After last Saturday’s Fremont Solstice Parade, I met up with an acquaintance who asked if this spectacle wasn’t the greatest possible statement against corporate America or something like that.
I told her no, not really.
Hedonism, in and of itself, is not a terribly effective counterforce to consumer capitalism.
“The market” can easily ingest any image or genre of recreational “rebellion,” transform it into something completely commercial, then sell it back to you for big money. (For recent examples, witness the playgrounds of the cyber-rich known as Burning Man and Coachella.)
Above, we see a “political” parade entry. Big business is stereotyped as an octopus in a suit, with big, money-stuffed, claw-shaped hands at the end of each tentacle. Assisting him is an old rabbit-eared TV set, that eternal lefty symbol of all that is supposed to be inherently evil in the media.
This is not to say there wasn’t plenty to contemplate about at the parade and fair.
Or that fun and pleasure are not good things to promote.
The Fremont Parade is like one of author Peter Lamborn Wilson’s old fantasized “temporary autonomous zones.” It’s a place where, for one afternoon a year, the rules of social repression (and clothes-wearing) are suspended; where free expression (albeit within its own set of rules) is championed. A place where a different way of life can, for a while, be imagined.
Actually creating a better world for real takes a different set of disciplines.
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.
Two Breaths To…
There’s an international committee that creates standards for online typefaces. It’s called the Unicode Consortium.
It recently announced a new set of more than 250 pictographic symbols (also known by the Japanese term “emoji”). They’ll be available in a chat room or on a smartphone near you as soon as Microsoft, Apple, Google, et al. get around to adding them.
The consortium’s announcement listed some of these new symbols with verbal descriptions. They include:
Yep, this li’l venture in snarky commenting and pseudo-intellectual aggrandizing has gone on now for one score years plus eight. Slightly over half my life.
The last few months, I know, I’ve been away from the site a lot.
It’s not that there hasn’t been a plethora of potential subject matter, both on the local front (the waterfront tunnel machine’s woes, the rise of jocks-with-laptops aka “brogrammers,” the ugly new buildings going up everywhere) and the national-p0p-culture front (weird crimes, dumb online “meme” obsessions, the ongoing collapse of almost all professionally-made media genres).
It’s just that the site/column’s “persona” isn’t a personality mode I’ve been into lately.
For the past two years, ever since my mother’s death, I’ve been forced to scramble and hustle just to keep a roof over my head.
Some acquaintances and friends have understood this.
Others have just told me, why don’t I just write full time? They offer “cool” book ideas, imagining that that’s a viable substitute for the real job I tell them I really need. They tell me to just “do what you love” and “don’t worry about the money.”
But I do have to worry about the money. (Despite the occasional rumors over the years, I’m not, and have never been, independently wealthy.)
And I’m working on that, on several fronts.
Among them are two new projects in the “writing” line, neither of which I’m ready to announce right now.
Watch this space for further details.
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.
elaine thompson/ap via kiro-tv
When I was in high school, I once saw a recruiting brochure for Seattle Pacific University. The cover photo depicted a real street sign, apparently somewhere near North 46th and Aurora, with two arrows. The left-pointing arrow was labeled “ZOO.” The right-pointing arrow was labeled “Seattle Pacific University.”
The brochure’s copy explained that SPU was neither a party school nor a gargantuan state enterprise. It was a small, quiet place, where nice Christian youth could get nice Christian educations. I would later learn that students entering SPU signed contracts promising not to smoke, drink, or have non-marital sex.
If there was a place where psycho gunmen wouldn’t likely appear, this would be it.
Or so one might think.
But, alas, not.
It happened two years after the Cafe Racer/Town Hall shootings; days after the Santa Barbara, CA shootings; not too many years after the rave after-party and Jewish Federation office shootings; and in the collective wakes of so many other shootings in so many other parts of this nation.
And as long as certain political interests consider gun nuts to be useful idiots, this will not end.
sony pictures tv via wellesley.edu
I’m still not back to posting Random Links posts (at least not without re-thinking their whole format).
But today, I have some random questions:
Public transportation is more popular here than ever, with continued ridership growth on King County Metro buses.
