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ALL THEIR PRETTY SONGS
Sep 21st, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

by marlow harris, http://seattletwist.com

Tuesday’s Nirvana Nevermind 20th anniversary concert at EMP was a total blast.

Even if you weren’t there, thanks to the live stream from, er, Livestream.com.

You can still view it. Though you might want to fast forward some parts. Thanks to band set-up breaks, it took three and a half hours to get through the original CD’s 13 tracks and 10 other Nirvana songs. Each tune was re-created by a different combo. (The exception: the Presidents with Krist Novoselic; they got to perform two, nonconsecutive songs.)

The evening started off with a total sonic blast, as the reunited Fastbacks (above) completely nailed “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Singer Kim Warnick, like many of the night’s performers, had known Kurt Cobain.

Warnick’s also an ex-roommate of Susie Tennant, the longtime local music scene promoter and publicist. (Tennant had staged the original Nevermind release party at Re-bar.) Tennant has gone through a cancer scare (thankfully apparently over); the concert was a benefit for her treatment and recovery.

The Livestream page had a chat-room corner. Some chatters made snide insults about Warnick’s middle aged appearance. (Just the sort of “fans” Cobain had vocally denounced.)

All the performances were loose, spirited, and enthralling, true to Nirvana’s own rough and tumble gigging.

My own faves included, in no particular order:

  • Visqueen’s full-blast “Territorial Pissings;”
  • new band Ravenna Woods’ sped-up “Breed;”
  • the Long Winters’ emo-y “Something in the Way;”
  • Shelby Earl’s soulful “All Apologies;”
  • Pigeonhed’s eerie “Heart Shaped Box;”
  • Steve Mack (the local boy who made good across the pond with That Petrol Emotion) blasting through “Serve the Servants” with his current band Stag—and with a bleeding head (!).
BRASKETBALL? (RANDOM LINKS FOR 8/24/11)
Aug 24th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

  • Seattle still doesn’t have its fully deserved NBA team back, or any fully formed plan to bring it back. But the promoters of a new LA pseudo-sport, “lingerie basketball,” say this will be one of the first places they hope to expand to. From first glance at this operation, the Storm has nothing to worry about.
  • Seattle was named America’s #1 tech city, by a highly unscientific (hence less than geek-trusted) survey.
  • Who loves (with their bucks) this year’s state liquor privatization measure? Costco (who started it) and Trader Joe’s. Who’s against it? Beer and wine distributors, who’d rather not see Costco gain the power edge them out of wholesaling. On the sidelines so far: Safeway, Kroger (owner of QFC and Fred Meyer), Supervalu (Albertsons).
  • It’s smaller than the Gorge but at least as spectacular. It’s the new ampitheater at Mt. St. Helens.
  • Intiman Theatre might come back from the grave. Just might, mind you.
  • The US Dept. of Transportation has formally approved the deeply boring tunnel to replace the lovely, doomed Viaduct.
  • Could JPMorgan Chase engulf and devour Bank of America like it did Washington Mutual?
  • Network TV has fewer women in it this year, on either side of the camera.
  • A Tea Party regional boss in South Carolina put up a “joke” on her Facebook page, about how cool it would be if Obama were assassinated. She’s now made her Facebook page private.
  • Today’s “Google doodle” logo illustration is all about Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian author born 112 years ago today. Yeah, that’s a strange un-round number of an anniversary. But then, oddities, conundrums, things that didn’t seem to make nice round sense were found all over Borges’ stories. (He didn’t write novels, though some of his short stories were about novels in a meta, recursive way.)
  • Author Simon Reynolds says enough-already to the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind. Grunge nostalgia, he feels, is worse than pop eating itself:

…The more that the present is taken up with reunion tours, re-enactments, and contemporary revivalist groups umbilically bound by ties of reference and deference to rock’s glory days, the smaller the chances are that history will be made today.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 8-19-11
Aug 18th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

1983 ad from vintagecomputing.com

  • Hewlett Packard’s spinning off or selling its PC hardware business, and shutting down its smartphone and tablet lines altogether. The hereby linked article doesn’t mention HP’s printers, or their worth-their-weight-in-gold ink cartridges.
  • Krist Novoselic’s staging an all-star Nevermind tribute show on Sept. 20, during the breakthrough Nirvana album’s 20th anniversary week. It’ll be a fundraiser for Susie Tennant, a longtime local music industry fixture who’s going through some nasty cancer treatments.
  • Sarah Ann Lloyd at Seattlest’s take on the state’s drive to make bars pay thousands in back “opportunity to dance” taxes, which the bars had never heard of before: It’s a vague ordinance, open to too-wide interpretation.
  • As we’ve already reported, the County Council’s compromise to save Metro Transit includes dumping the downtown Ride Free Area, starting in Oct. 2012. Real Change’s Timothy Harris alleges Metro management was in on “this opportunistic attack on the poor,” in order to “get the visible poor off the bus.”
  • Stephen H. Dunphy at Crosscut claims there are “two economies” in the Seattle area, (1) high-tech and (2) everything else. Guess which one’s actually working?
  • If you’re in that stagnant second economy, you might consider retraining in a new field. If so, you might think of this as absolutely the wrong time to slash community college funding.
  • Casino losses have funded something important. It’s the Tulalip Tribes’ new $19 million cultural heritage center.
  • In non-tunnel road news, construction of the new 520 bridge is set to start next year, even though the state doesn’t have the money to build anything on the bridge’s Seattle end.
  • There are (relatively) little guys in the gasoline business. They’re the station owners, trapped in unequal marriages with their franchisor/suppliers. One such case has resulted in 17 ex-Arco stations in Tacoma and environs and a bitter legal dispute between a multi-station franchisee and BP.
  • Can ex-UW president Mark Emmert, now running the NCAA, actually do anything to stem big-money corruption in college sports?
  • Bill Clinton now claims to be a vegan. Does that mean he’s going to become as annoyingly sanctimonious as the rest of ’em?
  • Someone’s found a use for print newspapers! It involves stealing them in bulk for the purpose of “extreme couponing.”
  • Here comes the backlash against Standard & Poor’s, about three years late.
  • According to the “hacktivists” at Anonymous, a defense contractor and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce got together to infiltrate and sabotage progressives in online social networks. One scheme involved fake a Facebook profile using the real name of a Maxim model.
  • R.I.P. Gualtiero Jacopetti, creator of the original Mondo Cane and many of the “shockumentary” films that followed it.
  • Elsewhere in filmland, here’s an essay praising Chinese underground cinema as real independent cinema. No official support. No submissions to state censorship committees. No theatrical or above-ground video releases. No commercial potential. No careerist ambition. No bosses except Art herself.
  • Here’s a Vegas hotel implosion story with a difference—the 27-story tower has never been opened.
PIER REVIEW
Jul 28th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

They’re demolishing Pier 48 on the Waterfront today. The beautifully rundown wooden building was vacant for several years. Before that, it had several uses.

It was home to the Princess Marguerite car ferry to Victoria, long since replaced by the faster but blander Victoria Clipper stationed a mile or so north.

It was the site of the first few Seattle Bookfests. Fans of the event (relaunched last year in Columbia City) like to say it just wasn’t the same after it couldn’t use the pier anymore.

The global Cobain fetish cult knows it as the 1993 site of MTV’s New Year’s Live and Loud concert special, which turned out to be Nirvana’s final Seattle show.

The pier, once cleared of the old building, will become a construction staging area for the Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition (and perhaps for whatever project might replace the viaduct).

CORREX: Kind reader Martha Bussard remembered that Nirvana played Seattle once more, in the old Coliseum (soon to become KeyArena) on 1/8/94. The Live & Loud special was taped on 12/13/93.

OH WELL. WHATEVER.
Jun 4th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

Finally saw the Seattle Art Museum’s exercise in quesitonable idolatry, Kurt.

As my ol’ acquaintance Charlotte Quinn later summarized it to me, “So depressing. And so bad.”

The icon-ization of someone who not only had a complicated relationship with the cruel master that is “fame,” but who was killed by that master. Well, by that and that even crueler master known as heroin.

The pieces in “Kurt” (aside from the actual photos of Cobain by Charles Peterson and of latter-day Cobain fans by Alice Wheeler) were big, nay humongous, paintings and sculptures and videos and installation pieces made by artists from across North America and Europe. They were made for the museum “market,” though not specifically for this exhibition.

And they by and large sucked.

When the most lively piece is a video of a mall rat (portrayed by the artist herself) dancing in an energetic yet amateur fashion to “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” you know something’s amiss.

But really, what could have been done with that subject? You have a dude, a gifted yet confused dude, who has three public faces: sensitive boy poet, BS-shearing aggressive rocker, and suicide-by-the-installment-plan junkie.

Take the music and the words away, which pretty much has to be done in visual still imagery, and that’s all you have left—graven images of a very reluctant god.

HERE IT IS NOW
Jan 25th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

Been wondering when Seattle would get a permanent, tangible Kurt Cobain memorial other than that bench in Viretta Park? Wonder no longer. Here’s the “giant Cobain-inspired guitar” neon sign for the new Hard Rock Cafe on Pike Street. You know, the bar/restaurant/club/merch shop that was supposed to have opened last summer.

MERRY CHRISTMAS KURT
Dec 24th, 2009 by Clark Humphrey

cobain bench xmas 09Someone placed simple holiday trappings on the unofficial Cobain memorial bench in Viretta Park.

'KURT AND COURTNEY' FILM REVIEW
Feb 17th, 1999 by Clark Humphrey

Kurt and Courtney and Nick

Film review, 2/17/99

Kurt and Courtney

(1998, dir. Nick Broomfield)

Hype!

(1995, dir. Doug Pray)

Nirvana: Live! Tonight! Sold Out!

(1994, various directors)

By my calendar watch, we’re only seven weeks from what’s sure to be another exercise in media excess–the fifth anniversary of Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain’s suicide.

No, I don’t think Cobain was really murdered. The various conspiracy theories are too pat, too dependent on ignoring facts of the case that don’t fit the theorists’ neat little conceptions.

Besides, nobody had anything to gain from Cobain’s death, except the conspiracy theorists. Even if he were planning to quit music and leave the admitted publicity-addict Courtney Love, she would’ve gotten as much (and possibly more useful) ink as Cobain’s ex as she did as his widow.

Yet the theories continue to find an audience, among Cobain fans who still don’t want to believe their troubled idol could possibly have wanted to die.

Yet the clues are everywhere in his songs and performances. He really was a sensitive soul who sought to acquire the virtual invincability of a rocker (NOT of a “rock star”–while his music was some of the most accessible U.S. punk ever made, he never wanted what he considered the corrupt rock-star lifestyle).

But the assorted stresses of suddenly becoming a generation’s icon (and the locus of a multimillion dollar business) proved too much for him.

What survives are his music, his haunting image, and the many hangers-on and media vultures still trying to cash in, literally or figuratively, on his story.

One of the latter, British filmmaker Nick Broomfield, was thwarted in his attempt to make a movie about the Cobain tragedy; neither Love nor the surviving Nirvana members would talk to him or permit the use of Nirvana’s music or video footage. Instead, Kurt and Courtney is the personal story of Broomfield’s failure to make the film he’d wanted to make. He travels around Seattle, Aberdeen, Portland, and L.A. He interviews a few of the couple’s friends and relatives, none of whom had anything bad to say about the self-deprecating Kurt or anything good to say about the monomaniacally ambitious Courtney.

