Archive for November 2003

Get Out My Pennant and my Raccoon Coat, Maw, I’m Goin’ To War

Jennifer at Synaesthesia and I have engaged in a desultory dialogue about college sports, limited to a great extent by my need to spend Saturdays watching football instead of blogging. She is at a large land-grant university in the Big Ten, and is peeved at the ability of sports to suck economic and psychic resources out of the university, as well as at the boorish behavior it engenders in its fans. I agree with her, and think it’s a weird shotgun marriage between an entertainment conglomerate and a high-stakes public venture charged with educating people and raising the level of discourse and technical competence in our society. It makes as much sense for colleges to sponsor football teams as it would for municipal fire departments to operate waterslide amusement parks. (Actually, that makes a LOT more sense).
But that’s my intellectual side (undernourished and of feeble incandescence) talking. My sentimental side says there’ll be time enough in the bleak midwinter (see below) to discuss this as well as the lunacy of a region (Seattle) that can’t fill potholes, or properly route and fund any sort of non-highway mass transit, spending half a billion dollars blowing up one stadium and replacing it with two. My sentimental side says THIS IS MICHIGAN WEEK, FERGAWD’SSAKE, the 100th renewal of the Ohio State-Michigan football rivalry, and, for another week or so, I’m just gonna go with it.
Thursday night I’ll board a redeye flight from Seattle en route to Charleston, SC, where I’ll join my two OSU-alum brothers and a couple of their less-savory friends for the weekend to roast oysters and bay like Low Country curs at the television during the game on Saturday. This gathering will not be characterized by the angst and interpersonal complexities of The Big Chill (those were Michigan grads, after all), it will be awash in blood lust and gluttony. The explanation of how these OSU fans can spend all that money and travel time and miss the stadium where the game is actually being played by 900 miles will have to await a more lucent and reflective moment.

Daylight Losing Time

A picture named OregonCoastinJanuary.jpgIt’s that time of year in Seattle when the rain envelops the house like an aqueous living thing, making digestive gurglings in the gutters and downspouts. Combine that with the glacier of darkness advancing inexorably as we approach the solstice, nibbling constantly at the habitable space of daylight we so profligately enjoyed in the summer, and you have a perfect recipe for stupefying lethargy, or at least a reason for another drink. The sun, when visible at all, is as evanescent as the Girl From Ipanema, except the glimpses you catch are not from a table at a sidewalk cafe, but from the 20th floor of an assisted living facility, and may merely be a calendar on a windowless wall, for all your ability to focus.

Electoral Malaise

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The Seattle City Council is nominally non-partisan. That is, candidates for council positions do not register party affiliations when they run. In reality, ideology of candidates usually runs the political gamut from left-leaning Democrats on the right to Planet Lovetron on the left.
I’ve always flattered myself that I could discern even the most minute political nuance, even when the game is designed to obfuscate, and in yesterday’s election I believe I can categorically declare the Eyecandy Party as a definite loser. Check out the photographic evidence, and I rest my case. Heidi Wills, top left, lost her bid for a second term to David Della, top right. Judy Nicastro, bottom left, also lost her bid for a second terrm to Jean Godden, bottom right.
Godden’s only claim to any stake in public life is as a columnist for the Seattle Times and, years earlier, the P-I. Her columns are formatted like a gossip column, but deliver no useful information, and seem to be simply compilations of voice mail she gets from idiots about town, the best of which are reports of clever vanity license plates. The Times suspended her column during the campaign, and a pained but stoic city somehow pushed forward.
This election season in Seattle has been buffetted by some unaccustomed influences. We were the darlings of national media in the early 90s, occupying first place on almost every “liveability” index, and were boosted culturally by the ascendancy of grunge bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains. Then Curt Cobain and Grunge died within 12 months of each other, the WTO “riots” were plastered all over the news and Boeing, the longtime sandbox bully in Washington, moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago, delighting all of the poor devils who had to move from Seattle to the godforsaken shores of Lake Michigan.
Meanwhile, as the urban core of Seattle has maintained and perhaps even increased its leftward lean (”Baghdad” Jim McDermott represents a large swath of the city, and squanders his opportunity to be influential by disappearing from view for long expanses of time, only to surface with some stupid stunt), its power in the state and region has been eroded by the relentless swell of Republican-leaning suburbs, producing a political stalemate. The standoff prevents resolution or even developing an approach to serious regional problems, including transportation and initiative-driven gutting of the tax base. Even in polite and consensus-obsessed Seattle, voters can get a touch cranky as the stress level rises. Thus, any incumbent in the city with any serious challenger got whacked. For instance, all four school board incumbents lost (the Eyecandy Party, as far as I can tell, ran no candidates for school board).
So, it’s a city and region in search of a new sense of itself, an identity to replace the cheesy “Emerald City” and no-longer appropriate “Jet City” iconography. They’re down right now, but I still have hopes for the Eyecandy Party in any new formulation.

CBS Puts On the Kneepads As the RNC Comes Calling

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I’m not sure how seriously to take the precipitous el foldo CBS did over its “The Reagans” series under pressure from the usual horde of right-wing hyenas. On the one hand, it’s kind of startling and maybe dismaying to see how easily “speech” can be suppressed in this political environment.
On the other hand, the Reagans were two of the most vapid people to ever enter public life. Whether a dramatic work presents them faithfully or grossly misrepresents them, it’s bound to be a snooze either way. I’d probably never have watched it.
Maybe it’s more an indicator of how irrelevant network TV has become, when the goons at Fox can mau-mau these heretofore august institutions into 86-ing a piece of puff programming.

Happy Halloween!

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Meter reader in downtown Seattle.