Jun 2nd, 2021 by Clark Humphrey

LGBT history noted in Pioneer Square on and Capitol Hill; the ‘tentacles’ of MacKenzie Scott’s charitable giving; a push to make corporate boards less white; 500 days since the first WA (and US) COVID case.

Oct 9th, 2019 by Clark Humphrey

Trashing an RV as a hate-filled ‘statement’; big support for burned-out Ballard businesses; Durkan’s ‘traffic czar’ may be leaving; could the 737 MAX be back by January?

May 6th, 2019 by Clark Humphrey

Inside Microsoft’s big cloud-computing control center; rumors of a Showbox deal as two other old nightclubs become threatened; WA’s economic output breaks a half-trillion; ‘surgical tourism’ hits Seattle.

9/14/18: BEZOS’ BUCKS
Sep 13th, 2018 by Clark Humphrey

Amazon’s founder finally announces some charitable giving; the sick orca may have died; good and bad fish news; a dream of a better day ahead.

Jul 28th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

76th and aurora, 1953; seattle municipal archive

Seems every week, something important from this once fair little seaport city is taken away from us in the name of density, development, or “disruption.”

Cool old bars and restaurants and shops, yes. But also a men’s pro basketball team, a daily newspaper, a radio host, a live theater space.

And the new things that replace the old things tend to be costlier, louder, hoity-toity-er. Dive bars get turned into upscale bistros; cheap apartments become luxury condos.

For someone who came of age loving the old Seattle, for all its faults and limitations, today’s city seems more and more like an alien land.


The Soul of Seattle is a hard thing to define, and different people have defined it differently. But this is how I define it.

Seattle’s soul is not loud or pushy. It doesn’t scream at you to order you to love it.

It’s quiet and confident; yes, to the point of dangerously smug self-satisfaction.

Yet it’s also funny in a self-deprecating way. Seattle’s sense of quirky humor can be seen in Ivar Haglund, J.P. Patches, John Keister, the Young Fresh Fellows’ songs, the comic art of Jim Woodring and The Oatmeal.

It believes in beauty, in many forms. The delicate curves and perfect proportions of the Space Needle; the slippery warmth of a bag of Dick’s fries; the modest elegance of a Craftsman bungalow.

It believes in old fashioned showmanship. The fringe theaters of the ’70s and ’80s; the burlesque troupes of the ’90s; the alternative circus acts of the 2000s.

It believes in old fashioned fun. Boat races; cream cheese on hot dogs; tiki parties; comics conventions.

Yet it also believes in schmoozing and in deal making. Boeing got on such good terms ith the airlines of the world that Lockheed never sustained. Microsoft made deals to put MS-DOS and Office on almost every desktop computer.

And it believes in civic progress, however it’s defined. It created monuments to its own “arrival” (the Smith Tower, the Olympic Hotel, the Century 21 Exposition). It built public spaces more beautiful than they had to be (the UW campus, the Volunteer Park Conservatory). It leveled hills, filled in tide flats, raised streets, lowered Lake Washington, and put up parks everywhere from freeway airspace to an old naval base.


There are several places around town where this Soul of Seattle still lives and even thrives.

Here are just a few of them:

  • Aurora Avenue just north of Green Lake. The Twin Teepees, that beloved “roadside vernacular” restaurant, may be gone, but this stretch of the old Pacific Highway still boasts a pair of culinary opposites. On the east side: PCC Natural Markets, the local pioneer in “healthy” groceries (even if it’s less of a “consumers co-op” than it used to be). On the west wide: Beth’s Cafe, home of the 12 egg omelet and unabashed (and un-prettified) all-night diner.
  • West Marginal Way South, heading north. A biking/walking path keeps pedal and foot traffic separate from the semis. Container docks along the Duwamish River are now interspersed with mini parks, some restored to something approximating a “natural” state. The Duwamish Longhouse and Museum honors local native design arts while hosting ethnic cultural programs. Just uphill from the river is a sliver of a residential neighborhood once tributed by author Richard Hugo.
  • Red Square (officially “Central Plaza”) on the UW campus. The gorgeously Gothic Suzzalo Library, and the equally classic Administration Building, represent an era when public architecture could be both monumental and populist. The other buildings, dating from the 1960s and 1970s, are more simply designed and more cheaply built but still (especially Meany Theater) manage to express an understated humanism in their “big box” forms. The square itself is the lid of a parking garage, with air vents hidden inside sculptural pieces.
  • The Museum of Flight and the Living Computer Museum. One south-end landmark honors the industry that made our city’s past. The other honors the hardware that ran the software that’s making our city’s future.