A large bulk of the film’s time is spent on the professional Courtney-bashers who’ve shown up regularly in magazine stories, talk shows, and Internet newsgroups–Courtney’s very estranged father Hank Harrison, conspiracy theorist Tom Grant, and washed-up early Seattle punker Eldon “El Duce” Hoke. Hoke, whose career (such as it was) was predicated on calculated noteriety, claimed Love had offered to pay him to kill Cobain but he’d turned down the offer. Hoke died days after Broomfield filmed him; he was hit by a train while stoned out of his gourd. (He reportedly told friends he’d made up the hit-man story in a scheme to get his own name back in infamy.)

Broomfield clearly wants to contrast the ill fate of the tender, ulcerous Cobain with Love’s final re-creation of herself as a total Hollywood celebrity. But I couldn’t help seeing a more telling comparison between Cobain and Hoke. Both were self-styled bad boys; both eventually died indirectly from their drug addictions. But Hoke, bereft of much talent or imagination, sought merely to push the offensiveness envelope, and ended up a long term burnout case, living out his existence on L.A.’s far outskirts. Cobain beautifully married punk noise and pop immediacy, art and entertainment, and (as can be seen in the compilation video Live! Tonight! Sold Out!) burned out much more quickly.

Meanwhile, the definitive videocassette document of Nirvana’s era remains Doug Pray’s Hype! It contains very little Nirvana material, but puts the band in the context of its time and place better than star-obsessed folks like Broomfield ever could.

COURTNEY LOVE BIO REVIEW
Apr 17th, 1996 by Clark Humphrey

Gossip Galore, But Where’s the Love?:

The Girl With The Most Hype

Book feature for The Stranger, 4/17/96

I don’t really want to blame Melissa “Babs Babylon” Rossi for the disappointing content of her book, Courtney Love: Queen of Noise, A Most Unauthorized Biography (Pocket Books). I’m certain she was just following orders. You don’t have to read between too many lines to realize Pocket wanted this type of book, and dutiful magazine stringer Rossi complied. The type of book I’m talking about was best expressed in an old New York Rocker review of a Keith Moon biography: “All sex and drugs and no rock and roll.”

You get maybe 1,000 words at most about Courtney Love the singer, the musician, the songwriter, the still-aspiring actress. That’s scattered among some 85,000 words about Courtney Love the problem child, the reform school dropout, the stripper, the small-time groupie, the big-time groupie, the wife, the mom, the widow, the riot-grrrl hater, the force of nature, and most of all the Celebrity. Rossi’s book is a chronological compilation of my-god-what’s-she-done-now stories, divided into three sections of roughly equal length (before, during, and since her marriage). The cover photo might show an artfully cropped shot of Love in mid-guitar strum, but the inside teaser brings us not to a concert but to Love’s barging in on Madonna at the MTV Awards preview show. In the priorities of Rossi’s editors, the incident marks Love’s ascendancy to Madonna’s former title of #1 Rock Bad Girl–not because Love, unlike Madonna, writes her own material and plays an instrument onstage, but because Love’s unpredictably wild antics were more outrageous than Madonna’s calculated publicity schemes could ever be. Pocket doesn’t care who’s got the better tuneage, just who’s got the most hype.

(Indeed, at one point Rossi mentions trying to sell publishers on a Love book four years ago; the NY big boys decreed Love, fascinating a character as she might be, was not A Star and hence unworthy of mainstream publishing’s attention.)

On one level, this might be the way Love prefers to be known. More than anyone else in the Northwest “alternative” music universe (at least more than anyone else who succeeded), Love wanted to be a glittering light in the firmament of celebrity and fame. As Rossi thoroughly documents, this lifelong ambition for the spotlight has caused her, and continues to cause her, no end of conflict with music people in Portland, Seattle, and particularly Olympia who believe the punk ethic that music ought to be a creative endeavor and a personal statement, not an industry. Rossi also shows how Love’s ongoing quest to be (in)famous has endeared her to the NY/LA entertainment and gossip businesses. Five years into the “alternative” revolution Love’s late husband helped instigate, Vanity Fairand Entertainment Tonight (and Pocket Books) would still rather talk about Rock Stars than about rock. Love may appear out of control in dozens of the book’s episodes–drinking, drugging, harassing ex-boyfriends, sleeping around, encouraging her husband’s descent into heroin (or so Rossi alleges) then desperately failing to bring him back out. But she also clearly knows how to get and keep her name in the headlines, even when they aren’t always the headlines she wants.

Yet Love is more than just tabloid fodder. She’s succeeded by the pure-art standards she’s sometimes claimed to disdain. The first Hole album, Pretty on the Inside, is an experienced of focused anguish and vengeance, one of the finest American pure-punk records ever. Live Through This is a poppier, more rounded, more “accessible” work effortlessly careening between moments of beauty and ugliness. Love has spoken in recent months of wanting to be known primarily for her work, and also of wanting to be something at least closer to a positive role model (as in her backstage quip to a KOMO reporter about wanting “to prove girls can be the doctors, not just the nurses”).

Ultimately, it’s Love’s work that makes her life worth reading about, not her infamy that makes her records worth listening to. It’s these two contrasting aspects of her story that combine to make her such a fascinating figure.

Thus, by instructing Rossi to write almost exclusively about Love’s life as a succession of notorious (even by punk rock standards) incidents, Pocket loses out on a chance to fully explore Love’s story. Instead, we get a punkified version of The Rose with all the songs cut out.

One place where Rossi’s writing is allowed to shine is in her description of the old Portland music scene. Rossi and Love were both hangers-on in it, though they didn’t know one another. Rossi’s boast that Portland’s early-’80s punk world was livelier and more creative than Seattle’s is certainly a boast I could question; but Rossi makes a stong case for her allegation with Portland’s one great unsung band (the Wipers) and its many darn good bands ( Napalm Beach, Dead Moon, the Dharma Bums, the all-female Neo Boys). That the only mainstream star from that scene is Love, who’d only been a groupie in Portland and started her career in Minnesota and California, is indeed the minor tragedy Rossi makes it out to be. Of course, those other Portland bands didn’t try to be Stars above all other priorities; they tried to make great music, and under the financially-impossible conditions of indie rock at the time they succeeded at their goal.

If I had more space here, I could borrow a few clichés from the middle-aged scholars at our nation’s universities in the field ofAdvanced Madonna Studies, and write interminable ramblings about whether Love’s perceived interest in celebrity above accomplishment, along with her use of fashion-as-uniform and her cosmetic surgeries, somehow represent her identification with a notion of feminine being as contrasted to masculine doing. But I don’t so I won’t.

KURT COBAIN, 1967-1994
Apr 13th, 1994 by Clark Humphrey

The word came into local media outlets shortly after 10 a.m. Friday. An electrician had found a dead male body at 8:40 a.m. in Kurt Cobain’s house on Lake Washington Blvd. A shotgun and an apparent suicide note were nearby. Authorities refused to identify the body, but that didn’t stop Nirvana fans (and reporters) from gathering outside the house. Thirty people were there within half an hour of the first announcement; an hour later the street had become too crowded for regular traffic to get through. Shortly after noon, investigators confirmed that it was indeed Cobain who had done himself in.

The AP quoted Cobain’s mother as saying he hadn’t been heard from in six days. That Wednesday, it was announced that Nirvana was bowing out of plans to headline the Lollapallooza ’94 package tour. His wife Courtney Love, who’d saved him when he took the champagne-and-sedatives overdose in Rome in March (officially billed as an accident), was off in LA wrapping up preparations for the release of a new album by her band Hole.

During the Rome coma-watch, The Stranger ran a piece by Eric Fredericksen on how the media would treat a Cobain death, as a cultural icon and a nostalgia industry just like Hendrix and Morrison. I’ll try to avoid that shit here, but I’ll try to give a personal view on the guy’s work. Like most of you, I didn’t know him personally, had never seen him offstage. I knew people who knew him; they inveriably described him as just a soft-spoken regular guy who loved to make music and art and who hated the bullshit of The Industry.

Punk rock had developed in New York as an arty affectation. England took it seriously as a voice of youthful anger. The local new wave scenes across the US took the DIY aesthetic of punk even more seriously, eventually questioning the very need for New York/London tastemakers. Cobain emerged amidst this indie-rock movement, among guys who’d chosen not to listen when the industry said punk was dead. Cobain and Krist Novoselic started playing together when they were 19, and by the time Cobain turned 21 in 1988 Nirvana was becoming a big fish in the still-small pond that was the Seattle club scene. By the next year they had an album and were part of TAD’s European tour; by all accounts it was a miserable experience, with Cobain having a nervous breakdown onstage at the last show.

While tagged by out-of-town media as the Leader of the Grunge Rock Revolution, he hadn’t been a central member of the hard-partying, extroverted schmoozers who had developed the punk-metal crossover sounds in Seattle. He was an inwardly-directed soul who, during Nirvana’s club years, holed up in an Olympia apartment and lived on corn dogs and cough syrup. While he kept his private life private, he put his personal torments into his work with a rare purity and clarity. It was his curse/blessing to be the best songwriter of his generation, and to be ripe for the picking just as “alternative rock” was becoming a big business. But it was his decision to go to Geffen; if Nevermind had come out on Sub Pop, as was first planned, it might have sold a few thousand copies, the label would have continued its slide into bankruptcy, and the Seattle rock hype would have died down leaving Soundgarden as national stars but few others.

We’ll probably never really know what finally led him to quit the world. Perhaps it was the slip back into drugs after the highly-publicized hell he went through to get off heroin. Or perhaps the hype and the pressure finally got to him. To the end, however, he maintained a public image as a survivor.

On March 27 the following statement, credited to Cobain, appeared on the Internet’s Nirvana mailing list:

“So this is the Information Highway our illustrious VP has been jawing to the nation about. Well, my manager told me some kind of fan-thing was going down here and that I should come over and check it out. Well, here I am. I’d be lying if I said I’m not surprised to see the band’s popularity reaching even into the depths of the electronic underworld. Cool.

“Well I won’t keep you people long, but I thought you might be interested in what the band is up to. Last month Chris, me, and Dave came out of London Bridge finishing up a revamped “Pennyroyal Tea” (I didn’t much care for how we did the album version and thought we could’ve done much better with the song). Geffen should have that out shortly, knowing the speed with which their money machine rolls.

“We’re all taking a break from the music and touring for a bit. I’m still a little freaked over the Rome thing and need some time to rest and get over it, you’d think they could make a good milkshake, but no. Hope you people are ready for a calmer moodier album. Yep, Nirvana’s going back into the studio at the end of the summer. I’m already working on the new songs and artwork for the new album. If you’re expecting the same verse-chorus-verse, well, I suppose you have but two choices, don’t buy the new album when it’s released in early ’95 or get used to the fact that the band is changing. Longevity folks.”

(latter-day note: An Internet user in Victoria later claimed to have fabricated the note. My excerpts from it got printed up as authentic in Dave Thompson’s quickie Cobain exploitation book.)

GATHERING OF THE VULTURES: The vehemence with which conservative and old-hippie commentators alike treated Cobain and his fans is unprecedented in my lifetime, unless you count the bio-sleaze books of Albert Goldman (who thankfully died before he could write a Kurt exploitation book) or the Arizona politicians who wanted to prevent a Martin Luther King holiday by red-baiting King 20 years after his death. Rush Limbaugh called Kurt “a piece of human debris” and treated Nirvana listeners with equal disrespect; thus proving for all time the essential cruelty behind his worldview. If Limbaugh deliberately gloated over the demise of an opposition spokesperson, Andy Rooney was merely clueless in his denunciation of Cobain, and by extension anyone who loved him, as a “loser” not worthy of respect, only condescending pity. Locally, that professional pious hypocrite John Carlson echoed the Limbaugh party line in claiming the “sad and pathetic” Cobain should have quit music and found religion (as if Carlson has ever represented sincere Christian charity). P-I cartoonist David Horsey was at least more sympathetic when he suggested that Kurt could’ve found solace if he’d done more hiking in the woods; Kurt grew up near the woods, and from all accounts was more in touch with the terror of timber country than with its majesty.

