A Moment of Non Irony

Every year on Independence Day, at the Seattle Center, in the open air Fisher Pavilion, a naturalization ceremony is held.

I’d never gone, but I live fairly close to it, it was a nice day, and I didn’t have much else going on, so I ventured over.

Politicians were there all in abundance. The mayor of Seattle (Ed Murray), the county executive (Dow Constantine), the state governor (Jay Inslee), one of Washington’s senators (Maria Cantwell), and a smattering of city and county council members were there. A number of representatives from various embassies were there as well.

I was worried, with that many politicians all on one stage, that it could have turned into a marathon of speaking. Fortunately, they were all pretty disciplined and limited their words. They were all warm and gracious, welcoming the new Americans and encouraging them to make their mark on the country. There was much talk of the wonders of diversity. There were oblique words about the special challenges that immigrants are having at this time in our history. In this great liberal mecca words were spoken, albeit in the typically near Canadian levels of politeness that passes for political discourse in this city, that we had their backs. Time will tell if that is in fact true.

There were over five hundred people taking the oath today. They represented sixty nine countries. It was an amazing array of diversity. There were people from Burkina Faso, Tonga, Albania, Jordan, France, Tunisia, Iran, and Iraq, among so many others. For each country, the mayor (who was emceeing it all) would read the number of people represented and then they would all stand. The big winners were Canada, Mexico, Philippines, China, and India (yay, my software brethren!).

There were some surprises. There was one person from Finland. What the fuck? Don’t you know that you’re coming from one of the happiest countries in the world? Where education is free? Where healthcare is free? Where you don’t feel the need to arm yourself? It had to be for love, and it’d better work out.

There was one person from Syria. Yes, that Syria. The Syria that, at least according to some in our leadership, apparently has made plans to send their young men over to wreak terror on our soil. The newly minted American from Syria stood to wave his little American flag and the crowd cheered loudly. There was a short pause, and then the mayor quietly said, “and we give you a special welcome”, to yet more crowd cheers.

This was about as non-ironically American as you can get. The Veterans of Foreign Wars handed out small US flags to everyone. The Navy band played patriotic standards. The Star Spangled Banner was beautifully sung. A gospel choir sang God Bless America. Adorable little children wearing the native garb of their respective country gathered on the stage to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. A Native American storyteller told a story about that most magical of tricksters, the Raven. After they recited their naturalization oath (there’s an oath that needs to be updated…abjure…potentate…seriously?), all of the newly minted citizens jubilantly waved their little US flags while their relatives cheered them on.

After they were excused to perform the final step of turning in their green cards, I watched them walk by. Some were old (the oldest was 85), some were young (maybe in their 20’s), some were wearing their finest clothes, some were in jeans and t-shirts, some were somber, some were jubilant.

But all were Americans. I can only hope that the day never comes that people don’t want to come to America to pursue their dreams. And that the day will never come when we don’t let them.


Truth In Advertising


Title: Pancakes & Booze

Well, this is yet another apparently long running thing that I never heard of. This is some kind of loosely linked national event. I went to their Facebook page and I saw upcoming events in Raleigh, San Francisco, New Orleans, Toronto, Dallas, and so on.

It’s essentially an art show at a local club (in the case of Seattle, it is staged at El Corazon). That would be the booze part of the show. Located in one part of the club is a couple of people making pancakes for everyone. This national organization charges a modest fee for artists to hang their work and charges a modest fee for patrons to enter (5$). These fees are just to cover their costs. The purpose is to give a low overhead outlet for local artists to show their wares and hopefully make a couple of bucks.

With your drink and your pancake, you wander around the club. They claimed that 150 artists were showing, but I can’t imagine that there were really that many. It was pretty full of patrons wandering around. There were jewelry artists, photographers, painters of many genres and subjects, and an interesting couple who apparently are making musical instruments out of old cigar boxes.

For all of the edginess of having pancakes and booze at a local rock club, the event itself was surprisingly conventional. There were artists standing by their work, introducing themselves and hoping to convince you to make a sale. As I mentioned when I went to the Punk Rock Swap Meet, it does say something about the staying power of capitalism when the underground / avant-garde  artists patiently explain their work, price it according to market pressures, and willingly accept credit cards.