(Cross posted with City Living Seattle.)

May 28th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey


  • KUOW has a handy guide to Seattle’s “public spaces that appear private.”
  • There’s a downside to making big popular parks out of former U.S. Navy installations. Magnuson Park turns out to have lots of radioactive, contaminated soil.
  • Wash. state ranks #49 in supporting public colleges and universities. This is not like being a Mariner fan, where being even ahead of one other team is a call to point with pride.
  • Some website I’d never heard of before says Seattle’s “most photographed attraction” is the Elephant Car Wash sign. (Gee, even more than the toothache-man gargoyle?)
  • The Illinois company calling itself Boeing used to have big battery design skills in-house. Then outsourcing mania took over. Result: the 787 disasters.
  • You know how I disdain the marketing company calling itself Pabst Brewing, due to its role in closing the Rainier and Olympia breweries while keeping their brands alive in zombie form. Cracked.com also hates Pabst, but for a different reason: for virtually inventing that commonly despised character type known as the “hipster.”
  • South Carolina Republicans, faced with popular legislation promoting renewable energy sources, rigged a faked “voice vote” to defeat the measure.
  • Daily Kos diarist “markthshark” claims the real IRS scandal is how all those blatantly partisan Tea Party groups got to file as nonpolitical nonprofits in the first place.
  • Are angst and misery really due to a single “great glitch” built into human nature?
  • Paul Krugman sez, “being a good liberal doesn’t require that you believe, or pretend to believe, lots of things that almost certainly aren’t true; being a good conservative does.”
  • The police backlash against protesting garment workers in Cambodia wasn’t at a “Nike factory,” which the hereby-linked headline claims. It was at a locally owned company taking outsourcing work from several Western clothing firms, all of whom can thus take “plausible deniability” about conditions and worker abuse.
  • Some of the outdoor sets from the original Star Wars are still standing, and decaying, in Tunisia.


Feb 10th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

  • Phil Smart Sr., 1920-2013: Whatever qualms he might have originally had about being a WWII vet selling German cars, Seattle’s premier import-car dealer long since got over them. Not that he didn’t have heart. He proved that by donating not just money but time and personal attention to Children’s Hospital and other area charities. I learned through intermediaries that he was a great fan of my book Vanishing Seattle, and ordered copies to give to friends.
  • Seattle was named America’s sixth “most walkable big city.”
  • There’s a new techno record label in town called “KRecordings.” Are they aware there’s another recording outfit in Western Washington with a similar name, and has been for some 30 years?
  • That Wash. Post story linked-to here earlier this week? The one predicting free “super wifi” nationwide, merely pending the allocation of bandwidth? Forget it. Just an urban legend. Darn.
  • Remember the inventor of the touch-tone phone by playing some keypad songs.
  • Three of the Big Six book publishers are collaborating (don’t dare call it “conspiring”) to start up their own online bookselling site, Bookish.
  • And for now, please enjoy French director Patrick Bokanowski’s surrealist short masterpiece The Woman Who Powders Herself.