These same buses are currently threatened with service cuts of 15 percent or more.
Two different schemes to prevent these cuts have failed. Seattleites are about to face two or three proposals, all of which would restore only some of the threatened cuts.
How did we get to this predicament?
First, the Washington State Legislature failed to act.
Back when sales tax revenues first started to go “pfft,” the state passed a law allowing King County to temporarily add a $20 surcharge to the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET), to make up the difference and help keep transit systems running.
But that temporary authority runs out this year, and the Legislature failed to renew it.
That particular inaction goes back to Rodney Tom’s party switch that gave Republicans control of the state Senate. That body has resolutely refused to pass any transportation package that included any money for Metro Transit, no matter how desperately the rest of Washington needed road improvements (remember the Mount Vernon I-5 bridge collapse?).
Without the state approving the renewal of car tabs for transit, and with sales tax revenue still down sharply since 2008, the county scheduled a special election referendum in April.
It would have combined $60 car tabs and a one-tenth-of-a-percent sales tax increase, to fund both preserved Metro service and road projects in the county.
The referendum was poorly timed and poorly campaigned for, particularly in the suburbs.
(There was also almost no organized opposition, except from the Seattle Times editorial board and one small campaign group led by Eastside conservatives.)
The city approved the proposal, in some districts by huge amounts; but the ‘burbs voted no, defeating the whole thing.
It undoubtedly didn’t help that the ‘burbs have always gotten relatively less Metro service than Seattle, by population and tax revenue.
That’s been the case ever since 1973, when the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (a taxing district formed more than a decade before to clean up Lake Washington) took over the city-owned Seattle Transit System and the private Metropolitan Transit Company. Metro has spent four decades trying to beef up suburban service (especially in recent years), even while in-city and commuter usage has grown.
After the special election’s failure, Metro officials announced a preliminary list of cuts to be made, perhaps as early as September. 550,000 hours of service per year (down from an initial estimate of 600,000) would go away. These would include 69 total routes, and reduced or restructured service on some 80 other routes.
The cuts would be phased in over a one-year period, with “lower hanging fruit” (lower-ridership runs) dying first. Those would include the “Night Owl” runs after 1 a.m.
By the final phase-in of cuts, many familiar routes would disappear. They include #26 to Fremont and Green Lake, #66 to Roosevelt and Northgate, #4 to East Queen Anne, #60 to First Hill and Broadway, and #99 along the waterfront (the bus that replaced the still-mourned Waterfront Streetcar).
But wait! To the rescue, but only of in-city routes, came “Plan C.”
It was an initiative filed by a group called Keep Seattle Moving.
It would raise property taxes within the Seattle city limits (by 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed value), to fund bus service, but only along routes whose service hours are 80 percent within the city limits.
If the initiative made the ballot, and if it then passed, it would have raised $30 million per year for six years. In-town riders would have their service preserved, or in some cases restored. That’s because it wouldn’t have taken effect until after the first round of cuts.
The initiative sponsors officially suspended signature-gathering efforts after Mayor Ed Murray announced “Plan D.”
It’s another city-only plan. It would combine a vehicle license fee and an o.1 percent sales-tax hike. It would preserve some, but not all (and not the first scheduled batch of) bus-service cuts in town. It would have to pass both the City Council and city voters.
But wait! Here come City Councilmembers Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant with “Plan E.”
It would increase taxes on employers and commercial parking operations, replacing the sales-tax part of Murray’s proposal. It would only need the City Council’s approval, so it could be passed before Metro starts cutting routes in town. (Though the first round of cuts would still go through, at least temporarily.)
For the rest of the county: tough darts. More long car commutes, more traffic messes, more impossible-to-get-to jobs in remote office parks, more pollution.
And more people stuck in cars, as potential captive audiences for conservative talk radio, where they can be preached to about Seattle’s evil big-spending ways on such silly luxuries as public transit.
(Updated from a post originally cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)
Just a heads-up here. I’ve been busy working a part-time job while looking for a full-time job, while also pursuing a book project I still can’t announce yet.