There were a couple of body painters there as well. When I was there one artist was engaged in drawing a life-size fetus on the belly of a very pregnant woman.

I am still hoping at some point to find a piece of art by a local artist that inspires me to want to put it on one of my walls. Nothing really struck me here. I had a slight moment of weakness when I saw the zombie Pikachu painting, but I figured that since Pikachu as a fad was something completely past my generation, that hanging that would make me some kind of inter-generational poser.

My quest continues.

The Fragility of Our Past


Title: Noir City 2016

The local movie theater is having a little film festival celebrating film noir. Over the next five or six days, it will be showing something like seventeen movies.  Not knowing what to expect, I went to the first movie.

These are all movies that were made in the 1940’s. I just checked the first movie and, sure enough, you can buy a DVD of it on Amazon for $9.99. Even with my member discount, it still cost me $10.

So, I really was expecting a sparse crowd. I was very wrong in that expectation. I arrived close to twenty minutes early and the theater (which really isn’t that small) was already filling up.

Up front, before the movie started, was a trio of musicians, wearing formal wear, playing 1940’s era music. There was a saxophone, a stand-up bass, and, believe it or not, a ukulele. It was quite the mood setter. And yes, there were a number of people wearing fedoras.

The director of the festival came up and spoke a few words. Apparently, the noir films are becoming a vanishing species. However, I later went and searched Amazon for the first three movies. All were available either to buy on DVD or to rent on Instant Video. What he meant was that they are becoming harder to find in their original 35 mm format. In many cases, there is only one print left and the movie studio refuses to release it because of potential damage to the film.

This reminds of the essay that I read about a group of odd ball collectors that were somewhat obsessively searching for long lost records of black blues singers. They would travel all over the country searching for records for which only a single copy existed. They would zealously hoard the records that they own.

In this essay, they listed a number of songs that were single record only. These are the rarest of the rare. I turned around, searched, and, in each case, was able to find it on iTunes.

Clearly, the collectors (and the director of the noir festival) would instantly stand up  and says it’s not the same. I see their point. I’m sure that there is some nuance or atmosphere that is lost even in the most accurate of analog to digital conversions.

For the purpose of legacy, it’s probably good enough. Especially for a non-connoisseur like myself, I’m probably not going to tell a lot of difference between a digital copy and the original analog.

It does beg the larger question. We’re saving everything to digital, and that’s fantastic from a storage and a cost perspective. However, is it really great from a longevity perspective? Sure, bits never wear out, but at some point, those bits are going to become unreadable. Does anyone really think that a hundred years from now, we’ll still be using Acrobat Reader to open documents?

That was the advantage of stone tablets. Yeah, not real efficient from storage or cost, but really good at longevity.

We have this problem at work. In some cases, I’ve worked on applications where the requirement is that the documentation must still be accessible eighty years from now. Eighty years! In the world of IT, that could easily be at least ten generations of software. What is the probability that software in the year 2100 is going to be backward compatible with data from 2016?

We already had files that were in the repository that were created on engineering workstations in the 1980’s. They were written in a weird proprietary technical documentation format that I believe one person still has the reader for. Something happens to that person, and it might as well be a lost language.

So, I’m changing my mind. Preserve the 35mm! It’s the only thing keeping us from anarchy!

And yes, I know that I started writing about a film festival and ended up ranting about data retention policies. So sue me. The film festival was really cool. I really enjoyed the first movie that I went to. It was called I Wake Up Screaming. It was early but very clearly noirish. Besides being a cool title, I have no idea how it was named. Several people were woken up unexpectedly, but no one screamed. One person was murdered but she was definitely wide awake when was murdered.

Regardless, still a cool title and an even cooler genre.



As American as a Heart Attack


Title: Bite of Seattle

As yes, the Bite of Seattle. A local institution. It’s been going on for 35 years and every year gets just a little bit bigger, marching along in time with Americans’ waistline.

In the old days, when I worked a 4×10 schedule, I used to go Friday afternoon. It was, for obvious reasons, pretty dead. All of the booths were there, and many times people from the booths would be calling me over for a sample.

