Archive for the ‘soapbox’ Category

Doors close, doors open

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Tonight I was turning on my phone after watching A Little Help at the Harvard Exit to tell a friend that it’s totally worth watching when I learned the sad news. As he said, he and I have been around for the whole time and what a time it’s been. I have truly enjoyed writing for this blog and all the great people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had because of it. Thank you to everyone who has participated in some way, whether you’ve been an author, a regular reader or even an occasional lurker. It really has been fun.

One of those things I’ve been meaning to do for a while is to get serious about keeping up my own blog, created when I realized that while nobody really cared all that much about my artistic portfolio (the trials of being mediocre in a city filled with the gifted), people do sometimes want to read the things I write. The loss of Metblogs is a gain for my output there. All of the things that I would normally post about here – film, theater, visual arts, civic events, restaurants, bars, concerts, sports, my ongoing issues with zombies, our wonderful city parks, I will now be posting to my own blog, Art by Zee.

I would love to have you all join me there. I will be continuing SIFF 2010 coverage there, including feature pieces on A Little Help‘s Jenna Fischer and Linas Phillips, the Seattle-native filmmaker whose BassAckwards is likely to be a SIFF-hit this year. There’s additional content beyond Seattle-related events, and, who knows, I may finally start posting about Seattle Back in the Day, an idea I’ve terrorized my fellow Seattle Metblogs authors with for years now.

Thanks to the Metblogs network for hosting this party for this long, and, thanks again to you, our readers.

dear seattle, start treating your mayors right

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photo by amit gupta [flickr].

Memo to Seattle bars, cafes, and restaurants. Foursquare, the enhanced successor to Dodgeball has turned going out into an even more fun game by awarding weekly leaderboard points, conferring achievement badges, and crowning “mayors” of a venue’s most frequent offenders. Along the way, users can share insider tips and post to-do lists to add a sense of play to their city explorations. In addition to adding a lightly competitive edge to your friendly neighborhood nightlife, it’s also a de facto way for fans to promote their favorite places among their circles their friends.

Forward-looking New York — and now now San Francisco (see above) — venues have stepped up to the plate and are treating their mayors and ardent fans to little perks just for dropping in. It’s time for Seattle’s finest to hop on this trend ASAP. We’re a tech-friendly city; so let’s be on the front end of this trend. In these troubled economic times, we need every possible excuse for going out.


(any local establishments already onboard? let us know! and ping foursquare while you’re at it. [via foursquare.tumblr.com] )

The decline of The Stranger

Remember when the Stranger was edgy, fun, cool, and hip? Me neither, but remember when the Slog was a must-read local blog?

In the last couple months, I’ve basically stopped reading it. Yeah, Eli Sanders did some great work covering the last days of the P-I, and every once in a while one of the other authors comes up with a good article in a blind-squirrel-find-acorn way, but the rest of it seems to have crumbled from being humorous and ironic to being a cross between an angry teenage wannabe sensitive hipster and an angry teenage wannabe gay rights activist who thinks everyone else isn’t gay enough.

Here’s how I think the Slog’s content currently breaks down:
Current Slog post content, showing it's mostly Dan Savage being unreadable
You can see where the unreadability comes from.

At this point, the Slog can’t even cover Capitol Hill well anymore — Capitol Hill Seattle is running circles around them, natch, but it’s almost like they’ve forgotten they’re even on Capitol Hill.

It’s all about content, kids. And maybe turning the place into an Andrew Sullivan/Democratic Underground repeater station is working, but you’re gaining the whole world while losing Broadway and John. Push Dan off onto his own blog and get back to what you did well. Whatever that was.

This Old House

On Tuesday, June 23rd at 9:30 AM, the Parks and Seattle Center Committee of the Seattle City Council will meet. On the agenda is the usual boring stuff, like the Chair’s report, authorizing an agreement for Festivals, Inc. to run the Bite of Seattle, and possibly designating a section of Bell Street (between 1st and 5th) as a “park boulevard.” And, of course, the meeting will be open for public comments after the Chair’s report.

This is where the really interesting stuff comes in.

Also, on the agenda for Tuesday is discussion and possible voting on limitations and/or controls on Cooper and Pantages Houses, both designated Historic Landmarks. If you live on Capitol Hill, are interested in old things, architecture, or Seattle history, you will be interested in this meeting. The timing of committee meetings is incredibly inconvenient for most people, but if you can get the time off of work, or are able to comment via email, please do so. Citizen input = responsive government. /soapbox

Cooper House. Photo courtesy of Historic Seattle.