Then there’s Times columnist Eric Lacitis, whose profound and utter incomprehension of Cobain, his music, his depression and his audience was matched only by his intransigence. First, he wrote a snide “joke” about Cobain’s March coma for a Sunday feature section that was printed before his death but distributed after it. Then, he wrote a “serious” column questioning what somebody with all that money could possibly have to worry about. Then, when many readers rightfully objected, Lacitis wrote a succession of shallow arguments attempting to defend his earlier bluster.

This is more than just the case of some oldsters who don’t get that new music (even though Cobain worked in a nearly 20-year-old genre). It’s the case of people who are paid to communicate, yet who lack a basic understanding of their topic, and in some cases have been defensive and even proud of their own ignorance. If the media business really wants to know why today’s young adults are consuming more books but far fewer newspapers and TV newscasts, it need only look to its own industry-wide “just call me another old white guy who doesn’t get it” attitude. Not “getting it” is not a positive quality, and neither is inhumanity.

11/93 MISC NEWSLETTER
Nov 1st, 1993 by Clark Humphrey

11/93 Misc. Newsletter

(incorporating four Stranger columns)

Welcome back to Misc., the pop-cult report that knows something’s gone wrong again when the songs on 120 Minutes are indistinguishable from the songs on VH-1, that loved Edward Muybridge‘s ol’ stop-motion photography experiments long before thatU2 video ripped him off.

STOP THE MADNESS!: Seems hardly a week goes by without another important cool thing about Seattle dying off. Next is the giant downtown Woolworth emporium, home of Seattle’s best selections of cheesy crossword magazines, kitschy souvenir mugs, by-the-pound chocolates, home aquariums, 10-pack tube sox, photo booths, board games, and fedoras (it’s where I’ve gotten all my hats). Where will we get any of these in the future? At some small-selection pharmacy or remote mall store? Hah! The store’s not performed poorly; the company just wants to cannibalize the variety stores for their real estate, then shunt the proceeds into more Foot Locker mall outlets. Do we need more places to buy Air Jordans and fewer places to buy $9 canvas deck shoes?

BP SELLS ALL WASHINGTON ASSETS: Guess we’ll have to go back to pumping gas into the pickup instead of replenishing the petrol supply of the lorry. Pity.

GENTRIFICATION MARCHES ON: The Eastlake dock that housed the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store for decades will now be a franchise of T.G.I. Friday’s, the NY-based king of meatmarket bars.

CITY-O-DESTINY DEPT.: It’s been a bad year for our pals in Tacoma. Their plan for a beautiful walkway from downtown to the waterfront died when Seattle talk-radio jerks branded it a waste of state funds. Then they lost the landmark ASARCO smelter smokestack, the Anti-Space Needle. Now the B&I Circus Store (one of the last independent discount stores in a region that used to be awash with Valu-Marts, Gov-Marts and Yard Birds) is bankrupt and will likely be sold to some chain, sending Ivan the gorilla to some out-of-state zoo. At least Tacoma’s greatest gift to rock in the past 25 years, Girl Trouble, isn’t breaking up as far as we know.

IN-A-NAME DEPT.: Haven’t said it before, but we’ve always been perturbed by the idea of Ortho brand contraceptives. Would you really put something in your body that had the same name as a bug poison? And do the burly truck jockeys ridin’ on Hyster brand heavy equipment know that that’s the old Greek word for a uterus?

MOREL CONCERNS: Mushroom hunters in Eastern Oregon forests have been shooting one another this year over the precious fungi. So much for the notion that the stuff makes you pacified and at one with the universe.

AD OF THE MONTH (from the Weekly): “I wish to apologize to all the people I called fat when I was selling a weight loss product. I am very sorry I offended each of you. I failed to see the essence of your being and your uniqueness. Maggie.” Runner-up (same source): “Achtung Baby! U2 can earn 3K/mo. starting in my international brokerage firm…”

LOCAL PUBLICATION OF THE MONTH: The Death of Rock n’ Roll, by Times freelancer Jeff Pike, is more than just a big book with all your favorite dead-rock-star vignettes. It also covers rock songs about death (especially the teen-suicide and car-crash songs of the early ’60s) and essays about “the three deaths” of rock itself (the clampdowns in the late ’50s, the wilting of flower power in the late ’60s, and punk’s supposed shattering of R&R populism in the late ’70s. I’d argue with the last point: instead of driving the final nail in rock’s coffin, punk and “alternative” music revived and codified the image of bad boys with guitars, for better or worse. Speaking of which…

AUDIO FILES: Didn’t care much for George Clark’s Stranger parody, The Whimper (too held-back and off-target), but his tape of Six Delightful Grunge Jingles is great. It’s the evil twin of Grunge Lite: Instead of making familiar tunes of bitterness more “commercial,” he makes bitter commercials. In the form of a fictional demo tape for a radio-ad production company, he introduces a band called Behavior Management that grinds out a perfect generic jam of drum thuds and guitar distortion, capped by a screeching rendition of “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” The other five jingles further explore the dichotomy between aggressive-poser music and ad happy-talk, as well as the desperation of marketers trying to latch onto any fad. Speaking of which…

DUDS (P-I headline on regional fashions): “It’s not just grungy anymore.” It never was. How many times to we have to say it: What the media call “grunge fashion” was invented by Marc Jacobs in New York, based mostly on Greenwich Village rich-kid primping. Don’t blame anybody here for it…Or maybe blame Charles Schulz. He’s got a new sweatshirt of Pigpen with the simple slogan “Original Grunge.” Speaking of which…

MORE DUDS: Nirvana agreed to have a logo sticker inserted in the new Sassy, but the band undoubtedly didn’t plan for it to be stapled in the middle of a fashion spread called “Oops, Your Bra Is Showing.” The sticker appears right in front of a monochrome shot of an outstretched butt in sheer undies. Speaking of which…

RETRO GRADES: Kudos to the Pearl Jam guys for refusing to be interviewed for that tacky, utterly point-missing Time cover story last week. First, the mag makes the most pathetic definition of “alternative rock” this side of Rolling Stone. Then, it patronizes present-day rockers as mere ’60s throwbacks without even mentioning those ’60s bands who really did influence today’s kids (MC5, Stooges, Velvets). Then, it chooses as the definitive angry young punk combo an outfit that never claimed to belong to any dissonant postpunk genre, but whose neo-blues-rock sound probably appeals to yup journalists more than the N-boys, the Overkill kids, the Pumpkins, the The, or other still-popular yet somewhat more street-level bands. But at least Time gives its clumsy sort of recognition to modern rock — unlike a 10-page rant in the new Utne Reader, that pseudo-liberal magazine that thinks the most oppressed people in the world are affluent white boomers. In it, some ex-hippie whines that there hasn’t been any good rock since (you guessed it!) the ’60s. He insists there won’t be any good rock again until those persnickety kids start obeying their elders by (you guessed it!) conforming to the blues-rock tradition. He doesn’t see that today’s post-mass-media world doesn’t need white R&B; we can get our black music from black people today. What the rest of us can make is music, art, etc. that speaks to our own life situations, no matter how rootless and disillusioning they may be, and hope the message doesn’t get too diluted in the hype. Speaking of which…

IN MOTION: In the new Wired, Paul Saffo posits that all it takes to start a cultural revolution in America is about 100 people plus overzealous press hype. That was about the number of hardcore Beats prior to the publication of On the Road (as Saffo quotes George Leonard), and about the number of real Cyberpunks in the mid-’80s. Saffo could’ve added, but didn’t, that there were maybe 100 Dadaists in 1920, or 2-300 Soundgarden and Green River fans in 1986, or about that many Riot Grrrls in early 1991. Seen in this light, a mass event like Woodstock could be viewed not as the dawn of an era as it was usually hyped, but as its close. It could also mean that we really do have to be as afraid of little hate groups as the media want us to be. Or, taken to an extreme, it could mean that any movement big enough to have its own professional magazine is already too unwieldy big to be effective. By the time the mainstream media hears about a scene, it may already be over. Speaking of which…

THE NON-SHOCK OF THE NON-NEW: Most “political” writing and art from as late as last October seems utterly dated now. One can almost look at the late ’80s-early ’90s as what all nostalgized eras are called, a simpler time. Everything seemed obvious then: “Activist” art didn’t have to bother with changing the world, only with announcing your own righteousness. All you had to do to call yourself politically active was sit and complain about Bush and other easily dehumanized targets. Because Republican rule was considered permanent, you didn’t have to bother with devising any practical agendas of your own. You could just keep making pseudo-“confrontational” art that only slammed people you safely knew wouldn’t be in your audience. Then we got a president who wants to make a better country, even if a ’50s-style Congressional coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats doesn’t want to help too much. There are detailed debates going on about not just whether but how to climb out of America’s assorted messes. You have to actually think about things these days, not just follow some “hip” line. Speaking of which…

PRESSED: Remember when the Weekly “discovered” the Italia restaurant as headquarters of “the new art scene” in town? Guess who’s on the ground floor of the paper’s new building? Speaking of which…

REVOLTIN’ DEVELOPMENTS: NYC politicians are supposedly giving up on their 25-year dream of razing most of Times Square for bland monolithic office towers. Actually, they still want to build the office towers, but now they’re grudgingly willing to have street-level retail in them, maybe some fast-food chains with appropriate-for-the-area loud signs. They probably wouldn’t think to have the wig shops, music stores, and other places that give the human touch to that huge district. And no more porn, of course. Speaking of which…

PRO-CREATIVITY: It’s common knowledge that the best aspects of most XXX videos are the titles based on regular movies (Fleshdance, Edward Penishands). So don’t be surprised that a Nevada company’s made Sleeping With Seattle.

CATHODE CORNER: Imitation Ren & Stimpy cartoon shows are popping up all over. They’ve got the flashy colors and gross-out gags but not the comedic or artistic excellence instilled by fired R&S creator John Kricfalusi. Nickelodeon’s new Rocko is produced by the same in-house team that’s preparing the new version of R&S, to premiere later this year. If the sorry Rocko‘s any evidence, the new R&S won’t be much. And the Ted Turner people running Hanna-Barbera have 2 Stupid Dogs, whose rehashed retro-’50s design is unsupported by flat gag plots….Meanwhile, if the makers of New Pink Panther show had to give the cat a voice, it shouldn’t have been the nasal Canadian whine of Matt Frewer. To me, the only guy living who could voice this character right would be Tony Bennett.

AUTO MANIA: Damn, I want one of those 2.5-foot-wide “commuter cars” proposed by Subaru to meet Calif.’s forthcoming tough emissions requirements. The prototype shown in the Times is bright red and about the size of an Indy car, seating one passenger behind the driver. Utterly, utterly cool.

ICY DILEMMA: I’ve been receiving reports from college towns across the country, via people on my newsletter mailing list. They’re talking about what they see as a new social coldness on campuses. Students are shutting themselves off from public displays of affection or courtship. Men and women aren’t even looking one another in the eye.

Under the new propriety it’s OK to have a boyfriend or girlfriend if you publicly treat the relationship nonchalantly, as settled down into blasé platonics; otherwise, you’re supposed to be aloof and untroubled by those pesky anti-intellectual hormones. That’s not being cool, that’s being frozen.

