafe’s building on east Capitol Hill (see above) dates back to the ’70s and to a noble experiment in cooperatively-run artist housing. Read the comments to learn how it collapsed.
  • A Bloomberg commentator decries Amazon’s South Lake Union “geek zone” as a swath of real estate “cursed by dullness.”
  • Amazon’s newest Kindle Fire tablet has one “killer app” selling point: live, human, tech support!
  • Getting the Rainier Beer “R” logo back up on the ex-brewery building will be nice. It would be even nicer if the brand’s current owners would make it here again, instead of at the Miller plant in the L.A. exurbs. There’s gotta be enough excess microbrewery capacity in Washington to make that possible.
  • (Rhetorical) question of the day: Would the local Caucasian model who donned black body paint for a fashion shoot make a good (rhetorical) question for the blog Yo, Is This Racist?
  • As discussed earlier this year at EMP, the likes of Miley Cyrus are, no matter how superficially “transgressive,” still the product of a star-maker machine that subjects female pop singers to a “packaging process.”
  • When it comes to regressive taxation against the poor, we’re (still) number one! (But Washington’s still a “progressive” state because we love gays and pot, right?)
  • A local grocery strike looks more likely.
  • An “adjunct professor” in Pittsburgh died a horrid death, without savings or health insurance. This is a facet of the status quo the Obamacare-bashing right wingers so desperately want to preserve. (Another facet: the cuts to mental health services that leave the dangerously untreated on the streets.)
  • No, Huffington Post,“Generation Y” folks don’t particularly feel “special” or “entitled.” Poverty-stricken and opportunity-deprived, yes.
  • Could “Internet workers” be subject to minimum wage laws? I sure hope so. And the same goes for other freelance and “for the exposure” workers, who are workers indeed.
  • I don’t need to view condom-free porn videos because, unlike apparently a lot of self-describing “straight” men, I’m indifferent toward the sight of other men’s parts.
  • And to help you politely refute specious “comment trolls” online and in “real” life, here’s a handy li’l Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments.

ali almossawi

    RANDOM LINKS FOR 9/17/13
    Sep 17th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

    via washingtonpost.com

    • Our ol’ pal Lynda Barry reveals “The 20 Stages of Reading.”
    • Knute Berger sez the real issue in recent local violent crimes isn’t political “leadership,” it’s the sorry state of mental-health care.
    • We now know where Bauhaus Coffee is going, temporarily, while its building gets knocked down and replaced. It’s moving into the about-to-close Capitol Club’s space, just two blocks up East Pine.
    • Chick-Fil-A, the fast food chain with the cow commercials and the homophobic CEO, is coming to Northgate.
    • A micro-apartment developer wants Amazon to put up its short-stay employees, vendors, etc. at his buildings instead of hotels. So much for the argument that “we’re just trying to make affordable housing pencil out businesswise” etc.
    • In case you care, Bill Gates is the richest guy in the country again.
    • A Nation of Change essay comparing Libertarians’ ideological justifications for selfishness to “comic book writing” is an insult to comic book writers everywhere (yes, even at Marvel).
    • Bob Woodward describes the GOP standard operating procedure these days as “extortion and blackmail.”
    • My fellow Stranger refugee S.P. Miskowski now writes horror stories, and she’s looking for good examples of “bad woman” characters. Not daring rebel women who were really good but just called bad, mind you. She wants real (fictional) female baddies.
    • Playboy’s latest, er, re-vamp in search of lost circulation and ad bucks: “natural” glamour, instead of bleach and silicone. Also, 1 percent-y lifestyle articles.
    RANDOM LINKS FOR 9/2/13
    Sep 1st, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

    sprudge.com

    • Coffee blogger Alex Bernson serves up some kind words, and a little design history, toward Capitol Hill’s soon-to-close Bauhaus Kaffee & Kunst:

    It is the quintessential Northwest cafe—rustic industrial meets cozy 1950s Modern nostalgia in a beautiful, double-height corner space. It manages to feel warm, inviting, and communal all at once, even when the acres of windows are filled with oppressively gray Seattle skies.

    • Timothy Harris of Real Change has some icononoclastic, and caustic, words about the eviction of the “Nicklesville” homeless encampment.
    • Seattle’s Cinerama’s getting the snazziest, brightest digital cinema projecter ever.
    • Texas Gov. Rick Parry might finally face prosecution for alleged abuse of power.
    • A “banker-turned-writer” who predicted the financial floposity of ’08 now says the U.S. is at the verge of a “new economic boom.”
    • A new smartphone app encourages bicyclists on group rides to break away and race against the clock on their own. A bike blog calls this an invitation to antisocial behavior.
    • Computer chips could stop getting ever-smaller and more powerful every year, not due to physical limitations but to economic ones.
    • In modern (or postmodern or neomodern) fiction, is there such a thing as “The New Weird”? Or has this particular brand of weird always been with us?
    • A lesser-talked-about aspect of Miley Cyrus’s “twerking” performance: It was another in the centuries-old tradition of white performers paying “tribute” to black culture by stereotyping blacks as sexy savages.
    • (By the way, there’s apparently a Twitter meme called “solidarity is for white women,” dissing white feminists who imagine affluent white women’s issues as comprising the sum total of all women’s issues.)
    • (By the by-the-way, I’m still not sure what “twerking” is, but I’m not completely against it.)
    • (By the by-the-by-the-way, some guy wrote an advice essay on “How to Talk With Your Sons About Robin Thicke.” Unfortunately, the advice had only to do with the “Blurred Lines” video and its depictions of women. It’s also vital to address common stereotypes of men as dumb, dick-obsessed dorks.)
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