Now that I’m on a working man 5×8 shift, I no longer have that luxury. I went Sunday afternoon sometime between 1:00 and 3:00. It was semi sunny and somewhere around 70 degrees; in other words the perfect kind of day for the average Seattlelite to be out and attending something like the Bite.  Accordingly, there were many 10’s of thousands of people there. I am not a big man, but there were many places where I could barely squeeze through. There were a couple of choke points where once I entered it, I was pretty much swept along by the sea of people thronging through it.

Foods of the world were well represented here. There was Greek, Filipino, Swedish, Russian, Peruvian, Thai, Vietnamese, Lebanese, and Afghan food, among others that I cannot remember. There was not one but two corn dogs of the world booths. Are they competitors? Did they actually get together beforehand and split the world up, like Spain and Portugal did in 1494 with the Treaty of Tordesillas?

Seattle has a very well deserved reputation for whiteness. The reality becomes slightly more complex when you leave Seattle proper and venture into the ‘burbs. For instance, the neighborhood that I grew up in, White Center, according to city data, is 33% White, 23% Hispanic, 20% Asian, and 13% Black. I bought my first house in Tukwila, which is 37% White, 20% Black, 17% Asian, and 15% Hispanic.

When something like the Bite comes along, everyone comes into to the city to enjoy it. Therefore, unlike many other events in Seattle, you truly do see a wide variety of people, be it ethnicity, religion, or size (OK, large was disproportionately represented here). I heard a wide variety of languages spoken.

And guess what? No problems! Everyone loves eating cheap food, listening to music, and hanging with friends and family on a warm summer day. If there is anything that Americans can get behind, I imagine that it’s gluttony. This was signified by one guy, standing in line, just finishing off his giant corn dog before ordering his next entree.  Way to go! These colors won’t run!

And there was certainly cheap food to be had expressly designed to shorten your lifespan. I went on a search for the least possible healthy food possible. There was the perennial contender of elephant ears. Apparently the fad of deep frying things is still going strong (deep fried twinkies, oreo’s, and PB&J’s). There was the frozen cheesecake dipped in chocolate. That was a pretty strong contender for a while. However, I do believe that the winner, hands down, scoring a set of perfect 10’s from the judges, was the Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheeseburger. Yes it was a cheeseburger, covered in bacon, with two Krispy Kreme donuts instead of buns. America, we’re gonna need more Obamacare.

There were a couple of random oddities:

First of all, it was Groupon Bite of Seattle. I honestly didn’t know that Groupon was still a viable company. Granted, as a relatively light consumer, I’m not exactly their target audience. Have they made money yet? I just did a quick check and it appears the answer is no, they have not made money yet (at least no P/E ratio, which is a pretty good clue). Five years ago, their stock price was 28, now it’s around 3.5. It does have a $2 billion market cap, so that is something.

There wasn’t any political activity going on. I found that surprising since there is a primary happening in a couple of weeks. Maybe it’s not allowed. This was a free public event, so I’m not sure if they could actually stop it even if they wanted to. The closest thing that I saw was a guy holding a hand scrawled cardboard sign. Fully expecting it to be some variety of work-for-food kind of sign, I was taken aback when it just said “Weed is Jesus”. He just stood there holding it in one hand, and giving out the peace sign in the other. He did not want money. He apparently was just passing on the message that the Lord Our Savior is cannabis. Fair enough. Sounds as reasonable as any other dogma.

Similarly, I did not see a single busker. I saw several on the outskirts, but within the Bite proper, not a single one. Granted there were several concert stages going on, but they were all pretty far apart. I would have thought that many other musicians could have set up their didgeridoo and started playing. Were they explicitly forbidden? Were there secret busker police waiting to pounce upon the hipster old-timey quartet? I found it interesting, especially since I really didn’t see much police presence, generally speaking. Consider what just happened in Nice, I was kind of expecting to see some heightened security. It might have been there, but if so, it was fairly well hidden.

All in all, everyone, including myself, seemed to have a good time. I’m not a big eater, but I did partake of an Elk smokey cheese hotdog.  It was OK. It did not taste like chicken.

Seattle Pride


Last weekend I went to the Fremont Solstice parade. This week was the Seattle Pride parade. These are both long running civic institutions. This was the first time that I went to see both of them in the same year.