There are plenty of potential causes: a decade-long media campaign to instill a fear of sex (you won’t get AIDS by eye contact), ongoing ill-will between macho men and judgmental women, rising heterophobia within the boho/alternative community (reminding me of a line attributed to Robert Anton Wilson or to the book Principia Discordia about “what was once compulsory is now forbidden”).

It is possible to be a man (or a woman who loves them) and a human being. Don’t buy into one-dimensional stereotypes, mainstream or alternative flavors. You don’t lose your soul via emotional intimacy, you strengthen it. This neo-puritanism doesn’t deter abusive relationships (creeps don’t bother with intellectual dogma except when it suits them). It only reinforces the fears of smart but shy young sensitives, the very people who need relationships, who could bring more humanness into the social realm.

It’s OK to be whatever sex and sex preference you are, even if it’s an outré one. It’s not what’s in your pants that makes you good or evil, it’s what’s in your heart.

MISC. UNPLUGGED: Power outages aren’t supposed to happen to urbanites with underground wiring. They’re supposed to happen to middle-class couples out in some forlorn suburb they mistakenly think is “The Country,” where overhead wires dangle dangerously beneath wind-vulnerable tree limbs. Little did I realize (‘tho I should’ve, from friends’ experiences in the ’88 downtown outage) that all these new Regrade condo projects had been fed into the same aging WWII-era circuitry.

So, around 2 a.m. Monday morning, I glanced at the digital alarm to find it off. Everything was off, even at the seniors’ housing out the window. Only the emergency lights were on in my hallway (by 9 a.m. their batteries died, and the windowless halls became pitch black). The Sunday/Monday wee hours are radio’s traditional dead spot, so there was no news of the outage ’til KIRO-AM signed on for the morning commute. Even then, local radio stations seemed to care little for the story, even the stations that were in the blackout zone. You could go for two or three consecutive news breaks without hearing a thing about it. In the Information Age, this is a pathetic excuse for “When You Want to Know First.”

‘Twas weird to see the Space Needle enshrouded in the morning fog without even its top aircraft beacon. ‘Twas weirder to glance into the Western Ave. band studio, one of those mazes of cheaply-built sheetrock walls; too bad one of the bands based there,Candlebox, couldn’t live up to its name.

Found myself depending on the kindness of strangers, including one household where I spent one night on a couch with two hyperactive kittens shoving each other all night for the right to claw me. More frustrating were my attempts to recruit sympathy from acquaintances outside the affected area; so many “hip” folks these days are so proudly ignorant of any local news, that I had to explain what an outage was and why I had one.

As my computer/video/stereo withdrawal set in, I caught a glimpse of the pristine life of info-chastity my acquaintances were living. Its simplicity was seductive, but dull! I decided quickly that I like modern life. Heat, hot water, electric shavers, coffeemakers, toasters, dishwashers, answering machines, VCRs, and modems are good things (‘tho there was something nice about not hearing the next apartment’s bass speaker).

People in the neighborhood were serviced with a Red Cross meal van, serving up free coffee, fruit, soup, and Spam sandwiches. I spent as much time out of the house as I could, hanging out at art spaces. The evening after getting re-plugged, I was doing the Pio. Square gallery crawl and happened to run into ol’ pal Bill Rieflin, who’s drummed in a couple of famous bands but was best known here for his work with one of Seattle’s best-ever combos, the Blackouts.

Lessons? Only that big developments, even in established urban areas, entail a public price for infrastructure. City Light bet it could get away without upgrading its wiring system, and lost. The Seattle Commons plan, which would stick a population the size of Pullman into what’s now a square mile of light industry, will take a lot of public investment. The advocacy group Allied Arts wants a public vote before the city spends or rezones toward the Commons condos. They’re right. I like living downtown, and wouldn’t mind more company, but we all need a voice in whether to adopt this massive scheme.

‘TIL NEXT TIME, try to figure why the state puts signs in over-21 places saying you’ve gotta be 18 to buy cigs, and hope all your troubles disappear as completely as the Canadian Conservatives.

PASSAGE

Sign outside Dr. Zipper on Fremont Ave.: “When I, Dr. Zipper, made the Zippocratic Oath, I pledged to fix zippers on PARKAS and PACKS, Heal SLEEPING BAGS and TENTS. Apply the mending touch to snaps and buckles. Restore CAMPING GEAR and SOFT LUGGAGE to useful life. Invisibly Patch Gore-Texreg. and other STORMGEAR. Restitch CLIMBING GEAR for maximum safety. Teach the MENDING ABC’s: All-One-Zipper Meshed-In-Line, All-One-Zipper Save-You-Money, New-Life-To-Outdoor-Gear Lesson. Don’t Replace! REPAIR-REPAIR-REPAIR OK!” (Cf. Dr. Bronner’s soap bottles.)

REPORT

Still seeking a publisher for my local-music history book. Thanx to all who’ve participated in it so far.

WORD-O-MONTH

“Pithacoid”

8/93 MISC NEWSLETTER
Aug 1st, 1993 by Clark Humphrey

8/93 Misc. Newsletter

(incorporating three Stranger columns)

AREN’T YOU GLAD BUDWEISER’S GOT BRANCH PLANTS?

Here at Misc., where we can’t help but repeat what you all must have thought about Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts (i.e., surely he could have picked better), we think the next Brit blue-eyed soul singer, Mercer Island blues babe, or frat-boy funk band that pretends to be black should have to earn it. Get thrown out of Denny’s, get hassled by cops just for standing outside, get rejected for jobs and mortgages for no good reason, see your band blackballed from almost every venue and rental hall in town while blue-eyed party boys imitate your music at showcase clubs every week. Only then you could boast about how much soul you’ve got.

UPDATE: Remember when we talked about the old Seattle band that had a logo instead of a written name and a yelp instead of a spoken name? They’ve re-formed! Look for ’em in the club listings any week now, printed as “Aiieee!” or something similar.

ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES: During the Stranger‘s recent off week, some folks with access to DTP and too much time on their hands created a 12-pp. spoof, the Whimper. It’s OK and sorta funny, ‘cept for the “Miscue” column. I’ve been spoofed two or three times now, and nobody’s gotten it right. Keep trying.

1991 NOSTALGIA: I’d forgotten, as many of you likely forgot, that no Democrat gets nominated for President without the support of pundits and interest groups that demand a business-as-usual foreign policy. By starting Gulf War Lite, the Pentagon’s acting just like the Irish and Mideast vigilante armies that answer opponents’ isolated acts of mindless terror with their own. The week before the missile attack on Iraqi intelligence HQ, the new Wired had a short article claiming tomorrow’s warfare would be “infrastructure war”: precision raids against electronic and information targets. Maybe Wired really is the magazine o’ the future it claims to be.

LACTOSE INTOLERANCE: Tower Records Pulse! sez Danken’s licensed “Strawberries and Pearl Jam” ice cream won’t come back from its limited production engagement, partly ‘cuz some band members are anti-dairy vegans. One potential successor: “Nirvanilla.”

THE SAME OLD SAW: KIRO’s running a half-hour infomercial paid by the timber industry. Washington Private Forest Report, hosted by ex-KIRO anchorman Jim Harriott, is a self-congratulatory paean for timber management’s current environmental practices, with edited remarks by corporate, governmental, tribal and environmental “leaders” who all back the industry line about “a balanced solution” between ecological and commercial needs (i.e., letting the big companies cut all they can get away with). The show only discusses practices on company-owned lands, without directly mentioning the dispute over clearcutting old growth on Forest Service lands, though its “trust us” message is clearly meant to apply to public as well as private lands. Shows like this reduce issue politics to the level of campaign politics: the side with money gets to say anything in the media at any time; the side without money only gets a few words in real newscasts, edited by station employees and “balanced” with words from the moneyed side.

LOCAL PUBLICATIONS OF THE MONTH: Zealot claims to be Seattle’s first-ever motorcycle zine (there’ve been bicycle and scooter zines), by and for the local rider community (more intelligent, and more co-ed, than old biker stereotypes suggest). A glance at the staff box reveals the street integrity here: 14 people listing the bikes they personally ride, plus one business manager who admits to having a Toyota Corolla. Within the free tabloid are bike photos, hot bike comix, repair tips, race reviews, and Dana Payne’s essay on the differences between riders and non-riders: “They look at us and see lemmings, chattering happily down the road to destruction. We look back at them and see the eyes of rabbits, of guinea pigs. Soft. Dewy. Fearful.” And not a single precious Young Republican Harley in the whole paper….When Adam Woog wrote his book about local inventors, I said it was the kind of book I should have written. His and Harriet Baskas’s new Atomic Marbles & Branding Irons is a book I have tried to write (the backing never came through). It’s a guide to “museums, collections and roadside attractions in Washington and Oregon.” You get all about the General Petroleum Museum on Capitol Hill, Dick and Jane’s Art Spot in Ellensburg, the Walker Rock Garden in West Seattle, the Advertising Museum in Portland, and the “world’s largest hairball” at Oregon’s Mount Angel Abbey (but not Tiny’s Fruit Stand in Cashmere). Recommended.

MAD RAGS: You can now get the most realistic G-word-wear from one of the authentic sources used by the original musical creators. Yes, the Salvation Army store on 4th Ave. S. has opened an “Alternative Gear” boutique, complete with 15-percent discount flyers for “ripped flannel.” (G-word insiders prefer Value Village or Goodwill.) Meanwhile, USA Today (which boasts to advertisers that, “compared with the general population,” its readers are “23 percent more likely to dance/go dancing”) ran a pic of a truly stupid designer-G-word teen couple taken from the JC Penney Back To School ’93 collection. Maybe if the chain likes the Seattle urban look so much now, it’ll think about having a store in town again.

LOVE’S LABOURS: We now know that several weeks back, Kurt was arrested and went to jail for three hours on a domestic-violence rap, before being released without charges. Cops say they went to his place on a neighbor’s noise complaint. There,Courtney supposedly said they’d argued about his gun-buying binge and their busted $300 juicer; they supposedly shoved each other, he supposedly dragged her to the floor and choked her. (So much for juiceheads being laid-back.) She insisted to the P-I that it was all a big misunderstanding, that they’d argued but not physically fought, that he’s still a great guy and an ardent feminist. She echoed these remarks at the Hole gig at the Off Ramp: “This is a song about domestic violence, not! I don’t mean to joke about it, I know it’s a serious issue and shit…” The show itself was one of those gigs where the band valiantly keeps efficiently chopping away throughout the frontperson’s half-drunken stumblings (she gave up on guitar playing in the middle of a couple of songs). In short, a definitive sloppy old-fashioned punk show. Perfect.

THE FINE PRINT (disclaimer title on the public-access show H.A.R.D. TV (Hardbody Alternative Rock Digest)): “All bands on this show sound 500% better live. This audio is the worst (and we know it).”

WHERE AMERICA SHOPPED: It’s one thing for Sears to kill its catalog, but to remove the candy counter at its 1st Ave. flagship (its oldest surviving U.S. store) is unforgivable. That little stand between the first-floor escalators was the heart and soul of the place. They might as well stop selling DieHards.

PHILM PHACTS: Free Willy is a new mid-budget “family film” about a boy who helps a lonely killer whale escape a nasty, fictional “Great Northwest Water Park.” Execs from Sea World, the Anheuser-Busch-owned theme park chain with 18 performing killer whales (all named Shamu), have reportedly been to the San Juans, hobnobbing with area whale experts to help assemble their anti-Willy PR campaign. They’re telling you that captive orcas have great lives and are treated fine, that no Willys need ever be freed….I got to see a few scenes from Sleepless in Seattle some months back, and the finished film is every bit as stupid as those scenes cracked it up to be. Yo, Hollywood: We’re not all rich boomer airheads here.

