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.
Sep 17th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

  • At Friday’s Park(ing) Day display at the Seattle Art Museum, a videographer from a Chinese-language cable access show tapes an interview using a Flip-like digital video cam, a mini spotlight, and a small Steadicam-like camera stabilizer.
  • Former P-I book critic John Marshall is still unemployed, and writes for the Atlantic about receiving his final unemployment check.
  • The Jo-Ann Fabric store in Olympia has a Halloween crafts section. It recently had a bat in it. A real bat. With rabies.
  • A survey co-sponsored by Microsoft’s MSN.com named Seattle North America’s sixth worst-dressed city. Vancouver was #3; the top spot went to Orlando.
  • Seahawks fans this Sunday will not only face a formidable opponent on the field (the dreaded Steelers) but also extreme frisking.
  • Another gay/lesbian event, another would-be censorious program printer.
  • Pierce County: Now with 35 percent less transit.
  • Netflix: Now with higher prices and 1 million fewer customers.
  • The corruption investigation against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his inner circle turns out to have begun with comments to blog posts.
  • Why didn’t anyone tell me there’s a Barbie Video Girl doll with “a video camera embedded in her chest”? You could use it to reenact the cult film Double Agent 73!

(Remember, my big book shindig is one week from today (Sept. 24). See the top of this page for all pertinent details.)

Sep 2nd, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

(Cross posted with the Capitol Hill Times.)

My book Walking Seattle, which I told you about here some months back, is finally out.

The big coming out party is Sunday, Sept. 24, 5 p.m., at the Elliott Bay Book Co. This event will include a 30-minute mini walk around the Pike-Pike neighborhood.

When I came up with the idea of a mini-walk, the store’s staff initially asked what the theme of my mini walk would be. Would it be about the gay scene, or the hipster bar scene, or the music scene, or classic apartment buildings, or houses of worship, or old buildings put to new uses?

The answer: Yes. It will be about all of the above. And more.

The reason: Part of what makes Capitol Hill so special (and such a great place to take a walk) is all the different subcultures that coexist here.

A tourist from the Northeast this summer told me he was initially confused to find so many different groups (racial, religious, and otherwise self-identified) in just about every neighborhood in this town.

Back where he came from, people who grew up in one district of a city (or even on one street) stayed there, out of loyalty and identity. But in Seattle you’ve got gays and artists and African immigrant families and Catholics and professors and cops and working stiffs and doctors all living all over the place. People and families go wherever they get the best real-estate deal at the time, no matter where it is.

On the Hill, this juxtaposition is only more magnified.

In terms of religion alone, Pike/Pine and its immediate surroundings feature Seattle’s premier Jewish congregation, its oldest traditionally African American congregation, the region’s top Catholic university, a “welcoming” (that means they like gays) Baptist church, Greek and Russian Orthodox churches, and a new age spiritual center. Former classic Methodist and Christian Science buildings are now repurposed to offices and condos respectively. And yet, in the eyes of many, the Hill is today better known for what happens on Saturday night than on Sunday morning.

A lot of Igor Keller’s Greater Seattle CD is a quaint look back at when this city’s neighborhoods could be easily typed, as they famously were on KING-TV’s old Almost Live!

Perhaps you might find a few more franchised vitamin sellers in Fremont, or a few more halal butchers near MLK and Othello.

But for the sheer variety of different groups and subgroups and sub-subgroups, there’s no place like this place anywhere near this place.


Though a lot of the time, these different “tribes” don’t live in harmony as much as in they silently tolerate one another’s presence.

To explain this, let’s look at another book.

British novelist China Mieville’s book The City and the City is a tale of two fictional eastern European city-states, “Bezsel” and “Ul Qoma.” These cities don’t merely border one another; they exist on the same real estate. The residents of each legally separate “city” are taught from birth to only interact with, or even recognize the existence of, the fellow citizens of their own “city.” If they, or ignorant tourists, try to cross over (even if it just means crossing a street), an efficient secret police force shows up and carts them away.

It’s easy to see that scenario as a metaphor for modern urban life in a lot of places, including the Hill. It’s not the oft talked about (and exaggerated) “Seattle freeze.” It’s people who consider themselves part of a “community” of shared interests more than a community of actual physical location.

The young immigrant learning a trade at Seattle Central Community College may feel little or no rapport with the aging rocker hanging out at a Pike/Pine bar. The high-tech commuter having a late dinner at a fashionable bistro may never talk to the single mom trying to hold on to her unit in an old apartment building.

Heck, even the gay men and the lesbians often live worlds apart.

It’s great to have all these different communities within the geographical community of the Hill.

But it would be greater to bring more of them together once in a while, to help form a tighter sense of us all belonging and working toward common goals.

Aug 10th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

from thelmagazine.com

There’s bad news today for the book snobs out there.

(You know, the droning turned-up-nose guys who love to whine that Nobody Reads Anymore, except of course for themselves and their own pure little subculture.)

Turns out, according to a study co-sponsored by two industry groups, book sales are actually up over the past three years!

Yes, even during this current economic blah-blah-blah!

Ebook sales have particularly exploded.

But regular dead-tree volumes are also up; except for mass market paperbacks (perhaps the most vulnerable category to the ebook revolution).

Adult fiction sales rose 8.8 percent from early ’08 to late ’10. Also doing well, according to the NYT story about the study: “Juvenile books, which include the current young-adult craze for paranormal and dystopian fiction….” (Good news for people who love bad news, to quote a Modest Mouse CD.)

Oh, as for that other commercial communications medium? You know, the medium that the book snobs call their sworn enemy?

The AP headline says it all: “Pay TV industry loses record number of subscribers.”


Has the above inspired you to get with the program, hop on the bandwagon, follow the fad, and start buying some more books for your very own?

I have a great little starter number, just for you.

Jul 20th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

from sightline.org

  • Congrats. Seattle’s been named America’s sixth most walkable city by WalkScore.com. It’s absolutely purely coincidence that WalkScore happens to be based in Seattle. Why, just two months ago, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center named Seattle America’s first most walkable city, and that outfit’s in North Carolina or somewhere like that. (I’ll have more to say about this greater topic any week now.)
  • The $20 emergency car-tab surtax to save King County Metro Transit stands a good chance of becoming a referendum to the voters, now that a fifth County Council member says she’s considering it.
  • Long-shot City Council candidate Dale Pusey wants to keep the viaduct, at least as a park. I heartily agree.
  • If our current postal system is snarked at by the digerati as “snail mail,” what will they call it if it cuts back to three delivery days a week?
  • R.I.P. Alex Steinweiss, 94, who first had the idea of making original cover art for record albums back in the 78 era, and for decades continued to be the greatest practitioner of the art form he’d invented.
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