The Solstice is a lot more anarchic. It has a whole seat of the pants feel of a parade put on by local community organizers. The Seattle Pride is a thing. It is huge. There was an order of magnitude more people watching (I saw an estimate of half a million).

The Solstice parade bans motorized vehicles, anything with letters, and starts with a bunch of naked bicyclists. The Seattle Pride has massive corporate sponsorship, there were several companies, unions, political leaders, public services, and Native American tribes proudly proclaiming who they were and their support of the gay community.

Instead of naked bike riders, the Pride parade starts with Dykes on Bikes, several hundred mostly women cruising in loops on motorcycles. Most of them rode Harleys and they were making full use of the Harley’s throaty roar. If you’re looking for a clear example of the power of the gay movement, look nothing further than a couple of hundred Harleys proudly gunning up and down at the head of the parade being watched and cheered by a half a million people.

After the Dykes on Bikes, a gay couple just married (by Seattle’s gay mayor at the start of the parade) drove by poised on a large wedding cake float. They were in turn followed by a group of Boy Scouts. They were in turn followed by the drag queens of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. They were in turned followed by a huge T-Mobile corporate group.

I’ve finally gotten to the point in my life where I can tell old fogey stories. When I see something what I’ve just described and then think back to my childhood, words kind of fail me to describe the changes that I’ve witnessed in my life. Obviously, it’s an ongoing process and there are so many things to work on, but every now and then it’s kind of crazy to take a look back and think how things once were.

The level of corporate participation is pretty amazing. It’s pretty clear that corporations recognize that getting on the right side of this issue is very good for their bottom line. Gay people spend money (obviously!) and, at least in Seattle, being seen as a progressive corporation has a real impact on their image.

For example, Delta Airlines not only had a huge contingent, but there were several flamboyant drag queens dressed up as flight attendants. In fact, many of the corporate entrants featured drag. I’m guessing that the drag queen community was fully employed today. The BECU float featured a band playing disco songs with the lead singer in scanty leather and chains.

Several of the software companies were represented. Instagram had a tiny contingent that looked like they just pulled random people who might have been working today. Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Expedia had huge groups wearing color coordinated outfits. The company that might have had the largest stretch with trying to line their corporate image up with the parade was Tableau, who is known for business analytics software. Their slogan today was “Data Pride”.

Sports were also represented. Although there was a group with the Seattle Reign, I saw no players. Perhaps they are on the road today. There was a group from the Seattle Quake Rugby Football Club, which I had never heard of but is a predominantly gay men rugby team. There was a group of women from the Seattle Majestics football team. This was another team that I had not heard of. Apparently there is a Northwest league of 11 on 11 women’s tackle football. Before you think of mocking, they were throwing the football around as they were walking / driving on the parade route. I’m guessing at least 90% of the men on the route could only hope to throw and catch as well as they were.

Even now, after all of these years, there are still a couple of slightly edgy groups still maintaining their place in the parade. There were the Seattle Men of Leather, Women of Leather, and Girls of Leather. I think these are fairly descriptive terms. There were dominants leading their submissives on leashes. There was a guy with a leather whip cracking it at the audience. There were many men wearing leather masks and in some cases, little else. There were a number of furries dressed in their favorite animal costume.

I saw two parade balloons. One was an Alaska Airlines plane. The other was a Chipotle Burrito. When you order a real burrito with extra meat, it looks about that big.

The mayor was there. The governor was there. Several politicians and judges running for office were there. There was a massive contingent walking for Bernie. Apparently Seattle has not given up on the Bern yet.

My favorite thing about the Pride parade is that it is such a basically joyous occasion. Quite literally everyone (well except maybe the guy carrying the Jesus Saves sign) just seems happy. It is such a warm, inviting event. I can’t help but to leave it feeling that there is hope in our future. It’s the main reason that I try to make a point of attending.


Adam Smith Meets Sid Vicious

Today I went to the Punk Rock Flea Market. This takes place a couple of times of year. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. A bunch of people with tattoos, chains, and leather get together, set up card tables, and for the most part, sell shit that they apparently found lying around in their apartment.

There was some controversy this year because they were trying to hold it in the old Lusty Lady, a Seattle strip club institution that closed down several years ago. Apparently, they did not leave it in very good shape because the fire marshal closed it down the weekend before it was to go live. Instead, they moved it up to Capitol Hill at the recently closed Value Village. This apparently passed muster because that’s where it took place.