NOTES: The Chamber of Commerce’s idea of Seattle music, Kenny G, will play the Coliseum in Sept. with Peabo Bryson. He’s the male half of most of those sappy love-song duets at the end of dumb blockbuster films (new catch phrase: “The movie ain’t over `til Peabo sings”). He oughta have a giant screen behind him showing closing credits through his entire set.

GRAFFITO OF THE MONTH (outside B. Dalton Books on 1st): “Read less. Live more.”

THE NOAM-MOBILE: Congrats to all of you for making Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media one of the biggest documentary hits in a long time, even though I don’t agree with much of it. Chomsky treats the mass media as one monolithic, unstoppable force exercising mind control over all America (except for himself and his East Coast intellectual pals). He can’t, or won’t, notice how tentative that hold really is. People who consume lots of media are very cynical about what they’re consuming. Compare the faux-ironic, “air quotes” speech patterns of MTV viewers with the blind-faith naiveté of tube-loathing neohippies. A typical TV viewer takes nothing by faith, treats everything with (excess?) skepticism. A typical nonviewer is ready to believe almost anything, as long as it’s told in the proper “alternative” lingo by recognizably “alternative” faces. The Robertson right, the Perot moderate-right, and the Chomsky left all hate the commercial mass media. Everybody’s a “rebel” these days, and the press is one of the few universally recognized symbols of what everybody’s rebelling against. Newspaper circulation is flat, and ad revenues have plummeted. (Ratings and ad revenues for TV news are also down.) Most people are already aware that their local newspaper is beholden to its town’s business and political bigshots. It doesn’t take listening to three hours of Chomsky to figure out that national and Eastern-regional media might be similarly beholden to the NY/DC bigwigs. The New York Times is, after all, the Cadillac of American newspapers: it’s bigger, and it’s got more luxury features, but it’s still built on the same Chevy drive train.

Just as leftist economists talk as if the world’s economy was still based on heavy industry, so do media critics like Chomsky still “analyze” an American media comprised only of three networks, two wire services, two weekly news mags, five opinion mags, and two or three big Eastern papers. Can Noam adapt to a media, and a nation, that are becoming more decentralized and diffuse (but perhaps no more “progressive”)? Stay tuned.

RE-PRESSED: At least Chomsky does sometimes get around to telling you his worldview, instead of just dissing other media worldviews. That’s the problem with most leftist “media analysis,” especially the syndicated “Media Beat” columnists in the Saturday Seattle Times. Those two guys give only a shadow of the “reality” they claim exists. They keep telling us that the papers aren’t telling the whole truth about some issue, but they expend little or no space telling us what their idea of the “true story” is. I wanna throttle those guys and dare ’em: “Yeah yeah, I know these other people aren’t telling me the whole story; so why won’t you tell it to me already?”

NOT MY GENERATION: The Weekly still treats rich baby boomers as the only people (besides political-corporate bigshots) it wants to talk about. Its preview of summer music festivals treated tame boomer nostalgia music as a refreshing novelty, not the reactionary albatross that’s helped keep original music off bigger stages for two decades. The same issue had Walt Crowley with one of those puff pieces about how great it was to be young 25 years ago (ostensibly a review of a book about old underground papers, like the one he used to edit). Like most such articles, it depicted a Sixties America populated only by middle-class college boys. Unlike most, he didn’t treat it as a gone-forever “age of miracles.” Instead, he wished young’uns would follow the path set by elders like himself, without saying how. It’d be unwise to do everything like it was done then. Hippies made a lot of mistakes: they appropriated Black Power slogans while doing little to integrate their own world; they abrogated 50 years of leftist heritage by stereotyping all working-class people as redneck fascists. We’ve gotta learn from that time, including its mistakes, to do better. Don’t live in the Sixties, be radical now.

MIA ZAPATA, 1965-1993: In the past three years I’ve said goodbye in print to six members of the local music/arts scenes, some I’d known personally and some only through their work. They all died needlessly and too soon. This may be the most senseless death of them all. Zapata, a poet, painter and singer-lyricist for the Gits, was found strangled in an alley near 25th and S. Washington, an hour and a half after she left a small get-together at the Comet, honoring the one-year anniversary of her friend Stefanie Sargent’s fatal overdose. Zapata died a week before she was to have recorded vocals for the Gits’ second CD. I knew her only as a presence on a stage, a dynamic presence delivering some powerful and fun tunes, a voice rooted in the early notion of punk rock as a statement of positive defiance, not just a lowbrow lifestyle.

Some 300 friends of Zapata and the band attended a wake at the Weathered Wall, which included the surviving Gits and friends playing her songs one last time (the band won’t continue without her) on a stage filled with candles and yellow roses. Some people ask me how Seattle bands can be so strident and negative, contradicting the official image of Seattle as heaven on earth. I tell those people to look around themselves: There’s a madness here, subtlely different from the madness in the nation at large. Due partly to our western boomtown heritage and surviving Greed Decade attitudes, far too many people here believe they have the right to do anything they want, to whomever they want. Seattle’s “nice” image is at best a cover-up, at worst an emotional repression. Beneath the enforced attitude of passivity sometimes called “the Northwest lifestyle,” you’ll find a barely-contained force of sheer terror. There’s no running away from it; you’ll still find that terror in the white-flight suburbs and the hippie-flight countryside. Don’t move out, stay and reclaim the public space. Do that and we can help fulfill the pledge shouted by the people at her wake, “Viva Zapata!” (A reward fund is being formed to help find her killer, in cooperation with King County Crime Stoppers. Any info that might lead to Zapata’s killer can be given anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 343-2020.)

‘TIL WE MAKE A PLEDGE to meet in September, be sure to see the digitized Snow White, be courteous to foreign Seattle Sound tourists, and ponder this thought from Night of the Living Dead master George A. Romero: “People are operating on many levels of insanity only clear to themselves.”

PASSAGE Chris Stigliano in the Sharon, PA zine Black to Comm: America’s Only Rockism Magazine:

“Don’t you miss the days you could turn on your fave UHF station and watch any of the Nick at Nite programs without the computer animation and with those great car salesman ads? Me too….You can pay upwards of $30 a month to see ’em presented in a yuppie/disco manner that ultimately insults them (and you), but ain’t television supposed to be free and not controlled by spoiled brat cokeheads with little understanding of what we (as noncorruptable, wild rock & roll reactionaries) are?”

REPORT

Almost finished with the first draft of my book chronicling the Seattle music scene since 1976. All you who’ve been holding back on offering your stories and reminiscences: Drop me a line already. All you who have offered, but haven’t heard back from me yet: Be patient a week or two longer.

I’m thinking of offering official Misc. T-shirts, stickers and the like. Any favorite slogans you’d like?

WORD-O-MONTH

“Orphic”

5/93 MISC NEWSLETTER
May 1st, 1993 by Clark Humphrey

5/93 Misc. Newsletter

(incorporating four Stranger columns)

THE STATE PASSES A HEALTH CARE PLAN;

THE MARINERS CAN HARDLY WAIT…

Misc. (one of the few local entertainment thangs John Corbett hasn’t tried to muscle in on yet) is moderately disturbed that no review of the Empty Space‘s new Illuminati play even mentioned the Space’s old Illuminatus! play, a 1980 three-part circus of by-the-numbers blasphemy and political conspiracy theories based on the Robert Anton Wilson/Robert Shea comic novels; it was one of the theatre’s biggest hits at the time.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MARK WORTH, Wash. Free Press: I’ve been trying to sell out for years; it’s just that nobody’s been buying.

IT’S BEEN A WACKY couple-O-weeks here in Misc. Country USA. The Weekly “discovered” a “New Art Scene” centered around the Galleria Potatohead folks, a year after that space closed. The Cyclops Cafe storefront got stuck into an AT&T ad inviting Americans to call up their ol’ Seattle grunge pals. Had a mixed time at the Crocodile’s Stumpy Joe goodbye party: great sloppy bands, but unwisely cranked up to inner-ear-pain level; at that distortion point, even the Young Fresh Fellows sounded like a fast Tad. I found an old Artforum review of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” video, where the guys prance around and act silly in dresses like Bugs Bunny; the reviewer somehow called it a profound anti-homophobic statement. And, while cable-cruising one midnight, I heard a bad instrumental of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” accompanying a Male Best Body Contest.

NUMBERS RACKET DEPT.: Sorry, I can’t believe there are only approx. 1 million adult gay men in the USA, as implied in that national sex survey by our Laurelhurst friends at the Battelle Memorial Research Institute. The national gay mags claim more than that many readers (including paid circulation and the industry-standard estimates of “pass-along” copies). I’ve met guys who claim to have had more than that many guys. If there are that few gay guys, then who’s buying all the non-Nutcracker ballet tix and Judy Garland laser disks?

SUMMITTED FOR YOUR APPROVAL: We’re amused that Clinton and Yeltsin‘s prearranged walking path led to Vancouver’sWreck Beach, known in warmer months as the Northwest’s largest nude beach. Hope it inspired ’em toward shedding outmoded political put-ons and attaining fuller disclosure.

TUNED OUT: The Supreme Court’s using 2 Live Crew‘s Roy Orbison takeoff “Big Hairy Woman” to decide if copyright holders can ban song parodies. It won’t affect MAD (which prints only its original lyrics “to the tune of” extant songs) or Al Yancovic (who always gets OKs from the original artists). It would inhibit satirists from commenting on copyrighted or trademarked material. Imagine the Squirrels pleading for permission to trash Frampton songs!

THE MAILBAG: Stacey Levine writes, “A friend whose judgment I trust thinks Clinton is a true radical, more than he let on during the campaign. The Nation says he’s middle; another friend professes that Clinton is not at all interested in real change, backed as he was by the major oil corps.” Good question. He made his name with national party brass as part of the Democratic Leadership Council, formed in the Reagan years to defend the party’s institutions (if not its ideals). Some members wrote books suggesting that Reaganism was irreversible, that the Dems could survive as an organization only by embracing GOP policies. Clinton wasn’t quite like that; he’s more in the tradition of Washington’s late Sen. Warren Magnuson, a master deal-cutter who believed in social progress thru government paternalism and economic progress thru industrial policy. Clinton’s a well-meaning compromiser who’ll only go as far as he thinks he can go. He won’t lead us out of our assorted messes; but, unlike the previous couple of guys, we might be able to lead him.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: The Etiquette of the Underclass exhibit at 2nd & Pike was the sort of “social concern” experience my old Methodist youth group would’ve gone to. You walked past real street people (studiously kept outside) to enter a cleaned-up simulation of street life. You wandered thru a maze of tight corridors, small rooms, and plywood cutouts of muggers, drug dealers, johns, cops and bureaucrats; all to a Walkman soundtrack of interviews with street people (by a Calif. art troupe), tightly edited to shock suburban innocents with near-romanticized images of urban squalor. It worked as a thrill ride, but didn’t communicate how tedious and numbing that life can be.

BIRD GOTTA FRY: The Legislature’s reclassified flightless birds (ostriches, emus, rheas) as poultry, so they can be raised for food. The AP quotes breeders as saying they “taste just like beef.” It’s appropriate that Washington starts an industry in birds that run along the ground, since one of the state’s top poultry firms is named Acme.

ON THE WALLS: Art cafés are the apparent Next Big Thing in town. By serving espresso and pastries to gawkers, Offbeat Cafe (in the old Art/Not Terminal on Westlake) hopes for a steadier income than art sales alone could give, showing artists who can’t yet carry a whole gallery themselves. Offbeat also has some live-music and DJ parties. CyberCity, a similar place in the old Arthur Murray studio and Perot campaign office on Terry, closed almost before it opened. Most ambitious of the lot: Entros, in the old Van de Kamp’s bakery near South Lake Union, a huge space with several interactive and hi-tech exhibits — and a $15 first-time cover charge. The northern Californians (natch) running the place seem to think alternative-art lovers in this town have money (hah!).