Feb 4th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey


  • You know I love walking and Seattle and Walking Seattle. So I support “Stairway Walks Day” this Saturday.
  • There’s something called “The HUB in Seattle.” It’s a new corporate meeting center in the old Masins furniture store in Pioneer Square. Whoever gave it that name can’t possibly be a UW alum.
  • It is possible for a downtown parking garage to lose money. Especially, apparently, when it’s City-owned.
  • Reviews of the Super Blackout Bowl range from the usual rants by sports-hating hippies to the usual highlight-hype. Will Leitch, though, has a good piece about CBS’s announcers and their failure in the face of daunting circumstances.
  • Was Ed Koch gay? We still don’t know for sure.
  • Mother Jones has a vast, yet probably still incomplete, chart of looney Obama conspiracy theories.
  • “Freaky” body modifications should not be done without sterile instruments and the supervision of trained professionals. This includes implanting dice in one’s penis, an apparent fad among Australian prisoners.
  • MySpace’s latest site redesign seems to have evaporated members’ fan lists. The company’s final, fatal mistake?
  • Imagine “Super WiFi,” available nationwide (even in Eastern Washington?), offering beyond-broadband speeds and fancy new services, open to the general public, for free. Some Federal officials believe this is possible, for a modest investment, over existing FCC-controlled bandwidth.
Sep 10th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just don’t, you know….

Apr 16th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

Jim Bracher at the Seattle Backpackers Magazine site offers a mostly-positive review of our somewhat-new book Walking Seattle:

The author’s knowledge of Seattle is extensive, comprehensive, and impressive. I didn’t realize part of Perkins Lane is still closed after the mudslides in ’97 (p. 64), and I’d forgotten the horror that dominated the news after the murders at the Wah Mee club in ’83 (p. 79). He also reminded me of The Blob (p. 58), a building I’d forgotten even though I used to walk by it almost daily.…

This guy knows architecture. I know bungalows from Queen Anne, but he knows Art Moderne from Beaux Arts.… Architecture helps tell the story of a city. The current downtown Seattle Library is a statement about what we want the city to be, what we want others to see when they look at us, and what sort of buildings we want to see when go out. All the buildings of Seattle’s past were designed for the same purpose. The bungalows, the big homes of Queen Anne Hill’s past, all tell the story of what was going on in Seattle. It’s a cool history. I wish Humphrey had told more of it.…

He’s a good writer. The prose flows. Reading through the tour descriptions is easy and clear…. I’d love more story-telling. He’s capable of it and the book shows he knows it.

Bracher also has some dislikes about the book. Almost all of those relate to the publisher’s series format (page size, layout, etc.).

And he wishes there was a smartphone app for it.

Guess what? There is! It’s an add-on virtual tour guide that works within the iOS/Android app ViewRanger.

But on the whole, he likes Walking Seattle.

And you will too.

Feb 8th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

  • My book Walking Seattle (you do all have your own copy by now, right?) just happens to take readers past five historic Christian Science church buildings in different parts of town. All are now occupied by others; two as other churches and three re-purposed to new uses. The last of these, a townhome redevelopment on 15th Avenue East on Capitol Hill, is finally done. Lawrence Cheek explores both the architectural and usage ironies in turning a house of worship into homes for the upscale.
  • (By the way, Walking Seattle has its own online companion now, as an add-on virtual tour guide within the iOS/Android app ViewRanger!)
  • (By the other way, North Sound readers who want to learn more about traipsing through the Jet City can attend a Walking Seattle presentation at 2 p.m. Sunday Feb. 26 at Village Books in Bellingham.)
  • Damn: J.C. Penney won’t be coming back to downtown Seattle after all. So let’s get Kohl’s in the old Borders space, and a full branch of the University Book Store upstairs in the Kress building (where Penney’s was supposed to have gone).
  • In today’s wacky city survey of the day, Seattle ranks last in average pay raises last year. (Note to bosses, particularly in the tech biz: People can’t eat break-room foosball tables. Wanna hold on to those people you insist are so vital to your continued growth n’ success n’ stuff? Treat ’em better.)
  • In a related story, the labor union UNITE/HERE is fighting to get a better deal for workers at the Space Needle, who’ve been offered the usual raw deal of takebacks and job insecurity.
  • Megan Seling asks the musical question, if Seattle does get NHL hockey, what local standard should be the team’s “goal song“? I’m more interested in the team name. If we do get the currently league-owned Phoenix Coyotes, we wouldn’t really need to change that moniker. After all, this state is the birthplace of the creator of Wile E. Coyote.
  • Somebody who claims to have done his research has come up with an online, annotated Seattle gang map.
  • How to end police brutality? Studies? Consultants? “Process”? No?
  • Sadly, there are still some pathetic, deluded dudes who want to turn the inland Northwest into a white supremacist “homeland.”
  • You want to know how completely unpopular the far right’s social agenda is? Consumer marketing and advertising have completely ignored/rejected it. (Yes, many of you reject marketing and advertising. But advertisers want to sell by appealing to common contemporary values. And those are not the values either held, or paid lip-service to, by today’s rabid right.)
  • I didn’t notice this when it came out, but New York magazine noted a couple months ago that e-books have become “a whole new literary form.” Specifically, the mag cited the fact that e-books can be any length, thus creating a market for long “short nonfiction” and short “long nonfiction.”
  • Rampant, pathetic homophobia can pop up anywhere, even among the people you’d think were least likely to absorb it. Such as female tennis stars.
  • The LA Times thinks it’s tracked down the world’s most unromantic tourist destinations. I dunno. I can certainly imagine the erotic symbolism of Australia’s giant earthworm museum.
  • Our ol’ pal Jim Romenesko’s got a growing list of “words journalists use that people never say.” My own favorites include pontiff, solon, stumping, embattled, succumb, cohort, loggerheads, cagers, and, of course, moniker.
Jan 15th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