I think from a vibe point of view that this worked really well. Capitol Hill is generally a better venue for fringe-y popular events like this. This was the weekend of Gay Pride, so Capitol Hill was already booming. Also, Gay Pride brings out the alternative in apparently everyone, so that crossed with the Punk Rock mentality really made for an interesting crowd scene.

It was great fun. The entry fee is a grand total of one dollar. You walk in and there’s probably well over a hundred vendors jammed together. You navigate carefully through very narrow paths through the vendor tables.

If anything, this year might have been even more punk rock. In previous years, there were a lot more apparent working artists. You’d see silk screens, paintings, and hand crafted items. There were people like that here, but it was way more just a bunch of random items strewn on a table. For example, I could get a book named Yiddish with George and Barbara (as in Bush). I could get soaps in shapes of a penis, vagina, or anus. How could I choose? There were square tiles that usually have positive affirmations. Here they said fuck, shit, and cunt.

However punk rock it is, it was noticeably a capitalist enterprise. Most merchants accepted credit cards. When you think about it, the Square credit card reader truly is a revolutionary leveling force in frictionless capitalism. Most of the merchants carefully kept a ledger of purchases, even if hand-written in a snarky Hello Kitty notebook.

There was a bar serving beer from donated kegs. There was a DJ playing 45’s on a retro player.

It was packed and it looked like everyone was having a great time.

How did Karl Marx ever think that he could topple this?

Fremont Wins!


In the past month or so, I attended three venerable institutions of revelry in Seattle: the University District Street Fair, the Northwest Folklife Festival, and the Fremont Solstice.

The University District Street Fair is where hippies go to sell shit. The other events do as well, but this is just on a huge scale.  There are hundreds of booths spanning multiple blocks.  I wouldn’t be surprised if, all told, over a dozen city blocks are taken over by the fair.

It was a beautiful day, so it was absolutely packed.  Not all that unsurprisingly, clothing was the majority of the booths.  If you want funky hats, tie-dyed clothes, and leather goods, this was the place for you. There were many kettlecorn booths and apparently, jerky is making a big comeback because there were several of those as well. I was also surprised at the number of caricaturists. I half expected them to starting  fighting amongst themselves over customers.

There were also a surprising number of religious booths, which is unusual in that Seattle is a pretty liberal (ie secular) city. Being Seattle, they weren’t exactly Southern Baptist snake handlers preaching Armageddon. There was a Jews for Jesus kind of a booth and I also noticed a Bikers for Jesus booth, complete with large bald men wearing biker jean jackets just looking for someone to give them crap about their beliefs.  I abstained.

All in all, a nice walk but since I’m not exactly a huge consumer, not a huge event for me.

The FolkLife also had a large number of hippies selling shit. What differentiates it from the street fair is that there are a large number of musicians, located seemingly about every ten feet, busking for change. There were a number of accordion players. There was a red headed Scottish guy playing bagpipes. There was not one, but two white guys playing the didgeridoo (simultaneously but in different locations), which seems an uncomfortable act of cultural appropriation. On a lighter note, there was a group labeled two angsty teenage girls playing for pizza money, which from their looks and attitude, seemed highly accurate.

At previous FolkLife’s, there was always a couple of ole-timey bands, but now they have pretty much taken over. There were many groups featuring jugs, spoons, wash boards, and banjos. Some groups have upped their game by having some young woman with very long straight brown hair wearing a peasant dress dance hypnotically in front of the band to the music (some people have watched too much Woodstock). Why do I think that next year they all will be doing this as a way to express their artistic nonconformity?

Finally, there’s the Solstice. This was by far my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a ton of hippies selling shit.  It is a street fair that largely takes over the small downtown Fremont district. First of all, this just feels more like an adhoc festival. One of the first things that I see when I arrive is a naked woman riding a bike in full body paint dressed as a silver unicorn.

The others just seem to have a more machine like precision as well as way more corporate booths / sponsorships in general. I didn’t see anyone trying to see life insurance here.

And, of course, there’s the parade. Believe it or not, despite being a life long resident, I don’t remember ever seeing the parade before.