ON THE AIR: KTZZ was put into involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy by three big syndicators. It’s over debts by the station’s ex-owners, who bought some high-profile reruns and sold few ads. The current (since ’90) owners say they’re on schedule for paying back the old debts. This debt service is why the station’s even cheaper now than it was before: less off-air promotion, more televangelists and infomercials. It gets those “Prime Time Talk” shows for free (the distributor keeps some of the ad slots)….KOMO wants to buy KVI, under new FCC regulations allowing it to have two AMs in the same town again. In the Golden Age of Radio, KOMO was sister stations with KJR, broadcasting from the Terminal Sales Bldg. (now home of the Weekly and Sub Pop) and affiliated with NBC’s Red and Blue networks respectively. From the ’50s to the ’70s, the tightly-formatted KOMO and the personality-driven KVI were arch rivals for the adult-pop audience. The Ike Republicans who run KOMO will likely interfere with KVI’s current talk format (despite current contrary assurances). They might be too patrician to keep the Agnewish rants of Rush Limbaugh, KVI’s top-rated show. And they’ll surely drop KVI’s use of news from KING-TV (now corporately divorced from KING radio).

PLAYING WITH YOUR FOOD: Tucci Benucch, a new restaurant in Westlake Center, is the first local outpost of Lettuce Entertain You, Ron Melman’s Chicago outfit that revolutionized food service as entertainment. Its eateries have distinctive poppy decor and decent food at almost-decent prices. Its Chi-town flagship, Ed Debevick’s, launched the fake-diner fad. It uses young actors and comics as “character” waiters and buspeople, haranguing and cutting up the willing clientele. The acts are even more intense at the LA Ed’s, where every server’s a would-be star and every customer’s a possible casting agent. Melman also has Chicago spots bearing the licensed names of local celebs (Oprah, Cubs announcer Harry Carey), and sponsored that contest where a guy won $1 million for shooting a basket from opposite court during a Bulls game. Alas, none of that action’s slated for Westlake. All we’re getting is “rustic Italian food in a country atmosphere.”

WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH LA: LA Riots II: The Sequel failed to make its scheduled premiere, gravely inconveniencing the original producers (police) and distributors (news media). Back when Repo Man came out, one of my gothic-punk acquaintances described for me what was so different about it. His first sentence: “It was made in LA.” He meant that this film used the parts of LA that other LA films didn’t (and mostly still don’t). A few weeks ago, I found myself in the company of a semi-retired Hollywood bigshot. He talked about how he’s looking to move here, how “everybody (in the business) wants to get out of LA.” The LA people scattering across the western states are just re-creating the La La Land mentality in an exile made possible by faxes and FedEx. The airheads are leaving Hollywood so they can keep their worthless Hollywood culture alive, so they can stay unbothered by the issues of people other than themselves. They symbolize America’s withdrawal from social community into private hedonism. Beverly Hills is the reason South Central exists. The “Northwest Lifestyle” described in newspaper “Living” sections is usually defined according to misplaced LA priorities, as a narcissistic life of private pleasures. The yuppie dream of “Moving to the Country” (without depending on a rural economy) is just an upscale version of the suburban dream/nightmare. It reflects the abandonment of neighborhoods, cities, social services, education, health, infrastructure, etc.; all as guided by a politics that purported to celebrate the Rugged Individual but really just gave more power to the already-powerful. Reagan was the Spielberg president — and not just because both shared a nostalgia for a nonexistent past. Just as Spielberg turned the genres of sleazy fringe movies into the foundation of the modern film biz, so Reagan turned the hatemongering and quick-buck tactics of the west’s right-fringe political circles into the foundation of national government policy. Both camps trafficked in contrived sentimentality, not in real social intimacy. It’s way past time for this to end. Don’t move to the country. Stop running from your problems, America! Stay in town! Fight to make it better!

STAGES: The biggest thing to me about Ramona Quimby, now at the Moore Theatre (one of umpteen spaces Seattle Children’s Theatre’s using ’til its new building gets done) is that Beverly Cleary wrote and set the original stories in Portland. As a kid, I found that amazing. Cleary was the only author given me who wrote about a place I had been. Everyone else either wrote about a mythical Mayfield USA, the streets of NYC, or war orphans in Korea. From Cleary, I learned the importance of thinking globally/writing locally.

DEAD AIR: Manager Chris Knab still insists that his new KCMU-Lite will eventually be popular ‘cuz it’s more “professional” than Classic KCMU, even without most of the station’s experienced DJs. One volunteer who stayed, Marty Michaels, got rewarded for his loyalty by getting to host weekend public-affairs shows. In early April, after a taped segment on Jewish Holocaust survivors, Michaels told listeners they’d heard “one personal opinions about the alleged Holocaust.” He told irate callers (off the air) there was no proof that millions of Jews ever died in Nazi camps. Knab persuaded Michaels to resign; it would’ve been hypocritical to fire people for mentioning CURSE and keep Michaels. Also, anti-Semitism is one of the few offenses the UW Regents (who’ll ultimately decide KCMU’s fate) don’t easily forgive.

SKIN DEEP: Playboy had model recruiters at the UW recently. The Daily ran a series of columns and letters reiterating all the 25-year-old complaints about the mag. Most anti-Playboy arguments are as trite as the pictures themselves. Here’s some fresher criticism: There’s nothing intrinsically bad about the het-male sex drive, or about entertainments that exploit it. But the best erotic art is about passion, about the mysteries and compulsions that drive disparate humans together. Most Playboy pix, especially the centerfolds, are bland works of commercial ad-art. The models portray soulless, unlustful characters, overly “dressed” in hyperrealistic lighting and Charlie’s Angels hair, their flesh digitally retouched to look unlike any real-world biological entity. The models aren’t “degraded” in the sense most critics invoke; they’re “honored” with the same perverse reverence given to The Brand in magazine ads. These “Playmates” are made to look incapable of having any real fun. I want better.

THE OUTLAW LOOK: The Oregon Dept. of Corrections (sez Media Inc.) is doing brisk biz in felon-made jeans, Prison Blues. They’ve got no known Seattle outlet; Nordstrom had ’em for a while but stopped.

JUNK FOOD OF THE MONTH: Nabisco SnackWells Devil’s Food Snack Cakes are the hit of the year, regularly selling out to diet-conscious snackers. They don’t have fewer calories than regular cookies, but they are fat-free, and in many current fad diets that’s what counts. The chocolate-covered cakes are big and chocolatey, if dry (halfway between a microwave brownie and a shrunk Ho-Ho).

`SELF’ INTEREST: I’ve heard from people who want more “personality” in the column. Some even suggested that I oughta try to be more like Hunter Thompson and make myself my own #1 topic. I never figured you cared who I was. So far it’s been a self-fulfilling assumption; when I tell people at parties or in bars that I do stuff for The Stranger, they only want to know one thing: “What’s Dan Savage really like?” I don’t do narcissism in print because I hate it when others do it. I review new novels in one of my other freelance gigs; I can usually tell when a story’s autobiographical because the dullest character gets the biggest part. I’ve seen too many young journalist-wannabes fancy themselves the next Hunter Thompson and turn every story into a rehash of their personal experiences — even if they have no such experiences worth reading about, even if they’re 25 and still living with their parents. Ya wanna know how long it’s been since I got laid? Didn’t think so. Gonzo journalism belongs to the unstructured narcissism of the late hippie era. I harken back not to “gonzo” but to the precision writing of pre-’50 newspapers, back when papers were more populist (and popular), when a columnist was someone with something specific to say and who seemed anxious to say it.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? DEPT.: Gladhanding comic Ross Shafer, who started Almost Live on KING-TV in ’84 as a straight talk show with current host John Keister as a sidekick, then left in ’88 to be the final host of the Fox Late Show, has joined the nadir of has-beens, never-weres, and Cher: an infomercial for a VCR remote. (Ah, modern commercials, that take 30 minutes to describe a car wax and 30 seconds to describe a car.)

‘TIL NEXT TIME, see Marsha Burns‘s exquisite photos of alternately-beautiful people at the Bellevue Art Museum thru 5/16, and heed the words of surrealist Francis Picabia: “Beliefs are ideas going bald.”

MISSION CONTROL: Everybody’s got a mission statement these days — construction projects, gas stations, even porno mags. My mission: To challenge your mind. To awaken your imagination. And to stop talking right now.

PASSAGE

James Darren in a pseudo-profound moment in Venus in Furs (1970): “When you don’t know where you’re at, man I tell you time is like the ocean. You can’t hold onto it.”

REPORT

Still working on the big history of the Seattle scene. Thanx to those who’ve contacted me thus far. The rest of you, if you’ve got stories or mementos, write to me.

WORD-O-MONTH

“Matutinal”

4/93 MISC NEWSLETTER
Apr 1st, 1993 by Clark Humphrey

4/93 Misc. Newsletter

(incorporating four Stranger columns)

GREAT! GATES GETS HITCHED

JUST AFTER I TOSS MY OLD LIST

OF COMPUTER-NERD SEX PUNS…

Misc. hopes you’ve all got your copy of the white-on-black T-shirt featuring a hypodermic needle superimposed on the Space Needle beside the slogan, ” I went to Seattle to make a score and all I got was this lousy recording contract.”

UPDATE: I recently said we should preserve Seattle as a working city and resist the huge “Seattle Commons” yuppification project. Advocates of the Cascade neighborhood, a neglected pocket of affordable housing threatened by the Commons plan, have now formed the Cascade Residents Action Group to fight the wrong kind of redevelopment (info: 624-9049 or 523-2569).

BEEHIVE VIDEO, R.I.P.: It began 15 years ago on N.E. 45th as a far-flung outlet for the Peaches record chain, housed in an ex-Ford dealership. When that chain went Chapter 11 in ’81, the local manager bought it and added a Ballard outlet. It was the last large locally-owned record store in town, and the last to stock new vinyl. The first sign of trouble came in ’87, when the Wherehouse chain opened across the street, followed by Blockbuster down near U Village. In ’90, the store stopped paying for the Peaches name and held a contest for a new name (which meant no more word-balloon signs with the “Peachy” mascot pointing to the “Gay and Bisexual Videos” shelf). In ’92, they sold the Ballard store and made the 45th outlet all-video. It bravely (foolishly?) failed to stock umpteen multiple copies of blockbuster action hits, instead keeping a large stable stock of cool obscurities. The strategy cut costs and attracted a loyal clientele, but it still wasn’t enough. On 3/22, I rented my regular Monday 2-for-1 titles and saw nothing strange, except that the sale shelf of close-out tapes was a bit fuller. The next afternoon, I went in and was abruptly told I couldn’t rent anything else: “I’m sorry, we just went out of business. We’re only taking returns.” Its loss leaves a lot of frequent-renter cards that’ll never get filled up, and leaves the central U District without a decent foreign-film store.

OUT TO DRY: The Squire Shops are in Chapter 11; many of the remaining 23 outlets are closing. Just as the ugly clothes that made ’em famous are coming back! Squire sold clothes that young mall-crawlers thought were hip. In its heyday, that meant jeans with cuffs nearly as wide as the waist. Seattle wore bellbottoms years after the rest of the country stopped. Several companies formed here to keep Seattle in clothes the national companies no longer made. That scene led to the local firms that gave the world loud sweatshirts with goofy slogans and Hypercolors; some of those firms are now on the wrong side of that fad and face money trouble themselves. (“Designer grunge” has virtually nothing to do with the local fashion biz.)