And I’ve been toying with new formats and shticks for this site.
But I’ll have new full-length and quickie material soon. Within days even.
The publication that first coined the phrase “Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman” (initially referring to women’s spending power, as a lure to advertisers) is calling it quits.
The Ladies’ Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper, as it was known back in 1886, was founded by Philadelphia newspaper publisher Cyrus Curtis, and originally edited by his wife Louisa Knapp Curtis. It was run for three decades by the Curtises’ son-in-law Edward Bok, one of the inventors of the modern magazine industry. (Some old timers might have heard of the Curtis/Bok family’s other big magazine, The Saturday Evening Post.)
The Journal was a pioneer in the business model of cheap subscriptions subsidized by advertising, and thrived on it for many years. At the end it still had more than 3.2 million buyers (down from 6.8 million in 1968); but ad revenue had collapsed, as it has for so many print ventures. The name will now appear on occasional “newsstand special” editions, essentially to keep the trademark alive.
(The above image links to a review of a 1900 article in which the Journal predicted American life in the far-off year 2000. The article was a lot closer to what really happened than you might think.)
It’s usually awkward to be outed as a flaming racist.
It’s infinitely worse when you are in certain lines of business.
Owning a professional basketball team is one of those lines of business.
So, after all hopes of the scandal “blowing over” evaporated, rookie NBA commissioner Adam Silver put a “banned for life” fatwa on LA Clippers owner/racist/adulterer Donald Sterling.
This means, among other things, that Sterling can’t attend games or take an active management role in the team that he still, for now, majority-owns. He’ll be encouraged, but apparently not forced (at least not yet), to sell the team. That last part could conceivably lead to a court case.
Yet, already the rumors are abuzz that the Clippers could (just could, mind you) potentially move to Seattle.
Obviously a lot would need to occur for that to happen.
Sterling would need to be eased, or forced, out.
Other LA buyers would have to be turned down in favor of Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen. (Former Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz has supposedly talked, or been talked about, about fronting a group to buy the team.)
The Clippers’ share of Staples Center would have to be sold back to the Lakers and the NHL’s LA Kings.
The league’s other team owners would have to be convinced that having two teams in the #2 TV market (even if that second team is the traditionally hapless Clippers) would be less lucrative than regaining a team in the #12 TV market.
But think of the possibilities: If the Clippers were co-owned by an ex-Microsoft CEO, they could bring back the old Windows Office Assistant mascot “Clippy”!
An abscess does NOT make the heart grow fonder.
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.)
The Seattle Times hasn’t shrunk much more lately, so we haven’t used our “Seattle Times Shrinkage Watch” meme much lately.
The same can’t be said for the monopoly daily in Portland, the Advance Publications (S.I. Newhouse family)-owned Oregonian.
Like Advance’s New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Oregonian has cut back on home delivery (to four days a week).
Like the T-P and other Advance papers, it’s been corporately reorganized as a “digital first” operation.
Its shrunken newsroom staff has faced a series of management dictates to post at least three online news items per day, to participate in (and start) comment threads for each item, and to eternally chase the Almighty Pageview Count. (As if standard “content site” target analytics from circa 2008 were still valid and could still lead to profits.)
And, as of last week, the print Oregonian is now a tabloid.
They officially call it a “compact” format, but it’s the same approximate page size as the Stranger. (That’s about three-quarters the current page size of the Seattle Times.)
It has (or is capable of having) color on every page. Each section is stapled (though management vows it’s all still fully recyclable).
The acres of national/international wire stories that used to dominate the front section have been slashed into a few stories and digests at the section’s back. Local coverage is still around (including, this week, a series on workplace sexual harassment), but is far more tightly edited.
However, the paper seems to have only dropped one comic strip (Rex Morgan M.D.).
These aren’t the final changes coming to the once-venerable “Big O.”
Like many shrunken daily papers, it’s moving out of its historic headquarters building, into smaller rented office quarters.
And management has told the remaining reporters they’ll soon be judged, and incentivized, for their stories’ online pageview counts and “engagement” statistics.
Expect a lot less boring but important local-paper-of-record stuff and a lot more cute cat pictures.