So, I expected nudity. I was not disappointed. The parade was started by well over a thousand bikers, skaters, other wheeled devices, runners, and walkers, all in various stages of nudity.

Nearly all were in body paint, that depending upon their specific goal, either concealed or highlighted body parts that are normally not seen in public. Superheroes were a popular theme. There were various forms of Ironman, Batman, and The Incredible Hulk. There were blue men and red women. I’ve already mentioned the aforementioned silver unicorn. There was a naked guy on a long board with his bulldog riding calmly along with him.

Just as a quick cultural observation, I’d guess that over 90 percent of the men were nude. I’d guess that maybe, at best, 50 percent of the women were. The rest were almost all topless but with some kind of undergarment on. Modesty among naked bike riders? There were several women who used this as a vehicle to assert their right over their bodies, including a couple of women calmly walking the parade route, absolutely naked, with no body paint. The message of freedom and control was pretty clear.

It was also interesting to me from a historical perspective. I’ve lived in Seattle my entire life, and the naked bike riding has been a thing for pretty much as long as I can remember. It must be a tradition well over 20 years old now. It first started as a complete rebellious act. It would be a small number of bikers and they were strictly prohibited. In fact, it would take some planning to somehow interject themselves somewhere on the route and then have an escape plan defined beforehand. The police, on their side, would seriously try to crack down and arrest them. Many of the city folk expressed outrage at the naked bikers, claiming that they’re ruining a family outing like a parade.

My how time changes things. Ten years ago, gay marriage was unthinkable and it was pretty much suicidal for even a Democrat politician to advocate it in most places. Now, it seems retrogressive to even think of rolling it back. So it has become with naked bike riders. The police were front and center in directing it to keep the bike riders safe. Little kids lined the streets holding out their hands so that a naked bike rider could high five them as they rode by.

The parade itself was maybe 90 minutes, of which the first half of it was exclusively the naked bike riders riding up and down the parade route.

The parade itself was pretty amazing. Being Fremont, the organizers do not allow written words or motorized vehicles by any of the entrants. So, the floats were necessarily modest in size and pushed by people. One entrant was devoted to the homeless, with people pushing shopping carts and carrying large paper mache heads mocking Ed Murray and basically accusing him of being a fascist.. Yes, that is our gay, liberal mayor being accused of being a totalitarian despot.

There was a fun anarchic quality to the parade. At the Solstice, there was also a brass band festival going on. Apparently randomly, a brass band would just be casually walking along the side of the parade, busting out some song or another.

My favorite was the tribute to the inflatable beach ball. It was a group of people bouncing around, yes, a bunch of beach balls. They had one beach ball that much have been at least eight feet in diameter. They would grab random people from the crowd, line them up laying down on the street, and then pass the ball over the line, with the people using their arms and legs to move the ball along.

What a great way to start a summer!

Just Another Day in the Soviet State of Washington

IMG_0676 (2)


Today is May 1st, otherwise known as May Day. Over the past couple of years, May Day has become Seattle’s equivalent of The Purge. It’s the one day of the year when protesters can go out and march and commit what passes in Seattle as acts of mayhem.

The day started with a concert featuring local (ie unknown) heavy metal bands. I attended one set. It was definitely heavy metal, but, amazingly enough, it was dull heavy metal. I’m not even talking about the monotonous death metal. I mean, literally, snooze fest music. It was the equivalent of heavy metal elevator music. It was as if Kenny G decided to take up metal. I left after that set.

I went upstairs to my apartment to relax. After about an hour, I heard drumming. I go downstairs to see the workers / immigrants rally marching right in front of my apartment.


  • There were probably a thousand or so.
  • I particularly liked the Donald Trump pinata (picture above).
  • There was a guy walking his pet goat (let me reiterate, this is downtown Seattle).
  • There was a sign for the Transit Riders Union. Who knew? I’m a transit rider. Maybe I should join a union!
  • There was a several signs for freeing Leonard Peltier. I’m interested in what percentage of people at the rally even know who Peltier is. After all, he’s been in prison for nearly 40 years. I didn’t know that there was still an active movement to free him. I saw no equivalent signs for Mumia Abdul Jamal, who at one time was an equivalent cause celebre of an activist unjustly convicted. I wonder why?
  • There was a brass band consisting of people whose average age appeared to be about 60 and were just picked up off a commune.
  • The march finished at the Justice Center, where there was all kinds of sincere calls for justice, immigration rights, and equality. I’m not sure how many Republican congressmen were in attendance that could actually do something to accomplish any of these.