LOCAL PUBLICATIONS OF THE MONTH: The Washington Free Press promises to be the hard-hitting investigative newspaper Seattle’s never really had, with the possible exception of the pre-JOA P-I. Several tabloids over the years promised this, but soon turned into lifestyle rags that just used `politics’ to define their subcultures (Community Catalyst is just as guilty of this, in its way, as the Weekly). Free Press isn’t like that. It doesn’t tell you what clothes you have to wear or what food you have to eat. It just reports the under-reported big stuff. In the April ish, that’s a huge piece about Boeing’s spotty environmental record and vigorous influence-peddling. The rest of the free monthly tab’s weaker (talk radio-style rants against Jack in the Box) but shows promise….Beyond the Cultural Dustbin is Hans and Thelma Lehmann’s personal history of highbrow art, music and dance in Seattle since 1938, when UK conductor Sir Thomas Beecham (scion of the drug empire that now owns Contac) came to lead the Seattle Symphony. He left a year later, calling Seattle “a cultural dustbin.” The book argues that we’ve come a long way since then, from the Northwest School painters of the ’50s and John Cage‘s residency at Cornish to today’s proliferation of dance and theatrical troupes. The book implies but doesn’t directly ask: We’ve got culture now, but is it art?

JESUS JONES WITHOUT THE JONES: Counter Culture is the first Christian alternative-music zine I’ve seen in Seattle since the Jesus Freak scene of the ’70s. Its cover interviewee, Tonio K., was a minor ’79 LA singer-songwriter (best-known LP: Life in the Food Chain) who’s now born-again and wants a crossover hit just like Amy Grant. The writers insist at several parts that you can still like Jesus even if you don’t like the Religious Right. It displays calls to prayer in standard cut-up punkzine design. It covers Christian grunge bands that mix “`70s funk with the anxious mind of `80s punk rock with the heart of God.” But then, punk and its descendants, even in their nihilism, held a righteous notion of good and evil, a conviction that the world should be better than it is. Bands like U2 and 10,000 Maniacs already use songs as sermons. Take out sex and drugs, add New Testament imagery, and you too could exhort the faithful at the Vineyard coffeehouse in the U District.

TO WOMB IT MAY CONCERN: First Moments is a local firm offering “videos of your child’s first moments” — ultrasound images of the fetus, to be treasured as a family heirloom; there’s blank tape at the end so you can add birth and infancy footage. Forgetting the unspoken anti-abortion implication, it makes you wonder: if you’re sick of friends’ cloying baby pix now, just wait!

OPEN MEMO TO CURSE: You’ve successfully exposed the hypocritical machinations behind KCMU-Lite and its instigators. But to restore the station as a community resource, you’ve gotta deal with the UW Board of Regents, who control the license. The current managers were turning the station into nothing but a self-serving fundraising machine, something the Regents can identify with. After fundraising, their no. 2 priority is saving face; with all the other campus scandals, they might seek the safest way out of the KCMU dilemma. Unfortunately, there are “safer” ways than restoring Classic KCMU. They could turn it into an automated classical outlet, or return it to the Communications School. You’ve gotta assert that any format change would violate the promises made in membership drives. Then, offer an olive branch. Ask your comrades, the fired DJs with the class-action suit, to back off if the Regents will let you help set up a new structure for the station, not like it’s now but not quite like before either. Tell them you don’t want to restore all of the station’s rough-hewn past. You want to build on its heritage, to more strongly serve students, alternative-music communities, and others now unserved by local radio. Even after that, you’ll have to deal with KUOW management down the hall, people who’ve asserted excessive control over KCMU and who honestly don’t get what’s wrong with institutionalized “public” radio. People who only seek the most upscale listeners. People who mistake blandness for a virtue. The announcers on NPR stations all sound like HAL 9000, for chrissakes! They oughta sound more like the booming, colorful voice who used to announce the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. They oughta reflect the glorious pomposity of orchestral and opera music, the twee affectations of chamber music, the life-affirming spirit of real jazz, instead of a yup variation on BBC English. Public radio should be by and for the public, not just by the bureaucracy for the upscale.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? DEPT.: Ex-KCMUers Debbie Letterman and Kathy Fennessy are now spinning CDs as live “queue jockeys” for callers on hold for Microsoft’s product-support lines. While it’s a novel job that pays OK, Letterman told the Puget Sound Business Journal that she’s still tied into as restrictive a format as she faced at KCMU-Lite before she quit. “The key word is mellow:” Enya si, Ministry no.

THE URBAN TOURIST: Columbia Center sounds as strange as it looks. The climate-control hum and rushing air from elevator shafts give the 5th Ave. entrance cool noises (they’d be great for a sci-fi movie). Even weirder is the Seafirst Corridor, a passageway under 5th and Columbia from Columbia Center (where the bank execs work) to Seafirst 5th Ave. Plaza (where the back-office staff works). It’s the most surreal walkway since the United terminal at O’Hare. On the walls, plastic-covered pastel lights flash in a slow sequence of colors, while New Age music and ocean sounds enhance the creamy dreamscape. At the end, two elevators take you one flight up to the harsh utilitarian corridors of the 5th Ave. Plaza, where a security guard waits to let you back into a numbing temp job.

DODGE-ING THE ISSUE: If you think Portland ad agency Wieden & Kennedy‘s Subaru spots are already odd, wait ’til you see the one with a dude in black jeans saying that the Impreza’s “like punk rock, only it’s a car”.

OUR FAR-FLUNG CORRESPONDENTS (via Michelle McCarthy and David Humphries): “London news has reported the NY bomb news prominently, but I think Londoners were squinting a little at the panicky New Yorkers having had their first initiation to bomb-based evacuation. Since we’ve lived here, areas as populous as Wall Street are evacuated for bomb threats close to weekly, and one actually goes off about once a month. It’s hard to imagine the US tolerating the constant shutdown and occasional destruction of its biggest cities and business districts.”

CHRISTIAN GORE AT 911: Three years ago, Gore was the uppity editor of a Detroit ‘zine about perverse film and video. Now, he’s the uppity editor of a slicked-up, mass-market Film Threat, based in Beverly Hills (at that ZIP Code) and financed by Hustler‘s Larry Flynt. Gore puts big stars on the cover (for sales) and trashes those stars inside (for credibility). He covers “B” Hollywood horror and sci-fi, and still promotes a few undergrounds. Gore promised two different nights of video treats, but the Friday and Saturday shows shared half the same material: drive-in movie trailers, Sid & Marty Krofft theme songs, banned Ren & Stimpy episodes (Gore’s cronies with the original R&S team), psychedelic computer animation. At both shows, Gore passed around cans of cheap beer and asked the audience to sit back, yell if they thought something was boring, and act like they were in his living room. I took advantage of this after he showed a student film about an “artist” who has naked women with blue paint on their bodies press up against butcher paper: “Everybody knows that’s based on a real artist, right?” Gore, incredulous: “It is?” Me: “Of course. Yves Klein! He was in the first Mondo Cane movie.” “I didn’t know that.” A guy who doesn’t know the daddy of schlockumentaries shouldn’t call himself a weird-film authority.

IT’S SQUARE TO BE HIP: I don’t just want you to question the assumptions of mainstream culture. I want you to question the assumptions of your culture, like the assumption that it’s sacred to be “hip” and profane to be “square.” The hip-vs.-square concept is the alternative culture’s unexamined legacy from the beats’ misinterpretation of jazz lingo. In the NY jazz scene, “hepcats” (derived, sez Zola Mumford, from the Senegalese word hipicat, “one who is very aware of their surroundings”) were those who played and/or listened to advanced black music (instead of the watered down Paul Whiteman versions) and who’d mastered the complex codes of social gamesmanship in Manhattan. It was a concept for a specific time/place that no longer exists. Square people these days are a lot hipper than a lot of self-proclaimed hipsters. Squares enjoy drag queens on Geraldo and buy male pinup posters. Squares buy Soundgarden CDs and watch The Simpsons. Squares grow and haul the food we eat. Squares make our cars. Squares support education and world-relief drives. As Wes “Scoop” Nisker writes in Crazy Wisdom, “the illusion that we are separate and special is the root of our suffering.” There is no superior race (not even yours). There is no superior gender or gender-role (not even yours). There is no superior culture (not even yours). The real enemies are people who think they’re hip but aren’t: The Religious Right (not a mass movement but a tightly organized minority that gets out its vote in low-turnout elections); the civic fathers/mothers who want to outlaw youth culture. (More on this below.)

IN BLOOM: When I told people I wanted to write a book about the local music scene, most said “you’d better get it out right away. Nobody will care about Seattle next month.” I don’t know if the “Seattle sound” is really the flash in the pan that so many local wags think (hoping they can go back to their familiar nihilism?). People here are so used to obscurity, when the spotlight shines they squint and wait for it to stop. But like I’ve written before, this could just be the flash that lights a lasting fire. Jonathan & Bruce shrewdly took a subgenre that’s been developing for 10 years, put a slogan on it, made it the Next Big Thing and made us its capital. But the sound they built isn’t one of those short-half-life sounds like power pop. It’s an identifiable sound, imitable yet sufficiently diverse to allow infinite variations. The dozens of “generic grunge” bands now playing opening sets at the Off Ramp could form the tourist bedrock of a permanent scene, like the “generic country” bands in small Nashville bars, bringing in the bucks and attention to support more advanced work. If we play our cards right, Seattle could become the Nashville of rock.

BUT NOT IF the forces of repression have their way, as led by our city’s “progressive” political machine. Most mayors like to kiss up to their town’s fastest growing industry, but not ours. From feminist/prohibitionists to the tepid No Nukes concert film, some of the most adamant political liberals were cultural conservatives. Norm Rice wrote the Teen Dance Ordinance as a City Councilmember; as mayor, he’s apparently behind the actions to shut down all-ages concerts and raves and the effort to seize part ownership of RKCNDY. Rice comes from the disciplinarian side of the black middle class, where adults want young people to strive hard at all times and avoid idle temptations like pop music. Rice doesn’t get that the rock scene is a hard-working, industrious bunch of people empowering themselves. He calls himself a “supporter of the arts” while clamping down against Seattle’s first indigenous artform since the ’50s Northwest School painters. He promotes Seattle as a “KidsPlace” while trying to shut young people up.

‘TIL NEXT TIME, be sure to check out the Etiquette of the Underclass exhibit at the ex-Penney’s site on 2nd & Pike (where the real homeless are studiously kept outside), and heed the words of surrealist Francis Picabia: “Beliefs are ideas going bald.”

PASSAGE

Christine Kelly in Sassy:

“While watching the inaugural balls, I realized that Hillary Clinton is the Courtney Love of politics. If the people want Kurt (Bill), they gotta take Courtney (Hillary) too. People will accuse Courtney (Hillary) of trying to break up the band with her constant meddling and poisoning influence, even though Courtney (Hillary) has her own band (office). Hillary (Courtney) said provocative things to the press about baking cookies (taking heroin). Courtney (Hillary) was on MTV with her husband. Both chicks have a cute, sassy daughter. There is one major difference: Courtney has too much taste to mix jewel tones like amethyst and royal blue while watching her husband accept an MTV award (get inaugurated).”

REPORT

Like I said somewhere here, I’m starting to write the major history of the Seattle music scene from ’76 to today. I’ll need to talk to everybody who was a major part of it (players, promoters, ‘zine editors, designers, producers, club people). Write for details. If any of you know the addresses of ex-locals who’ve left town, also write.