Cooper House was built on land acquired by Seattle real estate developer James Moore in 1900; Moore purchased 160 acres, which he subdivided into 800 lots collectively named “Capitol Hill.” John O. Cooper acquired the Cooper House parcel in 1902 and applied for a building permit. Very unusually at the time, the building was designed to be a duplex, with an estimated cost of $5,000. Construction was completed in 1904. In 1914, the Coopers sold the property to John E. Minkler; the Minkler family owned the property until 1958.

In 2005, the building was targeted for demolition, but local resident Paul Slane was inspired to nominate the building for Landmark status. Slane, a retired Boeing employee, spent the summer of 2005 researching and writing his nomination. The result of his efforts was the preservation of Cooper House. Reportedly, Board members burst into spontaneous applause after Slane’s presentation. Slane, who has since passed away, remains something of a hero to the folks at Historic Seattle.

Pantages House. Photo courtesy of Historic Seattle.

The Pantages House has an even more colorful history: Alexander Pantages was a Greek immigrant who became an early motion picture mogul, via brothel-keeping, burlesque, and vaudeville. While Pantages theatres were known for elegance, good taste, cleanliness, and efficiency, Pantages personal life met none of those standards. Infamous Madame “Klondike” Kate Rockwell, Alexander Pantages’ former lover and business partner, sued him for breach-of-promise in 1902, and in 1929, Pantages stood trial for the rape of 17-year-old aspiring dancer Eunice Pringle. Pantages was initially convicted and sentenced to 50 years for the rape, but won on appeal. Contemporary rumor had it that Pantages was framed by Joseph Kennedy and RKO Pictures, in order to force Pantages to sell his theatres to RKO, which he, in fact, did after the second trial, and for a far lower price than RKO had originally offered for the chain.

The Committee has the power to determine what cosmetic and structural changes can be made to these lovely and historic buildings. Citizens and residents with an interest should make every effort to comment and/or attend. Also, Historic Seattle is always hoping for another Paul Slane to come to the rescue of some poor, neglected piece of Seattle history: Historic Seattle holds Landmark Nomination Workshops twice a year. Find out more HERE.

mystery lights

Confused by the intense beacon of blue light rising from Seattle Center into the sky last night, I turned to Google and found out that it as related to something called Bing from Microsoft. [google/news]

When Life Hands You Lemons

Be on the lookout for this lemon!

Tomorrow, do not be surprised if you run into a walking, talking lemon that will be wandering Downtown. This lemon will be promoting Worktank‘s “Embrace the Lemon” campaign, whose goal is to promote pragmatic optimism.

This innovative campaign seeks to leverage the abundance of lemons in the public psyche to “make lemonade” on an unprecedented scale, creating a community of optimism to turn things around and drive positive change.

Pragmatic optimism (link not related to Worktank) promotes the idea that most of the time in life, the good outweighs the bad. A good summary of how this concept came about comes from a comment in that link: “Because many people do not deal with truly bad events on a regular basis, it is easy for them to adopt a false sense that ordinary circumstances or events are somehow bad.

You can find the Lemon wandering around the metro bus tunnels starting at King Street Station from 7:00 a.m. to10:00 a.m., at Westlake Center and Pike Place Market from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and outside Safeco Field prior to the Mariner’s game from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Stop by and say hi, share some lemons-to-lemonade stories, maybe take photos and drop them in our Flickr pool.

seattle’s mayoral race is about to get a whole lot more embarrassing

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announced today on the slog

Does a stunt candidacy by the editor of a weekly newspaper require any sort of journalistic recusal on the grounds of conflict of interest, or is that sort of the point of alt-weeklies? At least this should be marginally more entertaining and less consequential than Geoffrey Fieger’s disastrous run for governor of Michigan.

Energy Usage: would you earn a :) or :( ?

Sacramento has started sending out utility bills with either a smiley face or a frowny face to a random selection of customers to encourage energy conservation. The results: a 2% decrease in energy usage since the practice started. Initially the practice included a scale of 2 smiley faces in recognition of greater energy conservation in comparison to one’s neighbors, a single smiley for good energy conservation, and a frowny in the event that one used a substantial amount more energy than the neighbors. After complaints regarding the frowny faces, the utility company dropped frowny faces and only uses smileys now.

