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MISCmedia MAIL for 5/17/16
May 16th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

On Mt. St. Helens Day Eve, Mt. Hood’s giving off a bunch of tiny earthquakes. Plus: A tower devoted to “co-living spaces;” turning the U District into the next Westlake; really really big watercraft; and just why some women would rather buy clothes online these days.

MISCmedia MAIL for 5/13/16
May 12th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Our Friday the 13th topics include the full-on start of local wildfire season; an attempt to adopt an income tax in (at least part of) Washington; school dress codes and their discontents; the death of a great Northwest novelist; and the decaying bones of drive-in theaters past.

MISCmedia MAIL for 5/9/16:
May 8th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

A “slow news” weekend ends with the the Viaduct’s surprise early reopening (unless they’d secretly planned it this way all along). Also: Creamed Cornish?; Boeing’s greatest fiscal hits and misses; the potential start of another Wash. wildfire season; and how to sneak an arena proposal past today’s City Council.

MISCmedia for 4/12/16
Apr 11th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Things we wonder about: Could Boeing sell 747s in quantity again, if more of them looked like the one Iron Maiden’s touring with? Should the City buy up privately held, “affordable” apartments? Have we seen the last of the would-be Bellingham coal terminal? Does Microsoft’s proclaimed “gender pay parity” even matter when it’s got so few women higher-ups?

MISCmedia MAIL for 4/5/16
Apr 4th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Don’t write off the Mariners after one game. Wait at least a week. And while you’re waiting, read up on Alaska Airlines’ big purchase; Metro’s route changes changing again?; Burien’s crusade against “junk cars”; beautifying Greenwood’s boarded-up storefronts; and a rising singing star’s food concession at the new KEXP space.

MISCmedia MAIL for 3/31/16
Mar 30th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

On the final day of (the real) Mama’s Mexican Kitchen, we also discuss a crusade by #ManInTree’s mom; a new low in dumb “upscale” hotel naming; a UK comedian crying at Seattle’s Tent City; more backlash against racially-insensitive place (and restaurant) names; and the late Love Israel.

MISCmedia MAIL for 3/30/16
Mar 30th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

In our midweek news: there’s a state budget at last; Boeing’s dropping thousands of workers (again); 15 indoor homeless shelters could close; Sen. Murray still (heart)s ex-Sen. Clinton; and homeowners could derail an urban-wilderness preservation project.

MISCmedia MAIL for 3/2/16
Mar 1st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Sooper Toosday settled nothing, and neither did the City Council committee vote on saving bike sharing. But we do know that Boeing’s planning a 100th birthday bash; a heroin treatment center’s re-opening; squatters are speaking out in favor of squatting; and one of the guys who “plundered” the Sonics is in big trouble (can you feel the schadenfreude rising?).

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/14/16
Jan 13th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

A good friend of mine is trying to survive kidney disease while keeping her indie bookstore alive. Also: how to keep artists in town; a pact on reviving Ride the Ducks; mental-health crises; making tech products “For Women.”

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/12/16
Jan 11th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Bowie tributes from far and near top the e-missive today. Also: The Legislature’s back (seems like it never went away); citizen-made substitute sidewalks; a Rainier-branded beer product will be made in Washington again; the save-KPLU drive begins.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/17/15
Dec 16th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

As the holiday season draws ever closer to its inexorable denouement, we discuss plans for the waterfront, light rail, and a Freeway Park expansion; dead swans (without “songs”); the potential end of the 747; and whether pot stores threaten minority neighborhoods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A city that could create great things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s what we need more of.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But none of those advantages are necessarily permanent or exclusive.

Is there an endgame to all this?

Of course there is.

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

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

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

(Cross-posed with City Living Seattle.)

THE RACHEL PAPERS
Jun 15th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

mgm/this tv

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Dolezal’s brothers have spoken on camera: “It started out with the hair.” (ABC)
  • The Daily Beast parses out the whole history of Dolezal’s carefully constructed identity.
  • Variety claims a Dolezal biopic “is inevitable,” and postulates whether it will be a comedy or drama or both.
  • Ijeoma Olio proposes a bargain for white people who want to be black: the ability to dance, a history of triumph over diversity, and the looks of white women clutching their purses when you walk past them. (Slog) 
  • Darnell Moore at Mic.com calls the Dolezal affair a “fiasco” and “a glaring example of white privilege in action.”
  • Twitter users are using such hashtags as #transracial and #wrongskin, as other Twitter users ruthlessly mock them. (KING) 
  • A self described “gay Black man” explains the terms “transracial” and “transethnic,” in terms of the furry community. (Fusion.net)
  • Kara Brown at Jezebel: Girl, WHAT?”
  • Explaining the “passing” as a quest for “empathy.” (USAT) 
  • Gyasi Ross at Indian Country Today compares Dolezal to decades’ worth of white folk pretending to be Native Americans.
  • Author Michael P. Jeffries calls the incident “a lesson in how racism works.” (Boston Globe)
  • As you might expect, the social sub-network known as “Black Twitter” has plenty of snarky reactions. (The Culture)
  • Vox has a think piece on how it proves “race” isn’t a cut and dried issue anymore.
  • Salon has a harsher piece by Mary Elizabeth Williams, claiming Dolezal’s “fraud is unforgivable.
  • For compare-and-contrast, here’s the story of local author Mishna Wolff, whose white father “identified” as black for many years. (KUOW)
TODAY IN OWN-TAIL-EATING, INTERNET STYLE
Jun 19th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

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

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

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

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

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

aboutfacts.net

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

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

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

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

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