WORD-O-MONTH

“Pecuniary”

5/92 MISC NEWSLETTER
May 1st, 1992 by Clark Humphrey

5/92 Misc. Newsletter

(incorporating four Stranger columns)

SAM KINISON & BENNY HILL

ARE NOW PLAYING AN ETERNAL POKER GAME

IN HEAVEN’S CHEAPEST BACHELOR PAD

At Misc., we’re prouder than heck that Rolling Stone declared Seattle the “New Liverpool”. This must mean we’re a decaying western seaport, far from its country’s power centers, inhabited by roughhousing gay sailors with an incomprehensible accent. Or, to quote UK statesman Benjamin Disraeli, “I am deeply sorry for the unkind things I said about Liverpool. I had not seen Leeds at the time.” Meanwhile, I was in Fremont’s spectacular Glamorama when KCMU played Weird Al Yankovic‘s Smells Like Nirvana. A customer spoke up: “These don’t sound like the original lyrics.”

Cathode Corner: The Almost Live syndication plan is apparently dead, according to Variety. Worldvision (the backer of Twin Peaks, who had enough foreign sales to pay half the costs of keeping that show alive but didn’t have the credit to borrow the rest) failed to sell AL to enough stations. Instead, a rerun package will air on Comedy Central, a cable channel seen here only half the day, only on Viacom systems. Worldvision’s now trying to sell new AL shows to ABC… I get Summit Cable, which has a few channels TCI and Viacom don’t. Weekend mornings offer shows from Italy’s RAI network, including a four-hour Star Search-like talent show that included 20 Astaire-Rogers tribute dancers (just like Fellini’s Ginger and Fred!), many torch singers in black dresses, and a surprise guest spot by Hammer and his full dance squad, grinding out to a recorded music track in front of a silent 40-piece orchestra. Afterwards, they were promptly shooed offstage by the bald, tux-clad host with a quick “Ciao, Hammer, Ciao”…

Events I Heard About Too Late: “Nude Trek: The World’s First Nudist Star Trek Convention” was held in January at the Sultan naturist camp. Events included video screenings, games, skits, role playing, a hot tub and sauna. Perhaps fortunately, James “Scotty” Doohan was not scheduled to appear.

A Three-Hour Hobby: One David Goehner of PO Box 66, Dryden, WA 98821 is offering “the first collectible figures ever” from Gilligan’s Island. You can get a 9″ vinyl figure of Gilligan or the Skipper on an “island stand” for $15 or both for $26, or 4″ figures of the two characters for a total of $8. No coconut-shell telephones or pieces of the true S.S. Minnow.

Surreal Estate: For Rent magazine has a front-page ad inviting people to come live at Walden Pond, “A home that the heart never leaves…Sense the peace of living by the pond…In this fast-paced world of hustle and bustle, it’s nice to know that there is someplace where you can enjoy the peace and comfort of easy living.” It turns out to be a south Everett condo on a man-made lake. The “luxurious 1, 2, & 3 bedroom homes” offer designer fireplaces, covered parking, free aerobics classes, an exercise room, tanning salon, pool, sauna, video lounge, and gym. “And it’s only minutes from work, school, Boeing, Everett Mall, and all major conveniences.” By the way, if you still believe you must move to a country town, look for the three most prominent main-street storefronts. If they’re all real estate offices, drive back. The place is already lost to future suburban sprawl.

Those Phunny Phoreigners (Reuters, 2/19): “French master chef Paul Bocuse is suing McDonald’s for $5 million to $7 million over an advertisement in the fast food firm’s Dutch outlets showing his assistant dreaming of Big Mac hamburgers while working in his kitchen. The advertising agency says it did not realize Bocuse and his assistant were among the chefs in the photo, although Bocuse’s name was on their aprons”….Meanwhile, EuroDisney attracts scoffers from the French culture gods. Right-wing pampleteer Jean Cau calls it “a cultural Chernobyl.” Ex-Socialist government spokesperson Max Gallo: “Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are to culture what fast food is to gastronomy.”

Something Fishy: No concept is too lame to be imitated, not even Ted Turner’s “environmental superhero” Captain Planet. Gorton’s Fish Sticks has inagurated its own cartoon commercial hero, Captain Gorton, who thwarts small-time polluters and keeps the seas safe for seafood. Maybe he could teach a lesson to founding-family heir Slade Gorton, well-known enemy of environmental legislation.

Local Boy Makes Waves: Ex-KIRO news director John Lippman was severely dissed in the LA Times after he “tabloidized” the news at his new home, KCBS-TV. The station’s run a sex-slaves “exposé” and a promo spot using the song “Riders on the Storm” with explicit footage of a drowning boy.

Local Publication of the Month: Northwest Photo Network is a bimonthly tabloid for pro photographers. It’s got an ad warning photographers not to sell their copyrights to clip-art services, a photographer writing about how hard it can be to find the right model for a shoot (while would-be models still get defrauded into costly, worthless “trainings”). And an anonymous article cries that the Seattle Commons proposal, which would clear dozens of blocks northeast of downtown for a huge park, would eradicate over a dozen photo studios and suppliers. Objects of beauty (or at least of commercial appeal) are made in buildings the Commons activists call eyesores… Memo to Art Rag and Community Catylist: Weekly World News spoofs are so lame.

Junk Foods of the Month: Smoked salmon cream cheese spread is fast becoming the toast/bagel topping of choice among newcomers desperate to fit in with the “traditional Northwest lifestyle.” Don’t tell them the stuff was just recently invented. It’s at Still Life in Fremont, Cafe Counter Intelligence in the Market, and elsewhere… People presume me to be a cynic or a kidder but I’m not. When I shop for a soft drink I look for Minute Maid Orange Soda because I enjoy the bizarre combination of syllables of that mystery ingredient, “glycerol ester of wood rosin.” I enjoy the slippery thickness it gives to the beverage, making a glass of flavored water feel like something juicier.

Magazine Ad of the Month: “Does he sleep with you? Does he get jealous? Does he wake you up in the morning? Does he nibble at your ear?… Amoré. Isn’t he worth it? (The product is a cat food.)

Sam Walton, 1918-1992: The king of discount wasn’t known here. Even in the states Wal-Mart’s in, it’s not big in the metro areas where media people live. Thus the press was shocked in the ’80s to see it become the #1 retailer. Its stores were so big, in towns so small, that they destroyed thousands of Main Street merchants across the southern-tier states. Walton aided the ’80s consolidation of wealth from the many to the few, and naturally became a favorite Reagan-Bush insider. But just as shoppers are re-learning the value of selection and service, so are they getting upset at our Wal-Mart government (with its Neiman-Marcus military). Postmodern America is the discount society: a land of slipshod engineering, lousy quality, few real choices, and service that’s not “efficient” as much as nonexistent. The tax-cutters are wrong to think that discount taxes will ever bring prosperity. We’ve already got the lowest overall tax rates in the industrial world; it shows in our inadequate civilian services (education, health, arts, infrastructure). Countries that still respect the value of public investment are whipping us in the world marketplace (or are at least doing less poorly).

Icono-Graphics: CNN’s Showbiz Today lists the weekly Neilsen ratings against a graphic of TV antennas rising from urban rowhouses. A cable channel offering nostalgia for the pre-cable days…

Found Object: An Enumclaw used-book store turned up Daughters of Genius, an 1890s-era biography of famous women of its day (the Brontes, George Sand, Flo. Nightengale, Harriet Beecher Stowe). The intro said it was natural that, as long as the human race was predicated on war and conquest, masculine values would prevail; but that with a more civilized society dawning, women were making themselves known “in most of the professions and all of the arts.” The book erred in timing: war and its values remained, yet the emergence of prominent women progressed incrementally anyway.

Fashion Update: Hypercolor sweatshirts, declared “Outski” here in January, fell even faster than I thought; so much so that Generrais laying off a quarter of its staff. Sorry guys: I never meant to have that much influence.

How Long Was It?: I remember being 12, sneaking into the living room after bedtime (I was already an insomniac!), turning on the Zenith at the lowest volume to catch Johnny Carson from New York: always fresh and energetic, having a blast with his well-groomed guests. By the time I got the occasional OK to stay up late, Carson moved to LA and became a soft, predictable doppleganger of his former self. Friends ask why I don’t move to California; that’s one reason. I don’t want what happened to him (or to numerous once-great musicians who lost it in LA) to happen to me.

‘Til June, check out the Wizard of A-Z gift shop on Market St. in gorgeous Ballard, and recall these words from Gregory Hischak’s odd local zine Farm Pulp: “So let us love and eat and mulch, there isn’t any other obvious reason to be here.”

PASSAGE

From Hal Hartley’s exquisite TV movie Surviving Desire: “The trouble with us Americans is we always want a tragedy with a happy ending.”

SPECIAL EVENT

I’ll be on the Laura Lee talk radio show on KVI (570 AM), Sat., 5/9/92, at the raucous hour of 1 a.m. Skip the end of Sat. Nite Live, get home early from pub-crawling, or set your radio alarm to awaken you for a special treat. I will be taking your calls.

WORD-O-MONTH

“Panegyrics”

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POST-EASTER SPECIAL

A few weeks ago, we asked your responses to the premise, “What if Jesus were alive today, in his teens, preparing to return to public life at the dawn of the new millennium?” Excerpts follow.

JILLIANN SIMS AND LEIGH DUNHAM: “Jesus would be one of the fine, upstanding citizens we lovingly call `Ave Rats.’ He would hand impressionable, young students fliers proclaiming, `Love thy neighbor (but not too much, and safely please)’.”

BRENDA MARTIN: “The Catholic churches would hunt him down and have him killed for security reasons.”

BRUCE LONG: “The whereabouts of the adolescent Jesus: Someplace blessed with a bumper crop of second chances.”

MUSTAFA PATWA: “Jesus is indeed alive and well. He is currently preparing for public life in the early 21st century by playing Doogie Howser, America’s favorite teenage doctor, on the show of the same name.”

BOB ARMSTRONG: “He’d be an illegal immigrant in east LA who got turned onto computers by a white nerd at his high school, and will soon make a raid on the interlocking banking computer network, shifting funds around to more appropriate accounts. He’s Catholic, but hasn’t been seen around the church in some time.”

SID MILLER: “Jesus is probably a sophomore at a high school east of Lake Washington. Real trendy haircut with shaved sides and a pigtail/rattail down the back. Wants his own TV show or his own band. Doesn’t have the gumption to practice his guitar — too busy with skateboard. Hopes grungy skateboard buddies will piss-off Mary, who is preoccupied with telling all who will listen that Joseph has `run off’. She recently blurted out, `He’s not really your father.’ Jesus has been talking with his buddies about how `cool’ it would be to set a wino on fire. Bought gun for $25 from acquaintance and brings it to parties. Wants a car so he can go cruising. Mother of his child will turn 16 three weeks before baby is due.”

ORAN WALKER: “Jesus would be the son of a working-class family; the father a professional craftsman, possibly union. The mother would be a secretary in a Catholic church. He had his pick of schools and ended up at a small college not far from New York City, where he spends his holidays and weekends, to the chagrin of his mother. She knows he doesn’t attend church and hangs out on the Lower East Side with God knows what socially marginal types, most likely Hispanics and Queers. She doesn’t know that he has been fucking around with his friends, both boys and girls, since he passed the age of accountability five or six years ago. `Safer sex’ has been more than a catch phrase with Jesus, since he realized early that sexual contact is such a complicating factor in the lives of both participants…He is making above-average grades, especially in ecology policy courses. He has written two essays on the need for global awareness and human charity among the earth’s peoples and probably will expand his ideas into his master’s thesis, but it’s early yet. He has been assured that he’ll live to a grand old age — unless he gets those messianic ideas again.”

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