The approach has now been picked up by utilities in 10 major metropolitan areas eager to reap rewards through increased efficiencies, including Chicago and Seattle, according to Positive Energy, the software company that conceived of the reports and contracts to produce them. Following Sacramento’s lead, they award smiley faces only. (source)

So when will we expect to see smiley faces? Apparently we already are.

“This is the next wave,” Todd Stames, a residential energy efficiency manager with Puget Sound Energy, told the Times. The company stared a pilot program in suburban Seattle with 40,000 customers in September. (source)

I’m sad though, apparently Seattle City Light has not picked up the practice. Our latest electric bill was for $60 (Nov through Jan) so I suspect we could have earned two smiley faces. Fooey. Anyone seeing this on their bills yet? Have a picture? Please share.

Requiem For A Newspaper, Part IV: Time For The Times

Most of my focus in this series has been on the P-I, whether it’s viable as an online news site without the print side of things, and how we’re going to have to confront the possibility that we’ll be a zero newspaper town in the coming years. A few people, though, have reminded me that the Seattle Times, despite their tenuous financial position, is not dead yet. Indeed, shutting down the P-I buys the Times as much as two years to try and come up with a way out of their financial troubles. They will keep their ad sales team while no longer splitting ad revenue with Hearst. They will inherit P-I subscribers (though how many remains to be seen). And they own their own press and their own buildings.

But how much of this is a virtue for the Times? The end of the JOA has the same double-edged sword of a messy divorce settlement — while the ex-wife may get the house and car and leave the ex-husband with nothing, the ex-husband doesn’t have to make the mortgage payment and car payment or pay for their upkeep. He walks away with nothing, but he owes nothing. She walks away with everything, but now she has bills to pay. And so, while the Times is left trying to maintain their old business model and union contract in order to keep the presses running, Hearst is left with no financial obligations and can opt to pursue an online news site without worrying about keeping the presses running.
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Requiem For A Newspaper, Part II: The Road To Online

I explained in Part I why the P-I as a print newspaper is dead. But let me rehash some points I and others have already made.

  1. The P-I as we knew it is dead, because newspapers are dead. The ink-stained wretches may clutch onto false hope that someone will save it, but it’s over.
  2. Journalism is alive and well, though. And I’ve already seen one too many people talk as if losing the paper means losing the only journalistic voice in town. Between radio, TV, and blogs, there’s still plenty of journalism in this town. It’s just going to be… different.
  3. Hearst shuttering the P-I only delays the Times’ funeral. Before Friday, the Times wasn’t going to see out the summer. Now, they got, at most, two more years of life. But the Blethens are cash-starved and running out of things to sell. Going non-profit won’t save them from their business model. And they’ve been very, very backwards online, castigating bloggers where the P-I embraced them.
  4. This is more about the onerous JOA than Hearst losing money. Apparently, Hearst and the P-I have been pushing hard for a greater online presence, but the Times had to say yes to the initiatives, and they consistently said no. Killing the JOA, even if it means killing the P-I in the process, puts Hearst in control of their own destiny in the Seattle market, rather than still in the hands of the Blethen family.
  5. No one has ever done a true, daily, online-only newspaper wholly independent of any other media source or revenue stream. No, really. And before you start saying Crosscut, look at it. It produces one, maybe two articles a day. Add that all together and you get the output of a weekly newspaper, like the Seattle Weekly David Brewster used to run. Every online newspaper up to now has depended on revenue from elsewhere to keep itself, mainly from ads sold in the dead tree version. Yes, that means there’s never been a successful online-only newspaper, but it also says that there really is no business model for an online-only paper. The P-I going wholly online will be a first, and comparing it to other web models pre-supposes a great deal.

It seems like going online-only, in the long term, is a smart business decision. Five years from now, being first-to-market with an online newspaper will give you huge structural advantages over all your competitors. Even if there is no model yet for a wholly online paper, five years from now there probably will be. And right now, the old newspaper model is broken. So, if Hearst or someone else with money is willing to gut it out, they will be positioned to dominate the market when the stars do align.

With that in mind, this is what I’d suggest the P-I’s owners should think about the day the end comes.
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