revel body, via geekwire.com

  • Seattle’s really got some high-tech hardware geniuses. Among them: the folks who’ve taken the same principles behind the Sonicare toothbrush and applied them to create advanced 21st century vibrators! (Really.)
  • We’ve previously mentioned the strong presence of women’s erotica among Amazon’s e-book sales. Now come charges that some of the self-published smut books are stolen from stories posted for free viewing on erotica websites. (These allegations are against the small-time publishers, not Amazon.)
  • Crazy Wall St. idea of the week (thus far): A local corporate-buyout analyst showed up on CNBC and said Microsoft should buy Barnes & Noble.
  • Here’s one way to make money off of the walking renaissance. Make a big venture-funded software thing to help folks find homes to buy in walkable neighborhoods.
  • Our ol’ pal Geov Parrish believes the state budget mega-crisis might, just might mind you, lead to talk, or even actual action, toward reforming Washington’s mighty regressive tax system—by far the principal failing of a local “progressive” politic that never dares challenge big business.
  • On a related matter, state House Speaker Frank Chopp is floating the idea of Wash. State running its own bank, just like North Dakota. Or something as close to a bank as the state constitution now permits.
  • The Mariners lose one really good pitcher, gain one maybe decent-hitting position player. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Who knew the original Ladies’ Home Journal was so prescient? A 1911 list of “What Might Happen in the Next Hundred Years” predicts “telephones around the world,” airplanes used as “aerial war-ships,” automobiles “cheaper than horses,” “trains one hundred and fifty miles an hour,” grand opera “telephoned to private homes,” photographs “telegraphed to any distance,” “cameras electrically connected with screens at opposite ends of circuits,” ready-to-eat meals in stores, genetically modified foods, and even global warming. Writer John Elfreth Watkins Jr. did get a few things wrong, such as “hot and cold air from spigots,” the deliberate extinction of mosquitos, and the removal of C, Q, and X from the alphabet. Watkins also didn’t predict that his magazine would still be in business today, after many of its compatriots went to the great newsstand in the sky.
  • Clever videomakers in Montana have released a thoroughly obliterating parody of a particularly dumb “rebel lifestyle” pickup truck commercial.
  • And a great big thank you for those who attended the Seattle Invitationals Sat. nite, at which I performed what I hope was a respectful, straightforward rendition of the Presley classic “You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care).” Since this is the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair, I’d wanted to perform the best song from It Happened at the World’s Fair. But the live band didn’t know it. So here it is for all of you, in the original rendition.
Oct 2nd, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