I then switched over to the anarchist rally:

  • Despite the overall black motif, it was all a tad bit more…colorful.
  • There was the disturbed (not sure if mentally or chemically or some combination therein) guy wearing county prison overalls hamming it up for any random tourist willing to film him.
  • One sign simply said, Fuck Off. Fair enough. Pretty concise political commentary.
  • Before the march started, there were hundreds of bicycle cops in various clusters to control the path of the protesters. The police brought out their horses, which adorably enough, were equipped with safety glasses.
  • The anarchists unfurled a banner that said, Whoever you vote for, we are ungovernable. OK, but ironically enough, their unlawful protest march was pretty much completely manipulated and controlled by the police. They started in the heart of downtown Seattle and ended up getting herded into the industrial wastelands of South Seattle.
  • At one point, apparently the SPD made an announcement that the protest was over and ordered it to be dispersed. This was, quite literally, a reading of the Riot Act!
  • There were some flash bangs and some tear gas, but nothing even close to events of previous years.

It looks like Seattle survived another May Day. Anarchists, you need to up your game in 2017.



Seattle Pinball Museum


Today, I took the bus down to the International District and went to the Seattle Pinball Museum. They have about fifty machines there, all of which are in playable order. You walk in, pay one fee, and you get to play all of the pinball that your heart could ever desire.

They have machines from the 1960’s and 1970’s to the present.

A couple of notes comparing machines from different eras.  First of all (and probably most obviously), the 1960’s machines are much simpler in play and appear to be more overtly mechanical. I’m sure most people are too young to remember, but on gas pumps, the amount of gas pumped and the dollar amount to pay used to be analog. There would be audible clicks as numbers changed. These older games used that same concept.

The older games are hard! The oldest one there has tiny little paddles with a huge gap between them. I’d see the ball going down the middle and there was nothing that I could do. The newer games are more forgiving. That’s probably why the older games had five balls per play while the newer games had three balls.

Somewhere in the 80’s and beyond, commercialization starts to kick in. The sixties games were quaint in their subjects. There was a shoot-out game, a bowling game, some pseudo space astro game. When you get to the 80’s, now you have product placement games for AC/DC, Metallica, Indiana Jones, Terminator, Rocky and Bullwinkle, NBA, NHL, and Sopranos, among many others. Above each game is a short little description of the game and the year built. From that, you can walk through this little pinball history and see what the cultural zeitgeist was at that time.

The older games gave zero fucks about how you felt about yourself! The newer games you score millions of points. Sure, a free play is probably about fifty million points, so you won’t get a free play anyway, but you can feel like you scored a lot of points and did well. On the old games, a free play was around a thousand and I barely cracked five hundred at my best. It was depressing to look up after your first ball and realized you scored a big old nineteen. In the new games, if you failed out right away, they’d often immediately line up another ball for you to try again. Not with the old game; sorry bud, you’re a loser.

On the opposite end from the 1960’s old school game was a completely virtual pinball game. It was about the same size as a normal game and it had the usual buttons on the side to control the paddles. However, when you looked down at where the game usually is, it’s an LCD screen. You choose from what appears to be dozens of games (for instance, I chose a Sopranos game). It then loaded up the game and the LCD screen became a full screen representation of a pinball game.  Once loaded, it played just like a normal pinball game. They tried to add effects (like periodic shakes) to simulate the physical experience. It was interesting to play, but I did prefer the ‘real’ machines.

One highlight is the world’s largest pinball game. It’s the Hercules (pictured above). It is huge. The ball, as far as I an tell, is a pool cue ball. Just to put the ball into play requires a certain amount of muscle. The game play was, as you can probably imagine, pretty slow. You can only push a cue ball around so much.

They offered old-school soft drinks. At one point I was sitting there, drinking a Dad’s root beer, playing a 1970’s era game called Quick Draw, and realized that I could have been doing this exact same thing at a pinball parlor that was in my neighborhood back when I was a child.  It was a nice throwback to my own simpler times.