Belltown Messenger - Documenting Downtown Seattle

Belltown Messenger #76 - February 2010

misc - by Clark Humphrey

Belltown's own Olympic speed-skating champ - Apolo Anton Ohno.

CONAN O'Brien fans held a hastily arranged support rally in Westlake Park on Jan. 18.

OHNO NOT AGAIN: Alaska Airlines is sponsoring an official fan site for Belltown’s own Olympic speed-skating champ, Apolo Anton Ohno. The site’s name, “,” reminds me of “Mr. Apollo,” a ‘60s novelty classic by the Bonzo Dog Band (written as a tribute to a fictional bodybuilding teacher):
Mr. Apollo
Everybody knows he’s the
 greatest benefactor of mankind
Mr. Apollo
Everybody knows that a
 healthy body
Makes a healthy mind.”

WASH THE STRESS AWAY? (from the instructions on an out-of-print VHS yoga tape):
“Imagine water coming in through your nose, and all the way down into your stomach. And as you inhale, your stomach expands outward. The water comes in, stacks on top of itself, until it catches all the way up to the throat.”

THE FUTURE’S NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE: “Don’t you agree with me that, in some things, the old fashioned ways are best?”

This line from Barbarella might describe the mini-todo over SIFF Cinema’s “Sci-Fi on Blu-Ray” series.
They’re showing 12 Monkeys, Planet of the Apes, 2001, Logan’s Run, and The Man Who Fell to Earth in the modern hi-def home DVD format, projected onto a theater size screen.

The folks at the Northwest Film Forum, noting that Blu-Ray’s hi-def is still lower-def than film itself, quickly scheduled a 35mm screening of Planet of the Apes the same night as SIFF’s Blu-ray version, then canceled it “in the spirit of community.”

THE BIGGER APPLE: A diarist at, using the nom de web Devilstower, alleges the rumored Apple iPad tablet heralds a new online-media dichotomy:

“Apple is building an alternative ecosystem that uses the Internet’s backbone covered with their own cross-device platform.... They have a massive presence in the media realm, but they don’t have anything to offer that competes with the freewheeling world of blogs and the rapidly changing social media space.”

Elsewhere, Devilstower refers to the “dinosaurs” of old closed-system networks such as Prodigy and the original AOL, and implies that’s what Apple’s trying to re-create.

I see something else.

The Web, for all its expandability and gate-free access, has severe limitations for professional, packaged content. It doesn’t allow for real typography, at least not without complex workarounds. It doesn’t allow for complex graphic design. Web-based content can’t command a price partly because readers don’t perceive it something of value.

The Web won’t go away any time soon. If it ever does, it will be succeeded by something that does what the Web does best, only better. I’m thinking of chats, social networking, discussion threads, blogs, real-time information, and the whole ongoing mashup of different media from different places and times.

But fully integrated, depth-heavy works of the communication arts will be better served by the iPad and similar platforms. Until something better succeeds them.

THE LAST LAFF: Robin Williams was on the next-to-last Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. Williams had also been on the next-to-last Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. It’s a tribute to O’Brien and Williams that neither felt the need to announce this.

My take on the whole two-week minicrisis that was the Late Night Wars? Leno should never have been offered five hours a week of network prime time. That immediately lowered NBC to the status of a secondary network along the lines of The CW, and made Leno’s own schtick seem as tired and overworked as, well, it is.

No, the Leno primetime show should have been a weekly or twice-weekly franchise. Like Dateline or Deal Or No Deal, it could have become a programming backstop the network could plug into any troublesome timeslot. Now we’ll never know how that could have worked. And we’re not likely to get comedy-variety back in prime time for some time.
DEAD AIR DEPT.: Air America Radio, the high-profile attempt to build a national network devoted exclusively to left-O-center talk, suddenly shut down.

This is NOT the end of liberal talk radio.

The local stations (such as the CBS-owned KPTK in Seattle) that had carried AAR’s shows have also carried liberal shows from other distributors. These shows continue.

The remaining AAR personalities are now free to sign with these other distributors. They include the Seattle-based Ron Reagan, the last AAR host on KPTK’s pre-midnight schedule.

So what did AAR in? Why did it flail about in fiscal instability for six years?

It wanted to start up from scratch as an all-day, coast-to-coast, unified force in broadcasting. That’s not how antenna-based broadcasting works. You’ve gotta start one station at a time, and build each show in each region. That’s what the conservative talkers did, back in the 1980s and 1990s.

JUST DON’T VOTE FOR ‘PLASTIC SURGEON’: Mattel’s got a Web page where you can vote for Barbie’s next profession. The choices offered, of course, disappoint.
I mean, Let’s have some Barbie jobs for the modern age:
• Twitter Update Ghost Writer Barbie!
• Bankruptcy Attorney Barbie!
• Life Coach Barbie!
• Goldman Sachs Bonus Barbie!
• iPhone App Designer Barbie!
• Outplacement Counselor Barbie!
• Doggie Daycare Barbie!
• User Experience Consultant 
• Day Spa Towel Maid Barbie!
• Chinese Barbie Doll Assembly
       Worker Barbie!

WILL THIS CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN?: Occasionally, readers ask why I stopped writing the “Junk Food of the Month,” a once popular part of this site. I just fell out of the practice two or three diets ago.

But now I am happy to report having seen and consumed Top Pot’s Elvis Doughnut.

It’s “a raised sugar doughnut with a maple cream frosting and studded with caramelized bacon bits.” It was only at Top Pot’s Belltown location, and only there one day.

It’s not as gross as it sounds. It’s quite good, in fact. It’s like a sweet bacon pancake at room temperature.
A Portland shop offers a similar product on its regular menu. Would Top Pot consider this as a regular offering? Maybe if you ask hard and often enough.

THE POSITIVE AND ITS NEGATIVES: You don’t have to open Barbara Ehrenreich’s latest book, Bright Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America to know what it’ll say.

She blames positive thinking (and its tendrils in religion, business, and pop psychology) for infantilizing its followers, for leading those now-popped economic bubbles, and for the Bush gang’s drives into war.

Like many left-wing essay books, it comprises a long sequence of complaints, with only the briefest hint of possible solutions stuck in at the very end. She loathes uncritical, unquestioning “positivity,” but she doesn’t want people to be hooked on depression or stress either.

So what’s left? Social and political activism, she suggests.

But I’ve seen plenty of “activists” get stuck in their own emotional trips (self-aggrandizing protests, feel-good “lifestyle choices,” sneering against the “sheeple,” et al.). They get to feel powerful, or righteous, or smug, or superior to the sap masses. And nothing changes.

World-changing and personal therapy, I believe, are different thangs.

Still, there is a psychological benefit to helping people.

That was one of the messages in This Emotional Life, the recent Paul Allen-produced PBS miniseries. Another message was when an interviewee said, “The opposite of depression isn’t happiness. The opposite of depression is vitality.”

That meets with something I wrote about the Obama inauguration. The “hope” Obama talked about wasn’t pie-in-the-sky positive thinking. It was acknowledging that work needed to be done, then doing it.

LET’S CLOSE THIS with the recently deceased sportscasting legend Bob Blackburn’s longtime closing line to his KIRO-AM sports reports:
“This is Bob Blackburn, reminding you that sportsmanship is a part of our American tradition. Be a good sport, whatever you do. So long.”

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