linda thomas, kiro-fm

  • If only more real-world buildings could be more like the ones displayed at BrickCon, the gathering of Lego maniacs.
  • If you still measure companies by the Almighty Stock Price (and you really shouldn’t), the once mighty IBM is bigger than Microsoft for the first time in 15 years.
  • An Internet photo of a Sharpie-penned list of bookstore employee pet peeves, supposedly from a now-closed Borders branch, has been going around lately.
  • So, apparently, has whooping cough.
  • The next big idea for Seattle bike lanes—site them on side streets instead of major arterials.
  • Open Circle Theater has produced what it called “fantastical theater for a daring audience” since 1992. In recent years, it moved into the old Aha! Theater space on Second Avenue, bring live theater back to Belltown. Now, it’s apparently defunct. No word yet about the other troupes that have been sharing OCT’s Belltown space.
  • Danny Westneat claims that, despite the hype, Seattle Public Schools are actually pretty good these days.
  • State schools superintendent Randy Dorn is refusing to offer Gov. Gregoire a list of programs that could be sacrificed in the next round of budget cuts. Dorn claims to do so would violate the state constitution’s requirement for basic education support.
  • The “voter fraud epidemic” so loudly hyped by the right-wing media despite its complete nonexistence? KIRO-TV hyped it too. Even though the state gave the station the facts that negated the station’s claims.
  • The Occupy Wall Street protests continue. And they’ve now got a Seattle branch operation, which also continues.
  • Mark Sumner argues that the old Dutch tulip mania makes a better metaphor for the Wall Street speculation bubble than it did for the late-1990s dot-com bubble.
  • Despite what the religious right and its right-wing-media hucksters claim, America’s actually becoming a more secular nation.
  • Mike Dillon, who first got me doing the occasional essays I do for the Capitol Hill Times, has some nice things to say about my book Walking Seattle. Thanks.
Sep 24th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

Some 50 people attended our fantabulous Walking Seattle event Saturday at the Elliott Bay Book Company.

At least half of those followed along as we took a short stroll through upper Pike/Pine during a lovely equinox early evening.

Thank you all.

Sep 20th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

defunct connecticut strip mall, from backsideofamerica.com

  • Mark Hinshaw at Crosscut says Seattle’s wrong to demand street level retail in so many mixed-use developments. He says there just aren’t enough viable businesses to put in them. It’s actually a national situation. Even before the ’08 slump, analysts claimed the country had become “overstored,” with too many malls, strip malls, big box outlets, etc. for the available business.
  • One successful local retailer, kitchenware king Sur La Table, was bought by the same financiers who also own big chunks of Gucci and Tiffany.
  • The big Nevermind 20th anniversary concert opened with the reunited (for now) Fastbacks nailing “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Perfect in so many ways.
  • “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is done for. There was a big coming out party for GLBT military personnel at Lewis-McChord.
  • For once, a local art work made for display at Burning Man will actually be shown here!
  • Tacoma’s life size Boy Scout statue is missing. Scouting officials fear the thieves could just melt it down.
  • Thankfully, there will be no Oklahoma or Texas teams in the Pac-12 (previously Pac-10, previously Pac-8) conference. Some sporting traditions should remain sacred.
  • U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Spokane) thinks schools spend too much time and resources on “nonessential curriculum” such as gay history and the environment.
  • The big Netflix shakeup is explained by that prime explainer of everything, The Oatmeal.
  • BBC Ulster commentator William Crawley explains how to be a Christian anarchist. Hint: It ain’t easy.
  • Is the “Occupy Wall Street” protest a bigger thing online than it is as a real-world event? And what are the protesters for, anyway?
  • Has Facebook really created 180,000 jobs, as the company claims? Or is this just a new version of dot-com hype?
  • Current TV’s next lib-talk franchise: The heretofore Internet-based gabfest The Young Turks, featuring ex-MSNBC dude Cenk Uygur. Still can’t get the channel on my cable system.
  • The feds claim the gaming site Full Tilt Poker has degenerated into “a global Ponzi scheme,” funding operations out of money owed to its winning players.
  • Soon you’ll be able to preserve the remains of your deceased loved ones in handy liquid form.
  • The annual Coffee Fest trade show is at the Convention Center this weekend. It’s intended for people in the business of importing, roasting, selling, and serving the stuff, though many parts of it are also open (for a fee) to those who simply love the java a lot. Of course, there’s also something else this weekend to pump up your pulse.
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